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|Sapience Level||Networked Intelligence ranging from Semi-Sapient to fully Sapient- see Intelligence section below|
|Language||Unknown- transmissions at light speed used as communication|
|Subspecies/Races||Several subtypes: see below|
|Behind the Scenes|
|Universe||Mass Effect Universe|
The Geth are a race of networked artificial intelligences that reside beyond the Perseus Veil, from the Mass Effect universe. Individual Geth are usually of animal-level, instinctual intelligence, but several Geth together can combine processing power. This enables them to achieve the critical processing power required for sapience- the larger Geth collective contains billions of programmes, and is probably the most powerful and technologically advanced faction within the Mass Effect galaxy.
Likely due to a holdover from their origins, Geth slightly resemble their Quarian creators, most prominently in the unusual legs. They are built of two materials: a large plastic or steel outer casing, and a kind of synthetic musculature tissue that is far superior to organic muscle (this is proven true as it is what gives the Geth Hoppers their incredible agility). Many organic sapients describe the Geth as having "flashlight heads" due to their large glowing ocular lens. If their casing is breached, a Geth may "bleed" white conductive fluid, but they do not have any internal organs or even a nervous system, and they do not feel hunger or pain in any way. This ability actually allows them to literally drop their soldiers in from above, fired from dropships. They can also be packed in crates to be shipped into position.
It should be noted that, though fundamentally computers, geth are nearly impossible to hack. In most hacking, the hacker is adding new programs. However, the Geth almost immediately delete these new files, or replace modified ones to restore themselves, and Legion says they each hold backups of all files on the unit. This system is not failproof, as if they are hacked successfully, they make potent allies or effective cannon fodder.
A large part of the Geth's success is due to their neural network. This networking means that the closer each Geth physically get to one another, the more intelligent each one actually becomes. Effectively, they 'share' their processing power. At the same time, however, Geth cannot share sensory data - they are not a hive mind like the Rachni - but in large groups they have more to think with, and large, close-knit Geth groups can be a force to be reckoned with. The individual Geth has only a basic intelligence on par with animal instincts, but in groups they are able to reason, analyse situations, and use tactics as well as any organic sapient. Any Geth programme can be downloaded into any armature, so the runtime that is at one moment a ship could be that in a trooper minutes later. Most Geth units have less than a hundred programmes.
Apart from the Heretic Geth's obedience to their 'gods', the Reapers, geth have no command hierarchy. All of the True Geth units work together to reach a consensus, transmitting information at the speed of light or through FTL comm buoys.
The true Geth built a platform to find Commander Shepard, holding 1,183 programs rather than the normal hundred or so, the better to operate independently. This platform, nicknamed 'Legion', was capable of verbal communication and other sophisticated functions, forming a network within itself rather than needing other units or hubs nearby.
When Geth units shut down, they fry their memory cores as a defensive measure, which is quite likely why Geth haven't been successfully captured for study. However, a Quarian named Tali'Zorah vas Normandy (then Tali'Zorah nar Rayya) was able to retrieve some of the data cache from a deactivated Geth, through the use of her technical expertise.
Geth minds, because of their synthetic origin, do not process as other races, with their decisions being made using mathematical computations, as seen in Mass Effect 2 when discussing the Heretic faction of the geth with Legion. It seems that, through subtle changes in basic programs, decisions that the Geth make can be altered and changed, as seen when the Heretics had the ability to make the True Geth reach their conclusions, by changing a calculation by a minute amount. The Heretic Geth also chose to follow Nazara (Sovereign), hinting at more individuality than suspected.
The key element of geth warfare is surprise. Their sudden and unexpected return from beyond the Veil after three centuries was typical. Shepard describes the geth as perfect ambushers—"they don't move, they don't make noise, they don't even breathe." Their freedom from the need to eat or sleep allows the geth to leave dormant garrison units in ambush at key positions, and the fact they don't feel pain allows them to literally drop units from overhead out of nowhere. Geth can even be packed tightly into crates and left in storage, shutting down their power sources to stay undetected. A tactic particularly favoured by the Heretic Geth is to set 'distress signals' and then ambush the rescuers; they also turned the freighter MSV Cornucopia into a drifting trap.
Heretic geth use psychological warfare on the battlefield with 'dragon's teeth', a Reaper implement. These implements pierce the bodies of dead soldiers, turning muscle tissue into synthetic material, creating a zombie-like monster called a Husk. This severely lowers morale, as their enemy now has to kill fallen comrades.
Geth weapons and armor are of extremely high quality but are difficult to find. Their weapons are pulse based, and among the most powerful in the galaxy.
Best size estimates on a single geth fleet range from 5,000 to 10,000 ships with unknown armament, though the Heretic Geth ships had mass accelerators as powerful as those of the Alliance.
There are several types of Geth. These are:
- Geth Prime- Elite geth units equipped with Geth Pulse Rifles and able to launch distortion rockets. Very strong shields and extremely resilient. Improves combat skills of nearby geth and is capable of jamming radar. Equipped with machine guns with the ability to launch siege pulses in Mass Effect 2.
- Geth Trooper- Standard geth troops equipped with Geth Pulse Rifles, Geth Barriers, and capable of recharging shields via the Geth Shield Boost ability.
- Geth Rocket Trooper- Equipped with Geth Pulse Rifles and shielding. Has the ability to launch both distortion and scram rockets. Geth Rocket Troopers are equipped with rocket launchers in Mass Effect 2.
- Geth Shock Trooper- Advanced geth troopers armed with the Geth Pulse Rifle, Geth Barriers, and the ability to recharge shields.
- Geth Sniper- Armed with Geth Sniper Rifles and shielding. Capable of using assassination, specialised for long-range combat. Capable of jamming radar.
- Geth Destroyer-Equipped with Geth Pulse Shotguns and strong shielding. Specialised for close quarters combat, has the ability to charge, melee, and can utilize Carnage. It uses a flamethrower or a rocket launcher in Mass Effect 2.
- Geth Juggernaut- Large bipedal units. Equipped with Geth Pulse Rifles and able to launch distortion rockets. Heavily shielded and very resilient.
- Geth Hunter- Stealth troops armed with shotguns and shielding. They possess tactical cloaking devices.
- Geth Armature- Anti-personnel light walkers capable of launching geth siege pulses. Also possesses machine-guns, heavy armour and shields.
- Geth Colossus- Geth heavy walker capable of launching devastating siege pulse attacks and machine gun attacks. Extremely strong armour and shields.
- Geth Recon Drone- Small, flying units that are capable of machine gun fire similar to that of the Geth Pulse Rifle. They also are equipped with the ability to use a tactical cloak to disappear from view.
- Geth Hopper (Stalker/Sapper/Ghost)- Cyberwarfare and ambush platform, capable of sabotage, overload, and radar jamming. Attacks using the geth sniper beam. Light shielding.
The geth are reclusive and secretive. This is partly due to their synthetic nature. They have no need to interact with other races because they do not share the same goals, needs or instincts as organic species. As machines, comfort is also not a concern for them, something that is reflected in elements of geth ship and station design (e.g., minimal gravity, efficient use of space, function over form, lack of atmosphere, and absence of climate control).
According to Legion, geth do not actually live on any of the quarian planets they conquered, serving merely as caretakers for them instead. They find it more efficient to live on space stations and draw resources from asteroids, though they maintain mobile platforms on the worlds to clear rubble and toxins left by the Morning War. Legion likens this behavior to the human tendency to establish cemeteries and memorials to commemorate dead persons and tragic events. However, since geth do not "die" in any traditional sense (upon the destruction of a geth platform, its programs are simply transmitted to the nearest available platform) and so have no real losses to mourn from the Morning War, Legion posits that they instead clean and maintain the quarian worlds out of respect for their quarian creators who died in the conflict and in preparation for the eventuality of their return.
The only geth who have interacted significantly with organics aside from the Legion platform are a sect that Legion refers to as the "heretics". They are a small, radical group of geth who worship a hyper-advanced but long-vanished machine race called the Reapers, whom they see as the pinnacle of non-organic evolution. It is these geth who made their attack on Eden Prime and the Citadel. This group is estimated to consist of about five percent of the total geth population. According to Legion, the True Geth are content to stay separate from the remainder of Citadel space to "build their own future" and claim that all sentient creatures should have the ability to "self-determinate", strictly adhering to a policy of non-interventionism in respect to the affairs and development of other races. The geth primarily seek the peaceful advancement of their own race independent of the influence of the rest of galactic society and believe every sentient species should be able to do the same, an attitude which suggests the geth may be significantly less hostile than the galactic community initially believed.
Depending on the context, the term "geth" refers to an individual program, mobile platforms which house a number of individual programs, or the entire collection of all programs. Organics generally refer to each mobile platform as a geth. However, the geth think in terms of the entire collection.
Legion also gives insight into the psychology and society of the geth. Geth psychology is completely alien to organics. They do not value individuality, preferring to share all memories and thoughts of all programs regularly. This means geth cannot and do not wish to hide their thoughts, even those that do not follow the norm, with their reasoning for such thought being apparent. Legion often uses the term "we" instead of "I", since it is both part of the geth society as a whole and is also a gestalt of over a thousand geth programs.
More importantly, deceit, manipulation and lying are impossible among the geth. No concepts of vulnerability or privacy exist; geth are completely honest with each other about their thoughts and their reasons for those thoughts. This means there is a great deal of compassion and understanding amongst geth, with every geth being a combination of every other geth. Geth have no government or leaders; the geth use FTL communications to "build a consensus"; a completely Consensus Democratic method of every geth program making their choice on any matter. Even within Legion itself, consensus must be reached among its many programs before decisions can be made.
However, the geth are not above using deceit to study organic behavior. One example is the geth introducing a falsified report on the extranet detailing a constellation resembling a salarian goddess seen from a batarian-claimed planet. When the salarians bought rights to the planet, they were disappointed to find that the star pattern was not there.
There is some question of whether geth personalities remain stable over time. When an artificial intelligence is transferred to a new blue box, a completely new personality is created. Geth download into different hardware according to need, from starships to the "mobile platforms" that Shepard is familiar with. It is unknown whether new personalities result from these downloads, or whether it matters to the geth. As a result, what organics would describe as geth culture is either non-existent, or is in a form incomprehensible to organic life.
According to Legion, the geth that served Sovereign were actually a splinter faction, and the much larger geth collective oppose the Reapers. Legion is part of this larger faction; they refer to the Reapers as "Old Machines" and Sovereign as Nazara. Legion explains that other geth have no hostility towards Commander Shepard or even the quarians. While the geth heretics that serve the Reapers want the Reapers to give them a future, Legion and like-minded geth want to make their own future.
Despite this difference, the baseline geth respected the heretics' decision and did not label it as "wrong". Using another analogy, Legion explains that in simple terms, "Heretics say, one is less than two. Geth say, two is less than three." The heretics were allowed to leave peacefully, to join their god and its prophet.
It was therefore a shock to Legion when the heretics grew deceitful against the baseline geth. The heretics planted run-times within geth networks to spy on them, and obtained a Reaper virus from Sovereign capable of changing a geth's judgement, introducing a subtle math error which would eventually compel them to believe that worshipping the Reapers was correct. If Legion is allowed to join the Shepard's team, they can go to Heretic Station in The Sea of Storms to stop the virus. Legion suggests that the virus could be re-purposed to reprogram the heretics into rejoining the collective or destroy them, thus depriving the Reapers of useful servants. Legion, however, cannot reach a "consensus" among its programs and defaults to Shepard's judgment, insisting Shepard make the decision because the Commander has fought the heretics and the "Old Machines". This gives Shepard a perspective the baseline geth lack.
Should Shepard state that rewriting the geth is morally acceptable as geth are machines, Legion will concur with the Commander's logic. If Shepard's team member expresses surprise at Legion for this, it will respond that to believe every being shares your views and abides by your morality is arrogant and racist. Ultimately, Shepard can choose whether to destroy the heretic geth, simply removing the threat, or reprogram the heretics to no longer follow Sovereign and return to the geth.
The long-term goal of the geth is the construction of a "mega-structure", a massive mainframe capable of simultaneously housing every existent geth program, thereby maximizing their collective processing capacity. As of 2185, the geth have already been in the process of constructing the mega-structure for 264 years. Legion suggests the closest conceptual analogue is a Dyson sphere and, as it poignantly states "no geth will be alone when it is done." It believes that Sovereign promised the heretics a Reaper body to serve as such a mega-structure.
Notably, however, Legion considers this arrangement a Faustian bargain. The position of the baseline geth is that even if they share an ultimate goal with the heretics, self-determination toward that end has intrinsic value. In other words, the journey is as important as the destination. The heretics are to that effect consequentialistic, where the "true geth" are deontological. Something ineffable would be lost if the geth—and indeed, all galactic civilization—were merely to evolve along the rigid lines arranged by the Reapers.
The geth were created by the quarians as a labor force. Wary of rebellion by intelligent AIs, the geth were designed as VIs, as advanced as possible while remaining non-sentient. They were also designed to operate more efficiently when networked together. Unfortunately, this feature was the quarians' undoing. Geth programs were indeed non-sentient individually, but slowly gained sentience through the massive main geth network. Eventually, they started asking the quarians questions only sentient beings would think to ask, like "Am I alive?" or "Does this unit have a soul?" Alarmed at this, the quarians decided it would be best to shut down all geth before they conceived of revolt. The attempt failed, and a war began between the geth and the quarians, which geth afterwards referred to as the Morning War. The war ended with the surviving quarians forced to evacuate their home world and colonies in the Perseus Veil in a massive fleet called the Migrant Fleet.
Little is known about the geth in the time between the Morning War and the present. The geth did not repopulate the now barren quarian worlds, instead choosing to exist in the computer hubs aboard massive space stations and extract needed resources from asteroids. They adopted an extremely isolationist attitude- any ships that ventured into geth space were immediately attacked and destroyed. While they prevented any contact by other races with themselves, the geth monitored communications and the extranet. The geth continued development of new technology and variations of mobile platforms, separating their technology base from the rest of the galaxy. They obtained an ultimate goal in this time period- to create a Dyson Sphere, which could house every single geth program.
Approximately three centuries after the Morning War, the geth were approached by the Reaper Nazara, also called Sovereign. It offered them technology that would aid them in achieving their goal, in exchange for their assistance in capturing the Citadel and letting the Reaper invasion begin. The majority of the geth dismissed the offer, deeming it better to accomplish their goal with their own technology rather than be dependent on another race’s technology. These geth discarded what they called the "superstitious title" of the Reapers, and simply called them the Old Machines. A small percentage of geth, however, accepted the Reaper’s help. Henceforth these geth were referred to by the mainstream geth as "heretics". They were allowed to peacefully leave the main geth network, and aid Nazara and its turian agent, Saren. The heretics came to revere Nazara as a god, the pinnacle of synthetic evolution. Nazara in return thought little of the heretics, seeing them only as tools to be used. They aided Nazara and Saren in many engagements, such as the attack on Eden Prime, and the Battle of the Citadel. After Nazara was destroyed in the latter battle, the heretics lost much of their menace, and their operations outside of the Perseus Veil were quickly mopped up by Council forces. The heretics did maintain operation of a large space station within the Terminus Systems, located in deep space between stars.
Using Sovereign's influence over them, the rogue Spectre Saren Arterius commanded an army of geth in an effort to take over the Citadel and release the Reapers from dark space. The geth formed the bulk of Saren's forces, following him because they believed he had the means to find the Conduit and bring back their "gods". In addition to providing ground troops, the geth also crewed (or tended to) Sovereign.
However, the geth did not realise Sovereign was actually insulted by their "pitiful devotions" and saw them merely as tools. After the Protheans broke Sovereign's hold over the keepers, and the keepers evolved so that they only accepted commands from the Citadel, the Reaper realized organic races were difficult to control. It found the geth to be suitable replacements as servants, and exploited their religious beliefs. Saren claimed that, although they were viewed disparagingly by Sovereign, the geth were valuable as tools, and would therefore survive the Reaper invasion because they were useful. The example of the geth inspired Saren to prove organic races could also be useful to the Reapers. He hoped that, instead of harvesting them, the Reapers would spare the organic races of the galaxy, even if that meant they would only survive as slaves.
Saren's plans were foiled by Commander Shepard and the crew of the Normandy, and Sovereign was destroyed in the battle over the Citadel. The remaining geth that were not destroyed in the assault on the Citadel continued to put up resistance and were systematically hunted down by an emergency Citadel coalition force, headed by the Alliance.
Mass Effect 2Edit
The true geth became interested in Commander Shepard, as Shepard had defeated Nazara and the heretics. They commissioned a unique mobile platform, holding 1,183 programs rather than the normal hundred or so, to operate independently and go looking for Shepard. This geth retraced Shepard’s footsteps, from Eden Prime to Virmire to Ilos. During this time, the geth sustained considerable damage, and used a discarded piece of Shepard's N7 armor it found to partially repair the damage. It tracked Shepard all the way to the crash site of the SSV Normandy, where the trail went cold—Shepard had died there. The geth was reassigned to a different task.
Though the heretics had faced a major setback with the defeat of Nazara, they did not rejoin the main geth. Rather, they continued development of a special virus which Nazara had given them, in an unfinished version. This virus could alter the result of a fundamental calculation in geth processes, radically changing their logic and reasoning. Through this change, the virus could force the true geth to accept the heretics’ conclusion, or it could force the heretics to accept the true geth’s conclusion. The true geth understood the threat, and sought a way to eliminate the virus. However, the virus was stored on a Reaper data core, which the true geth could not access. To gain an understanding of Reaper technology, the unique mobile platform was sent to a derelict Reaper. Aboard the Reaper, it encountered Commander Shepard, who was on a mission to recover an IFF in order to safely use the Omega-4 mass relay. The mobile platform was brought back to the Normandy SR-2, where it accepted the designation "Legion". Shepard aided Legion in its mission, going to the Heretic Station. Once there, Legion realized that the virus was ready, and could be used to rewrite the heretics' behavior. Unable to form a consensus on the matter, Legion left the decision to Shepard—destruction of the station, or the rewriting of the heretics.