[ExI] Cities on the Edge, by Anders Sandberg and Waldemar Ingdahl

Adrian Tymes atymes at gmail.com
Sat Mar 12 16:47:24 UTC 2011

On Sat, Mar 12, 2011 at 7:22 AM, Anders Sandberg <anders at aleph.se> wrote:
> Actually, I think there is merit in running roleplaying scenarios as a way
> of testing out certain scenario situations. Traditional scenario planning
> might be on a too abstract level sometimes. Hmm, I might be able to smuggle
> some consideration of this into my new grant project...

Well, yeah.  I've been doing it for years - informally, as more of an art form
than anything formal and fundable, but still with that objective.  (Another
objective is making sure I keep imagining new stuff, as a general mental
health thing.)

It especially helps with visualizing quality of life issues.  If you
take someone
from a given society, and walk that person through a standard daily routine,
that can make issues in need of attention stand out a lot more than numbers
and figures (even, to continue the analogy, the figures that make up the
character's sheet).

For example, I've recently had cause to imagine someone living on a
"research arcology".  Easy to visualize dramatic element, yes?  But what
exactly does that mean, how does it function, what's its economy like -
going through the factors that influence this person's life (as relates to the
scenario at hand - and since a lot of action for said character has taken
place on and around this arcology, a lot of the details relate), I've had to
think through all of those.  (Eventually I came up with: research is their
ideology, but the core economic outputs are "Drug testing for
pharmaceutical companies, design and testing of new sorts of equipment,
and ever-improving simulations", supplemented by mining of international
waters and manufacturing.  While unflagged and thus technically "pirate",
they are able to defend themselves and try to avoid trouble - e.g., they
simply don't do any of the US DEA's banned substances list, partly to avoid
the ire of the US Navy, but partly because they want to keep their minds
sharp, and they would rather export things that help others do the same.  If
some country's navy suspects them, they can negotiate and allow
inspection under guard; if this is a pretext to seize the arco, they can outrun
any ship - it's technically a seaplane with fusion-powered scramjets - and
shoot down most missiles and fighters.  If this had gone on long enough,
there might have been pressure for them to either throw in with an existing
country - likely a port of convenience - or flag up as their own country and
lobby for recognition, to handle this sort of thing.)

Another example, done by countless sci-fi authors, is to imagine one
specific change - perhaps the introduction of a device with not previously
available capabilities - and imagine life with it.  This is how, for
instance, it
was realized that teleporters might lead to flash mobs: if it is easy to quickly
go wherever something interesting (and not too obviously dangerous) is
happen, wouldn't a lot of people milling around a typical downtown do
exactly that?

Alternately, imagine if you had a radio transceiver wired into your
sensory/motor cortex, as a sixth sense where you could communicate with
anyone within radio range.  How would you use it?  What would happen if
there were a few other people in your range who had it?  What would happen
if there were a lot?  What about computers - yes, they can "speak" radio,
but would the same issues as come up in voice recognition come up here,
or would the medium inherently solve them, and/or introduce new ones?
What about the fact that no one on Earth has this as a native language yet
(and won't until children have grown up with it - which would be at least a
decade after the first child gets such an implant, which itself is probably
going to be a while) - how does that affect the radio "language"?  Further,
all this assumes use of otherwise unused frequencies, which are few - how
does this interact with the various uses of radio already in place, and might
those pre-existing uses influence the development of the radio "language"?
All of which come into play simply by thinking through how someone would
use this sort of thing.

More information about the extropy-chat mailing list