Technology: Industrial Base

“Resources exist to be consumed. And consumed they will be, if not by this generation then by some future. By what right does this forgotten future seek to deny us our birthright? None I say! Let us take what is ours, chew and eat our fill.”

— CEO Nwabudike Morgan, “The Ethics of Greed”

The “Industrial Base” technology is the first economic technology in the tree.  Intriguingly, it doesn’t provide any direct economic benefits.  Instead, its main immediate effect is to let the faction that discovers it produce units that have Synthmetal Armor.  In the game, armor advances help units passively defend.  So, from a gameplay perspective, building up a strong industrial base on Planet is really helping you establish and defend your initial gains.

The Morganites start with this technology.  A basic level of economic competence is assumed from CEO Morgan and the people who flock to his banner.  As such, they are able to rapidly set up efficient mineral processing and smelting on a brand-new, mostly unknown planet.  Coming up with solutions to these basic economic problems is in their cultural DNA.

All of that’s interesting, of course.  But I find the quote itself to be just amazing.  CEO Morgan is the only person, fictional or not, that I have ever heard give a principled rejection of the very ideal of sustainability.  To my knowledge, even Rand and her acolytes spend their energy sidestepping this by talking about human flourishing as the key value that should be maximized.

I mean, ever since Teddy Roosevelt and Jack London, people have been pushing for the preservation of some portion of the natural environment.  Whether they argue that the natural world has a positive claim to be left alone (like the Gaians would argue) or they’re more interested in the idea of stewardship and preserving the natural inheritance for future generations, basically everyone agrees that it’s better to live in a fashion that’s sustainable in the long run.

And here we have CEO Morgan railing against that entire tradition.  Instead, he’s venerating the positive value of greed.  In and of itself.  Certain libertarian types nowadays, when they talk about global warming or whatever, might argue in favor of increased economic growth because a larger economy can theoretically deal with ecological problems better than a smaller one.  Therefore, the future will be better off if we use some of those resources now.

But Morgan’s saying, in essence, “Screw it.”  It doesn’t matter what the future might bring.  Because we’re here now.  They’re not.  And time itself has a huge value.  So every last drop of value we’re not extracting from the environment for human use right now is a drop that we’re losing the entire compound stream of returns on forevermore.  Thus, it is right and proper to capture and realize that value stream.  The Ethics of Greed.

This radical logic is especially compelling given the scenario in which this quote is read.  The colonists have just landed on Planet.  They are facing an entire alien world ripe for consumption.  Chances are, if everything goes well, all the factions will be embarking upon a period of explosive radiating growth.  In these exponentially-growing conditions, small incremental gains now can yield wildly disproportionate value in what would otherwise be a quite short time.

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One thought on “Technology: Industrial Base

  1. rafesaltman

    I spy a reference to the TMBG song “Mammal”, where the milk that nourishes us in our vulnerable infancy makes the difference “between extinction in the cold and explosive radiating growth”. In the song, that growth refers to the evolutionary proliferation of an amazing variety of life forms across Earth from a single mammalian precursor after the dinosaurs went extinct in the Cretaceous-Paleogene event.

    Here it is human factions which could face extinction or realize explosive growth, and it is capitalism, with its internal logic of unbounded geometric returns on every penny reinvested, and those same limitless returns forgone if denied the penny, which is loudest to demand “feed me now, feed me more!”

    Surely, the Morganites’ first act on conquering Gaia’s Landing is to mill and plane the white pines and make some tall, particularly beautiful furniture. Flat pack, of course. The leftover sawdust is compacted into pellets and shoveled into the greedy maw of a furnace.

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