Editor’s note: This is part 6 of Khannea’s 2113 future history.
Khannea’s note: My series 2113 (2114( is a speculative series of articles on a fictional timeline of the future set one century from “now” . This time portrays the future as it might be based on several premises. This fictional timeline assumes things will be a logical extension of the world of 2014, will perpetuate all things mostly as they are, yet everything turns out good.
So the most important first premise is that we have no major catastrophes, and progress persists more or less without major industrial or societal collapse as it has for the last few centuries. A second premise is that we do not have a “tabula rasa” Singularity. The emergence of artificial intelligence occurs gradual and does not “displace” large sections of humanity, or the values espoused by current cultures. Again, this envisioned future is by no means a certainty. In this preferred future the transition of human minds in to machine substrates and the recognition of non-human minds and human mental minds on artificial substrates is achieved seamlessly and “without major societal collapse”. The article also assumes a somewhat implausible continuation of the current abundance-assuming paradigm of freedom, free trade, globalism (or what might be labelled ‘Universalism’ in the 22nd century), a further increase and refinement of democracy and a growth of both individual affluence of all people, as well as a vast increase in individual affluence of elites.
In 2114 there is a war of words, and the war is waged between the two ideological poles of the Solar System. On the one extreme is the political center, and this statist center stands for democracy. Of all registered citizenship minds in the Solar System (well over 2.5 trillion and counting) a vast majority over 95% supports this state of affairs, and it can be said that this is the most in-demand cultural state of affairs possible. It isn’t a state however. There are no more precisely defined states. There is consensus, largely carried by automated systems that tally votes in a bewilderingly complex mechanism of political decision making. Most citizens have automated their electoral responsibilities and have their voting preferences tallied by some A.I. and occasionally tweak their desirability algorithms in the most ephemeral terms, and more or less desire to not be bothered by the minutiae of existence.
Since the vast majority of people live as substrate independent minds in vast swaths of tectonic computronium in the bedrock of Earth (about 2 thousand billion), Luna (about 50 billion), Mercury (about 10 billion), the NEA asteroids (about 10 billion) the solar habitat halo (about 25 billion) and the main body asteroids (about 50 billion), you can easily see that the democratic balance leans heavily towards existential solipsism. In other words, the vast majority of citizens do not want anything to do with materiality and prefer existence in intricate and often quite pervasively abstract virtualities. Most would take (objective) years to return back to a semblance of material existence, and such a return would be traumatic.
Virtual existence is in itself highly sustainable, and consumes very little material resources, and the people of earth (all 2+ trillion of them) are convinced they made the right choices for post-human eternity. They are right – even if the small percentage of materialists in space would all be destroyed by some sinister solar accident, and the sun would turn in to a black hole, they’d be fine. They are deeply embedded in multi-story bricks of cintered iron crystal lattices in the Earth’s crust and pretty much safe. The only thing they need is to get rid of waste heat, and even without the Earth being covered in arrays of skyhooks filtering out waste heat in to space they’d be quite alright.
There are maybe tens of billions of people who for some intricate personal reason want more. Or less, depending how your view it. There is a shrinking number of “mostly” humans, less than 50 million in 2114. They are volitional luddites and they are under threat. Most these humans live on Earth, and they live in deep basalt cavern complexes in sybaritic luxury (as perceived from a 2014 context) living pre-transitional lives of utter beauty and satisfaction.
And then there’s a few transitional humans, in thousands of clades, living all across the solar system. For organic transitionals life is difficult away from the Earth’s surface, the lunar tunnels, the lunar domes or the orbital habitats. To be an organic, no matter how transhuman you are, is no picnic on Mercury or the outer Asteroid belt. It is a prohibitively expensive lifestyle.
That’s why some political extremists in the belt are against it.
Here’s a current polarizing political debate in the solar system, and for someone in 2014 it is pretty difficult to parse.
The inner system people demand services and resources, primarily ongoing technological growth, free flow of cheap energy and an endless supply of mineral resources from the moon and the the asteroids. Energy is most cheaply produced from billions upon billions of square kilometers of solar collection arrays between the orbit of Venus and Earth. This energy collection infrastructure is expanding at an exponential rate, and it is hard to keep up with the demand in minerals. All the time outdated photovoltaic surfaces in orbit are nanotechnologically upgraded to new configurations to produce a type of quantum-plasma energy flow that’s even theoretically unknown in 2014. This energy is easily stored, transported and converted to electrical or photonic energy types for consumer level applications. It is even changed in to antimatter, for consumption in the outer solar system.
All this involved economy, and economy requires investment and capitalism. The capitalism in 2114 is nothing like the gruesomely predatory capitalism of 2014, but still it its a pretty cutthroat business nonetheless.
Since so many consumers in the Earth-Moon system are pretty much not interested in where their services, energy, server cores, technological advances and resources are coming from, and happily subsist in solipsism, their sole political relevance is their expressed vote. They simply vote, and since they are more, their vote is all that matters. That’s two trillion+ votes in favor of anything they want implemented, so whatever your ideas, it’s best to stand out of the way when Earth majorities want something.
The people from Earth wanted Basic Incomes in the 2020s and it took a lot of political violence to get their wish, but eventually the majorities were obeyed, world wide. The people demanded free money, and they got free money. When finally in the 2030s “money” was abolished, it simply meant that the majority could vote for whatever free stuff they demanded and they got it. Clearly this electoral exertion of power is backed up by a lot of political and military force. The moon exerts force, and since it maintains the banking infrastructure of all inter-polity trade, commerce and communication, everyone in the solar system tacitly supports this arrangement.
Tax rates, as you have read in the first article, are well over 99% of everything – progress, property, investments, wages, interests, revenues, transitions, everything. In the inner system away from Earth tax rates are a little less, depending on the time of the month, the position of the celestial object you just happen to inhabit. You may perceive this as a shifting equilibrium of taxation rates, but at the end of the day it is projection of force from a central state apparatus. That this state apparatus has overseen the biggest technological and industrial progress in history of life in the solar system is no argument for some.
Those in the outer system still call it slavery.
If you listen to the viciously angry voices on Ceres, all forms of tax are simply slavery, and whatever economic, treaty, military, democratic or memetic force the Lunar Google bank projects across the plane of the solar system, is irrelevant. Belters demand lower system taxes. They barter and cajole and protest all they can, but at the end of the day the central governments demand a tax rate for the common good of the system. Since it is hideously expensive for Belters to send goods to the inner system, that’s OK and it gives them a lot of negotiation wiggle room. They have to invest (tax credits that are stolen from them) to launch facilities to send their (stolen) mineral resources from (their) belt to the resource hungry inner system. This is mostly done very slowly. An array of billions of sky hooks constantly ferry an endless stream of ballistic cargo containers in to the inner system, by dismantling and processing asteroids by the score. This is a very slow process, but the more the belters construct the required launch facilities, the lower the travel times become and by virtue of translation of economic algorithms, the higher the tax rates become. So in effect, obeying tax dictates from the Lunar bank, requires Belters to contruct infrastructural interplanetary highway conveyance projects that in turn require them to pay more algorithmical determined taxes.
Many belters (who have only lived in the main belt for a couple of decades) have just about had it and fear the Belt becoming just another exploitation region for quickly panspermeating inner system industries. It wasn’t too long ago that Mars was still wild west – and now we are already seeing actual organics spreading on the Martian surface, and the formation of unique martian tectonic computronium infrastructures. It’s still only a few million organics on the surface of Mars, and only a measly few hundred million virtual barsoomians, but the belters can see the signs written out clearly – progress is coming and with it higher and higher tax.
There was a guy once, born in 1968 on Earth. He fled Earth once, screaming with moral outrage, at the direction of politics and settled the then frontier moon region. This guy prospered there in the 2030s and got exceedingly rich and become a transitionally humanoid being of composite metal in the 2040s. But as the moon became developed he became unhappy and in the 2060s he left the inner system and briefly settled the wild west of Phobos, where he stayed for less then a decade, before setting out for Ceres. Whatever the name of the guy was in 2014 is not relevant, but what is important is that He became Mister Chairman 1, president of the free libertarian coalitions of Ceres, and most the Belt Asteroids. His current name is now something like Overmind Solo, or something equally transhumanly militant, and he wants to be free at all costs. Chairman One (or Obie) makes choices often not out of political expediency or rational economic self-interest. Instead he makes his political choices out of programmed and inalienable emotion. This guy might be argued to “hate” central governments (he would describe it as unwillingness to ideologically compromize) and with his six ton computronium brain he doesn’t want to doubt or second-guess his core moral programming – he believes a certain set of core axioms and even if it costs him a fortune, he is dead set on perpetuating his intransigence for all of eternity. Many in the belt follow him and consider him a paragon of freedom and virtue. Chairman One is a hero for the old New Hampshire settlers, and he has a plan.
There is no special reason for the solar system to have a single central nexus for banking transactions, and in theory it could easily have two or three nodal focus points for determining taxation. If this were the case, all calculations of cost, expense, democratic (electoral) voting rights would be calibrated to the new situation and that’s what Chairman One wants. He wants to resist the evil of central government by taking His proverbial anti-statist axe to Lunar Google bank and cleaving it in two and create a second nodal office for deciding tax rates.
This is extremely desirable for Luna. On the moon any progress is paralyzed by near 100 percent tax rates. A specific region on the southern half of the moon is unable to progress, except by 100% tax deductible investments. In that zone only statism is possible, and tax rates radiating outwards from that region are effectively a zone of death and extermination of progress. So Google, while it is effectively the Ain Soph of the human system, it is a precarious and unpopular existence. And since Lunar Bank is against “evil”, it agrees with the basic philosophical argument of Chairman One. Tax rates would go down all across the solar system, and there would be a new golden age of technological advance. Pretty much everyone is in favor.
But there is one downside, and that’s a downside Chairman One understands very well. Once the twin polar state regimen would be implemented, not just tax rates would go down for all inhabitants of Earth, also all generated Basic Incomes would go down. As it is, in 2114 “Basic Income” is not decided in strictly monetary or financial terms, it is decided upon in terms of a political claim to accessible resources, in terms of travel times, energy expended, personal involvement, wages, technology used, and so forth.
So if two trillion virtal people on Earth would become subjected to this regimen, they’d suffer at least a decade of “austerity”, i.e. no server upgrades, more expensive energy, lower computronium clock speeds and a lot less fun.
But the most brutal consequence would be for the mostly organic baseline humans left on Earth. They’d lose everything. Being an organic human on Earth in 2114 is an extremely expensive hobby. Most of these people are very religious and refuse to be turned in to non-human abominations. In 2114 the Pope and the Catholic church are all still humans. Many muslims are still humans and consider any attempt to upgrade (with genetics, cybernetics, nootropics, interfaces, etc.) as pure blasphemy.
But what if Chairman One forces the inner to recalibrate its economic system? If that were to happen, and Google Lunar Bank would find itself philosophically compelled to agree with the demands of the Libertarian Belters, then there would be two outcomes.
Outcome one, is that all current ludditional (volitional luddite) humans in the inner system would be forced by law to upgrade to transhuman state. Since suicide is not allowed in the inner system, this would be pretty much inescapable. The minimal standards of living to actually be a human would not be possible. In other words since humans can’t protest by refusing upgrades, the state would be forced to use compulsion to upgrade them, one way or another.
Outcome two is even more sinister – humans would be forced to surrender citizinship rights, and become effectively a state of protected, nonvolitional creature. Imagine this – the last 50 million or so humans reduced to pets in a zoo. They’d still have full protection of their comforts under the law, but they’d lose the ability to choose much on how the are able to live now. In fact – they’d become prize commodities for barter, much like rare zoo animals have become in 2014. Highly protected by the law, but in effect nothing more than historical commodity of a bygone age, to be marveled at as curios.
It looks like Chairman One will get his wish, about 2016. That means in effect that in the year 2016 baseline humanity will become mostly extinct as a free species, and be reduced to commodity – or be forced to upgrade to a more stable state as transhumans.
Whatever the outcome, Chairman One doesn’t care. The solar system as a whole will pay a lot less basic income to what he perceives are mostly useless eaters anyway, and even though he’d pay a lot more taxes, he plans on leaving for the outer system and settle Saturn anyhow. He doesn’t care on whose head he steps to get what he wants, and what he wants is liberty.