“The happy life is thought to be one of excellence; now an excellent life requires exertion, and does not consist in amusement. If Eudaimonia, or happiness, is activity in accordance with excellence, it is reasonable that it should be in accordance with the highest excellence; and this will be that of the best thing in us.”
— Aristotle, “Nichomachean Ethics”, Datalinks
Eudaimonia is the final technology on the tree that’s named after a philosophical concept. In the game, it is classified as a twelfth-tier exploration technology. Though this may seem strange, it fits the established pattern. Technologies that represent an increased ability to physically explore Chiron, those that represent plumbing the secrets of the Planet, and those represent society-wide philosophical exploration into new areas of idea-space are all generally labeled as such.
The selection from the Nichomachean Ethics Reynolds has presented explains what Aristotle meant by the term Eudaimonia from the perspective of a single life well lived. In the context of SMAC, the technology represents the ability to structure society such that it encourages this excellence from everyone. Hence, the major benefit it provides is to unlock the final Future Society choice.
A Eudaimonic society is probably the most utopian of the three visions of futuristic society presented by SMAC. So it’s interesting that living in this fashion requires The Will To Power along with Sentient Econometrics. From this selection and the context, it would seem that Eudaimonia democratizes the desire for excellence emphasized by the first Nietzschean supermen. A Eudaimonic society tries to find the potential for excellence in everyone instead of putting society in the hands of the few brilliant individuals at the top.
SMAC models a society like this by granting major bonuses to Economy, Growth, and Industry at the cost of a Morale penalty. Putting it in terms that would be previously comprehensible to the player, it combines the economic benefits of a Free Market with the Growth bonus of Democracy and the combined Industry bonuses of Planned and Wealth. And the downside is just a Morale penalty equivalent to the Wealth downside.
So Eudaimonia provides an excellent combination for a peaceful, builder game. From that perspective, the only downside is that it comes so late. In fact, for several factions, these bonuses unlock combinations that would otherwise be completely inaccessible.
It’s worth taking a moment to reflect along those lines on just what this set of bonuses can do for Yang and his Hive, in particular. Thematically, one would logically suspect that Eudaimonia would not fit in well with his plans. Something like Thought Control might seem to be a more natural fit.
But this doesn’t turn out to be true. See, the Hive generally has a very difficult time coming up with energy. Based on the relatively small energy penalties from a -2 Economy rating on the social engineering screen, it doesn’t seem like it should be that big a deal. But the rules are set up such that there is a very big jump in energy yields at a +2 Economy rating. Most factions can just run Free Market and hit that level if they want to focus on energy production. Yang cannot hit +2 until Eudaimonia.
The other major bonus Yang gets comes from Growth. Yang can’t set off a population boom without a Golden Age because he can’t run Democracy. Which is especially difficult for him because he has trouble coming up with lots of Psych energy due to the aforementioned Economy problem. But Planned/Eudaimonic is good enough for Yang to get there just through Childrens’ Creches and the Social Engineering screen, just like most of the other factions.
The final attraction Yang would see in Eudaimonia are the breakthroughs in psionics that come along with it. The Psi defense unit armor wouldn’t be so interesting. But the Telepathic Matrix secret project represents his Holy Grail: it prevents all drone riots forevermore. Period.
In canon, we know that Yang’s novel society was extinguished before they could get to this point in the technology tree. So we don’t see any quotes from him about how his Hive would have adapted to the late game. But I find it simply fascinating that Reynolds would set the game up so that the leader the game labels “The Despot” would get the most potential benefit out of the most utopian of the social choices.