[ExI] [SPACE] People in space, not machine - what gives?

Tom Nowell nebathenemi at yahoo.co.uk
Sat Apr 11 20:49:39 UTC 2009

Dagon wrote:
"IF humans were to actually settle the solar system in big drums, what would people here think...

1- the dynamic of power/empire formation be? Which planet/region would be
most "profitrable"
2- what political systems would fare best
3- what new political systems would emerge
4- what kind of "power projection" would work ?
 (stealth settlements to avoid kinetic bombardments?)
5- aggressive interdependency? Market slavery?
6- can such a solar system be mostly peaceful? Or will it be a mess?
7- does trade make sense (slow tanker vessels?)

Assume AI would be limited (which is very unlikely, but speculating about AI civilizations in the solar system, remains a bit pointless) . Likewise, assume nanofabrication is limited too."

1) Well, I think first you'd get mining colonies of NEOs. After ther most juicy targets have been taken, the most successful area would be cislunar space - from GEO to your 2:1 resonant orbits proposed in "Man and the Planets" to your classic L4/L5 colonies, all these would be within short communication distance of earth with minimal lag due to lightspeed, and close to a handy source of humans who may want to emigrate. After that, wherever there's minerals and not a huge gravity well and a decent amount of sunlight makes for good colonising - so the main belt is a good choice, mercury has all the solar energy you can handle if you can build a colony capable of survival, but the further out you get the less tempting it is.
Ultimately the giant planets offer a chance of big materials and whatever you can mine from their atmospheres all within a few light minutes of each other, but the moving things against a gravity well and dealing with radiation can make things tricky.

2) What political system would fare best? No-one knows, and that's the joy of it. Theoretically any *could* work, and quite a few may work out. I know you're probably expecting me to talk about my favourite form of socialism here, but my only thought is that the systems which successfully gather the power of collective human action will spread quicker and more successfully than those which don't, as this is likely to be a team effort.

3) What new political systems would emerge? I suspect that having self-sufficient colonies separated by distance would allow room for any political system that's theorised to be given a chance. If every colony is its own city-state, there's room for anything. After all, the city states of ancient Greece gave rise to several forms of rulership and philosophy, while the cities of medieval Italy gave rise to interesting experiments in finance, commerce and the concept of a "middle class" between the serfs and nobility outside of the feudal order.

4) What kind of "power projection" would work? Once you get out of Earth-moon space, the distances are too great to make most military action worth it. You'd want to project power through propaganda, monetary ties, political persuasion, having "your kind of people" demographically take over compatible places, etc. If it came to war, the fragility of artificial biospheres and destructive power of hard objects moving very fast means people will die quickly and you're unlikely to capture rival colonies unless you launch a coup from within. So, warfare is only likely where one party is willing to eliminate another.

5) Given the need for many different products to sustain civilisation and the difficulty of shipping things from far away, colonies that can't manufacture all they need will be locked in interdependency or market slavery. Once a colony doesn't, it can do without. So, good fabbing technology is a must. If nanofabrication doesn't exist, someone in the space colonies will invent it as it massively simplifies their life.

6) Can such a solar system be peaceful? Well, on the one hand humans are humans, and will find excuses for conflict until all become posthuman, at which point it depends on whether the posthumans conflict over resources or not. I'm hoping the distance between some colonies will allow room for differences to exist and to discourage warfare.

7) Is trade possible? Well, mostly it would be information via communication links. As for shipping objects slowly - this may work in orbit around a major body (earth, Jupiter, etc.) but once there's a moderate distance this falls down. Given a time of weeks to years to ship anything, people will only want to import "vitamin components" they have difficulty making themselves. Given a decent pace of technological change, there's a real risk your stack of cutting-edge tech would be obsolete by the time it got there - if a Moore's law type scenario is in effect, anything with a shipping time over one doubling cycle is likely to be poorly marketable.
 Interestingly, if we're assuming that AI isn't that powerful at this point, and no mind uploading exists, then getting enough skilled people to live in your colony and work it is a problem. One of the main things you'd want shipping in would be people with skills the AIs of the time aren't good at. So, shipping people around could be a major industry - hopefully this will be controlled migration around the solar system and not some cunningly disguised form of slavery eg "emigrate to us! Only $2gazillion, but with our low-interest loans you'll have the debt paid off in no time!"



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