Technology: Retroviral Engineering

“The Academician’s private residences shall remain off-limits to the Genetic Inspectors. We possess no retroviral capability, we are not researching retroviral engineering, and we shall not allow this Council to violate faction privileges in the name of this ridiculous witch hunt!”

— Fedor Petrov, Vice Provost for University Affairs

Retroviral Engineering is labeled by the game as a sixth-tier military technology. Its major effect is that it unlocks a new option on the spy team menu when they attempt to infiltrate an enemy base. Instead of stealing energy credits, technology, or attempting to incite insurrection, the probe team can now also choose to unleash a carefully tailored plague upon the inhabitants of the city. If the spy mission is successful, this plague immediately kills half the population of the target base. Additionally, it also cripples all the defending units in the base, reducing them to very low HP levels that make them much easier to clear away.

The game interface helpfully informs you that this is considered an atrocity before you decide to approve the mission. I am not entirely certain how the atrocity penalties are applied under the covers, but it is considered less horrible than unleashing the Planet Busters. I believe that it equates to a use of nerve gas. Which means that brings a ten-year sanction regime into effect, cutting off all trade benefits from treaties of friendship or alliances, while making the target of the atrocity much less likely to ever sign peace again. The AIs have long memories when it comes to these sorts of things.

These handcrafted genetic plagues are created by combining the techniques made possible by Bio-Engineering with the will to power that is implied by Advanced Military Algorithms. Which makes perfect sense. But, as with the Research Hospitals, I feel the need to mention that an analysis of this technology’s dependencies shows that it requires Ethical Calculus. Which implies that the proper, objective Ethical Calculus is 100% OK with unleashing genetic plagues on your opponents! There are at least some circumstances under which that’s true, anyway.

Which brings us around to the hilarious timing of this quote. A functionary for the University loudly proclaims their innocence with regard to the existence of an alleged retroviral engineering program. Which could very well be true, were his angry denial not the technology quote for the Retroviral Engineering technology. So Vice Provost Petrov is certainly lying.

And quite naturally so. The University is dedicated to the belief that all knowledge is good. Restricting lines of inquiry for any foolish ethical concerns is Believer-talk. Even if it turns out one of the only real applications of the technology is to visit humanity with death-plagues as a new weapon of war.

But the other interesting thing that this quote reveals is that there is an official institution, reporting to the U.N. Council, that is known as the Genetic Inspectors. They are completely invisible in-game, though. Unless, possibly, they are the presumed mechanism by which the guilty party in an atrocity-event is identified and punished. Therefore, abolishing the U.N. Charter must also imply shutting down the Genetic Inspectors and all other such pseudo-enforcement/fact-finding arms of the U.N. Council.

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2 thoughts on “Technology: Retroviral Engineering

    1. Nick Stipanovich Post author

      One of the weaknesses of my quote-based approach to this project is that you miss out on a lot of the humor, because it’s hiding mostly in the small interface details. Reynolds is a pretty funny guy. So, for instance, whenever you try to leave the game, a little sad voice calls out to you: “Please don’t go. The drones need you. They look up to you.”

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