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Quote of the Week: "A great civilization is not conquered from without until it has destroyed itself from within." - Will Durant, American historian (1885-1981)


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 Post subject: Re: Bit of Analysis: Orion's Arm PostPosted: 2012-08-05 12:23am
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2500+

Here it comes, the NanoDisaster, the Interstellar Dark Age and the Expulsion. All the worst fears of the evil repressive governments come to pass, and rogue nanites consume and kill 86% of the Earth's population, reducing it to about late 20th/early 21st century levels. Nanoswarms also take a heavy toll on habitat stations and settlements throughout the system, generally killing more people than the Black Death, proportionally as well as in absolute terms. Civilization collapses, warlords and space pirates haunt the outer system and LaGrange points and the only safe refuge... is with the transapient AIs. Those who serve them well, even worship them in one or two cases, are spared the horrors of the age.

This event is frequently likened to the Fall of Rome (seriously, they bludgeon you over the head with it, and it gets old.) This event causes a backlash that lasts for millenia of distrusting new technologies. It is also the reason that every government in OA from here on out maintains considerable blue goo defenses.

Though hope also springs strangely from this time, as the first wave of colony ships sent those many decades ago finally reach their destinations.

Quote:
531 AT (2500 c.e.)
Police and security forces are completely unable to cope with teen gangs with nanofactured guns and endless supplies of ammunition and deranging intoxicants. Society breaks down completely as mobs of badly nano-enhanced disenfranchised proles make grabs for power.

Meanwhile bloody skirmishes erupt in space, battles for the precious He3 factories on the moon and the amat stations in near solar orbit.

A few colonists get their hands on enough amat or He-3 to get up to 0.03 to 0.1 c, none would get enough to reach relativistic velocities. The result are hordes of poorly equipped idealists swarming over the outer solar system and making lifetime voyager to the nearest stars.

Meanwhile, anti-matter and inner system He-3 production has been decimated. The Gengineer Republic has remained relatively unscathed. The militant Genetekker factions takes advantage of the chaos and captures most of the Orbital and Earth Belt outposts. The Orbital Alliance meanwhile collapses and several dissident Orbitals secede to the Gengineer camp.

The situation reaches its terrible climax as out of control nanoswarms - the nano-catastrophe - destroy much of civilisation, apart from islands of stability and safety and the outermost solar system.


Things fall apart. Society on the ground virtually ends, except for the Treaty Org, while in space they fight like starving rats over antimatter and Helium-3. Oh yeah, they call antimatter 'amat' in this series. Because everything in OA must have a stupid name.

Quote:
540-542 - The Nanodisaster. The largest outbreak of rogue nanoswarms occurs, spreading throughout the inner system. The Orbital Alliance is hit hard and much of L5 and the surface moonbases destroyed. On Earth replicators nearly achieve supremacy during the Gray Spring; even after the defeat of the main swarms the ecosystem and climate is seriously compromised. Massive blue goo deployments save cislunar space, but it is estimated that over 50% of all belt colonies and 70% of solar orbit habitats are destroyed.

The chaos of the Nanoswarms reaches the bubblehabs everywhere in the system, as various and sometimes unidentified factions target helium-3 production facilities. Massive loss of life, in some cases in excess of 50% of the native populations. Subsequent wars between surviving Inworlder groups, and wars of retribution against Outworlder aggressors (real and imagined) cripple trade and communication. A disproportionate number of the survivors are in pre-existing Hider bubble-habs, or in communities that adopted that strategy early in the conflict. They employ stealth technologies and move to below the traditional one-bar pressure level. These 'Dropouts' will be a powerful influence on future developments.

Violence erupts on and around Mars as the nanoswarms wreck the terraforming and kill over 50% of the population. De-orbited satellites and redirected terraforming comets cause serious geological damage.


Extent of the nanodisaster in space.

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544 - The Caracas Treaty Organisation is formed by a powerful alliance of Orbital, EU and Net-corporate interests to enforce the Caracas Treaty. Over the next 50 years the Treaty Org persuades, coerces or invades regions in order to bring nanotechnology under control.


Surviving governments kludge together something (marginally) better than a Belter warlord. The Treaty Org rules with an iron fist and the Crusader's certainty that they alone are right and know the path to salvation for all mankind.

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The ensuring decades of terrible chaos lead to the collapse of the great Western Megacorps on Earth, the Martian Republic and the Jovian-based Genetekker civilisation. Thus begins the Interplanetary Dark Age, triggered by out of control nanotech and rogue nanoswarms. Colonies that were not destroyed outright become isolated, but remain under protection of local AIs. During this Dark Age these AIs were often seen as islands of stability and safety, keeping life alive and safe from the nanite swarms (psychohistorians have drawn a parallel with the Catholic Church in the dark/middle ages old Earth preserving learning). Nearbaseline humans, provolves and cyborgs become increasingly dependent on the various AI entities, and increasingly culture and religion begin to see them as godlike.


Thus setting the stage for future human dependence on and worship of AIs. See the blugeoning I mentioned? I'm trying to spare you the worst of it. Another side effect is that AIs begin hoarding technical knowledge, a tendency that thankfully won't blow over into 40K imitation.

Quote:
Several cyborg communities escape into the Oort cloud from the nanoplagues. Gradually they develop their own culture, the Backgrounder Culture, and spread through the vastnesses of space.


Backgrounders, first 'Hider' society. Hiders are space nomads who distrust other spacefaring civilizations and do their level best to never let their presence or existence be known.

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573 - International Nanotech Defense Net is included in GAIA 2.0. A number of vocal critics are silenced.

573 - The Treaty Org forces the Californian Free Republic into the treaty using direct military threats. It is the first in a long list of "suspected regions" to be put under near total nanosurveillance.


Treaty Org and their 'pet god' GAIA grow.

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580 - The Venusian atmosphere has become a breeding ground for nanoswarms; the Orbital Alliance bombard it with blue goo. A similar bombardment is several centuries later used to cleanse Jupiter.


Blue Goo bombardment. The blurb understates things, life was wiped away from Venus entirely, several million colonists killed.

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580 - The first ship arrives at Epsilon Eridani, the Carter from Mars

580 AT - First manned Gas Core Antimatter drive spacecraft

585 - The second ship arrives at Epsilon Eridani, the New Hope from the Cislunar Alliance

586 - The third ship arrives at Epsilon Eridani, the Genetekker Kelkemesh.


Colony ships arriving at Eridani. Antimatter drive spaceship.

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589 - The Treaty Org adopts GAIA as the official nanodefense standard, outlawing alternative or incompatible nanodefenses. This leads to the "antibody war", as many regions and groups refuse to trust it (often with support from the remaining Orbital Alliance). The war lasts for nearly 20 years as the Treaty Org gradually replaces/destroys competing systems.

590 - GAIA nanofacturing systems installed across the Earth, producing defense nanosystems and other products. The Treaty Org is increasingly relying on GAIA not just for nanodefense but for production, planning and economy.


The 'Antibody War' as the Treaty Org flexes their muscles to... destroy all nano-defenses except theirs. Because a 20 year war over the exclusivity of castle walls is really what you need at a time like this. The GAIA AI is now running not only the defenses against nanoswarms, but virtually all industrial systems, and is increasingly calling the shots.

But the Anitbody War does serve as a useful distraction while:


Quote:
590-621 a.t. (2559-2590 c.e.) - The artificial intelligent entity GAIA extends Her processing substrate into every available location on Earth, even the chemosynthetic bacteria deep in the crust; this is ostensibly for the purpose if extending immunity, but allows Her to break the Second singularity barrier (so it is claimed, it is impossible to verify these claims and many historians remain sceptical) in secret.


GAIA becomes the first to blow through the SI:2 barrier by becoming a literal world-brain.

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600 - The Orbital Alliance is worried about the power of the Treaty Org, and ends cooperation with developing GAIA. As relations rapidly cool off, the incidence of nanoswarm outbreaks increase. Many retreat into hidden sublunar communities.


By this point, GAIA is developing quite well without any help from all the Orbitals. Not that it would reassure them to know that.

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600 - Because of nanoswarms, no Putorians (ferret provolves) left.


Good riddance. fucking ferrets.

Quote:
601 - Eostre and the Children of Dawn petition for and ultimately win the right to colonize 61 Virginis. Their goal is to create a virgin paradise in which Humans may live in the manner in which this group believes they were meant: low technological level, off of the land, with guidance from their "god", in this case the AI Eostre (and her small cadre of priests). After being granted this right, they complete their nanotech 'backyarder' ship and set off without delay.


Hyperturing Eostre and her 'Children of the Dawn' cult flee the solar system. We'll get back to them much, much later.

Quote:
607 - The Cislunar Swarm: a massive Moon-based outbreak of replicators attack space holdings, crushing the last Orbital Alliance networks. A counter-swarm launched by Gaia defeats the swarm after a short battle. Some nanohistorians consider the battle suspiciously short.

610= - Blue goo defences fail on Mars; the martian ecosystem crashes. Great loss of life, although some refugees escape to surviving orbitals, others to the Belt or the outer solar system. The swarm-ravaged Mars is occupied by Titanite invaders for many decades.

616 - Thanks to a massive restoration effort, Europe is partially habitable. The Treaty Org moves its physical headquarters to Nova Roma.

620 - The Earth-Moon-Lagrange region declared free of hostile nanoswarms. GAIA controls all local nanodefences and automated military hardware on Earth and in Earth orbit.


More on the war on nanoswarms. Expect a rant when I can muster the energy. GAIA now controls most military hardware and security apparatus.

621 (2590) And we come to the crowning point. Earth is finally free of nanoswarms and as safe as it's likely to get, GAIA is already hard at work repairing the ecological damage of the long war against tiny machines. No sooner does the revelry fade than the Treaty Org, self-proclaimed saviors of humanity, are already drawing up plans to "save" the rest of humanity. This convinces GAIA that her first loyalty is to the planet Earth not to the Treaty Org, or even humanity.

GAIA banishes the human race from Earth, save 10 million hippies and ecologists who agree to live by her (very) exacting ecology standards. Millions die trying to resist (the Last War) but GAIA has more firepower than any human organization, and the full might of Earth's industry. It takes 20 years, and multiple inventions to move almost 6 billion people to "anywhere but here" but she does it. Largely with an improved antimatter rocket and something called a lofstrom loop.

Basically, it's a 2,000 km metal cable. The ends are anchored securely in the ground, while the midpoint is 80 km above the ground. It's the part about holding it there that loses me. Anyway, the cable works for a mag-lev car to accelerate up and up and release at the mid point, thus making orbit. Quick and cheap spacelift, and every site I've looked it up on save Atomic Rocket and Wikipedia claim we could build one today if we wanted.

Quote:
Billions (estimates vary by a factor of ten, the true figure will probably never be known) of refugees leave the solar system in starships created by a mixture of nanoreplication and automated macroengineering; for hundreds of years all He3, Deuterium and antimatter produced in the system is used for propulsion to nearby stars or in fierce territorial wars; the solar system slips into anarchy, and the quality of life is poor.


One way to get humanity to the stars was to deny us Earth, I suppose.

Quote:
Technological levels are generally similar to those found in the early twenty third century; many AI entities hoard technology and information, and dispense it only to favoured groups. The Goddess of Earth does not communicate with any being outside her protectorate, but is the most toposophically advanced entity known at this time.


Tech hoarding keeps the general tech level three centuries behind.


Quote:
621 - 660 - The Great Expulsion leads to massive emigration of Earth refugees into newly constructed bubblehabs in the atmospheres of Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. Venus is bypassed as too dangerous, and Jupiter as too hostile to humans and other Earth-adapted clades not only because of its high gravity but because of aggressive native clades, survivors of the original Genetekker colonies. Saturn absorbs the majority of refugees, just as before the Nanoswarms it was the target of choice for less desperate immigrants. The refugees are equipped with seed-tech self-maintaining and self-replicating bubble-habs designed by GAIA. After a period of cautious observation the designs for these are bought or stolen and widely copied by the existing populations as well.

623 - Some of the habitats in Earth orbit have been expanded and upgraded by GAIA and act as waystations for the expelled humans. Over the next years more and more of the abandoned habitats as well as newly built emergency habitats in cislunar space are filled up by refugees.


GAIA takes care to provide some shelter for all the refugees, providing 'seeds' that grow into full bubble-habs and repairing and upgrading Earth Orbitals. However, all the space elevators save one are destroyed, and no goes to the surface of the Earth.

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628 - The Treaty Org provisional government is set up in Zeno Base on the Moon. Over the next 40 years a large population of Earth refugees aligned with the Treaty Org settle on the Moon, competing violently with the native selenians and anti-Org groups over scarce resources ("the moon wars"). Other refugees flee to the Mars Orbitals, the Belt, the Mercury caves, the moons of Saturn and the outer planets, and the recovering colonies around Jupiter. The colonies around Venus and on the surface of Mars are abandoned.


Moon divided by war between the Treaty Org and everyone else. The shape of the new solar system, with the terraforming of Mars an utter failure and reset to the beginning by nanoswarms.

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By now human destiny, and all life in the solar system, is in the hands of the AIs. There are factions even among the AIs, but little is known of this. Some fortunate humans are kept by the AIs as pets for companionship or scientific curiosity. Some AIs have set off exploring the universe beyond the solar system. Slower than light colonisation by Organics (tweaks and normals) moving out well into the Oort Cloud.


Now and pretty much for the rest of the series, the AIs have the power. If you don't like it, tough.

Now we enter the 27th Century.

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620's-650's - Outer system and Belt groups, fearful of GAIA and the large number of refugees occasionally attempt to "trip" them by launching nanospores into the inner system. While GAIA successfully resists, many settlements and refugee colonies are hard pressed. Some retaliate in kind, producing a low-key sabotage/infection war that lasts for centuries.


Again, a waste of time and resources when life is already crappy enough.

Quote:
631 - The first of many massive interstellar "arks" is sent towards Alpha Centauri, Tau Ceti and other colonised systems with refugees in cryonic suspension . Not all arrive at their destinations.


"Arks" carrying refugees in cyro-sleep to other systems. Implied to be another innovation of GAIA's.

Quote:
640 - The expulsion ends, and Gaia dismantles her technological infrastructure and sets to truly restore the planet by triggering a new Ice Age and restoring extinct megafauna. The sentients in space are ignored.


Some settlements for the pitiful few million humans remain, sites set aside both for living space and for cultural/historical value, like Jerusalem, the Nile and Cape Canaveral.

Quote:
648- Mars Orbital habitats hold millions of refugees from the planetary surface, and from Earth; shortages of food and overcrowding cause severe social problems for more than two centuries. The Titanite occupation of Mars ends- for more than a hundred years the Red Planet is almost completely empty of inhabitants.


Mars situation.

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685 - "The Great Shedding": nanoreplicators in the Jupiter atmosphere launch massive quantities of spores, destroying surviving communities in the Jovian system and causing brief swarms on the outer planets and in the Belt.

685 AT - The Great Shedding destroys most of the bubblehabs in Jupiter's atmosphere. The very few and very paranoid survivors, mostly vecs and Genetekker-derived tweaks descend into technosavagery. Hostile sporetech devices, some specifically designed to destroy bubble habs (deathbirds, bubblemites), reach the atmospheres of the other gas giants, causing great loss of life. Isolationism is the primary survival strategy.


A final indignity heaped on the dead Jovian League/Gengineer Republic.

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700's - Over the next 200 years the Luna colonies develop into closed, resource-conscious and paranoid communities with little contact.

700 - All habitats on and in the atmosphere and environs of Venus abandoned.

700's - Bubblehabs at Venus are destroyed or depopulated. In the Outer system, growth of further bubblehabs is limited by the need for heavier elements. These may be obtained through time-consuming sifting of the atmosphere, through the tiny trickle of interplanetary trade, or by taking them from other bubblehabs. In the atmospheres of Solsys' gas giants this is the era of the infamous Sky Pirates and Cannibal Cities.

705 - Four space arks leave Solsys for 18 Scorpii.


Moon War ends with all parties retreating to small corners to grumble and stew for generations. Age of the Space Pirates.

Quote:
737 - The Treaty org government in Zeno is deposed in a coup d'etat by the Zeno Loyalists, a paranoid but efficient military cybercracy.


Final death of the Treaty Org at the hands of lunar survivalist nuts (directed by a transapient.)

Quote:
790 - The Joh-Lau culture in the Mercury underground bases reaches its zenith. Although totally isolated from the other system and only discovered during the late 900's when it had declined to near savagery, the art of the Joh-Lau is regarded as one of the brightest points of the era.


Out there stuff. Oh and a whole lot of colony ships arrive at Tau Ceti, where the terrestrial planet is cleverly named Nova Terra, defying our expectation that it would certainly be Terra Nova. Plus Eridani, which actually gets a lot of orbitals and bubble habs and forms a sort of league. Also at planets Twilight and Daedalus.

Right, that's enough for tonight. Next time, we'll discuss the Eridanus League, the long slow crawl out of the Dark Age and the birth of the Federation.



"Any plan which requires the direct intervention of any deity to work can be assumed to be a very poor one."- Newbiespud

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 Post subject: Re: Bit of Analysis: Orion's Arm PostPosted: 2012-08-06 09:03pm
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800's - In bubblehab history, Uranus and Neptune begin to emerge from the Dark Ages, with the growth of beneficial trade and communication within and beyond the atmosphere, as the bubblehabs develop new connections with each other and with the local orbital and lunar settlements. Around Saturn the situation is more complex; the Han Hegemony and the Warriors of the Western Stream bring a degree of peace and harmony to the habs that fall under their sway, but the 'objective/utilitarian' Children of Kronos (known to their detractors as 'The Eaters') bring about their own brutal definition of order to the habs they subjugate. EOCC emissaries and missionaries from the orbital habs attempt memetic manipulations that sometimes ameliorate the repression and warfare of the era, though at times the transition to gentler societies itself causes great loss of life. In the background, the famous Hidden Cities of Dropouts such as Laputa and Valinor attempt to preserve their security and influence. Jupiter's few bubble habs are in a state of anarchy and war, struggling against each other and against ongoing predatory activity by hostile self-replicating devices.


It's a dark age, so life generally sucks. On the plus side, not much of interest happens, so it goes by quickly.

Also, a number of attempts are made to drop rocks on Earth. All of them fail and the involved parties soon suffer terrible misfortune as their nanodefenses are overrun. It soon becomes apparent that GAIA is very much aware of, and able to influence, events across the solar system. However she never reacts to anything but a direct threat to Earth.

Quote:
853 - The (Second) Trojan War between the different habitats in the trojan asteroids.


Wars between asteroid habitats near the LaGrange points.

Quote:
858 - first colony established on New America (Beta Virginis IV), small orbitals established

863 - original provisional administration at Beta Virginis replaced by system along Old Earth American lines, with two parties: Unionists and Federalists

870 - the Ceres habitats unite into a provisional federation.


Governments forming and changing.

Quote:
890 - The first elements of the Eostre Complex arrive within the 61 Virginis system. Over the next several months and years, Eostre will work to create a garden of life for her coming children, on Eostremonath. The colonial vessel arrives within seven months; however, Eostre keeps the entire population in deep sleep pending the preparation of their environment.


Eostere.

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900 - Almost a hundred ships are part of the Spaceman's League.


This League is a loose confederation of space nomads.

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910 - G-Interface Mark 5 Transcranial Magnetic Stimulator developed by Deimos Cybersystems

920 - Qin Shi Huang arrives at Huanghua.


Chinese colony ship arrives at it's destination, a system the Chinese named Huanghua. Also, invention of a hat that allows neural interfacing without surgical implants.

Quote:
928 - At 61 Virginis, Eostre awakens the first wave of colonists. Some 300 people are brought down to the planet's surface, where an idyllic community set in the heart of a mountain range awaits. While the environment is under constant nano-tweaking and maintenance by Eostre and her servant programs, to the Humans it appears as a mountain valley paradise of green pine forests and verdant meadows, surrounded by a world of brown desolation. However, even now the terraforming continues, and the planet is slowly being carpeted by the green veneer of Earth-based life. In the end, the entire planet will become habitable, stable for a life span of hundreds of millions of years, and will possess hundreds of different biomes, all pristine.


Eostre again.

Quote:
933 - Birth of the First Federation. Beneficent nanoborg and Child of GRACE Ravi Wu is one of the authors of the preamble for the Universal Bill of Sentient Rights of the Vesta Convention.


Federation formed at Roddenberry Station, Vesta System. For once, humans aren't exploiting AIs and vice versa, but all are theoretically equal citizens. The Federation lasts almost a thousand years and in that time undertakes a massive program of peaceful space exploration, expands the beamrider network, discovers mass-production of monopoles, SI:2, and conversion drive.

The downside is the that the First Federation had a very weak central government and no real idea how to run a civilization across interstellar distances. Despite being illegal on paper, slavery was widespread during this era.



"Any plan which requires the direct intervention of any deity to work can be assumed to be a very poor one."- Newbiespud

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 Post subject: Re: Bit of Analysis: Orion's Arm PostPosted: 2012-08-07 06:45am
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There have been edit wars on their site and I can't find an example of a protecting AI that went mad. It got infected by some sort of mind plague and it turned a nice planet into a slaughterhouse before eventually trashing the biosphere. I think it eventually constructed giant fruiting bodies that would be transport to get the plague carriers to other worlds? I'm a little fuzzy on the details and can't find it so I guess the whole thing was deprecated.

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 Post subject: Re: Bit of Analysis: Orion's Arm PostPosted: 2012-08-08 01:51pm
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jollyreaper wrote:
There have been edit wars on their site and I can't find an example of a protecting AI that went mad. It got infected by some sort of mind plague and it turned a nice planet into a slaughterhouse before eventually trashing the biosphere. I think it eventually constructed giant fruiting bodies that would be transport to get the plague carriers to other worlds? I'm a little fuzzy on the details and can't find it so I guess the whole thing was deprecated.


I've got nothing. It doesn't sound even vaguely familiar.

I'm sorry for not posting yesterday, among other things I was looking for an explanation of magnetic monopoles I could understand. Umm... so far I have that they are single-pole magnets (easy enough) and subatomic particles (I thought magnets worked on electric principles?) that are somehow massless and possibly linked to the Higgs-Boson particle... somehow. In the series they're useful because monopole-catalyzed fusion is somehow super-powerful compared to regular fusion, and thus useful for power and space-drives.

All the rest sort of soared over my head, irregardless of the source. I don't suppose there's anyone on the board able and willing to explain the concept using small words?



"Any plan which requires the direct intervention of any deity to work can be assumed to be a very poor one."- Newbiespud

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 Post subject: Re: Bit of Analysis: Orion's Arm PostPosted: 2012-08-08 07:47pm
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As my old physics professor told me, Physics explains simple concepts in the most complicated way possible so they have to pay us to explain it.
And of course Feynman "If I could explain it to normal people, I wouldn't be worth the Nobel Prize"

In short, you understand everything about it that you are probably able to.



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 Post subject: Re: Bit of Analysis: Orion's Arm PostPosted: 2012-08-08 09:08pm
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Dr Roberts wrote:
As my old physics professor told me, Physics explains simple concepts in the most complicated way possible so they have to pay us to explain it.
And of course Feynman "If I could explain it to normal people, I wouldn't be worth the Nobel Prize"

In short, you understand everything about it that you are probably able to.


I completely and categorically reject this idea. I will accept that there are advanced concepts that are extremely difficult, perhaps outright impossible, to succinctly explain to someone lacking the proper background. I'll cheerfully accept there are many instances where I'll get bored and wander off before reaching the point of real understanding rather than something vaguely workable. But I refuse to believe there is anything I can't eventually understand if I can be bothered to work at it enough.

Except possibly this series. But I'll keep trying to fit that together to.



"Any plan which requires the direct intervention of any deity to work can be assumed to be a very poor one."- Newbiespud

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 Post subject: Re: Bit of Analysis: Orion's Arm PostPosted: 2012-08-08 09:46pm
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As far as I can tell, the idea behind monopole-catalyzed fusion (this is glossed over in the relevant article) is similar in conception to muon-catalyzed fusion, but different in execution. In brief, the idea is that the monopoles (like muons) drag a positively-charged deuteron and triton closer together than they would otherwise be, lowering the necessary energy level for fusion to occur, and thus increasing efficiency. Muons do this by catalyzing the reaction in place of an electron. Monopoles could do this by means of electromagnetism.

That make enough sense, or do I need to dig deeper?

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 Post subject: Re: Bit of Analysis: Orion's Arm PostPosted: 2012-08-08 10:16pm
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Terralthra wrote:
That make enough sense, or do I need to dig deeper?


That's fine thanks.

Quote:
950 - Interstellar launches from Solsys approach one per year; many new colonies established and old ones recontacted. Moving faster than the wave of human colonisation, Ahuman AI entities have become established around many stars, and act unpredictably when contacted, sometimes dangerously so.

950 - The bubblehab dwellers in Solsys are gradually integrated into the Federation. There are some early enthusiastic joiners on Saturn, but many holdouts. Polities based on Uranus and Neptune are late to join, having already established a high degree of peace and prosperity on their own. Jupiter's technosavages are only gradually coaxed into membership after centuries of persistent missionary activity, long after the atmosphere of Jupiter itself is cleansed of its free-breeding population of hostile nanotech devices by Federation 'blue-goo' sporetech.


Extent of Federation Exploration, nearly one mission a year. Also, bits and pieces of the original solar system join up, eventually almost all of it, but there remain holdouts.


Quote:
950 - No less than 50 of the almost 300 ships of the Spaceman's League are working with the AI called Emergence.

952 - Emergence launches a group of fifteen Spaceman's League ships, fitted with amat-fusion drives to several nearby starsystems (prior to this date the farthest any League ship has been from the Sun was the Oort Cloud. ). This act ensures that the League does not just stay confined to SolSys and the Federation.


Emergence and the expansion of the Spaceman's League.

Quote:
958 - The Babel plague first became epidemic with an outbreak on Penglai


Extremely virulent Babel virus causes severe aphasia in its victims. Believed to have been engineered 600 years before this first outbreak, the virus still has occasional outbreaks in the modern era, and is credited with the total destruction of multiple colonies (since no effect other then aphasia is listed, I assume society broke down when no one could communicate.)

Quote:
960 - Efficient Pion-catalysed Fusion drive allows faster colony ships and interplanetary transport


Improved fusion drive.

Quote:
976 - Cache of primate data discovered (probably a remnant of the Burning Library Project)

1001 - Cache's discovery announced; Institute for Primate Preservation founded

1003 - GAIA and Federation confer protected status on the Institute for Primate Preservation


The project to provolve every freaking species of primate, and the Burning Library got their data out before the nanodisaster? At least it wasn't the ferrets.

Quote:
983 - The Beamrider Network reconnected with the Solar system; it has grown to connect thirty nearby red and brown dwarf systems.

986 - Huanghua joins the First Federation.

Late 10th century - Sometime before the end of the first millennium a.t., Emergence reaches the first singularity (exact date is unknown)


30 systems in the beamrider network, most are not habitable in the sense of having appropriate stars and planets. However, by this time planets have become largely superfluous to human existence. In fact, in the modern era of the series less than 15% of the population live on a planet one way or another, even counting dome cities and worldhouses.

Emergence, which has become the de facto leader of the Spaceman's League, goes SI:1.

Quote:
1000 - The Eridanus League becomes formally aligned with, but not part of, the First Federation. Between 1000 AT and 1900 AT a second wave of colonists is sent out by the Eridanus League to colonise worlds which will later become the Yoson Confederacy and the FSA.


The Eridanus League, possibly the largest cohesive group of colonies at this time, is an ally and trade partner but NOT a member of the Federation.

Quote:
1002 - The Silver Collective succeed in creating their goal, Simico, one of the earliest of the hive-mind clades, made up of self-modified cyborgs


The Silver-Minded Collective (Simico) becomes the first group of humans to develop a shared hive mind. Basically Borg-lite.

Quote:
1010 - Fully functional Utility fog commercially available for the first time.


I was wondering when I'd have to explain this, and even though by this point we're almost a thousand years into the future, I thought it'd take longer still.

Well, utility fog (and it's accompanying technologies angelnet and guardweb) is one of the signs you're definitely in the Inner Core. Basically, you fill the air in a room or a city with a vast nanite swarm. On your command, the nanites can condense into solid shape(s) to form any sort of tool or perhaps furniture you need. Angelnet is a version of this common in Sephirotic space, where a transapient AI controls the utility fog for the purposes of keeping everyone safe. So if you tried to leap off a building you might find your shoes glued to the roof, or a chain restraining you, or a massive cushion forming on the ground, or nothing at all might happen depending on local beliefs on whether or not you can choose to end your life. Thus it is common in the Sephirotics (but not universal) for the annual deaths from crime/accidents/suicides to be zero.

Guardweb is the darker side of that, used to police conquered worlds with constant surveillance and immediate detainment of dissidents. One of the few treaties all Inner Core governments signed off on is the strict observation of a truly massive codebook detailing exactly when, how, and for how long a guardweb may be deployed. The smallest deviations are treated as war crimes and harshly punished by all governments (particularly the one whose agent broke the rules.) Even the Archailects, who can be pretty ideologically fractious. unanimously pushed this treaty. It is unknown at this time why the AI Gods are so dedicated that this particular technology is never abused. But nobody sane is willing to cross them on this.

This is a nontrivial issue in vs. debates. Armed invaders landing on a Sephirotic Orbital could be easily contained, restrained, disarmed, stripped naked, killed, melted, lit on fire depending on the inclinations of the controlling transapient and just how determinedly hostile they're being.

Quote:
1020 AT - First manned Plasma Core Antimatter drive spacecraft

1023 - Adriana Yue Oncehuman born

1025 - First Institute for Primate Preservation member achieves S1 (Jane, the cache's AI guardian); shortly afterwards she is selected Primus

1053 - Habitat Prime ("the monkey house") completed near Saturn (Institute for Primate Preservation)


New development in antimatter spacecraft. Adrianna Oncehuman, a girl who eventually uploads her brain to become a vir and lives still as the richest sub-hyperturing in the known universe is born. AN AI for the Primate provolve group ascends to hyperturing and becomes the Institute's president and orders the creation of an orbital city for the provolves.

Quote:
1065 - Terranova colonised in 1065 by the Terranova Foundation in alliance with the Grue Brothers


So there's now a Nova Terra, a Terra Nova and a Terranova. That won't get at all confusing, nope. There are languages besides Latin, and even names for planets beyond 'New Earth.'

Anyway, one-word Terranova joins the Eridanus League 15 years after founding so it's at least politically distinct form it's namesakes.



"Any plan which requires the direct intervention of any deity to work can be assumed to be a very poor one."- Newbiespud

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 Post subject: Re: Bit of Analysis: Orion's Arm PostPosted: 2012-08-09 12:22am
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Orion's Arm actually illustrates a couple of big problems facing scifi and our imagined space future.

Back when I was a kid, Star Trek felt plausible. Then again, so did Star Wars. Of course, getting older and wiser clued me in to just how many bad assumptions were made with both properties. Still, it seemed like we still had potential for a hard science space opera future with orbital habs, offworld colonies, terraforming, etc. "Ok, so we might not have X-Wings but look at those solar power sats we're gonna be building! Wowie-zowie!"

And now all of that seems like so much zeerust. FTL is wish fulfillment, nobody's promising us we'll get it. And if we're stuck in the Sol system in the foreseeable future, is there any reason to colonize offworld? Not really. Exploring the planets? We can do it with robots. Even if we did have an economic justification for solar power sats, we could build them with robots, any "man on the scene" needs met with telepresence. We want to be in space for the romance but there's not much financial justification.

So from a pragmatic perspective, space is dead in the water. And if we're being party poopers here, we may as well say strong AI isn't possible, transhumanist genetic engineering ain't happening, and none of the other technologies we imagine will work, either.

But if that weren't the case, we then face the "be careful what you wish for problem." We're facing the complete irrelevance of people like us. If we get our strong AI, we get our transhuman technology and thus transhuman civilizations, just how in the hell do you even tell a coherent story in that setting? Can you imagine the motives of a post-singularity AI god? And there's several singularity levels, each more incomprehensible than the last.

Humans like us, the kinds of people we can relate to, they're curiosities in a setting like this. We would have as much influence and relevance in the shaping of the major events in the civilized cosmos as a house cat today. At best the stories you could tell in this setting would be ants scurrying beneath the feet of elephants.

So on one hand it feels dumb to transplant modern-day geopolitics into space. On the other hand, trying to imagine something other than that can turn into a convoluted, recursively difficult story nobody would care about.

While Orion's Arm has big ideas, it also seems to run the risk of omniwank and create a universe where telling an interesting story becomes an insurmountable task.

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 Post subject: Re: Bit of Analysis: Orion's Arm PostPosted: 2012-08-09 12:48am
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jollyreaper wrote:
And now all of that seems like so much zeerust. FTL is wish fulfillment, nobody's promising us we'll get it. And if we're stuck in the Sol system in the foreseeable future, is there any reason to colonize offworld? Not really. Exploring the planets? We can do it with robots. Even if we did have an economic justification for solar power sats, we could build them with robots, any "man on the scene" needs met with telepresence. We want to be in space for the romance but there's not much financial justification.


Expanding the carrying capacity of the Sol system to trillions of humans doesn't seem like a benefit to you? You must not pay rent in a high-density metroplex.

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 Post subject: Re: Bit of Analysis: Orion's Arm PostPosted: 2012-08-09 03:07am
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There's a number of tricks to the storytelling side, but...

Put this way. You're asking three conflicting things of grand-scale science fiction.

One is "Make it edgy. Make it topical. Make the setting exactly the shape I think the future will have twenty years from now- extrapolated two hundred, or two thousand, years beyond that. I want to see this future as a linear projection of present trends!"

Two is "Make it HARD! Don't make one single assumption that doesn't seem plausible to my own personal level of scientific literacy!"

The third is "Make it interesting!"



I submit that you can get about two of those, but getting three is very difficult. The crux of the problem for SF is (1).

At the moment, we live in the computer age. Almost nothing important has changed about our technology since the 1980s except computers, as far as everyday life is concerned. Consumer electronics have gone through three or four generations of "That's so passé, X is the big new thing;" right now the big new thing is mobile apps and tablets.

And we are assured, by men with advanced degrees and every reason to know what they're talking about, that present trends in computer technology will continue indefinitely, that within a few decades data storage and processing speed will be big enough for a computer to take in all the information that every person on the planet sees, process it faster than people do, and figure out everything we know and can imagine. That AI programs will recursively self-improve to become transcendently good at everything we can imagine. And so forth.

And you know what? Maybe they're all right. I can't deny that; at the moment it is the most probable version of The Way The Future Is.

But then I think about The Way The Future Was. That's gone through several iterations too. Back in the '50s, nuclear power was going to make electricity too cheap to meter. Theoretically it could have worked- but there were unexpected complications. Our wild fantasies did not come true. The technology is real, useful, we could probably use it profitably for more than we do use it for... but it didn't change the universe. Even the atomic bomb didn't accomplish much except to finally make Nobel's dream of a weapon too dreadful to use come true.

Ten years ago, nano-everything was a buzzword. The buzz seems to have died down a bit, though; nanotechnology is still a popular image of the future, but most of the writers and popularizers have sobered up and concluded that it probably won't become the all-powerful god machine that we think it is. Will it have applications? Sure, just like electricity: incredibly useful, within 50-100 years we won't know how we lived without it. But you no longer see the idea that nanotech alone changes the universe being quite so popular. The stuff has limits, and having thought things through we begin to wonder if those limits make our wild fantasies less probable.

So, are we really looking at a future owned and operated by super-intelligent, self-improving AIs that make us look so dumb and irrelevant to our own future that we might as well be house pets along for the ride?

[shrugs]



So that's where we run into a problem. For near term science fiction, it's entirely reasonable that we focus on the technologies that look most likely to change everything in the near term.

In the '20s and '30s, scientists were discovering new electrical phenomena, new forms of radiation and energy, almost every time they turned around. And a lot of SF written in those areas was set 'twenty minutes into the future' with a scientist discovering a new phenomenon that changes things as dramatically as the discovery of electricity or subatomic radiation did.

In the '50s, the buzz-words were the atom and the rocket, and there were a lot of stories based around atomic power and rocketry. Science fiction was again being called on to say "what the heck is this technology, and how does it fit into our future?" Most of their answers were wrong or at best misleading, but they got people thinking.

In the '60s you saw a new host of issues. Our attitudes toward racial and cultural relations shifted; beliefs of war and peace finally evolved beyond the post-WWII model. That gave us New Wave SF, which spent a lot of effort exploring social changes, including issues like resource depletion and environmentalism that we were only just then becoming conscious of.

Through the '70s and '80s you saw a lot more of the same; a few new elements joined the mix, like the idea that computers might seriously matter. Dystopian fiction became popular- we were no longer so sure the world would inevitably get blown up in ten years' time, but there was a sense (in the US at least) that crime and terrorism and social decay were spiraling out of control. That led to things like cyberpunk: the sense of alienation between the average Joe and The Man, the idea that big companies and drug pushers would rule the world- because hell, they were the only people who came out of the '70s in good shape.

Some of that turned out to be damn near prophetic. Other parts, not so much.

Now we see the new big things- genetic engineering, nanotechnology, and AI. All of which were present on some level in a lot of older science fiction, but which are now amplified as we begin to see bits and pieces of them coming out into real life. And it is right and proper that our near-term science fiction put a lot of effort into imagining these things, because near-term SF serves a real literary purpose as the genre that makes us think about what our world might look like a generation from now.



But long term? Any long term SF that's artistically good is going to have to insert a few handwaves to explain how we got there from here. History itself would contain them, printed as science fiction; if you presented a slice of life in 2010 America to someone from 1910 America, how hard would it be to convince them of all the changes that actually happened? Would anyone from 1910 really believe that the US would not use nuclear weapons in Korea, having just fielded them five years earlier against Japan? Would anyone believe that food production these days is such an economic irrelevance that no one wants to bother with it anymore, and that major nations just casually accept the status of net food importer? Or that nations would actively export all their heavy industry to China?

These things only seem believable to us because we've lived them. They'd look ridiculous if you tried to predict them in advance.

Star Wars, for example, is artistically good and remains so because it's timeless- it doesn't try to be topical. It doesn't use the 'cool' images and ideas of 1980-vintage SF. And a good thing, too, because most of those images and ideas died of old age thirty years ago. Nor does it try to make all its technology plausible.



Personally, I think you can combine plausible technology and artistic merit... but only at the cost of waving your hands about the "topical" aspect. The story is no longer about projecting present trends twenty years into the future; it's about The Future as a grand backdrop on the large scale, broad in time and space.

And I think we're missing out on that subgenre a bit, because of the pressure toward ULTRAHARD SF. It did a lot for people's sense of optimism, when they believed in a tomorrow. Arguably, it got them a lot closer to building the tomorrow of their dreams than all the "let's face it it won't happen" gets us today.

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 Post subject: Re: Bit of Analysis: Orion's Arm PostPosted: 2012-08-09 03:33am
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jollyreaper wrote:
And now all of that seems like so much zeerust. FTL is wish fulfillment, nobody's promising us we'll get it. And if we're stuck in the Sol system in the foreseeable future, is there any reason to colonize offworld? Not really. Exploring the planets? We can do it with robots. Even if we did have an economic justification for solar power sats, we could build them with robots, any "man on the scene" needs met with telepresence. We want to be in space for the romance but there's not much financial justification.

So from a pragmatic perspective, space is dead in the water. And if we're being party poopers here, we may as well say strong AI isn't possible, transhumanist genetic engineering ain't happening, and none of the other technologies we imagine will work, either.


There's a silver lining in "robots in space" for humans, though. We can potentially use more sophisticated versions of those robots to build space habitats and other space infrastructure while remaining safe on Earth, until they're ready for people to live on them (assuming they can pay the cost of getting there). You don't even need A.I. for that, since the robots near Earth could be remotely controlled from Earth with little light-speed-lag.

Terraltha wrote:
Expanding the carrying capacity of the Sol system to trillions of humans doesn't seem like a benefit to you? You must not pay rent in a high-density metroplex.


Where are these trillions of humans going to come from? The world's population is on a trajectory to peak at about 9-10 billion, and then decline from there. Massive drops in the death rate and/or technology that makes it much easier to have children might cause a temporary change in that, but it would be temporary - historically, societies that suddenly had a decline in death rates due to modernization had a brief burst of population growth followed by continued passage through the Demographic Transition.

That's something I've rarely seen in SF that I've read: low overall population, with most of humanity spread out thinly across their interstellar empire in space opera. Charles Sheffield wrote an inter-planetary space opera-ish trilogy where the overall population was lower in the late 21st century than it is now, but I haven't read an example elsewhere of this.

As for your high rent, in American cities that's often as not due to political factors.

Simon_Jester wrote:
Ten years ago, nano-everything was a buzzword. The buzz seems to have died down a bit, though; nanotechnology is still a popular image of the future, but most of the writers and popularizers have sobered up and concluded that it probably won't become the all-powerful god machine that we think it is. Will it have applications? Sure, just like electricity: incredibly useful, within 50-100 years we won't know how we lived without it. But you no longer see the idea that nanotech alone changes the universe being quite so popular. The stuff has limits, and having thought things through we begin to wonder if those limits make our wild fantasies less probable.


Good point.

With A.I. and computers, it's hard to say. There's no physical limits that we know about (unless you count Moore's Law running up against physical limitations in putting transistors on silicon), not like space travel where the Rocket Equation put some serious limits on what we could do even before we experimented with fuel mixtures for rockets. There might be some weird engineering limitations that we don't know about, though, and won't know about until we've got technology that puts us closer to it. It reminds me of a point Darth Wong made a long time back, about how we couldn't make a clear plastic bottle without seams because of how we make and shape plastic.

Simon_Jester wrote:
Personally, I think you can combine plausible technology and artistic merit... but only at the cost of waving your hands about the "topical" aspect. The story is no longer about projecting present trends twenty years into the future; it's about The Future as a grand backdrop on the large scale, broad in time and space.


Honestly, I think we just worry too much about the possibility of Zeerust. Even topical "concept-centered" SF stories can still be good if a lot of the technology seems laughable.



“It is possible to commit no mistakes and still lose. That is not a weakness. That is life.”
-Jean-Luc Picard


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 Post subject: Re: Bit of Analysis: Orion's Arm PostPosted: 2012-08-09 06:46am
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Ahriman238 wrote:
Dr Roberts wrote:
As my old physics professor told me, Physics explains simple concepts in the most complicated way possible so they have to pay us to explain it.
And of course Feynman "If I could explain it to normal people, I wouldn't be worth the Nobel Prize"

In short, you understand everything about it that you are probably able to.


I completely and categorically reject this idea. I will accept that there are advanced concepts that are extremely difficult, perhaps outright impossible, to succinctly explain to someone lacking the proper background. I'll cheerfully accept there are many instances where I'll get bored and wander off before reaching the point of real understanding rather than something vaguely workable. But I refuse to believe there is anything I can't eventually understand if I can be bothered to work at it enough.

Except possibly this series. But I'll keep trying to fit that together to.

People study this sort of thing for years, so unless you have that in mind I stand by it.



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 Post subject: Re: Bit of Analysis: Orion's Arm PostPosted: 2012-08-09 12:10pm
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Guardsman Bass wrote:
Terraltha wrote:
Expanding the carrying capacity of the Sol system to trillions of humans doesn't seem like a benefit to you? You must not pay rent in a high-density metroplex.


Where are these trillions of humans going to come from? The world's population is on a trajectory to peak at about 9-10 billion, and then decline from there. Massive drops in the death rate and/or technology that makes it much easier to have children might cause a temporary change in that, but it would be temporary - historically, societies that suddenly had a decline in death rates due to modernization had a brief burst of population growth followed by continued passage through the Demographic Transition.

That's something I've rarely seen in SF that I've read: low overall population, with most of humanity spread out thinly across their interstellar empire in space opera. Charles Sheffield wrote an inter-planetary space opera-ish trilogy where the overall population was lower in the late 21st century than it is now, but I haven't read an example elsewhere of this.

As for your high rent, in American cities that's often as not due to political factors.


The US Census Bureau predicts the population will be between 9 and 11 billion in 2040, with global population growth still between 0.5% and 1.0% at that time, assuming current (40 year) declining trends hold and previous (multi-eon) trends do not reassert themselves.

This rather shallow analysis also ignores things like arbitrarily large amounts of (non-interfering) habitable and arable land, essentially free energy, everyone who wants a house with an acre of land getting one, etc.

To put it another way, a single space habitat (such as a pair of O'Neill cylinders) has room to house (roughly) the population of New York (7-10 million in each cylinder; NY population: 19 million) with the population density of Washington state. It would provide all the food they would ever need, an industrial area with no chance of polluting the habitable or arable areas, and free thermal and electric energy in practically unlimited amounts. How much do you think that's "worth"?

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 Post subject: Re: Bit of Analysis: Orion's Arm PostPosted: 2012-08-09 12:58pm
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Dr Roberts wrote:
As my old physics professor told me, Physics explains simple concepts in the most complicated way possible so they have to pay us to explain it.
And of course Feynman "If I could explain it to normal people, I wouldn't be worth the Nobel Prize"

In short, you understand everything about it that you are probably able to.


The problem with this is that you're comparing apples to oranges. A process can be described in both a simple manner and a complex manner. And as research has shown, even the simplest things can be extremely complicated when you ask the right questions or look at it from the right angle. A simple explanation of a process is not invalidated by a complex one, rather they have different applications. Simple explanations are useful when you don't need a high degree of understanding, or when you want to introduce someone to a subject for the first time. Complex explanations are required when you are trying to figure out in detail how a process behaves and functions, for that you need to account for all factors, or at least as many as you are aware of, that are involved in the process.

Understanding anything is a simple matter of breaking it down to the level where you understand the behavior of the individual parts, and then you can understand how they work together to form the greater process. I'd wager that every person of average intelligence is perfectly capable of understanding complex scientific theories, given that they receive adequate instruction and education, so that they have the intellectual tools needed to break these things down and figure them out. There is no hard limit on what an intelligent, functioning individual is able to understand except for time and memory capacity.



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 Post subject: Re: Bit of Analysis: Orion's Arm PostPosted: 2012-08-09 01:18pm
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Terralthra wrote:
The US Census Bureau predicts the population will be between 9 and 11 billion in 2040, with global population growth still between 0.5% and 1.0% at that time, assuming current (40 year) declining trends hold and previous (multi-eon) trends do not reassert themselves.


The UN Population Division's latest report has got it at hitting ~10 billion in 2100, at which point there will only be a handful of countries with birth rates still above the replacement level. And those fertility rates will still be rather low compared to some of them that exist right now - the highest one listed in the report was below 3.0.

As for the "multi-eon" trends, those were for agrarian societies where children were a combination of asset and retirement security for their parents, and where the mortality rate for children under 5 was extremely high. Regardless of culture (and increasingly income), birth rates across countries have been dropping drastically over the past century with industrialization and modernization, and that's projected to continue into the next century.

Terraltha wrote:
This rather shallow analysis also ignores things like arbitrarily large amounts of (non-interfering) habitable and arable land, essentially free energy, everyone who wants a house with an acre of land getting one, etc.


If people want gigantic volumes of open, low-density land, it's not showing up in worldwide residential patterns as more and more people move into cities and metropolitan areas. And if you can afford to build gigantic farms in space, you can more easily afford to do it on Earth in self-contained buildings.

Terraltha wrote:
To put it another way, a single space habitat (such as a pair of O'Neill cylinders) has room to house (roughly) the population of New York (7-10 million in each cylinder; NY population: 19 million) with the population density of Washington state. It would provide all the food they would ever need, an industrial area with no chance of polluting the habitable or arable areas, and free thermal and electric energy in practically unlimited amounts. How much do you think that's "worth"?


Not enough for people to invest in getting towards it in the present, apparently. And I don't see how that relates to "trillions of humans" - even if you have space colonies, their population might be mostly transfers from Earth.



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 Post subject: Re: Bit of Analysis: Orion's Arm PostPosted: 2012-08-09 02:45pm
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Guardsman Bass wrote:
Terralthra wrote:
The US Census Bureau predicts the population will be between 9 and 11 billion in 2040, with global population growth still between 0.5% and 1.0% at that time, assuming current (40 year) declining trends hold and previous (multi-eon) trends do not reassert themselves.


The UN Population Division's latest report has got it at hitting ~10 billion in 2100, at which point there will only be a handful of countries with birth rates still above the replacement level. And those fertility rates will still be rather low compared to some of them that exist right now - the highest one listed in the report was below 3.0.

As for the "multi-eon" trends, those were for agrarian societies where children were a combination of asset and retirement security for their parents, and where the mortality rate for children under 5 was extremely high. Regardless of culture (and increasingly income), birth rates across countries have been dropping drastically over the past century with industrialization and modernization, and that's projected to continue into the next century.


ANY population growth above replacement leads to infinite over time. Fertility rate can drop and population can still grow due to extended lifespans of adults. Even if the planet drops to 0.5% growth, the lowest predicted by 2050 with current models (which assume continued declining fertility), the doubling time is on the order of 150 years. Drop it to 0.1% even, and we're still talking about 25+ billion humans by 2500 CE.

Guardsman Bass wrote:
Terraltha wrote:
This rather shallow analysis also ignores things like arbitrarily large amounts of (non-interfering) habitable and arable land, essentially free energy, everyone who wants a house with an acre of land getting one, etc.


If people want gigantic volumes of open, low-density land, it's not showing up in worldwide residential patterns as more and more people move into cities and metropolitan areas. And if you can afford to build gigantic farms in space, you can more easily afford to do it on Earth in self-contained buildings.


Are you honestly trying to have the dumbest possible responses? To your first sentence, the one word reply "externalities" provides a more than sufficient rebuttal. To your second, I have to use a whole sentence: "Where will you put them?" In space, the answer is "wherever you want them, and they'll easily be within ten miles of the millions of people they're feeding. On Terra, the answer is...?

Guardsman Bass wrote:
Terraltha wrote:
To put it another way, a single space habitat (such as a pair of O'Neill cylinders) has room to house (roughly) the population of New York (7-10 million in each cylinder; NY population: 19 million) with the population density of Washington state. It would provide all the food they would ever need, an industrial area with no chance of polluting the habitable or arable areas, and free thermal and electric energy in practically unlimited amounts. How much do you think that's "worth"?


Not enough for people to invest in getting towards it in the present, apparently.


And as we all know, humans are all rational actors, capable of planning centuries ahead when amortizing costs.

Guardsman Bass wrote:
And I don't see how that relates to "trillions of humans" - even if you have space colonies, their population might be mostly transfers from Earth.
You think that space colonists aren't going to have kids for hundreds of years? I guess people in space don't like sex or families.

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 Post subject: Re: Bit of Analysis: Orion's Arm PostPosted: 2012-08-09 04:15pm
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Ahriman238 wrote:
I really do learn all sorts of interesting things when I analyze trashy sci-fi series. I don't know that seriously alien thought-processes would even rate a mention, I mean these things do a third of their thinking with their skeletons and outsource much of the rest.
Yeah, it seems the brain is an analogic computer. Screwing with it is very likely to yeld totally alien minds.

Quote:
someone-else wrote:
There are sensory areas (that elaborate inputs from sensors) and motor control areas (that control muscles) as well as dedicated memory areas for each kind of specific brain structure.

Yeah, but I'd figure sensory input and motor control are areas you really couldn't afford to skimp on, even with the promise of external support.
To the contrary. There is one thing called somatotopy, that means every sigle part of the body is controlled by a specific part of the brain. You cannot add any really powerful peripheral (say an additional arm) if there is no part of the brain to control it.
But since every area does not give a shit about the others (within reason) you can have "undeveloped slots" while the parts necessary for normal operation are fully developed.

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The key thing about software is that it has zero reproduction cost - and well designed software has low integration and customisation costs.
Only if it's open-source.

Quote:
When you say robotics is expensive, you're probably thinking of research projects by Honda etc that spend a lot of money to push the state of the art.
Yeah, and then copyright their "unskilled worker robot" programming. Or write it in a way that works only with some specific Honda-made stuff.

Does not make sense to throw away tons of $$$ and then release it for free.

I think it will be like with Windows, first comes the copyrighted thing, then with decades of delay comes a free open-source alternative that performs kinda the same, maybe (various linux distros). The same for MS Office and Open/LibreOffice.

And again, pirating robot software ain't goinna be harder than pirating any software has ever been.

Quote:
A robotic sex doll is just a high-tech masturbation aid (solo or with internet connection mutual), in the same sense that an iPod could be considered a very elaborate record player.
I was thinking about something like Second Life linked to machinery or a direct neural interface allows the people to actually feel they are doing sex with someone/thing in the virtual world.
I mean, the possibility to fuck for free with anything without any risk? (connection and subscription costs aside, as always)

It's very very tempting for the average joe imho. So I speculated that much more average joes would become like those japanese guys.

Ahriman238 wrote:
Meanwhile bloody skirmishes erupt in space, battles for the precious He3 factories on the moon
Sigh. harvesting He3 from Moon rock is like harvesting gold from seawater. Possible, but you have to go through ridicolous amounts of stuff. The only half-sane natural He3 sources are gas giants. The best source of He3 is lithium and a source of neutrons.

Quote:
540-542 - The Nanodisaster. The largest outbreak of rogue nanoswarms occurs, spreading throughout the inner system.
Nanoshit does not like UV, at all, and UV is pretty fucking hard in space. Nor solar light nor particle radiation from the sun for that matter, and vacuum is going to be a pain in the backside as well. So they either use vehicles and stay hidden in crates or it's a completely magic plague.

And that's due to size issues, no amount of tech can change that.

Quote:
573 - The Treaty Org forces the Californian Free Republic into the treaty using direct military threats. It is the first in a long list of "suspected regions" to be put under near total nanosurveillance.
I bet someone of their writers played Fallout. California Repubblic from Fallout.

Quote:
Largely with an improved antimatter rocket and something called a lofstrom loop. ... Quick and cheap spacelift, and every site I've looked it up on save Atomic Rocket and Wikipedia claim we could build one today if we wanted.
Yeah, there is a reason why it's not built even if we theoreitcally can (maybe, perhaps). I've seen it called the lolstorm loop, and for a good reason. A track constantly going at 14 km/s, kept in place by magnetic fields and (wait for it) magnetic bearings at the ends. What could possibly go wrong? :lol:
If shit hits the fan you have a gigantic amount of stuff shooting everywhere, and you have to make another from scratch.
It manages to get well above the level of stupidity of elevators (which have the redeeming feature of being very good ideas on anything without an atmosphere).

A slightly saner concept: huomongous LAZOR shooting a heat beam to fucktons of cheap one-way (no heat shield nor provisions for reentry) shuttles. they claim SSTO and 2 to 5 times more payload than conventional rockets

Failures are much less of an issue for the system as a whole.

But lolstorm loops sound cooler.
Quote:
One way to get humanity to the stars was to deny us Earth, I suppose.
Earth is acutally keen to blow up or disappear or going dead in hardish fiction.
The reason is that Earth is a homeworld-class planet, and thus very likely to out-gun out-think and out-number everyone else for a big amount of time. Also has a far faster technological advancement than everyone else.

Of course OA just does it for cosmetical reasons. I also like how they can harvest enough He3 and antimatter to send billions of people in DIY spacecraft AND do wars in just a century. I'm really afraid of their capabilities.

Quote:
640 - The expulsion ends, and Gaia dismantles her technological infrastructure and sets to truly restore the planet by triggering a new Ice Age and restoring extinct megafauna. The sentients in space are ignored.
Doesn't this (bolded) make it kinda weaker?

Quote:
685 - "The Great Shedding": nanoreplicators in the Jupiter atmosphere launch massive quantities of spores, destroying surviving communities in the Jovian system and causing brief swarms on the outer planets and in the Belt.
Spores alone won't cut it. They need half-decent engines or they won't get anywhere in less than decades.
Engines mean "spore detection" is possible, although not necessarily realistic in this situation.

Quote:
Also, a number of attempts are made to drop rocks on Earth. All of them fail and the involved parties soon suffer terrible misfortune as their nanodefenses are overrun.
Goddamn noobs. They can DIY interstellar spacecraft. What about turning one of those into a relativistic impactor?

Quote:
Extremely virulent Babel virus causes severe aphasia in its victims. Believed to have been engineered 600 years before this first outbreak, the virus still has occasional outbreaks in the modern era
Since it targets brain, all tweaks with different brains (like say the halflings we talked about some posts ago) will be resistent if not immune to it.

Also, 600 years from the past? :wtf: I'm amazed it works at all, given how fast they alter themselves.



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 Post subject: Re: Bit of Analysis: Orion's Arm PostPosted: 2012-08-09 07:39pm
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Terralthra wrote:
Guardsman Bass wrote:
Terralthra wrote:
The US Census Bureau predicts the population will be between 9 and 11 billion in 2040, with global population growth still between 0.5% and 1.0% at that time, assuming current (40 year) declining trends hold and previous (multi-eon) trends do not reassert themselves.


The UN Population Division's latest report has got it at hitting ~10 billion in 2100, at which point there will only be a handful of countries with birth rates still above the replacement level. And those fertility rates will still be rather low compared to some of them that exist right now - the highest one listed in the report was below 3.0.

As for the "multi-eon" trends, those were for agrarian societies where children were a combination of asset and retirement security for their parents, and where the mortality rate for children under 5 was extremely high. Regardless of culture (and increasingly income), birth rates across countries have been dropping drastically over the past century with industrialization and modernization, and that's projected to continue into the next century.


ANY population growth above replacement leads to infinite over time. Fertility rate can drop and population can still grow due to extended lifespans of adults. Even if the planet drops to 0.5% growth, the lowest predicted by 2050 with current models (which assume continued declining fertility), the doubling time is on the order of 150 years. Drop it to 0.1% even, and we're still talking about 25+ billion humans by 2500 CE.


I must have forgotten the part where the UN said that the trend of declining birth rates down the replacement froze in place in 2100. :roll: As for death rates, I noted that in my initial response. Historically, what has happened with a sudden drop in death rates is that the population briefly has a burst of growth, followed by a continued adjustment through the Demographic Transition.

Terraltha wrote:
Guardsman Bass wrote:
Terraltha wrote:
This rather shallow analysis also ignores things like arbitrarily large amounts of (non-interfering) habitable and arable land, essentially free energy, everyone who wants a house with an acre of land getting one, etc.


If people want gigantic volumes of open, low-density land, it's not showing up in worldwide residential patterns as more and more people move into cities and metropolitan areas. And if you can afford to build gigantic farms in space, you can more easily afford to do it on Earth in self-contained buildings.


Are you honestly trying to have the dumbest possible responses? To your first sentence, the one word reply "externalities" provides a more than sufficient rebuttal. To your second, I have to use a whole sentence: "Where will you put them?" In space, the answer is "wherever you want them, and they'll easily be within ten miles of the millions of people they're feeding. On Terra, the answer is...?


Are you deliberately trying to miss the point, or just accidentally missing it? We're going through a worldwide transition to greater urbanization, which means that if people have a preference for having arbitrarily large amounts of open space, it's not showing up in their choices for habitation. As for externalities, cities have plenty of positive externalities to go along with the negative ones, particularly in terms of environmental impact and efficiency.

As to the second point, there are experimental urban farms on top of and inside buildings in cities right now. Even if we can't put them in or near cities, there's no lack of open land on Earth (which I honestly thought was so obvious that no one would be stupid enough to miss the point). Best of all, we don't have to spend billions to put the farms and the people who need them in orbit.

Terraltha wrote:
Guardsman Bass wrote:
Terraltha wrote:
To put it another way, a single space habitat (such as a pair of O'Neill cylinders) has room to house (roughly) the population of New York (7-10 million in each cylinder; NY population: 19 million) with the population density of Washington state. It would provide all the food they would ever need, an industrial area with no chance of polluting the habitable or arable areas, and free thermal and electric energy in practically unlimited amounts. How much do you think that's "worth"?


Not enough for people to invest in getting towards it in the present, apparently.


And as we all know, humans are all rational actors, capable of planning centuries ahead when amortizing costs.


That doesn't change the fact that the possibility of having habitable space colonies is apparently so low a priority among most of the population that the amount of funding allocated to it is negligible. So low that they're not even spending the piddling amounts of money that it would take to just get the colonization process started.



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 Post subject: Re: Bit of Analysis: Orion's Arm PostPosted: 2012-08-10 01:56am
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To add to my last point, we've got Google and others starting a company that is ultimately aiming to mine asteroids for water to make into fuel by 2020 (or at least in the 2020s). If potential "real estate" in the form of a space colony is so valuable, where is the company planning to build a space colony for it? At best, we've got companies like Bigelow Aerospace hoping to launch space stations sometime in the 2010s or later if they have the funding.

Which is not to say that they won't get built. I think some space colonies ultimately will get built, mostly likely by autonomous or remotely controlled robots in orbit (think more advanced versions of this robot and the like). At that point, people who can pay for the passage and whatever costs the owners impose for moving there will do so if they have the interest. But that's not going to happen until you get launch costs way down . . . if you can get them way down. It's also not going to be because the Earth is groaning under the burden of over-population.



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 Post subject: Re: Bit of Analysis: Orion's Arm PostPosted: 2012-08-10 04:26am
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Guardsman Bass wrote:
The UN Population Division's latest report has got it at hitting ~10 billion in 2100, at which point there will only be a handful of countries with birth rates still above the replacement level. And those fertility rates will still be rather low compared to some of them that exist right now - the highest one listed in the report was below 3.0.

As for the "multi-eon" trends, those were for agrarian societies where children were a combination of asset and retirement security for their parents, and where the mortality rate for children under 5 was extremely high. Regardless of culture (and increasingly income), birth rates across countries have been dropping drastically over the past century with industrialization and modernization, and that's projected to continue into the next century.
There are a lot of ways for this trend to reverse.

For example, the "fewer children" thing might be part-instinct: modern humans live crowded lives, and we feel a lot of stress because we have to work at tasks we aren't very familiar with in an environment very different from the ancestral one. If people were calmer and more relaxed (more leisure time, better grasp of psychology, a society organized for people), and if there was more physical space, maybe we'd feel more impulse to breed faster.

Or, if the raising of children became a relatively low cost thing (massive surplus resources, robotics good enough to provide things like animated teddy bears that keep an eye on the kid and act as combination edutainment, baby monitor, and stuffed animal), maybe parents would breed more happily. Between women's lib and the shift to industrial and post-industrial lifestyles, it is now a huge net burden to raise a child, and that burden falls almost entirely on the individuals who do it. That could change.

Quote:
Not enough for people to invest in getting towards it in the present, apparently. And I don't see how that relates to "trillions of humans" - even if you have space colonies, their population might be mostly transfers from Earth.
You can't get people to invest in building space cities because the payoff is too long-range. Capitalist economies don't invest in things that won't pay for themselves for a hundred years; it just doesn't happen.

someone_else wrote:
Quote:
540-542 - The Nanodisaster. The largest outbreak of rogue nanoswarms occurs, spreading throughout the inner system.
Nanoshit does not like UV, at all, and UV is pretty fucking hard in space. Nor solar light nor particle radiation from the sun for that matter, and vacuum is going to be a pain in the backside as well. So they either use vehicles and stay hidden in crates or it's a completely magic plague.

And that's due to size issues, no amount of tech can change that.
All these are eminently probable, since this kind of 'sufficiently advanced' nanotech could probably be programmed so it doesn't start replicating and ruining things until plenty of time has passed and unwitting carriers have already spread it around the hab.

Plus there's tricks like using small, low-velocity capsules full of nanites to drift up to a space habitat and release somewhere on the 'night side' of the hab; that gives them a brief time to do things like bore holes in the hull. If you got subtle and mean enough, it'd be possible.

Quote:
Quote:
573 - The Treaty Org forces the Californian Free Republic into the treaty using direct military threats. It is the first in a long list of "suspected regions" to be put under near total nanosurveillance.
I bet someone of their writers played Fallout. California Repubblic from Fallout.
The idea of California as an independent state isn't new; indeed, it was independent for a few years during the Mexican-American War.

California is physically large, has a thriving economy, and is separated from most of the rest of the country by big barriers of mountain and desert. It has farmland, cities, a certain amount of industry, excellent ports, and so on. If the US broke up, California would be well placed to establish itself as independent; its main problem would be water supply, I think.

Quote:
Quote:
640 - The expulsion ends, and Gaia dismantles her technological infrastructure and sets to truly restore the planet by triggering a new Ice Age and restoring extinct megafauna. The sentients in space are ignored.
Doesn't this (bolded) make it kinda weaker?
It depends on the definition.

Quote:
Quote:
685 - "The Great Shedding": nanoreplicators in the Jupiter atmosphere launch massive quantities of spores, destroying surviving communities in the Jovian system and causing brief swarms on the outer planets and in the Belt.
Spores alone won't cut it. They need half-decent engines or they won't get anywhere in less than decades.
Engines mean "spore detection" is possible, although not necessarily realistic in this situation.
You don't need much delta-v to move among the moons of Jupiter, if you're not planning to descend into the atmosphere. You could probably get what you need just by, say, building guns that shoot big hollow shells full of nanites, then busting the shells open and letting the nanites rain onto the target.

Quote:
Quote:
Also, a number of attempts are made to drop rocks on Earth. All of them fail and the involved parties soon suffer terrible misfortune as their nanodefenses are overrun.
Goddamn noobs. They can DIY interstellar spacecraft. What about turning one of those into a relativistic impactor?
None of the parties involved really want to find out if Gaia has an insurance policy squirreled away to deal with that? If they can do r-bombs, so can she.

Or they just might not have objectives that entail making Earth totally uninhabitable and ruined. Doing that might not even 'kill' Gaia, really- after decades of digging in, the AI might well be based on all kinds of weird computers buried inside the planetary crust, scattered widely and redundantly, powered by geothermal energy (among other things). Something like the K-T extinction event would damage and inconvenience such an entity, but not much more.

Guardsman Bass wrote:
To add to my last point, we've got Google and others starting a company that is ultimately aiming to mine asteroids for water to make into fuel by 2020 (or at least in the 2020s). If potential "real estate" in the form of a space colony is so valuable, where is the company planning to build a space colony for it? At best, we've got companies like Bigelow Aerospace hoping to launch space stations sometime in the 2010s or later if they have the funding.
Bass, with current infrastructure space colonies are simply out of reach. It would be like forming a company to put a man on the moon in 1935. Liquid fuel rockets existed, but there were so many intermediate steps missing that no one would put up mountains of startup capital to make the dream happen.

As I said, corporations invest in things that they can actually hope to accomplish in the working lifetime of the decision-makers. That mostly limits them to 10-20 year planning horizons. Space colonies don't really qualify.

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 Post subject: Re: Bit of Analysis: Orion's Arm PostPosted: 2012-08-10 04:36am
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Simon_Jester wrote:
Bass, with current infrastructure space colonies are simply out of reach. It would be like forming a company to put a man on the moon in 1935. Liquid fuel rockets existed, but there were so many intermediate steps missing that no one would put up mountains of startup capital to make the dream happen.

As I said, corporations invest in things that they can actually hope to accomplish in the working lifetime of the decision-makers. That mostly limits them to 10-20 year planning horizons. Space colonies don't really qualify.


With current space infrastructure, asteroid mining is simply out of reach . . . but that hasn't stopped a company from ultimately aiming to do that, while also doing stuff along the way that will be profitable and keep the company afloat. I don't buy the argument that the earliest potential space colonies we could build are beyond that in terms of the time horizon (or that there are no profitable steps between "no colonies today" and "full-blown self-sustaining colony"), provided there are people interested in having one up in 10, 20, or 30 years from now. Hell, we have far more experience operating habitable space stations than we do in getting to asteroids, never mind extracting resources from them.



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 Post subject: Re: Bit of Analysis: Orion's Arm PostPosted: 2012-08-10 04:51am
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Sorry, ran out of editing time.

Simon_Jester wrote:
For example, the "fewer children" thing might be part-instinct: modern humans live crowded lives, and we feel a lot of stress because we have to work at tasks we aren't very familiar with in an environment very different from the ancestral one. If people were calmer and more relaxed (more leisure time, better grasp of psychology, a society organized for people), and if there was more physical space, maybe we'd feel more impulse to breed faster.


I'm skeptical. The world-wide Demographic Transition is happening despite significant cultural and economic differences in the status of people, methods of parenting, and societal rules and benefits designed to assist with child-rearing. That suggests to me that there's a more concrete, universal cause, like massive declines in the infant and early childhood mortality rates.

Simon_Jester wrote:
Or, if the raising of children became a relatively low cost thing (massive surplus resources, robotics good enough to provide things like animated teddy bears that keep an eye on the kid and act as combination edutainment, baby monitor, and stuffed animal), maybe parents would breed more happily. Between women's lib and the shift to industrial and post-industrial lifestyles, it is now a huge net burden to raise a child, and that burden falls almost entirely on the individuals who do it. That could change.


Maybe. But we've seen major efforts in some Developed Nations to try and greatly ease the burden of parenting through monetary and non-monetary benefits (particularly in the Nordic Countries). That seems to keep their fertility rates above some of the abysmal rats we see in Eastern and Southern Europe . . . but still leaves them below the Replacement Level of 2.1 (Sweden is at a rate of 1.67).

In addition to technologies that might ease parenting, I can think of technological changes that could drastically lower the fertility rate, particularly significant increases in longevity. If parents can delay having children for decades or even centuries, then the fertility rate collapses even further. You can say, "Well, they'll still have the kids", but even a society with super-medical science is likely to have at least some deaths just from accidents and mistakes, and in a super-low fertility society those could outnumber the births, causing stagnation or even decline in population size.



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 Post subject: Re: Bit of Analysis: Orion's Arm PostPosted: 2012-08-10 12:10pm
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Guardsman Bass wrote:
With current space infrastructure, asteroid mining is simply out of reach . . . but that hasn't stopped a company from ultimately aiming to do that...
Google aims to do exactly that; they're aiming to get it done in twenty years. Which, by coincidence, is exactly the kind of timeframe I was talking about.

Quote:
I don't buy the argument that the earliest potential space colonies we could build are beyond that in terms of the time horizon (or that there are no profitable steps between "no colonies today" and "full-blown self-sustaining colony"), provided there are people interested in having one up in 10, 20, or 30 years from now...
Hint: what do you think all those space startups have been doing for the past twenty years? All the people trying to design commercial cargo modules, commercial SSTOs, what are they doing?

They're focusing on the "profitable steps along the way."

Real corporations don't operate like Delos David Harriman.

Guardsman Bass wrote:
I'm skeptical. The world-wide Demographic Transition is happening despite significant cultural and economic differences in the status of people, methods of parenting, and societal rules and benefits designed to assist with child-rearing. That suggests to me that there's a more concrete, universal cause, like massive declines in the infant and early childhood mortality rates.
It's fundamental, concrete, universal- but it may not be irreversible. It may depend on a lot of factors, not just the obvious one (infant mortality rates). A society that went through a new technological shift might easily have a second demographic transition.

Consider how things might change if we could extend life and fertility for the average person to something more like 40-50 years instead of 20-30.

As you say, that might decrease fertility because they delay having children. On the other hand, you might see a lot more mothers of three or four children, because there'd be time to have three or four children, spaced at ten-year intervals so raising them doesn't take up a whole life's energy.

Another thing I think we shouldn't factor out is Darwin. Right now, for the first time in the history of Earth, we have an intelligent lifeform making a conscious decision whether or not to breed. The sex drive evolved to be very powerful because that was the old Darwinian surrogate for reproduction- you want to have sex because you are descended from creatures that did have sex, and therefore reproduced.

If there is any 'switch' in the brain that makes people more likely to want children, not just sex, the kind of intense selection pressure we're placing on the switch is going to flip it sooner or later. There are still people who put the rest of their life on hold to have two or more children. By 2200 or so, their descendants will have more or less inherited the developed world.

The reality is probably that it's not that simple- but considering the sheer number of people who decide (or effectively decide, by delay) not to breed, I wouldn't bet against our finding such a switch.

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 Post subject: Re: Bit of Analysis: Orion's Arm PostPosted: 2012-08-10 06:24pm
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Wow, a lot of people chimed in all of a sudden.

Okay, as far as population goes. It is my understanding that in most industrialized nations the birthrate is trending downwards, for a variety of reasons others have explained better than I might. Fair enough.

I see no reason to believe this trend will continue forever, especially if a lot of space suddenly becomes available. Space colony missions will always be limited in initial size, by spacelift, by space or simply by mass. So you'd better hope that when the colonists arrive they make like rabbits and provide the population a colony that's decades from any help or resupply will need to see to all its needs.

This is more or less how I understand most OA colonies to go. The initial colonists live in a dome-city or bubblehab, barring cases where terraforming 'bots were deployed decades ahead of the colony mission. The first generation lives in the first city while tweaking the second and third generations to be better able to survive the planet.

Also, yes there are literal tons of jokes and sci-fi references in this series. The most painfully obvious being the orbital city of Roddenberry that was founder and home to the Federation. I'd not be surprised if California's breakaway status was a Fallout joke.

Supposed harness and plausibility go out the window in this series when it comes to nanotech. It's literally outright magic. Nanotech by this point has completely surpassed traditional macro-scale industry and is used to make and repair everything. Spaceships shoot slugs of nanite 'disassemblers' at each other, and the Treaty Org contained outbreaks on the moon by shelling it with GAIA's blue goo. Do I need to get into the utility fog/angelnet/guardweb?

The SINGLE concession that nanotech might have practical limitations is this one article on the shortcomings of nano-weaponry that most of the writers ignore anyway.

Quote:
Limit #1: Physics

Nanotechnology can do some truly wondrous things, but it is not exempt from the laws of physics. Nanomachines are subject to the laws of conservation, motion, gravity and so on. Whatever material a nanite or foglet is made of reacts to external energies and to other chemicals in the normal manner. Nanotechnology has no miraculous powers or immunities. This limit is the basis for all of the other limitations listed below.


Limit #2: Size

Nano-agents, by their very nature, are incredibly tiny. An individual nanomachine is too small to carry much of an onboard fuel supply (typically no more than a few hours worth). Defenders can sometimes defeat nanoweapons simply by outlasting them. Sufficiently thick fortifications can delay the units long enough for their fuel to run out, provided that the nano can't get in through weak points such as doors and air vents. Designers of nanoweapons counter this disadvantage by incorporating feedstock into delivery systems — artillery shells containing nanites suspended in a fuel solution are the earliest known form of this — or by deploying refueling units alongside their nanoweapons. The latter approach adds to both the expense and the strategic risk of using nanoweapons because it is necessary that the refueling units be well defended to avoid attacks on them, crippling the nanoweapons (synsects excel at this function). The most advanced nanotechnology can refuel itself by scavenging materials from the environment; bionano that fuels itself by consuming organic matter is one of the more reliable ways of implementing this strategy.

Because of their dimensions (in the 10-9 meter range) nanoscale machines are limited in their ability to detect and utilize EM radiation. A nano-agent cannot effectively absorb long wavelengths even by using its entire body surface as a receiver. Radio-frequency communication and detection using radar or infrared are quite impossible. Even generating photoelectric power using visible light is problematic. Wavelengths in the ultraviolet range and beyond are usable, but X-rays and gamma rays are so energetic that individual units can be damaged by constant exposure. Nanotech devices are limited to using ultraviolet light or visible light in the blue to violet range as a medium of sensing or as a photovoltaic power source. This well-known limitation means that purely military installations that require protection from nanoweapons are often built in places that are poor in those frequencies of light. On the one hand this denies the nanites an abundant power source. On the other hand, any artificial source of those wavelengths is easily detected and constitutes a warning of possible nano attack. An alternate strategy is to place an installation under a bright X-ray or gamma ray source so that invading nanotechnology is "sterilized" before it can do any harm. Joining many nanomachines into larger arrays can overcome the EM limitations inherent at the nanoscale — many nanites working in tandem can detect or utilize longer wavelengths — but each nanite remains vulnerable to damage from the more energetic frequencies. Arrays are also easier to detect and attack than individual nanites would be.

The same resolution problems that apply to EM radiation also limit a unit's ability to use or detect sound. Nanites cannot detect audible frequency sound, much less infrasound, without forming receiver chains. The necessity of joining in large groups in order to hear certain frequencies robs the nanomachines of the advantage of stealth that they gain from their small size. Nano-agents can and do make use of ultrasound for both detection and communication, and some types can derive power from it as well (like all broadcast power, this is vulnerable to jamming).

A basic engineering limit of being small is that it's hard to move fast. Even the most advanced utility fogs can barely muster speeds faster than a running baseline can achieve, and nanites that are limited to surface travel can't move faster than a typical hu can walk. But small linear dimensions aren't the only movement problem. With low mass comes low inertia and correspondingly reduced ability to overcome resistance. The faster a nanomachine travels the more it must contend with atmospheric resistance. Nano can usually travel much more easily in vacuum than it can within a gaseous medium. Nanotechnology that's designed to operate in liquid is often unable to overcome the resistance of the medium; the nano is typically designed to reach its target by drifting with the prevailing current. Nanites are often positively buoyant because of their low weight, though agents made of especially dense materials may be neutrally buoyant. Most nanomachines can only submerge by forming clumps that are large enough to sink (and therefore large enough to detect via sonar) or by attaching themselves to more massive objects. Nano-agents that ride to their targets on the surfaces of vehicles or animals are common. Installation defense is often achieved by building bases underwater or by installing positive-pressure systems to make the atmospheric pressure higher inside the building than it is outside. This creates an artificial wind that offers further resistance to the movement of attacking nano (the usual increase over ambient pressure is 20% or more). Positive-pressure systems work very well against airborne units but are less effective against surface-bound nanites. Finally, low inertia makes nanoweapons highly vulnerable to adverse weather conditions. Nanomachines find it difficult to operate in a driving rain or in gale force winds. No known nanoweapon, not even those created using transapientech, can be effectively deployed in the face of a hurricane or tornado. Several of the polities that have pursued weather control technology are known to have done so because of the strategic advantage that they hoped to gain against potential aggressors who rely heavily on military nanotechnology.

Size also severely limits the amount of processing power that a nanite can muster and the number of devices — sensors, manipulators, etc. — that it can carry. Designers of nanotechnology can easily overcome this limit is by designing nanoweapons to operate in networks. This, however, makes the entire conglomerate vulnerable to communications disruption. The network collapses if the component nanites can't pass signals to each other. Units that communicate via signal lasers lose cohesion if immersed in smoke or reflective chaff that is tuned to the proper frequency. Ultrasound communication is vulnerable to phase cancellation (projecting a wave of the same frequency but of opposite phase to cancel out the signal). Both ultrasound and light-based communications are easily jammed by stronger signals.

The greatest consequence of small size is a low damage capacity; there is very little structure to harm, and armoring individual units is simply impossible. Any macro-scale destructive force that manages to reach a nano-agent will probably destroy it.

The reader should note that the size limits above apply mainly to nanoscale machines. Microscale machines, which are comparable in size to naturally occurring microbes (around 10-6 meters), suffer from these limits to a far lesser degree. Micromachines are quite capable of using visible light, for example, and have greater capacity for fuel supplies or onboard processors. They can also move faster and have more inertia. Being larger, of course, makes micromachines easier to detect and attack than nanomachines are. Some theorists don't consider micro-agents that are designed to operate on the nano-level to be true nanotechnology, but the distinction is largely academic.


Limit #3: Physical Properties

Nanomachines are made of matter, and that matter behaves normally according to its nature. Diamondoid has the same qualities of reactivity and conductivity as natural diamond, corundumoid has the same properties and vulnerabilities as corundum, and so on. A defender who knows what attacking nano-agents are made of can sometimes neutralize them by using the right corrosive. The process is usually quick because destroying a single unit requires very little reactant. Insulating nano-agents against corrosive attack is completely ineffective; a layer of protective material even a single molecule thick would compromise a unit's function. Agents that are made of naturally corrosion-resistant materials are vulnerable to adhesives that gum up the works or simply impede movement. Some disassemblers can simply "eat" their way through such an obstruction, but this slows the advance toward the primary target (which is often the entire point of using such obstructives). The best way for nanomachines to defend themselves from chemical attack is to disperse widely enough that some of them will be outside of the area of effect. This defense, while highly effective, also increases system lag as the units have to communicate with each other over greater distances.

Temperature is an intractable problem for nanomachines. Individual units are too small to incorporate either cooling systems or thermal insulation; the only thermoregulation possible for nano-agents is that derived from their physical architecture (either cooling fins or heat-conserving shapes) or their composition (i.e. reflectivity or thermal conductivity). For this reason most nano-agents are restricted to operating within fairly narrow temperature ranges — hylonano is superior to bionano in this regard. Most nanoweapons that are designed to operate in a shirtsleeves environment can't survive the extremes of heat or cold that bionts can. Nano-agents that are optimized for extreme heat will freeze in temperatures that hu would find unbearably hot, while nano that's meant to work in the cold of deep space burns out at temperatures as low as the boiling point of nitrogen. Of even greater concern is thermal shock. A sudden temperature change can shatter every nano-agent within the area of effect. Flamethrowers and liquified gas grenades are common anti-nano countermeasures for this very reason. As with chemical attack, a nanoweapon's only real defense against temperature-based attacks is dispersal, and even that is ineffective against ambient temperatures. Designing nano-agents to work in the inner regions of a star system is very difficult; the machines must often deal with rapid changes from extreme cold to searing heat. Nano that's designed for orbital conditions is typically optimized for cold and made of material that reacts to sudden exposure to sunlight by becoming more reflective. Macroscale delivery systems are another common solution.

No material, no matter how strong, is immune to a sudden application of kinetic energy. Stronger materials simply require more input energy before failing. Nanomachines are too small to have much structural strength even when they are made of exceptionally strong materials. A sharp impact destroys every nano-agent that it hits. Small size makes nanoweapons difficult to target with most kinetic energy weapons, however, so projectiles and close combat weapons are ineffective. Sophonts who have had occasion to develop anti-nano countermeasures have found that ultrasound is the best way to apply kinetic energy to nanomachines. Sound can deliver large force loads, especially when tuned to the resonant frequency of the target material, and sonic waves naturally disperse over wide areas (thereby neutralizing a nanoweapon's best defense). Insulating nanomachines against ultrasound is impossible for the same reason that they can't be insulated against temperature extremes or corrosive chemicals.


Limit #4: Fire with Fire

Effectively defending against nanoweapons doesn't require nanotechnology — but having nanotechnology of equal or greater sophistication certainly works. History contains few examples of nanoweapons being successfully deployed against an enemy that had more advanced nanoweapons, and most of those examples involve transapient intervention. In all military conflicts between combatants using similar weapons, the party who has superior technology has a significant advantage.


Limit #5: Strategy

All of the above problems limit the ways in which nanoweapons can be effectively deployed. An enemy who has the technological capacity to use chemicals or ultrasound, let alone countering nano-agents, isn't particularly vulnerable to nano-attack unless caught by surprise. This is why the nanoswarms caused so much damage initially but were eventually defeated. Military strategists have learned that the most effective use of nanoweapons is as ambush weapons that incapacitate their targets before there is time to prepare countermeasures. This strategy is most effective if the attacker employs multiple types of nano-agents. In this scheme the first agents deployed are specialized units designed to attack the countermeasures before they can be activated. The actual combat units may then operate unimpeded. Nanoweapons are also effective as rear-guard devices. Deploying nano-agents to cover a retreat can buy an army valuable escape time, especially if the pursued can achieve surprise in that deployment.

The other main use of nanoweapons is for sieges. Self-replicating agents that can refuel from the environment come into their own in this strategy; wide dispersal prevents even the most effective countermeasures from destroying all of the units (particularly if some of them deliberately wait outside the combat area). The surviving units then need only avoid detection long enough to build their numbers back up, at which point the attack begins again.

The problem with both of the above strategies is that an opponent who is familiar with nanotechnology probably knows of them. Countermeasures that can be activated quickly enough to minimize the element of surprise were the first anti-nano devices created. Ultrasound projectors, flamethrowers and cryonic fluid dispensers are common in military units throughout the known galaxy. Quick-deploy Anti-nano Countermeasures, or QDANCs, can't stop nanoweapons from doing any damage at all but they can keep a surprise attack from being a complete success. QDANCs have an advantage over blue goo in that, when used properly, a QDANC can destroy attacking nano-agents before they reach their targets. As for nanotech siege weapons, defeating them is often as simple as building secure installations in places where nano-agents can't operate effectively. Denying the machines fuel or replication resources eliminates the long-term danger of nanotech siege. A given type of nanotech disassembler is generally effective against a narrow range of materials (universal disassemblers, if they exist, are beyond the technological capabilities of everyone but high-level transapients).

Building an installation's outer walls out of a given material and placing the base in an environment that won't support units that are effective against that substance is a common technique. Building in an area that is both poor in energy resources and rich in environmental hazards is even more effective. Underwater locations are among the best; they aren't 100% proof against nano-attack, but the pressure, salinity, currents and fluctuating temperatures of a marine environment are powerful defenses. Nanomachines — and even micromachines — can't cross haloclines or thermoclines without piggybacking on larger objects. The acidity of anoxic water keeps most nano-agents at bay; bionano is particularly ineffective under such conditions. Finally, water is an effective barrier to light. Even the energetic wavelengths that nanomachines can use for photovoltaic or broadcast power can't penetrate very deep even into clear water. This limits underwater operation to nano-agents that rely on other sources of energy.

An often-overlooked strategic problem of using nanotechnology is expense. Even post-scarcity economies still have to allocate resources. The resources — in terms of materials, infrastructure and brainpower — required for designing and building nanotech weapons are much greater than what is needed for developing effective anti-nano countermeasures. Attackers who are too reliant on nanoweapons are in real danger of meeting effective resistance from defenders who are less technologically advanced. Mass production of QDANCs is usually faster and cheaper than manufacturing nano-agents in sufficient quantity to overwhelm those defenses. Complexity is also a major issue. It can take years to educate a sophont to the point of being a competent nano-engineer, but a technician can learn how to build a flamethrower or a cryo-grenade after just a few hours of instruction.
Conclusion

Nanoweapons remain among the most feared threats in existence, but this is largely because most sophonts are ignorant of the limits of the technology. As weapons of mass destruction, nuclear and antimatter bombs work faster and are harder to counter. As personal combat weapons, handheld directed energy weapons are cheaper. The greatest advantage of nanoweapons is their selectivity. A nano-based attack can destroy a rebellious population (or just a specific segment thereof) without doing any property damage at all. Nanoweapons can even be tuned to attack particular types of equipment or specific structures. It is also easy to deploy nano-agents in secret. Even with these advantages nanoweapons are most effective when used suddenly against defenders who lack the technology or the time to deploy countermeasures. This is why the nanoswarms failed to drive the Terragens to extinction; while the short-term damage was great, even populations that consisted mostly of baselines were clever enough to deal with the long-term threat in one way or another. Those who truly understand nanotechnology don't regard it as an ultimate weapon. It is simply one tool among many, and its effective use is only possible for those who understand both the strengths and the weaknesses of the technology.


Which is actually a damn good article on the subject. I wish the writers would read it sometimes.



"Any plan which requires the direct intervention of any deity to work can be assumed to be a very poor one."- Newbiespud

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