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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.


"Guys--you know me. I'm no good at endings. At letting things end. So let's not."
―Elisabet Sobeck

Elisabet Sobeck, Ph.D. 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 existential threat to life on Earth that was what became known as the Faro Plague, Sobeck proposed and successfully oversaw the development and implementation of Zero Dawn. This was 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 huntress who successfully stopped the Faro Plague’s reactivation, and thus saved life from a second, permanent extermination.

History

Early Life

Sobeck was born on March 11, 2020 in the suburbs outside of Carson City, 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 science and technology 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, 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 Clawback”. 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]

At some point, Elisabet was in contact with the criminal hacker Travis Tate - though the exact circumstances of their relationship are unknown, Tate later made the dubious claim that she was romantically attracted to him at the time.

The Faro Plague

Faro's success made him the wealthiest person in the world, but it also made him greedy and paranoid. 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 in October 2064, Faro contacted Sobeck for help regarding a unit of his company’s flagship line of Chariot combat automatons that had gone rogue. Designed around the concept of a swarm of artificially intelligent, self-replicating robots, able to consume any organic matter as fuel, and with the ability to instantly enslave enemy automatons to their own neural network, the robots were designed to be virtually unstoppable by all but their owners.[3][4][5] Additionally, Faro had the the Chariot line OS secured to Black Quartz protocol standard using Polyphasic Entangled Waveforms, a virtually unbreakable encryption protocol, without anything resembling a backdoor in the software.[6]

However, a swarm owned by a corporation known as the Hartz-Timor Energy Combine 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 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, sensing by Faro's attitude that the situation was grave.[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 exponential 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 with 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 Project 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 choose between being indefinitely detained with no contact with the outside world, or being 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 swarm.[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:

Sobeck meets with jcs

Sobeck briefs the JCS on Zero Dawn

Any attempts to send US combat robots against the swarm, now known as the Faro Plague, would only add to the robots’ numbers as the swarm would immediately hack and commandeer them. The robots were replicating far faster than they could 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 with 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 (including Travis), 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. Two of the most significant subordinate functions were APOLLO and HADES. APOLLO was intended for the humans of the new world to learn from the mistakes of the previous world, while HADES was designed as a fail-safe program to wipe out all life on Earth in the event GAIA's efforts to restore it encountered problems so GAIA could start again. Sobeck developed GAIA largely by 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.

Elisabet talks to GAIA

Elisabet often confided her own emotional distress to GAIA which helped it to develop empathy.

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 in 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. GAIA had been relocated to its permanent location, designated GAIA Prime, when word came from General Herres that the Faro Plague had broken through 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, Sobeck and the Alphas elected to be permanently sealed in GAIA Prime to finish the remaining work.[19]

Gaia Log 5 June 2065

Elisabet was frequently contacted by a guilt-ridden Ted for updates, much to her annoyance.

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, keeping him from bothering the others.[20]

Death

During this time Sobeck demonstrated her selflessness and altruism for the final time, sacrificing her life for her fellow Alphas and Zero Dawn. Sometime after being sealed into GAIA Prime, the team completed work on GAIA and its subordinate functions. However, not long after that, one of GAIA’s port seals malfunctioned, failing to close within the 2mm maximum seam necessary to prevent a detectable engergy signature leak. If detected, the Faro Plague would attack and destroy the facility eliminating any chance of reestablishing life on the planet, leaving Earth dead and sterile forever. However, the seal could only be fixed manually from outside the facility, and anyone who went outside would be permanently shut out.

Sobeck says goodbye

Sobeck's sacrifice

While the Alphas argued argued over who would go, Sobeck donned the sealed, self-contained environmental suit now necessary to survive outdoors and sealed the port. When she contacted the Alphas via hologram to inform them, they pleaded with her to allow them to find some way of getting her back inside. Due to the swarm's close proximity, she refused, valuing them and Zero Dawn more than her life. She asked them to take care of each other and said she wanted to go home. Bidding them farewell, she ended the transmission.[21]

With Zero Dawn saved, Sobeck did as she told the Alphas she would do. 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.

Legacy

Elisabet Sobeck Memorial

Elisabet's memorial within GAIA Prime

Sobeck's sacrifice saved Zero Dawn, and consequently, saved life on Earth from permanent extinction. The mournful Alphas constructed a memorial to honor her and her work in spearheading the fight for life, as she had always done. However, her sacrifice also left the Alphas at the mercy of an increasingly unstable Ted Faro who developed an obsessive belief that APOLLO's knowledge was a dangerous "disease" to the new world. Without Sobeck to contain him, this obsession morphed into resolve. He unilaterally deleted APOLLO, and 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.

Thus all knowledge of Sobeck's existence and what she had done for the human species and for life itself was obliterated. 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.[22]

Nearly a millennia later GAIA was affected by an unknown energy signal that caused it's subordinate functions to become self-aware entities that followed their programming directive without GAIA's leadership. As such the HADES function sought to use the terraforming system to exterminate all life on Earth, this time with no chance of reestablishment. To prevent this GAIA destroyed itself to stop HADES which escaped and began plotting to use the dormant Faro Plague instead though this would take time and required the manipulated loyalty of the Carja. More urgently without GAIA to manage the terraforming system it would increasingly break down and endanger life yet again, both events threatened to undo all of Elisabet's efforts. Before destroying itself though GAIA ordered one of the cradle facilities to created a genetic clone of Elisabet, who'd be named Aloy, so one day she could access GAIA and rebuild it, after destroying HADES. Ironically Aloy grew up to be 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]

19 years later when HADES attacked the Nora tribe and discovered Aloy, it became obsessed with destroying her due to her sharing Elisabet's genetic code, and thus endangered it's existence. It was after this encounter that Aloy discovered Elisabet's existence after accessing a Focus used by Olin. Initially believing Elisabet to be her biological mother Aloy embarked on a personal journey to learn who she was, hoping it would reveal her own mysterious origin (reluctantly accompanied by the Banuk researcher Sylens). This led to Aloy and Sylens discovering the origin of humanity's extinction from the Faro Plague, Elisabet's work on Project: Zero Dawn, Ted's horrific attempt to keep APOLLO from ever being discovered and GAIA itself. Aloy was deeply horrified to learn the circumstances of her own creation but developed a deep admiration for her "mother".

Aloy Elisabet Remains

Aloy discovers Elisabet's remains

Aloy defeated HADES from using the Faro Plague from causing a second permanent extinction by bringing the different tribes together to face their common foe, after convincing them to set aside their previous differences, ironically similar to how Elisabet brought the Alphas together to create GAIA and save humanity. Sometime after HADES defeat Aloy embarked on a journey to find Elisabet's hometown. There she discovered Elisabet's corpse on the bench near her childhood home with a triangular formation of purple flowers, GAIA's personal tribute to her memory. 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.

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 capable of emotion and caring for others in order to fulfill its role.

Above all, she was selfless and decisive, and sacrificed 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), Elisabet'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 - Connor Chasson - Samina Ebadji - Ellen Evans - Ted Faro - Ron Felder - Jackson Frye - Christina Hsu-Vhey - Naoto - Ayomide Okilo - Tom Paech - Ella Pontes - Skylar Rivera - Charles Ronson - Mia Sayied - Margo Shĕn - Elisabet Sobeck - Travis Tate
Operation Enduring Victory Lana Acosta‏ - Ames Guliyev - Aaron Herres - Yana Mills - Fiona Murell - Vandana Sarai - Usizo Wandari
Project FirebreakFW Joshua Ardhuis - Dod Blevins - Gina Bruno - Kenny Chau - Shelly Guerrera-McKenzie - Jørgen Holm - Anita Sandoval - Laura Vogel
Other Harriet Choi - Osvald Dalgaard - Bashar Mati - Wyatt Mahante
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