Re: New America & Process

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Posted by Michael Brazier on January 27, 19100 at 02:58:26:

In Reply to: Re: New America & Process posted by Anders Sandberg on January 25, 19100 at 20:48:10:

: : Take, for instance, the whole conception of the Columbus Project; once
: : the FTL technique is public knowledge, there is simply no way that NA can
: : make itself into an interstellar trade and data hub, and the NA government
: : should have realized that.

: Getting a head start can mean everything - there are many companies that become
: market leaders simply by being the first with a product. NA was planning on
: something similar: by setting up a good system people would use and invest in,
: it would become entrenched. Competing colonies or free trade would still exist,
: but would be less profitable (remember that setting up a trade between planets
: A, B, C and D would be more expensive than just using the Columbus Project).

Well, yes; but a head start is exactly what NA lost through McCairns' indiscretion.
(I am assuming that the general opinion of NA citizens on the whole affair is a
good approximation to the truth; that McCairns really was responsible, in some
important way, for the Arcadians' learning the FTL technique.) After McCairns'
departure NA's lead over the other colonies consists of one or two ships fully
built and a working shipyard -- a lead which Nova and Atlantis, at least, can
(and did, in the official timeline) close without much difficulty. To make the
Columbus Project work, NA would have had to get several ships travelling on a
regular schedule, before any non-NA ship was ever launched; and there isn't time
for that after McCairns' departure, as far as I can see.

: : Then there's the interaction between NA and the Process. One of the major
: : obstacles the Process faces in its startup phase is getting FTL ships; NA's
: : Columbus Project as described would handily supply that need. What is
: : there to prevent Project Columbus from joining the Process board?

: I think it was mainly a question of culture. Remember that the original process
: board was highly biased in the direction of the libertarian Atlanteans and
: Dionysians, as well as radical Nova interests. They were not that keen on
: government projects (and in the case of the Atlanteans, actually believed them
: to be somewhat evil),

Well, yes, it's hard to imagine Nancy McDaggart accepting NASA as an equal
partner, and McDaggart pretty clearly made the decision -- the official timeline
puts her on NA during the time the Columbus Project was conceived. Speaking of
which, was there some connection between the Columbus Project and McDaggart's
"Roach Motel" speech to the NA Congress?

: and to the Columbus Project the Process would at first
: just look like a weird trading company - one which could have nasty political
: repercussions ("Could our esteemed senator explain why American taxpayer money
: has been invested in a company selling drugs, pornography and weapons?").

Well, here we get into the general New American style of doing business. I doubt
very much that NASA itself would be allowed to buy shares of a private company
with taxpayers' funds, whatever its line of business might be; in present-day
America that sort of thing borders on the criminal, and NA would preserve that
sensibility. The taxpayers' money would probably be carefully reserved to the
building, maintaining, and piloting of the FTL ships; private NA corporations
(with ties to NASA) would then buy space in the ships' cargo holds with their
own funds. Obviously NASA would have no objection to the Process' buying space
in the same manner (assuming the Process board was willing.)

: : Or alternately, what is there to prevent the Columbus Project from copying the
: : Process's model, should the Process board refuse them? In the latter case,
: : the Columbus Project even has a short-term advantage, because it has more
: : FTL ships and access to the NA embassies as contacts. For the suggested
: : campaign, where the PCs are VIPs in the Process, the Columbus Project is
: : clearly an immediate antagonist -- it's the most direct competitor for the
: : Process's intended niche. But then it has to act as the Process does.

: Exactly. Or it has to win - the CP is actually a quite powerful competitor and
: I think it could have become so dominant that it could have dictated terms to
: the Process.

It's not "imitate the Process or win", IMO; rather, in order to "win", the CP
must do Process-like things. The "transshipment to everywhere" service is a
necessary first step (note that the Process did it too; its ships normally
traveled on Grand Tour routes touching every planet.) But it does not suffice.

One thing the CP might do, for instance, is found a large-scale institute for
doing basic research, and recruit for it from the other planets by writing very
permissive immigration laws. To any student of American history (and NA must
have many of these) such a plan almost suggests itself. Moreover, there is
already a natural pool of immigrants in the Nova AIs (who, in the official
timeline, begin migrating on their own to Atlantis where citizenship can be
bought outright.) I can easily imagine a CP representative calling on Themis to
discuss the legal and moral position of the AI species...

Incidentally, a research institute of this kind would be _very_ interesting to
the filigree, and might well lead to a second Deal -- though, obviously, nobody
in the CP would know that when they started.

: But making the CP into something like the Process would have been
: against the politics of New America - everybody could agree on the nationalist
: angle, but if you try to make it some kind of dynamic postmodern organisation
: many of the fractions would have had incompatible interests.

Both halves of this statement strike me (an American) as dubious. The Process,
to my eyes, blends together trade and education projects in the service of a
creed (transhumanist, unsurprisingly.) Creating another such organization, but
in the service of creeds popular on New America, is a project every NA fraction
would favor -- yes, even the Bell islanders. But a project designed to make
_New America_ great would be far more controversial; it would be regarded not as
the colony's project, but the government's, and as a specimen of vainglory.

: : And finally, there's the reaction to the Li. Surely the NA government
: : would have heard about the mysterious coup on Penglai before their own
: : ship returned from there?

: No. Remember that at this time, the number of starships is on the order of
: ten or twenty, many of which are under repair or otherwise unavailable. Since
: travel takes weeks, information spreads slowly. This is what the "Meeting"
: text describes (my players were actually doing the graphing and plotting
: described) - as the news got out, the schedules and routes of individual
: ships could change the destiny of whole planets.

I see. But in that case, gaming the initial spread of the Li beyond Penglai
requires knowing where all the ships in service are at the moment the Process'
expedition departs, and (for ships visiting Penglai) the odds for the three
significant outcomes (Li converts ship, Li destroys ship, ship escapes.)

: Hmm, I see that I have not added one text, "the fall of New America", which is
: a in depth description of the events on NA, to the website. I better do that,
: it makes things a bit clearer. In short, the key factor was that the infected
: NADS-I people on board could use their clearances to scatter well - especially
: to infect their superiors during debriefing. Given my assumption of no prior
: knowledge of the Li and merely ordinary quarantine, the infected could get out
: undetected.

Ordinary quarantine can't be very effective, then. The Li nanite is spread by
vectors similar to a bacterium's; it seems to me that any quarantine good enough
to keep disease bacteria out would also keep the Li-infected inside quarantine
from infecting anyone outside, secretly. They could of course infect others
overtly by breaking out of quarantine -- but the MacArthur's crew wouldn't try
that; it would mark them as dangerous, and their first goal on returning to NA
is to mix with the populace without being suspected.

On second thought: perhaps ordinary quarantine is effective, but it doesn't last
for a week? And also, given the nanite's 6-8 hour incubation time, how many
people could have been infected _and_ indoctrinated before the warning arrived?

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