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Foreigner Technology
Topic Started: Apr 10 2018, 07:41 PM (129 Views)
scenario_dave

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The technology in Foreigner doesn't seem to be very advanced. Humans can build starships, yet the technology in Foreigner seems to be just a few years ahead of ours.

The most advanced technology is the shuttle. But the shuttle is about the same as the Space-X BFR which is currently being built. They look and work differently but they both carry stuff to orbit and back cheaply and efficiently.

So here's my scenario. Foreigner/Earth launches Foreigner/shuttle v1 around 2020 in their timeline. They build a small space station for less than 1/100th the cost of our current space station. The station does basic science and invents new materials such as nu-steel which is 10 times stronger with 1/20th the weight, room temperature superconductors, etc. There is a demand for the new products if they can get the cost down. Joint projects between several governments and large corporations capture and retrieve asteroids for raw materials.

Foreigner/Shuttle v2 developed. New stations built. New materials and devices that can only be built in micro-g developed. Companies want to use nu-steel to build large buildings but not at the cost it would take to take them down by the shuttle. The petal transportation system is developed to get bulk items down. They use cheaper and eco friendly recovery systems like heavy lift dirigibles rather than building a road system in the desert to get the sails. Sails are a cheap low tech solution that requires high tech space materials to build.

By this time, materials from space are flowing down to earth. Foreigner/Shuttle v2 flies for decades but is retired and replaced by Foreigner/Shuttle v3 which requires space based materials to build.

From the launch of Foreigner/Shuttle v1 to the retirement of Foreigner/Shuttle v2 is around 30-40 years. High technology manufacturing on Earth is replaced by space based technology. Earth based technology is improved but very little new technology is developed on Earth. Most heavy industry is dirty and over the next 50 years or so moves to space where there is abundant energy, raw materials and no environmental laws. Why develop new ways to do things on Earth when it can be done cheaper in space?

So we end up with a technology break. Most things that are manufactured on Earth up to around 2020 are still being manufactured on Earth but maybe on a smaller scale. All advanced technology from then on requires space based materials. When the humans in Foreigner started rebuilding their technology, the technology that could be built on a planet without space based materials ended around the 2020 time frame. There was some advances in tech after 2020 that could be built in a gravity well but it's not in the library they took with them because the space based tech is cheaper and better for the environment.

The humans in Foreigner get their tech from their library. They improve their tech until it reaches a level around the 1980's or early 90's. Then they slow down because they do not want to let the Aveti get hold of advanced computer tech, etc. Then during the course of the series, they start manufacturing everything they can until they reach the point where they cannot develop any more without space based tech. This means that all of the tech we see in Foreigner except some of what we see from the station and on the spaceship is very similar to the tech we see today.
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lynxlacelady
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A fascinating scenario, Dave. I just wish WE could get dirty manufacturing off the planet, like mercury mining. Free sunlight. Yeah!
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Xheralt
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Keep in mind that the Secret of The Stardrive(tm) was probably among things heavily protected from illicit access in the Archive (if not outright deleted for paranoia/security reasons) until Phoenix redownloaded/updated it in recent years. And Mospheria had to take care about just how much superior tech they put on display, knowing the atevi were watching them from the mainland; if the atevi saw it, they might demand it. Just think if cell phones had been brought back while a paidhi with less sense than Bren had been in office, and the havoc that would have wrought on atevi culture!
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BlueCatShip
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Another caveat: The humans are at a disadvantage, in that:

1. They don't want to give away their technology advantage to an inventive and still potentially hostile and very alien species, who have far superior numbers and a psychology alien enough to most humans, that the humans don't really comprehend or trust the atevi, and vice versa.

2. The humans are a remnant population, reduced by the War of Landing and by being refugees from the ship and station to begin with, now isolated downworld, without sufficient technology and equipment to get them back up to the station or to a ship, conveniently and sustainably, or they wouldn't have gotten into this predicament in the first place, and would have been able to lift themselves back into space and out of harm's way in the second place.

3. The majority of the human population are just average people, without the knowledge needed to boost their space tech so quickly. And somehow, they seem to have an undue reverence for, call it the "Good Old Days" or the "Golden Age of Humans in Space" (their ancestors). In other words, if it was good enough for great-grandpa and great-grandma, it's good enough for them, and they seem to be not so willing to mess with what they see as the perfection of the old tech in their Archives. They also want to remain compatible with Phoenix and the Station, if/when it returns; which it then did.

4. But this is a stressor and limiter on human progress on the atevi earth. Also, there are whatever limits imposed by the Treaty, and by human reluctance to cause another war or ecological disaster, through too much too soon with the atevi. (Call it a more self-interested or pragmatic version of the Prime Directive).

5. The atevi are thus operating mostly on their own to advance their tech, with a trickle of ideas and tech from the Mosphei' humans, or at least they were until very recently, when they're getting closer to technoglcal parity with the humans.

6. As the two sides reach parity, and hopefully a better understanding of each other's thinking / feelings / psychology, that should bring about more sharing of human technology or more invention / surpassing / sidestepping by the atevi, until both sides are cooperating and competing to improve the two sides' knowledge-base and technological abilities. That, and any further contact with the Phoenix or with the kyo, or (maybe?) with other humans, should boost advancement into their future.

7. But yes, the atevi have a more unified, shared goal and way of getting to their goal, for a space program, than our Earth humans (our real-world timeline) do. So between competition and cooperation among atevi and between humans and atevi, they might be able to reach a higher tech level faster than we do, IF they (atevi Ragi and humans on Mospheira) can avoid internal and external species disputes; that is, internal political and religious fights, and fights between atevi and humans.

8. That also means they might begin surpassing the level of tech in the Archive and aboard Phoenix. Though presumably, Phoenix and the Archive were at the peak of human technology at the time Phoenix was sent out. So that means, presumably, several centuries in advance of our real-world, present-day level, which, yes, is roughly where the atevi are now. So it could take a while for them to surpass the Archive and Phoenix, but they've started on that path, and so they should be able to eventually. Plus, there's that pressure of knowing there are others out there with good or bad intentions towards atevi and humans on the world. That would push them to develop faster. Or it ought to. Human (and atevi?) nature being, ah, imperfect, even when it ought to be a big motivator.

* In other words, I don't really disagree with your outline, I'm just saying, be sure you're taking into account that we have two species with quite different thinking and feeling modes. Even though they have things in common, they also trip themselves up periodically by assuming the other guys think and feel the same, when they don't and perhaps can't. They can be similar, they can arrive at similar destinations, but the paths to get there will not be the same, because it's how the two species are wired, physically, mentally, emotionally. -- At the risk of an inapt comparison, men and women do think and act somewhat differently, and yet we have most things in common, and there's much overlap (more than we want to admit). So a man and a woman may have similar goals and end up with similar conclusions, and yet the paths in their thoughts, what they prioritize, or their conclusions, may differ significantly, because how they are geared through hormones or other biochemistry or physiology is slightly different. (I am not claiming either is better or either is wrong. Just that usually, both are different.) And I wouldn't take the analogy too far, it's just a partial comparison. -- Or maybe a better analogy is, take how I, as a human, think and feel and act, versus how my cats do things, or how dogs do things. If the cats and dogs were on the same level, with opposable thumbs and so on, as humans, then I am very sure they would do things very differently than we do. Their emotions are similar to ours, enough that we get along most of the time. But they are not quite the same, and that is actually a strength as well as something to work between. How they think and feel and act works in cat and dog ways that are fundamentally not human ways, but they are still Earth mammal ways, and in that, we're the same, pretty much. Enough so that we get along, generally, and like each other. (But how they like and love and feel is of a feline or canine quality, and not a human or ape-like quality, is what I'm saying, as well as how they think, how they'd arrive at any invention or ideology or any technical feat.) -- And those are strengths as much as weaknesses. I very much like and admire, that my cats or any dogs have their own way about them. They fascinate me. I like and love them. But I know they are their own sort of creatures, just like humans are our own sort of beings. (I don't always get my own species' way of doing things, thinking or feeling, and yet I'm human too. So there's that as well.) So I value that there could be differences with another, very alien species, but I think it's a supremely valid and smart point that atevi, any alien species, would be, somehow fundamentally, non-human in how they are; maybe similar enough to understand to a large extent and to get along together, but yet not the same, deep down, and yet, that's OK that they and we are not the same. -- Which is, I think, an important point about dealing with "foreign" differences among human groups. If we could remember to be OK with others being different, foreign to our own ways, maybe we'd get along better, accept and celebrate those differences more. (And yet, yeah, I am just as prone as anyone to want others to think and feel the way I do, and sometimes to get upset or confused if they do not, because, well, I thought and felt a given way, so why didn't they also? :) People are so weird. Yet that very "exotic" or "foreign" quality is also something that attracts and fascinates me, such as with my language interests.)

So I'm trying to say that these are some of the factors to take into account. I am not sure I would make the same scenario, but it's sure worth batting it around the table and seeing what we all come up with for ideas.

Heh, I also think Herself has her own ideas on where it's all going. How much of that we will get to see before she's all done with it, I don't know. (I hope she'll get to conclude the series to her own satisfaction while she has the years and health to do so. I would also hope we might get to see other stories from her, continuations or brand new stuff. Because fandom.)

I think she's begun to show things accelerating, though. Our own tech would accelerate, is accelerating, but would do so more, and faster, if we could avoid all the in-fighting within and between groups. But that is, well, part of human nature, to have many groups with different ideas on things, and it's healthy for each to try their own way to get there. It would be healthy too, to find ways to trade and cooperate and boost each other, instead of pulling the other guys down or demonizing them, as seems to have become too en vogue lately.) Just an aside opinion.

Maybe as the atevi and humans accelerate and the plot develops, as Bren-paidhi and Tabini-aiji and Ilisidi-ma and Cajeiri (hmm, there should be an honorific there) all grow older and Cajeiri and the human teens grow into adulthood, we'll see more of what happens. We can presume the kyo and the other humans will figure again into the overall plot, and now that we know they are both within reach by starship, that means there could be other species out there. So the stellar neighborhood might get fairly crowded while things are advancing on the atevi homeworld.

(Dang auto-incorrect: "homeworld" is a perfectly valid and properly spelled English word. It keeps trying to change it to homeward. It doesn't like downworld and wants to make it downward, also. Grr. I would love to turn auto-correct off for my entire computer, but especially in the browser and word processor. I can spell better than it can any day of the week, in English, French, and Spanish, thanks.)
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Neco the Nightwraith
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One of the short stories mentioned that humans were basically knocked back to the same level of tech as atevi, until around Bren's time, when it sounds like they pulled ahead a bit with hybrid type vehicles. So I assumed from the given info, anyway.
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scenario_dave

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Bren has said many times in the last few books that we're running out of things to give the Atevi. There's very little left. We're almost at parity now. So either the humans are hiding a lot of technology or what Bren says is the truth and there isn't any technology left to hide. (Except weapons. I don't think they want to start building new weapons.)

I really have 2 points and questions.

1) Almost all of the human technology we see in Foreigner is current day technology or near term. We should be able to build a functional equivalent to the shuttle by 2025. If we have a shuttle in 2025, how long would it take us to develop the infrastructure in space needed to build the space station and space ship? We have built a small space station, but how long would it take to go from a station that could support maybe 10 people to a station that could support tens of thousands and be confident enough to put it two years away from any help? I think it would take a couple of generations. So I place a low end of around 50 years from now for when the Phoenix was built.

I never got the impression that Phoenix was one of 2 or 3 ships. My gut feeling is that there was a whole infrastructure behind it. I'm thinking like the Earth was during the company wars timeframe. It takes time to develop an infrastructure that can build huge objects in space. So I think that Foreigner at the time of the Phoenix launched must be set at least a hundred years from now, probably 200.

A lot of technology can develop in one or two hundred years.

2) During humans hunter/gatherer stage, people's technology was limited to what materials they had in their territory. At some point they developed trade so they could get materials from further away but since people had to walk, it was limited to what people could carry with them. When people settled down and started building ships, they could trade from a much greater distance. The nearest bronze deposit could be a hundred miles away but as soon as they got a steady supply of bronze most people forgot how to use stone.

High tech today is reliant on many raw materials that are only available in a few deposits spread all around the world.
"U.S. manufacturers are now more than 40 percent dependent on imports of many commodity and rare earth metals. For example, import reliance on gallium is at 94 percent, cobalt and titanium 81 percent, chromium 56 percent, silicon 44 percent and nickel 43 percent. These minerals are critical for defense and energy technologies and many high-tech consumer products." http://www.aei.org/publication/dangerous-dependence-us-increasingly-beholden-to-imported-raw-material/

How many things around your house couldn't be built without materials that can only be found thousands of miles away? I could see a situation where space based materials start replacing Earth based materials within a few years. 20 years from now there could be whole new industries that require materials built in space.

Humans technology maxed out at a level of about 1990's because they had lost the knowledge and didn't have access to the raw materials anyway. Cell phones require rare earth metals to build. Humans couldn't get rare earth metals until the Atevi started to mine and process them because they needed them in the space program.

So humans technology maxed out at around todays level because it couldn't get the raw materials needed to build anything higher. Human tech without access to space maxes out at about the 2030 level.
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scenario_dave

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My real point is that a technology that could build spaceships should look more advanced. Bren says that Humans have given out almost all of the their technology to the Atevi. How can a technology that looks like 2010 tech, build a starship? What happened to all of the technology between 2010 level and starship building level?

I think that humans were at the tech level at the start of Foreigner for many years. Humans had the knowledge and enough high tech equipment to give them a head start after the war. Atevi already had railroads when humans landed so they had a tech level at about the mid 1800's. With access to any raw material like iron, copper, tin, etc. which would have been available to a mid 1800's century level culture, they could easily build an early 20th century technology in a very short amount of time.

Humans want to protect the environment so they would quickly give the technology that would lead to clean sources of energy like solar and wind. That would minimize the time where Atevi would be using wood, coal, oil etc. With 50 years of the war Humans would have the raw materials to have a cleaner, late 20th century technology.

Once they got to that level, they couldn't advance any further without raw materials they could only get from the mainland until the Atevi reached parity.




Edited by scenario_dave, Apr 12 2018, 06:05 PM.
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lynxlacelady
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The one big glaring omission in terms of tech, is nukes. Probably a good thing to leave that out of the story, because it goes so many very ugly places.
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BlueCatShip
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Er, a couple of corrections where I think you got distracted; and I'm only somewhat versed on that time in human development.

There's been some evidence that early humans, in the late Neolithic and early Bronze Age, were able to travel the long distances and trade goods along routes. So things like lapis lazuli and gold, silver, copper, tin, zinc, and human-made goods were traded from their origin sites to places hundreds of miles away, different cultures. People themselves made group migrations during that same time, such as the Polynesians and the precursors of the Australian aborigines. That got more extensive as the Bronze Age advanced. But there were also lots of rises and falls of city-states during that time, tribal groups that did or didn't succeed, merged, conquered, overwhelmed or subsumed, intermarried peacefully, etc.; and weather and geological events influenced that too. Once they had domesticated horses and dogs and began agriculture and invented the wheel, things took off faster.

Bronze -- not deposits of bronze or brass. Both are alloys of copper and other metals, tin, zinc, other small amounts of metals and minerals. Apparently, various groups discovered how to melt copper, tin, and zinc and create bronze and brass, and this was a huge improvement over stone tools like flint or obsidian. Iron and then iron plus carbon to make steel came a good deal later. -- Firing mud or sun-baking it for mud bricks and adobe, or firing clay to make pottery, as well as bread making, had something to do with the discovery of alloys like bronze and brass.

Every culture and language we know of from history or that remains in the present day dates from the Bronze Age, not the Neolithic. Cultures like the builders of Stonehenge and a few others from the Stone Age did exist, but how they evolved or broke down and re-merged and formed the new groups we know from history is unclear. So there's a huge time period for fully modern humans that we know very little about, in which people went from the Ice Age to its end, through the Paleolithic and Neolithic, to the start of the Bronze Age, with the cultures we know from history. As in, around 25K years of human development, up until the start of the Bronze Age, we're very unclear about, while the Bronze Age and recent Bronze Age and Iron Age are within, if I recall correctly, somewhere around 15K to 10K from the present, beyond that foggy Stone Age past.

(When I realized every culture we know about dates to the Bronze Age and not further back, that was a big, "Huh? Really? Whoa! WTF?" moment for me. But what we know of from before the Bronze Age is not nearly so much. This because of the huge technological and societal jumps, and because Bronze Age peoples left early forms of writing along with their art and tech. But really, everything, it all dates back to the Bronze Age, and how anything connects prior to that is basically a mystery. Any culture you could name, except for the Stonehenge builders and a very few others; in particular, any culture we have a native name for, dates to the Bronze Age. In some cases, the native name is lost and we use names their descendants or usurpers used to describe them.)

-----

But yeah, particularly your point about how interdependent our modern global high-tech society is on raw materials and manufactured goods assembled from pieces hundreds of miles from each other, yeah, exactly. -- This is in part due to politicians in various countries playing games with trade, to favor allies and disfavor opponents, and sometimes to favor overseas or neighboring countries over their own internal sources, means that we have this hodge-podge mess of global interdependencies beyond what's necessary. That world trade is a good thing and can help stabilize things, but it can also lead to competition, some of which is not healthy, globally. -- But your point being, if war or natural disaster or economic collapse were to disrupt that web of trade for long enough, then it could have disastrous consequences for global trade and tech development. If something were to throw a major country or region out of the loop, then ouch, that could kick the legs out from under the global civilization and more local nations and their neighbors.

I would take it that Phoenix and the station, the tech in the Archive, would need to be a couple hundred years in advance of our present-day tech. Like you said, the infrastructure to build a fleet of in-system ships, a fleet of orbiters / shuttles, a fleet of starships for sure, requires a lot more resources and time to emerge.

There's an important giant step between Earth Orbit and Moon landings, to the leaps to Mars and the Asteroid Belt and to Jupiter and Saturn, to a truly interplanetary or in-system level of development. -- Whether we do that simultaneously with solving a warp drive (or whatever might work to get us to nearby stars in a reasonable time), is something we don't know yet. But presumably, the Earth Orbit state, to the interplanetary / in-star-system stage, to the interstellar (nearby star systems0 stage, are big leaps. From the first inching out to the nearest stars, to a truly interstellar level (Alliance, Union, Federation, Empire, whatever) is another big leap, and then to a galactic-level stage (way past the Star Wars Galactic Empire) would be another.

My feeling is that Phoenix is about at the stage that the Company Wars or the split and creation of the Merchanter's Alliance is at in the Alliance-Union universe (which, right, is not the Foreigner universe). So we agree on that. Phoenix is an early but very advanced starship, capable of interstellar jumps / warps. That's got to be over a hundred years or two hundred, maybe more, past the plans to visit Mars and beyond, the things projected for around 2020 - 2025 and up through maybe the end of the century.

That gets to your point that it's a big leap from putting a new, big station in Earth orbit, to getting to Mars and elsewhere in the Sol System, and putting a station around Mars (a needed step for colonization, maybe) and then colonizing Mars or beyond, out into the Solar System. -- Then there's a long technical reach until we get a practical jump / warp drive. (Whether that's a future development from the Alcubierre-White warp drive concept, or something else, seems like a long way before we get that within a practical, working reach.) -- Unless, of course, someone gets really brilliant while we're between Earth, Mars, and a fully interplanetary civilization stage.

So yeah, what accounts for the gap the Mosphei' humans have in their tech level, at about our current level, when the tech level to support starships and stations like Phoenix and the station, are around 1, 2, 3 hundred years beyond that, at a guess? -- I don't have a good answer for that. I mean, yes, the Archive from Phoenix ought to be at Phoenix's level, not a 2018 Earth level. Which you pointed out.


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BlueCatShip
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Heh, I'd think nuclear tech is something the humans would absolutely NOT want atevi to start toying with, and for that matter, themselves either. Way too many environmental issues, crazy-stupid ideological leaders pushing political, religious, big-business agendas, and so on. Way too much potential for accidents and purposeful misuse. (Not that it would necessarily stop it from being discovered, just that they'd want to keep that a forbidden technology. One can argue for using nuclear power safely, but yet there have been major accidents, and too many people eager to push their ideas onto others with the help of what could destroy entire regions, themselves and their allies and their enemies, and completely unrelated people elsewhere alike. Pandora's Box, however well-meaning and controlled it might be. -- Still not something I'd think they'd want themselves or the atevi playing with.

Presumably, some things are interdicted for safety like that. -- They'd also know (from what is our future history) the dangers of overtipping ecosystems, besides when that has happened in Australia and New Zealand, North America, and so on. (Such as new species creating havoc with the native ecology, like rabbits did in AU/NZ.)
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Xheralt
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It may well be that, for lack of access to rare earth metals, Mospheiran tech is limited by what they could actually get access to. Especially if they're not trying to raise red flags, as they did when they first got into the shuttle-building industry. Anything they know they can't get materials to build, they simply do without. Specific materials are indispensible, and cannot be substituted or worked around. Meaning, no spiffy blue (and by extension, white) LED's, among other things. No color display screens on everything from phones to soda dispensers. Monochrome LCD displays on cell phones (flip variety) if at all.

Also, keep in mind that for all her writerly virtues, :cherryh: is NOT a technologist at heart, and speculation on or extrapolation from mundane technology would take away from the story she's trying to tell about people and communication.
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scenario_dave

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Xheralt
Apr 13 2018, 12:58 AM
It may well be that, for lack of access to rare earth metals, Mospheiran tech is limited by what they could actually get access to. Especially if they're not trying to raise red flags, as they did when they first got into the shuttle-building industry. Anything they know they can't get materials to build, they simply do without. Specific materials are indispensible, and cannot be substituted or worked around. Meaning, no spiffy blue (and by extension, white) LED's, among other things. No color display screens on everything from phones to soda dispensers. Monochrome LCD displays on cell phones (flip variety) if at all.

Also, keep in mind that for all her writerly virtues, :cherryh: is NOT a technologist at heart, and speculation on or extrapolation from mundane technology would take away from the story she's trying to tell about people and communication.
That's exactly my point. In my version of the Foreigner universe technology takes off as soon as people got into space.
Mospheiran technology got stuck at the 1990's level because they couldn't get raw materials like rare earth metals until they gave the Atevi the technology that needed them. They couldn't advance much past 2020 technology because that's when the Foreigner Earth started to mass produce space based tech and whole industries on Earth were replaced by space based stuff.

Humans however did manipulate what technology they did give the Atevi in order to encourage the Atevi to mine and trade it to humans so humans could expand their tech. Bren thinks about it in one of the earlier books.

Also, I caught myself about mining bronze error but I had already edited the post twice so I left it.

What's cool about CJ is that even though she is not a technologist, she has such a well designed world that people can fill in the blanks. She set Mospheiran tech at the same level as when she wrote the book. She also said that the island they lived on had almost no mineral resources. Connect the dots. Keeping it vague gave her freedom to change things down the line but gave just enough details to make the world real enough people could fill in the blanks.

I've always felt that there really is no need to explain how advanced tech works. Just its effects and limits. When you go into jump, you lose hair and minerals that need to be replaced. How many times have you had a discussion when you got into a car when someone explains exactly how cars work? Probably close to never. Detailed explanations aren't necessary.

Nukes are one of the things that the Atevi will figure out for themselves once they get atomic theory. But Nukes take a lot of effort to build and unless there is a real need for them, its unlikely they'll come out of the archives
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scenario_dave

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Apr 13 2018, 12:17 AM
Er, a couple of corrections where I think you got distracted; and I'm only somewhat versed on that time in human development.

There's been some evidence that early humans, in the late Neolithic and early Bronze Age, were able to travel the long distances and trade goods along routes. So things like lapis lazuli and gold, silver, copper, tin, zinc, and human-made goods were traded from their origin sites to places hundreds of miles away, different cultures. People themselves made group migrations during that same time, such as the Polynesians and the precursors of the Australian aborigines. That got more extensive as the Bronze Age advanced. But there were also lots of rises and falls of city-states during that time, tribal groups that did or didn't succeed, merged, conquered, overwhelmed or subsumed, intermarried peacefully, etc.; and weather and geological events influenced that too. Once they had domesticated horses and dogs and began agriculture and invented the wheel, things took off faster.

Bronze -- not deposits of bronze or brass. Both are alloys of copper and other metals, tin, zinc, other small amounts of metals and minerals. Apparently, various groups discovered how to melt copper, tin, and zinc and create bronze and brass, and this was a huge improvement over stone tools like flint or obsidian. Iron and then iron plus carbon to make steel came a good deal later. -- Firing mud or sun-baking it for mud bricks and adobe, or firing clay to make pottery, as well as bread making, had something to do with the discovery of alloys like bronze and brass.

Every culture and language we know of from history or that remains in the present day dates from the Bronze Age, not the Neolithic. Cultures like the builders of Stonehenge and a few others from the Stone Age did exist, but how they evolved or broke down and re-merged and formed the new groups we know from history is unclear. So there's a huge time period for fully modern humans that we know very little about, in which people went from the Ice Age to its end, through the Paleolithic and Neolithic, to the start of the Bronze Age, with the cultures we know from history. As in, around 25K years of human development, up until the start of the Bronze Age, we're very unclear about, while the Bronze Age and recent Bronze Age and Iron Age are within, if I recall correctly, somewhere around 15K to 10K from the present, beyond that foggy Stone Age past.

(When I realized every culture we know about dates to the Bronze Age and not further back, that was a big, "Huh? Really? Whoa! WTF?" moment for me. But what we know of from before the Bronze Age is not nearly so much. This because of the huge technological and societal jumps, and because Bronze Age peoples left early forms of writing along with their art and tech. But really, everything, it all dates back to the Bronze Age, and how anything connects prior to that is basically a mystery. Any culture you could name, except for the Stonehenge builders and a very few others; in particular, any culture we have a native name for, dates to the Bronze Age. In some cases, the native name is lost and we use names their descendants or usurpers used to describe them.)

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But yeah, particularly your point about how interdependent our modern global high-tech society is on raw materials and manufactured goods assembled from pieces hundreds of miles from each other, yeah, exactly. -- This is in part due to politicians in various countries playing games with trade, to favor allies and disfavor opponents, and sometimes to favor overseas or neighboring countries over their own internal sources, means that we have this hodge-podge mess of global interdependencies beyond what's necessary. That world trade is a good thing and can help stabilize things, but it can also lead to competition, some of which is not healthy, globally. -- But your point being, if war or natural disaster or economic collapse were to disrupt that web of trade for long enough, then it could have disastrous consequences for global trade and tech development. If something were to throw a major country or region out of the loop, then ouch, that could kick the legs out from under the global civilization and more local nations and their neighbors.

I would take it that Phoenix and the station, the tech in the Archive, would need to be a couple hundred years in advance of our present-day tech. Like you said, the infrastructure to build a fleet of in-system ships, a fleet of orbiters / shuttles, a fleet of starships for sure, requires a lot more resources and time to emerge.

There's an important giant step between Earth Orbit and Moon landings, to the leaps to Mars and the Asteroid Belt and to Jupiter and Saturn, to a truly interplanetary or in-system level of development. -- Whether we do that simultaneously with solving a warp drive (or whatever might work to get us to nearby stars in a reasonable time), is something we don't know yet. But presumably, the Earth Orbit state, to the interplanetary / in-star-system stage, to the interstellar (nearby star systems0 stage, are big leaps. From the first inching out to the nearest stars, to a truly interstellar level (Alliance, Union, Federation, Empire, whatever) is another big leap, and then to a galactic-level stage (way past the Star Wars Galactic Empire) would be another.

My feeling is that Phoenix is about at the stage that the Company Wars or the split and creation of the Merchanter's Alliance is at in the Alliance-Union universe (which, right, is not the Foreigner universe). So we agree on that. Phoenix is an early but very advanced starship, capable of interstellar jumps / warps. That's got to be over a hundred years or two hundred, maybe more, past the plans to visit Mars and beyond, the things projected for around 2020 - 2025 and up through maybe the end of the century.

That gets to your point that it's a big leap from putting a new, big station in Earth orbit, to getting to Mars and elsewhere in the Sol System, and putting a station around Mars (a needed step for colonization, maybe) and then colonizing Mars or beyond, out into the Solar System. -- Then there's a long technical reach until we get a practical jump / warp drive. (Whether that's a future development from the Alcubierre-White warp drive concept, or something else, seems like a long way before we get that within a practical, working reach.) -- Unless, of course, someone gets really brilliant while we're between Earth, Mars, and a fully interplanetary civilization stage.

So yeah, what accounts for the gap the Mosphei' humans have in their tech level, at about our current level, when the tech level to support starships and stations like Phoenix and the station, are around 1, 2, 3 hundred years beyond that, at a guess? -- I don't have a good answer for that. I mean, yes, the Archive from Phoenix ought to be at Phoenix's level, not a 2018 Earth level. Which you pointed out.


Humans have always traded. From my understanding, large scale mining of copper and tin, etc. didn't happen until people settled. Hunter Gatherers are limited to what they can carry. They did a lot of trading and many items could go hundreds of miles hand to hand but it would be small things. A special shell used in a necklace ends up 200 miles from the sea.

You caught me on the bronze. I caught it myself after I had already hit enter after my second edit.

Large scale tech like smelting didn't occur until man started farming and living in villages. There was trading but it was in the line of I have a tin mine and I trade it to some village 200 miles away for copper so we can both make Bronze. As villages grew into cities, trading increased. But now to make one high tech gadget like a cell phone, you might need 50 different raw materials from 50 different places all around the world. Many of the materials are not actually in the phone. They are in machines, that make machines, that make machines, that make parts that go into the phone. If just one of those 50 raw materials could only be manufactured in space, the gadget couldn't be made. That's why the technology just seemed to stop at our level.

Remember how paranoid the captains are. I'd bet that the archive that they left on Alpha didn't have a lot of the more advanced space based stuff. They deliberately left the tech in the archive at a level where the people on Alpha could maintain the station but not much further. Add to that the fact that the archive was damaged during the war and I'm not surprised they could only advance so far. A lot of more advanced tech has so many pieces that you can't build it if you lose one of the hundred processed needed to build it.

I'd guess that people still had their personal computers in the early days after the war and a lot of knowledge was saved there but mostly stuff that they thought they'd be able to use, not space age stuff.

I can imagine someone who had the only copy of the complete works of Shakespeare on his computer after the war. They didn't know until right after their computer fried. Computers only last so long and they didn't have the tech to replace them. The archive computers were different and built to last so they're still working 200 years later.
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Dave, :nods: Yeah, very much so. (And I wasn't thinking about the rare-earths / other rare minerals aspect of why Mospheiran tech might be limited. My bad.)

If one or a few points in the set of materials or parts needed gets disrupted, then either some other company in the network has to start up production, or else they could ALL be out of commission. If enough points in the network are knocked out of commission, then whole sections get isolated, or the whole network is broken. -- Whether that's info and com, or tech manufacturing, or foodstuffs, or other goods and services, the effect is the same. -- We're so interdependent now, globally, that if there's a fighting war or a trade war, or natural disaster, it affects whole portions (or the entire) web of global civilization.

So yes, if you can't produce a given small high tech part that requires umpteen other steps along the way to make it, including the know-how of how to do it, then, boom, you get a serious shortage or no products made at all, potentially.

And yes, exactly, about how parts and machines, computer devices and storage, break down eventually. (Nothing like having a CD crack in half in a drive, for instance. Had that happen once.) Storage media wear out, things get destroyed, and so on. -- And yes, if some isolated person winds up with the only copy of some critical knowledge (arts or tech), then the whole colony loses out. Yes, it makes sense they might specifically delete things too dangerous if they fell into enemy hands, either human or alien enemies.

Hmm, it occurs to me one way to preserve sensitive data would be to distribute hashed / coded segments in among a forest of other works, or in other file formats. But then you'd have to have redundancy too, as well as a codec to encode/decode and extract it from where it was stored among the unrelated data. So you might "hide" plans for the "secret stardrive" in among, oh, pictures of pointillist paintings of people at the park? (Hmm, the alliteration wasn't planned, sorry.) Or that music playlist. Or...hmm, all sorts of possibilities there. (I know that's not a new idea at all, either.)

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CJC is primarily a writer with a liberal arts background in history, languages, etc., yes. She's also rare in that she understands science and math and technology enough to write about it more accurately than many do. I notice she's said she worked out, early on, with actual stars, where things were in Alliance-Union space. (She's talked once or twice about doing a series of plastic or plexiglass star maps to get a feel for where things were, and to create a real-world model for her books.)

That attention to detail shows. (And yes, she occasionally drops a ball while juggling a whole bunch of details and ideas.)

But that she does consider things, helps the realism of the books. It makes sense to me that she doesn't stop for a technobabble explanation, "As you know, the Gorblatzian Phantasmagorical Modulator that runs the shuttle..." -- Right, nobody (except maybe an engineer and friends or students) gets in their car and stops to explain how an internal combustion engine works. And most people (myself included) would glaze over the minute that got too detailed and outside of their knowledge areas. (I'm not an engineer or physicist at all, haha. But I've been around them. My dad was an engineer, besides. LOL.)

(Star Trek and several authors fall into that very trap, geeking out over things, just because it seems so cool, or they want to explain how this or that imaginary future tech works. It can be fun, but it usually doesn't advance the storyline.)

I like that she uses common sense about this, and so it's background, and she focuses instead on character and plot driving the story.

I like your points that the Mospheiran colonists had the two things working against them: Both the need to keep certain technologies out of prying interests (atevi or human or other aliens that might come along), and that they'd lose things due to accident and aging equipment or lack of skilled people and raw materials and the infrastructure (sometimes extensive) needed to produce things. Very true. Without in-system ships, orbiters, and mining to get raw materials from the planet or asteroids, without people on the station or trained personnel, without the many factories and labs needed to make parts, write software, etc., or a way to train people in needed fields, you get...a loss of some or all of a given level of spacefaring technological civilization. (It could be a wonder they weren't reduced down to a pre-20th century level.)

Real-world example: After Hurricane Ike, Houston and several other towns and cities nearby were reduced to essentially 19th century tech levels for up to a month or a month and a half, while services were rebuilt, repaired, and restored. Safe drinking water, the electrical power grid, land-based and cell-tower phone lines, cable broadband for internet and TV, all were down. Refrigeration and heating. Businesses' ability to track sales and banking, beyond handwritten paper records. Hospitals, warehouses and supply stores, everything was affected. The city had a plan to restore emergency services, then major businesses, and finally residential, going from one end of the city to the other, along a long line. But that's for a major port city, one of the ten largest in the nation. So it took upwards of a month to a month and a half for most people's service to be restored. -- So I could see easily how a high tech colony, planetside, could be reduced down for months or long-term, to a pre-industrial level. (By comparison, after the recent hurricane, the city did much better. However, not all areas of the city were hit as hard this time, either, so the comparison is not on a level playing fiend.)

You've basically touched on it without doing so, but one point: One way to ensure a colony has an Archive of the necessary knowledge is to provide multiple distributed copies. (Say every township or lander/shuttle had a copy. Or what if miniaturization could allow individuals to carry a copy easily? Maybe so, 200+ years from now.) -- Yet you've also touched on the point that having any copies means that if someone can get at any single copy and decode it, then they have the keys to a civilization, its technology, psychology, and so on. So it's a strength and a weakness combined. And yet you'd want to safeguard your remote human space colony by seeding them with that Archive and an Ark of a genetic library too, for Earth's species; which carries the same risks and strengths.

I'll second the need for more docking ports for the shuttles or starships on the space station. -- But that station, presumably it might be small or partially completed when it was left, but built to a plan that should let it be expanded in modules, if they can manufacture them. So adding sectors with more docks, manufacturing, etc., should be doable

Oh! -- One difference between Foreigner and Alliance/Union -- In the original setup, we're given they had the ship's crew and they had colonists, specialists onboard who'd be left at the colony they'd intended to build, while Phoenix returned to Earth (or wherever) and they sent back more ships in a trade route to the fledgeling colony, then expanded from there elsewhere. They had some sort of genetics resources as well as some amount of live animals and plants, didn't they? I don't recall much mention of a gene bank for human genetic material, which they would've had if they'd been A/U. Presumably, Phoenix might have that.

However, my "aha" moment is, I don't recall much, if any, mention of cloning and surrogate mothers, and nothing comparable to the "azi" clones of A/U. It's as if in the Foreigner universe, if any genetic material is stored, which it could be, then for humans, surrogate mothers might be used, but any babies produced by stored gametes or zygotes (i.e., not cloned) or else by cloning, would simply be introduced into the population as a whole, without strictures. Or that they want to avoid cloning, with the idea that human population growth is plenty fast enough without artificially inflating it.

I seem to remember CJC early on alludes to Bren's genealogy back to the original colonists, but she doesn't make it a major point. The idea being that the colonists do have some connections to the Phoenix crew because of the extended period before they got to the atevi earth, and until Phoenix left there to try to find the human Earth, the Sol System. I don't recall the specifics, but I think there was something to the effect that he, Bren, as well as many others, might be somehow linked both to the original colonists down the generations, but...I can't recall if there was some indication that he might have also been (say an ovum or sperm) from a gene bank, storage. (That seems unlikely though. Wouldn't you want to get any genetic material out of cryogenic storage and into living zygotes, making babies, to avoid, er, keeping them in storage too long and causing problems?) I think I must have that confused somehow. I also think there was something involving Jase and some of the others who were trained to deal with the atevi once Phoenix headed back to the atevi world. But I think they may have just been picked from a top class of candidates, genetically and by schooling, who were most apt to be good for the task.

That point just occurred to me on the side, and isn't on topic, except I guess in how you'd prepare and maintain a working colony under duress after alien contact. I didn't have anywhere I was going with that, though.

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