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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Open Discussions About Writing » Space Fiction (Page 2)

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Author Topic: Space Fiction
Survivor
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Okay, I'll take it to e-mail. But I'd really like to know.
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Zero
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I am going to write you out a prescription for one "The Armchair Economist," which is a short but excellent read that can help a person lose their economic-ignorance-virginity. Enjoy.
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Survivor
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Okay, enough with the insults. Send me an email or shut up about it.

If you want to explain, in an honest and open exchange, what you meant, then we can do that in email. If, on the other hand, you really just want to play "I can bitch slap Survivor with my 1337 knowledge", then we can find someplace to play without bugging KDW.

For the record, no real economist I've ever talked to has ever thought me ignorant on the subject. So your last comment makes me extremely doubtful that you actually have anything useful to say. But I'm still willing to hear your reply.


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arriki
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At the risk of returning to the original topic of space fiction, has anyone read Karl Schroeder’s new book, SUN OF SUNS?

I realize there has been speculation about bubble worlds before, but this one is fleshed out pretty well. There are places where his descriptions just do not build pictures in my mind, but that may be me and not his skill as a writer. Still, I’m finding it fascinating to journey through this place which is a big bubble of air and water with small fusion suns in it and cities that are buildings roped together and some that spin to give gravity. And humans living there.

The human civilization inside the bubble is the same old mix of styles we have today, but halfway through the book he hints at another civilization outside where something makes things for people and people have lost the ability to sort of connect with reality. As I said, it’s only hints of that, but, since it is purported to be a trilogy, I assume we’ll go out and roam around in that more variant civilization eventually.

So, how would an economy work where everyone has all/anything they need and desire?

I can’t imagine humans not wanting more or pushing to be more whatever that someone else. Without exchange of goods and work, what values might run society? Prestige? But based on what? Breeding, background, genetics? A little of that seemed like it might be what’s going on in Iain Bank’s EXCESSION.

Look at the super-rich today. Once you have so much money (at least for a time) that money is no longer a factor, what runs society at their lofty levels? Some of it is still goods – the biggest, fanciest house(s), marriage partner, most spectacular charity donation? Connections with others still higher on the ladder of prestige and power? Talent at some art?


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Rommel Fenrir Wolf II
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I would have to agree. Way off topic.
Time for a new subject to argue over

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hoptoad
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quote:
So, how would an economy work where everyone has all/anything they need and desire?

I think there is a natural hierarchy of desires. It starts with bodily requirements, things like food, water and satisfying apetites. Once these things are fulfilled then we move on to wanting the praise and or admiration of others. Once that is fulfilled we move on to wanting wealth, power etc. Once we have all these external desires met, where do we go? It has to be inward, to the conquering of self.

Doesn't it?

But I have drifted away from the question.

IMO

In a self-contained society where everyone TRULY has everything they could possibly want the economy would have to rely on diversion or the introduction of a perception of a lack. The creation of diversions and/or false-anxieties would become industries.

OR

In a society that was not self contained, the desire to expand altruistically into other less-abundant societies would be almost unstoppable. This is diversion.

Thought that stems from the idea of diversion: What if society/technology got to such a point that humans could generate their own universes in endless parallel planes and tweak them from the outside (without messing up the basic laws) and dwell within it when or if they should desire to do that. The people would be wholly consumed by the monitoring and desire for the welfare etc of the inhabitants of these microverses/universes or whatever you may call them.

(I've just had an idea for a short story: For Sale — Second-hand Universe — Unfinished Project.)

I don't believe a society where all the needs are met could be achieved and maintained without some unifying indoctrination of the populace. Some philosophy that actively causes people to believe they want exactly the same things as everyone else or limits their desires to that of homogenous mediocrity OR switches people's focus from their own need/desires to those of other people.

[This message has been edited by hoptoad (edited February 13, 2007).]


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Survivor
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I don't think that it's logically possible to fulfil all human needs. After all, the number one human need is to be ranked higher than others, as has already been pointed out. Fulfilling that desire for more than a small minority is inherently impossible.

That alone proves hoptoad's point about the absolute requirement that the desires of the population be altered/restricted to exclude essentially competitive desires. But if you can control desires to that degree, it doesn't require any specific level of economy to fulfil all desires, you just alter the desires to match whatever exists.


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Zero
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quote:
For the record, no real economist I've ever talked to has ever thought me ignorant on the subject. So your last comment makes me extremely doubtful that you actually have anything useful to say. But I'm still willing to hear your reply.

For the record, I've already sent you two e-mails. Unfortunately not all of us are able to be as available to our respective online communities because I'm interviewing for two jobs and trying to manage part time work with full time school. I apologize if my e-mails take a day to respond to.

And I want it known that "The armchair economist" is not supposed to be an insult. It would be a great and worthwile read to even Keynes or Smith or Marx, etc.

And lastly I apologize. I tend to insult people I like or feel akin to, it's just a personality habit.


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Survivor
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Fine fine. I hadn't gotten either of them at that point, and KDW really did ask us to take the discussion elsewhere. All parties shall henceforth call the issue closed.

Unless someone wants to discuss the fact that the total wealth of an interstellar society has to be measured in terms of the absolute power of its space fleets


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Zero
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And its ability to maintain those fleets.
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Survivor
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I'm sure you could factor that into "total power" somehow...say under the capability to survive attrition.

You'd also need to factor in range, weaponry, availability of reliable and effective crew, tactical flexability, and style points for thinking of designs other than simple geometric shapes


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Zero
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And is it a drafted military or a volunteer one? Believe it or not that's a crucial question.
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Chaldea
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Survivor and Zero: What you describe as interstellar wealth, or rather, what you say interstellar societies consider "wealth," is yesterday's novel, IMHO. These are realities and concepts every sf writer has dragged their novels through for seeming aeons.

What if some societies could molecularly create whatever they needed? Or maybe all citizens trade goods and services? Without the impetus to wrangle over or struggle for material things, or even territory, what is left? What would happen to humans or beings? Wouldn't they turn to inward speculation or invention, or more altruistic persuits? Only to be thwarted by less developed societies? Or maybe without "struggle" all sentient life would hang in peril of total disintegration.

In any case Who knows. Take away what we now understand about human behavior and what have you got? And don't say "The lack of any tension in a very blah story." A clever writer could figure it out. And maybe someone has already written this?

[This message has been edited by Chaldea (edited February 14, 2007).]


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Robert Nowall
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Interstellar "wealth" would be tricky. I think it would be dependent on how fast (in one's stories) the ships can get from star to star and planet to planet.

If things are limited to light speed (as, is probably but not definitely, the case in "real life"), transit time would be in years and centuries. "Wealth" probably would not survive such a journey. Trade would be virtually impossible. An interstellar economy would be impossible

If it's weeks and months, then trade and wealth and exchange rates and all that economic stff comes into play. (It'd be that way within the solar system---voyages to the planets won't take any more time than it used to take to sail the oceans.)

But if it's days or hours, it'll be all one economy and one kind of money.

(---Thoughts from someone who finds economics boring.)


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Avatar300
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quote:
Without the impetus to wrangle over or struggle for material things, or even territory, what is left?


Nonphysical things: I'm smarter than you, I could be king; My god can beat up your god, worship him or die; My novel was way better than your stupid book, have at you! And so on.

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Zero
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Chaldea,

In your example there is no material scarcity. The laws of economics would demand the society to be lax and non-productive. For lack of incentives to do otherwise. They would devolve back to the point where there is again scarcity.

And Survivor was dead right when he suggested there would still be "scarcity" in human relations. Things like affection or respect or even fear are scarce resources. Therefore while this is going on the resource being fought over would probably be power.

I want to say there is room for a lot of speculation on what could happen. Except that I don't think there is. Economics and History have made it pretty clear what would happen. It's rational and predictable human behavior.


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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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Thank you.

For whatever it may be worth, at the University of Utah (when I attended, though I think it's still the case) the economics department was part of the college of social and behavioral sciences and not the college of business. I believe the reason for that is that economics is much more closely related to psychology and sociology than it is to finance and marketing.

I also understand that it is a much tougher field to understand than something simple like accounting, partly because economics is much harder to quantify.


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Survivor
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What was that series that featured a seemingly pointless "econo-war" in the far future? In one of the early stories, a guy drops out and emigrates to a "neutral" society only to discover that nothing in this society ever gets done. The people there have inherited enough technology to make their lives very easy, and they're satisfied with that, they aren't personally competitive and their society isn't competitive with the two societies engaged in the econo-war (which is a real war, but the actual fighting is limited to highly specialized forces, most of the strategy is concentrated on increasing economic output so that any military build-up by the other side could be instantly countered).

While an interstellar economy would be tricky if you only had lightspeed travel, it would be so because most wealth would be better employed locally now than in another star system years down the road. If some system produced something that was unique enough and couldn't be easily replicated elsewhere, then some trade could exist. Since artworks from very different cultures could probably meet this standard, there would be some trade, even if it were only "virtual" (in other words, just beamed transmissions). Information in a technologically advanced civilization can be reproduced for very low cost, and it would be highly valuable to a civilization that couldn't produce that same information independently.

If we assume that things like dark matter or whatever exist in substantial quantities, and have properties other than being "dark" and "massive", then probably advances in science would yield the potential for trade of these materials should different types have different abundances in different systems. You know, like "Elerium-115" (I think there's a wikipedia article about how that should actually be 115ium-4xx, though of course we don't know the exact isotope number because we don't have any to study) of X-Com fame, which made interstellar travel feasible.

We have travel anywhere in the world in hours/days, but we still don't have a single currency standard because of political obsticles. A star system might choose to use idiosyncratic currency for any number of reasons, only some of which would be simply as a barrier to trade. For instance, if the local culture produces and consumes primarily products that are only valued in that culture, it wouldn't make a lot of sense to put up with the vagaries of the outside economy controlling your currency supply. Or if your culture was hostile to the culture that dominated the monetary policy of the rest of the interstellar economy, it might make sense just as a way to avoid potential economic sabotage if you genuinely believed that culture was likely to enact foolish monetary policy.

A lot of it might just be simple nationalism, the desire to have an independent currency with your national leader's picture on it. I'm pretty sure that's the only function of at least a few currency instruments in our world today.


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Rommel Fenrir Wolf II
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What if it a society that dose not use money or believe in such thing. Only because it started wars in which a grate many people got killed.
They might be the strongest force in the galaxy/ known universe because of it. They would not need to worry where the money is coming from or what it is going to be spent on. They would in cense communist. Hopefully not like the Soviet Union’s war based economy. Although the Soviet Union used money, but they went bankrupt because of their war based economy, and they had an impressive military at one point because of it.

Oh the logistics of designing a civilization on which to base a sci-fi book.


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Survivor
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Or you could call them National Socialist, which would make more sense.

The problem is that a human society has to deal with human motivations and human limitations. Just saying that you don't have money doesn't mean that eveything is free, someone still has to do all the work that goes into building up your military. You have to work out a system of assigning rewards for making and maintaining all those weapons, or the soldiers have to fight with their bare hands. You have to produce and distribute food, or the workers starve.

Money is a natural part of human society, men have coined/adopted currency of various types since long before anyone understood economics and monetary policy. It is impossible to imagine a human society more complex than simple clans that didn't use some kind of currency.

I suppose that if you had a warlike race that established social dominance through individual martial prowess, that might work. Such a system can't work for humans because humans must be prepared to fight to the death to establish martial superiority, because some humans will insist on dying before giving in, and they make that decision for reasons totally unrelated to relative martial prowess. So you can't easily build a complex heirarchy based on rational assessment of superior fighting ability. The human version of a feudal society needs money just as much as any other human society. But a species with a different evolutionary history, perhaps one based more on pure predators than on scavenging omnivores, might be able to carry on such a moneyless economy.

As the above indicates, one of the fundamental issues that an economy exists to address is the question of who directs whom in their productive activities. That is one reason that complex economics have become an intensely political question, and also the reason that money so often is connected to the state rather than any other entity.


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hoptoad
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what if we remove human agency
that would work, wouldn't it?
Everyone would be equal, no rich, no poor, programmed with a biological imperative to work.

I guess someone would have to administer the system and of course therein is the lie.

But we don't have to tell anyone that someone else is in charge.

Perhaps it could be a computer without body or passions etc


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arriki
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Suppose...just suppose...that for some obscure reason a world government REALLY imposed a one-child rule on all humanity.

After a while humanity would be down to a single individual, either one male or one female the embodiment of the human race. Then that person was cloned (perfectly, not degradation of dna) into billions. Everyone would be equal because they'd all be the same -- equal. No sexual tension. No preference because of being related. There would be some differences due to environment. Environment would at last have triumphed over heredity in the old question of which has the most effect on humans.

What sort of society would you have then?


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Rommel Fenrir Wolf II
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Dose the race have to be human? If the race isn’t human they don’t naturally need to have human traits of greed, power, wealth what have you. What if the race was naturally a “Utopian Society” but with a flaw like their gene pool was growing thin over a period of sever hundred thousand years and they did not know about it until it was to late?
It might work, but then again it might not.
Rommel Fenrir Wolf II

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Survivor
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I think that if you raise humans in a situation where there is no "opposite" gender, they tend to develop homosexual behavior. This has been demonstrated in sexually homogeneous groups since ancient Greece. Given the degree to which this can lead to or involve extremes of violent behavior when the population in question is male, you'd better hope that your "last human" is a girl. That also makes the whole cloning thing easier

And they wouldn't be equal by any means. You'd have an original, and a second batch, and a third...it would be impossible to expect the original to raise more than a couple at a time without any human assistance, and human children need human contact from the very beginning, you raise those kids in isolation while only taking care of their physical needs and they'll definitely become sociopathic or retarded. Raise them in batches of age contemporaries and they'll be barbarians, with whatever childish notions of "civilization" they developed on their own.

It would take couple of centuries to get a population of billions, even if you push the process to its limits, and they will have a rigidly heirarchical society due to the demands of establishing generational tranmission of civilization under such extreme conditions. Or you can have a billion murderous savages in a couple of decades. All equal, thus all forced to establish dominance by dint of simple, lethal force.

I suppose it could be entertaining, in a way...if anyone else were around to watch

For a non-human race you can posit anything and go from there. As long as their basic social structure would allow them to survive in a "natural" (ie pretechnological) environment then I don't think you'll draw too many objections as long as they clearly look inhuman in addition to acting inhuman.


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