“Life is merely an orderly decay of energy states, and survival requires the continual discovery of new energy to pump into the system. He who controls the sources of energy controls the means of survival.”
— CEO Nwabudike Morgan, “The Centauri Monopoly”
Energy Banks, in the game, are an early game facility that provides a multiplicative bonus to reserve energy produced by a base. Essentially, they’re the energy version of Network Nodes. They’re a little higher on the tech tree, though, as they require the second-level Industrial Economics technology to build. But they’re pretty straightforward: build banks, make energy credits.
The quote is much more intriguing. In context, SMAC posits that in the future, currency is represented as energy credits. I imagine the effect is something like if the modern USA was on the “oil standard” instead of the old gold standard, so that each dollar bill was in theory exchangeable for a barrel of oil. On Planet, though, their primary sources of energy are all what we’d consider renewable resources nowadays: solar, hydroelectric, and wood from wild forests. So, presumably, an energy credit is the right to some number of Joules derived from one of those sources.
This quote shows that Morgan has made this focus on energy a core component of his ideology and worldview. As the Mogul, he isn’t trying to build a giant pile full of gold coins like Smaug or Scrooge McDuck. Wealth, for him, is energy; the latent power to shape the universe to his will.
And there’s no opting out of the game. If you fail to come up with enough energy, you die. I imagine that this is the sort of thing that seems a lot more obvious when you’re living in a futuristic spaceship or glass dome and relying on the air scrubbers to take your next breath. But the principle is pretty clearly a valid universal.
This gets even more mind-blowing when it is put together with the other components of Morgan’s radical capitalist philosophy. If all life and human flourishing really is just a certain configuration of energy states decaying, which must be true if you take a reasonable reductionist view of what physics means, then energy is necessarily value. For Morgan, this is true in the most profound philosophical sense.
Suddenly, Morgan’s ethics of greed snap into focus for the attentive player. Wealth and profit, as properly measured by net energy produced, are necessarily good. In fact, Morgan would argue that it’s the only coherent idea of what “doing good” could possibly mean, for humans embedded in physics. Profitable trade is therefore good because it is positive sum. When denominated in energy credits, it is tautologically true that more overall energy is captured from the environment because of the exchange than would have been available otherwise, or the two parties would not have made the deal.
This is amazing levels of insight for a dude writing a science-fiction video game! I genuinely think this is a better, more interesting philosophy than anything produced by any real life libertarian/ancap philosopher. This is better than Nozick, better than Hoppe, and way better than Rothbard. And, while he was at it, he whipped up six other characters with philosophies just as vividly imagined! It’s a titanic accomplishment.