In the borehole pressure mines 100km beneath Planetsurface, at the Mohorovicic Discontinuity where crust gives way to mantle, temperatures often reach levels well in excess of 1000°C. Exploitation of Planet’s resources under such brutal conditions has required quantum advances in robotic and teleoperational technology.
— Morgan Industries, Ltd., “Annual Report”
In 14th century Europe, the Black Death killed off a third to a half of the population. This, to make an understatement, meant that there were less people around. An indirect effect of this is that economic activities that previously depended on a ready supply of abundant, cheap labor simply could not be performed at scale any more. While by no means impossible, the combination of having survived the plague years with a new reality of scarce, expensive labor meant that it became imperative to automate (as best things could be automated in the 14th century) as much as possible. This lead to a significant stride forwards in adoption of various mechanical tools for getting things done. While the technologies might not seem much to our future-enhanced eyes, it was a step up from doing things by hand.
The same situation faces the colonists on Chiron, albeit without the context of mass death by inexplicable diseases. The infrastructure, mental and physical, brought over from (the ever-fading from living memory) Earth had the built-in assumption that there would always be cheap, abundant labor involved somewhere in the process. Individual work sites might be staffed by a relatively small number of people, but they could always be resupplied from more numerous locations. This assumption does not hold on the early days of habitation on Chiron, where the makeshift industrial base was all there was. In the long run, automation had to become the explicit norm.
The same goes for the kinds of work being performed; a non-trivial portion of it no longer happens in environments suitable for human habitation. On a planet mostly unsuitable to human habitation, this is not news by any means, but as the above quote suggests, humanity is always prone to find new and uncomfortable regions to stick their noses into. The borehole, a massive hole beginning on the surface and proceeding straight down for kilometers on end, is just such an uncomfortable region. The further down one gets, the hotter and less accommodating to life things become. Thus, the correct move for increasing productivity is to abandon the notion of live participation altogether. When encountering certain death, humanity has traditionally opted for the machine.
The process of automation is not limited to remote inhospitable regions, however. As ever more activities become automated, the colonists find themselves in an ambivalent situation. On the one hand, they are freed from doing the mundane tasks of keeping the pumps running, and can pursue more spiritually fulfilling work. On the other hand, whole professions find themselves wiped out, with mass unemployment as a result. In-game, this is represented by the Hab Dome lifting the population limits on bases – it can either be a boon to productivity, or an inevitable descent into drone discontent and revolt. When the necessities of life are taken care of, the teeming masses require some other reason for sticking around. Being left to one’s own devices with nothing to do – all dressed up with nowhere to go – is not a pleasant place to be.