Technology: Probability Mechanics

“Einstein would turn over in his grave. Not only does God play dice, the dice are loaded.”

— Chairman Sheng-ji Yang, “Looking God in the Eye”

Probability Mechanics is labeled as a seventh-tier economic technology. It combines Pre-Sentient Algorithms with the previous Photon/Wave Mechanics to allow second-generation forcefields. In the game, these take the form of the six-strength Probability Sheath unit armor and the Tachyon Field base facility, both of which combine to make it much easier to defend bases.

It is accompanied by an amusing and surprisingly effective quote by Chairman Yang. If the player was not familiar with Einstein’s famous assertion from before, the Supercollider secret project video from a couple of technologies prior may have reminded him of it. At that time, it was just presented as fact. But now we see that, according to SMAC, he was wrong.

But the quip that the dice are loaded isn’t just funny. It’s got to be the concept that underlies the technology. Using the knowledge of how the “dice” are loaded, it is possible to manipulate the temporal manifold in such a way as to better prevent, interrupt, or distort energy transfer through the region protected by force field. And this apparently makes it possible to scale the fields all the way up to encompass an entire base.

At the same time, Reynolds deserves credit for choosing his quote in such a way as to cleverly avoid pinning himself down to any detailed explanation of how his techno-magic works while simultaneously giving the player some familiar context. It’s completely believable that someone in the future who knew how this worked would make this observation. And that remains true regardless of how the real future or the alternate SMAC-future actually turns out, so it’s immune to looking dated.

During his first playthrough, that’s certainly enough for the player to get his money’s worth out of discovering this tech. But this quote also serves as critically important evidence for our ongoing project of teasing out the implied canonical version of events. That’s because I believe this is the last time Yang or his Hive is referenced in any of the quotes.

This is not an accident. I conclude from this lack that the Hive is the first of the factions to be completely defeated on Planet. They are wiped out sometime in the mid-game, before the truly futuristic late-game comes to pass.

It’s not clear which of the other factions is responsible, though it is logical to tag Lal and Miriam as the primary suspects. In most games they quite naturally hate Yang because of his penchant for running a Police State. Given his AI personality, he was likely engaged in a grinding war for a long time before the end came.

So it’s intriguing that he was still supposedly able to land The Ascetic Virtues and invent Genejack Factories. That implies that his tech rate and industrial capacity remained globally competitive until the very end. Combined with his native industry bonuses, those extra minerals would have been extremely valuable.

This means his final collapse must have been quite sudden. Perhaps he was on the wrong side of a wave of high-tech ‘copters. Or perhaps a crucial front-line base fell and then his mag tube network was used against him to hollow out his entire empire in just a couple of turns. We are not privy to any of these details, but it’s enough to know that SMAC provides several plausible alternatives for how such a rapid fall from grace could happen.

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