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A Revised History of the Future : Notes on Outer Space and Technology

An industrial space-station by 2022? What exactly is it building again?

The Menlo Park follows the same basic layout as Bigelow Aerospace's first space station, however it's only intended to house a crew of up to three for short periods - mainly for resupply. As you can see in the link, there's only three modules: the smaller one houses crew for their stay. The other two modules are used for growing high-quality faultless crystals (intended for use in laser communications and other industrial purposes), the production of high-quality ball bearings (for military and scientific purposes), and microgravity testing of electronics intended for use in satellites. The station is rather limited in what it does and was only made viable by the somewhat lower cost of space travel by 2022.

Also, don't let the date fool you: we don't have an industrial space station by 2022. Construction only begins in 2022, using the same system outlined in the link above, but is extended due to the more complicated nature of the station's mission (requiring additional flights to transport all of the necessary equipment) and isn't completed until 2027. Operations begin in 2028 and by 2030 has started to produce. As of 2030, General Electric has not made back its money on the venture, but is funding Menlo Park through at least 2040, by which time they hope to break even.

Why was the first industrial space station named “Menlo Park”?

The Menlo Park is owned by General Electric, which was founded by Thomas Edison - who famously made many of discoveries/inventions out of his workshop in Menlo Park, New Jersey (thus his nickname, “The Wizard of Menlo Park”).

You have been dealing with AIs and Supercomputers. Which one is/was the first to pass the (in)famous Turing Test? Cat Computer in 2021, or the Chimp one in 2053? Or the Russian human-like models of 2073?

That's… a little complicated.

Simple answer: the Mimic AIs of 2032.

Complicated answer: Thanks to the advancements in artificial intelligence brought about by the 2021 Cat Computer (which, ultimately, was no more than a learning calculator) a new wave of AIs hit the scene in 2032 that are able to learn from the environment around them, process that information, and respond. Part of this includes AIs that are able to “learn” language with enough skill and fluidity that, when the basic Turing Test is applied, are able to pass by virtue of mimicking human speech patterns to the point where you're able to fool an observer. Not 100% of the time, mind you, but enough times that the basic Turing Test is rendered useless.

From that point forward, the mimicry becomes more and more refined as advancements allow AI to learn more and more subtleties of language and behavior. However, as the base “intelligence” still uses the Cat Computer as a basis, the AIs aren't actually all that intelligent at all - smart enough to understand commands and get the job done, but not smart enough to have any deeper understanding or conversations. The Chimp Computer provides the quantum leap in the underlying basics that allows the AI in the 2070s that extra step toward actual sentience, but the general consensus remains that all engineers have accomplished is highly sophisticated mimicry.

More or less, science has gotten so close to sentient AI by the 2070s that it begins splitting hairs to distinguish the difference between Human intelligence and Artificial intelligence, with arguments that start to seem a little ridiculous.

How much does it cost for space tourism as of 2080?

Suborbital point-to-point flights have become common by 2080 and costs are comparable to flying on a high-end airline. Travel to an orbiting hotel is about as much as travelling to a luxury resort, so roughly $10,000 to $20,000 (2 people, 7 days) in 2011 money. Travel to a Lunar resort costs closer to $80,000 (2 people, 7 days).

My only complaint is I'm not sure if you fully appreciate how much of an impact technology and transhumanism could have on the world and culture by the 2080s. The world is radically different from the world 70 years ago and lots of things have happened in that time that seem to have totally come out of left field. Its likely that things like this will happen in the next 70 too. I think your TL is very conservative on this.

I think I have been rather conservative on that front, though I have made attempts to show that technology is having profound social effects. For instance, by the 2090s, most newborn children in the developed world are “Genies” to some degree - the issue of Genies v. Normals is going to evaporate by virtue of there not being enough unmodified people around for it to be an issue. Also, most people have had some level of prosthetic enhancement - that became commonplace in the '30s/'40s and hasn't stopped. It's resulted in things like the return of smoking as an acceptable practice and changes in the way people drink alcohol (no need to worry about your liver if you can get a cheap prosthetic replacement).

There's also been a proliferation of robots. Japan and Russia utilize robots the most, but are by no means the only ones. Even the United States, for instance, makes use of servant robots in most homes - everyone has at least one to act as housekeeper (for washing clothes, doing dishes, cleaning, cooking, etc.), but it isn't uncommon for people to have several (stuff like the Roomba, or a lawnmower, for instance).

The biggest technological change I've not addressed, and really it's because I was only vaguely aware of it when I started and only recently realized how important it will be, is 3D Printing.

3D Printers hit the market in the late teens/early '20s and are major reason why the United States doesn't emerge from the Great Recession until the late '20s. The technology creates a HUGE disruption in the economy, putting a lot of manufacturers and retailers out of business. By the 2090s, not only is the technology ubiquitous, it's considered an essential part of the home. That's had HUGE ramifications on the day-to-day habits of everyone, as well as what jobs are available and what people think of when looking for a career.

I'm still trying to work out the details of 3D Printing, and if I ever get around to doing this again it's something I'm going to include as a major thread from the start.

Why don't the major powers use nuclear weapons during the Equatorial War? Shouldn't some one have used a nuclear weapon by 2100?

offtopic/Stormy Sky said: “The major powers agree that the use of nuclear weapons by a major power against another power is unacceptable escalation of a conflict that would be more dangerous to both than either is willing to risk.”

Pretty much. There isn't an official agreement saying that, but at this point use of nuclear weapons is considered completely out of the question by everyone. That's why whenever you see a WMD used, it almost always going to be a chemical weapon.

You mentioned chemical weapons being used as WMDs, but what is the status on biological, radiological and nano WMDs? Have they been used at all and do has stockpiles? Is it just the United Congo that has used chemical weapons or have others?

The United States and UNASUR reopened the door on WMDs when they used chemical weapons in South America in the '40s. Since then, the major powers have all rebuilt their chemical weapons stockpiles. Everyone has - but won't acknowledge and haven't officially used - biological weapons. America, Russia, China, Europe, and India all have radiological weapons. I've been back and forth on whether or not United Congo has or uses radiological bombs (if they do, it's in Cameroon against Western/West African forces).

The West actually makes a point of announcing they will not use chemical weapons in retaliation for Ascension. However, they DO use depleted uranium shells against the ACF.

Really, Cameroon gets WRECKED by the war.

How far has technology compensated for the disadvantages of births on the Moon if at all?

They haven't.

Firstly, because Angela Kowalski-Burns is the first person allowed to be born on the Moon - no need to develop means to compensate if the official policy of everyone involved is “No one gives birth in Space.” Second, because I don't think you can fix this problem with genetic engineering all that easily. The problem is one with gravity - low gravity causes bones to lose density and muscles to soften, and even if you genetically alter the DNA so the bones are more dense and the muscles stronger, that deterioration is going to happen regardless.

About the only solution is to do a full-body transplant, or somehow replace all or most of the skeleton. And that's not even including all the other health side effects to birth in low gravity that I'm certainly overlooking.

How have precautions against disasters developed by 2090?

Weather forecasting is somewhat more accurate, and there's better warning time for tornados. Weather disasters remain largely unpredictable, though. Cities in most earthquake prone areas (of the Developed World) have tried upgrading buildings to be earthquake-proof, but as the Bolinas earthquake (and, later, the 2093 Tokyo earthquake) shows there's only so much you can do against something 8.0 or above.

I believe too much space exploration occurred too soon in the timelines history and not enough later. I may be being pessimistic, however I cannot see the worlds private space ventures making as quick an exploration as has been. In general much of the space aspect in the 2010s - 2030s should be pushed back another 5 to 10 years in my opinion, but after that your probally in the right area.

Oh, I agree. You have to remember that I started this back in 2010, so what seemed plausible then doesn't so much anymore. I'm an optimist, though, so I don't think I'll be too far off.

If life can independantly form twice within one solar system, doesn't this contradict the Fermi paradox?

Firstly, I included the life on Europa simply because it's widely expected for life to be discovered there - I think many would be VERY surprised if Europa turned out to be lifeless.

Second, my personal explanation for the Fermi Paradox is that life is commonplace, intelligent life rare, and that advanced technological civilization de facto unique. In other words: if life is possible inan environment, we'll find it. Of those worlds, maybe 1% will have intelligent life no more advanced than, say, the Australian Aborigines (this could account for possibly thousands, if not millions, of worlds). Technological civilizations like ours? Probably no more than one at a time per galaxy. So, there's people out there, but nobody is advanced enough to figure out steel, let alone be able to hear our messages. If we want to met another race, the onus is on us.

Aren't there much better candates in the recent Keplar literature than Epsilon Eridene/Indi, 61 Cygni, Tau Ceti etc.?

I wrote that back in 2010 (based on something written back in 2007) - well before the Kepler data. You're just going to have to accept that as reality here.

Would it be too ASB if towards the end of the TL an intelligent race is discovered?

I don't think so.

As I said, I fully believe that there are other intelligent races out there. That we haven't detected any signals or activity doesn't tell me that they don't exist, rather that it's possible - however unlikely it may seem - that WE are the super-advanced ones and everyone else out there, at least in our neighborhood, are still in the Stone Age. Or, maybe we've already picked up a signal but simply misunderstood it. Or, perhaps the other races think like we do and expect a strong easily detectable signal, thus either haven't heard us yet or have yet to get back to us. There's a plethora of explanations for the Fermi Paradox that I find more plausible than “we're alone”.

The “we're alone” explanation sounds so…arrogant. It defies one of the basic assumptions of modern science: that Earth is not unique, that Earth is not special, and that our Solar System is typical. The more we look, the more evidence we find that this is true. For us to be the lone planet with life or the lone planet with intelligent life in a galaxy with billions of potentially habitable worlds would be astounding. Everyone looks at the age of the galaxy and says to themselves, “We can't be the first, there must be older and more advanced races than us.” And maybe there are. However, I look at Human history and think to myself, “Wow, what an incredible series of coincidences, streaks of luck, and simple accidents let us reach our current technological level.”

The homo genus first appeared around 2 MYA, somehow figured out fire 400,000 years ago, agriculture around 10,000 to 20,000 years ago, and the wheel only around about 5,000 years ago. Each of these events were not inevitable, and as later history shows technology can be found, lost, and found again several times if the groups that discovered them are either wiped out or forget for some reason. Plus, you have to factor in environment - the Aztecs, for instance, were not going to advance much further than they did due to lack of resources necessary for a more technologically advanced civilization - and socio-political factors - the Mughal Empire, for instance, wasn't going to advance any further without outside stimulus because it had become the region's hegemon and the wealthiest empire on Earth, so there was no motivation to do so - that might prevent civilizations from ever reaching our level. Plus, of course, the kinda cliche “they reached our level and nuked themselves” explanation.

Have there been any nuclear disasters? None in 100 years is a tad unrealistic, I believe. What about one each in China and France, or what about Nigeria/United or Disunited Congo/EAF, where the security standards are not so high, an ASEAN or SAARC country?? But decide yourself… Also: Have there been nuclear fusion disasters, or is fusion so safe that disasters are prevented?

Nuclear Fission disasters of the 21st Century:

  1. 11 March 2011 - Fukushima, Japan
  2. 19 September 2018 - Philippsburg, Germany
  3. 24 January 2035 - Zughayn al Bahth, Qatar
  4. 2 August 2037 - Sde Boker, Israel
  5. 25 June 2061 - Onagawa, Japan
  6. 23 March 2067 - Epe, Nigeria
  7. 7 May 2067 - Likasi, Congo-Kinshasa
  8. 5 April 2076 - Likasi, Congo-Kinshasa
  9. 13 December 2085 - Inongo, United Congo*

*The Inongo nuclear plant's accident was the result of sabotage by French secret service agents.

As of 2100, there hasn't been any officially recorded nuclear fusion accidents. There have been two, however, (in 2048 and 2061, both in the United States) that were never officially declared “nuclear accidents” for political reasons, and one incident (17 March 2086) where ACF terrorists bombed a nuclear fusion plant in Indonesia and caused a brief power failure.

The worst nuclear disasters of the century were the first and last: Fukushima and Inongo. The rest were smaller incidents that resulted in, at worst, partial meltdown and venting of radioactive material (which, granted, is still pretty bad).

Who has authority over the Moon? Is it considered akin to international waters with the companies having free reign?

In theory, the Moon is legally like international territory - anyone can go up there, build an outpost, and use it as they please so long as they can enforce their will upon it.

In practice, it's a bit more complicated.

The majority of the Moon's real estate and infrastructure is owned and operated by a patchwork of multinational corporations, all of which are members of the Lunar Economic Development Council. In theory, the LEDC is just a lobbying group. In practice, it is the de facto government of most of the Moon - the Council, made up of the CEOs of the LEDC members, sets policy that governs who builds what where, who settles disputes, so on and so forth. The LEDC has become the vehicle through which the multinationals involved in Lunar construction, development, mining, tourism, and transportation maintain an ogilopoly over the Moon. It's nothing new - the LEDC forming in the 2070s was just streamlining practices that had already developed by then.

What isn't owned or controlled by the LEDC is run by the Indian and Chinese space agencies. China owns (or, having leasing facilities from the LEDC, operates) most of the Lunar far side and, as a result, is exporting more than half of the Helium 3 mined on the Moon for nuclear fusion plants. Most of the other half is exported by the LEDC, the remainder by India (which buys the rest of the H-3 they need from the multinationals).

Have books gone extinct or not? Is it all on E_Books?

Traditional books, you mean?

Not entirely. Most people read ebooks, but the traditional codex is still around: small printers and print-on-demand still have a market. Codexes are used more for decoration than actual reading by 2100, though.

You really haven't touched on much in terms of military technology such as lasers, rail guns, the application of 'AI' in missiles, etc.

Lasers and rail guns are common technology on warships, but most weapons still use time-tested bullets and gunpowder. The designs are more refined, but you'd recognize a gun from 2100 and understand how it works without a problem.

As for AI in warfare: the 1st World militaries all use 3GAI to guide their UCAVs and missiles, humans have very little involvement beyond issuing orders. For instance: if an aircraft carrier has 15 UCAVS, then there are 15 AI aboard the ship, each responsible for one UCAV. When that UCAV fires a guided missile, the AI guides both the UCAV and the missile at the same time. Every military satellite has its own (on board) AI as well. The Equatorial War's space campaign wasn't simply flying guns remotely shooting at each other, there were personalities involved.

I should point out that while political leaders in America and elsewhere are arguing over whether or not an AI is a person, their militaries already (informally) consider each AI a soldier - it's been a military practice going back generations to do so. In Iraq and Afghanistan, soldiers were reported to mourn when a robot was destroyed by an IED. Going back to at least the World Wars, warships would be be decorated and honored. Take that tendency and make it so your aircraft, your tank, your ASAT can also talk and demonstrate personality - it's easy to see what side the military falls in the debate.

Additionally, you have ignored CERN (and the possibilities of harnessing Anti-Matter for energy production or as the new generation's WMD.) *considering how volatile MA/AM explosions are, perhaps research would be done by robots on an asteroid.*

Yeah, I guess I have. Honestly, it slipped my mind. ^_^()

Finally, with such much work into space travel, you haven't touched on things like theoretic physics in regards to faster than light travel or things like string theory and other issues of that nature.

One of my first decisions going into this was “No Faster-than Light.” In this world, Faster than Light travel is impossible. There's the Warp Drive idea, but humans are not going to figure out how to make it work before 2150. We are capable of travelling closer and closer to the speed of light, but not over it. Sorry!

See Also

timelines/arhotf_space.txt · Last modified: 2016/06/04 20:14 by petike