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Stuff. Like, about writing my novel, Future Shock. And other stuff.

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Sunday, November 11, 2001

Unrestrained population growth is a frightening thing.

I've been doing a bit of research. I wanted to figure out how much of the galaxy we could colonize in 3400 years, if there was no death due to age (only accidents, so effectively no appreciable death rate) and we had unlimited room to expand in.

Being very conservative, I decided that the birth rate would be half that of the US --- 7.25 births per thousand people, or .725%. I'm planning to kill off a third of the worlds population, so we start with 4 billion people.

THe equation is:

LOG(k) t
expgrow(N, k, t) := N e

So for our conditions, the population of humanity after 3400 years would be 1.856912423027169E+20, or
185,691,242,302,716,900,000. That's 185 quintillion people. If each planet held four billion people, we'd need 46,422,810,575 and a bit planets to hold them. 46 _billion_ planets. That's 11.6% of the galaxy, _if_ every single star had a habitable planet.

That's a bit much. If we assume that only 2 out of every hundred systems have a habitable planet, that would fill the galaxy 5 times over.

So lets modify our assumptions somewhat: FTL is only 1400 years old, and Sol system grew much more slowly until then, reaching a population of only, say, 3 trillion. When the stars opened up, the birth rate jumped to our .725%, overall. So how big is the human race 1400 years after the drive was developed?

7,401,245,071,367,419, or 7 quadrillion people --- much, much smaller. We only need 1,850,311 planets at 4 billion per planet.

But lets take a look at the Solar sytem for a bit, with its 3 trillion people, right before the drive is discovered. Right now, on Earth, we've got six billion people or so. Assuming we manage to fertilize and water the deserts, and we build undersea habitats --- and the sea isn't _that_ much more dangerous than space, after all --- I could see us managing to have, say, 15 billion on Earth. On the moon, since the initial habitats would be underground, thus getting the idea of vertical space use in place, let's give it four billion people --- it's only got a tiny fraction of the earths surface, but using the space _under_ the surface gives more room.

We'll have terraformed Mars and Venus, so let's give Mars, say, five billion --- it will be colonized _after_ the moon, so it'll have underground use as well. Venus has a bit over half the surface area of the Earth, so give it a base of 8.5 billion, but let's push that up to 11 billion to account for the underground usage.

We've now, with the 3 planets and one planetoid, accounted for 15+1+5+11 == 32 billion people.

That's just over one percent of the people in the solar system. Where are the rest?

In space. Habitats orbiting Earth, Mars, Venus, Jupiter --- but, mostly, habitats in orbit around the sun itself, somewhat inside the orbit of venus for many, some in the asteroid belt, some all the way out to the Kuiper belt. And a few people have moved all the way out to the Oort cloud. For reference, the Kuiper belt is a region that starts 50 times furhter out from the sun than the Earth lies, and ends at 100 times. The Oort Cloud is 50,000 times further out.

Obviously, the system is horrendously densly populated; the moon is probably the single most densley populated place in existance. With 7% of the Earth's surface area, it has 26% of the earths population. After all, why leave the moon when you can just dig a new room? The older areas of the moon are mostly used for non-residential purposes, these days, because the rooms are smaller --- for the most part, residences are fairly spacious, since you just have to dig out some rock.

The primary activity in the Oort cloud is comet mining --- take a nice, large comet. Break it down and separate out the various elements, then ship it back in-system for the space habitats. There's always some leakage of atmosphere, and some loss of organics, and those have to be made back up. Luckily, with their levels of nanotech, all that's needed are the right elements, carbon and oxygen and so on. Many of those can be gathered from the Oort cloud.

What of those which can't, though? For those, there's a ring of habitats around the sun, with huge, multi-square mile solar panels to provide power. They need insane amounts of power, because the produce the missing elements through atomic transmutation. It's not in any way _efficient_, but it works well enough to satisfy the need for those few elements that can't be found in sufficient quantities. They'd perfer to mine Jupiter or Saturn for it, but even with their gravitics and powersources, that's not really an option --- it's believed that the pressure towards the bottom of Jupiter's atmosphere reaches 100 million times the pressure of the earth's atmosphere.

So what we have is a situation where the vast majority of humanity no longer has the meme of living on a planet --- so while new systems will probably be chosen for having a habitable planet, simply because that's easier, those same systems will also have a lot of people who don't _want_ to live on a planet, who mine moons or asteroids or comets. So I think it's safe to raise the people per system to, say, 20 billion, meaning we need only 370,000 systems. Fully developed systems will have more than that, but new ones will have less, so I think it evens out. And even systems without a planet will have some population, simply so that they can be mined for resources, though not much of one. And shortly after the drive is developed, hyperfield power systems are developed, using an adaptation of the same tech to give something resembling mass-energy conversion, though not at greatly efficient levels.

So let's say that there are a million sytems in the radius covered by humanity. Just what is that radius then? Well, let's make a back-of-the-envelope, horridly inaccurate calculation. In the first 11 ly radius, there are 26 stars. That works out to .008 stars/cubic light-year. Pluggin various equations and numbers into Maxima, I get a bit over 1000 ly radius. Let's double it, though, because let's face it, people aren't perfectly efficient. 2000ly from Earth in every direction. If we set the speed of our hyperdrive to 1ly/hour, it would take 2000 hours, or 83 1/3 days, to travel from Earth to the edge. Double that from edge to edge. I like that. Freighters are, of course, slower, and things like courier boats faster.

I think I like that bit of worldbuilding.

Friday, November 09, 2001
heh. A friend just gave me the inspiration for book 5. Protagonist on the run from a religously fundamentalist culture they grew up in stows away on a freighter that's not a freighter -- it's a SA Intelligence ship.

6018 words yesterday. Damn.

Just under three thousand in the morning, and then a bit over 3200 in the word war last night. Whee.

Found out the most interesting things. Melissa is severely claustrophobic. June had cancer -- and would have died if she wasn't honorable.

Since she was, and wasn't willing to let Melissa go through something she hadn't been through, Pandora caught it.

And if I can do 6000 words in a day, I'm not worried about being able to finish the book.

Thursday, November 08, 2001
I'll also be using this for notes to myself. Miss Teasley's first name is June.

Well. 400 words in 3 days, roughly. Ick. It's all Civ3's fault.

That and bad news about a friend's wife -- she's dying. That's not news; she's been dying for six months or so. She's now paralyzed aside from vocal and swallowing apparatus. That's news, and not good news. :( Back in the spring, they gave her just a few weeks to live, and I was glad when she made it past that. Now I'm thinking that that wasn't the blessing it appeared to be.

Figured out a few more things about my world, though, and have a new character for a short story.

For one thing, I've figured out how I'm dealing with the Singularity. The Singularity, for people who aren't familiar with it, is something posited by transhumanists. The basic idea is that as we get better computers (and AIs) and become able to interface people directly with computers, the speed of thought and creativity will increase, which feeds back into itself. The basic idea isn't that farfetched -- if you graph the rate of progress over the last 300 years, it would closely resemble an exponential curve. The idea of the Singularity takes a step beyond that, and says that the rate of progress will go vertical -- near infinite progress in zero time. _And_ that we won't be able to understand what comes after the singularity.

Well, I'd say the second step follows from the first -- infinite change _will_ result in something unrecognizable. So, given 3400 years of advancement, a sickeningly high tech level (Mark's augmentation, which is _not_ state of the art, lets him increase his speed of thought by a factor of 1000), why hasn't the Singularity occurred?

I banged my head on this for a while. It wasn't a plot element, but I _did_ need to be able to explain it, or people familiar with transhuman thought would see a plot hole.

I finally figured it out: It has. Repeatedly. But it's not stable; one of two things result. The first is that the group that entered the Singularity goes....away. Elsewhere. Nobody knows where, but it's commonly considered that the first group to manage this left a trail of breadcumbs for others to follow. A trail only visible to groups which have gone posthuman.

The _second_ is that they regress back to normal human levels of functionality. Changed, of course; they won't be the same people they were, but human again. Groups that do this either can't find the trail, can't follow it, or choose not to; they are somewhat more common than groups that take the first course.

So now I need a good reason that Singularity isn't stable. Hmmm. I think that it prevents creativity. That it's perfectly, totally logical that they follow some pattern which ends up inhibiting creativity. Eventually they figure out what's happening, and either regress back to human levels, or find the trail of breadcrumbs which leads them _past_ the Singularity, into a state where they _can_ be creative and....whatever.

Great. Solved. What about groups in the singularity that decide a perfectly good way to get creativity is to coerce other people into joing, by force if needed, and take their inventions as they come up to the frozen state? What about militaristic or religiously fundamental posthumans? Why hasn't one of these taken over/destroyed civilization yet?

Because Singularity is common. There's almost always two or three groups in the Singularity ready to oppose them. Hmm. I suspect that it's not uncommon for religious groups to deliberately enter the Singularity, believing that where they go is to 'be with God'. And it's not at all unlikely for them to turn around before they get there, and return to human levels, to help others. Yes. The Jesuits in particular have done this, en masse, at least once. Needless to say, a Blight needs to move very, very carefully.

But what if there's not a group in position to oppose a Blight when it erupts?

That's where people like Misty Brenagon come in. Misty's a Special Agent for the Solar Association. Her job, for the most part, involves tracking down particularly intelligent/creative people, and trying to get them to come work for the Association; it also involves tracking down those people who manage to survive as criminals (in an anarchy when everyone has the equivalent of military weapons if they want them, criminals tend not to last long; those who do are extremely good -- and dangerous). It's not unusual for her to end up recruiting the criminals, unless they are irreparably psychotic.

And, in the rare cases where a Blight appears without an opposing force in position to deal with it -- her job is to _create_ that force, by convincing people to enter the Singularity to oppose it, and then come back down out of the Singularity. Special Agents have specific training to come back down rather than moving on; while perhaps 1/4 don't come back from their first Singularity, it's rare for those who do to fail to come back from subsequent ones.

I like Misty. I've got a short story in mind for her, and I think she's going to show up in book 4 as Teron's companion.

Yup, I know, roughly, what books 2-4 are about: Book Two (Future Impact? Eh. Something involving impact or a similar word): The environmental disaster that Pandora mentions, and they try to determine its form, in this book occurs. They were totally wrong. It's not pollution. It's not anything manmade at all. It's an asteroid impact on Antarctica. Oops. Book three: Set at the very beginning of the Flowering, it's the story of the first AI and the man who programmed her, and the struggle to get her declared human..... Book 4: Toren's story, set in the future.

More coffee time.

Monday, November 05, 2001
Hmm. Going pretty well. Looks like Pandora's a bit of a bitch. In a nice way, but she does enjoy teasing poor Mark when she realizes he's not comfortable with social nudity. Then again, he _asked_ for her to have a sense of humor.

Hmm. What does it do to martial arts when thought processes can be sped far beyond any possible physical levels? Mark's thought processes can speed up -- along with perceptions -- by a factor of a thousand; in contrast, he can only move about three times as fast as an unaugmented human (though, to be fair, he hasn't _had_ any speed mods; all of that is from his boosted strength and his boosted nerves.) So he's got plenty of time to think through _everything_ he's doing, and make sure he's got a _perfect_ trajectory.

What does that mean from the outside? I think it means he's going to _look_ like he's a master martial artist, though no one will recognize his style -- nobody sees him move, but the guy's punches miss.

Sunday, November 04, 2001
Argh. 0 words so far today. OTOH, I _did_ figure out that there are psionics in my world; it's not surprising that they weren't identified until the nanotech brain augmentation came along. Seems psionics makes use of several widely scattered structures in the brain and those structures aren't connected. Usually. Some people have slightly differently structured brains, and have connections, and some people grow connections -- that's what a lot of esoteric disciplines did, cause the growth of neural pathways. Of course, with nanotech brain aug, you can just _build_ some.....

And, neatly enough, you can build analog structures for an AI. And _only_ for an AI -- if the hardware doesn't have an AI, there's nothing there for, say, a telepath to contact. Nobody knows why, but apparently consciousness is a requirement.

Ok, looks like I'd told it the wrong place to look for the program that actually _posts_ the entry. No wonder it wasn't working.

And, yes, I now have blogging! I hope. I'm using blogger.el, for emacs. C-c C-b s (control-c, control-b, s) opens a new buffer I can put my entry in, and C-c C-b d sends it.

If you aren't using emacs, you should be. It slices! It dices! It does damn near anything you could want. And it's available for obsolete systems like Windows.

Now maybe to write something.

And now to see if it works with blogger.el (for emacs)

Now to see if it properly updates on the webpage.....

Well, now I've got a blog.