The universe is not only strange but stranger than we can imagine

Wolfe’s world

Wolfe’s world — overview

(Dr. Edward Wolfe, Fellow Level II of the Skellig Michael Institute, expert in SocioCybernetics*, is the protagonist of Project Maldon and Hunger Star. Here is a quick look at his world.)

It’s closer to the end of the 21st Century than the beginning. Trends that were evident in the early decades have  accelerated– the fragmentation of nations, the rise of extremist religions, massive social dislocation as robots and AI entities take over more and more jobs. The divide between rich and poor continues to grow, and even to accelerate.

Who’s in charge here?
Artificial Intelligence entities (AIs) have been developed, and four of the most advanced ( Big Red, Lao Tze, Solomon and Helen) are generally given most of the credit for keeping humanity from total disaster, by expert juggling of scarce resources, brokering of  fragile agreements between nuclear-armed power blocks and, it is whispered, a clandestine policy of assassination targeting those judged to be destabilizing influences. If anyone — or anything — is truly running the show, it may be these AIs.

Long life — for those who prosper
Medical sciences are thriving. For those who can afford the treatments, life can be prolonged many years, perhaps a century or more. No-one knows except the Elders (as they have been dubbed) — and they are not telling. The wealthy can also afford the genetic engineering needed to breed “super children,” offspring endowed with intelligence, athletic skills and good health. Auto-immune diseases such as arthritis can be arrested and reversed with tailor-made medicines. Experiments with enhancing and storing the elusive thing called “consciousness” on machines are underway. Chip implants, prosthetic limbs and sense organs have given those who can afford them near superhuman powers of recall and perception. In every way, the borders that used to define what it is to be human are becoming blurred.

The high frontier is opening, but...
New materials and techniques have made space travel and colonization feasible. Humans have gained a real if precarious foothold in space, with outposts on Mars, a nascent asteroid mining industry, and a scatter of permanent, near self-supporting colonies on the Moon.  Several large orbital habitats serve as jumping-off points for outward bound missions — and as lifeboats, should conditions Downwell** spiral out of control. But space travel is still expensive, fatal accidents common and enabling technology in the early stages of its evolution. The promise of outward expansion is there, but it will take time to fulfill. The question is, does humanity have time?

The Die Back lurks
Despite progress in some areas, there is a growing sense of crisis. At the heart of the crisis is the world’s runaway overpopulation. Everyone agrees there are far more people than the tormented planet can sustain– but no-one agrees what to do about it. How to bring the population down to sustainable levels? Who decides who should not reproduce — and maybe who should die? With famine, disease and violence stalking the favelas and suburbs, with the wretched of the Earth washing up at the locked gates of walled communities, with conflicts flaring on every continent, the Die Back (as it has come to be known) seems all but inevitable.

When and how The Die Back starts is a matter for earnest debate and hysterical pronouncements. But few doubt that it is coming. Soon.

 

*SocioCybernetics:  the science (some say art) of computer-assisted social engineering. The Skellig Michael Institute is universally acknowledged as the leader in SoCy, a discipline sometimes described as the most effective way ever invented of meddling in other people’s affairs.

**Downwell: abbreviation of “down the gravity well.” A somewhat derisive term used by spacers for Earth.

 

Categories