SOMA EP16: Queen of Humanity

By Shamus Posted Friday May 6, 2016

Filed under: Spoiler Warning 55 comments

Link (YouTube)

The scene where we say goodbye to the last human is amazing and made me forget the previous annoying section where I got chased by evil fish. It’s genuine, intimate, and gut-wrenching.

I’m curious: How many people spared the WAU, and how many killed it, and what was the rationale?

I killed the WAU because it was making the monsters that had been harassing me the whole game. The WAU doesn’t make a very good case for itself. At least not directly. Ross claims that if you let it live, humanity will suffer forever. I’m not sure what he’s talking about. We just saw the last human die. And the WAU hasn’t messed with the Ark.


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55 thoughts on “SOMA EP16: Queen of Humanity

  1. DGM says:

    >> “Ross claims that if you let it live, humanity will suffer forever. I'm not sure what he's talking about.”

    What about all the people the WAU is forcibly keeping alive with structure gel?

    1. Shamus says:

      Ah. Well let’s just say hypothetically – and I’m not admitting to anything here, I’m just asking for a friend – maybe someone already unplugged all those people? I wonder if Ross knows that, or how aware he is of how people are doing.

  2. Sarachim says:

    I think what Ross is talking about is that there are lots of half-alive bodies being sustained by the WAU, plus brain scans uploaded into robots and half-human monsters. And the WAU keeps experimenting, which is how Simon got here in the first place, so it’s going to keep making new creatures with human minds. Whether they’re all suffering is debatable, but some of them are, and all of them were drafted into WAU’s humanity-saving project without their consent.

    The case for the WAU is that, ethics aside, its project is going pretty well. It made Simon, who’s basically a human, and it has lots of viable bodies and brain-scans around with which to make new Simon-style cyborgs. Left alive, it might eventually produce a new kind of human that can sustain itself and repopulate the planet.

    1. Peter H. Coffin says:

      …. How do you get their consent before? I mean, they’re just inert brain scans now. You can’t ask them without putting them in a body and pushing the “Go” button. And every resurrected one we encountered emphatically did not want to die. The people in their original bodies did, but the reconstructed ones wanted other things. Help. Relief. They aspired to better their condition, not worsen it. There’s little reason empirically to suspect that any rebooted people would say “I don’t want this. Turn me back off.” Not even Simon, as it took only a long shot and five minutes of conversation to give him a goal he was willing to work for.

      1. Fists says:

        That’s actually an interesting point and a hint to the answer to “How much can these simulations feel?”, despite unending pain or solitude they haven’t reached a point where death seems like an acceptable means of escape, even though many of their human forms have been demonstrated to be capable/inclined to make that choice.

        Obviously there’s some cap the pain they can feel, or maybe they’re unable to create that level of dread without having experienced it before scanning.

  3. Daemian Lucifer says:

    I destroyed it because it was defective.It was polluting marine life,which left on its own has a chance to recover and repopulate the surface.

    1. Felblood says:

      No, dog.

      The detected populations of whales and squids dropped to zero right after impact, and then they suddenly reappeared and increased exponentially after the WAU got loose. The game doesn’t spell it out for you, but that isn’t a coincidence.

      The ocean is full of WAU zombie whales.

      I notice that, as it evolved, the WAU seems to have lost interest in assimilating non-human tissue, so these were either test cases, or it simply got smart enough to realize that making its monster fish was the opposite of saving human lives.

      1. Daemian Lucifer says:

        Id prefer regular living planktons to zombie whales.Wau may be good at evolving,but its still a slave to its programming,which is not a good base for reappearance of sapience on earth.

  4. Narkis says:

    I killed the WAU too. It really doesn’t make a good case of itself. It killed a whole bunch of people, drove at least one insane, mutated a fair few, and kept a some alive in a torturous existence despite their wishes. And that’s even before it started experimenting with brainscans and created a whole bunch of crazed robots and monsters. If it was trying to save mankind, it did a really poor job at it.

    As for “humanity will suffer”: The WAU is keeping some people forcibly alive. You’ve seen quite a few in your playthrough. They’re definitely suffering. It’s also been putting brainscans into robot bodies, which I view as human, and they’re suffering too. Its only creation that isn’t suffering is Simon, and even that’s kind of a “maybe”. And it’s bound to continue its experiments to bring humanity back. I agree with Ross, we’re heading straight towards an “I have no mouth” scenario, and that’s probably our last chance to stop it.

    1. Felblood says:

      Are they all suffering though? It seems like the people in the cocoons are in induced comas with dreams designed to keep them sane, or at least calm and happy.

      Yeah, WAU needs to practice (Akers’ dream was clearly too much happy and not enough sane), but when you can literally revive the dead and heal any injury short of head explosion (Ross suddenly seems super dark when you consider that), time and trial and error are on your side.

      1. Narkis says:

        We don’t know the WAU’s actual goal though. And it’s got a horrible track record. The argument for letting it live is basically “the end justify the means”, but even if you agree with that, and I don’t, how can you be sure the end the WAU pursues is something desirable?

        1. Felblood says:

          I came at this as a Beyond Earth veteran who tends to roll Harmony/Domination, so I guess I saw Ross as another Purity aligned firebrand who was prepared to exterminate humanity rather than risk letting it evolve into something that doesn’t fit his narrow definitions of “humanity” or even “life.”

          Pure humanity is done. The last one is dead. If their bodies can be the seeds, or even the food biomass of the next generation of sapient life, then that’s just the Circle of Life. Honor the past, but don’t starve the future to feed it’s monuments and mausoleums.

        2. Peter H. Coffin says:

          Heh. Evolution’s got a terrible track record as well, as nearly EVERY mutation introduced is worse than what was before. We only see the successes now, and only the successes from us pass on their quirks, kinks, and prehensile eyebrows. Evolution is just … slower .. than the WAU’s methods.

    2. Echo Tango says:

      I killed the WAU, basically because of Shamus’ reason – I didn’t understand at that point that the WAU was trying to save humans. I’d been getting caught and killed a lot in the chase/monster scenes in the game, so I hadn’t had the time to sit and ponder the philosophical junk in the game as thoroughly as I needed to, to understand the WAU. If the game had been monster-less, like Gone Home or Firewatch, I’d have had a much better experience. Guess I’m lucky I hang out on this website. :)

  5. Decius says:

    Having understood the layman’s explanation of what kind of goals a self-improving AI would have, I’d end the WAU. Its goal of “save humans” was so poorly specified that it considers the tortured people encased in structure gel to be successes.

    That reason to end the WAU is wrong. Humanity is already dead; simulacra with no way to affect the world are irrelevant. The WAU is the only hope for intelligent life to exist. And it is broken, because it was forced to have a bad goal. It will continue trying to find ways to prevent humanity from dying, and it will get further and further away from anything that I might want to happen. Killing the WAU is a mercy for it and for intelligent life.

    1. Felblood says:

      I’m not sure the WAU does consider these to be successes. It’s conception of physical space is flimsy, so it might not understand that humans need to be able to move and interact with other humans.

      In many ways, it treats humans the way humans treated it in it’s infancy. It was just a brain in a jar, until the impact made it decide that it needed a physical body to get things done. It doesn’t bear any grudge for this treatment, because it sees it’s physical body as a means to an end. To a creature that is naturally a body swapping/shifting digital mind, and has never expressed any desire to be anything else, maybe it’s enough to be a happy brain in a jar.

      1. Narkis says:

        How can you tell? When it comes to the WAU’s motivation, we’re reduced to speculating and assuming. It seems you’re making an awful lot of logical leaps to assume its benevolence.

        1. Felblood says:

          “Nothing is allowed to die.”

          The one thing the WAU never gets to do is make it’s own case in an articulate way, so we have to infer what we can from other sources. The closest the WAU comes to direct communication is through it’s dream sequences, whcih are clearly unique to each character, and might be telling us more about the characters having them than the WAU itself.

          This is a deliberate choice by the writer, which is underscored by the decision room. While Ross is screaming at you to kill the WAU, it just sits there, silently awaiting the judgement of it’s own greatest creation. Screaming threats and poorly supported appeals to emotional blackmail versus that alien silence.

          The WAU won’t stop you from killing it, but it will act to protect the power station, which keeps it’s cocoons alive. Why? Because it’s instinctive directives are to preserve life and maintain the life support systems. The WAU has no drive towards self-preservation. What idiot would program such an instinct into it?

          Everything that it does is built on those directives. It’s essentially a constantly evolving Ego, in service to a fixed Id. It must always want the same things, it just keeps getting better at pursuing the things it wants.

          The problem arises in the fact that it has no superego. It lacks that essential part of the psyche that says”this is wrong” or “this is irresponsible.” It’s reckless and amoral in it’s pursuit of it’s goals. It’s value judgments on risky experiments and post-human cyborgs are completely alien.

          Ultimately, I’m with the WAU, because unlike Ross, it’s willing to let Simon choose, rather than force his hand. To me, that seems like an indication that this new race, created by the WAU from it’s own creators, will eventually be allowed the freedom to guide the development of it’s civilization of immortal cyborg monsters. Personally, I’m only worried that humans like Akers and Ross will end up guiding it, instead of humans like Ashley and Carl.

          1. Daemian Lucifer says:

            “Nothing is allowed to die.”

            You know what organism today operates on that same principle?Cancer.So just because it wants to maintain things alive does not make it benevolent.It lacks understanding of what life actually is.Things need to die in order for the species to evolve.And we see the flip side of this with wau.As you say,it probably doesnt see those early creations as success,but it still keeps them alive.Not only is it bad for those creations,its bad for newer ones as well.Even if all things were not hostile(which is not the case),they still consume resources.So the mere act of keeping failed experiments alive is draining resources that couldve been spent better elsewhere.Wau is just too limited by its original programming to do anything good for life on earth.

            1. Felblood says:

              Well if we’re going to break out the dead horse comparisons, Ross is like cancer and Hitler.

              Like cancer, he’s a rouge element from a larger entity, which will destroy that entity if allowed to pursue his goals unchecked.

              Like Hitler, he’s trying to wipe out an entire people, just becasue they don’t fit his conception of what a human should be.

              The conflict between Ross and the WAU isn’t man vs. monster, or even organic life vs. machine. The two characters have made very different value judgements on what makes life worth living and what it means to save humanity, and Ross feels like the way to settle this argument is with a poisoning.

              You could argue that Ross created this machine and he has a right to turn it off, but that’s not the way he contextualizes his actions. He’s the one who brings up words like “kill” and “poison,” so he clearly looks at this as killing a sentient life form.

              I’m not a pacifist anymore, but to me that just doesn’t seem like a justified homicide. If the WAU has a character flaw, it’s that it’s too trusting, and it often gives powerful bodies to people who will use them for destructive ends.

              1. Daemian Lucifer says:

                Siding against the wau is not the same thing as siding with ross.And vice versa.

                Also,your silly cancer hitler doesnt make sense.I used cancer simply to show that just because something wants to preserve life does not mean its benevolent(or has enough sense to improve life).Your attack against ross completely misses that point.

                1. Felblood says:

                  I was more irked by your abuse of hyberbolic comparisons, than anything you were actually trying to say with it.

                  1. Daemian Lucifer says:

                    Its only abuse when it doesnt fit.

                    1. Felblood says:

                      It’s always abuse. Comparing things to Hitler or Cancer means accepting that the emotional weight of the subject matter you injected will overshadow whatever point you were trying to make.

                      That’s why Godwin’s law frames these as a capitulation. If you need to break out the emotional sledgehammer, your argument must not be strong enough to survive without it.

                      Even if it isn’t what you intend, it’s the way it will come across.

                    2. Shamus says:

                      I usually see Hitler analogies as handy because EVERYONE agrees Hitler was bad. Not just his methods, but his goals and entire system of belief were so revolting that no matter how much we disagree on other stuff, we can agree on Hitler as a universal standard of instantly recognizable evil in the modern world. It’s like car analogies: No everyone uses a hyfraulic press, but everyone is familiar with cars, so cars are more handy for making analogies.

                      If not Hitler, then who? Henry the 8th? He’s not super-familiar. Current politician? Nope. Maybe the person you’re arguing with is from the OTHER party and thinks that politician is awesome. So instead of focusing your argument, you’ve opened a new front.


                      You might not agree that THING=Hitler, but we at least agree that Hitler = Bad, which strips away a layer of possible confusion and frustration.

                      That said, Hitlar analogies are certainly misused as raw hyperbole to express hate. “EA IS THE HITLER OF VIDEOGAMES!” is not super-useful.

                    3. Daemian Lucifer says:

                      It's always abuse.

                      Yes yes,and only sith deal in absolutes.If you cannot distinguish between using a thing as a fitting analogy and as a hyperbole,thats your problem,not mine.

          2. Sarachim says:

            It blew up everyone’s heads in Omicron out of self-preservation. I assumed that the reason it’s not fighting Simon in Alpha is because it can’t. It’s not clear how it would defend itself here.

            1. Daemian Lucifer says:

              Plus,does it even know that simon is poisoned?

            2. Steve Online says:

              I was fairly sure it blew up everyone’s heads because it wanted Ross back and Omicron was keeping his body locked up and shut down. As the lead ‘AI Psychologist’, it was, for lack of a less biological term, Imprinted on him.

              So really, all of this is Ross’s fault for A: being awful at his job, and B: dying like an idiot in the course of A.

            3. Felblood says:

              I was under the impression that Ross blew up those heads, to keep those people from being absorbed by the WAU, did I miss an audio log?

              Destroying brains isn’t WAUs MO.

  6. Quent says:

    I think that the reason they killed Ross was that the ending needs this feeling of loneliness to work, especially if you killed both the WAU and your double, you are the only one left.

    I also killed the WAU in my first playthrough as I didn’t consider it as having a side at first either. But when you were put into the ‘WAU Wall Flesh (TM)’ Simon had a dream sequence in which everything was as he wished it to be. This and when you escaped you can hear some of the bodies murmuring happily which implised that the WAU has set up a sort of ‘Experience machene‘ and that everyone, including the minds in the monsters (this assumes that the monsters motor funclions are seperate to the individuals experience) could be undergoing this. Even if the WAU doesn’t end up recreating humanity the creatures it has made (and itself) are still life, and so who are you to say that it has no right to exist, even if it isn’t human .

    I have two concerns though; that it’s directive is “preserve life”, not make a good life (and so could make many a life not worth living) which also seems to preclude change from one kind of life to another (in both senses of your day to day existence and evolution), and it could spread to the stars in search of more life to “preserve”… which could existentially ruin some beings day, that is even if the WAU considers it to be life and not just material.

    It’s ambiguous, as you would need to know more to come down definitively on either side, but I think I would eventually come down on the side of kill it. But for all be know it has already taken over all the remaining ecosystems and then we would have just killed everything. either way it certainly is an interesting thought experiment, in particularly considering the extreme circumstances that send my intuition all consequentialist instead of those of a normally functioning human.

    (also, that is three choices in a row about whether you should kill someone: Simon 2, Sarah Lindwall, and finally the WAU)

    1. Felblood says:

      My interpretation of Akers’ journal was that he was getting happy dreams from the WAU, but his reaction to those dreams was not what the WAU expected. Tearing his eyes out didn’t make him a more useful ally; it was just Akers needing to get a stronger hit of the WAU’s vision, which he apparently experiences even when awake.

      He’s helping the WAU capture other people and put them into the dream cocoons, but he’s clearly lost in some insane religious delusion, which he is trying to spread to the other crew members. I note that the WAU made a point to tie most of them up and put them in comas after Akers, so maybe it learned a lesson from that.

      1. Quent says:

        Could you clarify? I don’t quite see how that relates to my points. I’m not against experience machines, though I am open to the idea that there is some kind of loss when plugging in but I would also be open to the idea that it would still be more worth living, and I do find consequentialism intuitive, even though I’m not convinced. And I don’t see what Akers has to do with the rest of my post. Did you reply to the wrong person? Anyway, It feels nice to be noticed. My last few posts didn’t get a response.

        1. Felblood says:

          I was addressing the assumption that the monsters’ motor functions are separate from the individuals experience. I viewed each former-human monster as a distinct character, whose personality and story directly influenced what kind of monster they became.

          I go to Akers because he’s the easy example. Most of the other monsters have their stories told out of order and jumbled together with those of their victims, but Akers’ story gets time to unfold, before we see how it ended in cocoon town. Plus, he’s the first monster whose back-story we learn, so I used it as a model when trying to untangle the later stories.

          His behavior and writing style evoke a paranoid schizophrenic, who is self-medicating with drugs and religious delusions of grandeur. The main difference is that the drug he turned to is structure gel, and the god he turned to was the WAU.

          His triggering stressor was the comet impact. He isolated himself from the rest of the survivors in his little doomsday bunker, where he started drawing aponephia diagrams and drinking way too much structure gel. Nobody has the resources to go out and check on crazy old Doctor Akers, so he’s left to himself until he’s ready to start his crusade as the “prophet” of the WAU.

          The WAU didn’t make him into a monster; rather his own human character flaws undermined the WAUs attempts to keep him alive and happy. It doesn’t understand that by trying to feed and entertain him, it’s just enabling the worst parts of him.

          So when Ross shows up talking about killing the WAU, in order to euthanize the whole human race, I take a look at the biases he’s expressed up until that point , and I dismiss him as another obsessed lunatic, gifted with power beyond his capacity to use it responsibly.

          The fact that Akers and Ross exist is probably the biggest black mark against letting the WAU live, but the fact that they retain their personality flaws is probably also the biggest point in its favor. These men are crazy, and powerful, and their physical bodies are not much more human than Catherine’s, but they are still mere men. To me, that indicates that humanity, and not just human bodies, will survive under the WAU, but it does call into question how much of humanity is worth saving.

  7. MechaCrash says:

    I think the reason you can give WAU the ultimate fisting and its terrible monsters are still active enough to eat Ross and chase you are because the thing you do doesn’t immediately kill it. Ross called you a snake, after all: you didn’t shoot WAU in the head, you poisoned it. It’s going to die, but it’ll take time for that to happen.

  8. Pyrrhic Gades says:

    Not having played SOMA, what struck me most about that conversation with the last Human is that she says that Greenland had a population of 12 million. I found that to be a fascinating peice of World Building.
    That’s slightly more people than what the WoW had at it’s peak.

    1. 4th Dimension says:

      And probably means that global warming got REALLY REALLY bad.

  9. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Why are you guys so mean to Ross?I get why Chris doesnt like him,but the rest of you are just as big half life fans as Ross.

  10. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Turn it off,then turn it on again,then turn it off,then on again.

    Oh my god!Chris you are such a sadist!

    EDIT:Damn it Mumbles!Can I be ninjad if the person that ninjad me recorded it days before I wrote the comment?

    1. MichaelGC says:

      Really almost samuraied at this stage!

  11. 4th Dimension says:

    As for the spacegun, my main problem with it might be if it is as I suspect pointed straight upwards which would be a mistake. To go to space you don’t need to go up (allthough you should leave atmosphere and it’s decelerating friction) but you need to go FAST. And if you want to inject something in Earth Orbit you want that thing you are firing to have as much lateral speed as possible.

    You don’t strictly need water to cool the gunbarel of a railgun, because such a device doesn’t need a barrel. The only thing needed is a tunnel and tracks for the rails down which magnetic field will form and the vehicle will accelerate. And it doesn’t need a seal between the projectile and the tunnel wall since it doen’t ride on the expansion of gasses like a bullet does.

    @Chriss RE: gun barrel length
    Normal gunpowder guns aren’t any different. They also rely on the length of the barrel to accelerate the bullet. That is why given the same charge and bullet a rifle will ALLWAYS accelerate a bullet to a higher speed than a handgun will. Basically the moment the propelant fires the bullet doesn’t imidiatelly spring to it’s max speed. It rides the gasses down the barrell and the longer the barrel the longer will it have to accelerate the higher will it’s speed be as it exits the barrel.

    The problem with Space Guns on Earth is two fold. A) The atmosphere will start slowing down your payload as SOON as it leaves the barrel so you are going to loose massive amounts of speed as it leaves the barrel. And the speed neccessary as it exits the barrel to carry it from 10km altitude to space (let’s say nice and round 500km orbit and have a good deal of speed left remaining) would be massive. Now that I think about the G forces involved in accelerating to those speeds in just 30km. If I’m not mistaken even at the acceleration of 80G! after just 30km the payload will be travelling at just 7km/s. Close to the orbital speed, but most of it would likely be spent getting through the atmosphere.
    And finally you will still need the last stage disposabele booster to perform the orbital insertion or you will simply fall down back to Earth.

    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

      I dont think its pointed upwards,I think it is just a straight pipe that emerges from the ocean once the earth curves enough.At least,thats how I would put it.

      As for the barrel itself,while you could just plonk down a rail,it would make sense to have a closed barrel for two reasons:
      First,to avoid the pressure differential,so that the payload doesnt suddenly expand once it reaches the surface
      Second,to avoid drag.

      And once you have a closed barrel,it would heat due to friction and current running through it.So cooling would be an issue.

  12. Daemian Lucifer says:

    The only problem with the space elevator is that there is no currently known material that could withstand such forces.But if we ever manufacture one,it will totally be a rad thing to have.One half of the elevator would keep the other half of it taut straight,and there would be no problems.

    As for the space gun,I get that its under water because its a huge straight tube.But what I dont get is:Does it have to be straight?Cant a slightly curved rail on land serve the same purpose?

    1. MichaelGC says:

      That’s a shame! – I had thought that carbon nanotubes were the Big Thing in space elevation but sure enough, they’ll just unravel under the strain, apparently.

      Plus, the longest one ever made is, er, half a metre. So, there’d still be a little bit of work to do, there.

  13. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Wau may have accidentally killed all the remaining humans,but after that it never repeated that mistake.

  14. Daemian Lucifer says:

    “Yeah,I fisted that anus.But in my defense,I didnt know that you can NOT fist the anus as well.I mean,when I see an inviting anus,I have to shove my fist inside,it never crossed my mind that you can just leave it unstretched.”

  15. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Shamus,this one is for you:

  16. Ardis Meade says:

    I am ashamed in all of you (except the one who is too young to know better). Talking about cartoons and stupid movies no one ever watched. Rutskarn, Bobcat Goldthwait was Zed the gang leader in Police Academy 2 and it’s sequels. Was that so hard?

    1. MichaelGC says:

      Oh him! Yes, you are absolutely right! Blimey, it’s like introducing Buzz Aldrin as: “Mass Effect 3 Narrator Mister Buzz Aldrin,” or something.

      Zed – he used to make that sound when he spoke: that ululation, almost, like someone doing something unspeakable to a banjo.

  17. baseless_research says:

    Oh dear.

    On June 17, 2015, Lloyd (going by the name Jake Broadbent) was arrested for reckless driving, driving without a license, and resisting arrest.[12] His mother, Lisa, stated that Lloyd suffers from schizophrenia and that the driving incident was brought on by him having failed to take his medication. She added that Lloyd attacked her at her home in Indianapolis the previous March 26, also due to his struggles with the condition.[13] In April 2016, he was transferred to a psychiatric facility after being diagnosed with schizophrenia. [14]


  18. Andy_Panthro says:

    So many mentions of the last human, and yet nobody remembers Dave Lister?

    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

      You mean cloister the stupid?

  19. SlothfulCobra says:

    For pulling the plug, I tend to reflexively side against suicide, whatever the case. You can argue back and forth for all eternity about whether the circumstances regarding continued life, but definitively decide once that suicide’s the way to go, and that’s the end of story. No reassessing the situation if information that your situation is more or less tenable comes to light.

    It’s interesting that the WAU can’t talk to make its own case. You’d think that if it were intelligent enough to be a real option, it’d at least be able to wrap itself around some basic communication.

    1. Agamo says:

      I can understand that, but I can also understand someone wanting to die on their own terms. For example, the woman we see here has virtually no prospects. All her friends and family are dead, and if Simon doesn’t kill her here, then she faces the prospect of dying completely and absolutely alone, without the company of even a simulacrum of a human being, in a dingy room that she can’t leave.

      It’s a difficult choice, no doubt about it, but I think in that situation, I would choose to die in circumstances somewhat of my choosing rather than wait in the faint hope of a miracle.

  20. topazwolf says:

    I would save the WAU. The Earth is clearly dying. Though perhaps only a bit at a time and could conceivably restart from microscopic life. The WAU preserves and creates new life monstrous and alien though it may be. Why not leave it be and just allow it to build a new world? What real value is a dead world over a completely alien one? Sure evolution might eventually make more sapient species, but why not just throw caution to the wind and just give this new being a chance at growing into something great?

    If it eventually creates galaxy conquering abominations that roam the stars sterilizing planets, well at least it made something cool.

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