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Offline Bryan Swartz

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What Lies Ahead
« on: August 18, 2015, 03:42:25 PM »
Q:  What in the world is this nonsense?
A:  My previously announced intention to do a 'realistic' Aurora tale is now in motion.  Hence, the simplistic but I think descriptive title.  As always, read at your own risk.

Q:  What are you doing out here?  You have a subforum, dude!
A:  The last substantive update  in The Galaxy Awaits http://aurora2.pentarch.org/index.php?topic=6355.0 was in March, nearly five months ago.  I doubt many people are checking that on the off chance there's something new, and this part of the forum has visibility from the main view.  This is not, at least primarily, going to be an interactive dynasty -- all feedback/ideas always desired of course though -- and will be self-contained within this one thread for the possibly infinite duration, so I thought this would be best. 

Q:  Why don't you wait for 6.5 like the rest of us are doing? 
A:  I originally planned on doing that, but the more I fleshed out the concept of what I wanted to do in this dynasty, the more I realized there was very little in 6.5 that would help, and that only marginally.  For example, there will be no NPRs, a necessity due to the long startup timeline I'm using that would lead to them being extremely advanced.  Therefore the sensor changes would be of no impact on this particular project.  Etc. 

Q:  Why don't you just stop blathering on and get on with it already?
A:  Because I enjoy wasting your time.  It's a pathology, I know.


Backstory

This story begins with human history, just as it is, as the backdrop.  Game start date is January 1, 2015, with real-world data as the base.  To this I will be adding some speculative but hopefully at least semi-realistic outline of humanity's path for some generations to come, after which Aurora will take over and things will start happening(slowly).    Before I get into that, there are some bits about the philosophy behind this project/AAR/whatever you want to call it that I should mention.  Most science fiction, particularly of the Aurora variety, exists with some time of dystopian/post-apocalyptic near-future brought on by a catacysmic event of some kind.  Some variants imagine a completely alternate universe or scenario not involving humanity as we know it at all, but most present some disaster in the form of asteroid impact(s), biological/climatological disaster, contact with a hostile alien race or at least discovery of evidence of one, a WWIII scenario involving nuclear war that renders Earth largely uninhabitable(as I did previously), or other situations of that nature.  These provide a compelling setting requiring as a matter of survival that humanity focus itself much more intensely on matters of spaceflight and so on.

While these types of situations are possible as the eventual path of our species and can be quite interesting to contemplate, I don't think they are particularly likely.  There will be a huge challenges for humanity in the backstory, but nothing that focuses the entire species' time, blood, and treasure in a single moment like a magic bullet.  I'm choosing to focus instead on a path that in my opinion more realistic.  There is, admittedly, a rather large degree of hubris in this attempt.  History has always defied the efforts of even the most prescient and brilliant of us to predict it.  There are some things we know about patterns of change and human behavior that can be used, in my opinion at least, to form a sort of 'educated guesstimate' about what might happen in the generations to come.  For better or worse, that is the approach this project will take.  Of course, Aurora itself involves a second major conceit in the handwaving away of newtonian physics vis a vis spaceflight.  So I do not here claim anything close to 100% realism, it's just going to be as close as I can get within the confines of Aurora. 

Next up, I'll present a brief overview of the theory of human history that I personally find most compelling, one that allows a good degree of 'educated guesstimation' in my view of what the future might hold.  Thanks in advance for all who choose to follow along. 
« Last Edit: August 18, 2015, 03:49:44 PM by Bryan Swartz »
 

Offline Bryan Swartz

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Re: What Lies Ahead
« Reply #1 on: August 19, 2015, 04:56:41 AM »
Social Wave-Front Analysis

Your first thought here might be lolwut?  This phrase certainly has all the appearance of a dense and esoteric word salad that may not mean all that much.  It's just a fancy way of describing the ideas popularized by Alvin Toffler(The Third Wave, 1980).  Toffler viewed history in a way that I think is very sensible, seeing it as consisting largely of waves of change brought on by various discoveries or advancements that were powerful enough to fundamentally reshape human society.  So far there have been three, which I'll briefly summarize:

The First Wave:  Agriculture -- Thousands of years ago, the cultivation of edible crops was at some point discovered.  Humans moved from the hunter/gatherer model and a quite small population by necessity, one that had to balance itself against available food in the same way that other predator and prey do.  Civilization had it's birth here as we moved into stable communities located near life-giving waterways.  A higher population became beneficial up to a point as it meant more labor, allowing for more food to be grown.  The economics were simple;  land near a water source could be reliably cultivated and was of ultimate value.  Almost everything people used was built by their own hands;  homes, tools, furniture, occasionally there would be trade for such things but the vast majority was consumed and used by those who produced it.  Growing enough food to survive, particularly in the weather/climate changed, dominated the efforts of mankind. Until approximately 350 years ago, in the late 18th century, this way of life remained essentially unchanged.  Transportation was essentially the same;  a fast horse was the fastest means of communication for thousands of years, and right up until the end of the Agricultural Age there was little expectation on the part of most that it would ever be any other way. 

The Second Wave:  Industry -- Often called the Industrial Revolution, the Second Wave can be dated to have begun anywhere from around 1760 to about 1850, depending on how one chooses to measure it.  The first steam engine is generally believed to have been invented in 1712 by Thomas Newcomen, but would not be of much practical use for decades afterwards.  By the end of the century, improvements by others, especially James Watt led to trains, boats, and various industrial machinery being powered by steam.  The long-stagnant speed of transportation could be improved with the right circumstances and equipment, and the efficiency of manufacturing a variety of products multiplied.  Efficiency of farming improved with machines such as the cottin gin(Eli Whitney, 1794), while communication was made much more rapid with the invention of the telegraph(Samuel Morse, 1844). 

With these and many other lesser-known developments, the very structure of human society was indeed revolutionalized.  As fewer and fewer people were required to grow enough food, more and more other possibilities became viable and the concept of specialization of labor introduced.  Mass production in ever-growing cities became the foundation of the economy to a growing extent, in contrast to the preeminence of the farm for generations untold previously.  Electricity, automobiles, aircraft, and a dizzying array of other advances would follow.  The rate at which humanity expanded it's knowledge, scientifically and otherwhise, increased exponentially as eventually only a small fraction of the population in developed countries was required for agriculture.  With new geological and biological knowledge applied to those efforts, the total effect increased at a quantam rate.  Complex economic systems developed based on trade;  in contrast to the Agricultural Wave, it became very common for people to use very little of what they produced and trade it for things produced by others.  The rise of the nation-state as the dominant political entity was also fueled by these developments. 

The Industrial Wave still holds much of the world in it's wake, and has not yet finished it's pass as there are still a number of primarily agricultural societies.  It was doomed to a short lifetime both because of the rate of change in knowledge it made possible, and because it was reliant on non-renewable resources(i.e., coal, oil, etc.).  By the early 1950s, with World War II's nearly-unfathomable destruction close by in the rear-view mirror, society was beginning the first stages of change again.

The Third Wave:  Information -- Knowledge becomes the most basic and fundamental of resources, and it is inexhaustible, constantly reshaping the use of all other resources.  Right now the emergence of the Information Wave, though it began a half-century ago in the earliest stages, is still just in the formative stages.  With significant parts of the world still having not entered the Industrial Wave, there is significant overlap and complexity involved.  Exactly how human societies will be impacted, and when, in what ways -- these are matters we can only guess at. 
 

Offline Bryan Swartz

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Re: What Lies Ahead
« Reply #2 on: August 19, 2015, 05:35:17 AM »
2015:  A Synopsis

Here I will take a look at the present human reality in a few important sectors, before moving on with the timeline.  This is intended to highlight important realities and/or trends that are shaping our collective future. 

Global Space Programs

At the present moment in history, global spending on space programs is in the vicinity of 40-45 billion annually;  this is about 0.05% of the world's wealth.  While projects such as the New Horizon probe and the International Space Station are still ongoing, the idea of space travel no longer captures the imagination of the public in general.  There is still progress and exploration being made, new discoveries by orbital telescopes and so on, but relatively speaking these are quite marginal advances. 

The Decline of the Nation-State

I do not here mean that the nation-state is in any sense in danger of imminently vanishing as the dominant political unit, but merely that it's importance is in decline.  As the Second Wave recedes and the Third Wave advances, nationalism is gradually of less importance and other ideologies(religious, sociological, etc.) as well as local and regional allegiances are becoming more central.  Ideas, not location, are more and more the driving force of geopolitical developments.  Also gaining in power are megacorporations, which now control one-seventh of the world's economic influence(and rising). 

Scarcity of Cheap Resources

It has always been inevitable that the Second Wave could last only so long, based as it was and is on cheap non-renewable resources.  The pain of depleting such resources has just begun to be felt over the past couple of decades.  Demand for oil, for example, continues to grow particularly in developing countries such as India.  On the supply side, production continues to increase, but according to most industry experts it is nearing although not quite yet at it's apex(aka 'peak oil').   Solar, wind, and hydroelectric power is used more than ever before but is barely more than a drop in the bucket at this point though use is expanding, just not nearly fast enough.  Hybrid vehicles are increasing their small share in the automobile market but again this is a slow change and one that only has a relatively minor impact on demand.  Natural gas and other important resources are still some decades at least away from their peak of production, but the important factor here is that regardless of when the tipping point comes, it cannot be avoided completely, only delayed. 

International Co-operation on Massive Ventures

The International Space Station, Large Hadron Collider, and ITER/JET reactors are prominent examples of a trend towards nations pooling their resources in the pursuit of important scientific advances and developments. 

The Rise of Automation

As the popular YouTube video 'Humans Need Not Apply' examines, technological advancement is nearing the cusp of eliminating the need for humans in many fields.  The ATM is a staple of modern society and not all that new, but in the service industry similar applications are on their way, some about to be deployed.  Google and other companies are testing 'self-driven' vehicles, with a modest degree of success.  In almost every imaginable industry, it is feasible if in most cases not yet practical than the coming decades will yield automated, computerized and/or robotic replacements for human labor. 

Demands of Public Welfare

Compared to a century ago, the average work week in developed nations has declined by about a third, allowing for more leisure time.  This in turn has fueled an increased demand for public assistance to support an ever-increasing standard of living.  Different nations operating  under varying political systems and philosophies have attacked this problem in different ways, but the pressure will both be alleviated and increased by increased automation and general technological advance.  For example, medical technology allows increased lifespans greatly increasing medical costs, while increased use of robotics allows for many products to be made more inexpensively. 

From a space and science standpoint, a key question is how much support and investment will be available for those pursuits with the free citizens of major nations continuing to require the lion's share of public funding? 


Conceivably one could continue almost indefinitely with such observations, but I think these are sufficient to set the stage. 
 

Offline Bryan Swartz

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Re: What Lies Ahead
« Reply #3 on: August 19, 2015, 02:17:35 PM »
As one last thing before I start advancing the timeline, I thought it would be useful to describe the setup for the game and how it differs from 'Aurora default', the implications of that, and so on.     

Aurora default economic setup(conventional)

Population:  500 million
Wealth:  20 'credits' per million
Orbital Shipyards:  1
Research Labs:  5

I spent some time taking a look at the costs for various things in Aurora, and decided that the best conversion I could come up with is that 1 Aurora credit would be approximately equal to $20 million USD as of 2015.  This results in some costs as follows:

1 Ton of Maintenance Supplies -- $5 million
1 Ton of Infrastructure -- $40 million
ICBM -- $100 million
Standard 250-ton conventional spacecraft engine -- $100 million
Major Installation(academy/research lab/etc) -- $48 billion
Major Research Project(unskilled scientist) -- $100 billion

I'm confident this is at least in the right 'general range' from a realism standpoint.  The ICBM price was one that was pretty easy to research the cost of a modern one at.  Based on that, Aurora's default is that every man, woman, and child on earth is taxed $400 annually for the specific subset of the industrial/space program that can be built.  To pull that back down into a reasonable range, our primary faction has just under 3% wealth generation. 

Population is another factor.  By default Aurora is pretty well-balanced for a low population but it still creates some issues.  One is that any new colonies that are founded quickly add a lot of financing.  With a higher population, a couple of million new people, with a high growth rate on a new colony, means very little in the grand scheme of things.  Any place that needs a significant amount of infrastructure at all will essentially have to be funded from more ideal locations, since it won't make enough money to turn a 'profit' on the venture.  This will happen at a colony cost between 0.55 and 0.6 as the break-even point. 

Another is that population growth, and therefore economic growth, is quite high(over 2.5% per year, as opposed to just over 1% real-world population growth).  It does serve to make population quite important, for the purposes of manning all the various facilities and installations that are needed, but in the vision of the future I'm presenting here automation will continue to be more and more prevalent, the need for large amounts of human labor will continue to decline.  Labor with the right education and technology is more to the point, which is more a function of infrastructure and economic investment than numbers of people. 

As far as the other factors are concerned, the orbital shipyard is eliminated -- quite obviously there isn't one of those yet -- and research labs reduced to one.  That term is a bit underwhelming for the amalgamation of various facilities, distributed computer networks, and so on that keep a million people employed in high-tech, cutting-edge scientific endeavors. 


My Game Setup

I originally envisioned this as a multi-faction game, but the sheer economic reality made that impossible at this stage(there will be splinter groups after a fashion a long ways down the road however).  When you combine the scale of the efforts required for space exploration with the other needs of human society, the economics dictate that the only way it happens is pooling of resources between nations over an extended period of time.  Initially there are two factions to concern ourselves with:

** International Research Council(IRC).  This august body is a representation of the joint internatinal ventures;  as mentioned, the Large Hadron Collider, ISS, and JET/ITER reactors are examples of this.  Large research ventures relevant to space technologies will be done by this faction.  Most of the world's population(just shy of 7.2 billion as of the start of 2015) is here and it represents the 'official/governmental' human endeavors. 

** Megacorporations.  I define this as the 64 such entitites with annual revenue of at least $100 billion.  The 'population' they have is defined by their direct employees, very small by comparison at only 18 million.  They have a much larger wealth generation to mimic their economic power, and of course this faction will grow faster.  This will replace Aurora's default civilian shipping operations, which while an excellent idea, doesn't work the way I need it to for this game.  With this setup the economic power of the business sector will grow in relative strength up to a point, roughly mimicing what I would like the balance to be over time. 

One each for the governmental and private sector, that suffices for the basic setup at this point.  I should point out here that while I haven't decided how a lot of things will go, which will depend a lot on characters/personalities/events within the game and so on, one can consider our own Age of Exploration here on Earth as a sort of blueprint for many of the types of possibilities that could come up.   This will not be a tale of uninterrupted, peaceful human cooperation as far as the eye can see -- but for a while it simply has to be so due to the immense costs involved.  Those same costs will also make progress very slow;  but humanity's curiosity essentially guarantees that progress will happen, eventually. 


An Uninviting Galaxy

The final issue of setup was general habitability, or put another way, how easily the various bodies out there in our system and beyond might be colonized.  Here are the Aurora defaults:

Gravity:  +/- 90%
Temperature:  +/- 24 degrees Celcius
Pressure:  up to 4 Earth atmospheres(atm)
Oxygen:  10-30%

A lot of this is stuff that we don't really know yet scientifically.  The general result though from what I attempted to research is that these ranges are all at least a bit too generous.  Important to keep in mind is that it is not enough to simply have a situation where humans could eventually learn how to survive;  we are talking about creating relatively comfortable conditions, conditions under which millions and billions of people would willingly choose to live.  Anything overly oppressive doesn't fit.  With that in mind, I ended up reducing the range of all four factors. 

Oxygen(11-29%) -- A small difference, but at 10-11% brain death occurs, slightly above that and things are much better.  This is often the easiest issue to get around via terraforming anyway, but there it its.
Pressure(3 atm) -- Another smallish reduction in the window
Temperature:  +/- 15.5 degrees C, based on the best info I could find about how our physiology handles extremes the very cold temperatures in particular are too hostile

Gravity is a special case.  It's harder to overcome, which is probably why Aurora(correctly, in my view) uses it as a yes/no mechanic for colonization, as opposed to just making it more difficult as in the case of the other three  factors.  Too high or too low gravity and it's just impossible.  Experiments have shown the gravity on Mars(38% of Earth's) still causes problems for humans;  weightlessness or microgravity conditions cause atrophy and bone loss, issues that can probably be mitigated but not eliminated with new research in my guesstimation.  Based on the info I was able to find, the band was narrowed here to +/- 50%.  This is a huge difference, because it basically eliminates all possible destinations in Sol except for Venus from standard colonization -- and with the green planet's crushing atmosphere and obscene heat, it might as well be eliminated too.  So it's orbital habitats or interstellar travel pretty much on the expansion front, which will massively impact the early efforts of humanity to establish itself beyond our homeworld. 
 

Offline misora

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Re: What Lies Ahead
« Reply #4 on: August 19, 2015, 02:25:06 PM »
This looks good so far, I can't wait to see what happens with this one since it is so different from normal Aurora Fictions.
 

Offline TheDeadlyShoe

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Re: What Lies Ahead
« Reply #5 on: August 19, 2015, 03:51:36 PM »
You can also use underground infrastructure for low/high gravity colonization
 

Offline Bryan Swartz

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Re: What Lies Ahead
« Reply #6 on: August 19, 2015, 03:56:29 PM »
Guh!  Forgot about that, as it wasn't available in my last game(6.2).  Thanks, I'll have to factor that in although right now of course it isn't a thing yet. 
 

Offline Bryan Swartz

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Re: What Lies Ahead
« Reply #7 on: August 22, 2015, 02:30:05 AM »
Prologue, Part I

**This covers the major events of the 21st century which shaped the further emergence of the Third Wave Information Age.  I rewrote this a few times and I'm still not thrilled with it -- I think it may be just too long/wordy -- but it should get the general trends across that I'm trying to describe.**

The Energy Crisis

It has been said, to a large degree perceptively, that necessity is the mother of invention.  Unfortunately the 'birth' of new technology does not always arrive in time.  In 2015 humanity was nearing what various theorists had labeled 'peak oil', the apex of production of petroleum beyond which other fuels would become necessary in order to keep the machinery of the world's economy running.  To the man on the street it was well-known that this would mean much higher prices at the pump, but what was not as widely understood was that the cost of everything would go up due to rising fuel costs to produce various products and bring them to market.  The recent discoveries of shale oil, increased offshore and Arctic drilling, and periodic other new sources as well as increased refinery capacities delayed the inevitable, but make no mistake the inevitable was coming.  It was only a matter of time.  New sources of power and fuel were badly needed, and they were not coming fast enough. 

Though the eventual need had been apparent for decades, there is something about real economic pain that serves as a great motivator.  By the late 2020s the tipping point had been reached, and by 2030 the rise in oil demand, particularly from developing nations, had surpassed the supply, and a sharp rise in worldwide prices almost across the board began.  Ongoing research into alternatives, renewable or not, rose drastically as well;  but some things cannot be rushed regardless the effort.  Meanwhile, most other fields of research were left relatively neglected.  Necessity was indeed the driver here;  the money followed the need, and very little need was seen in space-based research while the world economy tumbled. 

The alarmists had claimed that mankind's lack of foresight in energy issues might be fatal to the species, causing an economic and environmental cataclysm of apocaplyptic proportions.  On the other end of the spectrum was the 'ostrich bridgade'-style naive assumption that society would adapt and find the right technologies and solutions when they were required.  Both were wrong, and as it usually does, reality fell somewhere in the middle. 

The power issue was the easier of the two to resolve.  Wind, solar, and especially hydroelectric power had increased slowly over the previous decades, but enough to more than compensate for the increase in demand.  Oil had never been a prominent source of electricity:  coal, while environmentally damaging, was in somewhat greater supply, though decades only.  More importantly, nuclear fission plants returned to prominence, the long-standing objections on environmental and safety grounds largely ignored as the economic necessity of them became more and more important.  By the middle of the 21st century, the more plenteous and cleaner process of using thorium instead of uranium to fuel nuclear reactors had allayed most concerns.  Nations such as France that had positioned themselves as major users of nuclear power found the transition easiest.  Nuclear fusion research continued, and remained a top possibility for a sustainable energy future, but setbacks continued to outpace advances for decades.

Finding alternatives in terms of fuel and transportation proved more difficult.  The biggest obstacle was not actually technology itself, but infrastructure.  By the early 21st century the capability for hydrogen and solar/electric-powered vehicles was in place, among other possibilities, but the costs and logistics involved were staggering.  Transforming entire industries based on over a century of readily available oil in terms of production, distribution, repair, maintenance, new designs and engineering challenges, etc. was a mammoth undertaking.  It was here that progress simply did not come fast enough to meet the need, and none of the replacements were quite as convenient.   

The hydrogen option was the easiest on the production end, with a combination of electrolysis and any number of power-generating options allowing for relatively inexpensive production of light-weight fuel cells for any number of applications.  Unfortunately, infrastructure was another matter and distribution even more difficult, as it typically required 15 times the effort as with traditional oil-based fuels to transport the larger volumes required to market.  The combined solar/electric vehicles had a different problem:  weather and regular availability of recharging stations made them less viable in many areas, while those with a lot of clear weather and/or dense urban populations resulted in much more success.  Various biofuels, derived from sources such as algae, made a small but gradual impact on the market, while propane and natural gas helped prop up the economy but only temporarily, as they accelerated the day when natural gas itself would reach it's peak production point.   


The Great Recession, Chaos, & Recovery

The combination of various approaches eventually led the world's leading economies out of long recession, but they had it the easiest as there was enough capital for various tax incentives, research initiatives, and so on to ease the process.  With the cost of transportation having risen to painful levels, there were great regional distinctions between what types of fuels were most used;  in the majority of cases, it was whatever could be produced locally.  Imports were simply priced out of the market by necessity.  Many developing nations, having not reached that critical mass, were pushed back into near-Third World status, and the poorest countries in the world had little hope of progression towards a more modern footing under such circumstances.  Full-blown regional conflicts erupted in many place;  with hope for the future waning, some areas with particularly entrenched regional rivalries devolved into a state of near-constant war with local warlords the only source of real power. 

Confidence in the status quo was also badly shaken.  The general 'man on the street' opinion was that a major political change was needed:  loose coalitions of the nations had proven themselves ineffective in forestalling the meltdown.  Those in control of large energy reserves such as OPEC often blustered that they would withdraw from the world market and take care of the own, letting every one else fend for themselves.  The very real possibility of another world war was on the table at a few tense moments, but in the end the very globalization that had brought about the rapid depletion of fossil fuel reserves also forestalled any such disaster.  Rational heads eventually concluded, albeit narrowly in some instances, that they would lose more than they would ever gain from such actions;  the world was interconnected and the energy producers needed the money and manufacturing that other regions of the world provided for them, and vice versa.  So the saber was rattled, but always returned to it's sheath in the end. 

By 2060, the picture had finally begun to brighten.  The majority of the world now operated on at least partly renewable energy, a fact which allowed prices to slowly decline as they gained greater acceptance and market share, making use of efficiencies of scale.  In turn, the poorer nations also benefited as what was left of fossil fuel resources such as oil, coal, and natural gas was increasing available to them at gradually more acceptable terms.  On the whole, the world had largely weaned itself off from non-renewables, and in so doing entered more fully into the Third Wave. 

It was far from a panacea, however.  The process had been slow and costly, and would continue to be so for generations. 


Fallout

Human society exited the Great Recession much different than it had entered it three decades prior.  Some Third Wave trends were greatly accelerated by the economic pressure, others were mitigated or even reversed.  Urbanization had been on the decline with more and more people working in a 'virtual office' out of their own home.  The virtual office is alive, well, and flourishing, but most large cities grew, reshaped around massive 'arcologies' as large as a city block.  These were mostly self-contained subcommunities, with underground manufacturing, various common commercial enterprises on the first few floors, and residential space on the rest of the structure rising above them.  At the very top, hydroponic farms provided much of the needed sustenance.  Most everyday staples could be produced, if not at the arcology where you live then at one nearby within walking distances.  Anything that couldn't be had locally was shipped in via bulk transit;  smaller orders were generally prohibitively expensive, so for many items the purchase would be delayed until a sufficiently large local delivery was required by the residents as a whole.  Many online-only distributors diversified into more and more varied products in order to economically provide faster service in this environment.  With 'technetronic', automated solutions replacing more and more professions that once required human labor, the need for travel was reduced still further and to considerable degree it became a luxury of the upper classes. 

Politically speaking, the nation-state was merely a shadow of it's former self.  The allegiance of some was to ideology, but to most it was the economic needs of it's immediate region that held sway.  An entire generation had grown up in a world filled with uncertainty, rapid change, and ample evidence that the national boundaries no longer made sense.  They weren't big enough to tackle the truly global problems that humanity faced, nor were they agile enough to be responsive to local needs.  It was in this environment that the International Research Council(IRC) was formed, an agency independent of the UN or any other governing body that was tasked with finding scientific and technological answers to any existing or emerging issues of global importance.  Though the IRC was formed with a quite modest annual operating budget and had no direct political authority, it was considered to have vital importance and it's pronouncements were heavily weighed.  The advance of science has never been cheap, but increasingly more and more resources were required, and the importance of continued advance had never been more readily apparent. 

Microgravity and other space-based research were not the primary driving force in these days, but it was in the late 60s that they began to be revisited as significant topics.  Much advancement in areas such as physics, superconductivity, and the very nature of matter itself was either more difficult or completely impossible in a higher-gravity environment such as that on Earth.  The various iterations of space stations had long been abandoned, and global spending on space-based efforts had been largely limited to small satellites for communications purposes during the recession.  The best scientific minds on the planet  had been dedicated to matters of environmental, power generation, fuel production, and economic theory for so long that little progress had been made in these fields -- but the IRC maintained they were a necessary part of mankind's future.  Put in simple terms, space was what was next.  There were few frontiers left on the Earth itself that were not explored, but every time a new probe was sent, whether to the Sun or Mars or the outer reaches of the solar system, new and surprising things were discovered. 

The more that was learned, the more obvious it became that we knew nothing. 
 

Offline Bryan Swartz

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Re: What Lies Ahead
« Reply #8 on: August 22, 2015, 04:59:54 PM »
Pre-IRC Research Efforts:  First Cooperative Ventures(2015-2030)

There were some meager advances in the 2015-2070 timeframe that should be summarized.  Again, we're talking about 'space technology' here as the lion's share of investment went to keeping the world's economies from crumbling to a halt. 

The most notable scientist for most of this era was Callum Hayward.   Somewhat skilled in matters of logistics, his work piggybacked off of much of what was being done to advance renewable fuels used in transportation on Earth, with an eye to applying these new or newly applied substances for use as propellants for spacecraft propulsion.  Even more specifically, he was involved in more efficient and reliable types of fuel storage tanks for spacecraft. 

His only real contemporary was Michael McLean, who began research into more fully understanding human genetics.  Both due to moral and religious objections raised from various quarters, a general ban on genetic engineering practically, and the fact that his work was largely theoretical with no expected immediate application, he received very little funding.  It is worth mentioning McLean here though because his dogged determination in pursuing genetic advances, despite the relatively oppositional environment towards his work in the early-mid 21st century, served to both lay a bit of groundwork and act as a catalyst in keeping the field alive as a viable pursuit in the minds of some. 

Hayward proved to be a quick study, adept at making intuitive leaps rather than just linear progressions.  It's a gift scientists either have, or they don't, and he clearly did.  The skill to shortcut a process and produce faster, reliable results in this way is invaluable in a project lead, moreso because of the savings in cost than the time factor.  In the early 2020s, he developed working blueprints for versatile fuel tank solutions of various sizes.  The most outstanding feature of these was their versatility;  they could be used on a variety of potential ship sizes and configurations, with a single-engine design or provide fuel to many simultaneously.  It was a significant step towards the realization of larger manned spaceflight ventures, but only one of many that would be needed before it could become a reality.  There were four tank designs in all, capable of carrying volumes of 5k, 10k, 50k, or 250k(all in liters) and ranging in size from 2.5 tons to around 250 tons for the largest of them.  By the middle of the decade, with such matters of engineering sufficient to handle all needs for even the most remotely imaginable future, he turned his attention to another necessity:  high-efficiency spacecraft engines.  The principles involved would require a lower power output, but one of the biggest difficulties in space travel and the launching even of the few ongoing unmanned probes that were active beyond Earth's atmospheric reach was getting sufficient fuel into space.  An engine that required less fuel would concurrently diminish these costs.  Propulsion was not Hayward's field of expertise, but all the fuel tank engineering in the world was of little use with the present difficulty of getting it into orbit, and he agreed to take on the work. 

At about the same time, McLean made some breakthroughs allowing him to speed up to pace of his work, which had just barely started despite a decade scraping support together and was at this point well under 1% complete.  While Hayward still received the lion's share of resources from the world's space research budgets, McLean's meager piece of the pie grew significantly. 
 

Offline Bryan Swartz

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Re: What Lies Ahead
« Reply #9 on: August 26, 2015, 04:03:04 AM »
Quote from: misora
This looks good so far, I can't wait to see what happens with this one since it is so different from normal Aurora Fictions.

Hopefully it will remain interesting!


Pre-IRC Research Efforts:  The Great Recession:  A Dark Age for Space(2030-2060)

Just a couple years later, in 2027, global funding began to decline as the energy crisis really began to hit the bottom line of various nations hard.  By 2030, when the name Great Recession had begun to stick to describe the deepening slowdown, virtually all major research investment had been shifted to frantically pursuing any and all possibilities for alleviating the crunch in power sources and alternative fuels.  Spending billions on what were deemed speculative ventures at best was neither practically nor politically viable, and space-based research ground to a near-complete halt. 

By 2029, the world's population had reached just over 8 billion souls.  Nobody felt much like celebrating this fact though under the circumstances -- it frankly just meant that much more stress on the global economy.  In early 2030, Hayward reported his first concrete results in terms of advancing spacecraft engines.  An increase of well over 40% in fuel efficiency could be achieved, at a cost of only 80% thrust compared to the previous standard of high-efficiency engine designs.  Though he was recognized widely by now as a genius in matters of engineering and logistics, there simply wasn't the funding to continue any such work.  The rest of his career would be devoted to helping find ways to dig out of the recession.  As for McLean, he had finished maybe 2% of his work on the human genome at best, while the ideas of young kinetics researcher Aaron Swift never found any outlet.  It was simply the wrong time for them.

There were a couple of proposals submitted in terms of using the existing microgravity research facilities to help in the current crisis.  The most attractive of these was to use the distributed computer network(first used with the Large Hadron Collider and later was adapted for other uses) to analyze various data from around the world, particularly in terms of infrastructure and transportation improvements.  At an estimated cost of 100 billion, and a decade a more required for the work with no promise of more immediate results, it was simply considered too costly to be practical.   Despite the impossibility of actually achieving major changes in a short period of time, political expediency demanded solutions in as short a time frame as possible. 

And so for more than three decades, the most advanced research facilities in the world and the brightest minds in many fields were almost completely wasted.  The findings of Hayward and McLean were collated and recorded in solid-state storage, and they could only hope posterity would find some practical use for them ... eventually. 

The Recession claimed Aaron Swift first, when in April 2038 he died of an accident.  The next year Hayward's health took a turn for the worse, and five years after that, in 2044, he passed on as well.  McLean survived, but by 2060 he was 66 years old and health had been failing for a while now.  His contributions to mankind's immediate needs were significant, but also now complete.  There was one bright young mind in the energy field looking for new challenges, Dr. Henry Clayton.  Born in the early years of the downturn, Clayton was now in his mid-20s and had the desire to help ensure a better future. 

By the middle of 2058, mankind had reached eleven figures -- 10 billion souls. 
« Last Edit: August 26, 2015, 04:27:02 AM by Bryan Swartz »
 

Offline Bryan Swartz

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Re: What Lies Ahead
« Reply #10 on: August 26, 2015, 06:54:04 PM »
Cautious Optimism:  Forming the IRC

It was a hardy and jaded generation that began to emerge from the Great Recession in the late 2050s and early 2060s.  They didn't trust anyone, most of all their forebears whom they blamed, rightly or wrongly, for the mess that would define most of their lives.  Many had either not survived or, more commonly, been permanently damaged by the past few decades. 

This skeptical outlook was made very apparent when the decision was made to form an exploratory committee to investigate the possibility of forming the IRC.  It was little more than the formal codification of agreements that had been in force previously among the various more powerful nation-states, powers that long since had ceased to have the economic or diplomatic influence necessary to sustain, strengthen, and adapt as global changes required.  A centralized structure of very little direct power was not only desired, but pretty much inevitable.  All of the major research centers and the infrastructure supporting them had been co-opted, repurposed, and/or abandoned over the past thirty years.  Infrastructure needed to be adapted and in some cases developed, personnel recruited and/or transferred, and a new vision significantly larger than the energy issues dominating recent times enacted. 

Unfortunately, nobody could agree on how to do this, or who should take the lead.  The only really well-known civic leaders were of the old generation and therefore not to be trusted.  Henry Clayton was the obvious choice as a key researcher for the new organization, but administrative direction was still needed.  It was a monumental task.  Starting from virtually nothing, somebody needed to be found who would be willing and able to build the foundation for a focused effort to look beyond the needs of the moment and secure a stable, prosperous future for the species.  10.128 billion humans lived on Earth in 2060, a number that was growing by an estimated 275,000 every single day.  The wrong person, making the wrong choices, might well sink the whole initiative;  even if they did not, the consequences of their bungling would be almost too immense to fathom. 

A case of 'analysis paralysis' set in.  The easiest thing to do, almost always, is nothing.  The demand for progress grew however as the recovery proceeded.  The United Nations nearly turned to young Anna Fry to head up the new organization, at least temporarily, beginning in late 2063, but thought better of it;  Fry had the skills but unfortunately not the right attitude as a rather transparent narcissist.  A personality cult was not the idea here, and the search continued.  After another three years, they finally found their man:  Charlie Thomson.  Aside from the inevitable 'Chairman Charlie' jokes, he has a very inspirational story to tell.  Thomson came from nothing essentially, and is determined, innovative, with a varied skill set unusual in a young man.  It took very little time to have him confirmed, a near-unanimous choice as it was abundantly clear he was the man for the job. 

The corporate sector was heavily relied upon for the next 19-plus months, building and repurposing various facilities to serve as the IRC's initial headquarters in London as well as a few smaller compounds around the globe for computerized data analysis, much of it automated.  By the beginning of 2068, they were officially 'open for business'. 

Two immediate goals were paramount:  the IRC needed a tangible success trumpet as proof of the organization's value as soon as possible, and new facilities and personnel also needed to be built up and recruited.  To achieve the first end, Clayton was tasked with analyzing global economic data in an effort to improve the slow, ongoing recovery.  Both would take a number of years under the most optimistic of scenarios. 
 

Offline JacenHan

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Re: What Lies Ahead
« Reply #11 on: October 04, 2015, 06:17:56 PM »
Any plans to continue this? I hope the lack of comments didn't put you off, it is very well written so far.
 

Offline Bryan Swartz

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Re: What Lies Ahead
« Reply #12 on: October 13, 2015, 04:49:41 AM »
Thanks.  Comments are always nice but on a project the size of an Aurora game, if that's the motivation it will run out very fast.  I wanted to do this for it's own sake, and still do. 

I do plan to continue it, but as unfortunately always happens with Aurora stuff I do it seems, just as soon as I started this project another major work crisis intervened(almost resulted in me losing my job).  Then I got distracted by other things since it wasn't on the front burner of my brain so to speak. 

I have a light week this week, so there's a decent chance I'll have a new update in the next several days. 
« Last Edit: October 13, 2015, 04:54:17 AM by Bryan Swartz »
 

Offline Krictic

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Re: What Lies Ahead
« Reply #13 on: October 16, 2015, 12:03:11 PM »
Hey, great AAR, i´ve abandoned my last one due to technical difficulties with aurora (see "Humanity Last Hope" if you want), but im getting back to Aurora, your AAR inspired me to begin another project, im writing it right now.

So, thanks, and nice work.

I hope you do continue it soon.
 

Offline Bryan Swartz

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Re: What Lies Ahead
« Reply #14 on: October 20, 2015, 01:43:58 PM »
Quote
your AAR inspired me to begin another project, im writing it right now.

That is a very high compliment, thank you.  I hope it goes well for you.

Some of my time evaporated last week, work has naturally decided to explode again, but that notwithstanding I am working on progressing the timeline again at this moment(well, I was before I came here to post this), so there is progress being made after a fashion at least. 
 

 

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