Thursday, 14 April 2016

Early Extrasolar Colonization In Alternative Timelines

Extrasolar colonization is about to begin at the very end of Robert Heinlein's five volume Future History. Both Asimov and Blish describe colonization in two stages. In Asimov's future history, the "Spacers" of the first forty colonies enjoy fully roboticized economies and therefore are unwilling to face the hardships of further exploration or colonization. They are overtaken by a second wave of "Settlers" without robots whose descendants will build the Galactic Empire. Blish's first wave of Colonials are freedom-loving exiles who welcome the industrialization provided by a later wave of Okie cities.

We will now consider in slightly greater detail Poul Anderson's Psychotechnic and Technic Histories and Jerry Pournelle's CoDominium History.

As in Heinlein's Future History, extrasolar colonization begins with slower than light generation ships. When the hyperdrive is invented, although there is no economic incentive for emigration, many leave Earth because they have been marginalized by cybernetic society. Colonists scattered across a planetary surface dwell apart but are connected by telescreens and gravity fliers. Cities, abandoned on Earth, are revived for spaceports, warehouses etc but only one per planet or even per system. Colonies diverge culturally and unpredictably.

When the hyperdrive is invented, an exodus called the Breakup enables citizens who dislike their governments to live freely elsewhere. Because it is cheaper to import than to synthesize, interstellar trade flourishes and, because there is not yet any interstellar government, the Polesotechnic League becomes a loose supergovernment.

The almost energy-free Alderson drive causes the Exodus in the early twenty first century. New colonies lack hard currency and capital equipment although not human labor which the Bureau of Relocation provides in abundance. Wealthy governments or corporations finance industrialization of some colony planets whereas other colonies lapse into pre-industrial peasant economies. In intermediate cases, technological elites rule impoverished masses.

In much of this series, the bulk of the population seems to be regarded as a problem, unemployed, uneducated, unreasonable and unenterprising. That is not my experience of humanity in Britain or my perception of humanity elsewhere. Political and social unrest with only military solutions on offer is a very bleak future vision that does not do justice to human invention and creativity.

1 comment:

  1. Kaor, Paul!

    Will be commenting on your CoDominium remarks. The trouble with the "labor" BuReloc dumped on many colonies was that in many cases it was too many, too soon. That is, many of the new colonies were not yet ABLE to quickly absorb and put to productive work many of the involuntary colonists. To say nothing of how many deportees simply did not have the skills or willingness to learn them that would enable them to be integrated into the colonies. So it should not be surprising the older settlers and their descendants resented RuReloc's deportees. And that kind of social stress and tension would inevitably lead to wars and civil wars.