Technology: Controlled Singularity

“Some would ask, how could a perfect God create a universe filled with so much that is evil. They have missed a greater conundrum: why would a perfect God create a universe at all?”

— Sister Miriam Godwinson, “But for the Grace of God”

Controlled Singularity is the final technology in the chain that began with Graviton Theory. From the name and the prerequisites, it would appear that it uses the techniques represented by Applied Gravitonics to safely manipulate the artificial singularities that can be created using Singularity Mechanics. So now they can be safely used for more purposes than just a potent power source.

For instance, they allow the creation of the twenty-four strength Singularity Laser. This is ultimate unit weapon in SMAC. Units equipped with these weapons and using the earlier Singularity Engines have no problem sweeping aside any lesser-equipped enemy.

This is the reason why this technology is considered a military tech. Which is interesting given that its other benefit is to allow the construction of an economy-focused secret project. The Singularity Inductor counts as a free Quantum Converter at every base. Which is simultaneously very powerful and generally almost completely worthless in a typical game, as it is very unlikely for there to be many turns left for the investment to pay itself back.

So let’s move on to the associated quote. It’s Sister Miriam again. Which is a little surprising given that we know how her story ends. But notice that this one isn’t attributed to “We Must Dissent”. In fact, judging by the quote to the Planetary Transit System, I’d argue that “But for the Grace of God” was likely written at the height of the Believers’ fortunes. At that time, her people had just constructed their first Secret Project. And it was one that seemed to herald an age of prosperity as her people spread out to colonize wide swaths of the new world.

We can conclude, then, that Miriam’s question isn’t coming from a place of existential doubt or despair. She has been grappling with what philosophers have called the problem of evil since the beginning. And instead of making a loud statement in favor of God’s obvious goodness, she turns it around by asking instead why God would choose to create the universe at all.

This is a pretty profound line of argument. Ancient philosophers and wise men have often been drawn to the idea of perfection as that which is complete in and of itself. The image of God as an axiomatically perfect creator naturally raises the question as to why he would ever feel the need to create anything outside of himself. To create is to theoretically attempt to fill or sate a felt need. And a perfect being would logically have no such needs.

There are several natural ways to resolve this dilemma. God could not exist, God could be imperfect, God’s perfection could be best seen as some sort of dynamic state instead of as an instantiation of some Platonic ideal, or that the system defined as God includes the universe itself as a component. And those are just the possibilities that came off the top of my head; there are certainly many others. But Reynolds chooses to leave it unclear in the end as to what Sister Miriam’s answer may have been.

All of this would just be another in the long tradition of rambling that makes up the typical philosophers’ favorite pastime, were it not for the context in which the player encounters this discussion. Popping the stack a meta-level, the player actually knows the concrete answer to both of Sister Miriam’s questions: because he wanted to play a game of SMAC.

Her world exists and is filled with so much imperfection and moral evil because Reynolds and his friends at Firaxis Entertainment set it up that way. For his entertainment. From that perspective, SMAC could be seen literally as a god-game, with the player standing in as a cruel or callous god.

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4 thoughts on “Technology: Controlled Singularity

  1. Rafe Saltman

    Theodicy is a central question in Scott Alexander’s wonderful serial novel, UNSONG, whose genre has been described as “kabbalahpunk”. Scott is an abiding fan of SMAC and snuck Miriam’s quote into his book.

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