Logical inconsistency with Mass Effect's MacGuffin

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#51 Posted by granderojo (1788 posts) -

@onan said:

@thabigred said:

@dr_mantas said:

Which part of the Reaper activity emitted so much light that they would be able to notice it? It's hard to notice even planets when talking of such distances as 50,000 light years, never mind separate spaceships or explosions.

In the 1970's you could open up an astronomy text book and it wouldn't tell you if there were planets in other galaxies because they hadn't seen enough yet with telescopes to conclusively say they exist. In the last 10 years we've gone from conclusively finding solar systems, mostly very large gas giants to being able to see much smaller earth sized planets and enough information to say conclusively that it is probable for life to be there.

At the start of Mass Effect 1 the date is 2183, I find it highly improbable that we would not be able to see the sorts of harvesting that went on as the game describes. The Reaper ships alone disperse huge amounts of energy.

How much more effort do you think species would put into telescope technology once interstellar instantaneous travel was discovered?

The most advanced species in the galaxy at the start of the series are the Asari, and through Liara, the series informs you that any evidence at all of previous civilizations, including "light from space battles 50,000 years ago" were attributed to the Protheans. Even then, most people didn't care, and it was at most an academic and military curiosity. If anyone took notice of your lightshow at all, it probably looked like the Protheans were warring on a neighboring species.

You're making huge assumptions about the advancement in technology that aren't reflected in the fiction of the universe to prove your inconsistency, but let's review a few "facts":

  • Sovereign was one of the largest class of Reapers out there. The citadel races, or at least humanity, even refer to them as "Sovereign-class."
  • They saw Sovereign class energy emissions first-hand at the battle for the Citadel in ME1. Presumably every single species got their hands on that data. As far as we know, no scholars raised any alarms because those emissions and the emissions from a neighboring star system 50,000 years ago matched. They had time to study the debris after the battle, and most races concluded Sovereign was just a new type of Geth ship when they literally had a dead reaper at their doorstep.
  • Even if they had believed Shepard immediately, it was only a few years between ME1 and ME3. The amount and minutiae of data they would need to sift through to get anything meaningful (now that they knew what to look for) would have been immense and ultimately irrelevant with an incoming threat.
  • The idea of a 50,000 year cycle wasn't even brought up until some point in Shepard's adventure, so even if they had absolute resolution on those telescopes of yours and could see what some Prothean was having for lunch 50,000 years ago while his planet was being bombed, it would have just looked like an extinction-level event, and ultimately just something that would end up in Asari Trivial Pursuit.
  • Dinosaurs went extinct 65 million years ago. That's a pretty round number. Are you saying we should we be worried?
  1. I think a lot of effort would be put into telescopes, in the form of autonomous satellites. I mean any scifi that has warring factions like Mass Effect whether it's Star Trek or the rest has them putting huge resources into surveillance. The Krogan rebellions went on for decades & the Geth were out hiding out during their war. I have to think that they're basically in a state of cold war, & as we know when states today are in cold war, they invest huge resources in telescopes.
  2. I think too much data and minutiae is a cop out, I mean they're developing sentient AI in ME for crist sake. Moore's Law, etc.
#52 Posted by ascagnel (76 posts) -

@thabigred said:

I have not played Mass Effect 3 yet but do not care of spoilers, so spoil away for me if you have an answer to this.

If the Reapers have been slumbering for 50 thousand years, and they are 50 thousand light years away in the deep space of the galaxy like it lays out in Mass Effect 2, then why don't we see them when they were active? The light that astronomers would have been observing would be 50,000 years old by the time of the trilogy, and if there was a mass extinction event, those astronomers would have observed it.

Any sort of war on a galactic scale would have dispelled enough energy to make it observable in the sky.

Is there any story justification for this in 3?

Element Zero.

#53 Posted by onan (1286 posts) -

@thabigred said:

@onan said:

@thabigred said:

@dr_mantas said:

Which part of the Reaper activity emitted so much light that they would be able to notice it? It's hard to notice even planets when talking of such distances as 50,000 light years, never mind separate spaceships or explosions.

In the 1970's you could open up an astronomy text book and it wouldn't tell you if there were planets in other galaxies because they hadn't seen enough yet with telescopes to conclusively say they exist. In the last 10 years we've gone from conclusively finding solar systems, mostly very large gas giants to being able to see much smaller earth sized planets and enough information to say conclusively that it is probable for life to be there.

At the start of Mass Effect 1 the date is 2183, I find it highly improbable that we would not be able to see the sorts of harvesting that went on as the game describes. The Reaper ships alone disperse huge amounts of energy.

How much more effort do you think species would put into telescope technology once interstellar instantaneous travel was discovered?

The most advanced species in the galaxy at the start of the series are the Asari, and through Liara, the series informs you that any evidence at all of previous civilizations, including "light from space battles 50,000 years ago" were attributed to the Protheans. Even then, most people didn't care, and it was at most an academic and military curiosity. If anyone took notice of your lightshow at all, it probably looked like the Protheans were warring on a neighboring species.

You're making huge assumptions about the advancement in technology that aren't reflected in the fiction of the universe to prove your inconsistency, but let's review a few "facts":

  • Sovereign was one of the largest class of Reapers out there. The citadel races, or at least humanity, even refer to them as "Sovereign-class."
  • They saw Sovereign class energy emissions first-hand at the battle for the Citadel in ME1. Presumably every single species got their hands on that data. As far as we know, no scholars raised any alarms because those emissions and the emissions from a neighboring star system 50,000 years ago matched. They had time to study the debris after the battle, and most races concluded Sovereign was just a new type of Geth ship when they literally had a dead reaper at their doorstep.
  • Even if they had believed Shepard immediately, it was only a few years between ME1 and ME3. The amount and minutiae of data they would need to sift through to get anything meaningful (now that they knew what to look for) would have been immense and ultimately irrelevant with an incoming threat.
  • The idea of a 50,000 year cycle wasn't even brought up until some point in Shepard's adventure, so even if they had absolute resolution on those telescopes of yours and could see what some Prothean was having for lunch 50,000 years ago while his planet was being bombed, it would have just looked like an extinction-level event, and ultimately just something that would end up in Asari Trivial Pursuit.
  • Dinosaurs went extinct 65 million years ago. That's a pretty round number. Are you saying we should we be worried?
  1. I think a lot of effort would be put into telescopes, in the form of autonomous satellites. I mean any scifi that has warring factions like Mass Effect whether it's Star Trek or the rest has them putting huge resources into surveillance. The Krogan rebellions went on for decades & the Geth were out hiding out during their war. I have to think that they're basically in a state of cold war, & as we know when states today are in cold war, they invest huge resources in telescopes.
  2. I think too much data and minutiae is a cop out, I mean they're developing sentient AI in ME for crist sake. Moore's Law, etc.

1. In a universe with faster-than-light travel, Telescopes would be useless. At best they'd only show the state of a world thousands of years earlier. While an interesting curiosity, they'd only be able to learn the most superficial information about their neighbors -- neighbors they probably could have just asked. It would be like sending a forensic anthropological dig team into Canada to learn more about Canadians. Also, you're hanging on by the thinnest of threads here. It's a questionable branch of scientific study to begin with. If it wasn't brought up in the fiction, it wasn't a priority for anyone or just wasn't considered by the writers. Either way, it doesn't matter.

Even looking at individual races, none would have any interest in what you propose. Humanity has only just joined the galactic community, so I'd be willing to bet their efforts are in reverse-engineering the advances of other races to apply to humanity's needs, the creation of new colonies and military assets, etc. The Krogan have zero interest in scientific advancement, they use what they've been given by the Salarians and focus on waging war. Similarly, the Turians rely on the Salarians and Asari for science while they focus on maintaining and enforcing the peace in Council space. The Salarians are very technically-oriented, but information about neighboring star systems is mostly obtained through tapping holonet transmissions (not conjecture, it's discussed in the first book). I don't think Salarians have ever done anything but look to the future. If anyone in the galaxy would have found this, it would have been the Asari. The most advanced race, they seemed to be the ones who would put any stock in telescopes because they've got the resources to pursue obscure information. Still, Liara at a prothean dig site in ME1 shows that simply observing that planet she was on didn't yield useful-enough information, so she and a team were excavating it instead.

They just don't care about telescopes in Mass Effect.

2. The sentient AI if you recall were banned in Council space because they tend to flip out and kill people. Also, if you're going to invoke Moore's Law, be aware that storage technology also keeps pace, as well as fidelity of the data and amount of data generated. Even AI would have to take time to sift through all of the data generated by hundreds of worlds and trillions of beings over thousands of years. That's assuming they built these AI (Illegally) specifically to research this data, and ultimately it would be moot because it just validates what Shepard was saying to begin with, and the effort wouldn't be undertaken to confirm it unless they believed him at all -- a catch 22. Ultimately all they'd be able to confirm was there was a galaxy-wide extinction-level event 50,000 years ago. Before the Reaper invasion it would be an interesting discovery to be discussed and debated with no bearing on the present day, after the invasion it would be like researching the history of arson while the library burned down around you.

Sorry, man. It was a good thought.

#54 Edited by KevinK (198 posts) -

@thabigred said:

@Winternet said:

It's a videogame, not a thesis on astrophysics.

Well the entire plot of the game is to try to give an answer to Fermi's Paradox, so no, it's not as simple as saying that.

Huh? How do you interpret Mass Effect as an "answer to Fermi's Paradox"?

First off, it's a space video game. It's certainly not trying to propose any answers to anything on that scale. It's a game where you fly around in a space ship and recruit aliens and shoot at things.

Secondly, I don't see how Fermi's Paradox has anything to do with Mass Effect. Humanity discovered aliens and galactic civilization 26 years before the first game. So, Fermi's Paradox is about as relavent to Mass Effect as the Flat Earth Theory is to us today.

The greater message, if you wanted to apply one to Mass Effect, and you'll find this out if you play Mass Effect 3 + Leviathan, is about organic vs. synthetic life. Can inorganic life be considered life? Is artificial intelligence real intelligence, or just software emulating intelligence? Can sufficiently advanced organic and synthetic life coexist without destroying or subverting one another?

#55 Posted by Demoskinos (14827 posts) -

Cause Aliens.

#56 Posted by granderojo (1788 posts) -

@KevinK said:

@thabigred said:

@Winternet said:

It's a videogame, not a thesis on astrophysics.

Well the entire plot of the game is to try to give an answer to Fermi's Paradox, so no, it's not as simple as saying that.

Huh? How do you interpret Mass Effect as an "answer to Fermi's Paradox"?

First off, it's a space video game. It's certainly not trying to propose any answers to anything on that scale. It's a game where you fly around in a space ship and recruit aliens and shoot at things.

Secondly, I don't see how Fermi's Paradox has anything to do with Mass Effect. Humanity discovered aliens and galactic civilization 26 years before the first game. So, Fermi's Paradox is about as relavent to Mass Effect as the Flat Earth Theory is to us today.

The greater message, if you wanted to apply one to Mass Effect, and you'll find this out if you play Mass Effect 3 + Leviathan, is about organic vs. synthetic life. Can inorganic life be considered life? Is artificial intelligence real intelligence, or just software emulating intelligence? Can sufficiently advanced organic and synthetic life coexist without destroying or subverting one another?

Yes the singularity is an important theme in the Mass Effect series, but that's the point. The singularity is the answer to the fermi's paradox in Mass Effect. The point of the fermi's paradox is that the universe has theoretically existed long enough and has enough earth like planets that by now it should have been colonized completely by a species like the Prothean by now.

The potential answer that Mass Effect presents is that, to put it shortly, machines will out pace organics and conflict will arise wherein extinction event happens.

The two themes are tied together.

#57 Posted by Winternet (8019 posts) -

@thabigred said:

@KevinK said:

@thabigred said:

@Winternet said:

It's a videogame, not a thesis on astrophysics.

Well the entire plot of the game is to try to give an answer to Fermi's Paradox, so no, it's not as simple as saying that.

Huh? How do you interpret Mass Effect as an "answer to Fermi's Paradox"?

First off, it's a space video game. It's certainly not trying to propose any answers to anything on that scale. It's a game where you fly around in a space ship and recruit aliens and shoot at things.

Secondly, I don't see how Fermi's Paradox has anything to do with Mass Effect. Humanity discovered aliens and galactic civilization 26 years before the first game. So, Fermi's Paradox is about as relavent to Mass Effect as the Flat Earth Theory is to us today.

The greater message, if you wanted to apply one to Mass Effect, and you'll find this out if you play Mass Effect 3 + Leviathan, is about organic vs. synthetic life. Can inorganic life be considered life? Is artificial intelligence real intelligence, or just software emulating intelligence? Can sufficiently advanced organic and synthetic life coexist without destroying or subverting one another?

Yes the singularity is an important theme in the Mass Effect series, but that's the point. The singularity is the answer to the fermi's paradox in Mass Effect. The point of the fermi's paradox is that the universe has theoretically existed long enough and has enough earth like planets that by now it should have been colonized completely by a species like the Prothean by now.

The potential answer that Mass Effect presents is that, to put it shortly, machines will out pace organics and conflict will arise wherein extinction event happens.

The two themes are tied together.

Duuudes. Mass Effect is about characters interaction, space exploration, overcoming odds, life cycles, xenophobia, racism, genocide, despotism, science, religion and so on and so forth. All of that you're talking about are just cogs in a machine. Devices, things to make it all cool and fancy and rad and shit.

#58 Posted by Dagbiker (6976 posts) -

@thabigred said:

@Winternet said:

It's a videogame, not a thesis on astrophysics.

Well the entire plot of the game is to try to give an answer to Fermi's Paradox, so no, it's not as simple as saying that.

The real reason is that is that we will be alone in this solar system forever. Because there is not enough time to develop. And there is too much distance, even if radio waves did reach another inhabited planet, they would be so distorted by gravity, and other forms of radiation that it wouldn't even matter.

#59 Posted by feliciano182 (100 posts) -

@haggis said:

@bartok said:

I feel that over 99% of all game stories fall apart under the slightest scrutiny.

Most stories do, depending on the kind of scrutiny. Mass Effect has never claimed to be hard science fiction, so applying that sort of scrutiny seems misguided. I doubt the writers would play much defense here. That level of consistency just wasn't a priority.

In the end, I think most of the detailed scrutiny is a result of people not liking the ending, and then trying to find a rationalization for their dislike. Emotionally, the ending didn't resonate, and that's enough. Depending on the level of scrutiny you're applying, the game either made enough sense or made very little. As far as video games go, I think the ending made as much sense as most do. But the unwillingness to engage in a suspension of disbelief (necessary for any game of this type) increases when people aren't happy with the game. It doesn't matter why: if someone is unhappy with the direction of a game/book/movie, etc., they'll find nits to pick.

*Citizen Kane clapping*

#60 Posted by KevinK (198 posts) -

Yeah, exactly.

"The Hubble Space Telescope would have seen the Reapers, so Mass Effect is broken and stupid," is a pretty dumb reason to hate the game. At that point, you're just looking for a reason to hate something. Considering all the stories about NASA guys getting into Star Trek and Bablyon 5, if real astrophysicists can get into science fiction, so can you. Don't let your two undergraduate courses in physics keep you from enjoying Mass Effect.

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