Monday, November 28, 2016

Making Up The Contango Universe - Aristotle's Poetics & Our Core Technologies

Back when I was getting my BA in English I was determined to be a writer. A foolish thought, I know. One book that stuck with me from that period of my life, though I guess it's more accurate to call it a scroll, was Aristotle's Poetics.

The topic is basically "how to make good literature". Out of the different subjects he covers, I found mythos (plot) and ethos (charactres) to be most relevant to me. I won't be rephrasing the entire sections here for obvious reasons, if you're into writing, you should definitely go and check out the entire thing. Do keep in mind that Aristotle was extremely sexist and the dude literally does not check his privilege even a single time.

Aquamanile in the Form of Aristotle and Phyllis

There's two things that Aristotle repeats a few times regarding both characters and plot - that they have to come out of probability or necessity. That the characters need to be true to life and consistent (ie "in character"). He says that the difference between history and poetry (ie literature) isn't that one is in verse and the other isn't, but rather that one talks about what was and the other - would could be or could have been.

This ties in nicely with my (and Ed's) love for realism in fictional things - be those things games or sci-fi universes. So when we started flashing out the Contango universe, we obviously wanted to make it a more or less plausible future of the world we live in today. The farther you go into the said imaginary future, the harder it becomes to convince yourself that it is still plausible. To overcome this we went with technological determinism. We decided to choose our core technologies and then imagine what the world around them would look like.

Every industrial revolution (we've currently had 3 and are reportedly in the middle of the 4th one), had a core technology (or a technological breakthrough). You can also talk about the core technologies of each sine wave cycles of capitalism but I'll concentrate on the economics of the future in the next entry. First industrial revolution saw steam power and mechanisation of labour, second - assembly lines and electrification, third - computers and automation of factories and the fourth one involves the so-called cyber physical systems, ie internet of things and big data gone wild.

"Cyber physical systems in the UK!" Sex Pistols 40th Anniversary Tour

So we carried on from there. The fifth one would be fusion power and the beginning of space exploitation and the sixth one - worm hole travel and mass colonisation of our part of Milky Way. Also cloning. Quite a lot of cloning.

If you think about it, every sci-fi universe has core technologies - Star Wars has massive ships and crapsabres, Star Trek has teleportation and warp drives (both of them have FTL communications, if I'm not mistaken), Alien has 80s CRT screens and no internet, Blade Runner has cyborgs and constant rain and Terminator and Matrix have a pile of stinking shit that makes no sense. We chose fusion and worm holes. And super over extended neoliberal capitalism in space.

Having fusion power potentially necessitates accelerated space exploration and exploitation to procure Helium 3 (and maybe also Deuterium) and makes energy abundant as long as raw material shipments aren't disrupted. Mining operations in our solar system would need space travel to become much cheaper than it is today - hence the development of space fountains, orbital rings and launch loops. With the amount of energy an efficient fusion core would give you, you could have artificial gravity in space ships using only current day technology (Diamagnetism).

The wormhole technology allows near instant travel and exchange of information between two wormhole stations. This makes possible somewhat rapid colonisation of our galactic neighbourhood. The stations would still need to be towed to the new site through conventional means and would only open to those who were authorised to go through, thus further reinforcing the divide between the rich and the poor, the core worlds and the fringe, those with power and those who have nothing. You would have worlds were people farm using oxen and those where they are fed grapes by cyborg lions who speak only Finnish. In a world like this a person could be cloned into slavery and be required by law to vote for Proxima Centauri B next top supermodel and like it.

He doesn't need his hands to vote.

In the next entry I'll talk about the more economic side of things and how capitalism could carry on 300 years into the future.

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