Interstellar protectionism
Posted by aogSunday, 19 February 2006 at 15:15 TrackBack Ping URL

My recent post on the ChiComs dilemma of accepting destabilizing technology made me think more about autarky and interstellar trade (two things I am sure sprang in to your mind as well).

As nano-tech advances and we become ever more a society which manufactures information while our robots deal with the physical world, the need for actual trade will decrease. At some point, probably within the next century, robotics and nanotech will be even cheaper than overseas sweatshops. This is bad enough for planetary trade (what happens to that when autarky becomes economically feasible?), but one wonders what exactly would be traded between star systems. One might say information, but if progress remains possible, I expect that a local star system would generate it about as fast it the society could handle it, the the limits would be the ability of the society to consume information, not acquire it.

In this vein, many science fictions stories are informed by the view that we would be “lonely” without aliens to make the universe more diverse and interesting. I have never been able to figure out why. Humans seem to have plenty of variance, and once we acquire the ability to build new, independent societies across the solar system and possibly the galaxy, I suspect that we will see socieites as odd as any aliens could be. The standard model seems to treat planets as effectively unitary societies, with little variance, which I find highly unlikely.

This is particularly true if one accepts the “End of History” thesis as well, as aliens would be driven to (roughly) the same sort of societal organization or remain a primitive, non-space traveling society. If variance is possible, there’s no reason to believe that multiple star systems are required to cover most of it. I am not sure that even faster than light speed technology changes the overall picture. e news for us sedentary types.

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