SOMA EP14: DOOMed

By Shamus
on Apr 29, 2016
Filed under:
Spoiler Warning

57 comments


Link (YouTube)

So Simon makes a copy of himself. Only instead of seeing the copy as the Best Ally Ever, he gets mad and calls Catherine “disgusting”. I think most people feel Simon is being a dunce here.

But there is an interesting dilemma. Simon is upset about the fact that a copy exists, which (at least in this context) I don’t think is a problemIf you’ve got a spouse, kids, and a social life, this becomes more complex.. But what I do see as a problem is that he’s made a doomed copy. There’s only one copy of Catherine. And Old Simon can’t follow New Simon into the trench, which leaves Old Simon here, alone, trapped in this single room with an unstoppable monster banging on the door.

I guess how you feel about this depends on how “trapped” you think Old Simon is. If we take the level design here as literally true, then there’s a magical insurmountable box canyon just outside that will prevent Old Simon from simply walking around the complex and re-visiting previous locations. So Old Simon can either jump into the abyss and get crushed, or open the interior door and get killed by the monster, or sit here alone until his battery dies. Oh, and New Simon has to take the OmniTool with him, which would apparently leave Old Simon completely unable to escape the room. In this case, I suppose it doesn’t matter what happens to Old Simon.

If we take SOMA’s word for it, he’s completely doomed. And we have to, because this is a videogame with a finite budget and the writers can’t explore all the possible outcomes and paths of all of your possible copies.

But the rock walls outside exist for the same reason Gordon Freeman can’t vault over thigh-high walls. It’s not that he literally can’t, it’s that he doesn’t need to in the context of this story, and game developers need to put the level boundaries somewhere. So it’s fair to say that Old Simon really ought to be able to get out of here. It’s interesting to think about what would happen if we lifted away the videogame abstractions and let Old Simon go his own way after New Simon and Catherine descended into the Abyss.

Personally, I’d be a lot less worried about being doomed if I knew there was a perfect copy of me out there. My gut tells me I’d feel bold. I’ve got nothing to lose. I might as well see if I can make myself useful, right?

Can I backtrack to previous areas? Can I reclaim an area by clearing out the monsters and fixing all the flickering lights? These monsters are often blind, armless, and driven entirely by atavistic rage. It seems like a sighted person with opposable thumbs, a very durable body, and a nominally working brain ought to be able to cope with them. Old Simon has an entire complex of tools to work with. Our ancestors killed more dangerous beasts with much more primitive tools. He’s got the ability to force an encounter on his own terms, and he’s got the courage that comes from knowing he’s got basically nothing left to lose.

Maybe I can re-visit the living people I’ve encountered on the way here. I was in a hurry before, but now I’ve got plenty of time to experiment. Can I communicate with them? Can I make them more comfortable? Can I learn anything from them? Maybe they want me to unplug them for good? Maybe they just want a pillow, a future-Kindle, and some news of what’s going on?

If all of that reached a dead end, my next project might be to try and reach the surface, if for no other reason that to see what happened to the planet. Assuming there aren’t any vehicles around the base, it would mean walking, and that sounds kind of hopeless. You’d need a compass, or you might end up going in circles. Or worse, get turned around and head due north or south. I don’t know how long Simon’s battery will last – and maybe it’s not enough for any of these projects – but walking along the ocean floor could take months. That’s rough terrain, you can’t see very far, and you don’t move very fast. Worse, likely as not you’d get damaged by marine life. Simon is durable, but I don’t imagine he could survive many shark bitesAssuming sharks survived. Maybe the marine habitat collapsed. We don’t know. In fact, that’s the whole reason we’re making this trip in the first place. We don’t know what the damage is.. Heck, there could be bunkers out there somewhere with living people in them. I have no idea how in blazes you’d FIND them, but it’s an interesting thing to think about.

In some ways I think the story of Old Simon could be more interesting than New Simon. New Simon is trying to upload himself into a static simulation with completely known parameters. Old Simon’s future isn’t nearly so predeterminedAgain, ignoring the rather important question of battery life and the long-term durability of the meat carcass he’s riding around on.. I certainly don’t see any point to deleting him.

Dear Catherine and New Simon: Leave the guy a note. You jerks.

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From the Archives:

  1. Grimwear says:

    The funny thing about those Doom comments is that the book series kind of follows the problems that Simon faces in this game. It’s been many years since I read them but Doom Guy with his love interest girl do end up having themselves cloned and run around doing their own thing. In fact Doom Guy clone ends up re-enacting the initial mars invasion and befriends a bunch of demons and then takes them with him back to Earth.

  2. MichaelGC says:

    What are these … little museum gift shop bags full of liquid of some kind that’s really slippery?

  3. Majikkani_Hand says:

    An eternity of two robots playing “Doom” is called their “dooms”, of course.

  4. Daemian Lucifer says:

    That monster staring at the thing,what you are supposed to do is creep towards it.Thats it.Every time you pick up the pace,the monster sends out a pulse.The stronger these pulses,the more pissed of it is.So if you walk-stop-walk-stop it will never move.Its super lame.

  5. topazwolf says:

    I’ll just out and say it. If I was in this position, I would collect all the materials I could and build as many copies of me as possible. Robotic drones that all have my mind and then lead them to start retaking the surface. After awhile we could set up some form of civilization.

    However, this does lead to the question of what a world would look like after hundreds of years of basically immortal beings who all shared the same core memories diverging and interacting with one another. Perhaps it is something to look into for a sequel. Or it might just be a really awesome idea for a Science Fiction book where someone time travels to the future and eventually finds out that everyone he meets there is him.

    Side Note: I’m aware that there are some issues with power and maintenance. I figure that the maintenance will be sorted by having copies whose job it is to repair and the power will be solved by staying near enough to base to recharge periodically until a remote solution could be found. A lot of free time and nothing else to do would be a great motivator. Though the me’s that get non humanoid bodies will probably be a bit annoying until they get better hands.

    • Sunshine says:

      I wonder if you’d get discord between the copies that are assigned to maintenance and the others that benefit from that maintence to choose their own activity. Does everyone take shifts? Do they see themselves as a exploited proletariat? Are they exalted as the tech-priests that preserve everyone?

      • MichaelGC says:

        My clones would have a scrupulously fair rota system. At least to begin with … would it change over time? I guess that’s the question ooooooeeeeeeoooeeooo!… Or one of them, anyway.

      • topazwolf says:

        Well there wouldn’t be much rotation since not all of the mes would have free time to study and learn the ins and outs of repairing our bio-mechanical bodies. Some of us would have to maintain the base, some of us would have to hunt down and dispose of the stupid monsters and others would have to start clear out a place for a colony top side. While I’m sure I would demand the occasional break, it would be staggered with the other “Doctors” to make a more relaxed environment. Keep in mind that we don’t need to sleep, eat, or otherwise engage in anything else and maintenance would be relatively lowly desired at the beginning so we would have time to do other things.

        No one would get to choose. We are all the same person. We would draw up a list of things that need doing and the ones with the bodies best suited to the tasks would be selected to do them.

        There wouldn’t be much discord or classism for a very long time. It should be noted that discord is precisely the reason I wouldn’t use any of the other brain scans to fill out the rank and file. I know I won’t go off the handle, but I wouldn’t trust a bunch of strangers to see things my way.

        From what I know about myself, the worst thing that would happen from this arrangement is the mes that have less than ideal hands will probably moan and complain about it periodically which everyone would both sympathize with and also be annoyed by. However, bad jobs would just have two or more of me complaining and agreeing with each other so it wouldn’t be too bad.

        Also worth noting that this arrangement only works for certain personality types. Some people would start killing themselves in hunger game style after a few weeks declaring that there can be only one.

        • Malky says:

          Frankly, I can’t stand myself and I have a habit of avoiding things like “work” so clones of me will probably be less than useless.

          I mean, the idea is nice, surrounding yourself with someone you’re very sure you can trust just because you’re very clearly not a blood(?)thirsty monster out to rend you apart. But, at least in the beginning, you’re all equally afraid of pain or all equally resistant to labor or whatever sort of flaws you yourself had. Who knows how long it would take for all of you to start differentiating in personality, with no real stimulus besides yourself. After getting over whatever unease I have about the whole issue, I’d probably just be in an echo chamber forever. I’m also interested in what Old Simon could potentially do, and I’m also interested in the sort of metaphysical questions that arise from this situation, but I’d prefer to not talk to myself thanks.

  6. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Wait…Isnt this the place where catherine comments on you fisting wau?And Josh deliberately didnt do it here?

  7. Daemian Lucifer says:

    What really makes simon the dumbest idiot is that even after specifically seeing this,with his own eyes(kind of),the next time he copies himself he is still surprised and angry by how it works.He really has the memory of a goldfish*.

    *Yes,I know that mythbusters disproved that myth.Its still a nice expression.

  8. Daemian Lucifer says:

    So you can increase internal pressure of a human by an atmosphere or two if they are going to go deep underwater for prolonged periods of time by slowly increasing the pressure of the air they are breathing.What I wonder is whats the maximum our body can endure?Can you theoretically increase your internal pressure to thousands of atmospheres?Or is there a limit somewhere around 5 or 10?

    • We’ve managed to get to about 33 atmos or 1k feet, but that’s a limit caused by the solution used to breathe at high pressures becoming too thick. Saturation divers have issues with aseptic bone necrosis (aka bone death due to failure of blood circulation in the fine capillaries) but that’s a more long-term problem.

  9. Daemian Lucifer says:

    If you’ve got a spouse, kids, and a social life, this becomes more complex.

    Arnold Schwarzenegger explored that possibility.

  10. Daemian Lucifer says:

    And that whole thing you wrote is why I dont like this game.It gives you this incredible setting where you can clone yourself in an instant and then….all you can do is kill the other copy or let it rot for a few hours before it dies on its own.That wasted potential,thats the biggest sin of any art in my eyes.

  11. Sougo says:

    From his exchange with Catherine, I gather that Simon call her ‘disgusting’ because he believe she trick him into making a doomed copy – which is understandable since I’d be pretty uncomfortable if I have to make a perfect copy of myself only to leave him to certain death.

  12. Shas'ui says:

    I suspect that part of the reason why Simon shows such animosity towards his “prior” self is fear based: the earlier ideas of making sure “you” ended up in the right thought-stream become quite scary when you can interact with the other copy. Interacting with it will show that there is nothing that can prove that you are the “Correct” person and not the clone. Listening to your voice, saying “Did it work?”, you would naturally feel some measure of panic, wondering if it did work, are you the same person you were before? How could you tell if you were yourself? It would be exceptionally easy to worry that you were not the “real” you, and extremely difficult to reassure yourself that you were.

    Looking at the problem from the outside, it’s easy to say that you would ally with yourself, and rationally, it would be the best option. However, Simon has been in a nightmare situation, forced to quickly grasp, through whatever information he can scrounge and the minor explanations Catherine gives, the mechanics of this “alien” landscape in order to survive. In such an environment, it would be quite hard to tell factual information from superstitious information: “The Omnitool can hold a person because of structure gel” sounds just as good as anything else: he is dealing with “Sufficiently advanced technology” as per the Arthur C. Clarke quote. When he sees/hears all of the talk of “suicide to ensure correct placement”, there’s nothing he knows that can prove it wrong, other then Catherine’s opinion, and she offers no proof: he has no other reason not to believe it.

    On the subject of leaving “Old” Simon: from his perspective, the transfer didn’t work. He’s still trapped in the old body, and something that claims to be him has taken his only companion and left*. The way he is left in the play-through would terrifying: waking up alone, having failed in the one task he had, with no explanation, seemingly zero time after the scan was completed*. *(depending on how quickly Catherine shuts him down, he’ll either remember nothing of the “other” Simon, or remember a brief, angry interaction)

    Leaving a note would be immensely important, yet highly difficult. Again, if you look at the situation rationally, it would be simple enough to say: “Dear Me(shallow variant): I’m in the deep suit now, will finish ark project, taking Catherine with me. Have fun/take care, Me(deepsuit variant) PS. Bet you can’t beat my high score on Turbo-Turkey-Puncher: 3”.
    A stressed, scared, alone Simon will probably not see it quite as calmly as that.

    So: what note do you leave for the clone you abandoned in your quest for eternal, computerized survival?

    • “Dear me….
      I’m really really sorry. I tried asking Catherine to make sure you had a euthanasia button option, but she said there wasn’t time and she wasn’t sure how (she was probably lying about that). On the plus side, you can wander around the ocean, monster-hunt, maybe see if any of those people stuck in WAU goo know any good jokes?
      Or you can spend all your battery life creating a great monument to how much I suck for leaving you behind, or humanity, or both.
      Again, really sorry.
      Sincerely, me”

    • MrGuy says:

      I suspect that part of the reason why Simon shows such animosity towards his “prior” self is fear based: the earlier ideas of making sure “you” ended up in the right thought-stream become quite scary when you can interact with the other copy. Interacting with it will show that there is nothing that can prove that you are the “Correct” person and not the clone.

      The worse thing is that BOTH Simons are clones. The real Simon died 100 years ago. You’re already “just a copy.”

      What I like about this sequence is that it makes Simon confront that idea in a different way than he did when he woke up. When he woke up, he thought he was Simon. Then he learned the “real” Simon was dead and he was a replica with his memories. But in this scene, the Simon is a copy of someone who’s 10 feet away, and will actually wake up again (if you don’t kill him). If he’s Simon, and you’re Simon, then what is “Simon” exactly? And who will the copy you load into the ARK be? Who’s the “correct” Simon?

      You can see why a lot of the scientists killed themselves after being scanned.

    • topazwolf says:

      “Dear Me,

      Yeah. You probably knew this was coming. I suggest finding something to do with your life. I’ll try to put another copy on the ark. However, we both know I’m probably not coming back. So maybe make another one of us or whatever. You might need the company. At least try and take down some of the monsters okay?”

      The paper is dotted with ink where the pen sat for too long

      “A bit sobering huh? I was just born and now I’m off to die. I’ll never get a chance to be my own person. You’re definitely the lucky one. But at least I won’t have to worry that I leave nothing behind when I go.

      Make Us Proud”

      I’m not as dense as Simon and obviously would have noticed when building a new computer core that I wasn’t going to be the one in the diving suit.

  13. 4th Dimension says:

    Is the old Simon stuck with the main monster? Isn’t the main monster Ross guy that chases you to the workshop and then falls on the descender during it’s descent. if it is him, htan he is not in front of the door banging on it but is in the abyss with the NewSimon.
    Also how did he get into the abyss? Did he go through the diving suit workshop? And how is he not getting crushed by the pressure, or was his body still in the diving suit.

    • Narkis says:

      Old Simon is stuck with the monster that was staring at the wall. Ross is the guy in the main hub. He never chases Simon, but instead calmly, and invisibly, follows him to the abyss, which he can survive thanks to his WAU enhancements. It’s never outright stated, but it’s implied Ross’s invisibility is due to him hacking Simon’s electronics,

    • Weimer says:

      It seems that Mr. Ross is a monster man who can do incredible things with free will and structure gel. I guess they couldn’t get him acROSS to the player in any way other than sheer magic.

  14. Mersadeon says:

    I don’t think you’d become much more bold. Knowing you have a backup clone isn’t really something our instincts have an option for. Similarly to how in VR we just can’t take that step over a cliff’s edge despite being perfectly safe, knowing you are “safe” won’t really combat your instinctual fears and your body’s refusal to willingly harm itself.

  15. silver Harloe says:

    Marine life existed before land life, and could probably keep going without land life again. Or by “surface life” do you include the topmost layer of the oceans?
    I’m not really clear on the mechanics of this end-of-world scenario. Lack of sunlight? Disease? Firey atmosphere? What did the comet DO exactly?

    • Jakale says:

      I don’t think the game ever specifies, since the goal isn’t to get to the surface so who cares beyond what the plot needs, and I’m not sure how much the people in the station knew, either. Certainly they know about the impact and seem to have reason to believe human life is gone, so maybe someone on the surface sent them a message? Not like they’ve got camera feeds from the surface to check out and I didn’t pay attention to how long ago the impact was.

      Atmosphere’s probably fine, or at least hasn’t blown off into space significantly, since the ocean hasn’t boiled off from a big decrease in air pressure. It also clearly wasn’t a large enough impact to turn the planet molten again.

      Going from models of impact effects, probably lack of sunlight from kicked up dust and maybe triggered volcanic activity if the impact was big enough to wipe out the population, which means cooler temperatures and less sunlight, meaning bad climate for farming, so kick off famine and its effects to societies, including malnutrition which leaves people vulnerable to disease. Dunno how long it would last though and it’s possible this future world has food alternatives that could prevent the famine thing.

      We also have zero contact with the surface in the game, though, so either whatever happened killed the people or killed the method of communication and it hasn’t been long enough for surface folk to recover and fix that for a now relatively unimportant undersea base.

    • Ivellius says:

      Not sure of the science of it, but if you read this short story it partially describes the conditions above the surface.

  16. MrGuy says:

    Johan Ross can be found in the temple of AARGH!

  17. Alex says:

    @2:00: So what you’re saying is that Simon throws like a girl(‘s corpse)?

    I haven’t played the game, but as an observer I don’t have a problem with the visual artifacts. The WAU is a corrupting influence, and I was perfectly willing to believe that the WAU-corrupted humans were putting out electromagnetic radiation that was itself harmful to whatever Simon was.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      It makes sense in this game,but its still pretty annoying when you are playing it.But thats just the extension of the fact that the monsters can harm you,but you cant harm them back.

  18. MrGuy says:

    But…how am I ever going to learn how to be an astronaut?

  19. Entropy says:

    I mean, I see why New Simon gets mad. Yeah, he’s a little dumb assuming that he would magically make it across to the new body, but I don’t think people always dissect such things entirely rationally. Self-delusion is a powerful force.

    Thinking ‘hooray, my copy gets to live in this hellhole, he can totally reclaim the facility’ seems pretty damn optimistic. The guy is screwed. Oh good, he can.. explore the ocean floor? Sounds worthwhile. Hang out with the deluded AIs and monsters that want to kill him? Yay.

    The poor guy, who you just have memories of being, is getting totally screwed. *I* certainly wouldn’t want to wake up to that.

    So uh, yeah, I killed Old Simon.

    • IFS says:

      I share this opinion pretty much exactly, I felt very confused at Shamus and crew and their view of the situation. Old Simon is doomed, he’s not technically apt (and the technology of the base is well ahead of his time anyways) so any sort of rebuilding is out of the question. He’s trapped with a monster and even if he does escape there isn’t anywhere to go, he’s stuck in the black abyss of the bottom of the ocean and the only other people he could possibly meet are delusional and trapped in broken robots. To me the choice really comes down to whether you’d rather let him die peacefully or leave him to awake feeling betrayed and alone before his inevitable demise.

      Granted with all of the ‘kill yourself so the one in the simulation is the real you’ stuff that’s been brought up in previous episodes I think I understand where the confusion is coming from, but I don’t think it’s the central issue in this particular case. I also think that this instance of Simon being dense is justified, this is technology way out of his league (and I don’t think he was especially well versed in tech in his own time to begin with), it’s not something he’s spent much time considering (he’s still trying to wrap his head around what qualifies as human, and if he falls into that) and Catherine doesn’t go out of her way to explain how it works (if I recall correctly the only reason old simon is unconscious is because she knocked him out, which does seem somewhat manipulative to me, if understandably so). Now the next time where he gets angry about this I don’t think is justified, and really serves to undermine the ending by just making Simon into even more of an idiot, but this time I think works fine.

  20. Andy_Panthro says:

    Doesn’t Simon have to be dumb, in order for things to be explained to the player? It gives a way for all the conversations and ideas to come up, without having to leave yet more audio logs and notes.

    Also on the subject of audio logs… I’m finding it very distracting when everyone is talking over the audio logs. Is it possible to lower the volume of the voice acting in the game? Or just to avoid listening to the logs?

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      You can have stuff explained to the player without making the protagonist dumb.Me1 did this by having shepard be the one to answer your questions(“Isnt that so and so from such and such?”)

  21. Catherine’s speech/telling of the first time she got on the roof in her hometown, combined with the music and how well the actress voice it really gives me a Blade Runneresque Tears in the rain vibe from it all.

    It starts here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KRtBplMhidw&t=500
    (had to link to Gophers playthrough as you can clearly here Catherine there.)

  22. Jonathan Scinto says:

    Was the end of the world nonsense really necessary for this plot? We’re expected to believe that in the 2100s, they wouldn’t have the technology to defend against an asteroid? And what kind of asteroid is this, that it makes the dinosaur killer look tame?

    If they wanted to talk about identity and the concept of brain uploading, they could have done it without this contrived apocalypse.

    • Philadelphus says:

      The fact that it’s mentioned to be a comet makes it a lot more plausible. Asteroids are typically moving a lot slower relative to us than comets do, and it’s entirely possible you could have a new, never-before-seen comet swoop in from the outer solar system (perhaps approaching from behind the Sun), be discovered a week before impact, and not be able to do anything to stop it. Even with a longer amount of time, a gravity-tug might fail at the last second as a dormant ice pocket on the comet suddenly erupts and pushes it back onto a collision course (their orbits are a bit…fuzzier than asteroids because of that uncertainty). Plus a faster-moving comet will have a lot more kinetic energy due to that pesky v² term.

      The main variable is how much time we have to prepare. Given ten years we might be able to do something to stop a comet even with today’s technology, so the biggest unknown is how much solar system monitoring has improved in the next century.

  23. Felblood says:

    I would seriously be interested in seeing a SOMA spinoff starring the left-behind Simon and his adventures in seeing how all of his actions impacted those NPCs left behind for the player to wonder about.

    It would kind of undermine the wondering, though.

  24. Joe Informatico says:

    Toronto’s gone? YAY!

    -signed, the Rest of Canada

  25. nerdpride says:

    I wonder how the brain-scanning machine worked on the robot head with a chip. I know there are other weird things going on, but that one seems particularly like it wouldn’t work.

  26. Tever says:

    What bugged/interested me about the Simon copy was that Catherine seemed to be in denial about it. She tells him that he knows how this works, but, no, there’s no reason for him to know how it works. And no reason to assume that he would. He’s basically a computer program now. Even if he had put the pieces together about being a copy of the human Simon, she was deliberately using language to make it sound like this would be different. Transfer. She never called it copying. She called it transferring. She was so carefully vague about it, and then so defensive when Simon figured it out. She convinced herself that he understood so that she wouldn’t have to risk explaining and having him say no.

    Just all the questions about how much are these machines simulating actual human brains: Catherine can apparently be in denial.

  27. Dt3r says:

    I’ll avoid posting another essay this time. Just wanted to point out two details:

    If seeds survived and the environment is still able to support plant life, they would bounce back pretty quickly. The lack of competition for resources and space means that species that can reproduce quickest would rapidly spread. You wouldn’t see any forests, instead the land would quickly be taken over by small nuisance species. Think of an entire landscape full of nothing but weeds. Eventually larger species could displace the weedy species, but it would take decades before you saw shrubs or anything producing wood. The overall trajectory for the change of community composition is very consistent and really well known. (See “Ecological succession” for more information). Of course this assumes that the disaster was a one-off event. Regular disturbances could prevent the community from ever reaching the point where forest regrow.

    Human pollination is far less effective than bee pollination. Even if you know what you’re doing, the failure rate is still extremely high. You can, however, propagate most plants through asexual methods; either somatic embryogenesis or vegetative cuttings. Somatic embryogenesis is a modern technique that is extremely effective at producing a large number of new plants in a short amount of time. Making cuttings is an extremely old technique, but it has a really high success rate and needs basically no special tools. (Cuttings have been done for thousands of years.) The downside to both is that they limit genetic diversity of your crop, which leaves the plants susceptible to disease.

    You could always bypass the pollination step, and directly create a plant embryo through in vitro fertilization. This works in the short term, but it requires specialized supplies and you can’t exactly place an order with Fisher or Eppendorf…

    The better bet may be to work with wind pollinated crops (e.g. corn). The tradeoff is that wind pollinated plants tend to have more issues with self-pollination, which introduces inbreeding depression (autogamy, geitonogamy, etc.). That’s a whole different topic though, and this reply is already longer than I expected!

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