Technology: Singularity Mechanics

“Yes, yes, we’ve all heard the philosophers babble about ‘oneness’ being ‘beautiful’ and ‘holy’. But let me tell you that this kind of oneness certainly isn’t pretty and if you’re not careful it will scare the bejeezus out of you.”

— Anonymous Lab Technician, MorganLink 3DVision Live Interview

Singularity Mechanics is a twelfth-tier pure scientific advance that is based upon Self-Aware Machines and The Secrets of Creation. Its only immediate practical application is to unlock the final reactor type. This new Singularity Engine gives units four times the amount of HP as units using the old Fission Reactors. Which, it turns out, is more than enough to ensure dominance over any faction that’s still using more primitive power sources.

In my opinion, it’s far more interesting to analyze the position of this technology on the tree in the light of what it represents. But in order to bring that into full view, we have to take a trip back into the past with the new knowledge we now have of how the future turned out.

Think all the way back to Fusion Power. At the time, it was clear that it was one of the technologies that marked the transition from the limited early game to the futuristic mid-game. But in addition to its massive direct benefits, it turned out to occupy a pivotal place on the technology tree.

I would argue that the SMAC mid-game tech tree contains within it two main research paths of interest. The first is probably best referred to as the “future economy” path. This encompasses the revolutionary effects of nanotechnology and space flight and enters the late-game through the invention of true AI. Fusion Power is required for this through Organic Superlubricant.

Meanwhile, the second path extends the biological and psionic state of the art as represented by Retroviral Engineering, Mind/Machine Interface, and Centauri Meditation. By the end of the path, it becomes possible for society to be directed by brand-new psionic Nietzschean supermen in The Will To Power. These brilliant supermen then enter the late-game by unlocking the very Secrets of Creation themselves. Fusion Power also underlies this route by virtue of being required for Advanced Ecological Engineering.

If one were so inclined, one could therefore look at the SMAC mid-game as the mankind’s Fusion Era. This would make the early game the Fission Era. Thus, the late-game should logically have been the Quantum Era, based on the breakthrough represented by the eleventh-tier Quantum Power technology, which came rather directly out of the global nanotech economy.

But, suddenly, here we have a brand-new source of real ultimate power. One that inspires a pretty funny reflection here from Reynolds, attributed to an anonymous Morganite, on just how scary it would be to play with artificial black holes as a routine part of the power infrastructure. They could very well be one tragic slip-up away from the destruction of Planet in some crazy runaway reaction.

SMAC does not model such an apocalyptic scenario directly. But it might be worth noting here that the destructive capacity of Planet Busters does indeed scale with reactor size. So, if the player is so inclined, he can now choose to introduce his foes to some ugly, unholy oneness first hand.

Anyway, the point of this extended meditation on the structure of the SMAC technology tree is that Singularity Mechanics doesn’t appear to have come from the obvious, predictable extension of power technology driven by increasing economic sophistication. It doesn’t even require the faction to have Quantum Power first!

In Zahkarov’s terms, Quantum Power was the rather predictable result of a long series of methodical experimentation. But Singularity Mechanics represents a single, revolutionary flash of insight. One only made possible by futuristic psionic superhumans working side by side with powerful artificial intelligences.

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