Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Front Towards Enemy

Here's a thought experiment. Suppose some biotech guys jigger the genome of people so that they produce chlorophyll. You got green skinned people walking around who, like those little glass globes containing brine shrimp and algae, are self-contained, autonomous and independent. Almost self-contained. They need sunlight, but that's it.

How sociable will they be? They don't have any of the normal needs that force people to depend upon one another. They don't need food or water. Let's make them impervious to the elements, so they don't need shelter either. What do they need?

I've always felt intoxication and sex and other forms of pleasure seeking are biological drives, so let's have the biotech guys modify their brains so that all of that is right out, and they don't need that either.

Okay, they could be coerced. Threatened with being put in the dark unless they work for someone. So, let's make them relatively invulnerable, so that it is too much trouble to subjugate them, cost vs benefits wise, like a society of... hmm, let's see, green-skinned, invulnerable, a society of Hulks I guess.

So about all that's left dependence-wise is boredom and loneliness. Well, we can't really bio-engineer that away without making them dummies, so let's not do that. So, boredom and loneliness are their only dependencies, otherwise they are supremely independent.

How sociable will they be? What kind of people are these Texans, given that they really are completely self-sufficient. Ridiculously self-sufficient even, as they can recreate civilization from literal bedrock all on their lonesomes. Are they social? Civil? Gregarious? Convivial? Or are they more like anchorite monks? Standoffish? Reclusive? Cantankerous?

Your average Texan battle cruiser clocks in at around a million metric tons. Some (very few, fortunately) go up to fifty million tons. None of that tonnage is for living quarters or life support because no living Texan continues to be organic. That vessel is an individual (spacefaring) Texan. Therefore, your average (spacefaring) Texan can be completely devoted to maneuvering, power generation, and war-fighting. There is the usual hardened ablative shielding and armor, a complement of thousands of nuclear warheads (ranging from a few kilotons up to ten megatons), lasers tuned throughout the EM spectrum (ranging from megawatts to terawatts), high energy particle beams of every flavor, and the usual assortments of kinetic weaponry.

The question I have to ask is, why does the Empire of Texas need such a vast fleet of formidable warships, I mean, sorry, such a well-regulated militia? Who are they at war with, or from whom do they need to defend themselves against? I put this question to the battle cruiser Edward Hopper.

Edward Hopper, you ask? Wait a minute. The guy who painted "Nighthawks"? There's a battleship named after him? Well, yes, but not the same guy. Edward Hopper is the battle cruiser whom the Empire of Texas, through the conduit of the Emperor of Texas, assigned to assist and aid our diplomatic party.

Okay, you know what? I'll explain it all later. For now, just, yes, we are having a conversation with a battle cruiser, okay? So, I asked Mr. Hopper, who insisted we call him Ed, and he answered:

"Well, I guess it all boils down to the fact that apparently the Almighty has a deep and abiding love for parasites, He made so many niches for them".

"That's kind of an evasive answer".

"It's not meant to be. But consider our historical precedents, which are not all different from Earth history. Any society is bound to have a few members that prefer to game the system, or prefer not to act out of good faith, or prefer to keep the cooperation to a minimum. Or, you know, act like selfish assholes. You get one selfish asshole, and the next thing you know, you got multi-megaton space ironclads bristling with everything from nukes to nunchuks".

"Yeah. I- I understand all that. The question is it all inertia of history here, the fact you are all well-armed, or do you guys have an active and current adversary?"

"Currently? No. But, we're more than just spacefaring battle cruisers, right? I mean, each of us is a von Neumann self-replicating space probe, capable of recreating all of civilization from scratch".

"Okay, you guys are some one-to-two-thousand years ahead of us technologically, and therefore post-scarcity, and, I guess, post-Singularity, and I'm guessing the Empire is more like a network cloud or a Bose-Einstein condensate than a political entity. Maybe what I'm asking doesn't apply -".

"Exactly, I mean. We've colonized this whole galaxy, and by colonizing, I mean not only terraforming - which by the way, there's millions of really nice earthlike worlds around here now, I mean you couldn't tell the difference between them and old Earth - but we've replicated our civilization throughout, and what you call weapons, all those nukes, lasers, blasters, missiles, and guns? Well, they are also tools, engines, and batteries, the kind that provide the enormous energy flux to power factories and fabricators, and - you know for use on anything from biosphere nano-assembly to stellar tectonics".

"Or, you can blast the shit out of your enemies with them".

"Well, there's that also I suppose. When you need to..."

"You're not going to answer my question, are you, Ed?"

"...I thought I had"

I was starting to get the feeling Ed, clearly an expert rationalizer, should consider running for office.


  1. I like it. There's a New Paradigm, just like in so many sci fi stories. Except it's bull, just like in real life!

    1. It's clearly Bull, as I am making it up as I go along!

  2. Would an impervious being have any use for self-consciousness? I think it'd be awfully inconvenient.

    1. Extremely inconvenient, in the same way self-consciousness doesn't help omniscience. But the whole thing has taken a life of its own now, so...