Technology: Homo Superior

“Companions the creator seeks, not corpses, not herds and believers. Fellow creators the creator seeks–those who write new values on new tablets. Companions the creator seeks, and fellow harvesters; for everything about him is ripe for the harvest.”

— Friedrich Nietzsche, “Thus Spoke Zarathustra”, Datalinks

Let’s start by dispensing with the gameplay basics. Homo Superior is an eighth-tier exploration technology that requires Biomachinery and Doctrine: Initiative to research. It enables the creation of Nanohospitals and the Universal Translator secret project, both of which have as their main effect speeding a faction’s research.

But the flavor for this technology is far more interesting than any of its practical effects. We know from the previous Biomachinery technology that it was then possible to build a person up from scratch to a design. And the name of this technology makes it pretty clear what this capacity eventually gets used for.

A little background is necessary here for readers that may not be familiar with species notation in biology. It is common to refer to species by their genus and then their species name, with any subspecies specifications beneath that. So the earliest hominid is known as Homo erectus and anatomically modern humans – the only ones that are still around on present-day Earth – are known formally as Homo sapiens sapiens.

So Homo Superior can only mean that the discovering faction has literally brought forth a new species of man in the laboratory. One that is designed from the ground up to combine the best of machine and man. And from the name, we can safely conclude that this new species is strictly dominant to the old one on all the traditional metrics. They’re stronger, faster, and smarter. Simply better.

And it is this context that informs the Nietzsche quote that accompanies the technology. I am not about to make the classic undergraduate mistake of claiming to truly understand Nietzsche, if that’s even possible in principle. But I think I am competent to speak on what Reynolds was going for when he selected this famous quote of his.

Nietzsche seems to be making the claim here that if there is a God, the last thing he would want are what are commonly thought of as good people. He doesn’t want throngs of loyal followers. Nor does he want piles of dead unbelievers stacked up to commemorate his glory. What he really wants are fellow gods. Or, barring that, at least those who would dare to make their own commandments rather than just blindly keep the ones he handed down centuries before.

So it would seem Reynolds is claiming that these fellow gods Nietzsche claimed the creator sought all along are the new Homo Superior. Let that sink in for a moment. These new people are not just quantitatively better than us modern humans. They’re not just a society of John von Neumanns or Albert Einsteins in the bodies of Arnold Schwarzenegger from the Terminator movies. That would at least be comprehensible to us. But these new people seem to be qualitatively more akin to gods than men.

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3 thoughts on “Technology: Homo Superior

    1. Nick Stipanovich Post author

      That’s a really good question. I’d say there are two parts to the answer.

      First, there’s nothing preventing the Believers from researching this technology. And, in fact, if the game goes on long enough, it’s inevitable. So there has to be a use-case/application of this technology that doesn’t immediately jump to “we are now as Nietzschean supermen”. The answer is probably simply in approach: if things are going well for the Believers, they would insist upon the equal dignity of each person’s immortal soul regardless of the inequities in one’s purely physical or mental blessings. They would emphasize the continuity of the genus rather than the abilities of the new species.

      A hint to second part of the answer can be found in Miriam’s quote on Advanced Spaceflight. Her major late-game text is called “We Must Dissent”. We see several more quotes from this source as the game goes on, and most of them make it pretty clear that she means it. She has deep concerns with how the future ends up evolving in the implied canon.

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