“And the Lord God said, ‘Behold, the man is become as
one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth
his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and
live forever, we must send him forth.’ Therefore the
Lord God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till
the ground from whence he was taken.”
— The Conclave Bible, Datalinks
The fifth-tier Longevity Vaccine would deliver what most people would think of as clinical immortality. It greatly retards the aging process. And, by doing so, it allows people to functionally enjoy eternal youth while having no expectation of death by what would traditionally be considered natural causes.
The Clinical Immortality secret project, based on Matter Editation and demonstrated in this video, means something rather different. It is now possible to be literally, physically immortal. With this technology and enough energy at one’s disposal, a person’s pattern can always be perfectly regenerated. That holds even if the atoms that currently make up a person are completely obliterated in an antimatter reaction or tossed into a black hole. As long as CEO Morgan is right about nothing being able to transcend its smallest elements, then as long as society continues to exist, this project really does represent the final conquest of death.
In that light, it’s worth considering the fact that the video isn’t edited so as to treat this as a purely positive advance. It would have been easy to have this video show a person die and then be miraculously reassembled and arise from a pod. Then everyone celebrates and it would be obviously a wonderful thing.
Instead, we get a Bible quote whose most straightforward reading is that God, for whatever reason, explicitly did not want humanity to eat from the tree of life. All the while, the visuals are of a futuristic facility that looks something like a temple or refuge. At the very least, the hallways have no obvious purpose. But then, in the inner sanctum, we do not see anything we’d recognize as a person. Instead, we see a brain, a pair of eyes, and a spinal column sitting largely inert in a jar, complete with ominous red lights and a disconcerting sound effect.
According to the comments on the linked YouTube video, it is clear that many people are misreading this video. In the full context of SMAC, the attentive player will know by know that having brains in jars and feeding them arbitrary sensory experience has been possible since the fourth-tier Bioenhancement Center. And uploading minds to computers has been possible at least since the invention of Digital Sentience on the tenth tier of the technology tree.
I believe the best interpretation of this video is that this facility has just begun the process of regenerating a person. The best evidence in favor of this theory comes from the screen readouts in the background. One of these appears to show a rough image of a person’s upper body in an X-Ray style. And when the red light comes on, almost all of the background details are obscured save for this image on the lower left, which proves that it was important.
Presumably the change to the red light indicates that the active copy of the person in question has just been terminated and a replacement is required. For speed and convenience, base copies of the brain, eyes, and spine are built early and kept in a suspended state. Now the process is about to begin, in which a brand-new body will be assembled around the cached components along the lines of the nearby readout. Once it’s done, it will be sent back out into the world from this individual’s personal temple, retracing the camera’s path down the hallway.
The primary gameplay effects of this advance are to double the faction’s votes in U.N. Council elections and grants two free talents to every base. It’s interesting to note that this is reminiscent of the Peacekeepers’ factional bonuses. Thematically, this echoes nicely when we recall that Lal was the Chief Medical Officer aboard the Unity. Medical advances have consistently been tied fairly tightly to the well-being of the populace. And this effect stretches to the very end of the profession of medicine, itself.
The mechanical effect of all these bonus talents is quite substantial. With few exceptions, the only previous source of talents had been Psych spending. But now, in the late-game, it’s possible to get a bunch of talents for free. When that’s coupled with the better value on specialists that produce Psych (compared to the early-game Doctors), this makes Golden Ages much more common at the end of the game. Which, among other things, lightens the tone of the late game. From the player’s perspective, if the population of all of his bases are wildly happy, things can’t be going too badly.