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Headscratchers / SOMA

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  • How could a comet impact leave the oceans unaffected? If it caused enough heat to scorch the surface of the continents, then it would also have evaporated much of the ocean's waters, if not all.
    • Presumably the surface isn't completely devoid of life despite the devastation, as was the case in previous mass extinctions. There could very well be humans alive elsewhere on Earth in isolated bunkers or other facilities like Pathos-II, maybe even some populations large enough to be genetically viable in the long term.
    • Diagrams found in-game suggest there was an enormous die-off after the comet hit, but also that undersea populations have been recovering rapidly. It's on the terminal with the anglerfish.
  • So it is heavily indicated that the people in the underwater facility are the only human beings left alive. It is also mentioned though that the facility was used to launch spacecraft, which is even a plot point. This means that there could possible be people living in space, but this doesn't even seem to cross anybody's mind (or what's left of it).
    • The space gun was used for launching satellites, not people-carrying spacecraft. Nothing indicates it was ever used for something that could transport living people, let alone sustain them while they're out there.
    • True, but we have people in space right now, and 90 years from now we might have more that have the ability to sustain themselves. Maybe they don't, maybe there are no ISS-type space stations left and we have no research colonies on the moon or anything, but it's never mentioned and they wouldn't have been directly affected by a comet.
      • But What About the Astronauts? is a decidedly grim trope for a reason; in the event of an cataclysmic asteroid (or comet) impact, the people aboard the ISS and similar space stations wouldn't last long; they'd have a matter of months to live, and the game starts nearly a year after the comet impact. If there were any self-sustaining space colonies, they would've survived the apocalypse, but that doesn't appear to be the case.
      • Since current plans for space colonisation includes self-sustaining by using farming or UV lighting, it's unlikely that they'd be wiped out in a matter of months if they aren't being supplied by earth. That's the point of space colonisation after all; it's a self-efficient, self-sustaining permanent base away from Earth. At best if they can ration food properly at the same rate of growing it, possibly using whatever leftover resources that was sent from Earth before the impact to tie themselves over, then they should be at least fine for years to come.
  • The WAU killed the people at Omicron by overloading their black boxes, causing their heads to explode. Who in their right mind would develop, let alone agree to have installed into their body, a device capable of such an absurdly catastrophic failure mode? There's No OSHA Compliance, and then there's Aperture Science-level insanity, and in what is otherwise a relatively sombre and serious game, this is definitely the latter, and seems very illogical.
    • Presumably, the "Your Head Asplode" feature of the blackboxes was unintentional. The WAU is proven to be adept at corrupting otherwise safe machinery into deathtraps. Batteries can be made to explode, and even if the blackbox had safety features (which they probably did, since as you were saying no-one would use them otherwise) the WAU would be able to override them.
      • Except most safety features that prevent such catastrophic failures are hardwired, and thus could not be overwritten short of physically tampering with them. It really is a jarring detail.
      • Probably the Structure Gel is capable of such physical tampering.
  • If the only thing that can survive the pressure of the abyss is those dive suits and that one submarine, than how were they able to build labs down in the abyss without them collapsing?
    • They were the only transport and suits that could withstand the pressure, obviously the buildings were designed to take the pressure as well but that wouldn't help Simon get to said buildings.
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    • Also, presumably more than just the Pathos-II assets (the DUNBAT and power suits) were used in the initial construction project. After it was finished, there was no sense in leaving the heavy deep sea construction equipment around.
  • Why is the WAU attacking Simon at all? He's already an uploaded human. Does the WAU hate the Ark for some reason?
    • It may view him as a failed experiment, since unlike most all the others he continues to act on his own will. It may also simply want to integrate him into itself (as briefly happens at one point in the game).
    • It could also see him as a threat, considering he's the only mobile entity on Pathos-2 that is A. independent of the WAU and B. sane enough to function. The only discernible personality trait of the WAU is it's (not unjustified) paranoia about both the survival of humanity and itself: I wouldn't put it past it to murder anything that it can't assimilate.
  • How does The WAU makes its Proxies on the CURIE teleport?
    • It could be that they interfere with Simon's senses, so they only seem to be teleporting while you're actually just seeing ghost images of them. Then again, that wouldn't explain how they can actually hurt you by getting close; maybe when they seem to teleport, they're actually releasing a EMP burst that makes you lose consciousness for a split second as they move, though that's a stretch. My own theory was, as that type of Proxy looks so surreal and human compared to the other mutated monsters, they might just be software entities that are somehow projecting themselves into your cortex chip, which is why they move so weirdly, have no trouble being underwater, and only release a bright flash that damages you if they catch you, rather than physically attacking you like the other Proxies.
  • Whenever the Brain Uploading dilemma is discussed, the original consciousness that gets left behind is described as "losing the coin toss." This implies that the uploaded copy at one point was the original consciousness, and won the coin toss. But that's not what's happening. There is no coin toss, the original consciousness never has a chance to become the copy, and the copy is an entirely new entity with memories not its own. Its weird for characters in a narrative to be discussing the events of the narrative itself so inaccurately.
    • Maybe it was some sort of a lie (especially in case of Catherine's dealings with Simon) which was told to would-be volunteers in order to get them to accept the procedure. Though since we now know that there would be no transfer but simply a multiplication, chances are that this explanation/theory would be highly questioned and doubted at best.
    • This particular troper believes that both Simons are aware and functioning at the same time, but for the sake of narrative, the story necessarily continues with the Simon who proceeds. Granted, "winning the coin toss" is an odd way to put it, but it helps Chun's case, anyway. Although I'm still not entirely sure why the Simon who was left behind isn't more vocal about it. It's not like he fell asleep or anything.
    • Actually, Catherine says the Simon 2.0 (Diving suit) (or the first Simon robot since Simon 1.0 imo would be the human simon) would "wake up in a few days" When Simon 3.0 asks her what's going to happen to Simon 2.0. I think she was obviously lying. Would it have been any different if she had taken the suit instead and left Simon 2.0 by himself anyway? At least some manifestation of him gets to be with her? I don't think it's continuity at all. I think we are merely shown the P.O.V. of each Simon up to a different end. The point being that Simon at the end says "we made it" and he doesn't even think about the copies left behind. He is still fundamentally unable to grasp the idea of copying. Maybe he thought the science was different in the space gun for some reason but it's more likely that he just wanted to believe in Catherine's lie about "coin tosses". Even if he believed it, he doesn't even discuss it. Doesn't even prepare himself for the moment before he flips the switch to flip the "coin". He's blisslessly unaware, or maybe, just maybe, his brain damage has an affect on him. After all, it was his damaged brain that was scanned. IS that enough head scratching for you?
    • It can be argued that the coin toss metaphor is relevant in a more limited sense. Before Simon sits in that chair, when he thinks about "uploading" himself to the suit, he definitely can't "win" the coin toss - from his perspective he can know with full certainty that he will never leave his current suit behind. However, after he is copied and just before he opens his eyes, from his perspective there's a 50% chance of himself being Simon 2.0, and a 50% chance of himself being Simon 3.0, because until he examines his surroundings/himself and ascertains who he is, he has no way for him to distinguish whether he's the copy or the original.
    • Taking into account the generally metaphysical themes of the game, there's a strong argument going for the "coin-toss" as a veiled allusion to the soul. Given that Sarang's cult had more religious than scientific undertones, this is something that can factor in the equation. Therefore, it can be said that the player sitting behind the screen playing the game, is the one that loses the "coin-toss". Certainly, it can be argued that this is Jossed by the fact that there is a post-credits scene that recounts the events of both Simon 3.0 and Simon inside the ARK. Then again, this is a post-credits scene, and one that didn't sit too well with the fanbase since it was seen as an attempt to sugarcoat the original ending. If we discount the epilogue, we can simply argue that the reason why we can see what happened to Simon 2.0 (diving suit), is because we, as players, won that particular "coin-toss". Given that the Simon brain scan has apparently been used constantly ever since it got digitized, a bit of Fridge Horror surfaces: the "coin-toss" might be an extremely rare occurrence, and we were the unlucky ones that got to witness the events at Pathos II, had a really lucky strike with the transfer (and corresponding "coin-toss") to the Simon 3.0, but that luck ran out with the ARK transfer, leaving us, Simon's "soul", stranded in Pathos II after being awakened from death's dreamless sleep (notice that we get to play Simon as human, so, in a way, us as players witness the "original" Simon, and as such, share in that uniqueness) to face untold horrors at the bottom of the ocean. Earn Your Bad Ending indeed...**
    • The "coin toss" metaphor is a rationalization adopted by the Simon copies and reinforced by Catherine to come to terms with existing as a simulation. Catherine had previously witnessed the Sarang cult demonstrate through the "Continuance" suicides that people are unable to accept the idea that something of their existence might not continue after death, or that a simulation of someone's brain patterns has meaning without being the one "true" version. Both non-ARK copies of Simon are the same as the Sarang cult - he needed to believe, regardless of whether or not the science agreed with him, that a "real Simon" has Continuance from one body to another, and that he is not just a copy ("There can't be two Simons!"). Catherine does attempt to explain to him that "it doesn't work like that," but the Simons, like most people in Real Life, don't understand that a "transfer" is not moving data from one location to another, but just duplicating it. Depending on your interpretation of Catherine, she either allowed Simon to delude himself or deliberately misled him with the idea of "winning" or "losing" a coin toss so that Simon wouldn't lose his motivation to pursue her goal - launching the ARK. The difference between them is that Catherine's goal is singularly to launch the ARK for the sake of launching it, whereas Simon is mistakenly hoping for a Continuance, or to "win" the (nonexistent) coin toss. It's possible that Catherine continues to incorrectly refer to Abyssal Simon's failure to continue onto the ARK as "losing the coin toss" in order to placate him and, by extension, exonerate herself for her own deception. By referring back to the coin toss, she's reminding Simon (or trying to convince herself) that he should always have been aware that he might not get transferred onboard the ARK (in the way that he conceives of being "transfered," anyway) even though he clearly never understood this. In other words, the "coin toss" doesn't exist in the narrative as a scientific fact; it instead exists in the narrative to characterize Catherine as an Unreliable Narrator and Simon as a Naïve Everygirl. The game even rejects the "coin toss" theory on a meta-level by making all the contemporary Simon copies playable, and treating each of their experiences as equally meaningful (if not equally desirable), regardless of their existing as copies.

  • How come that human civilization in the year 2117 can't save itself from Telos? Granted that there are many unexplained variables, you would still think that some hundred years into the future, our technology would have developed to such a degree that we would have the ability to prevent that kind of disaster. Or alternatively, why not build some sort of bunkers or vaults and have people live there until the surface is habitable again?
    • Who says they didn't? One or more governments could've initiated a top-secret project unbeknownst to the inhabitants of PATHOS-II to either evacuate selected people into space or stuff them into bunkers to ride out the impact and aftermath. And Telos hit in 2103, not 2117.
    • The game hints that humanity did try a few last-ditch measures to prevent the impact, but all of them have failed.
    • It is quite possible that other humans survived in some fashion elsewhere, but it's a cold comfort for the people on PATHOS-II, who are stuck at the bottom of the ocean and can't contact anyone. And since no one is answering their calls, they kinda have to assume the worst. It's probably why they put so much time and effort into the ARK project; better to try something productive and ensure some form of humanity survives, instead of waiting for help that probably won't come.
  • Whilst WAU's methods were highly questionable at best, was killing it really the best answer? The structure gel as we have seen is quite powerful, aside from all the additional technology. The cyborgs and WAU could have been the start of a whole new civilization, slowly expanding and collecting resources underwater and building up the infrastructure. They could also have eventually used biological material gathered from survivors and the biomass from the oceans to start replicating humans and other surface organisms (provided they had the databases with their DNA sequenced). In time, humans could have emerged from the oceans to settle the surface once more. Yes the society would be kinda squicky, but better to endure that way for a few decades/centuries, than to forego mankind's (such as it would be) future on Earth?
    • The WAU doesn't want to create a (albeit squicky) civilization. It just wants humanity to survive. The closest it got to a form of humanity that could rebuild was Jarrett and Ross, and it considered those failures requiring termination. If the WAU was given free reign on Earth, all you would end up with would be Pathos-II on a wider scale: a planet full of delusional robots and humans stuck in a decidedly And I Must Scream situation. Something for aliens to stumble across and wonder what the hell happened.
      • This could have been an interesting alternate/second ending tho. Imagine that instead of uploading yourself to the ARK, you somehow tried to modify WAU's programing and/or merge yourself with it in order to make ' ' humanity ' ' not merely survive, but thrive.
      • That might have been Ross's original plan. Like it or not, the WAU is damn efficient at ensuring the 'survival' of mankind. If Mark Sarang hadn't killed himself, perhaps the WAU could have had it's parameters corrected. Without him, though, there simply isn't a way to do that - the WAU is just too damn ''alien'' to fix. Like a lot of things on Pathos-2, human error and bad luck meant the situation could only end in tragedy.
  • Maybe I'm just not realizing something obvious, but why can't you transfer consciousness once you're not working with a biological brain? If you have the brain scan uploaded to a cortex chip, why can't you just cut and paste instead of copying and pasting? This would not exactly solve the conundrum of whether or not is the transferred consciousness the "real you," but you would at least not leave behind a copy of the brain everytime you needed to use the scan for another purpose.
    • Computers cannot "transfer" data from one medium to another, in the sense of actually moving the original bits to a new location. Computers make copies. "Moving" files is a human-visible pretense that actually involves the computer reading the original data, creating a copy of the data in a new location (and likely several intermediate copies along the way) and then erasing the original data (and any intermediate copies). Actually, it's exactly analogous to what Mark Sarang suggested people do — delete the original and allow the copy to persist — and it's a flawed illusion for precisely the same reasons.
      • That does make sense, thank you. My expertise with computers is basically nil and I don't really understand the fundamental principles of how computers work that well. Thus, this might also be nonsense, or I might be interpreting something incorrectly - if the WAU allows you to create an interface between biological and mechanical components, what makes it impossible for someone to convert themselves to a cyborg? When you inject the dead rat with structure gel, Simon comments that it 'came back to life... or at least something like it' - the WAU is supplementing the electrical impulses to "revive" the dead being and make it act. Like I said, maybe I'm being dumb and misunderstanding it, but shouldn't submerging a living human in structure gel create basically convert that human into an artificial intelligence? I hope my question is clear enough, if it's not, I apologize.
      • If I'm not mistaken, the Fleshers are structure-gel reanimated corpses. Not the best way to live.
      • Converting an organic human being into a cyborg using structure gel could very well work. It's the side-effects that one needs to worry about.
      • It'll also result in the cyborg created with this method being as much a copy of the original human as a brain scan. If the WAU replaces every single neuron of the human brain in a rapid fashion, what you get in the end is a synthetic copy of the original brain, with the original being destroyed - dead. Arguably, this can be avoided by mimicking the natural cell replacement rate of the human brain and replacing the natural neurons with artificial copies very slowly over the course of years.
  • For some time, I believed that the ARK, once launched into space, was basically a spacecraft with a virtual crew, equipped with the tools to repair and build copies of itself - a technology constantly demonstrated to exist in the form of structure gel - as it explored the universe. Simon even repeatedly describes it as a "spaceship." Catherine specifically says, "Down here it's a god-damned terrarium. Up there it's hope." However, there's a design schematic(...Or So I Heard, could someone post a pic?) showing that Catherine intended the ARK to orbit between Earth and Venus and that's about it - an interactive tombstone for humanity. She had the opportunity to create Orion's Arm and instead chose Yui Ikari's half-baked plan in Neon Genesis Evangelion. What was she "hoping" for? Aliens to drop by before the damn thing broke and resurrect humanity out of the goodness of their hearts?
    • The orbital diagram is visible in this playthrough of SOMA at the 27:10 mark.
    • It's not that bad of a bet, and better than anything else they have. If we found a bunch of ancient Egyptians or Romans we could resurrect, would we? Or at the very least keep them virtually alive for a living history museum?
    • Catherine is changing their lifespan from probably less than a century to multiple millennia. Everything dies eventually, but she's giving people more life than they ever had before.
  • Okay, so with Ross being as capable as he was, why didn't he just take the poisoned structure gel to the WAU himself? Why does he need Simon at all? He has arms that work. He can withstand the deep sea pressures. He retains his mind and his own willpower. Surely he could have acquired the gel, and inserted it into the WAU's heart. He's also had months of time to do this unless he was trapped in Omicron, which makes no sense as he could surely have lifted the quarantine himself. The only explanation might be the deep sea pressure cracking the jar, but then how was Herber going to do it and why couldn't Ross have done it the same way?
    • It's strongly implied that Ross was trapped in quarantine until Simon freed him. Ross has the ability to affect electronics, but presumably the quarantine protocol is secured against tampering in a way that Ross couldn't overcome.
    • Hah, just came here to post this myself. I'll take a crack at some Fan Wank instead then. Maybe the "poisonous" structure gel was poisonous to Ross, as well, being as he is mostly WAU-ified at this point? It was in a (as you say presumably abyss-proof) sealed container, but maybe it was still too risky? Another possibility: it seemed like Ross had much less "power" when he was on Omicron, appearing to you only in brief flashes, computer glitches and only haunting Herber's dreams. Whereas later on it becomes clear he is capable of stopping the climber, overpowering Simon and even killing him. Maybe his power (read: his ability to affect the physical world) increases the closer he gets to WAU's heart?
      • Another plausible scenario: After Ross's initial death he was only able to indirectly influence the world seemingly through giving dreams to those at Omicron. He assumes he will never be able to do more than this and time is of the essence anyway, so he influences Eames et. al. to create the poison gel and then ultimately gets Herber to take it on herself to bring the gel into the abyss. Again, he uses them as avatars because he has to at that point, being still "dead" and in the process of reconstructing within the glass jar at Omicron. WAU figures out the plan just as Herber is preparing to descend and pops the blackboxes and has its agent (crying girl) show up and smash the abyss-proof canister. Ross eventually finishes forming and is now at an impasse because the only other container of gel is in a non-abyss-proof canister that he has no way of transporting into the abyss with him. Simon shows up and Ross monitors his and Catherine's conversation and remembers the ARK project (which he participated in though seeing it as silly back on Tau) and correctly guesses they will be heading into the abyss. He decides to let them proceed without interfering directly for fear of frightening them or making them into his enemies but tries to "guide" Simon to take the gel subtly (through glitches and brief flashes and whatnot) same as he did with Eames and Herber. It ultimately doesn't much matter whether or not he was successful because Simon takes the gel anyway for other reasons and in the process abyss-proofs it by making it part of the new power suit gestalt Simon 3.0. From that point on Ross needs Simon to cooperate lest he risk destroying the last batch of poison gel he is ever likely to get.
      • But why would Ross not have a way to transport the gel. He's not exactly limited in his travels. The crying girl would be no match for him. He could easily find a suitable container to put the gel in. Again he's had months to figure out his new abilities and stop the WAU. I'm just imagining the SOMA universe from his point of view and what he could reasonably do. It's made clear in the game that he's relatively sane, has his own willpower, and retains his intelligence. Combined with unrestricted access to all of Pathos II regardless of deep sea pressure, what could stop him?
  • So, the diving suit that Simon is "wearing" up until Omicron isn't designed to withstand the pressure of the Abyss, which is why they needed to go to Omicron in the first place. Up to that point, it makes sense that he dies if he falls/jumps down. But once he's in the Power Suit, he will still die if he goes down without the Climber. Why? The Power Suit is supposed to be able to handle it, and clearly it can, so...what's with this?
    • The climber almost does kill him, represented by the fact that he's getting artifacting vision as it descends, and he later notes to Catherine that his suit is barely holding up. If he falls into the abyss, the suit can't adapt fast enough and he gets crushed.
  • The heart of the WAU is located at a depth that requires personnel to wear high-pressure diving suits in order to not get squished by water pressure. If Simon goes through with killing the WAU, it will chomp off his left hand, suit and all; shouldn't pressure be a factor here when he goes back out into the water?
    • The game itself explains via note that the suit does seal off sections of the suit that were compromised — it also explains why Simon didn't continue to bleed or "leak" afterward. That being said, this doesn't entirely account for the fact that the left arm's stump is clearly visible for the remainder of the game.
    • On a related note, it does seem rather unlikely that the Critters, small fish that will attack you on the way to Tau if you stray from the lights, can actually bite through a diving suit designed to withstand the pressure at 10,000 ft of water.
  • According to Word of God, every person at Omicron was killed by the WAU overloading their black boxes, causing their heads to go boom. So... more specifically, where did the WAU find a head to use when it cobbled together the Omicron Proxy?
    • The body used as the basis for the proxy, or even the head alone, may have been salvaged from later visitors to the site. This is entirely possible, considering that there are a number of corpses around the area which still possess their heads.
  • Considering the highly-advanced nature of the PATHOS-II installation, why is it that humanity has not applied those technologies to the construction of space stations and habitats, or even exo-planetary colonies, prior to the incident with the comet? After all, the bottom of the ocean is a far more hostile environment than outer space, or the surface of the Moon and Mars. In fact, one of the primary functions of the installation is to launch objects into space safely and cheaply, which just happens to be one of the main obstacles to stellar travel beyond Earth orbit.
    • While the bottom of the ocean is more hostile, it's also less expensive than establishing a space colony. Transport and supply needs alone are much simpler than assigning an escape velocity vehicle with very tight tolerances and weight limits, and they wouldn't require tons of fuel to accomplish.
    • As for why the launch rail isn't used to send people to space, it's likely that this is the case for two reasons: one, that the G-forces experienced by the launch vehicle are too intense to be considered acceptable for humans, and two, that the tube is too narrow to accomodate vehicles designed to carry passengers. This second point is supported by the appearance of the 'bullet capsule' they load the ARK onto - it's barely larger than the trunk of a standard sized sedan.
    • This seems more like a setup for a But What About the Astronauts? sequel more than anything. Space habitation is possible now and has been for decades, albeit not without support from the surface. At 100 years in the future or thereabouts, it should be remarkably more advanced, so it's highly improbable that there were no other survivors in Earth's immediate area, living in space. However the main characters of Pathos-II would have no way of contacting them more than likely, and vice versa, and thus would have no way of knowing of other survivors. Though, since people living in space isn't a new concept, it is possibly not something the remaining survivors considered.
  • At the end of the game, Catherine ties the upload to the ARK to the same button that launches it. In-game, this makes no sense as the uploads are copies, so doing that prior to launching the ARK would have been utterly straightforward while leaving them behind to monitor whether the ARK had launched at all.
    • There are two likely reasons why Catherine did this. First, uploading their consciousnesses at the very last minute would provide a more natural continuation and would have provided them with closure in regards to whether or not the ARK had actually been successfully launched. Second, it is possible that Catherine was aware that Simon might not have accepted the fact that they were essentially copying and not actually transferring themselves over to the ARK, and this is borne out by his anger upon learning that the latter was not the case. Moreover, prior to them loading the gun, there were no real opportunities to upload Simon to the ARK, as the only means of doing so would be through the Omega Space Gun's pilot seat.
  • Between the Vivarium and the Structure Gel, Catherine had every opportunity to turn the ARK into a Von Neumann probe, an interstellar craft capable of endless self-maintenance and self-improvement. Hell, just slapping some gel on the ARK before it was loaded into the Omega Space Gun would have been a good "just in case something got/gets banged up" safeguard, which could have been re-purposed later. Instead, she chose to build an interactive tombstone for humanity. An in-game schematic even shows she intended the ARK to orbit between Earth and Venus until it inevitably broke. What's the point?
    • The point is to give the remaining humans something of a pleasant life. On Pathos II, even before WAU corrupted everything, they were looking at 20-30 years remaining power and resources, in the cramped, dark environment. On the ARK, they have potentially millenia of life thanks to solar power, with fully immersive simulated natural environments and simulated bodies that don't ever have to get sick or old. Catherine did the best she could with the resources at her disposal. There is no indication she had the "opportunity" to make the probe interstellar. In fact, one diagram suggests that the ARK's power requirements are pretty high and it wouldn't get enough solar light beyond about 1.1 AU from the sun. And structure gel was proven to be unpredictable; the ARK had to be built using proven, reliable tech.

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