(2016-10-16) The Future
The Future
Summary: In a proposal to the city council, Mon lays out her vision of the future of New Eden. OOC: Basically a wrapup of all the ideas I had for the future of the game. I really did think we'd continue past the Departure.
Date: 2016.10.16
Related: None

Okay. The mothership is gone. I am assured by people more likely to know that there's not another one waiting to take its shot at us. The universe is big, so even if there are more of them out there, it could be centuries before we see another. Maybe more. So we have some breathing room, and its time we get on with the business of building a civilization.

Short term plans:
Waste treatment/chemical plant: My short term planning is pretty obvious. Build an artificial marshland waste water treatment plant, so we can turn the water on to the buildings and use the toilets there instead of standing in line at the bathhouses. If all goes well, and the Corps of Engineers guys in particular lend a hand, we can have that done by spring. It's vitally important that we have good wastewater treatment. If we get sewage into the reservoir, we could literally all die. And cholera is a nasty way to go. The waste treatment plant will also be a good source of nitrates for fertilizer and explosives, which will free up the stocks of old-world ammonium nitrate for use as fertilizer as well. Our bodies turn food and water into a gold-mine of useful chemicals. I'm not inclined to ignore this.

Agriculture: The greenhouses are a good start for agriculture, but the town is growing fast. If we're going to meet the food needs of the people in the face of continued growth, we need to get agriculture going again. This means: finding feral cattle, pigs, sheep, and other domesticated species and breeding them intensively. Finding samples of “feral” crops (wheat, rice, corn, rye…I'm forgetting a couple. But also soybeans, flax, cotton (maybe. It doesn't really grow here) and so on. Not only will farming help feed us, it will let us produce gasoline and diesel replacements (butanol and biodiesel) that we can mix with the old-world petro-fuels to make them last a bit longer. We need those. We're not going to be able to go petro-free for a while yet. Also, these old-world petro-fuels are above ground already. The least destructive thing we can do with them is burn them as they were meant to be burned.

Computers and Networking: As the electronics guys are making great strides with the ham radio and getting at least one PC working, plus all the stuff we're looting from the ex-Kamo-Kids base, I propose that we operate on two bands, one for voice, and one for packet radio, and we hang our PC on the radio as a bulletin board system/forum/whatever. It seems to me that the recovery of human civilization is going to be in a small town model for the foreseeable future (see: The Future(tm)), and traditionally this would mean we lose/have lost the critical mass of brainpower that let big cities power development. We, however, are the generation of the Internet, and we know that we can mass that brainpower without having to live next door to it. I think computers and networking are going to be critical for this. Also, we need a repository for all the knowledge we in New Eden have accumulated, both in the old world and in the new, and while I do insist we publish on paper, having digital versions available to whoever over packet radio would not be a bad mechanism as well.

Rule of Law: New Eden has seen massive growth in the last few weeks, just taking in the ex-Kamo-Kids. This is going to get bigger. Up until now, we've functioned as a large, surrogate, extended family. Once we cross about a hundred people, or so I read, that falls apart, and in any case we no longer have the alien oppression to hold us all together. We need to start the process of making laws for Terry to enforce, and get people used to the idea that 1. There are laws that need to be obeyed, and 2. We all get a say in what those laws are. We've had elections. We need to schedule those to happen on a recurring basis. So we need laws, and we need to write them down, and to make reasonably sure everyone in town knows them, especially new people. That way we can all be on the same page. Eventually we'll need to publish them, (see medium term planning)

Medium Term planning:
Shipstones: Eli and I have made some inroads into alien technology. While he's focusing on medical uses for silencer nanomachines, I've been focusing on how the power cells work. I very much suspect that once we master the nanomachines (figure out how to build control hubs, if I understand it correctly) we should be able to use them as general purpose nanoassemblers and make the superconductive fiber in alien powercells. This is a game changer, since it allows us to store electricity in bulk without huge losses. If you want to see all the extrapolations for this, find a copy of Robert Heinlein's “Friday” and pay attention to all the stuff he tells us about Shipstones. That's what we'd be building. I can't stress enough how important these are. Alien power cells have an energy density greater than anything known to humanity short of nuclear energy. If we can build storage systems even half that efficient, that will still be true for our shipstones, and we'll be able to build electric machines without the intrinsic losses to resistance (and heat). This is one thing I insist on. If the council rules that city resources should not be used for this, I will resign and do it myself.

I won't steal Eli's thunder about the medical uses of the nanomachines, but I'll put some of my thoughts about them under The Future(tm) planning, below.

Drone-Riding: I've had a breakthrough with the drones. Not, sadly, in time to use them as missiles against the mothership, although that's a possibility now, should other ships turn up sooner than expected. I suspect there are a great many drones in warehouses and (now) abandoned military bases all over the world. It should be possible to tap into their control systems (brains might be a better analogy, since they're not computers), add a saddle and control harness, and ride the things. I haven't tried this, as the drones I have are mostly dead, but as transportation they'd be a wonder. I think this should be pursued strongly, as being able to do long distance recon would be a huge help for trade and security. Unless we reach the point of being able to make drones ourselves (which is not so far fetched as it sounds—I think I know how they work) these would be city property and checked out in much the same fashion as horses are now.

Railroads: Speaking of trade, we need to have some way of moving things that Noah and his cart can't carry. Since railroads are easier to maintain than asphalt, I propose we find and rehabilitate some cars and locomotives, with the idea of visiting towns we find along the line and trading with them. This would be another use for diesel in the short term, and shipstone power in the medium term, since diesel locomotives are more properly called diesel-electric locomotives. Each one has a small town's worth of diesel generator inside it that powers the traction motors.

Electricity: As we transition to an all-electric civilization, our 60kw of wind generation and water storage is not going to cut the mustard. Another use for shipstones will be generating power in the big windfarm in Sunray and transporting the power here (by horse cart, if need be, but the railroad would work too :) in bulk.

Trade: We need to establish trade with other towns in the area. Noah's been doing this, and he's a hero for it. I have been designing things (mostly sustainable guns) specifically for trade. I presently have a pistol design in testing and have a carbine and a shotgun on the drawing board designed for trade. These do not have the horsepower or reach of the M0 rifle, and I think I'd like to keep it that way, but they're serviceable weapons for hunting and defense. As trade items, I think they'll be gold. Manufacturing ammunition will be an ongoing revenue stream, although I don't think we should hoard the knowledge. (see The Future™.) There are lots of things we can make here that won't be easily made elsewhere. Once we have the technology for shipstones, we can and should trade them (charged) so other cities can return to life electrically instead of getting caught in the fossil fuel addiction again. We can also use the same alien tech to make windmills, and to refurbish the ones in Sunray as needed.

Printing Press: We can do photolithographic printing. The technology is fully understood. Given time, I or one of my crew (I have a crew!) can work out the process and we can build the presses and publish books so long as the paper holds out. And I'm pretty sure we can make paper out of the ground up cellulose from cow flops. I wish I was kidding here, but it's a good source of cellulose. Again, old school tech, well documented in books in our existing library. I think New Eden should become known as a repository of knowledge that shares. Like the library of Alexandria in ancient times.

Computers: We have the “Brains” of the drones to study, but in the shorter term, if we can get alien superconductors working, I think we might be able to make computers as we understand them. Semiconductors are hard, and they're not very efficient, but as a replacement, we might be able to build superconducting triodes either with photolithography or with the nanoassemblers (aka silencer nanites). Triodes in their old form are what we call vacuum tubes. Basically an electron stream going from a cathode to an anode through a control grid, and you change the conductivity (ability to pass a current) of that electron stream by changing the voltage (but not current – much) of a control grid, controlling how many electrons reach the anode. I can't think of any reason this wouldn't work in superconductors and at nanoscale like transistors in old-world integrated circuits. Our computers could be screamingly fast and not generate much heat. I think. This could take a while, but if we can be the first to make new-world computers: Huge win for us, and for the rest of the world too. Like the rest of the world I propose, it would basically be open source, but we are making them now. Only where transport and middleman expenses exceed the cost of setting up your own manufacturing would it make sense to build another computer plant.

Yeah, I'm getting caught up in minutia here. That's the stuff that really excites me. Let's take a step back and look at the big picture, because I think having a vision, being the first to have that vision, increases our chances of having it be the vision, and one everyone, all humanity, can get behind.

The Future™: Twenty years out.
The future I see is this. In twenty years, New Eden, Texas, will have a population of four or five hundred people, broken up into “houses” like the great families of old times. Houses have a minimum size of about 60 and a maximum size of 120, and when a house reaches maximum size, it divides in half. This lets people live in groups of less than a hundred, which is most comfortable for people, and still be part of a larger whole. Houses are usually broken out by specialty, so that trade knowledge and education can happen. So house Atreides, for example, might be me and my crew and our spouses and children. People can leave a house and pledge to another to marry, or when they turn 18, or because they damn well feel like it, but they start at the bottom of whatever organic hierarchy emerges in each house. In my house it would be “How good a machinist and leader are you?” Might be called the house foreman too (that it's also my last name makes me giggle). People take their house name as part of their name, so I'd be Monica Foreman, of house Atreides, and it would not be inappropriate to call me Monica Atreides for short. All this is because it'd be really good if we could have a tight grip on who is related to whom to avoid inbreeding. As I understand it (ask Eli) humans need to be at least three generations separated from their reproductive partners to avoid the problems of inbreeding, and it's something we need to keep tabs on.

To continue with the future vision, I see a time when House Atreides reaches its maximum size and is ready to divide. Several other houses in town are in the same state, and so the houses petition the council to “Seed” a new town. House Atreides divides, one of the two houses Atreides stays in New Eden, and the other, along with the divisions of other houses, begins the work of getting Sunray (to use it as an example) ready for habitation. Once Sunray is ready for habitation, the houses that built it stay there, form their own council, and start taking in people. This way, even when people in future generations from House Atreides in Sunray come to New Eden, they know that House Atreides in New Eden is the same general specialty, and that people in house Atreides New Eden may well be their blood relatives. Whoever seeds a town first keeps it. I think we're probably already the best organized new world civilization, but if we're not, that rule applies. If someone else got the town and they're running it, it's not ours to take unless they agree to it. Our town is not theirs to take either. Since others may not share our altruistic vision, we need to stay armed and ready to defend ourselves.

I see disputes between houses settled with sports instead of warfare. I propose baseball, but any non-violent sport (IE not hockey, football, boxing, MMA, etc.) will do. It should go without saying, but must be said until we're blue in the face that human life is precious, and should not be squandered on bullshit like politics. There's a catch. We know experimentally that peace can't be enforced by disempowerment. That's how the old world worked, and we (humans) killed tens of thousands of people a year. Surely we can do better moving forward. Heinlein said that an armed society is a polite society. I think we first-gens are unlikely to give up our weapons for any reason, and there's no reason to expect our children to do so. Peace has to come from us, from the people. Maybe Heinlein's idea can work. I don't think we have much choice now but to try it. Having busted my ass to arm Camp Hope I will oppose, unilaterally if I have to, any attempt to disarm New Eden. But back to the future (so to speak.)

I see a trade economy based on the railroad lines, maintained by the towns closest to the lines, with central organization (for the railroad) in New Eden, at least for the state of Texas. (Trains have to be centrally organized. Otherwise they run into each other a lot.) New Eden's council could also have a house of cities, so when they make “state” laws, the other towns are represented properly. Or it could be a separate council of councils, a “state” government tasked with making decisions that help all the towns function. A similar “council of states” could be the federal (or world) government, but that's politics beyond anything I have any interest in. Fortunately, the kind of old-world fiefdom politics we first-gens remember requires more people than we're likely to be willing to feed to do politics as a full time job. This limitation may not always be true, but for a few generations, at least, it will be so.

I see power generated by old world wind farms, but increasingly by new world wind and solar farms, built in places like New Eden out of formerly alien technologies and either provided when a city is seeded, or traded for later. (Didja know copper can be a semiconductor? Didja know you can make photovoltaic cells out of it? I didn't either. I just read it in a book called “Instruments of Amplification” in our library. More than ever, I want to get all that copper out of windings in generators and motors and make solar cells out of it.)

I see a world of small towns, without the need for big cities, connected over packet radio, and increasingly of repaired old-world fiberoptic backbones, and connected materially by the railroad, and by shipping over the ocean. I assume…I hope that there are other camps and towns in the world that survived. We need to reach out to them as soon as we possibly can, so we can keep the differences from growing insurmountable again.

I see people being smart enough to judge how many children to have by how big the town is verses its resources verses what old-world towns are empty nearby and can be readily seeded. I very much doubt the world can sustain 10 billion people anymore. Certainly this model can't. This problem's generations away, but maybe if we talk about it now, and plan for it now, we can avoid it altogether. A few hundred million people are probably enough to give us a robust presence without overburdening the capability of the planet. If we want to go bigger? There are other planets nearby.

I see Drone technology paving our way back to space, and on the drawing board will be plans to build a ring of solar-electric satellites around the planet to generate power and transmit it to the ground. Some of those satellites will contain electrically powered weapons (Lasers, masers, particle accelerators) to defend our planet against any other ships that turn up. (I see Linc finally getting his ride into space, too.) I see possible seeding of the moon and Mars, and possibly Europa (the moon of Jupiter) if it's as rich in water as we think. If the Arrival taught us anything it's that humans must reach space, and we must stay there, so that one event like that can't make us extinct. We boldly went in the 60s to prove we were better than the Russians. Then we boldly chickened out for fifty years. We can no longer afford to be chickens. There are, or at least were, others out there, and we must be sure that when we meet them again, we can face them as equals, or superiors.

I see a New Eden National Constitution, agreed to by all the towns we seed and hopefully all the towns in the world, that guarantees basic rights and freedoms, and provides mechanisms to resolve disputes between towns peacefully, and above all reminds everyone that human life, their lives are precious and should not be wasted, but that just the same, everyone should be armed and know how (and when) to use their weapons.

I see very possibly that Eli's work with silencer nanites could mean that anyone who's done having children could be made immortal, as much as the silencers were. Given the amount of knowledge wrapped up in us first-gens, that would be a huge win for the civilization. Maybe. I'm kind of mixed on this.

I see a new renaissance of knowledge, a new exuberance of humanity. Hopefully we can stay united enough in our network of small towns, to get it all done without the fatal amplification of differences that gave us so much trouble.

This, then, is my proposal, and my hope, for the future. How much of it is practical, especially the Long Term stuff? Hard to say. I think we can make the technology happen, if we want to. The social stuff? I dunno. I'm a machinist, not a social engineer.

-Monica Foreman
Director, R&D, New Eden City Council.

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