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Discussion in 'Mass Effect 3 General Discussion' started by ASC, Apr 2, 2012.
I added more stuff to the initial text and a lot of people joined the forum in the meantime so I think they might wanna read this.
We agree. We can only conclude that the Catalyst AI have serious flaws in its core programming. We expected at least a chance to bring light to the illogical parts.
Like in fallout 3 with the *SPOILERS* computer president Eden. With high enough science we can talk to it on its most basic logical level and even twist the words so that it has no choice but see a flaw in its logic. We must mention that Eden's logic was much less flawed the Catalyst's was.
However, an AI capable of controlling the Old Machines must have superior programming. But not even mundane programming can work with flawed logical runtimes.
If we were inquired to speculate, we would only expect this anomaly to be a failed hacking attempt of a previous cycle. However it has low propability. The Crucible was never finished before, becouse the Old Machines always took the Citadel first before the prothean signal-jamming and Shepard-Commander's intervention. Additionally, the Citadell is largely unexplored becouse of the countless unaccessable secret Keeper tunnels. Any hacking attempt of the Catalyst system would need direct access, it would be a highly inefficient trap otherwise. Even if a hack is phisicly possible however, the chance of a small group of organics meaningfully influencing a system as superior as even a single Old Machine yet alone the Catalyst, is unmeasurably small.
In the end it does matter little, becouse flawed logic is something we can oppose. We are just disappointed that Shepard-Commander did not do so.
I read the updates made to the OP, and I remembered something: Legion and EDI deeply ponder some of the unique characteristics of organic life. EDI takes into account the irrational concept of altruism, and Legion examines just what it means to feel "hope." While I didn't actively take note of this on my first playthrough of the game (since at that point I didn't know I'd need to pick apart how terrible and inconsistent the end would be), I still picked up on it.
This is Mass Effect's way of telling us something very, very important about synthetic life.
Typical AI rampancy stories center around the AI finding no utility whatsoever in organic life (except perhaps as a consumable resource). The reason machines wipe out organic life is because the organics take up space, use too many of the limited valuable resources, are vastly inferior in terms of intellect, and generally have nothing to offer the synthetics. They're a nuisance at best and an outright disaster at worst.
In Mass Effect, the AI we encounter do find something useful in organics. Their vast intelligence can account for a great many things, but organics have a unique perspective on existential questions. These kinds of questions are deep and indeterminate, unable to be solved by any computation. The Mass Effect synthetics demonstrate a desire to understand their existence just as we do, and this sets them up as not only sympathetic characters, but also as real people.
As a result, the Catalyst's monologue is not something we can swallow given our context. It's not just a matter of incorrect or circular logic leading to faulty conclusions. The Catalyst is simply wrong on a philosophical level, because there is no substantial metaphysical difference between synthetic and organic life in Mass Effect.
Previous cycles might have been just like what the Catalyst expected. Or not, impossible to know for certain. According to Javik, the Zha'Till was originally an organic race that lived on a dying planet, beyond their ability to save. But they used cybernetics to enhance their intelligence. It is assumed that the cybernetics and their programming took over the physical body. The enhanced eventually 'enslaved' the original race, but without a different (less anti-synthetic) perspective, it is difficult to take that as fact. We could speculate that the original race was beyond saving as was their planet, and the enhancement was forced for continued existence of the species. Which was seen as a threat to the other organics, who naturally attacked.
Another theory could be that the genocidal attempts of every synthetic race in all previous cycles was the working of the Old Machines, just like in our cycle. But that is just speculation. We have enough actual facts to disprove most of the Catalyst AI's arguement.
I tried to play devil's advocate to the Catalyst as I thought what the writer's were thinking when they introduced it's one-liner concept, taking it at face value, and discarding 99% of the game from my mind, if I just saw *this* single scene and was told it's "solution" involved the genocide of trillions of sentient beings.
I found that I couldn't, not only because of the fact that it's illogical from the it's own argument. Why not just "harvest" synthetics as they crop up? I found that it (and the Reapers) go about the "solution" in the most evil, morally reprehensible and most importantly inefficient way to stop this "AI Armageddon" from happening.
No matter how an author would try to explain this concept, I do not believe there is a human being on this planet, aside from sociopaths, that would "understand" and empathize with said concept, or a villain like the Catalyst/Reapers.
I just wonder...Can we be sure that the Catalys or even the Old Machines are true A.I.-s? We never considered this before, not after the first 2 lines with Sovereign, but realy, everything we experience from them and from other A.I.-s and V.I.-s we can see some interesting connections.
See Avina for example. It mimics organic behavior pretty well when it is inside its programming. It has a singular purpose which it never questions, and never can question. A helpful tourist guide without capability to understand anything it does, every sign of emotion is just a virtual illusion programmed with great care.
Just think about it. How much difference can you find between the purpose of these two quotes?
"YOU CANNOT COMPREHEND OUR NATURE. WE HAVE NO BEGINNING. WE HAVE NO END..."
"I'm sorry, an answer to this question is beyond my programming"
A well programmed VI is capable of faking of answering questions it has no information on. An AI on the other hand ASKS questions.
"What is the purpose of synthetic life?"
"Does this unit have a soul?"
The only saving grace in arguement of the Old Machines and the Catalys being true A.I. is their resistance to any hacking attempt. We think it can be explained by their most alien nature and the sheer magnitude of their code.
Actually the Catalyst might not be an AI at all.
And the reapers, although you could say that they have Artificial Intelligence, their consciousness certainly doesn't work as group of programs as in the geth.
You can see the difference when Legion demonstrates the effect of the reaper upgrade on the geth.
Another problem I have with that is that the game tries to instill the notion that genocide is a viable, if not good, solution to a non-existant problem.
Which would make me wonder the thought put into it by the author(s) and question their disappearance from feedback if they realize the message they're sending.
Starchild I'm coming for you.
I want to avoid the "Reductio ad Hitlerum", but the more I watch the ending, the more I think the underlying message that "genocide may be good" is there. Probably it's an exaggeration on my part, and I'm not so biased as to think that Casey Hudson willlingly meant it, but is another proof that it was shoddy writing, not artistic at all.
Well, as I see it, the "synthesis" ending is clearly eugenics, and since THE major asset / main particularity of Mass Effect IS the diversity of its species, the green space magic litterally kills what makes the ME universe so rich and interesting. Honestly, I have tried, but I just can't understand the people who actually see the green thing as the best of the three options. It is actually the worst, and by far, considering that it negates everything that makes the very core of ME. And also there's the fact that an energy wave CANNOT re-write the genetic code of all the species just by spreading throughout the galaxy. It's clearly not "Mass Effect-ish".
PS : I hope I've been clear in what I just said, I'm pretty tired right now and it's hard to type something that makes sense when your eyes are half closed. Sorry guys
There's very little (if any) middle ground between the two I think, either it *is* bad writing, which is the most plausible, most of us who write or anyone really, can come up with "awesome concept X!" but may not always think through the repercussions of the message. Look at anything politicians/historical figures have said.
On the other hand, Hudson and Walters may be psychopaths disguised as writers/developers. Who knows at this point.
But it's inevitable. Godwin's Law says that as an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one. It just happens that the comparison is so applicable it appeared on only the second page of the thread.
Well, not completely, while Hitler was a specialist in the field; Stalin, Pol Pot, Kim-Il-Sung, and to a lesser extent Mussolini, were very good at it as well. So to be correct, is better to call it "reductio ad genocidum"
Jokes aside (and the matter is not very apt), I believe that they did not write it intentionally, just that they aren't very good. The matter is made even more funny, because they are defending the ending so vehemently.
Me: "So... your game says that killing an entire race is a good thing, if the circumstances are dire."
Bioware: "Well... yes... and that eugenics are the best solution for everyone!"
Am I the only one who find this depressing? (Not in an enlightening way...)
Nope, I find it depressing too. The ending forces a certain kind of utilitarianism on us that we may not want to accept. Is it acceptable (or even good/right) to sacrifice a small number to save a large number? It's a question that's been discussed many times, both in and out of Mass Effect. Watchmen, one of my favorite books and arguably one of the best graphic novels of all time, uses this question as its centerpiece. The difference there is that Watchmen was left wide open for the reader to decide how they felt and which characters they believed had done the right thing. If BioWare was going for an ending like that (the "lots of speculation" comment leads me to believe they were), they failed spectacularly. No ending allows us to choose if we accept the utilitarian argument, it merely allows us to choose what flavor it takes (slavery, genocide, or a strange magical form of eugenics). I (and by extension, my Paragon Shepard) found this assertion to be bleak, unpalatable, and yes, depressing.
Just as an aside, one of the greatest ironies in all of this was that, before the game was released, I once told a friend of mind that I hoped they didn't try to replicate the ending of DA:O and make a scenario in which Shepard either has to die or do something horrible in order to avoid death. Thankfully, the words tasted good when I ate them later.
Let's say that Bioware overhauls the ending in the Extended Cut DLC.
They make up some plausible reason for why the Catalyst didn't let the reapers into the galaxy in ME1.
They allow you to argue Catalyst's logic and convince him that he's wrong. He realises that for some reason in this cycle synthetics are different and that they aren't inevitably a threat.
So he gives you a 4th option - just kill the reapers. Citadel and the relays aren't destroyed. Normandy doesn't crash.
You win and reunite with the crew and you get closure on everything.
Would you accept this ending?
Although it would certainly be somewhat better than what we originally got, I still wouldn't like it.
And here's why:
1. The reapers are still Catalyst's house cleaners. Lame.
2. Even though the Catalyst realises that he was wrong, he's still stupid:
Everything that happened in Mass Effect universe is caused by faulty reasoning of some super-natural being. Lame.
3. The orginal 3 choices are still there. Higly implausible synthesis of organic and synthetics life is still a possibility.
This is why I think that the indoctrination theory is the best way to go.
Bioware wouldn't have to justify Catalyst's stupid reasoning, synthesis (this is inexplainable), etc...
You'd just get up after Harbinger's beam and go towards a new, logical, reasonable, satisfying high-quality ending.
This is a point that should be driven home to supporters of the ending .Staying within the context of the game, Mass Effect 2 already heavily implied the *reason* why the Reapers do what they do. All that possibly was needed to be expanded upon was the why of they would go to such genocidal lengths instead of something on a smaller scale (though it'd be fine to omit this).
That universal drive that causes war, expansion, strife, conflict and suffering. Reproduction. That is a very logical , cold and understandable motivation that we can all comprehend.
When Sovereign says we cannot comprehend, he's right if reproduction through harvesting and culling whole civilizations is their motivation and primary means to reproduce. How can any single humanoid understand the *need* or *want* to wipe out entire societies to further one's own race, we've been their food for millennia.
*If* the writer's had kept the hunger for reproduction, logical conclusion as to why at all they would build a human reaper, as the primary motivation for the Reapers, they are totally valid (in that specific motivation) to harvest species.
Reducing them to toys isn't as terrifying.