Sunday, 17 November 2013

Up and at 'em = down and out?

Thanks to the film Gravity the Kessler syndrome is getting plenty of discussion at the moment. That's the idea that objects colliding in orbit could trigger a cascade, with the mass of debris produced potentially rendering spaceflight very hazardous, keeping us on the ground, grounded.

It's easy to imagine it used as a weapon, but for sci-fi and fantasy it could make for a strange new world - one not so far from the world we're in now.

Just think what would happen if in a few years private spaceflight did allow asteroids to be delivered to the Earth-Moon system and broken up for valuable metals - a mega-gold rush. Safe stations and comfortable space-based living could be made feasible. It could be a little like Elysium, the high frontier being the retreat for a small and very high class.

But Elysium suggests some of the potential problems, and it seems reasonable history could repeat, the powerful closing out the weak. And with these powerful people having robotic servants and orbital factories, the majority of the human race could become little more than a threat, a source only of instability. It would be a simple matter to collide a few asteroids and block the planet up for quite some time, especially if the capital of the space-living class is no longer available to help the development of orbital clearing tools.

They could drop a few asteroids to start a mass extinction of course, but might decide that would be crass, or prefer not to waste any, or have plans for the rest of the species.

Depending on how large a toehold they had, and how much of a headstart, by the time those on Earth opened a window back into space their repressors might be long-gone, possibly to other stars, possibly off along some hyperevolutionary track. Of course, the grounded might never make it back up, or be kept captive on the surface for a purpose...

It's an unusual background for a campaign, or a game world, a spin on the Morlock-Eloi relationship, or the power of the adeptus mechanicus, a study of the value of being first up - or having no one be first up. There'd also be a new layer of abandoned infrastructure.


The Warlock said...

Hey Porky, excellent brain food. I for one, am entirely cynical about our species and have to admit that most of what you've put forward may indeed come true. I must apologise in advance as I'm not as good a writer as you ^^;

The moon is going to be a financial/mining/business ultra-captialist paradise considering the helium 3 isotopes that capitalists on terra firma want to mine even though we aren't up there just yet. It's like most things these days, they aren't done unless there's an uber financial incentive in it.

As for future rich/famous moon-dwellers, in time they may see themselves as 'gods' up high and if they reset earth dwelling humans with good ol' mister extinction event (Hey let's mine this asteroid, whoops! it -totally- got away from us and is heading for earth. I'd warn them, but it's my coffee break and there's no valuable resources on it anyway) then more power to them.

If anything, Mars may become the jewel of the system ala Cowboy Bebop and Earth becomes a semi-terra, a place for pilgrims and weird souvenirs. I just hope I can live long enough to see it, cyborg body or no

SandWyrm said...

Here's another what-if to consider... What if this already happened once? Say 10-20K years ago, and we're just now climbing back up to the point, technologically (after being bombed back to the stone age the first time) where those that left might have to 'take care of us' again?

Porky said...

@ The Warlock - The natures and relationships of the various moons and planets - in this case dwarves and mids maybe? - is an interesting subject. The general outlines do seem clear, and physical structure has a major influence of course, but the ongoing refinement of central control systems may mean the people living there - human or posthuman - have less autonomy or independence than near future sci-fi sometimes suggests.

"... and if they reset earth dwelling humans with good ol' mister extinction event ... then more power to them."

Blimey. We have to hope it's not you up there when the chance comes. Still, it's a common sentiment, common enough that we have to wonder whether our self-made gods wouldn't think they're doing us a favour, putting us out of misery.

Then again, if it came to an asteroid-shaped crunch, people would likely realise their misery really isn't so deep, that it's more the power of suggestion. Hopefully they realise it well before a minute to midnight, and before it's too late to prevent the bang.

@ SandWyrm - That really is a what-if, and one that seems to be popping up quite a bit lately too, maybe with very deep roots. The lack of visible or recognisable physical evidence is the major argument against of course, but then just a century or two may be enough to develop the tools necessary to erase even millennia-worth of markers.

That lack of evidence also suggests controlled geographic range, which ties into concepts like Atlantis too, even expulsions from paradise.

SandWyrm said...

Well there is all that space/nuclear war stuff in the Indian sacred texts.

If you’re gonna go all ancient astronaut though, might as well also go for the theories that explain the ice ages by tilting the Earth 15-20 degrees off its current axis. Putting North America under ice, Siberia just north of the equator, and Antarctica into the southern temperate zone. So in theory, all those ancient artifacts are currently under a mile of ice at the bottom of the world.

All sorts of reasonable objections to that too. But if you’re gonna imagine something, go big. :)

Porky said...

At the very least it's good inspiration.

There's more on a bigger one doing the rounds today - simulation of reality.