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"The lesson will be taught in due time, Aloy. Until then, we wait."
This article contains heavy spoilers, and may reveal plot or quest information.



Elisabet Sobeck, PhD (born March 11, 2020), was an American scientist, roboticist, and engineer. Brilliant and talented, with a deep altruistic concern for the world, Sobeck spent her entire career at the forefront of efforts to use technology to reduce and reverse the impact of global damage to the environment. On learning of the unstoppable threat of what became known as the Faro Plague, the ultimate existential threat to life on Earth, Sobeck, fully aware of the utter futility in attempting to stop life’s inevitable extermination by the robots, proposed and successfully oversaw the development and implementation of Zero Dawn, a global terraforming system which, long after life was exterminated, neutralized the Faro Plague, made the planet again habitable, and restored life to it, including humans. Furthermore, centuries after her death, her genetic code was used by GAIA, the terraforming system’s central artificial intelligence, to create Aloy, a young Nora Brave who successfully stopped the Faro Plague’s reactivation, and thus saved life from a second, permanent extermination.

Background

Sobeck was born in the suburbs outside of Carson City, in the state of Nevada. Her interest in electronics emerged very early in life. At six years old, she accidentally set fire to a pine tree in the back yard while playing with a children's electronics kit. After the fire department had extinguished the blaze, Sobeck’s mother showed her the remains of the chicks the fire had consumed. Sobeck screamed that she did not care about them, but her mother took her face in her hands and impressed upon her the importance of using her intelligence and talents to better the world, or they would mean nothing. This lesson deeply impacted upon Sobeck, and led to her altruistic philosophy.[1]

Sobeck proved to be a technological sciences prodigy, enrolling at Stanford University at age 13, earning a Bachelor of Science degree in Experimental Physics and Computer Science at age 16, and earning a Doctor of Philosophy in Robotics and Artificial Intelligence Design at Carnegie-Mellon University in 2040, at 20 years old. Within one year of her graduation, she was hired by Ted Faro, founder, owner and chairman of the robotics and technology corporation Faro Automated Solutions. Within two years of her hiring, she was promoted to the position of Chief Scientist in the company. Over the next 8 years, her work in the design and development of environmental recovery automatons, known as “green robots”, propelled FAS to the forefront of efforts to undo the severe environmental damage of that decade, known as “The Claw-back”. However, in 2048, she resigned from FAS, strongly disapproving of Faro’s decision to take the company into the military automation market. She continued her work in green robot technology, forming her own successful environmental technology company, Miriam Technologies.[2]

History

The Faro Plague

Faro’s success had made him unimaginably wealthy, but also avaricious and reckless. Seeing Sobeck and her company as a direct competitor to FAS’ environmental division, he plagued her with lawsuits.
Record 31 Oct 2064

Sobeck meeting with Faro

But then in quarter 4 of 2064, a worried Faro contacted Sobeck regarding a very troubling problem with a unit of his company’s flagship line of Chariot combat automatons. The most advanced combat platform ever developed, the Chariot line utilized the concept of an insect swarm, with a unit consisting of a single robot acting akin to a queen in an insect colony, producing hordes of combat robots in overwhelming numbers far faster than they could be destroyed. Additionally, the ‘queen’, itself a colossal and extremely formidable combat robot, could replicate additional ‘queen’ units to maintain and increase the swarm’s numbers. Furthermore, all of the robots could utilize a Biomatter Conversion system in case of supply line interdiction, and could instantly hack into and take control of any enemy automaton sent against them.[3][4][5] But Faro, in his reckless eagerness to make Chariot swarms unstoppable to all but their owners, and thereby as attractive as possible to the military market, had also had their OS built using Polyphasic Entangled Waveforms, a virtually unbreakable encryption protocol, and without any means of remote access.[6]

One particular swarm, owned by a corporation known as the Hartz-Timor Energy Combine, had experienced a glitch that caused the robots to ignore stand-down codes, attack Hartz-Timor personnel, and begin replicating beyond their expected rate.[7] Faro tried to have his programmers upload a service pack to restore control, only to be reminded of his insistence on the aforementioned measures that made the Chariot OS virtually unhackable, and thus made the swarm impossible to regain control of. Left with no other option, Faro contacted Sobeck and asked her to come to FAS Headquarters and advise him on the problem, offering her an olive branch by dropping all of his lawsuits against her. Sobeck agreed, and met Faro in his office on the top floor of the FAS skyscraper on 31 October, 2064. Contemptuous of Faro because of his greed, fecklessness, and harassment, she rebuffed his attempts at friendliness, but agreed to analyze the problem.[8]

The horrific truth quickly became apparent. Twenty-four hours later, Sobeck accusingly presented her findings to Faro: the Hartz-Timor swarm had become an independent entity, now serving itself, defaulting to its previously emergency-only Biomatter Conversion system as a means of sustenance and growth. Faro’s reckless insistence on virtually unbreakable Security for the robots’ OS, and the extreme rate at which the swarm was growing, meant that containing the swarm was impossible. She estimated that within 15 months, the swarm would overrun the planet, consume the entire biosphere, and thus strip the Earth of all life and leave it sterile. Faro begged Sobeck to find some means of stopping the swarm, promising to do whatever she recommended. Sobeck disgustedly noted that Faro’s concern was more with preventing the situation from becoming public knowledge for his name’s sake. She left, promising to hold him to his word.[9]

Zero Dawn

Aware that any attempt to stop the swarm was futile, Sobeck devised a plan that had an altogether different objective: there was absolutely no chance of stopping the swarm before it eradicated life, but there was a chance of implementing a means of shutting it down and then restoring life after its eradication. She devised a global, fully automated terraforming system that would do this. Being fully automated, it would require no human input. A supercomputer would take 50 years to crack just one of the swarm’s codesets.[10] But the system, unlike humans, would have the time needed to brute-force all the codes, after which it would transmit them, shut down the robots, and then, over the coming centuries, detoxify the Earth, restore its biosphere, and then restore the human species.[11] Sobeck dubbed the plan Zero Dawn.

However, there were extremely formidable moral challenges. In order for there to be enough time to implement Zero Dawn, the doomed global human populace would have to sacrifice itself in a futile effort to stop the swarm in order to slow its advance. Utmost secrecy would therefore be required to hide the truth and keep the global populace fighting. Finally, the project would require the most brilliant minds on the planet; because of the secrecy involved, they would have to be abducted from whatever country they resided in and offered the choice to work on the project; if they refused, they would have to be indefinitely detained with no contact with the outside world, or could choose to be medically euthanized.[12] Because of  the moral implications of these challenges, Faro was reluctant to sign off on Zero Dawn when Sobeck presented it to him 3 days later via holographic projection. But Sobeck, who was on her way to meet with the US Joint Chiefs of Staff and brief them on the project, sternly coerced him with a threat to publicly divulge his culpability in causing the apocalypse.[13]

Sobeck went to the headquarters of U.S. Robot Command and briefed the J.C.S on Zero Dawn. They were also horrified at the plan’s moral implications and were very reluctant to sign off on it. Sobeck swatted down their objections with cold facts. Any attempts to send US combat robots against the swarm, which by then had become known as the Faro Plague, would only add to the robots’ numbers as the swarm would immediately hack and commandeer them. The robots was replicating far faster than they could ever be destroyed. Hacking their OS and shutting them down before they consumed the biosphere was impossible. Life was doomed to extinction; the only possible response was an automated system to re-establish it after its eradication. General Aaron Herres, the J.C.S. Chairman, recognized this terrible truth, overrode any further objections, and agreed to provide Sobeck with what was needed: a staging area for the project under Bryce Canyon in Utah, the abduction of the necessary specialists according to a list Sobeck had drawn up, and a campaign to deceive the global populace into sacrificing themselves in futile battle against the Faro Plague to give Zero Dawn the time it needed, in an offensive dubbed Operation: Enduring Victory. As for funding, Faro had been forced to agree to fund the entire project out of his enormous personal fortune. 

Implementing Zero Dawn

At the Zero Dawn staging area, Sobeck personally recorded a presentation to prospective Zero Dawn candidates regarding the nature of Zero Dawn.

PZD-all-components

Sobeck's Presentation

She worked with nine prospective candidates who agreed to participate, whom she chose to to be the Alphas of the project: the leaders of the teams who developed the nine different subordinate functions of the Zero Dawn system’s central AI, called GAIA. Sobeck developed GAIA herself. During this time, she had further dealings with Ted Faro, who had begun exhibiting unstable behavior, presumably due to his extreme guilt over condemning all life to obliteration by his recklessness. Indeed, she recorded in one of her log entries that at their last meeting, he constantly fidgeted and could not steadily look her in the eyes.[14] Sobeck’s work on GAIA was a phenomenal success; not only was it by necessity the most advanced artificial intelligence ever created, it was actually capable of human empathy, and could feel emotions. Sobeck had not intended this, but was extremely happy about it, as such capabilities greatly enhanced the AI’s ability to perform its role as the catalyst and guardian of life anew on the planet.[15][16] She developed a bond with the AI, habitually conversing with it before sleeping.[17] However, on GAIA's advice, she installed a Master Override into it in case it went out of control and needed to be shut down. Ted Faro had actually proposed it, but she had refused outright, considering him to be unworthy of giving advice on such matters given what he had done. However, GAIA opined that the proposal was indeed sound, inducing her to accept it.

Meanwhile, Enduring Victory was just barely successful. Sobeck and the other Alphas had just enough time to get Zero Dawn operational before the Faro Plague, which had by then had nearly made the Earth uninhabitable, destroyed the last military salient, located Wichita, Kansas. The deaths of billions of people worldwide, consumed by the robots, or perishing due to mass starvation, thirst and asphyxiation in an atmosphere that had become devoid of oxygen and full of toxic gases, caused Sobeck great anguish. In a conversation with GAIA, she expressed her emotional distress over their agonized deaths, and fear that the project would not succeed and life would be permanently eradicated. GAIA assured her that she and the other Alphas had done all that was necessary, and the odds of reestablishment were in life’s favor.[18]

However, while the system was operational, it was not complete; there was still work to be done. GAIA has been relocated to its permanent location, designated GAIA Prime, when word came from General Herres of the Faro Plague’s destruction of the last military salient; the robots were on their way to USRC headquarters, curtailing what little time the had left. Thus, while the lower-ranking members of the Zero Dawn team, designated the Betas and Gammas, were evacuated to Elysium, the facility set up to allow the team to live out the rest of their natural lives safe from the Faro Plague and the uninhabitable external environment, Sobeck and the Alphas elected to be permanently sealed in GAIA Prime to finish the remaining work.[19]

Zero Day, the day of life’s projected extinction, arrived and passed. Sobeck and the Alphas, sealed in GAIA Prime, became the last living organisms on the planet, along with the few other humans sealed in other bunkers such as Elysium. Outside was a dead and completely uninhabitable planet, overrun with Faro Plague robots hibernating after consuming every last organic molecule.[10] Sobeck and the Alphas continued their work. During this time, the team was frequently contacted by Ted Faro, who had sealed himself in his own personal bunker. His constant insistence on technical updates which were beyond his ability to grasp (or so it was believed) was annoying. But Sobeck fielded his requests and kept him from bothering the others.[20]    

Death

It was during this time that the incident occurred in which Sobeck demonstrated her selflessness and altruism for the final time, making the ultimate sacrifice for her fellow Alphas and for Zero Dawn. Sometime after being sealed into GAIA Prime, the team finally completed work on GAIA and its subordinate functions. However, not long after that, one of GAIA’s port seals malfunctioned, allowing the escape of an energy signature from GAIA that was strong enough for the Faro Plague to detect. The robots immediately made straight for the facility in order to attack and destroy it, thus rendering all the Alphas’ work for naught, and even more importantly, eliminating any chance of reestablishing life on the planet, leaving Earth dead and sterile forever. Only the closing of the seal before they arrived, leaving them unable to pinpoint the exact location of the signal’s source, would save Zero Dawn. However, this had to be done manually from outside the facility, and anyone who went outside would be permanently shut out. The Alphas met and argued about who would go.

Sobeck says goodbye

Sobeck's sacrifice

But while they argued, Sobeck acted. She donned a sealed, self-contained environmental suit, the only way a human could now survive outdoors, went out and sealed the port. She then contacted the Alphas via hologram as they argued and informed them. Horror-stricken, they pleaded with her to allow them to find some way of getting her back inside. She calmly declined, knowing that they and Zero Dawn were more than worth her life. She asked them to take care of each other, informing them that she intended to go to the remains of her hometown. Bidding them farewell, she ended the transmission. The mournful Alphas constructed a memorial to honor her and her work in spearheading the fight for life, as she had always done.[21]

Aloy Finds Elisabet Sobeck's Remains

Aloy finds Sobeck's remains

With Zero Dawn saved, Sobeck did as she told the Alphas she would do. Presumably, her environmental suit prevented the vast marauding hordes of Faro Plague robots from detecting, attacking and consuming her as she made the journey. Arriving at the remains of her childhood home, she sat on a bench, quietly expiring sometime after, presumably when her suit’s life support functions were finally exhausted. Her remains were found on this bench by her genetic clone, the Nora Brave Aloy, nearly 1000 years later. On the ground near her remains, presumably dropped from her hand, Aloy found a small replica of that which had always been most dear to her: the world. 

Legacy

Sobeck's sacrifice saved Zero Dawn, and consequently, saved life on Earth from permanent extinction. However, it also left the Alphas at the mercy of an increasingly unstable Ted Faro. Part of Zero Dawn was an archive of all of human knowledge and achievement contained within and managed by a GAIA subordinate function known as APOLLO. It was intended that the humans of the new world would be able to access this archive and learn from the mistakes of the previous world. However, Faro developed an obsessive belief that such knowledge was a dangerous "disease" to the new world. Without Sobeck to contain him, this obsession morphed into resolve. He unilaterally deleted APOLLO, and then murdered the Alphas while they were gathered in GAIA Prime's control chamber by venting the chamber's atmosphere, to prevent APOLLO from being rebuilt.[22] Thus all knowledge of Sobeck's existence and what she had done for the human species and for life itself was obliterated. However, this information was rediscovered nearly a millennium later by her genetic clone Aloy, and the wandering maverick Banuk researcher Sylens.

Still, as the driving force behind Zero Dawn, Sobeck saved all life, including the human species, from permanent oblivion. It is she who was therefore primarily responsible for the deactivation of the Faro Plague's robots and for life's reestablishment after its eradication. When she sacrificed her life to protect GAIA Prime from being attacked and destroyed by the Faro robots, Sobeck became a martyr for life's future.

Her legacy would continue in the form of her genetic clone Aloy, who ironically saved life from permanent extinction just as she did via her defeat of HADES, a rogue AI that was formerly one of GAIAs subordinate functions, which attempted to exterminate life again, this time with no chance of reestablishment, by reactivating the Faro Plague. In a further irony, Aloy was exactly what Sobeck had wanted her child to be like if she had one; curious, willful and compassionate (in her words: "With enough compassion to heal the world").[1]

Personality

Sobeck was an exceptionally intelligent and altruistic scientist who dedicated her life to improve the world that she lived in. With an intense love for life on Earth, her desire to make a positive change induced her to use her formidable expertise in robotics and engineering in the pursuit of a career in developing robots that were environmentally-friendly and helped serve people. Her convictions made her resolutely against using technology for military applications, which is why she quit Faro Automated Solutions when Faro decided to move the company into the military technology market. Sobeck regarded people like Faro, who cared only about public image and profits at the expense of life, with contempt.

Sobeck was relentless in her efforts to complete Project Zero Dawn and give life a chance at reestablishment after its eradication. The enormous loss of life caused by the Faro Plague was a source of great distress for her. She placed great importance on empathy, realizing that GAIA needed to be able feel and care for others in order to fulfill her role.

Above all, she was selfless and decisive, willing to sacrifice her life without hesitation to save Zero Dawn and her fellow Alphas.

Trivia

  • As with the naming of Ted Faro (Pharaoh) and his company's line of robots (Chariot line), Elizabet's name appears to be a reference to ancient Egypt, and also to the Old Testament. Her family name, Sobeck, is a variation on Sobek, who was a crocodile-headed Egyptian god of both fertility and the military. Her given name derives from the Hebrew name, Elisheva. In the Old Testament, Elisheva was the wife of Aaron, brother of Moses and ancestor of the Jewish high priests. After her death, Elisheva was buried in the Tomb of the Matriarchs. Adding to the list of apparent references, the company she formed after leaving Faro Automated Solutions appears to be named after Aaron's sister, Miriam.
  • Given that the area the game is set is in Utah and Colorado, Elisabet would have had to walk at least 270 miles to reach her home in Nevada.
  • When asked by GAIA about the prospect of children, Elisabet said she would have liked to have a daughter, who was curious, willful, and compassionate. Elisabet would posthumously gain such a daughter in the form of Aloy.

Gallery

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 Gaia Log: 3 Feb 2065 R
  2. Bio: Elisabet Sobeck
  3. FAS-BOR7 Horus (Datapoint)
  4. FAS-ACA3 Scarab (Datapoint)
  5. FAS-FSP5 Khopesh (Datapoint)
  6. Entangled Waveforms
  7. Regarding The Rumors
  8. Record: 31 Oct 2064
  9. Record: 1 Nov 2064
  10. 10.0 10.1 The Bad News
  11. The Good News
  12. Make Your Selection
  13. Record: 3 Nov 2064
  14. Sobeck Journal, 10-31-65 R
  15. Gaia Log: 27 March 2065
  16. Gaia Log: 5 June 2065
  17. Sobeck Journal, 7-16-65 R
  18. Gaia Log: 13 January 2066
  19. Sobeck Journal, 1-15-66 R
  20. Core Control Log
  21. Elisabet Sobeck Memorial
  22. Emergency Recording
Old Ones Characters
Project Zero Dawn Susanne Alpert - Brad Andac - Patrick Brochard-Klein - Samina Ebadji - Ted Faro - Ron Felder - Christina Hsu-Vhey - Naoto - Ayomide Okilo - Tom Paech - Charles Ronson - Margo Shĕn - Elisabet Sobeck - Travis Tate
Operation Enduring Victory Lana Acosta‏ - Ames Guliyev - Aaron Herres - Bashar Mati - Yana Mills - Fiona Murell - Usizo Wandari
Project Firebreak FW Dod Blevins - Kenny Chau - Anita Sandoval
Other Osvald Dalgaard - Wyatt Mahante

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