Eclipse Phase: picking up the pieces
Major Industries: Uplifts, Pharming, Pharmaceuticals, Genetics
Major Stations: Clever Hands (Luna)
Somatek is a leader in the art and science of uplifting animal species, pioneering several major breakthroughs in cognitive enhancement and genetic modification. The hypercorp also engages in extensive animal pharming—producing and extracting pharmaceuticals from transgenic critters—and markets numerous products and services related to smart animals and chimerical creatures. Despite the educational and training programs it offers to uplifts and the fact that much of its workforce consists of uplifts, Somatek is controversial among mercurials who disapprove of their methods (which often involve strict controls on uplift reproduction), the lack of input uplifts are given in their modifications and development, and the focus on anthropocentric mind-sets “enforced” on uplifts.)
From an article written by the neo-dolphin Blue [link]
When most people think of a hypercorp associated with uplift, Somatek is the ﬁrst name to come to mind. Their logo was branded indelibly in the public mind when they transformed a chimpanzee from Pan troglodytes into Pan sapiens. Somatek’s pioneering work continues to be a driving force in uplift science and affairs.
I have actually met the uplift poster child, Jumbles the chimp. He is still a public ﬁgurehead for Somatek’s work, albeit a controversial one. He seems to genuinely support the corp’s initiatives and believe in their mission, but there is much speculation about his loyalty and questions regarding the services to which Somatek contractually bound him when he was just a young chimp. In a very frank conversation, he explained to me his opinion that Somatek was more complex than most people realize. On one hand, the mercurials and pro-uplift extremists condemn Somatek’s methods, particularly forced indenture and the focus on human standards of cognition and socialization. Somatek rigidly controls uplift genetics and reproduction. On the other, Somatek is is considered a champion for uplift causes—even by many uplifts—and they have adopted positions that are considerably more liberal than many of their competitors. By comparison, their indenture terms are shorter and more lenient. Somatek likely employs more uplifts than any other corp, many of them staying on after their indenture period ends. These uplifts participate at all levels, with a number engaged in creating new uplifts, and some even serving as advisors to Somatek’s board.
Somatek’s uplift experimentation began decades before the arrival of Jumbles. Uplift research was a natural outgrowth of the pharming work they were already doing, redesigning plant and animal genomes to produce useful biological compounds. Their ﬁrst commercial successes were making rhesus macaques whose blood conferred immunity to the entire family of deadly hemorrhagic ﬁloviruses—Marburg, Ebola-Zaïre, and Ebola-Miami—and various strains of hogs that grew human organs for transplantation. These were followed by more discoveries. Plastic brain tissue from sheep. Insulin from sunﬂowers. Neuropeptides from carp. The whole natural world is ﬁlled with biofactories designed to produce a complex set of organic chemicals; Somatek just hijacked the machinery for their own use.
All scientific and commercial incentives aside, if you view the old interviews and press footage from these early days, you get a sense of the real reason Somatek scientists pursued uplift: Because they could. When you have that kind of power over genetics, it’s only natural to see what you can do with it. Talk to any of the scientists on that initial team that ﬁrst achieved uplift and you can see it in their eyes, hear it in their voices. They did the work of gods. They not only created new life, but life that was self-aware and that could talk back to them.
In the early days, back when Rael Duvalier was the charismatic ﬁgurehead and agenda-setter, this manifested as a patriarchal attitude. Somatek personnel saw themselves as benevolent father ﬁgures, raising their children so that they may one day be productive members of society. It just so happened that there was more than a bit of condescension there. According to Duvalier’s vision, uplifts were special needs children. Even as sapient adults, they would need humanity’s guiding hand for decades, maybe centuries to come. They were inferior to humans, not yet mature enough to grasp the complexities of society and culture, and so required humanity’s oversight. This attitude is not so uncommon among Somatek’s rivals even today.
Perspectives change over time, however. After the Fall, transhumanity found itself on a new road. The backlash against AGIs also spilled over onto uplifts; if transhumanity could spawn intelligent computer monsters, why not intelligent animal monsters? Already controversial, uplifts and their proponents were once again put on the defensive. By this time, however, Somatek’s personnel had spent decades working alongside uplifts, raising many of them from children to adulthood. Numerous uplifts worked within their ranks. They knew in their hearts that treating uplifts as animals or monsters was wrong. In a surprise move, Duvalier and many of his supporters found themselves forced out of the company. A new corporate culture was spawned, one that was friendlier to uplifts. In the hypercorp’s ranks today you can ﬁnd thousands of uplifts who believe in the corp. Who love the corp. I’m not repeating stories I’ve heard, I’ve spoken with Somatek workers myself.
As you might expect, the feelings of uplifts outside the Somatek family circle are considerably less charitable. Many uplifts hate Somatek and will have nothing to do with them or anyone who works for them, even subcontracts for them. Somatek is a favorite target of uplift terrorist splinters, which is the reason that Clever Hands is one of the most heavily defended installations on Luna. Uplifts that voluntarily work for Somatek are considered Uncle Toms, sell-outs who help oppress their own kind.
Aside from their relations with and attitude towards uplifts, Somatek continues to do well as a business. Notably, they are not a member of the Planetary Consortium, though they do work with many Consortium interests. Most of Somatek’s habitats and holdings participate in the Lunar-Lagrange Alliance or exist independently. Clever Hands (a play on the name of a purported talking horse) is home to their largest research, exowomb, and crèche facilities.