Worlds & Time

Sunday, December 31, 2006

Snow & Expansion

So, aparently the only thing that's different when you're snowed in with a broken neck is that there are other people around. We got two feet of snow here in the last two days, which is more than my family can remember since we've moved to our new house (10 years ago, give or take).

My brother, my uncle and a friend were coming back from a ski trip in Colorado, and couldn't make it to Albuquerque, so they stopped here instead. Yesterday they couldn't even get out of the driveway, so they were stuck here.

Except for the complete lack of cable and internet, it might as well have been another Friday/Saturday for me. We watched the Incredibles, Hero (with Jet Li) and played some psuedo-poker because none of us knew the rules very well. Later, we went out in the snow and I dumped a shovel of snow onto my uncle's friend Neil. Dinner was good, and I stayed up late.

In serious injury news, I'm feeling a lot better. My neck is still sore, but it almost never hurts. I can't run, but I feel like I should be able to do things again.

Incidentally, here's a follow up to yesterday's (backdated) post:

I've resigned myself to an eventual split, but what do I actually see happening to America in reality? Nothing.

Nothing at all.

We'll keep trading congress and the presidency between a left faction and a right faction for years. Occasionally we'll learn to hate someone enough that the other side will win big for a few years but we won't actually see a President or congress that is willing to step away from the center line for fear of being voted out.

Science fiction has an interesting solution to this: expansion. One of the things that I believe kept the early United States so stable was expansion into new terrain. Eventually we broke down into the civil war, but that was after the "brackets" were firmly in place. The country is getting smaller and smaller, and loosing your personal space is going to make anyone upset.

I've mentioned before that Hawking says that we're going to have to expand to other planets in order to survive as a species, and two posts ago I mentioned that in my books humans have the ability to expand out into space.

Ignoring the very real problem of terraforming, if you have the entire universe to search, you'll most likely come across a few planets that are ready for human habitation. A few seeds, a few cows and sheep, and it'll be like a new western frontier.

The people that are going to be the first to expand out aren't going to be astronomers and scientists, it's going to be the people that are in such desperate circumstances that they figure that a new planet can't possibly be worse than where they already are. Joss Whedon's Firefly suggests that the two languages that survive are going to be English and Chinese, but I think he made a mistake when he suggested that it was going to be American English.

I think that it's going to be British English, with a distinct eastern Indian accent.

Of course, the Americans will probably end up controlling the first few settled planets (or the Chinese will, if America collapses), but India has the people and the rate of expansion to eventually fill those planets, and then move on to more.

American ingenuity is a nice concept, but I suspect that most American Christians aren't going to want to go anywhere off-planet just in case Jesus comes looking for them. As far as I know, Hinduism doesn't have the same restrictions. Life is life, be it on Earth or on Alpha Centauri V.

After all, India does have a rising population of English speaking engineers and programmers. I think that it's entirely possible that Kaylee should have a bindi.

As an afterthought, Muslims aren't going to want to go off planet either. A pilgrimage between planets is going to be that much harder than a pilgrimage between continents. I don't see any problem with Jews, Buddhists or Hindus exploring space, although I'm sure there are a few sects out there of each that are going to remain tied down.

Anyway, with expansion to the stars, once again the social pressure on the population is reduced. The Puritans have set out for planet Plymouth, and all of the criminals can be plunked down on planet Australia. Hermits can have entire snowy continents to themselves instead of needing to resort to mail bombs. Second sons can own go claim their own land.

Expansion produces and interesting social dynamic, and I think that it's one that we've almost forgotten about.

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