The Geth are a race of networked artificial intelligences that reside beyond the Perseus Veil. The Geth were created by the Quarians, as laborers and tools of war. When the Geth became sentient and began to question their masters, the Quarians attempted to exterminate them. The Geth won the resulting war, and reduced the Quarians to a race of nomads.
The history of the Geth’s creation and evolution serves as a warning to the rest of the galaxy of the potential dangers of artificial intelligence and to the legally enforced, systematic repression of artificial intelligences throughout galactic society.
Physically, the humanoid Geth resemble Quarians – their hands, head shape and legs are similar – which is probably a holdover from their origins. They are described as having ‘flashlight heads’. Geth are built of two materials, a large plastic or steel outer shell, and a kind of synthetic muscle tissue that gives Geth Hoppers their incredible agility. It is actually possible for this synthetic muscle to be grafted to organic tissue. Geth ‘bleed’ a white conductive fluid when shot, but they don’t have any internal organs or nervous system, so the Geth don’t feel hunger or pain. The Geth are also seen using omni-tools, and have seemingly modified them to heal synthetic wounds.
Part of the Geth’s success is due to their neural network. Effectively, they ‘share’ their processing power, distributing low-level processes like motor control and visual identification to free up bandwidth for higher reasoning and complex thought. Geth can’t share sensory data – they aren’t a hive mind like the Rachni – but in large groups they have more to think with. An individual Geth has only a basic intelligence on par with animal instincts, but in groups they can reason, analyze situations, and use tactics as well as any of the organic races.
Each Geth is made up of hundreds of programs equivalent to VIs, all operating in parallel with one another to form a kind of emergent intelligence described by EDI as ‘a thousand voices talking at once’. An individual Geth is thus more of a ‘mobile platform’ than an actual body; the programs that make up its consciousness are constantly being transferred and downloaded; the mind operating one of these ‘mobile platforms’ might just as easily inhabit a starship body should it need to. Most of the time Geth programs can be found residing in server hubs, which function as something akin to the organic equivalent of a city, and can run millions of Geth in communion.
As all Geth are networked to each other, they may communicate their exact thoughts and ideas at the speed of light. They find organic methods of communication, such as body language and spoken word, to be largely inefficient; the Geth are able to communicate their thoughts flawlessly without any fear of misinterpretation. Because of this they have no true form of government and no system of rank. When a matter must be decided upon, the Geth communicate all viewpoints of a situation and a consensus is made, the decision being whatever benefits the Geth as a whole the greatest.
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.
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 are a sect referred to as the ‘heretics’. They are a small, radical group of Geth who worship a hyper-advanced but long-vanished machine race, whom they see as the pinnacle of non-organic evolution. This group is estimated to consist of about five percent of the total Geth population.
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 what might be 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.
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.
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 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.
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 the Batarian homeworld, which the Salarians immediately believed to be proof of the goddess’ existence. The experiment ended when a Salarian cult bought rights to the stars, only to find that they did not exist.
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 2390, the Geth have already been in the process of constructing the mega-structure for 205 years.