“The righteous need not cower before the drumbeat of human progress. Though the song of yesterday fades into the challenge of tomorrow, God still watches and judges us. Evil lurks in the datalinks as it lurked in the streets of yesteryear. But it was never the streets that were evil.”
— Sister Miriam Godwinson, “The Blessed Struggle”
This quote should look familiar. It serves double-duty in the game: both as Sister Miriam’s introductory quote and as for the introduction to the “Information Networks” technology. Back then, we were looking at it in light of what we could learn about Miriam and her Believer faction. But there’s still some insight to be found if we consider it from this new perspective.
Information Networks is the first pure scientific tech in the tree. Practically, it lets the player build Network Node facilities in their bases, which are fairly expensive buildings in the early game that serve as a force multiplier for the energy produced by the base that’s routed to science.
This implies that the game is talking about the futuristic version of a modern corporate or university Intranet here when they refer to the datalinks. At least at first. As such, it makes complete sense that the University always starts with this technology. They also start with a free Network Node facility in every base (though they have to pay maintenance on it). Nerds built the Internet as soon as it was technically possible. When dropped on a brand-new planet, there’s no doubt what they’ll make the first priority.
Since the technology that Information Networks represent are so vital to the University’s core conception, it’s interesting to imagine what Academician Zakharov might have to say instead of Sister Miriam. Instead of warning of the dangers potentially lurking in the datalinks, perhaps he’d just celebrate the interconnection of everything as the technical foundation of modern scientific enterprise? Or maybe he’d give a Lal-like defense of the power of the free exchange of ideas as the lifeblood of scientific advance.
Both of these are intriguing because, in the game, it is actually the University that has the most to fear from the datalinks themselves. The closest the game comes to a model for cultural threat or foreign ideological corruption is through the spying missions that enable a faction to spend energy to subvert a rival faction’s bases (conquering them instantly) or bribe their soldiers (changing the loyalty of a unit in the field). And the University’s spying penalties make their bases and soldiers cheaper and easier to subvert.