Monday 30 March 2009

2525- If Man is Still Alive

This post might be seen as a sequel to Friday's post.

And it looks into the phasal shift that will follow that, the phasal shift of the twenty sixth century.

The end of the Anthropocene.

Of course, the Anthropocene is marked as being a geological period in the history of Earth. Uniquely, by this point, a geological period will have spilled off Earth.

In a sense, it will now be so that geological periods preceding this point only had relevance in one star system. But now the history of life will be entering a whole new period.
This will be the commencement of the Galactic Era.

One failure of sci-fi representations of such a time, is in their depiction of cultures largely similar to ours, but simply more technologically advanced. And even then, only in limited fields.

It never seems to have occurred to most of the imaginationless spacecraft and warp drive obsessed techies that produce such programmes, that to even begin to harness such technology vast changes must have happened at the structural level of society.

Feudal peasants were never going to build railways, just as Capitalist corporations are never going to invent faster than light travel.

Technology and social structure are interlinked.

When the twenty third century revolution took place, human society would have had a firm idea of what it was doing and it would understand the consequences. And it would know that one day, those consequences would affect the people of Sol.

The societal effort of sending out asteroid colonies would be manageable. Indeed, once that solution had been adopted, things would run along smoothly. Each asteroid carries fifty million frozen embryos, the development of those embryos to commence on arrival, in a couple of centuries. Plus all the equipment needed to sustain and create life. By this time, there will be genetically modified plants which can grow anywhere and genetically modified animals looking sensory organs, in effect, simply growing carcasses to be harvested.
And knowledge. Each asteroid colony carries with it the technology to get to work turning the world it lands on finally, into a working human infrastructure like the one that produced it in the first place.

But each asteroid colony with have a crew of maybe half a million or so. Over time, this will grow through reproduction. It's job is to keep the asteroid alive, to carry the seed of humanity with it. To communicate with Sol.

Of course, the day will come when no one alive on the asteroid ever lived on Sol. And a day will come when a generation is born on the asteroid that sees the star they are headed to as brightly as the star they have left. But that generation knows it will never live to see the promised land. Each generation born will know that it's task is to guard the seed.
And time will come when a minor query is not worth radioing home for. Home? What do they know? Why what two years for an answer? Other asteroid colonies are nearer and they KNOW what it is like. What do planet dwellers know? The crew of these asteroids will look at images of the cities of Sol thinking 'Our ancestors lived like that. So will our descendants. But it is not our life'.

Back on Sol, the lives of these colonists will be of little concern. Human life will have adapted itself to the idea that sending off these asteroid colonies is as necessary to its survival as we now see feeding the world. Because that is the function it will play. Just as now the main human concern is feeding people and finding energy, then the task will be exporting the surplus.

Life in Sol will be Utopian. But the price of maintaining Utopia, will be the mass effort of exporting colonies.

The lives of those left behind will be stress free. The computers will oversee it all. Perhaps it will be overstating it a bit to say that as a result everyone's life will be one big holiday, but pretty much, it will. Do your limited set of tasks, then enjoy the fun you have earned. The whole thing effectively runs itself with little need for human beings to worry themselves.

Though human beings will. There will be human beings intercepting the transmissions from the colonies and sending back advice. But the vast majority of people won't much care.

The dominance of Earth amongst the planets of Sol will be a thing of the past. It will be just one of the planets, one of the three inner planets. But human life will exist on all the moons of all the gas giants without thinking it odd. And all of it will be very similar, following similar values. A monolithic culture, of coffee coloured Eloi, living for pleasure in a state of peace and harmony, in shiny glass and concrete communes, set in landscaped parks, the skies of their worlds buzzing with metallic craft, the airwaves abuzz with people meeting in virtual reality, everyone lives like the Gods on Olympus.

But humanity will dimly be aware of the divide. Sol will be Europe, or the EU. The colonies, the third world, in a sense.

Because just as today Europe solves it's problems by throwing handouts at the third world to keep their people from flooding its borders, after the twenty third century, it will have solved its problems by creating a new third world. Expelling its surplus. To a hard new life. Sure, this third world will be randomly chosen, one in three.
But what happens to them once they've gone...

And it will resemble the relationship between Europe and the third world in other ways. Sol will be the old world, it will all be much of a muchness, unable to really understand the new third world.

But there the resemblance will end. Because it will be a third world much more removed from Sol than the third world of today is from Europe. Snippets of information about life in the colonies and the values systems that come to fruition in the colonies, will be sparse. They will seem as far removed as knowledge of the Far East did to medieval Europe. Strange worlds, strange people. And not really relevant. Whilst the colonies remain in the void, no one will really care.

The hard moral decisions, will be those that have to be made by those responsible for staying in contact with the colonies.

The only moral code to adopt, will be not to treat them as children, but love them as children.

Our right to tell them what to do will have ended the moment the colonies left the Heliosphere. But their right to ask for advice, will never be negated. Sol will be their parent, they will always be our children. Until they have landed and successfully set up working human infrastructures round the stars they are headed for, they will have an unconditional right to expect aid. And give nothing in return.

And we can give them no aid, except send transmissions which may help them.

Why this situation will raise moral dilemmas is simple. They will not be living the easy life of Sol. After a few generations the moral niceties of life on Sol will be useless to them. And they may well have torn up the rule book. Tried social experiments which would be considered abhorrent to the people of Sol.

We may find one is receiving transmissions from colonies who have set up fairly barbaric social systems according to the norms of how life on Sol has developed. But the choice of those responding to requests for advice will have to choose; however barbaric we think what they do and how they live is, do we want them all to die? Is it for us to judge?

Because some of the colonies could have adopted social systems every bit as unpleasant as Hitler or Stalin. Or undertaken changes such as deciding only to reproduce females, rendering males unnecessary. Or other such mass genetic engineering changes that would never be undertaken on Sol, but the colony has decided on because it believes it to be right for its circumstances.

It is highly likely that sometimes transmissions would be received asking for advice on how to fix a problem from colonies who had moved, in Sol terms, beyond the pale. Aberrant societies whose cultures the people of Sol would not want infecting their own.

The only moral answer, would be that of a loving parent. Give them all the advice they need. And tell them we don't approve of what they do, but still help them. It is actually none of our business what models of society they choose to set up. Yes, one day it will come to pass we all meet up again as equals. But if they are wrong, their societies will not work. They have to be left to find that out themselves. And given every chance to find that out themselves. They may of course turn out, if left to themselves to come through this period and come to something far, far better than we could have even thought of, simply by going through this journey of discovery. The way we do things on Sol, MAY not ULTIMATELY be the best way.

The final years of the twenty fifth century and the early years of the twenty sixth will suddenly see a new dynamic enter the culture of Sol.

It will start when the first asteroid colony reaches its destination. And its crew, eight generation space travellers, start to unfreeze their embryo cargo and start the work of building nuclear reactors, transport networks, factories, cities.
And sending the images back.

And then- as the second and third asteroid colonies reach each world. There will be conflicts amonst the early settlers. The isolated and aberrant forms of life that have existed in transit will come into conflict. Each new asteroid that lands on each world will have something new to bring to the melting pot.

And out of the melting pot of the traditions of the crews over two centuries or so in the void, out of perhaps he first serious wars humanity will have seen in centuries in some cases, some will develop into vibrant new cultures. Radically different from Sol, but not necessarily wrong.

They will have codes of ethics vastly different from Sol, when they start to build their societal infrastructure, they will be at variance from how it was done on Sol in so many different ways. Because they won't be structures evolved from neolithic farming communities, they will simply be fabricating the whole thing from scratch with the knowledge of the twenty sixth century. So it will be a bit like comparing the street plan of a British city, which developed randomly over time, to an American city laid out in orderly blocks.

And now the people of Sol will start to take an interest. They will view the images they see, the Third World of their times, or the Cathay of Marco Polo, of 2525.

And rapidly, the way humanity sees itself will change.

Once these new human star systems get on their feet, the human world will now be a bubble of fifty or sixty stars forming a globe in a spiral arm of the Milky Way galaxy.

Sol will just be one of them. And it will only take a generation or so before the other colonised star systems now start to see themselves as grown up children. The transmissions between the worlds will get more involved, more in depth. And Sol will realise it is engaged in a dialogue in which it is now just- one of the human stars. It is different from all the others, because it is the most populous, it is the 'Old' star, the home world. But- that doesn't make it special. All the others have things they can point to about their culture that they believe makes them special. They have history too, the histories of their journeys, how their cultures originated.

Sol will not quite be prepared for the culture shock. At how 'all growed up' its children will be so soon. As these dialogues progress, it will become apparent that some of these other star systems possess cultures headed for the dustbin of history, that when these disparate cultures really do undergo cultural osmosis, their cultures will join the Spartans; failed social experiments. But others will be better, more vigorous, and more dynamic than the parent culture. Sol will be starting to realise that some of its children are going to outdo it.

Because now, now that the sporing process has come to fruition, the possibility that that process can end will be here. That with the vast resources of energy at its disposal, fifty star systems between them can certainly harness the energy to conquer the light barrier in more ways than one. The ability to travel between eachother in a matter of months rather than centuries, or possibly even to set up the equivalent of 'stargates' between eachother.

It will perhaps be reminiscent of the time when the first Portugese ships rounded the western cape of Africa; they opened the world up. Up till then, China was a land of myth and the Atlantic could stretch all the way to it, for all anyone knew. Within another hundred and fifty years, the world had got much smaller. Circumnavigable.

I don't think we can predict what happens beyond that. Not the details. The trends, I think are apparent.

God will evolve. Through man.

In time a physical entity will exist, that were you to describe such an entity to the minds of the ancients, would have sounded like God.

And a million years from now, such beings will exist.

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