I want to know what you think about whatever non-gameplay reasons there are for siding with or against the Institute. I've played through three different endings, and I'm still torn about them. I certainly think they're the most interesting faction. There won't be much in the way of spoilers here - I don't care to talk about the events that unfold in the game or the specific people in or outside of the Institute, more likely just basic ideologies of the game's factions where relevant to the Institute. However, I do make use of non-storyline-important facts found in the game. Apologies if there've been a dozen threads like this already.
As a side note, I'm neglecting to consider whatever reasons the Brotherhood of Steel has for opposing the Institute, simply because the Brotherhood of Steel's reasons for anything don't resonate with me at all. I think it's hard for anyone to justify the Brotherhood's ideals, considering our own lifestyle today, filled with technology and little surveillance and access to anything we want, is exactly what the Brotherhood hates.
- All arguments and prejudices against the Institute that you come across in the Commonwealth are invalid because they presuppose too much; nobody outside of the Institute knows the extent of their operations, what their synths do or are made of, what their motive is, or why they do what they do.
- The Commonwealth is hopeless in its current state. It requires radical advances to have any chance of letting humanity flourish. The Institute is that game changer, and the only possible one around. The Institute is the greatest superpower in the Commonwealth and the only entity capable of serious and meaningful change, technological change in their case. As Hobbes would have it, the Institute is our Leviathan to save us from our anarchic state of nature, and we must bow to it because that is the only sensible option. No other faction has the Institute's ambition or means, and the best any of them can provide is security or a bit of freedom. But there is so much more to life than just security.
- Synths are not worth liberating because there is insufficient evidence to show they are conscious or require freedom like humans do. The Institute's own official position is that they are non-sentient machines, incapable of genuine emotion. True, higher generation synths believe they are sentient, but consider that the only reasons something might believe it's sentient are because (a) it is actually sentient or (b) it has been programmed to behave like it thinks it's sentient and self-aware. There is good reason to think the latter, (b), is true. Besides, while some synths appear to wish for freedom, this is considered a defect, treatable with a simple memory wipe and a change in programming (though the process does not always work). A 'normal' synth, regardless of generation, does not desire freedom. So even if you maintain that some of those synths are alive, why free them? We don't feel bad for ants and cattle and rabbits for 'not understanding the futility of their existence' or anything like that; they just don't have the capacity or need for a human-like level of agency and individuality, and that's completely fine. Gen-3 synths, when programmed right, are no different. Not that we should enslave all non-human animals, but if synths are of a mental state whereby they don't mind slavery (for a good cause), we have no reason to impose our human values upon them.
- The Institute is the most stable, near-self-sufficient, and prepared society, ever. Others have tried to do this and failed: the Vault program and the Enclave tried to preserve humanity, and both did quite awful. Yet the Institute has not only ensured its own survival, but preserved a piece of the world as well. In many ways, they have even surpassed life before the war. In a sense, they have saved the world, even if it is a very small world so far. Why destroy that?
- The Institute does not care about the Commonwealth. They hide away underground with great technology and power that could improve the world, almost completely untapped. They create this technology for the betterment of mankind, and indeed they use it to improve human life, but their view of humanity excludes all life on the surface. The people of the Commonwealth are a lost cause to the Institute, not worth saving. We are all test subjects, ripe for kidnapping and replacing and observing, all for the benefit of their exclusionary view of mankind, id est, them, the Institute. The Enclave originally began the same way: a technological superpower experimenting on the rest of humanity - through Vaults, in their case - for their own ends to preserve the 'true' humanity, without regard for the outside lives they harm. The beliefs the Enclave held led them to become one of the greatest threats of the post-war world. We have very good reason, then, to fear the Institute.
- Synths are worth liberating because there is insufficient evidence to show they are non-sentient. Synths are largely organic and are even based on human DNA. A being composed of living human material and DNA is, in some capacity, both alive and human. We should think of synths as containing a human being, one that thinks and appears to have an organic (or partially organic) brain. No living, thinking human being deserves to endure the Institute's slavery. Even if Gen-3 synths are programmed to accept and submit themselves to slavery, that is no excuse. Would you be willing to have some of your essential human desires removed so you could enter a life of slavery willingly? If not, you cannot be content with the living conditions of Gen-3 synths either. Additionally, the Institute does not even know why some of their synths want to leave. It is quite possible that the Institute simply does not realize that their synths are sentient and human enough to desire freedom on their own, outside of any Institute programming.
- The Commonwealth can survive without the Institute, but the Institute cannot survive without the Commonwealth. In fact, the Institute does not benefit the Commonwealth at all; it only takes from it, without any intention of ever reciprocating. The Institute is a parasite, and so it is in the interests of the Commonwealth to be rid of the Institute. You are a member of the Commonwealth, and so it is in your interests to be rid of the Institute. While it's true that the Institute can give us more than mere security, it cannot even give us security.
Well those are my reasons. I'm quite conflicted about the Institute because I think there's something true in each of these arguments. Many of them play off each other, so it's really more just one big argument for the Institute, and then one big objection to that argument. Regardless, I'm curious what you think, and where you agree or disagree. With whom do your sympathies lie, and do you regret any of the things they made you do?