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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: How plausible/interesting is this setting? PostPosted: 2007-12-19 10:35pm
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I'm trying to develop a scenario for humanity that seems rather conservative at first glance, but manages to avoid common scifi cliches and has a sense of gritty realism that's missing from most SF. Most importantly, I want a unique event to be visited upon Earth.

By 2025 AD, humanity is thriving in an era of unprecedented technological growth. Computers with the raw power of a human brain have been produced, though true AI remains undiscovered. Relatively cheap, robust spacecraft are opening the Solar System. The Moon has several hundred thousand colonists. The Globalized economy is beginning to knit the world together and world peace seems within grasp.

Then, contact.

The aliens are almost anti-climatically similar to us, possessing a distinctly humanoid form with few substantial anatomical or mental differences. They are ruled by a small number of independent nations, usually governed by enlightened despots, an oligarchy or a very restrictive republic.

A United Alien fleet composed of several major nations enters the Sol System and immediately establishes radio contact with Earth. After a few months communication is achieved. The aliens have a story to tell:

Approx. 50 years ago, the aliens were on the edge of a Singularity. One of their nascent AI's gained full sentience and began rapidly improving itself. It managed to manipulate the staff of the laboratory it was housed in into providing it access to a nano-assembler swarm and from there it began rapidly expanding its own hardware and rapidly inventing new technology from which it began to attempt a conquest of the planet.

A Nuclear bombardment from orbit managed to destroy the AI before it could think up a way to make itself invulnerable to such things, but it was an extremely close call. The AI managed to produce some kind of energy shield that was withstanding multiple Gigatons of nukes before being overwhelmed. The entire incident, from the bootstrapping of the AI to the bombardment lasted 10 hours. The cost of the bombardment was the devastation of most of an entire continent and the loss of 500 Million lives.

The Aliens present an offer to Earth. Join an "alliance" which seeks to prevent the creation of technology that could lead to another run-amok AI disaster. No retarded irrational conquest of Earth bullshit, the aliens just want to be sure that the Earthlings won't create the same thing. Trade and diplomacy will follow.

Most human nations believe the Aliens' story after being shown graphic video footage and agree to join the alliance. The Aliens' superior numbers and technology mean that outright denouncement of the alliance is hardly an option.

I guess the most interesting part is the aftermath of all this.

Technological progress does not totally halt, but research into computational efficiency and AI is frozen and enforced by most world governments. Some of the primitive AI that was beginning to be used in places like McDonald's and for Butlers is quickly phased out in a wave of panic.

A fair segment of the human population believes that the aliens are lying and that the whole AI thing is a bullshit story to prevent human tech from advancement.

The formerly relatively quiet Middle East explodes into war with the appearance of the Aliens, which throws tenets of their religion into doubt and depresses the economy.

The overall mood of humanity dips to a depression, as its dreams of technological utopia are stymied and from the discovery that the aliens are disappointingly similar to themselves.

I also made a TL that leads into this future from OTL. I will post it soon.

Please comment on this scenario and tell what you think is the most likely aftermath of this collision with the aliens.

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 Post subject:  PostPosted: 2007-12-19 10:47pm
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2008:
Barack Obama and running mate Jim Webb win the 08 election. With Democrats in control of the Congress and the White House, troops begin pulling out of Iraq with the goal of all troops gone within 6 months. The native Iraqi security forces and soldiers prove unable to contain the growing factionalism and violence and Iraq plummets into even greater chaos with the government having little power outside Baghdad.

American special forces insertion into Pakistan to attack members of Al-Qaeda proves a fiasco with no major AQ members killed and Pakistan enraged with this perceived violation of sovereignty. Anti-American sentiment continues to broil throughout the Muslim world, despite the evacuation from Iraq.

Obama announces a federal energy independence program designed to develop more efficient solar and nuclear power plants and explore more exotic alternate energy solutions. Billions of dollars are invested in research and the brightest scientists from all over the United States are recruited to work on this massive project.

Aggressive taxation policy for oil companies and harsher national pollution standards for power plants and automobiles. Federal grants for public transportation systems. Global warming and the energy crisis begin to displace the war on terror as the big issues.

2010:
Military Coup in North Korea results in the ousting of Kim Jong Il and fresh talks with the US and neighboring states. Treaty results in the destruction of NK nukes in exchange for generous food and financial aid. Military Junta in NK begins adopting tentative free-market reforms similar to that of Vietnam.

Restructuring of US Army into a more lightweight, cheaper, leaner force designed for low-intensity combat. Troops are pulled out of bases in Europe, Japan and South Korea and de-mobilized. Military budget cut by 25%.

DARPA begins an ambitious project to develop a remotely controlled combat drone that can take the place of infantrymen and be significantly cheaper.

Oil price hikes from instability in the Middle East send economy into a mild depression. Provides excuse for Obama to push through an ambitious plan to build over 50 modernized nuclear power plants by 2020.

Iran carves out a sphere of influence in Shiite portions of Iraq, fights a low intensity war with other insurgents in Iraq.

On the border, illegal immigration is higher than ever. Increasing popularity of armed militia to compensate the government’s perceived inability to do anything about the problem results in the death of several wetbacks. The Mexican Government lodges a complaint with the US which responds by issuing a warning to any ‘illegal vigilante groups’ but taking no action. Unrest in Los Angeles, San Diego and any other cities with large Hispanic populations.


2012:
The new energy project begins to pay off, sooner than anyone expected. Evolutionary computer programs running on a supercomputer develop an extremely efficient material for photovoltaic cells with an efficiency of approx. 68%. Huge boom in solar energy as people all over the world leap to take advantage of this, building both massive solar ‘farms’ and decentralized modules for use in homes. Solar energy can now compete with grid-based electricity coming from conventional powerplants. Barak Obama hails this breakthrough, declaring a goal of complete energy self-sufficiency by 2025.

First commercial hydrogen fuel-cell car developed by Toyota. Hydrogen gas stations begin to appear over the US as solar energy enables economical hydrolysis.

Obama easily wins the 2012 election in a wave of economic prosperity and optimism.

2013:
Coordinated Al-Qaeda suicide bombings in Saudi Arabia kill most leading members of the government and destroy two of the massive oil sites, plunging government into chaos. Disorder from Iraq begins to spill across the border. World economy slumps as oil production stutters.

US and the UK send troops in a lightning raid to secure the oil wells. Decisive use of experimental drones to secure initial landing sites results in negligible casualties for the Western forces. Saudi Monarchy is propped back up by a consortium of Western nations and order is restored but most know that the current status quo is untenable. Given the choice of continuing to support a corrupt, despotic regime that lacks the support of its own people to continue the flow of oil, or investing in the booming new energy sources to give them independence from the Saudis, most Western states choose the latter.

Israel has a short border war with Syria that devastates the country’s infrastructure and temporarily disrupts Hezbollah’s weapons supply network. Muslim world becomes even more inflamed.

IBM’s Blue Brain project successfully simulates a cat brain. Extremely intriguing patterns are observed but no useful results are obtained. The AI puzzle remains unsolved but Moore’s law holds steady.

2014:
First compact, affordable augmented reality system developed. A slightly bulky pair of glasses displays information based on GPS coordinates, allows users to google, email, and perform most computing tasks with a virtual keyboard that is projected in front of their hands and uses visual software to analyze the movement of their fingers. Other uses include directions given by floating arrows, primitive virtual ‘overlays’ that can be used to enhance the aesthetics of physical surroundings and telepresence. Processing is done by an I-pod sized computer that can be stowed in a pocket or backpack.

By the end of the year, Solar Power is supplying over 15% of the US energy needs and demand for Oil has declined. The apocalyptic scenarios of an energy crisis can be safely dismissed.

Despite the energy boom, US superpower status has declined relative to China and the EU although it still possesses the most numerous and advanced military. China continues to implement democratic reforms and growth remains high.

Tensions between China and Russia grow as Chinese immigrants begin to cross into Siberia, displacing a shrinking Russian presence.

Kurdish state congeals in Iraq. Shiite areas are de-facto controlled by Iran while Sunni areas are in a state of Somalia-like anarchy.

2015:
Breakthrough. A revolutionary computer program at MIT designs an entirely new computational substrate orders of magnitude faster than the best current ones. Large-scale panic as many believe this is the dawn of the Singularity. However, when the program is applied to a supercomputer based on the new substrate, it fails to produce an even better substrate. This is hailed as a sign that one of the key premises of the Singularity – that sufficiently powerful computers will be able to improve themselves – is flawed.

But breakthroughs resulting from the new substrate are immense. Augmented reality systems can now support photo-realistic overlays and complete virtual presence. The new supercomputers are powerful enough to be used for designing much more technology. It is estimated that by 2050 50% of all patents will have originated in these computer design programs.

New technological breakthroughs in this year include 80% efficient solar panels and an extremely cheap process for producing them, design of a reusable orbital scramjet shuttle, nanoarmor that can withstand sustained assault rifle fire and much more.

2016:
Pakistani government overthrown by Islamists and replaced by an Islamic government, a more moderate version of the Taliban. US cuts diplomatic relations with Pakistan and India mobilizes its army. EU and China call for talks to avert a conflict.

Growing instability in Saudi Arabia and other petro-states as the old fossil fuels are supplanted by solar power. Under the Obama administration relations between the US and the Saudis have steadily gotten chillier.

Immigration into the southwest and the resultant racial tensions are higher than ever. Rumors abound of a plan to integrate with Mexico, forming a North American Union. Militia groups are routinely crossing the border to skirmish with Mexican gangsters and occasionally the Mexican army.

Several private companies in the USA, China and EU are offering suborbital and orbital flights with the new scramjet technology for prices comparable to an expensive cruise. Construction begins on the first space hotel, designed to support 100 people.

The branch of the Republican Party that wants to take a hard-line stance on immigration fractures off into the American party. Jim Webb and John Edwards carry the election.

2017:
The last US forces are pulled out of Afghanistan. The Taliban have been reduced to bandits on the Pakistani border, but the Afghani government’s hold on power remains insecure.

Another bombing in Saudi Arabia manages to shut down an oil pipeline temporarily. Economic impact is weak.

2018:
Saudi Arabian government finally collapses to Islamists. Economic impact is felt but not catastrophic as solar power is now supplying 40% of world energy needs. Announcement of a United Islamic Alliance compromising Arabia, Syria, Pakistan and Iraq. US, India and Afghanistan on high alert.

Nuclear armed missiles are transported into Saudi Arabia with the capability of striking Israel. Pakistani troops begin to openly support insurgents in Afghanistan. Needless to say, tensions are extremely high in the Middle East now.

First complete computer simulation of a human brain, neuron for neuron. No strong AI emerges, but provides extremely useful information about how the human brain works.

First manned mission to the moon since the Apollo project is achieved with 1/100th of the former’s cost using a scramjet to break into orbit and a solar sail to get to the moon. Ambitious plans call for a permanent moon colony by 2020.

2020:
Afghani government falls to Islamic insurgents supported by the UIA. The new government immediately joins the alliance.

Border skirmishes between Russia and China in Siberia. Pogroms against Chinese immigrants in Siberia.

Relations between China and the new Pakistani government weaken with Chinese crackdowns on Muslim insurgents in the Western provinces sparking complaints.

First moon colony is established with over 20 initial colonists. The colony is expected to double in size over the next year as more colonists are transported in by the new economical spacecraft.

Over 40% of Americans are now using augmented reality systems. They are increasingly necessary to be competitive in the modern world.

The first completely autonomous Taxis take to the road. Their superior price and safety will soon displace almost all human operated Taxis.

American party candidate Matt Blunt wins a surprise victory in the 2020 election, promising to take a harsher stance on immigration and terrorism.

2021:
UIA begins making overtures to Egypt which are rejected. Islamist insurgents begin a campaign of terror against the Egyptian government, which responds harshly. USA continues to sell Egypt weapons.

State of the art missile defense systems are installed in Israel. Full mobilization of Israeli army. Frequent skirmishes between UIA forces and Israelis on the Syrian border. President Blunt declares that an attack on Israel will be considered an attack on America. At this point the Islamists are focusing on Israel more than America. America has stopped basing soldiers in the Middle East, but is still perceived as meddling and as allies and pawns of the hated Zionists.

A new non-invasive neural interface is invented that only requires the user to shave their head. It is immediately incorporated into other technology such as VR, Augmented Reality, prosthetics and the operation of machinery.

Blunt begins the construction of a militarized wall along the border with Mexico. The Mexican government protests and many Americans think the project expensive and want more attention put into existing illegal immigrants which now compromise 9% of the US population.

2022:
A medium-sized nuclear weapon detonates in Tel Aviv, killing 100,000 immediately with twice that amount dead by the next week.

Israel declares war on the UIA which claims that it had nothing to do with the attack. President Blunt demands that the UIA hand over the terrorists within 24 hours or face war. A war of this magnitude is not popular with the American people. The enemy will be the largest faced since World War II. They are worried about getting into a bigger version of Iraq. The coalition against the UIA stands at Israel and the US. Overtures to the UK, Australia and Canada are rejected. China attempts to mediate but is told to fuck off by the US and Israel.

The War begins with the most dramatic campaign of shock and awe seen in human history. Over 1 million combat drones are delivered into strategic areas of UIA territory via mass driver launch from the US and Israel. The new combat drones are controlled by neural uplinks, and form battle groups of 3 drones to 1 human controller. They consist of a shallow disk the size of a trashcan lid with a single assault rifle blister embedded in the surface. Suicide drones are used for the destruction of building and vehicles. The drones maneuver using an array of thousands of nanorotors mounted along the edges.

Within 24 hours of the invasion the UIA has suffered over 60,000 casualties while the US and Israel have suffered no human losses. A desperate UIA push into Golan Heights is annihilated with decisive use of pinpoint accurate railgun artillery and the superior training and firepower of Israeli infantry and armor. Israel suffers minor human casualties.

The USA can afford to continuously manufacture drones to keep the numbers in the millions, compensating for any malfunctions or losses. The drones prove impervious to small arms fire but can be taken out by heavier rounds, RPGS and artillery. Within 1 week drones are in control of Damascus, Aleppo, Riyadh and are pushing into Karachi and Islamabad. Most UIA military installations, airborne assets and armored divisions have been destroyed with railgun artillery, sorties from aircraft carriers and smart bombs. The first human troops begin to enter the UIA to secure the areas held by drones.

In a desperate bid to stave off the blitz, UIA forces begin using tactical nuclear weapons on their own cities occupied by drones and on Israel. ABM systems manage to destroy 90% of the missiles aimed at Israel, but several strike Jerusalem, Haifa and Tel Aviv resulting in nearly a million deaths. Large sections of Karachi and Riyadh are devastated. A US carrier group’s defenses are overwhelmed by a sustained barrage of supersonic nuclear missiles and the carrier is destroyed. The US responds with aggressive use of its own tactical nuclear weapons, but not on civilians. All remaining UIA troop concentrations and military bases are annihilated. Within 3 weeks remaining UIA forces are reduced to blending in with civilians and begin using guerilla tactics.

The former UIA is declared occupied territory. Provisional governments are created; typically lead by a secular leader handpicked by USA/Israeli forces. Occupied cities are seeded with millions of dust-sized cameras capable of identifying suspicious behaviors and patterns. Suicide bombings are not impossible to prevent but are much less frequent and typically result only in drone and civilian casualties. After a year of occupation only about 50 human soldiers of the occupation have been lost. Support for terrorist organizations is very low amongst the UIA civilian population which feels betrayed by its own government. Suicide bombers begin to loose their resolve, as it becomes apparent that they are giving their life to destroy only a machine which can be cheaply replaced.

China watches the war with anxiety and begins accelerating its existing combat drone programs. The introduction of drones to the battlefield constitutes a paradigm shift of unprecedented scope. After five centuries, the archetypical infantryman with a firearm is obsolete.

Despite the war, Humanity continues to ride the exponential curve. There are now 10 different lunar colonies, claimed by China, the US and several private organizations. Luna’s population stands at 3,000. Solar energy is providing 95% of US energy needs, either directly through power plants or indirectly through production of hydrogen. Augmented reality systems using neural interfaces have become indistinguishable from glasses and are worn regularly by 65% of Americans. The first general purpose humanoid robots are introduced. They are expensive, stupid and clumsy but prove successful. Over 50% of the cars on the road are now autonomous. There is talk of requiring a special, more restrictive license for operation of a manual car.

Computers are designing over 25% of new inventions, but for the first time, Moore’s law stagnates slightly.

2024:

The occupation of the former UIA has been reasonably successful. Gradual democratic reforms are being implemented in occupied territories, but extremist parties are banned from running. Suicide bombings and terrorism have declined slightly, but infrastructure in occupied territory has surpassed pre-war conditions.

First real case of intelligence amplification is achieved when scientists increase the IQ of a volunteer from 112 to 190 by injection of chemicals into the brain that encourage neural growth. When the treatment is introduced on the market for a hefty price, controversy explodes as many envision the wealthy elite that can afford the amplification treatments becoming superhuman and oppressing lower classes.

Invention of an energy efficient pulse-drive makes colonization of the solar system feasible. Colonies established on Mars and the Asteroid Belt.

Robots are becoming common in restaurants and department stores, displacing employees. Unemployment rates increase significantly. Neo-luddite organizations become popular, saying that technology is taking over humanity.

The issue of emerging technologies that can make post-humanity a reality rises to saliency. Democratic and Republican parties begin to disintegrate. Some liberals see transhumanism as violating the ideal of human equality, the religious right sees it as a perversion.

2024 (Continued):
Months before the presidential election an extraterrestrial object is identified heading towards Earth. It is approx. 2 light years away, moving at 80% C and slowly decelerating. It is clearly of artificial origin and it is clearly headed for Earth, which it will reach in approx. 3 years at its present pace.

In this time of crisis, voters cling to the incumbent and Matt Blunt is reelected.

With alien contact a matter of time the overall mood of humanity grows frantic. The destabilization caused by the rapid progress is multiplied even further. The old religions are called into doubt, and new ones spring up to fill the spiritual void. Terrorist cults begin campaigns of domestic violence using increasingly sophisticated technology and augmentations, which police agencies are forced to adapt to. Theories abound, about what exactly the aliens intend to do once they arrive. The end times are near.

2025:

Radio signals are intercepted from the object, directed towards Earth. Earth transmits radio signals back to it, hoping to establish communication.

Preparing for the worst, the US, EU and China begin to erect a massive orbital defense system, bristling with railguns and nuclear missile launchers.

First upload of a monkey brain, neuron for neuron is a success after several failures that resulted in fatal information loss. The necessary nanotech to infiltrate the brain and simultaneously record the state of every neuron is extremely expensive and unreliable.

2027:

The object reaches the solar system, and comes to a halt near Jupiter. Rapid, intensive communication begins with the object, in an attempt to find a common medium. Soon, thanks to computer analysis on both sides, this objective is reached.

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 Post subject:  PostPosted: 2007-12-19 10:49pm
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It starts off promising, and then gets stupid. They want to slow down AI development, so why would we shut down ALL technological progress? It makes no sense, and we can do some amazingly sophisticated things with what we have.

A global depression because the aliens aren't alien enough? That's the most absurd thing I've ever seen.

A relatively quiet middle east 18 years from now? I doubt it. Why should the aliens make them go to war when they've got so many other, good reasons?

Your leadup is fine, you need an entirely new aftermath. Also, we can't get multiple hundreds of thousands of people onto the moon in less than 20 years without a space elevator. Reduce the number or push it back.



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You kinda look like Jesus. With a lightsaber.- Peregrin Toker
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 Post subject:  PostPosted: 2007-12-19 10:53pm
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CaptainChewbacca wrote:
It starts off promising, and then gets stupid. They want to slow down AI development, so why would we shut down ALL technological progress? It makes no sense, and we can do some amazingly sophisticated things with what we have.


Not all technology is frozen, just stuff that could conceivably lead to a run-away AI.

Quote:
A global depression because the aliens aren't alien enough? That's the most absurd thing I've ever seen.

A relatively quiet middle east 18 years from now? I doubt it. Why should the aliens make them go to war when they've got so many other, good reasons?

Your leadup is fine, you need an entirely new aftermath. Also, we can't get multiple hundreds of thousands of people onto the moon in less than 20 years without a space elevator. Reduce the number or push it back.


Points taken. I'm hoping to get the same harsh detailed critique that other guy with the original timeline did.

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 Post subject:  PostPosted: 2007-12-19 11:24pm
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CaptainChewbacca wrote:
It starts off promising, and then gets stupid. They want to slow down AI development, so why would we shut down ALL technological progress? It makes no sense, and we can do some amazingly sophisticated things with what we have.

A global depression because the aliens aren't alien enough? That's the most absurd thing I've ever seen.

A relatively quiet middle east 18 years from now? I doubt it. Why should the aliens make them go to war when they've got so many other, good reasons?

Your leadup is fine, you need an entirely new aftermath. Also, we can't get multiple hundreds of thousands of people onto the moon in less than 20 years without a space elevator. Reduce the number or push it back.


Where do you think it starts to get stupid?

I dont get why humanity goes into a depression cuz the aliens look like us, but everything else I get.

Except the Middle East part. A quiet middle east would be fantasy, not sci-fi. :D

BTW, I like how the entire AI think lasts 10 hours, its a nice change from the "OMG AI NEARly KILLed US!"



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 Post subject:  PostPosted: 2007-12-20 12:33am
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The aliens being so humanlike strikes me as a big nasty dagger on the mantle. Humanoid aliens are unlikely; almost entirely humanlike aliens are insanely unlikely. I know this is going to sound like an arbitrary convention, but if you have human-like "aliens" in a science fiction story, there should be a very good reason that they're so human-like.

(Think: could the whole thing actually be a ploy by the AI, trying to prevent the development of an AI that might compete with it? Could the "alien" fleet actually be a human fleet from a few decades down the road, who used an FTL drive to travel back in time in order to grandfather their AI overlords out of existance? I know both ideas are kind of lame, but there is potentially a huge plot element there.)

Also:

Quote:

Approx. 50 years ago, the aliens were on the edge of a Singularity. One of their nascent AI's gained full sentience and began rapidly improving itself. It managed to manipulate the staff of the laboratory it was housed in into providing it access to a nano-assembler swarm and from there it began rapidly expanding its own hardware and rapidly inventing new technology from which it began to attempt a conquest of the planet.


Nano-assembler swarms are hideously impractical, and rather cliche. Macroscopic Von Neumann machines would probably be better; also, if the AI turned out to be part of a project for producing sentient, self-replicating machines, there could be more plot potential there.

Quote:
The overall mood of humanity dips to a depression, as its dreams of technological utopia are stymied and from the discovery that the aliens are disappointingly similar to themselves.


That sounds kind of poorly thought out. First of all, there's no particular reason that strong AIs would be necessary for a society to advance beyond a certain point, in spite of what people in Singularitarian circles say. And again: why are the aliens so humanlike?

Quote:
IBM’s Blue Brain project successfully simulates a cat brain. Extremely intriguing patterns are observed but no useful results are obtained. The AI puzzle remains unsolved but Moore’s law holds steady.


Moore's law shouldn't hold steady. We're already past the point where it stopped being true, and it was never a real "law".

Quote:
Breakthrough. A revolutionary computer program at MIT designs an entirely new computational substrate orders of magnitude faster than the best current ones. Large-scale panic as many believe this is the dawn of the Singularity. However, when the program is applied to a supercomputer based on the new substrate, it fails to produce an even better substrate. This is hailed as a sign that one of the key premises of the Singularity – that sufficiently powerful computers will be able to improve themselves – is flawed.


Hurray for breaking out of the typical Singularity formula!

No, seriously - even with strong AIs, there's no way that you'd have machines automagically creating massively better architectures for themselves. Yes, I know there are self-modifying processors already being made - but this is quite different, and I strongly doubt that scientists would actually try to rely on the improved computers to invent better computers. Especially given that the improved computers still aren't running strong AIs.

Quote:
New technological breakthroughs in this year include 80% efficient solar panels and an extremely cheap process for producing them, design of a reusable orbital scramjet shuttle, nanoarmor that can withstand sustained assault rifle fire and much more.


Invent better armor and someone will invent a better gun. Just a reminder.

Quote:
First manned mission to the moon since the Apollo project is achieved with 1/100th of the former’s cost using a scramjet to break into orbit and a solar sail to get to the moon. Ambitious plans call for a permanent moon colony by 2020.


Lightsails accelerate *slowly*. Using one to get to the moon doesn't strike me as very practical, though I'm no engineer; I would think them better for much longer voyages.

Quote:
A new non-invasive neural interface is invented that only requires the user to shave their head. It is immediately incorporated into other technology such as VR, Augmented Reality, prosthetics and the operation of machinery.


Sorry, you have been beaten to the punch by... Arthur C. Clarke!

Don't worry, I just find it kind of funny that, for all the high-tech stuff floating around, non-invasive neural interfaces can't get past a centimeter of hair. This might be perfectly realistic for all I know though... Carry on.

Quote:


The War begins with the most dramatic campaign of shock and awe seen in human history. Over 1 million combat drones are delivered into strategic areas of UIA territory via mass driver launch from the US and Israel. The new combat drones are controlled by neural uplinks, and form battle groups of 3 drones to 1 human controller. They consist of a shallow disk the size of a trashcan lid with a single assault rifle blister embedded in the surface. Suicide drones are used for the destruction of building and vehicles. The drones maneuver using an array of thousands of nanorotors mounted along the edges.


Ouch ouch ouch. Nanorotors for moving macroscopic drones = bad. Also, they'd face some serious problems with stairs.

Quote:

The USA can afford to continuously manufacture drones to keep the numbers in the millions, compensating for any malfunctions or losses. The drones prove impervious to small arms fire but can be taken out by heavier rounds, RPGS and artillery. Within 1 week drones are in control of Damascus, Aleppo, Riyadh and are pushing into Karachi and Islamabad. Most UIA military installations, airborne assets and armored divisions have been destroyed with railgun artillery, sorties from aircraft carriers and smart bombs. The first human troops begin to enter the UIA to secure the areas held by drones.


Nobody figures out a way to jam the control signals for the drones? Sorry, it just seems like a logical development, and this war seems too good to be true - keep in mind that Hezbollah has UAVs, so the UIA having their own drones isn't so terribly unlikely.

Quote:

In a desperate bid to stave off the blitz, UIA forces begin using tactical nuclear weapons on their own cities occupied by drones and on Israel. ABM systems manage to destroy 90% of the missiles aimed at Israel, but several strike Jerusalem, Haifa and Tel Aviv resulting in nearly a million deaths. Large sections of Karachi and Riyadh are devastated. A US carrier group’s defenses are overwhelmed by a sustained barrage of supersonic nuclear missiles and the carrier is destroyed. The US responds with aggressive use of its own tactical nuclear weapons, but not on civilians. All remaining UIA troop concentrations and military bases are annihilated. Within 3 weeks remaining UIA forces are reduced to blending in with civilians and begin using guerilla tactics.


First: why would anyone use nukes on a carrier?

Second: it is rather difficult to use nukes without hitting civilians hard. There is a reason they are called "weapons of mass destruction".

Also remember that nukes are a two-edged sword. You dump that much crap into the atmosphere, the weather gets messed up and crop failures occur. A good nuclear exchange could screw half the planet.

Quote:
Computers are designing over 25% of new inventions, but for the first time, Moore’s law stagnates slightly.


Computers inventing things without strong AI? 25% of new inventions, no less? Maybe I'm not qualfied to give my opinion on this, but I do not see it happening.

(Again, Moore's law is already obsolete.)

Quote:
The issue of emerging technologies that can make post-humanity a reality rises to saliency. Democratic and Republican parties begin to disintegrate. Some liberals see transhumanism as violating the ideal of human equality, the religious right sees it as a perversion.


Just a thought: I'd like to know how the socialists handle transhumanism. It might get interesting.

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 Post subject:  PostPosted: 2007-12-20 12:54am
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I'd like to know how the socialists handle transhumanism.

Many socialists are transhumanists. At least here. :)



Misereor

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 Post subject:  PostPosted: 2007-12-20 01:02am
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Why is 'plausible' supposed to be something to aim for, unless you're some pretentious futurist wanker plotting out the history of the future to prove how edgy you are?

I mean, all the singularity bullshit is lame, but all scifi has similar conceits. All I'd comment was that it appears the author is showing himself far too obviously through his work.



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 Post subject:  PostPosted: 2007-12-20 01:24am
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That's what I mean: it's supposed to be 'plausible', but this clearly means 'what the author thinks about teh nanoz and teh singularitiz'. What I got from the combination was that it's suggested that is 'plausible'. :)



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 Post subject:  PostPosted: 2007-12-20 01:57am
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Some advice on nanotech: don't think of it as "tiny robots". Think either a) materials that incorporate nanometer-scale structures, or b) designer microbes. The super-fast, all-purpose magical nanoassembler is just that - magic - and does not bear any resemblence to what actual nanotechnology might look like.

This isn't as limiting as it sounds. In fact, I'd argue that accepting certain technological limitations as plot elements can help prevent lazy and cliched writing.

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 Post subject:  PostPosted: 2007-12-20 02:39am
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It sounds "plausible", and ok except the 2025. Make it farther into the future. This is just a personal gripe of mine with quite a bit of sci-fi.



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 Post subject:  PostPosted: 2007-12-20 02:44am
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personally I always put my scifi setting I plan "x" years in to the future (where x is unknown), so that I a) don't counterdict what the real world does too much b) I can distance them from the current events more.



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 Post subject:  PostPosted: 2007-12-20 04:07am
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Yeah, look at how cheesy it is when you watch Star Trek TOS and you hear Spock mentioning the third world war, which should have already happened according to the Star Trek timeline.

Keep it really far into the future (like the 31st century) or don't even use the modern calendar at all.



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 Post subject:  PostPosted: 2007-12-20 04:37am
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I treat timelines with the largest of brushstrokes. For example, my history of humanity when the Talorans in the TGG multiverse stories conquer it in their home universe. Which is a conquest that happens because a revolting orbital colony region asks for their intervention to save them from getting nuked by the fascist EarthGov. They promptly resort, after a series of revolts, to simply installing local rulers over the human nations and letting them pretty much do whatever they want, with total internal autonomy, so that the average human has never even seen a Taloran in person more than 20 years after the conquest.

Mayabird is writing a really great story set in that universe, from the perspective of a human girl who is born after the conquest, and who is simply going off to college. It's a rather beautiful look at the likely results and attitudes different people would take, and how things would play out, and I'd recommend reading it to influence or contrast your own ideas.



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 Post subject:  PostPosted: 2007-12-20 04:54am
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Also, for those who think that humanoid aliens are unlikely when they're actually not, I present to you the Thylacine. Cute doggies, except marsupials.



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 Post subject:  PostPosted: 2007-12-20 08:57am
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For those of you that haven't read the TL, but seem to think its nanowank, nanotech does not play a big role at all.

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 Post subject:  PostPosted: 2007-12-20 11:25am
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The Duchess of Zeon wrote:
Also, for those who think that humanoid aliens are unlikely when they're actually not, I present to you the Thylacine. Cute doggies, except marsupials.


Their common ancestor was more recent than mammalia in general. That's not comparable to a complete abiogenesis on another world with possibly different environmental characteristics and even slight difference in biochemistry.



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 Post subject:  PostPosted: 2007-12-20 05:05pm
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Gullible Jones wrote:
The aliens being so humanlike strikes me as a big dagger on the mantle. Humanoid aliens are unlikely; almost entirely humanlike aliens are insanely unlikely. I know this is going to sound like an arbitrary convention, but if you have human-like "aliens" in a science fiction story, there should be a very good reason that they're so human-like.


Is convergent evolution, granted that the homeworlds are similar all that ridiculously implausible?

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Nano-assembler swarms are hideously impractical, and rather cliche. Macroscopic Von Neumann machines would probably be better; also, if the AI turned out to be part of a project for producing sentient, self-replicating machines, there could be more plot potential there.


OK, I will change it to some kind of macroscopic manufacturing robots.

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That sounds kind of poorly thought out. First of all, there's no particular reason that strong AIs would be necessary for a society to advance beyond a certain point, in spite of what people in Singularitarian circles say. And again: why are the aliens so humanlike?


I completely agree. I was not thinking when I wrote that, and I guess I was projecting MY reaction onto humanity. What are your thoughts on the social changes caused by the aliens?

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Ouch ouch ouch. Nanorotors for moving macroscopic drones = bad. Also, they'd face some serious problems with stairs.


Alright, what about the microturbines in Fast Times at Fairmount High? I'm sure there is some plausible technology that will allow the drones to hover a few feet off the air, making stairs not a big problem.

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Nobody figures out a way to jam the control signals for the drones? Sorry, it just seems like a logical development, and this war seems too good to be true - keep in mind that Hezbollah has UAVs, so the UIA having their own drones isn't so terribly unlikely.


Probable. I don't see it altering the overall trend of the war, as they can be swiftly taken out with railgun strikes.

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First: why would anyone use nukes on a carrier?

Second: it is rather difficult to use nukes without hitting civilians hard. There is a reason they are called "weapons of mass destruction".

Also remember that nukes are a two-edged sword. You dump that much crap into the atmosphere, the weather gets messed up and crop failures occur. A good nuclear exchange could screw half the planet.


TAC-nukes are only being used.

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Computers inventing things without strong AI? 25% of new inventions, no less? Maybe I'm not qualfied to give my opinion on this, but I do not see it happening.


I'm extrapolating off of things like this:
http://www.nasa.gov/centers/ames/resear ... /borg.html

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 Post subject:  PostPosted: 2007-12-20 06:09pm
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Gullible Jones wrote:
First: why would anyone use nukes on a carrier?


Because only one missile needs to get through defenses. The Soviets had a few nuclear warhead tipped variants of their anti-shipping missiles.

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Second: it is rather difficult to use nukes without hitting civilians hard. There is a reason they are called "weapons of mass destruction".


Not true. Given the destructive radius of a device is usually only a few miles, in addition to the fact that military installations are usually located away from population centers, would make it quite easy to remove those facilities without harming the population.

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Also remember that nukes are a two-edged sword. You dump that much crap into the atmosphere, the weather gets messed up and crop failures occur. A good nuclear exchange could screw half the planet.


Overrated. There's been over 2,000 tests of atomic devices in the last half century. In addition, most targets would be on the receiving end of an air-burst, which means there won't be that much fallout. The only things receiving ground bursts would be things like command bunkers, airfields, train yards, etc.



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 Post subject:  PostPosted: 2007-12-20 09:36pm
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Jadeite wrote:
Gullible Jones wrote:
First: why would anyone use nukes on a carrier?


Because only one missile needs to get through defenses. The Soviets had a few nuclear warhead tipped variants of their anti-shipping missiles.


Thanks.

Quote:
Quote:
Second: it is rather difficult to use nukes without hitting civilians hard. There is a reason they are called "weapons of mass destruction".


Not true. Given the destructive radius of a device is usually only a few miles, in addition to the fact that military installations are usually located away from population centers, would make it quite easy to remove those facilities without harming the population.


Right... tactical nukes.

I have a hard time believing that most military installations are far enough removed that radiation wouldn't be a problem, but I am not a military buff.

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Quote:
Also remember that nukes are a two-edged sword. You dump that much crap into the atmosphere, the weather gets messed up and crop failures occur. A good nuclear exchange could screw half the planet.


Overrated. There's been over 2,000 tests of atomic devices in the last half century. In addition, most targets would be on the receiving end of an air-burst, which means there won't be that much fallout. The only things receiving ground bursts would be things like command bunkers, airfields, train yards, etc.


A few thousand nuclear explosions spread out over 50 years != a few hundred over the course of several days.

You might be right about it being overrated though, it looks like the stuff I had in mind may be quite outdated.

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 Post subject:  PostPosted: 2007-12-20 09:37pm
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blueshiest wrote:
For those of you that haven't read the TL, but seem to think its nanowank, nanotech does not play a big role at all.


In this case it wasn't so much how much the nanotech did, as what it did. You seem to have heeded our advice and fixed that though.

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 Post subject:  PostPosted: 2007-12-20 09:41pm
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IP: Remember that they (Marsupials) co-evolved with Placentals, rather than the thoroughly outdated and discredited view that they preceded Placentals as an evolutionary split. The two split close to 150 million years ago, moreover, which is a hell of a lot of drift to still.. End up with a dog, basically.

Combined with the Panspermia hypothesis and it means that it's quite possible that abiogenesis might not be distinct between two planets.

All that is then needed is for another world to have climatic conditions even broadly similar to those of Earth.

So humanoids are certainly not completely implausible or unbelievable, and may indeed be the only form that sentient life can take, as intelligence may be a specific adaptation to specific problems which are only encountered by species that are functioning in a role in their ecosystem to similar to that which our primate ancestors functioned in.


Nukes against ships thing: Nuclear torpedoes, nuclear mines, nuclear anti-ship missiles, they've all be very common. The destructiveness of nukes is massively overrated by most people. There's been a recoilless rifle firing nuclear rounds intended to take out tank platoons. There's been designs for nuclear shells for 105mm howitzers that yield about 120 tonnes. More to the point, there's been nuclear air-to-air missiles with 400 tonne yields--and unguided nuclear air to air rockets with the same yield! Nuclear-tipped SAMs were as common as dirt, and the Russians still have a lot of them, most likely, and of course there is the ABM system which is absolutely, definitely, unquestionably effective: Nuclear tipped ABM missiles. Some of those had yields in the multiples of megatonnes intended to intercept multiple enemy missiles at extremely high altitudes, outside of the atmosphere, as they approached the USA or USSR, like SPARTAN.



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 Post subject:  PostPosted: 2007-12-21 12:40am
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The scenario starts out hard-SF (or at least not squishy-soft SF, anyway) but starts to go off the rails with the appearance of the aliens. Given how lack of FTL means that any real effort at star travel will most likely be a mass-migration and require centuries if not millenia in the journey depending on distance, it is not likely that such effort will be expended on simply delivering a warning message and asking for new recruits for some political movement. Assuming that such travelers would even find Earth in the first place.

It would better to dispose of the aliens altogether and make the other faction a Neo-Luddite movement. Parallel it to the fundamentalist and ecoterrorist strains in current day Earth society and have them as a group, maybe even a large one, who believe everybody should go back to the Earth and starve, to return to the Natural Way™.



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 Post subject:  PostPosted: 2007-12-21 01:46am
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The aliens are almost anti-climatically similar to us, possessing a distinctly humanoid form with few substantial anatomical or mental differences. They are ruled by a small number of independent nations, usually governed by enlightened despots, an oligarchy or a very restrictive republic.

I can understand a humanoid-shaped alien, given the unlikely circumstance that they evolved under similar environmental conditions as our ape ancestors. But a human-looking and human-thinking alien just stretches the suspension of disbelief.

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 Post subject:  PostPosted: 2007-12-21 02:33am
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Patrick Degan wrote:
The scenario starts out hard-SF (or at least not squishy-soft SF, anyway) but starts to go off the rails with the appearance of the aliens. Given how lack of FTL means that any real effort at star travel will most likely be a mass-migration and require centuries if not millenia in the journey depending on distance, it is not likely that such effort will be expended on simply delivering a warning message and asking for new recruits for some political movement. Assuming that such travelers would even find Earth in the first place.


The aliens come from Proxima or Tau Ceti. I realize it's unlikely, but Turtledove, Niven and Philip K Dick got away with it. Aliens have no need to migrate to Earth nor they do they want to at least not en masse. Their purpose in coming to Earth was to warn us AND make sure that we heed their warning. In the setting of the story, a few years after the arrival of the alien flotilla, their PD can be overwhelmed by Earth's orbital batteries, but would survive for long enough to send crippling amounts of firepower to the surface.
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It would better to dispose of the aliens altogether and make the other faction a Neo-Luddite movement. Parallel it to the fundamentalist and ecoterrorist strains in current day Earth society and have them as a group, maybe even a large one, who believe everybody should go back to the Earth and starve, to return to the Natural Way™.

I think the AI disaster with the aliens is more interesting than the usual neo-luddite group, because they have a very plausible motivation for wanting Earth to freeze AI development, and there is the possibility that their AI disaster was a lie or that they are tools of an AI.

hongi wrote:
Quote:
The aliens are almost anti-climatically similar to us, possessing a distinctly humanoid form with few substantial anatomical or mental differences. They are ruled by a small number of independent nations, usually governed by enlightened despots, an oligarchy or a very restrictive republic.

I can understand a humanoid-shaped alien, given the unlikely circumstance that they evolved under similar environmental conditions as our ape ancestors. But a human-looking and human-thinking alien just stretches the suspension of disbelief.


I don't want to have them think EXACTLY the same as humans, but they should have the basic Darwinian imperatives imprinted on their psyche.

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