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Measuring societal development

science fiction analysis xenosociology speculation

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#1 Cybersnark


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Posted 31 July 2015 - 02:53 PM

I've been working on this in my spare time for the better part of a year, and now it's time for peer-review.

I've been looking for a system of classifying different societies. This isn't just for my own use (the Federation-analogue in my sci-fi universe doesn't have a Prime Directive, so they need ways to discuss relative social levels), but also ended up being a lens through which I (and hopefully others) can examine other science fiction, discuss actual real-world history, and maybe even a tool for other writers wanting to correct/rationalize/subvert some of the tropes that tend to creep into sci-fi (like single-industry planets, alien bazaars, casual space-travel, the cyberpunk/space-opera divide, etc).

The Kardashev Scale is so vague as to be useless and doesn't really scale down (without needing multiple decimal places), and the Three Age system doesn't really scale up. Neither of them gives a handy way to know just what goes on in any of the societies they "describe," or what kind of challenges each society might face.

I didn't want to focus purely on technology (since tech development isn't necessarily linear) or energy consumption (since that can't really deal with a small-scale yet highly energy-efficient society). Another factor I looked at was footprint --the physical area that this society has (reliable) access to, whether a single river valley, a continent, an entire solar system, or multiple galaxies. Of course, this alone isn't enough to tell us much; a highly advanced society might end up restricted to a single city, while a relatively primitive society might proliferate around an entire planet, like the Argentine ant megacolony.

What I settled on was a system of 19 factors that each represent a baseline for any given society. Particular societies will deviate in different ways, but by averaging out each of these variables, it becomes possible to assign a type --or even to extrapolate, where some data might be unavailable.

Footprint: the area that this society has direct knowledge of --this flows both ways, since it is also the area in which the society will be recognized by outsiders. The Roman Empire ruled Europe and parts of Western Asia, and its name was known as far as China and northern Africa, yet the Olmecs, Polynesians, and Aboriginal Australians probably had no idea it even existed.

Sustainable Population: what sort of numbers (hundreds, thousands, millions, billions) could this society reasonably support? A pre-industrial infrastructure won't be able to maintain a population of several billion, and a population of a few hundred won't be enough to support a planet-spanning empire.

Government: what sort of centralized authority would this society likely have, whether a simple Alpha or a massive representational Senate, and how would this leadership exert its authority (either directly or via intermediaries)?

Bureaucracy: this reflects the internal complexity of the society and its leadership: does the leader actually rule, or is s/he at the mercy of political, corporate, administrative, or international red tape (and who or what is actually in charge)?

Language: how complex a language will this society have (to discuss advanced concepts), and how widespread (to facilitate trade and foster unity)?

Literacy: will literacy (and its related benefits to communication, learning, and history) be the province of a specialized social class (scribes), an industry, or universal?

Network: this describes how information is disseminated through the society (by word-of-mouth, carrier-ravens, radio transmission, a worldwide digital network, or subspace), and how easily any given member can communicate with any other individual.

Religion: this is less concerned with the specifics of the religion (which will vary wildly), than with the complexity and sophistication of the religious landscape. Religions can range from simple animism to complex cosmogonies and organized rituals, or politically-active bureaucracies in their own right.

Science: this encapsulates the scientific and technological breadth and depth of the society, and the relative importances of various fields of study ranging from alchemy to an atomic theory to advanced engineering and cybernetics.

Medicine: Will an injury be brought to a local shaman or an emergency room, or will symbiotic nano-repair systems obliviate the need for hospitals?

Education: this describes the format of education available to a citizen, whether via apprenticeship, organized academics, or databases downloaded directly into one's brain. This also considers what material will likely be covered in a standard education. (What technologies and lifestyles are considered "normal" for a young adult --will "high school" include hunting/trapping, driving lessons, astronaut training, or advanced subspace theory?)

Energy: what types of energy will be present in this society? Will work rely on manual labour, a hydro-electric grid, or portable cold-fusion cores?

Industry: this describes how the society manufactures its tools and goods, whether by chipping rocks, blacksmithing, mass production, 3D printers, or personal replicators.

Military: the size and calibre of the military forces this society can call upon, whether a handful of spear-hunters, a nuclear-capable air force, a fleet of city-ships armed with nova bombs, or a single warrior armed with reality-warping technology.

Economy: vastly simplified, how does this society conduct trade? What sort of resources is it most interested in, and how does wealth and labour get distributed, logistically? Is trade carried out with bartered goods, standardized currency, or a thumbprint scanner?

Food: how do members of this society feed themselves? This explores both where the food comes from (whether it is grown, processed, modified, or completely synthesized) and how it may be treated (whether as a staple, a delicacy, or a status symbol --is there a difference between what the nobles and the commoners eat?). Is everything local-grown, or has it been flash-frozen and shipped halfway around the planet?

Travel: this is a measure of how an average citizen may get around, in terms of ease, range, and technology. Will they spend their entire lives in a single hamlet, will they need to book interplanetary voyages months in advance, or will interstellar journeys via wormhole be considered a daily commute?

Spaceflight: if encountered in space, what sort of technology and experience would a member of this society have? Are interplanetary trips based on carefully-calculated orbital slingshots and precise timetables, or can personal shuttlecraft travel freely, making course adjustments as needed? This factor also considers the presence, quality, and distribution of FTL technology, whether restricted to large military ships or available on small personal transports.

Alien contact: this considers the amount and nature of alien contact likely present in this society, as well as how aliens are considered (either anomalies or so common as to be unremarkable), and how this society might appear from outside (whether undetectable, avoidable, omnipresent, or mythical).

To test this system, I evaluated as many real-world societies as I was familiar with, looking for averages and trying to suss out as near a "universal" system as I could. Given our tragic dearth of experiences with higher-level societies, I also broadened the net, treating fictional societies as anthropological case studies (which I figure neatly approximates dealing with "incomplete" data from a field team), and again looking for common threads.

What I ended up with was 17 tiers, ranging from Type-1 (tool-using animals) up to Type-17 (god-races like the Q Continuum). And yes, this means that we have several "intelligent" alien races right here on Earth, some of whom reach as high as Type-2!

I tried to arrange things so that the "round" numbers can serve as milestones; Type-5 is the typical "medieval" setting, Type-10 is the FTL wall, and Type-15 is where technology and magic become almost indistinguishable.

For the record, the modern developed world is an early Type-7 (we became such in the 1960/70s, when we set foot on the Moon, started building space stations, and built the first foundations of the internet) --in fact, many of the problems we're dealing with (climate change, gender equality, religious extremism, etc) can be seen as conflict between nationalistic Type-6 social structures and globally-conscious Type-7 mindsets.

I'll go into more detail in later posts (I don't want to flood the board), but as a quick breakdown:

Type-1: Social, tool-using animals. (dolphins, octopodes, ants)

Type-2: A paleolithic society capable of crafting tools (deliberately altering a found object to match a mental blueprint). (crows, chimps, elephants)

Type-3: A neolithic society. (Ötzi's people, Ewoks, Fraggles)

Type-4: A (possibly nomadic) city-state, with a centralized ruler exerting direct authority. (Babylon, the Dothraki, Immortan Joe's kingdom)

Type-5: A feudal nation-state, where the central ruler must rely on the support and loyalty of vassals. (Roman Empire, Westeros, Equestria)

Type-6: An industrial nation, with world-wide influence. (British Empire, WWII-era America, the Fire Nation)

Type-7: A superpower with access to planetary orbit. (Modern America, the Light Civilization, the Invid Regis' Hive)

Type-8: A spacefaring civilization with access to solar orbit and permanent orbital stations. (Seen in Captain Earth, Bubblegum Crisis 2040, Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century)

Type-9: An interplanetary civilization, with access to space habitats and sleeper/generation ships. (Seen in most Gundam series, Firefly, Christopher Bennett's "Only Superhuman").

Type-10: An FTL-capable interstellar power, dependent upon the Homeworld. (ENT-era Earth, 12 Colonies of Kobol, Halo's UNSC)

Type-11: A stellar nation, made up of multiple politically/economically independent worlds/species. (Coalition of Planets, Rebel Alliance, League of Nonaligned Worlds)

Type-12: A stellar superpower that can dominate an entire quadrant. (24th Century Federation, Borg Collective, Typhon Pact)

Type-13: A galaxy-spanning civilization. (Vorlons, Gems, Rakatan Infinite Empire)

Type-14: A civilization that spans several galaxies. (Systems Commonwealth, Ancients, Tyranids)

Type-15: A civilization that spans a significant portion of the universe. (Green Lantern Corps, Precursors [allegedly])

Type-16: A civilization whose members can time-travel and access multiple universes within the same multiverse. (Time Lords, Monitors, Transtech)

Type-17: A civilization that spans multiple non-contiguous multiverses. (Q Continuum, Alternity, Unicron)

I've noticed a few patterns emerging as I did this:

-Type-5 societies seem to be inherently unstable; they represent the point where a centralized (Type-4-and-under) monarchy reaches its breaking point. The ruler (who, until now, has been able to hold Power directly) must now rely on vassals and local governors --who will have ample opportunity to plot against the ruler. The Type-5 ruler will either be overthrown (at which point the kingdom will dissolve into civil war, possibly collapsing back to multiple Type-4s), or invent a completely new form of government that shares power, allowing the nation to advance to Type-6 (as the Magna Carta represents).

-Post-apocalyptic civilizations tend to stabilize around Type-4 --this is the simplest state that can maintain a recognizable "modern-style" government.

-Transitions between these tiers are usually marked by increased stress between progressive, regressive, and conservative forces, usually centred around a watershed event (a revolution, either social or military).

-Whether deliberately or not, most of the anomalies I've found (societies far above or below where they "should" be) have an in-universe explanation; technology recovered from precursors, specific "wild card" breakthroughs in particular fields, societal collapse and loss of infrastructure, etc.

-Species who talk of themselves as "evolved" (i.e., god-like races) tend to be from a point well after they would have mastered bioengineering --the "evolution" they're talking about is guided evolution, not the natural kind. Probably obvious, but it didn't occur to me until now.

-At a certain level, societies either seem to develop interdimensional travel or space travel, but never both. Interdimensional voyages usually remain restricted to one particular planet (i.e., Earth), and any threat to that planet is treated as a threat to the entire Universe (an interesting reflection of traditional Geocentrism).

-There is a difference between "Degeneration" and "Regression." Degeneration occurs when the central authority of a civilization collapses, but leaves the civilization's infrastructure intact --this results in a society that is made up of multiple smaller societies which can only be interpreted in relation to the whole (and which don't fit cleanly on my scale). A historical example is how once-united Heian Japan (a Type-5) gradually spiralled into civil war and ended up as a collection of warring states (a collection of Type-4s, yet all sharing mostly the same culture and language, and with relatively easy travel between them).

(Another example can be found in Andromeda: after the intergalactic Systems Commonwealth collapsed, the prevalence of slipstream travel meant that the Commonwealth's successor governments [the Than Hegemony, the Drago-Kazov Empire, the Kalderan Commune, etc] continued to operate on an intergalactic scale despite their lower population, limited resources, and lower tech level --essentially, they are either multiple unusually advanced Type-10s, or a single unusually primitive and factionalized Type-14).

Regression, by contrast, is when a society loses or otherwise abandons its technological infrastructure and scales back to a lower level. One example is Andromeda's Vedrans, who deliberately went from a galaxy-spanning Type-14 civilization to a Type-9 society with only a single solar system to their name.

(Another example is how the Roman Empire [a Type-5 society] split into two slightly smaller Type-5 societies which gradually shrank into patchworks of self-ruling Type-4 nations).
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#2 Cybersnark


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Posted 12 August 2015 - 05:22 PM

(I'll also be posting these to my blog, where I have more control over pics and links.)

TYPE 1 (animals)
Footprint: Undetectable (may be territorial or migratory).

Sustainable Population: Clusters usually measured in single digits.

Government: Alpha.

Bureaucracy: None.

Language: Extremely limited; simple concrete concepts only.

Literacy: None.

Network: Vocalizations, pheromone traces, visual display.

Religion: Minimal, no distinction between memory and myth.

Science: None.

Medicine: None organized, though nurturing behaviour will be present.

Education: Parent-to-child.

Energy: All controllable energy will stem from an individual's own muscles.

Industry: None (tools are found objects).

Military: None.

Economy: None (individual trade --little sense of relative value).

Food: Individual foraging.

Travel: Self-powered.

Spaceflight: None.

Alien contact: None (aliens will be readily accepted as just another animal). This society is undetectable except by direct observation (it leaves no archaeological evidence, and does not alter its environment in any appreciable way).

Examples (reality): dolphins, octopodes, gorillas, wasps, bees, ants
Examples (fiction): Night Furies, velociraptors, Kwi, snarfs (2011), kaiju, inhabitants of the Pride Lands, rabbits of Watership Down

Notes: Type-1 societies are marked by the use of tools and/or language, albeit usually in a limited form. Other than this, they remain indistinguishable from animals.
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#3 Cybersnark


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Posted 20 August 2015 - 12:05 PM

TYPE 2 (paleolithic)
Footprint: Territory defined by physical and/or chemical marks.

Sustainable Population: Measured in tens.

Government: Voluntary dictatorship (via submission to the Alpha).

Bureaucracy: Simple (age-based?) hierarchy.

Language: Limited; some abstract concepts.

Literacy: None.

Network: Vocalization, pheromone traces.

Religion: Simple, individualized, possibly centred around an elder storyteller/shaman.

Science: Extremely limited engineering (knapped stone, sharpened sticks, leaf cutting, stitching, simple weaving, etc).

Medicine: Collective nurturing.

Education: Direct demonstration/copying.

Energy: Physical activity, as well as limited use of natural forces (water to float, wind to push sails, sunlight for warmth, wind to cool, etc).

Industry: Self-crafting (found objects are modified as needed, then discarded).

Military: None.

Economy: Individual barter (value is estimated individually).

Food: Organized hunting/gathering.

Travel: Self-powered, members remain within claimed territory, understanding that it is safer than "outside."

Spaceflight: None.

Alien contact: none/hostile (aliens may be recognized as other animals, or as intruders/predators). This society is undetectable except by observation and discovery of artifacts.

Examples (reality): chimps, orangutans, crows, ravens, parrots, elephants
Examples (fiction): xenomorphs, gremlins

Notes: Members of a Type-2 society are capable of crafting; altering found objects into tools intended for specific uses. They are also more intellectually advanced, capable of complex problem-solving, abstract reasoning, foresight, and more complex communication. They may be on the cusp of an agricultural revolution.

These people understand that there is strength in numbers; resulting in a more tightly-knit and organized community, with a well-defined territory --having a home represents "safety," and is the beginning of social identity. This society will maintain rigid in-groups, with outsiders representing a serious danger.

By now, a Type-2 society will be adept at "handling" most natural enemies and environmental events; the main sources of conflict in a Type-2 society will be challenges to the Alpha's authority, and raids (for territory, slaves, food, or mates) from neighbouring tribes.
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#4 Orpheus


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Posted 20 August 2015 - 03:30 PM

Wow. This is a fascinating topic! Please don't take my lack of response for lack of interest. Its just a lot for me to digest and ponder before I can make any sort of intelligible response.

#5 QueenTiye


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Posted 20 August 2015 - 04:21 PM

Logged in JUST to say - this is brilliant!  Definitely looking forward to the rest of the series.  Not sure I know enough to critique, but I do know enough to appreciate - particularly the way you've laid it out so that our fictional worlds can be fit within the framework, as well as our existing world.


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#6 Cybersnark


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Posted 27 August 2015 - 12:57 PM

Thanks for the praise.

TYPE 3 (neolithic)
Footprint: Region (permanent villages), probably identified by a local landmark ("Bright Tree," "Singing Mountain," "Fraggle Rock," etc).

Sustainable Population: Hundreds.

Government: Simple. Usually monarchical; a chief, elder, or king/queen. Collective consciousness.

Bureaucracy: Simple division of labour and concentration of skills (usually into the Chief's entourage of advisors).

Language: Simple, each tribe will likely have its own dialect, which will be similar enough to communicate with neighbouring tribes.

Literacy: Rare (usually only the shaman/elder, and any apprentices) and limited to interpreting runes and pictograms.

Network: Word-of-mouth, simple signs and markers.

Religion: Ritualized and likely shamanistic (concentrated in a single spiritual leader). The shaman's main focus will likely be the prosperity of the tribe (possibly extending to the extermination of competing tribes).

Science: Astronomy, basic agriculture, and animal husbandry. Possibly a rudimentary understanding of genetics and chemistry. Likely intertwined with religion/spirituality; religious traditions may mask practical concerns; proscribed foods or interactions with outsiders (possibly for ease of communication --the shaman may have stronger grasp of actual processes, which s/he doesn't bother sharing). Simple engineering (bows, hafted axes, mud brick construction, megalithic construction).

Medicine: Prayer, traditional remedies. Simple poultices & tourniquets. Extremely crude surgeries (trepanning, tooth-drilling, amputations). Knowledge of internal organs will be common (animal carcasses and enemy corpses will be familiar to most).

Education: Parents teach daily skills. Apprenticeship (for specific skills) will be socially recognized, but probably not formally organized.

Energy: Most labour will still be manual, though natural forces will also have been harnessed (sailboats and cooking fires will be common, as well as counterweights, wheels, and possibly even simple parachutes).

Industry: Specialized craftsmen create tools for others, allowing hunters and gatherers to concentrate on their tasks (thereby earning a surplus of food to feed everyone). Labour is exchanged for food and social care.

Military: None; hunters typically serve as fighters, following a strong or charismatic leader (who may be a future chief).

Economy: Local trade, with a system of barter using measured commodities (two pelts are worth one basket of sweetfruit, one jade bead is worth three spears, etc). Beginnings of economic stratification (due to unequal resources).

Food: Organized hunting, simple plant cultivation, domesticated livestock.

Travel: Riding beasts and simple vehicles (sleds, canoes, gliders, etc) will likely be common.

Spaceflight: None.

Alien contact: Cautious. This society will be aware of neighbouring tribes (i.e., they will recognize their own species as intelligent), and will thus recognize alien intelligence (something that acts like us but is not Like Us) --possibly as something supernatural or monstrous. If communication can be established, members of this society can accept aliens as beings from "other worlds, under other suns." This species may be detectable from orbital observation (via large settlements or cooking fires).

Examples (reality): Builders of Göbekli Tepe, Çatalöyük, and Skara Brae. Ötzi's people.
Examples (fiction): Ewoks, Unas, Yagahl, Na'vi, Podlings, Kokiri, Mogwai*, Fraggles.

Notes: One of the benefits of having a protected settlement is the opportunity to make long-term observations --recognizing that a buried seed can become a plant, and that the seasons change according to the stars and moons. This will trigger an agricultural revolution, which will completely transform society. Agriculture means more food, which means a larger, healthier, and more socially-complex population, which also means more problems with internal organization and raids from less-prosperous neighbours.

Clothing will be developed, allowing citizens to carry useful tools rather than discarding them, which in turn leads to the establishment of a concept of "property." At the same time, the rise of a crafting class will allow technology to become more complex and less disposable. Citizens of this society have begun recording (and mythologizing) history --for the first time, artifacts and structures exist that will defy living memory, and members will question where they came from.

The problems faced by a Type-3 are similar to those of a Type-2, but larger in scale. A Type-3 society can command larger war parties, and deadlier weapons. A drive toward megalithic engineering may help counter this, both by focusing the group's efforts (to build community) and by creating monuments intended to intimidate neighbouring tribes.

(* Mogwai seem to be more intelligent than in their Gremlin forms; while Gizmo's advanced engineering skills [using the remote-control car as a rideable vehicle, and crafting sophisticated weapons during the Clamp Building siege] seem to be an anomaly, even Mogwai-Stripe seemed more technically-minded [in recognizing and sabotaging Billy's alarm clock] than most Gremlins, who simply grab whatever human tech is available and [mis]use it as-is.)

Edited by Cybersnark, 27 August 2015 - 01:01 PM.

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#7 Cybersnark


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Posted 03 September 2015 - 11:28 AM

TYPE 4 (Bronze Age)
Footprint: Region (city-state).

Sustainable Population: Thousands.

Government: Centralized, probably monarchic, and signifying a distinct ruling class. Ruler exercises direct authority over hir subjects.

Bureaucracy: Moderate (to administer trade and military), under the ruler's direct oversight. Most high-level positions will be personal friends of the ruling family.

Language: Advanced.

Literacy: Advanced among dedicated scribes, limited to moderate among nobles and merchants, and nonexistent among peasants and soldiers.

Network: Top-down dissemination using royal proclamation and envoys.

Religion: Ritualized and organized, with a complex cosmology and a social hierarchy, answering to a high priest.

Science: Advanced astronomy, alchemy, and simple material sciences have practical value, and will be reasonably widespread. Agricultural technology and knowledge is well-developed, with crops and livestock optimized to local conditions. Simple metalworking (copper, bronze, iron) is widely available through independent metalsmiths. Architecture will be advanced, and rely on a variety of materials; cities will contain elaborate palaces, temples, and fortifications.

Medicine: Specialized anatomical knowledge exists in the form of trained healers (most of them operating out of their own houses or small shops), though surgery frequently leads to infection and permanent disability. Some experimentation with crude prosthetics. Medicinal herbs and compounds are well-known. An awareness of heredity will be well-established (both through animal husbandry, and to rationalize the ruling class' "pure" lineage).

Education: Organized apprenticeship to learn trades. Nobles will have access to a variety of tutors. No formal childhood education; parents are expected to teach children everything they need to know to survive.

Energy: Manual labour from slaves and livestock, and natural forces have been harnessed (in sails and hearth-fires) and are now being refined (in kilns, forges, aqueducts, reservoirs, mirrors and lenses, and simple steam-engines). Scholars are likely experimenting with calculated chemical reactions (as alchemy), and attempting to formulate laws of physics.

Industry: Organized craftsmen abound, with their apprentices replicating their work for larger contracts. Most large workforces (made up of slaves and journeymen) are owned by (or at least under the patronage of) nobles, or possibly the crown itself, though individual craftsmen and merchants still eke out a living on their own --artisans are part of the rudimentary middle-class.

Military: Organized army (and possibly navy), relying on melee weapons, augmented by primitive artillery (archers, catapults). Thousand-strong armies will be composed mainly of (peasant) infantry, with cavalry units serving directly under noble-born generals. Troops will bear the banners of their king, city, or general, though they may not have proper uniforms or standardized weapons (depending on the city-state's wealth).

Economy: Standardized currency backed by a national treasury, typically made out of some reasonably valuable material (so the coin itself is its measured-out value). Organized caravans ply trade routes to distant lands --bandits and highwaymen work in small groups to ambush vulnerable travelers, surviving on what little they can steal.

Food: Organized agriculture, animal husbandry (free-range hunting can no longer support the entire population, though it may remain fetishized and practiced by nobles). Most food will come from local sources, though people are experimenting with preservation (via salting, smoking, or sealed vessels). Peasant meals will be cooked over simple fires; nobles will have access to skilled professional cooks.

Travel: Moderately complicated vehicles (oared/rigged boats, wheeled carts) are used for large voyages, though riding beasts are still common for single travelers (who may also use chariots, sailboats, or gliders). Merchants and generals will be familiar with advanced navigation (relying on stars and mapped landmarks), though most citizens remain restricted to their city and environs.

Spaceflight: None.

Alien contact: Cautious. This society will likely be highly competitive for food, wealth, territory, and slaves --any outsiders will be seen as either enemies or assets to be used by the local ruler (either as allies, pawns, or slaves). While advanced technology may be seen as supernatural, this society's own technological advancements will make them (over)confident and ambitious. This society will be building large (probably walled) cities and sprawling farms, and will thus be readily detectable from orbit.

Examples (reality): Biblical near-east*, Babylon, pre-Dynastic Egypt, Minoans, Cusco, Olmecs, Sengoku-era Japan.
Examples (fiction): The Dothraki, the Tharks, Cimmeria, Middle-Earth, Thundera (from the 2011 Thundercats reboot), Gargantia, Olympus (from Appleseed), Republic City, Northern & Southern Water Tribes, Valley of the Wind (from Nausicaa), Gelflings, Immortan Joe's Citadel.

Notes: Early Type-4 societies face dangers from climate (a single bad drought/flood/harvest can starve the growing population), plague (dense populations, often with limited hygiene, and frequent new arrivals due to trade), and war (larger populations allow for the growth of armies, and will also strain resources). The high mortality rate (due to wars and plague) will push society toward large families, in the hope that at least some children will grow to old age. The dangers of plague and war will only add to this society's xenophobia --shunning outsiders is a valuable survival strategy.

Rulers of Type-4 societies need fear betrayal only from their closest advisors; the size and centralized power structure means that the king/queen will quickly become aware of any planned widespread uprising before it can become a threat (whether or not they can successfully defuse the situation, however, is a measure of individual skill).

After a large-scale disaster (i.e., a near-extinction event), many advanced societies regress to Type-4 --it is often seen as the "basic" foundation of civilization. Because of this, Type-4 societies can often show wildly ideosyncratic technologies and social structures (as in the cases of Gargantia [an oceangoing city-state made up of interconnected ships, with access to heavy mecha and an orbital-reach railgun], Thundera [a walled pre-industrial city, with a black market in outlawed robotic technology], or Olympus [a large metropolis boasting cloning, intelligent AI, mecha, and power-armour].)

(* Type-4 conditions continued into the New Testament, even though the region was under the control of Rome [a Type-5 civilization]. Jesus' Biblical ministry was restricted to Galilee, Perea, and Judea --he never set foot in Rome itself.)
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#8 gsmonks


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Posted 03 September 2015 - 12:25 PM

The problem with alien species is that, never having had dealings with any, we don't know whether we can compare them to ourselves and life forms we're familiar with, or if they would be incomprehensibly alien to us.

To use our own terminology is to anthropomorphise, and this applies to what we term "intelligence" as well.

We humans may be unique in having compartmentalised brains, for but one example. This is what allows us to access intelligence without actually being intelligent, and is the reason humans do such incredibly stupid things.

Beings, should they exist, that are truly intelligent, would have no tolerance for us, especially for our corrupt emotion-driven decision-making.

Human memory is very poor. A civilisation with eidetic memory would find us boring, stupid, and extremely untrustworthy.

We could encounter beings with incredible manipulative abilities, perfect memory, and high-order intelligence, but wholly without awareness/consciousness.

We could encounter beings with social order, like insects, but no self-awareness or sense of self.

We could encounter beings with no social organisation whatsoever, that never evolved a need for such a thing. Everything runs perfectly smoothly but there's no one in charge.

And that's just the tip of the pile of baked mashed potatoes.
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#9 Cybersnark


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Posted 10 September 2015 - 03:17 PM

View Postgsmonks, on 03 September 2015 - 12:25 PM, said:

The problem with alien species is that, never having had dealings with any, we don't know whether we can compare them to ourselves and life forms we're familiar with, or if they would be incomprehensibly alien to us.
True, which is why I'm using fictional societies as case studies. Though we do have alien civilizations right here on Earth, albeit primitive ones.

And I tend to reject the "incomprehensibly alien" philosophy; I think it underestimates human comprehension and overestimates the number of practical survival strategies --based on how we define the term, anything that qualifies as "life" is going to have certain universal needs (to take in fuel for sustenance, to reproduce itself, to survive dangerous environments [either through durability, evasion, reproductive volume, variability, or teamwork], etc), which would be enhanced by some form of intelligence (and thus would select for it via evolution/adaptation).

Overestimating life's variability is as much a fallacy as underestimating it.


We could encounter beings with social order, like insects, but no self-awareness or sense of self.
Like Argentine ants, or (Heinlein's) arachnids, or xenomorphs --yet such a species would be dependent on food supply, or would need some way to plan ahead (to ensure future survival). They could also be measured by footprint, unity (whether members from separate regions will recognize each other and share the same social order --which is how scientists identified the Argentine Megacolony), or technology-analogue (do they cultivate other species as livestock [like ants farming aphids], or use situation-specific adaptations [like weaver ants using their larva as glue-guns ], adapt unusual behaviours for particular situations [like fire ants forming bridges, rafts, and ladders], or even use conventional tools [like Dorymyrmex bicolor dropping stones into enemy nests]?).

Argentine ants survive by being so small that their food supply is essentially inexhaustible --they don't need to plan ahead, because nothing could completely exterminate them (if a few million die from starvation, the Colony won't care). The world-spanning Megacolony displays no real intelligence, leadership, or technology, but their pheromones qualify as a simple language --they're an unusually large Type-1 society.

Arachnids have the sapient brain-bugs (and the God-bug) directing them and their use of resources (and, logically, cultivating renewable food sources somewhere off-camera when they're not swarming --no-one has ever tried to show the full extent of the Arachnid presence). They're capable of reasonably complex inter-species communication (even without any real translation protocols), maintain real-time telepathic contact over interstellar distances, employ a variety of different sub-species for specific functions, and have an interstellar presence; they're a Type-10 society, at least.

The xenomorphs' tendency to feed/breed until all food/hosts are expended is exactly why most people always assumed them to be artificial (even before Prometheus semi-confirmed it); they have no long-term survival strategies. They simply swarm until there's no more food and then either die off (leaving the field clear for their creators) or enter a millennia-long dormant state (until something awakens the Queen, who spawns a new generation). Individual xenomorphs are clever (we've seen them use their own acid-blood to melt through chains), and appear to have some pheromonal/telepathic communication within the hive itself (we've also seen a Queen make strategic/policy decisions, deliberately directing her offspring), but they don't rely on any technology and have no space program. They're basically just a really pervasive and numerous Type-2.


We could encounter beings with no social organisation whatsoever, that never evolved a need for such a thing. Everything runs perfectly smoothly but there's no one in charge.
So, no government or bureaucracy, but they'd probably still need a food supply, and the complexity of their language and technology could still be measured.

Which brings us to Type-5.


TYPE 5 (Iron Age/Industrial)
Footprint: Continent (nation-states).

Sustainable Population: Millions to hundred-millions.

Government: Network of feudal alliances serving a central ruler or council. Unstable --leadership will change frequently, and those in power will spend most of their time and energy trying to hang onto it.

Bureaucracy: Advanced (to maintain centralized government), with each province requiring its own administrators, subordinate to the central leadership. Society is highly stratified (wealthy nobles, impoverished peasants).

Language: Advanced, adaptive, with local accents. Possibly used as a signifier of national identity --those unable to speak are (literally) barbarians.

Literacy: Rare and limited; rulers will employ scribes for official business, and nobles may be semi-literate.

Network: Organized city-to-city message-carrying system (probably using trained flying animals, for speed). Local mass-media (forums or town criers) may be present.

Religion: Complex and organized, possibly state-sponsored as social control (where the monarch is also given religious veneration).

Science: Alchemy begins to divide into specific fields (chemistry, biology, physics, etc). Advanced material sciences exist, including advanced metalworking using alloys. Large-scale geoengineering (building roads, dams, and leveling mountains) becomes practical, and even necessary.

Medicine: Germ theory will likely be developed, as will a rudimentary understanding of genetics. The importance of hygiene and diet are becoming apparent. Medicine is becoming more refined, as apothecaries arise to separate active medicinal ingredients from raw herbs. Simple prosthetics are common (hooks, peg-legs, glass eyes, etc), and simple surgeries are frequently survivable.

Education: Apprenticeship is routine for practical skills. Simple schools start to appear in cities, usually run by volunteers or religious authorities. Academies/universities may be available for the wealthy (teaching languages, history, and theoretical subjects), and may be sponsored by the government (serving to promote cultural unity rather than local identity).

Energy: Slave and animal labour remains common, along with increasingly sophisticated use of natural resources, including advanced steam engines. More advanced energy sources exist, using complex chemical reactions (distilled lamp-oil, gunpowder, clay-jar batteries, etc), but these may not be widely available. These reactions are not self-evident, and must be "unlocked" through scientific theory and experimentation.

Industry: Powerful guilds employ many journeymen (to produce trade goods and equip the military). Artisans begin to lose influence; speed of production is becoming more valuable than quality artistry --artistically-crafted goods will be expensive, singling out the wealthy.

Military: Large and well-organized, divided into companies and platoons with specific profiles. A separate navy may be developing, relying on armed sailing ships. Possibly a distinct social class of professional warriors (no more armed peasants). These soldiers will be equipped with standardized armour and weapons, wearing the national symbol --they are a united force, not mere militias. Likely actively engaged in exploration/expansion or putting down rebellions.

Economy: Well-developed system of currency (in many denominations), with long-distance (and well-defended) trade routes to neighbouring lands and a complex system of internal roads and stockhouses to move supplies between local markets. Permanent bazaars will be a major part of most cities, and covered shopping arcades are beginning to appear. A wealthy merchant class is likely, and may be challenging the authority of the government. Piracy and banditry will be rampant; essentially becoming its own industry (incorporating fences and launderers to convert stolen goods into currency, bookkeepers to ensure equal pay for hired thugs, and weaponers to provide specialized equipment --the age of the "professional criminal" is at hand).

Food: Widespread agriculture and animal husbandry. Cooking is now standard; even slaves will turn up their noses at completely raw meat. Food preservation is becoming advanced (and the need for preservatives and flavourings will drive international trade), though all towns and villages will rely on local farms, and even large cities will be surrounded by farmland to serve the populace.

Travel: Internal roads are well-travelled (and reasonably secure) both by riding animals and by simple vehicles. Armies are likely engaged in expeditionary actions, and wealthy merchants sponsor long-range trade/exploratory missions involving massive caravans and fully-rigged sailing ships.

Spaceflight: None, though the theoretical concept may exist in fiction.

Alien contact: Hostile. This society will be wracked with internal strife and hungry for resources; any external intervention will be a destabilizing influence --these people won't be able to fly a starship, but will try to steal one. This society will be readily visible from orbit (cities, farmland), and may even be influencing its planet's atmosphere, making it detectable from interstellar distances.

Examples (reality): Inca Empire, Aztec Empire, Mayan Civilization, United Egypt, Roman Empire, Imperial China, Heian & Meiji Japan, Arthurian England, Early USA (pre Civil War)
Examples (fiction): Westeros, Eternia, Amestris, Equestria, Panem, Megacity One.

Notes: Type-5 societies tend to be unstable: while the leader of a Type-4 civilization can exert direct authority over an entire kingdom, the Type-5 society has grown too large and widespread. The ruler must now rely on territorial lords and administrators, who will have ample opportunity to raise armies in secret.

A society this large will be constantly hungry for resources, and will thus come into frequent contact with foreign enemies and internal rebellions. The rise of large-scale trade will result in both a newly wealthy merchant class (who will challenge the treasury's economic authority), and an influx of new ideas and technologies, sparking invention and revolution (both metaphoric and literal).

The challenge of a Type-5 society is to invent a new (more egalitarian) form of government (and the social infrastructure to support that government) that will allow it to advance to Type-6 --otherwise it will likely either collapse into civil war (Rome, Heian-era Japan, the Maya [probably], Imperial China, Westeros, Panem, and the early USA), or be conquered by a more powerful neighbour (The Aztecs, Inca).

(If this one seems to span a wide time-frame, it's because most Type-5 societies seem to rise, then fall, then rise again --the Roman Empire would've eventually kicked off the industrial revolution if it hadn't fallen apart and forced us to wait for the British Empire.)
"Hilarity ensues." --Seamus Harper

#10 Cybersnark


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Posted 17 September 2015 - 12:03 PM

Type-6 is a society many of us will have had direct experience with; in the West, Type-6 conditions lasted from around WWII into the 80s (they still exist in some places, but those places generally lack internet access, so if you're reading this, you're probably Type-7).

TYPE 6 (superpower)
Footprint: Global.

Sustainable Population: Hundred millions.

Government: Representative parliament, elected monarchy, collectivism (driven by more widespread education). This society is too large for a tyrant to maintain control --rebellions are an inevitability, and a functional government will need to maintain a "release valve," giving a voice to the disenfranchised via representation.

Bureaucracy: Labyrinthine, decentralized. Separate committees, directorates, and ministries will exist both inside and outside the government itself --the Civil Service is well-established.

Language: Advanced and variegated into local dialects (reflecting both geography and social class).

Literacy: Widespread, with a well-established mass-media (expect newspapers and an organized news broadcasting industry).

Network: Industrialized communication systems are forming (post, telephone, radio, datanet, etc). A separate, more advanced and secure network likely exists for the exclusive use of the government/military.

Religion: Heavily organized, denominational (both through schism and through regional assimilation of folk traditions). Possibly losing political influence due to lack of a united front.

Science: Codified into distinct branches. Astronomy is now less important for timekeeping and navigation, and is now becoming concerned with science and stellar mechanics. Physics will be a popular field of study, with forays into nuclear fission as an energy source. Aeronautics will likely be developed into a professional field. Engineers are studying rocketry and aerospace engineering.

Medicine: Functional mechanical prosthetics exist, and medicine is aware of microbiology. Even the smallest towns will have a licensed doctor, though fully-staffed state-of-the-art hospitals are restricted to larger cities. Most surgeries are survivable, and pharmacology is beginning to make use of synthesized compounds in medication. A growing understanding of genetics may trigger a eugenics movement.

Education: Formal childhood education is common, with multiple tiers of academics available for adults (via colleges, universities, and academies), and the concept of "childhood" will become codified in culture (with legal protections, and industries designed to take advantage of it). Higher education is no longer restricted to the wealthy, though practical considerations will make education a challenge for poorer communities. Collective training is replacing one-on-one apprenticing (due to the large population and the need for large industrial workforces).

Energy: Animal labour and chattel slavery are gradually fading due to inefficiency (though many factories are essentially slave-farms in a new form). Use of harnessed natural resources is sophisticated, and technologically-dependent energy sources (hydroelectric power, fuel cells, nuclear energy) are becoming vital --an Atomic Age is beginning. These energy sources are dependent on industrial technology, and the loss of infrastructure due to war or disaster could be catastrophic.

Industry: Increasingly mechanized; mass-production is widespread, and cities usually boast several large factories. Production and trade are almost constant. The days of famous craftsmen are effectively over --factory-owners will accept contracts for custom work, but it will be done by their employees, who may go unrecognized.

Military: Wealthy and politically influential; large, specialized, and proficient in large-scale warfare: the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines each have distinct responsibilities. World Wars are likely. Warfare has become mechanized; mounted cavalry is replaced with mechanized armour, and projectile weapons make blades obsolete. Atomic weapons capable of destroying cities are likely --espionage (for information) develops into covert warfare (to eliminate targets) as a means to avoid deployment of these weapons.

Economy: Massive and diverse, and likely interconnected on a global scale. Raw materials, fuel, and finished goods will flow constantly from remote mines to factories, and from factories to warehouses, and thence to retailers. Organized shopping centres will be common in most cities and towns. Much of the national economy will be dedicated to maintaining the military/industrial complex (which will itself be considered vital to maintaining the economy, in the face of international competition and military brinksmanship). Increased security will signal a downswing in crime --the professional criminals of the previous era have become more successful as respected businessmen and political figures.

Food: Industrialized farming, with international trade for expensive delicacies (used as status symbols). Most food will be processed for transport, and every house will have a refrigerator and freezer. Cheaper food will be heavily-processed and mass-produced --the age of "fast food" has arrived, catering to workers and businesspeople with short lunch breaks. More elaborate meals will be reserved for supper and holiday feasts. Some food crops will be deliberately bred for higher yield and nutrient content.

Travel: The country will have a complex internal logistical network of roads, rail networks, and flight paths. International travel will be corporatized (both for budget and safety), with major travel corporations banking on their safe reputations, while smaller companies offer cheaper but riskier service. Exotic vacations are a habit of the wealthy, though work-related international travel will also be common. Established trade routes cross the world, protected by dedicated military forces.

Spaceflight: Limited government/military experimentation (rockets capable of placing satellites in low planetary orbit), with a central government agency providing flight control and administration. The first manned (orbital) spaceflight will probably occur here, and signal the beginning of a transition to Type-7.

Alien contact: Hostile. This society will likely be surrounded by similarly powerful enemies, and its military-industrial complex will thrive on paranoia and the hunger for more advanced technology: alien visitors will likely be seen either as precursors to invasion or as messiah figures (or as potential fodder for conquest). This society will probably be broadcasting radio waves, making them detectable from several light-years away, and the effects of industrialization on this planet's atmosphere will be immediately visible. Conversely, this society may detect alien activities on nearby planets, and will likely notice a starship appearing within its orbital space. The probability of alien life will be scientifically recognized, and a passive search may be under way.

Examples (reality): British Empire, Qing-Dynasty China, USSR, USA (most of 20th Century).
Examples (fiction): Magna Roma, the Grid, Earth Empire.

Notes: Wealth and prosperity signal an Age of Discovery and an Industrial Revolution, permanently transforming this society, and ushering in the Atomic Age and the dawn of space exploration. Space will become the Final Frontier --the only remaining way for this civilization to expand.

This civilization acts on a planetary stage, and will be a worldwide influence --the main threats to such a society are other nations. Any wars between two such powers will be World Wars. With the development of advanced physics, the deployment of nuclear weapons is likely, and the possibility of global thermonuclear armageddon is a new and frightening concept. This in turn leads to the development of espionage, proxy warfare, and brinkmanship --concepts that would have been unusual, dishonourable, or even incomprehensible in the previous age.
"Hilarity ensues." --Seamus Harper

#11 Cybersnark


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Posted 24 September 2015 - 05:03 AM

Type-7 is where we are today.

TYPE 7 (Superpower)
Footprint: Planetary orbit.

Sustainable Population: Billions.

Government: Representative democracy, plutocracy, corporatocracy, global coalition. Technologically-supported hive-mind (dependent on network).

Bureaucracy: Decentralized and self-referential (organizations and corporations are no longer under the control of the government, and can operate as independent nations in their own right --the bureaucrats are now the true rulers of the world).

Language: Adaptive; probably a single common language shared among multiple nations, in addition to their own languages. This language will be easy to learn and error-tolerant (making it easy for immigrants, transients, and businesspeople to learn the basics and understand each other), but difficult to master --professional interpreters will still be in demand, and popular culture will remain largely language-restricted. Technologically-assisted translation has been invented, but is limited and unreliable.

Literacy: Widespread, with a robust mass-media.

Network: A digital data network will be well-established, but regionally limited (due to geography or economic class). Unregulated and actively struggling against any attempt at censorship or restriction. Access to the fully democratized network is increasingly seen as a necessity, and the network becomes a tool of both social change and social control (by limiting the flow of information). Mass media will rely heavily on this network; this is the age of pop culture and social networking.

Religion: Organized, denominational, politicized (both as an instrument of political power, and a political power itself). As this society faces environmental and sociological stresses, religion will become more popular and thus politically influential --possibly serving as a flashpoint for revolution.

Science: Digital technology is common. Simple AI is being developed in labs. Scientific development is corporatized (as megacorporations increasingly become the only source of research funding). Simple household robots and even simple mecha are in development.

Medicine: Private interests are experimenting with bodily augmentation (via voluntary tech implants and surgical alteration). Advanced hospitals are common, with doctors making use of telepresence (via robots controlled over the network) to serve distant patients. Neural mapping is in its infancy, creating realtime models of living brains, which will in turn allow for lifelike, brain-controlled prosthetics. The genome has been mapped, and the possibility of genetic alteration is being studied, as interest moves from eugenics to transgenics.

Education: Organized academics are common, though may not be universally standardized. Childhood education will include an introduction to computers. Education is increasingly politicized, and there is a growing awareness of the distinction between "education" and "indoctrination" (a gulf that existed in previous societies, but may not have been recognized). Children's entertainment is a massive industry, with a push toward "edutainment" and educational content over entertainment value.

Energy: In the face of environmental issues, society is turning to "green" energy, relying on renewable resources (wind, water, etc), harnessed by advanced technology to create electricity and high-yield fuel cells. Atomic energy is increasingly common, and scientists are working toward more high-yield sources.

Industry: Heavily mechanized. Mass-production is commonplace, with a semi-organized "Maker" movement growing as a backlash. Personal fabricators (simple 3D printers) are invented, but will be rare.

Military: Industrialized and political. Drones (both remote-controlled and self-guided) are beginning to enter service. Covert warfare is now common, and electronic warfare develops (taking advantage of the planet-wide data network). Modern military forces rely heavily on stealth technology, and secure network access to maintain command and control --victory is dependent on technology. Atomic weapons (of various destructive levels) continue to be a threat, though one that most nations will be hesitant to deploy --chemical and biological weapons are more popular, and researchers are working to target them to specific populations. Terrorism begins to replace open combat; taking advantage of the free travel within this society's borders. Private security forces and heavily militarized police forces are increasingly common, as the military becomes overtaxed.

Economy: Interconnected global economy, driven by world-spanning trade alliances and outsourced production --which will also help to minimize open warfare (economic sanctions are far more devastating). Shopping malls are being replaced by direct purchases over the network; individual purchases may come from halfway around the planet (as such, discrete postal packages are replacing large bulk cargoes). Entire countries (at a lower level than Type-7) serve mainly as labour pools for overseas consumers, often under barbaric conditions. Piracy returns, though with a shift in focus from stolen goods to hostage ransoming --pirates now attempt to deal directly with government and economic players, seeking larger payouts than would have been possible at lower levels.

Food: Heavily industrialized farming, relying on complex processing/preservation for transport --most foods will no longer be recognizable as animal carcasses or specific plants. Dietary imbalances and allergies are common (due to the increasingly homogenous food supply), requiring supplements. Locally-grown foods are a delicacy, often more expensive than the unhealthy mass-produced food. Farms increasingly have to turn to genetic modification to maintain quotas; this society is in danger of food shortages.

Travel: Worldwide travel networks allow both corporate and private travel for the wealthy (via private jets and yachts). Checkpoints have replaced trade routes, as international travel becomes safer and less closely monitored. International vacations are available to most citizens, though work-related travel is decreasing, thanks to advances in communication (partners no longer need to meet face-to-face to negotiate business deals).

Spaceflight: A network of satellites surrounds the planet, providing broadcast signal coverage, GPS, and visual oversight to militaries and scientific organizations. Unmanned probes are being sent to neighbouring planets, and a semi-permanent space station (relying on regular resupply) will likely be present. Private spaceflight companies will exist, though complex training and mission control is needed for all space operations --probably outsourced to the government aerospace agency.

Alien contact: Cautious. While this society will maintain a powerful military, social pressures against open warfare will encourage a more careful response to alien visitation; this society will investigate before opening fire. Corporations will be more interested in economic cooperation than in combat --aliens will be seen as valuable trade assets. The switch to digital communications means that radio traffic from this world will decline, though their atmosphere and urbanization will still be immediate signs of habitation. On its own, this society may detect (simple) alien life on neighbouring worlds.

Examples (reality): Modern developed world.
Examples (fiction): Britannian Empire, Lordgenome's empire, La'cryma*, Light Civilization, Earth during the second Robotech War, Invid (Regis' Hive). The settings of Interstellar (regressing), Galilei Donna, Evangelion (apocalypse in progress), Generator Rex, Big Hero 6, Eureka Seven, Person of Interest, and Almost Human.

Notes: This society will be confronting resource shortages and environmental changes --these tensions will drive an expansion into space. The divide between conservatism (making no changes), regression (dialing back to "better days"), and advancement (transitioning to a Type 8 society) may lead to open warfare.

Cultural art will become increasingly preoccupied with apocalypse and social collapse --the regressionists will take this as prophecy, and prepare for what they believe is inevitable. This may result in an evolutionary schism as the advancers transition to a spacegoing culture, leaving the regressionists on the surface.

(* La'cryma is one of those worlds I mentioned which developed interdimensional travel but not space travel; the possibility of avoiding Shangri-La by simply leaving Earth for another planet is not even considered, as Shangri-La's invasion will apparently destroy the entire universe.)
"Hilarity ensues." --Seamus Harper

#12 Cybersnark


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Posted 01 October 2015 - 05:31 AM

Type-8 is one of the things that inspired me to start this; cyberpunk stories rarely talk about development in space, and spaceflight stories rarely mention anything about cybernetics or technology. I've noticed a tendency among writers to extrapolate great advancements in one particular field while mostly ignoring others (so we'll have human-level AI but still be driving gasoline-powered cars, or sending a mission to Mars in which no one has any genetic modifications or cyborg parts).

TYPE 8 (spacefaring/cyberpunk)
Footprint: Solar orbit.

Sustainable Population: Ten billions

Government: Representative democracy, corporatocracy.

Bureaucracy: Autonomous and labyrinthine. Society is now ruled by corporate-states, which may exist in a coalition, effectively forming an independent global government.

Language: Complex and adaptive, with multiple dialects linked more by function and social class than ethnicity. Technologically-assisted translation is widely available.

Literacy: Universal.

Network: Universally accessible, corporatized and heavily controlled by automated algorithms that marginalize any unpopular or undesirable content. Some sections of the network are completely access-blocked. Most actual processing is decentralized into the "cloud" --citizens use terminals, which are useless on their own. Access is seen as fundamental need --those who aren't on the network aren't members of society, and those who control the network control society.

Religion: Organized, with multiple denominations. Politically active, but with limited overt influence due to the corporations.

Science: Digital technology is ubiquitous. Semi-sapient AI is likely --the field of cybernetics is advancing rapidly, as this society relies on robotic drones to mine asteroids and build spacegoing facilities. Simpler domestic/service robots will be common. Synthetic bodies can be made perfectly life-like (on the surface, at least). Augmented reality tech allows limited holography (via eyewear and contact lenses). Early experiments in magnetic shielding and gravity control are under way as this society adapts to space. Cloning and fully-in-vitro reproduction is possible. More advanced mecha are possible, thanks to advances in materiel, engineering, and power systems. Spacegoing mega-engineering projects are in their infancy. Cryogenics technology is able to place subjects into indefinite stasis.

Medicine: Fully lifelike prosthetics are readily available, and cybernetic modification is likely (allowing for brain-controlled robotic limbs), meaning that "medicine" now includes cybernetics, engineering, and programming --cyborgs will develop from "people with add-on parts" and "robots with human organs" to fully cyberized people. Surgeries are common and safe, and fully-equipped hospitals are present in every community (with government or corporate oversight for "safety"). It is now possible to create a digital map of an individual brain, and to create neural-computer interfaces. Genetic modification is beginning to become common (to cure congenital conditions), and limited biological augmentation is possible --with accompanying social backlash against transgenic people. The first fully-engineered (parentless) person will likely be born in this era.

Education: Organized multi-tier education is universally accessible. Computer use is now taught alongside reading and numeracy, and school will include robotics and programming courses. Larger universities will likely be corporate-sponsored or government-run. Indoctrination and social engineering are accepted elements of childhood.

Energy: Green technology will proliferate on-planet, and space facilities will rely heavily on high-yield fuel cells and solar power. Atomic generators are becoming safer and more compact (a permanent space-station will probably include a low-yield reactor). Scientists are actively investigating higher-yield prototypes --cold fusion will likely be invented during this period.

Industry: Mechanized mass-production is common. Personal fabricators are common and reasonably sophisticated, with modification or customization of mass-produced goods held as a status symbol. Blueprints and schematics for fabricators will be heavily copyrighted by corporations, though data-piracy will be a thriving industry.

Military: Industrialized, and possibly driving its own industrial/technological revolution (regardless of whether or not this technology is necessary or practical). Biologically, chemically, or cybernetically-augmented soldiers are likely (whether by choice or forced conscription), representing a distinct military class --these soldiers will be "lifers," with no possibility of rejoining civilian life. Industrial espionage and cyberwarfare are common, and bioweapon threats are as routine as nuclear drills once were. The ease of producing these weapons will necessitate a security state; drone surveillance will be ubiquitous, and armed, militarized police (and corporate security forces acting as police) will be common.

Economy: Complex trade in both physical and virtual commodities. Physical currency will become obsolete, bolstered by space-based society (which won't want to carry any weight it doesn't absolutely have to), prompting an increase in cybercrime and cybersecurity --hands-on piracy will be too dangerous and unprofitable. Corporations are now wealthier (and more powerful) than most nations. As some populations are squeezed into offline poverty, free-form bazaars and markets will re-emerge, dealing in second-hand wares to those outside the system. Some sub-nations will be completely given over to particular industries --their economies have been completely subsumed into the global economy in the interests of remaining competitive, and they are no longer self-sufficient.

Food: All food is produced on factory farms and heavily processed, with synthesized nutrients and supplements to account for dietary concerns and resource shortages. Some populations may be dependent on processed nutrients, unable to survive on less-nutritious "natural" foods. Some citizens may not even be aware that food comes from plants and animals --there is sufficiently little "wilderness" left for it to matter (most non-domesticated species are likely extinct).

Travel: Computer-guided vehicles become increasingly common, especially for long-distance travel. Travel up and down the gravity well (for work and expensive novelty vacations) is corporatized and becoming routine.

Spaceflight: Space travel is carefully planned and controlled, with ships carrying barely enough fuel to accelerate and decelerate --every manoeuvre must be planned out well in advance, with terrestrial mission-control provided by either a corporation or a (by now grossly underfunded) government agency. A sophisticated satellite system surrounds the planet, and drones are conducting asteroid mining and charting neighbouring worlds. Automated facilities and outposts may be stationed at solar lagrange points. Some drones might have left the solar system and entered interstellar space. If a moon is present, there will likely be a semi-permanent moon base, as well as several large orbital space-stations. Astronaut training is streamlined and simplified --the need for more trained astronauts means lowering entry qualifications, which is made possible by safer and simpler launch vehicles. This society will be capable of building sleeper-ships for one-way interstellar voyages.

Alien contact: Delicate. This society will likely be stratified between warriors (the military), opportunists (the planet's rulers), and the genuine explorers (hired by the corporations to further their ends) --those encountered in space will likely be curious and open to communication contact (though their behaviour may be constrained by their corporate overlords). Avoid a planetary landing unless directly invited; this may be seen as an invasion. This society will be evident upon entering the system, or even from neighbouring star systems, though stray radio broadcasts will have largely ceased in favour of directed tight-beam digital transmissions. This society may already have detected microbial life on other worlds in their solar system.

Examples (reality):
Examples (fiction): Earth circa World War III, according to Star Trek. The settings of Bubblegum Crisis 2040, Ghost in the Shell, Akira, Robocop, Elysium, Extant, Defying Gravity, and BttF's 2015. Society in Dark Angel was clearly headed here when the Pulse hit (judging by the presence of genetically-engineered X5s)

Notes: This could be characterized as the "cyberpunk" future. This is a period of rapid change; this society is committed to a future in space, and will be deliberately seeking the technology to make that happen --"pure" science takes a back seat to corporate R&D. In space, corporate engineers will be racing to develop better shielding, engines, and artificial gravity --all necessities to further the exploitation of the system's interplanetary resources.

As asteroid mining techniques become more sophisticated, AI programmers will work toward entirely self-sufficient drones. Advances in AI tech will eventually spread to the wealthy, and finally to the consumers, as simple robots become more prevalent throughout society.

As the planet's resources are used up (ten billion is about the maximum population an Earth-sized planet can support), the global economy comes to rely heavily on space-mining --which means that the greatest economic growth will be of the corporations performing the mining, with little of it redistributed to the bulk of the terrestrial population. The social backlash to this leads to a widespread counter-culture; an entire generation of impoverished renegades with nothing to lose, but nothing to gain either.

In popular culture, two competing narratives will play out: one argues that all problems can be solved through technology (heroes will be engineers and inventors), while the other argues that social problems are insurmountable, and that decay is inevitable (heroes will be harsh survivalists) --apocalyptic fiction without the apocalypse.

The main problem faced by this society will be social collapse, as the bulk of the population seeks to escape increasingly intractable lives, either through drugs, crime, or religion. A Type-8 society will be worldwide, so war becomes unlikely --most armed conflicts will be between corporate factions vying for control or dominance (or culling the population of "undesirables"). Instead, with even the poor having full access to the network, cybercrime and electronic warfare will become weapons of resistance, triggering disproportionate reprisals (because they actually pose a financial threat).
"Hilarity ensues." --Seamus Harper

#13 gsmonks


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Posted 01 October 2015 - 11:48 PM

View PostCybersnark, on 10 September 2015 - 03:17 PM, said:

View Postgsmonks, on 03 September 2015 - 12:25 PM, said:

The problem with alien species is that, never having had dealings with any, we don't know whether we can compare them to ourselves and life forms we're familiar with, or if they would be incomprehensibly alien to us.
True, which is why I'm using fictional societies as case studies. Though we do have alien civilizations right here on Earth, albeit primitive ones.

And I tend to reject the "incomprehensibly alien" philosophy; I think it underestimates human comprehension and overestimates the number of practical survival strategies --based on how we define the term

You can't dismiss fact in favour of supposition.

The problem with what you're proposing is that we have very few examples of life evolving on planets. When you have only one example, you can't make comparisons.

Fortunately, we do have one example of alien life-forms, right here on this planet, as luck would have it.

The life-forms in question were the Ediacaran biota, which were early fractal life-forms, with simple DNA structures, that were neither plant nor animal. They filtered nutrients directly from the early oceans. They didn't breathe because oxygen had not yet been produced by plant life. The planet did not yet have a breathable atmosphere. In very real terms they were alien life living in a hostile alien environment.

I am not going to mention extremophiles because they are adaptations of existing life-forms.

But I will mention the oddballs out there that violate all the supposed rules of living organisms.

There are living organisms out there that are not DNA-based. The most notorious of these are the prions, which are protein-based. Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (aka "mad cow disease") is the best-known of these, but there are many others.

Human comprehension is a poor example because it consists of billions of years of evolution that have culminated in the disciplines of Logic, Physics and Mathematics. Until recently the built-in anthropomorphic prejudice, that such things are the inevitable result of intelligence, held sway. But recent revelations in Physics and Mathematics have demonstrated the very manner in which our own "intelligence" defeats our ability to make progress in certain areas in the sciences, most notably in Physics. Perception itself is the sum total of billions of years of evolution, and there is an emerging body of evidence that perception allows us to see very little, that a lot gets by us by virtue of the way we're put together.

Two notable examples have to do with hearing and seeing. We've long known that humans don't have the best sight or the best hearing, by any stretch of the imagination. This inadvertently creates a very strong bias in terms of scientific research. Because our senses are so limited, it is unknowable how much we're missing.

Modern studies of Logic are demonstrating that Logic, rather than being our most useful tool, is over time becoming our greatest blind-spot and hindrance. This is especially apparent in the world of Physics, where the tools of Logic have produced nothing but dead ends when it comes to the Grand Unified Theory, which tries to unify three of the four fundamental forces into one equation.

In other words, the most powerful tools of Human comprehension have led us smack into a dead-end, and are of no use whatsoever in helping us think our way out of the little box our own brains have constructed for us.

There is also the matter of Human delusion. We think we're making "progress", when in fact we're destroying the planet, using up its non-renewable resources at an incredible rate, and as beings are miserable, destructive, murderous, filthy, greedy, disease-ridden creatures that try their level best to convince themselves that they are creatures of empathy and goodwill.

Most of the attributes we Humans think we've imposed upon the planet and upon ourselves are delusions and illusions. Much of Human thought is reminiscent of Religion in the sense that, erase Humanity from the picture and fictions like Religion, Countries, Laws and Societies vanish along with it.

Edited by gsmonks, 01 October 2015 - 11:50 PM.

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#14 Cybersnark


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Posted 08 October 2015 - 06:55 PM

View Postgsmonks, on 01 October 2015 - 11:48 PM, said:

The problem with what you're proposing is that we have very few examples of life evolving on planets. When you have only one example, you can't make comparisons.
But you can make logical extrapolations. That's what hypotheses are.


Fortunately, we do have one example of alien life-forms, right here on this planet, as luck would have it.

The life-forms in question were the Ediacaran biota, which were early fractal life-forms, with simple DNA structures, that were neither plant nor animal. They filtered nutrients directly from the early oceans. They didn't breathe because oxygen had not yet been produced by plant life. The planet did not yet have a breathable atmosphere. In very real terms they were alien life living in a hostile alien environment.
Except that we were talking about societies, and there's no evidence that the Ediacarans were anything more than admittedly fascinating wildlife.

In fact, that the Ediacarans, despite their enigmatic natures, seemingly acted much like more conventional life (filter-feeding, diversifying, and possibly developing predation and sexual reproduction) only furthers my point about convergent evolution; different life-forms will respond similarly to environmental pressures.

In terms of function, Ediacarans and Cambrians are no more different than humans and Vulcans.


We've long known that humans don't have the best sight or the best hearing, by any stretch of the imagination. This inadvertently creates a very strong bias in terms of scientific research. Because our senses are so limited, it is unknowable how much we're missing.
Except that we do know (to some extent), because of the cognitive abilities, inventiveness, and curiosity that we've evolved as a direct result of our physical shortcomings.


Modern studies of Logic are demonstrating that Logic, rather than being our most useful tool, is over time becoming our greatest blind-spot and hindrance. This is especially apparent in the world of Physics, where the tools of Logic have produced nothing but dead ends when it comes to the Grand Unified Theory, which tries to unify three of the four fundamental forces into one equation.
And yet the scientific method, one of those same tools, allows us to realize that our picture of the universe is incomplete, and to invent ways to test this model and refine it.


There is also the matter of Human delusion. We think we're making "progress", when in fact we're destroying the planet, using up its non-renewable resources at an incredible rate, and as beings are miserable, destructive, murderous, filthy, greedy, disease-ridden creatures that try their level best to convince themselves that they are creatures of empathy and goodwill.
Yet your own arguments to ethics and morality are the result of that same logical bias; you presuppose that the destruction of the planet is automatically negative --casting us-as-a-species as something separate from the nature that birthed us (and suggesting that nature itself is somehow stable and self-regulating, when multiple mass-extinctions that we had nothing to do with suggest otherwise). Nature has ever been red in tooth and claw, and it is likely that that rule will hold true on other worlds as well.

Which brings us to Type-9:

TYPE 9 (interplanetary)
Footprint: Multiple planets (including moons and/or space habitats, under the theory that the resources neccessary to build a self-sustaining habitat are comparable to those needed to build a planetbound colony).

Sustainable Population: Hundred billions, divided among distinct "natural" and "augment" populations.

Government: Centralized republic. Colonies may be independent republics, corporate-owned oligarchies, or military stratocracies. Differentiated or synaptic hive minds would work well here.

Bureaucracy: Autonomous and impenetrable. Private corporations now function as arms of the government, and possibly as independent (colonial) governments themselves.

Language: Sophisticated, with various colony-specific dialects. Technological translation is widely available.

Literacy: Universal.

Network: Universally accessible in some form. Colonies may have separate networks, only tenuously linked to the homeworld, with varying levels of oversight (by corporations or government). An "overnetwork" is under the control of the homeworld, used to disseminate news and propaganda to all colonies.

Religion: Complex theology, which varies only subtly across multiple denominations. Political influence will probably be limited (indeed, some colonies may be established specifically as collective hermitages).

Science: Mega-engineering and planetary engineering are likely; space habitats, generation ships, and large-scale terraforming of other planets are feasable, as is mass production of large-scale mecha. Near sophont-level "post-Turing" AI is possible. Magnetic shielding, artificial gravity, antigravity, and "free-floating" holograms will likely be invented in this era. Energy manipulation technology appears and may become weaponized. Some scientists will be researching FTL technology, possibly as a "fringe" subject. Biological and/or technological alteration will allow for the creation of entirely new sub-species.

Medicine: Advanced genetic knowledge allows the growth of cloned tissue for transplants. Congenital issues can now be repaired in utero. Many routine surgeries can now be handled by robots, which will be available in most large hospitals. Cybernetics can now largely repair or bypass most neurological damage, and limited-life medical nanites are becoming common to repair internal damage without needing surgery. Augments may be deliberately designed with heightened immune systems and regenerative abilities.

Education: Standardized and universal. Colonies will work from a common curriculum, but the widespread network makes propaganda difficult; education will likely be protected by a non-governmenal organization (possibly founded by the same people who rebelled against social engineering in the previous age), ensuring (a measure of) objectivity. Genetics, physics, politics, and robotics are matters of social relevance, and all citizens can be expected to know at least the basics (the terms "prototype," "test-type," and "production model" will become household words).

Energy: Colonies (both planet- and spacebound) will rely heavily on advanced technology and sophisticated natural collectors. Advanced high-output sources (anti-matter, baryonic decay, cold-fusion, etc) will be available, but may be extremely limited (still under the direct control of their inventors).

Industry: Mechanized mass-production is universal, harnessing large-scale fabricators and automated constructors to produce and assemble modular components. Personal fabricators are capable of fine detail and intricate moving parts. Use of mechanized fabricators leads to technology becoming standardized --personal customization becomes a status symbol (and antiques [pre-dating mass-production] become fetishized).

Military: Technologically reliant, heavily mechanized. May constitute a distinct sub-species (due to genetic/technological alteration). As society moves into space, open warfare returns as a viable solution --remote space colonies no longer need to worry about environmental fallout, and have no practical reason to avoid the use of force. Nuclear and directed-energy weapons may appear as "superweapons."

Economy: Complex interdependancy between the colonies (collecting raw materials and producing unique goods) and the homeworld (controlling the flow of supplies and probably the central military authority). Trade and transportation between colonies (and up/down the gravity well) will be its own industry (as will the pirates who prey on such trade). Some colonies will be completely specialized toward certain industries. Bazaars will still exist on rim worlds, often side-by-side with direct-order retailers and shopping malls.

Food: Processed food will be the primary staple, with naturally-grown (yet still modified) food as an expensive luxury. Augmented populations may be entirely dependent on engineered nutrients (useful for enforcing obedience). Many citizens will have no idea how to cook; meals are prepared by automation (or by traditionalists who fetishize "old-fashioned" housework).

Travel: Worldwide travel is easy and commonplace (barring political issues). Interplanetary (and surface-space) travel will be corporatized. Long-distance space travel still relies on carefully-plotted courses, though local flight may allow for more manoeuvrability (without needing to worry about conserving fuel, as rescue/resupply will be relatively nearby).

Spaceflight: Permanent, self-sustaining space habitats will likely be present at Lagrange points. Corporate interests are establishing outposts on neighbouring planets, and drone exploration/mining continues in space. Space training now accomodates large classes of "crew," rather than "astronauts." Most of these individuals will be specially-bred augments --space is unsafe for Naturals. This society can now build generation-ships to allow centuries-long interstellar trips.

Alien contact: Careful. This society will almost certainly be aware of alien life, and may have already detected distant signs of alien intelligence. This society will be undergoing social stresses between the colonies (who want independence) and the homeworld (which needs the colonies' economic support --whether willing or not), as well as between the spacegoing augments (who will be genetically superior) and the planetbound Naturals (who will have the advantage of numbers). Those encountered in space will almost certainly be augments.

Examples (reality):
Examples (fiction): The 'verse of Firefly, Sailor Moon's Silver Millennium, the Sea of the Morning Star (Tau Ceti system, seen in Bodacious Space Pirates), Mejere/Taraak in VanDread, Earth during James Cameron's Avatar (with the RDA functioning as an independent government). The setting of most Gundam series (notably Wing, SEED, 00, AGE, portions of G-Reco, and Iron-Blooded Orphans), and most space-faring anime, in fact. Generation ships like Sidonia (from "Knights of") and the Axiom (from WALL-E) belong here as well.

Type-9 is the furthest a society can advance without faster-than-light travel --while a Type-9 species could establish colonies in neighbouring solar systems (using sleeper or generation ships), without at least some form of FTL communication those colonies would be effectively cut off from the homeworld. As such it is also the farthest that traditionally "hard" science fiction can look.

A hallmark of the Type-9 society will be the stress between Augments and Naturals. While the augments will have a better position (physical, orbital, and technological superiority, as well as control of the sources of wealth), the homeworld will have a large population of desperate, indoctrinated young soldiers.

Advancement into space will trigger changes in fashion as well; spacenoid fashions will vary between practical (spacesuits and emergency gear as daily wear) and florid (ostentatious displays of wealth).

Functional (i.e., non-degenerate) generation-ships would fit here; while they have a much smaller population and footprint (essentially being a mobile habitat), they rely upon the advanced spacefaring knowledge and technology of a Type-9 society to function.
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#15 Cybersnark


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Posted 15 October 2015 - 05:25 AM

Type-10 begins what I've come to think of as the Star Trek trilogy: this is the kind of society we saw in Enterprise.

TYPE 10 (interstellar)
Footprint: Multiple nearby solar systems (one sector).

Sustainable Population: Trillions, possibly divided among biologically distinct subspecies and unrelated alien species.

Government: Representative council (parliament, board of shareholders, High Council, etc) on Homeworld; colonies will likely have appointed leaders who are politically/economically/militarily dependent on the Homeworld.

Bureaucracy: Labyrinthine, factionalized. Some agencies may rival the government for power (and thus will effectively be the government).

Language: Various dialects, related to a common "proper" tongue. May include a heavily simplified dialect for use with aliens. Technological "universal translators" can cover all internal languages (alien tongues will require more work).

Literacy: Universal.

Network: Universal in home system, limited at each colony. Starships will likely carry their own servers (and will thus be networks unto themselves), under the control of whatever military or political authority owns the ship. Ansibles allowing real-time interstellar communication will likely be invented, though limited to official traffic.

Religion: Divergent (extremist/moderate) sects growing among colonies. Internal schisms are likely, possibly leading to civil war among the colonies.

Science: Theoretical and technological progress is rapid, backed by studies of alien technology. FTL technology exists, but engines are large and power-hungry. The xenosciences (xenobiology, xenosociology, etc) will be recognized, as will advanced forms of physics (relating to FTL and quantum phenomena --possibly leading to interdimensional theory). Fully-sapient AI may be present, but rare. Terraforming may become an obsolete technology --easier to seek out already-habitable worlds. Energy-manipulation technology leads to advances both offensive (directed-energy weapons) and defensive (forcefields). Advances in gravity control and magnetic shielding make "augments" uneccessary. High-fidelity 3D holograms are common, and tractor-beam technology is in its infancy. Scientists will be experimenting with physical teleportation. Mecha pilots may rely on neural interfaces to control transformable machines.

Medicine: Technology allows for cellular regrowth and cloned transplants. Foetal modification may be common. Genetic augmentation may be either normalized or completely prohibited in the wake of the wars of the Type-9 era. Medical robots are common, and controlled neural interfaces and nanotechnology are a standard part of most medical toolkits.

Education: Universal. Standardized at lower/basic levels, and increasingly focused at higher levels (students from colony worlds will be educated to be labourers by default, students from the Homeworld will study more advanced subjects). A standard high school education will include elements of astronaut training (possibly as an elective), as well as advanced physics (including basic FTL theory) and genetics.

Energy: Homeworld will be completely dependent on high-tech power sources, with the most advanced (and powerful) generators restricted to government or military control. Colonies may revert to lower-tech reactors, solar/wind/tidal collectors, or even slave labour.

Industry: Fabricators used for mass production (though factories will still be needed, just to have enough room for larger products). Technology becomes increasingly homogenized (for ease of fabrication) --personal customization is common, especially on less-developed worlds. Corporate espionage becomes common, as designs (IP) are now more valuable than raw materials.

Military: Powerful and well-equipped, potentially aggressively xenophobic --may become an independent force holding the Homeworld and colonies under a military regime (in the name of "protecting the species"). Bulky directed-energy weapons are common military assets, providing a wide range of effects, ranging from nonlethal to instantly fatal.

Economy: Increasingly reliant on interstellar trade to feed the resource-hungry homeworld and the at-risk colonies. Massive FTL-equipped freighters will ply the spacelanes. After generations of economic specialization (on the Homeworld and in habitats), colonies will blossom as melting-pots of diverse talents --far-flung colonies cannot afford to rely on a single industry. Bustling shopping centres will be common in most communities --importers and retailers order products on speculation (a special order may take weeks or months to arrive from Homeworld, assuming you can even place the order and afford shipping). A shadow economy may emerge, conducting trade beyond the control of the government-monitored and unreliable cyber-economy (using hard currency instead of electronic credits).

Food: Varied. Planetary colonies and interstellar trade will open up new food sources. Shipboard food will still consist mainly of processed or entirely synthetic rations. Colonies will rely on seed stock from the homeworld, or native food sources --the latter will make colonists weaker and less robust, lacking the genetic modifications that have become standard.

Travel: Interstellar FTL travel is in the hands of corporate/military/state interests, using large energy-hungry starships (to carry the bulky engines/generators). In-system travel is within reach of private citizens, and planetwide travel is casual. Most citizens will remain in their particular solar system out of convenience, traveling to habitats or resorts for vacations. Space pirates may exist, but will likely be restricted to small in-system ships (interstellar-capable vessels are too expensive to buy and too well-guarded to steal), and crews will likely rely on wealthy patrons to bankroll them.

Spaceflight: Technology now allows "naturals" (assuming they still exist) to travel easily in space, obliviating the need for Augments to run space industries. Surface-to-orbit travel is almost trivial, and "the space program" is now simply orbital traffic control. Advances in fuel, propulsion, and inertial control simplify interplanetary flight; ships no longer need to rely on carefully-plotted orbital assists, but can now manoeuvre and accelerate as needed. Space yachts will be common in wealthier systems. In interstellar space, expect to encounter only larger ships; freighters and warships backed by government/corporate/military powers.

Alien contact: Diplomatic. Contact with alien intelligences is almost inevitable for this society. First encounters in space will typically involve either military (scouts or patrol ships) or corporate (freighters en route between colonies), and will be treated with great significance --while this species will be aware of aliens, they will have met very few, and will likely be cataloguing each new encounter. Contact could be peaceful or violent: recommend initiating communications contact from extreme range before approaching.

Examples (reality):
Examples (fiction): Earth (and Vulcan, Andor, and Tellar) during Enterprise, Centauri Republic, Minbari Federation, 12 Colonies of Kobol, Tiresian/Robotech Empire, Peacekeepers, Scarrans, Galactic Empire of Mankind (from Gargantia), Heinlein's Arachnids. The setting of Blade Runner (based on Roy Batty's speech about "attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion"), and Aliens (with Weyland-Yutani functioning as a corporatocracy).

Notes: The important mark of a Type-10 society is that the Homeworld will be the main political entity --when members of this society say "home," they will universally be referring to the Homeworld, even if that particular citizen has never set foot there. Colonial populations will be "minorities," even if they far outnumber the population of the Homeworld.

Contact with aliens will lead to a new unity amongst this society; different factions will be compelled to set aside their differences, forming a single government as a united front against (real or imagined) enemies. Early Type-10 societies may be rife with internal conflicts, as renegade factions resist unification. In later stages, this society may get pulled into interstellar wars with neighbouring civilizations (in this case, the loss of the Homeworld can be catastrophic). Innate xenophobia has by now become a threat to survival, and must be overcome if a society is to advance to Type-11.

Any interstellar empire (with multiple worlds forcibly suppressed by one more powerful species) will functionally be a Type-10, regardless of footprint.
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#16 gsmonks


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Posted 15 October 2015 - 09:53 AM

Just a remark about space travel:

Those most likely to develop space travel would probably be in the unique situation of a binary situation with a habitable moon, or of a gas giant with multiple habitable moons.

For the sake of argument, if our own moon were habitable, it would have been colonised in the 1960s and possibly earlier, and through simple factors like use and viability, space travel would have evolved many times further and faster than it has, and would be many times more cost-effective.

That said, extra-solar and faster-than-light travel are not a possibility. If you ran into a pea-sized object while travelling at the speed of light, the resulting energy released would be the equivalent of several atomic bombs.
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#17 Cybersnark


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Posted 22 October 2015 - 05:17 PM

The Federation that Kirk knew was a Type-11 civilization, made up of multiple independent worlds joined by choice, rather than necessity.

TYPE 11 (stellar nation)
Footprint: Multiple solar systems (multiple sectors).

Sustainable Population: Ten trillions, including multiple species.

Government: Representative democracy, incorporating a council of multiple planetary representatives. Synapic hive-mind. No single "homeworld" will be recognized, but there may be a central "throneworld" serving as the seat of government.

Bureaucracy: Labyrinthine, but mostly unified. Some agencies might enjoy effective internal autonomy, but will remain answerable to the head of state.

Language: Multiple distinct languages, with one adaptive common tongue (probably supported by technological translation). Alien languages will be recognizable, if not immediately understood.

Literacy: Universal.

Network: Universal. Real-time interstellar communication using ansible technology is common, though signal may require relays and boosters.

Religion: Various, political authority could be limited (due to lack of unity) or extreme (used as social engineering). In the latter case, there will be only one (state-sponsored) religion; no heretical movements will be tolerated (indeed, heresy is tantamount to political rebellion).

Science: Advancing rapidly; large-scale exploration of space is underway, as is study of interdimensional space and wormholes. Time-travel is a theoretical possibility. The existence of fully-sapient AI is well-known, if not common (or legally/culturally recognized). Energy manipulation tech (weapons, shields, and tools) is now widespread (energy weapons have likely replaced solid ammunition), and are becoming more portable. Physical teleportation may be possible under controlled conditions. Photo-realistic holograms are common, and "touchable" solid-state holograms are being developed (using forcefields and tractor beams). Mecha will be heavily bio-reactive, verging on symbiotic links with their pilots (responding as much to emotional states as to deliberate commands).

Medicine: Therapy can repair genetic damage (from radiation or transporter damage) even in adults. Synthetic organs/limbs are readily available, as are bio-engineered tissues. Nanotechnology is common, and neuromedicine relies on mind-machine interfaces.

Education: Universal and standardized. Basic "astronaut" training, xenosociology, and FTL physics will be standard in any modern curriculum. Education will rely heavily on neuro-training techniques; using mnemonics and conditioning to improve recall.

Energy: Most infrastructure will rely on high-yield reactors and portable power cells (generators may be too large or delicate for smaller facilities). Wireless energy transmission may be available in certain facilities.

Industry: Fabricators can now function at the molecular level, allowing large-scale mass-production of nanomaterials. Most industry is based on intellectual property (one thing that can't be replicated is innovation), with the actual manufacturing being heavily automated. With a variety of different sources, equipment no longer needs to be standardized.

Military: Unified and technologically dependent. Drawn from multiple sources (due to volume of manpower needed) --if a distinct species, soldiers will be drawn from multiple home or breeding worlds. Solid-projectile weapons are not normally issued; variable-output energy-weapons are now standard. Disruptors (capable of disrupting molecular bonds and disintegrating targets) will be invented, and high-yield warheads will replace nuclear weapons for ship-to-ship combat.

Economy: A post-scarcity economy may be forming (driven by the prevalence of personal-scale replicators). Raw materials are valuable, not finished goods (except as non-replicable luxury items). Shopping centres will shrink, gradually replaced by replicator arcades, where products can be ordered, downloaded, and constructed on the spot. Internal trade may be based on energy/resource/data credits, possibly represented by physical chits, or tied to a citizen's biometrics. As this society forges an interconnected economy, economic specialization will return, with some worlds building large production complexes and shipyards.

Food: Starships rely on stores of processed or synthesized nutrients. "Real" food is available on most planets, though all crops are heavily genetically modified for nutrition and yield --some staple crops may be entirely new species, never found in nature. Truly natural (non-altered) food is a delicacy only; it no longer provides adequate nutrition.

Travel: Interstellar travel (requiring medium-sized vessels) is available to private citizens (with minimal training), and in-system travel is casual. Global travel is trivial, and may include platform-to-platform teleportation. This society's interstellar economy will necessitate interstellar travel, both for business and vacation. Well-equipped space pirates and raiders will be present (FTL ships are now sufficiently plentiful for pirate captains to acquire and crew), especially around the fringes of civilized space --handling them may be the military's main job.

Spaceflight: FTL travel is possible via passenger transports, with personal FTL ships likely restricted to the wealthy or well-connected. Small shuttles will usually have a mothership nearby, and all small ships will be capable of surface-to-space flight. Local space will be crawling with automated drones and relays supporting interstellar navigation and communication. Orbital traffic control may be largely automated, especially around less-trafficked colonies. Private ships will likely stick to well-guarded spacelanes, though "free" flight is technologically viable (allowing pirates and military vessels to go wherever they wish) --space is too wide to patrol, so there will be plenty of space to "hide" between trade routes.

Alien contact: Open. This society will likely be made up of multiple different species, and First Contact protocols will be well-established among official (government/military) crews. Even private citizens will likely have a basic understanding of diplomacy and will at least be able to refer unrecognized species to the proper diplomatic authorities. Initial contact will likely be diplomatic --this society will be stable enough to not require conquest, and experienced enough to avoid attacking without solid intelligence. Homeworlds will likely be largely homogenous, though the Throneworld will have large alien enclaves.

Examples (reality):
Examples (fiction): United Federation of Planets (Kirk's time), El Imperio, Rebel Alliance, Interstellar Alliance, Romulan Empire, Klingon Empire, Typhon Pact, Breen Confederacy, Dominion, Hutt Cartel, Gree Empire, Kwa Holdings, Killik Colony, Covenant, Citadel Council.

Notes: A Type-11 society is one in which member worlds are functionally self-reliant --they no longer need the Homeworld propping them up, and have banded together voluntarily. This civilization is (generally) no longer worried about mere survival, but has the luxury of seeking improvement (either through intellectual advancement, territorial expansion, economic dominion, or merely social stasis).

This does not mean that this society is invulnerable, however; the challenges faced by this society will be mainly political. A Type-11 society will likely be large and powerful enough to represent a threat to any neighbouring stellar nations, who may either attack it directly, or seek to undermine it through espionage. A healthy Type-11 society could tolerate the loss of the Throneworld, but the breakup of the political body holding the nation together would be a disaster.

In case of societal regression, automated manufacturing could lead to certain devices becoming "black box" technologies: the factories keep producing goods, but the knowledge to maintain the factories or modify the end product is lost.  

Any egalitarian alliance of multiple self-governing (or at least legally-protected) species will be at least Type-11.
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#18 Cybersnark


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Posted 29 October 2015 - 08:10 PM

The 24th Century Star Trek series (especially Deep Space Nine and the relaunch novels) show the Federation blossoming into a Type-12 superpower, able to dominate (whether deliberately or not) an entire quadrant.

TYPE 12 (stellar superpower)
Footprint: Quadrant.

Sustainable Population: Hundred trillions, including multiple species.

Government: Representative republic, based on a heavily-trafficked Throneworld.

Bureaucracy: Pervasive and factionalized. Potentially deadlocked, leaving this society trapped in stasis. Some factions may operate completely independently with no oversight.

Language: Various, with a common tongue that may be the primary language of most citizens. Technological translation will be common, and adaptable to foreign civilizations (to facilitate diplomacy).

Literacy: Universal.

Network: Universal, with near-instant quadrant-wide communication, likely government-maintained. Traffic/bandwidth access may be tightly-controlled.

Religion: Various. Possibly state-sponsored as a means of social control (in which case heretics will be branded as traitors).

Science: Fully-sapient AI is now common, as are solid-state holograms (possibly supported by portable projectors). Exploration of extragalactic and extradimensional space is being carried out by both government and private interests. Means may be found of harnessing or inducing wormholes. Time-travel is a recognized phenomenon, though it may remain technologically out of reach. Full neural-mapping and engrammatic backup are possible, and mecha may rely entirely on a pilot's neural interface. Personal teleportation is readily available. More advanced forms of (faster, farther-reaching) FTL travel will likely be discovered.

Medicine: Technology allows for the full regeneration of lost limbs (no prosthetics or transplants necessary). Genetic therapy, reconstructive surgery, and body-modification are easily accomplished (though they may be legally constrained). Most citizens will have slight genetic modifications and nano-implants. Genetic resequencing allows for interspecies reproduction.

Education: Universal and standardized. All citizens will be familiar with space travel, advanced technology, and interspecies contact (classrooms will be increasingly multicultural). Career training is beginning to make use of neural imprinting; "loading" knowledge directly into students' brains.

Energy: Advanced reactors are trivially common --portable cells will dwarf the capacity of ancient power plants. Wireless energy will be commonly available.

Industry: Personal atomic-scale replicators will be common, with large-scale industrial replicators controlled by governments (which will own most resources). Nanomaterials will make up a majority of products. Aesthetics are now fully as important as practical function --technology from this society will carry a distinctive style, and designers/artisans will be as highly-regarded as technological innovators.

Military: Massive and unified, adept at multiple forms of space combat (interstellar, inter-orbital, close-range orbital bombardment, etc). The military (or its equivalent) may be the largest single agency within this civilization, employing a majority of the population in some form. Weapons are available that can depopulate or defoliate a planet.

Economy: Post-scarcity economy is fully developed; citizens work for credits. Rare or hard-to-replicate materiel will still be valuable, but trade no longer drives the economy (it is now the province of hobbyists and collectors). Shopping centres will serve more as community hubs (filled with restaurants, gaming parlours, and theatres) than for shopping (which will be done by in-home replicators). In order to maintain the large population, entire planets may be given over to specific functions (industrial worlds, academic worlds, resort worlds, etc) --the shipyards around various homeworlds will have been largely dismantled and relocated to more out-of-the-way worlds.

Food: Replicators now provide for most food needs, aside from rare delicacies. Large-scale farming gradually downsizes --most food crops will be processed, frozen, and exported to less-advanced colonies.

Travel: AI-assisted interplanetary and interstellar travel is now available to all citizens (requiring no formal training). Teleporters are becoming common for short-range point-to-point travel (interstellar transportation may become possible using wormhole technology). Interstellar trips are casual (for vacations and school trips), though pirates and mercenaries are probably common.

Spaceflight: Even personal shuttles now carry full FTL drives, though newer "super-FTL" technology is likely restricted to full-sized starships. Larger ships may be able to enter an atmosphere or even land on a planet's surface (relying on structural integrity fields and durable construction to hold together under gravity and pressure). Beacons and relay satellites are becoming rarer, thanks to more advanced ansible technology.

Alien contact: Casual. A society this large will be familiar with most nearby stellar nations (and those about to become stellar nations), and unidentified species will be met with only mild curiosity (any catalogue of different species is only haphazardly maintained). Even individual homeworlds will have fully mixed populations, and the Throneworld's population may no longer show a clear majority (there are "aliens" who have lived there for multiple generations).

Examples (reality):
Examples (fiction): Borg Collective, United Federation of Planets (24th Century), Khitomer Alliance, Tribe of Iron, Tribe of Bronze, Asuran Replicators, Aku-ruled Earth (estimated by alien population diversity)

Notes: This society will generally be heavily concerned with self-maintenance; this is an era of political infighting, diplomacy, and social development. At this level, "society" might well be comprised of multiple independent-yet-allied governments, with citizens free to travel among them at will. Claimed space will be well-patrolled and monitored, both to police criminals (who may upset the delicate political balance) and to avoid any aggressive incursions from neighbouring powers.

A war between two Type-12 civilizations will leave entire planets devastated and uninhabitable --which may require further expansion in search of new worlds to house millions or even billions of displaced refugees.

Any Type-12 society that remains expansionistic will need a highly-efficient infrastructure --generally, this society is more likely to expand by assimilating or absorbing its neighbours, rather than conquering them overtly.

"Hilarity ensues." --Seamus Harper

#19 Cybersnark


    NERV wants YOU!

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Posted 05 November 2015 - 06:25 AM

Type-13 is the civilization that a lot of sci-fi writers seem to jump to immediately, either for parody (where all the "standard" sci-fi tropes are in effect) or because they have no sense of scale (we're in space = we have the whole galaxy to play with).

TYPE 13 (galactic power)
Footprint: Galaxy.

Sustainable Population: Quadrillions.

Government: Representative republic, coalition. Likely deadlocked and paralyzed between competing factions. Decentralized hive-mind.

Bureaucracy: Factionalized into independent clans and guilds beyond the government's direct control (and which may persist even beyond the fall of any given government).

Language: Universal common tongue, backed by technological translation.

Literacy: Universal.

Network: Universally-accessible real-time communication and data, probably under government control and heavily monitored/censored. Short-range ansibles are trivially portable (pocket-sized), though they may only be terminals (with the network itself residing elsewhere).

Religion: Various, likely linked to the state itself --the religious leaders may be the true power behind the throne, with important offices openly linked to membership in the order, and with the government itself bearing a "divine" mandate.

Science: Parallel universes and time-travel may be scientifically proven realities. Mecha will be designed as much for form as function, capable of combination, complex transformation, and full biological interface with augmented pilots. Spatial engineering is developing as an outgrowth of terraforming --particularly advanced societies will be able to move planets out of orbit and tow them to other star systems, alter stellar life cycles, and manipulate subspace itself). Holomatter allows for fully independent solid-state holograms. Fully-sapient AI is trivial, and can be mass-produced, yet may still be regarded as non-persons --a fully normalized slave class. Wormhole technology is common, and a portal system likely links the known worlds. Galaxy-spanning FTL and long-range teleportation are common.

Medicine: Medical technology allows for complete rejuvenation, regeneration, reconstruction, and possible resurrection. Natural (non-homicide) death is rare, but still possible. Physical transformation is possible --appearance is no longer defined by species. Species can be actively transformed into entirely new viable species via controlled evolution, mutation, or cyberization. Personal brainwave patterns (the "self") can be transfered between vessels (either living bodies or mechanical vessels).

Education: Universal, standardized. Implantable databases are common, especially for basic skills (language, mathematics, common technology, etc).

Energy: Advanced high-yield systems are common, and wireless transmission is almost universal (some artifacts may not even carry onboard power cells).

Industry: Large-scale mass-production via dedicated industrial worlds (for products too large and elaborate to be replicated), supported by world-spanning mining projects to supply raw materials. Entire planets may be denuded and strip-mined, or even dismantled into asteroid fields.

Military: Relying on mental/physical conditioning to enforce solidarity --may constitute a distinct species. Military forces are capable of deploying thousands or millions of warships, decimating entire worlds (the military itself may be larger than some planetary populations). Planet-destroying weaponry will be available, and star-destroying weapons are being developed.

Economy: Monetary system based on credits, either supported by a government or an independent guild --a command economy (yet another means of social control). Single-function planets are common, and have become the only way to remain economically competitive. Markets and bazaars experience a resurgence, peddling handmade and second-hand goods --things which can't be replicated (either through workmanship or poverty).

Food: Any desired food is readily replicated. Most citizens have no idea where their meals actually originate (nor could they prepare a meal by hand). Some groups may have evolved or adapted beyond the need for physical nutrition (needing food only as general fuel or not at all). In the case of degeneration (including the loss of replicators), expect entire worlds to be given over to farming and food production.

Travel: Citizens have ready access to advanced FTL vehicles, which require almost no training (even interstellar navigation may be automated). Personal teleportation is available, possibly including interstellar ranges (via relays or wormholes). Wormhole travel becomes increasingly common, and platform-to-platform teleportation may be the standard way of moving around a planet. Interstellar travel is casual for most citizens.

Spaceflight: Pure sublight ships are becoming a rarity; FTL drives are now available on anything from capital ships to single-pilot fighters and pleasure craft. "Independent traders," piloting small freighters will be common, carrying small cargoes of luxury (or illicit) goods.

Alien contact: Unremarked. Unfamiliar aliens will not be noteworthy, and even scholars will have abandoned any attempt at a definitive catalogue. Species-specific homeworlds may be completely unidentifiable due to population drift and mixture.

Examples (reality):
Examples (fiction): Celestials, Rakatan Infinite Empire, System Lords, Vorlons, Shadows, Wraith, Forerunners, Gems (speculative; Pearl refers to the offworld warp as the "Galaxy warp"), Zordon's People (speculated, given the area-of-effect of Zordon's death-throes), and the setting of Dark Matter (via the Galactic Authority). The Star Wars galaxy is a degenerate Type-13 civilization, when taken as a whole (the Celestials were overthrown by the Rakata, whose civilization collapsed, leaving scattered slave-worlds to their own devices).

Notes: In many cases, the type-13 civilization is structurally similar to the type-5 civilization; governmental authority is distributed between multiple subordinate nations --some of which may become entirely independent (in this case, a type-13 society might well resemble a lower-scaled civilization with access to anachronistic technology). As such, societies at this level tend to fracture into civil war and gradual decline.

Those societies that do manage to maintain a strong central government do so with advanced forms of social engineering. Typically, these include a cult-like reverence for the Ruler(s) or his/her philosophy (which is in turn elevated to unbreakable dogma, with harsh punishments for "heretics"). (This can be seen in the Star Wars universe, as the ultimate goal of both Sith and Jedi --whose powers may derive from Celestial-created biotech [midichlorians].)

It's possible that civilizations might discover galaxy-spanning "super-FTL" (hyperspace, quantum slipstream, etc) without first discovering the slower form (warp drive), allowing civilization to jump straight from Type-9 to Type-13.

When stable, these societies are often stagnant (due to both the difficulty of disseminating new advances, and the tendency of trends and fads to simply propagate across the galaxy rather than dying off). Any powerful exploratory or scientific agency will wane in influence --without intergalactic travel, there is simply nothing left to explore.
"Hilarity ensues." --Seamus Harper

#20 gsmonks


    Tree Psychiatrist

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Posted 05 November 2015 - 09:31 AM

Language itself is problematic. That other life forms would or could speak is a purely anthropomorphic idea.

There are umpteen methods life-forms use to communicate. in our case, we vocalised long before the evolution of language.

The methods of communication that exist on our planet are a matter of ad hoc plus billions of years of evolution. Other life-forms might not develop eyes, or ear, or other senses as we understand them. When you're dealing with billions of years of physical conditions, you're going to end up with organisms that don't resemble us in any way, shape or form.

For example, if we had had an atmosphere and biosphere that was highly electrostatic plus extremely low light, it would have favoured the evolution of creatures with electromagnetic senses that would allow them to "see" in conditions where there was no light at all. Colour would be irrelevant to them. They would develop something very different from anything we would consider to be literacy.

Clothing is something we take for granted, but it would probably be alien to species living on temperate worlds.

We developed politics, religion, philosophy, sociology, cultural anthropology, because we are primates having certain set patterns of behaviour. Non-primates undoubtedly would not develop such disciplines. Billions of years of evolution plus animal-type are going to lead to very different outcomes.
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