Steve Jackson Games - Site Navigation
Home General Info Follow Us Search Illuminator Store Forums What's New Other Games Ogre GURPS Munchkin Our Games: Home

Go Back   Steve Jackson Games Forums > Roleplaying > GURPS

Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
Old 08-31-2018, 02:39 PM   #1
Seneschal
 
Seneschal's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jul 2009
Location: Pula, Istria, Croatia
Default [Sci-fi] Plausible scenarios for the evacuation of Earth at TL10-11

Hey everyone. I'm currently in the planning stages of a hard sci-fi campaign for my group. We initially considered Eclipse Phase setting (for the uninitiated - a game of "transhuman conspiracy and horror"; think THS if it really was the way the official rulebook artwork depicts it. Then add a good dollop of murderous machines, mutants, nanoplagues and unfathomable alien entities plotting our extinction), but decided on making our own setting to better fit the themes we wanted to explore - the transformation of culture, media and personal identity in a highly technological world. A facet of EP that we did want to keep is the evacuation of Earth. This gives us several things we're looking for: a crisis that has affected all of civilization (but not made it unrecognizable) in the not-too-distant past, a new environment that humanity has to quickly adapt to, a shake-up of Earth-based geopolitics so that we may tweak existing cultures, social structures and economic systems, and an exploratory vibe, with various factions looking to resettle a derelict Earth.

The important difference is that we don't want apocalyptic dread as the dominant theme in the setting - we'd prefer to play in a "problematic utopia" wrestling with technological and cultural changes. The emphasis on living in space and dealing with the aftermath of the exodus give us an exciting backdrop for even mundane adventures.

I'd like to ask for the hivemind's advice for setting up such a campaign: getting the timeline right, the technological milestones that are needed for it to happen, what the short- and long-term consequences would be, etc. The campaign is meant to take place a couple of decades after the evacuation, but I'm most worried about the events preceding it. I've made a list of factors that could play a role in bringing the setting to the desired starting condition:


1) The Earth has a thriving orbital infrastructure, permanent habitats in space or on the Moon, outposts on other celestial bodies, affordable to-orbit transportation (either a space elevator or some other way to launch stuff) and/or a very good reason to go, work and live in orbit (say, a CME took out our satellite network and a large commercial effort is mounted to repair it, leading to advances in spaceflight and legislation changes to further commercialize space, etc.). So, "THS but not that far out into the Solar system" (I'd prefer to keep fusion power as new tech during the evacuation, mostly because of point #3). This is setup for having somewhere to run to when the planet goes splat. The plausibility of this point by my preferred time of evacuation (around 21XX) seems a bit shaky, and I'm looking for further justifications for it. E.g., I'm not very well informed on the viability of near-Earth asteroid mining or orbital solar panels or other things that could spark interest for spacefaring.

2) Transformative technologies (the wham-bam package of high biotech, mind uploading, AI, neural augmentation and animal uplifting) have been advancing at an accelerated rate, and are relatively mature at the time of the evacuation. This is another important precondition that I'm not entirely confident in; the idea of billions escaping Earth as uploaded minds is quite crucial, but I'm struggling to erase the various economic and cultural hurdles that such technology would face. I basically need it to be widespread, cheap and accepted.

3) The environmental situation is dire, and the most pessimistic projections are coming to pass - islands are disappearing, crops are failing, supercells are pummeling coastal areas, and the repair bills are mounting. Clean fusion power is either new, has scant availability, or isn't the saving grace we've been hoping for. This is meant to set the stage and prompt early interest into the possibility of relocation, terraforming, pantropy and various other B-plans. As of the tentative date of the evacuation, the early 22nd century, this probably isn't an imminent cataclysmic threat, but it will aggravate other things, namely...

4) The Yellowstone supervolcano erupts, or a meteor smacks us, or some other global disaster that comes with a decade or so of prior warning. This would be the big tipping point that starts a cascade of environmental collapse that the planet takes decades to recover from. There's actually a good thread already (concerning an Infinite Worlds parallel, if I'm not mistaken) on the Yellowstone eruption, and I've done some research on my own, but it all seems to indicate that, by itself, this wouldn't render the planet uninhabitable; it would certainly change the world, but someone in India might just be thankful for the extra shade, and feel no pressure to abandon ship. Whatever disaster I end up going with has to be something global, yet not so destructive as to leave nothing worth salvaging after a while, and the ecosystem's recovery needs to occur quick enough that the campaign's protagonists (25 years after the evacuation) may witness the start of a full-on resettling effort.

________________________

In conclusion, given all of the above, what would a planetary evacuation look like? How many do we need to transport? How long would it take? (Or, rather, how much of a warning do we give everyone?) How many can be physically lifted into orbit, and how many have to be sent as data? Realistically, how many don't make the trip? What numbers remain on Earth and what happens to them? What happens to nation-states when they consist of millions of citizen in digital limbo, waiting for better times? Is it realistic for us to grapple with such an undertaking by 2100, or is it better to punt it off another century in the future?

I'd like to add that, thematically, we're aiming to make it feel like a migration, not a psyche-shattering tragedy. It's "humanity, bruised but not broken, at the cusp of an era, reshaped by its new habitat", not "humanity bawls with a razor in hand as untold billions are dismembered by rampant nanomachines." By the current makeup of the party (journalists, socialites, etc.) it's going to be a campaign heavy on investigation and intrigue, so what I'm asking for is, "Can we do this without the tone going dark as ****?"
Seneschal is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 08-31-2018, 03:20 PM   #2
AlexanderHowl
 
Join Date: Feb 2016
Default Re: [Sci-fi] Plausible scenarios for the evacuation of Earth at TL10-11

I have modeled the scenario of evacuating everyone physically using fusion rockets and it takes around 20 years for a population of 10 billion (anything more rapid and you cause such severe economic and environmental trauma that you would not be able to evacuate everyone). You actually need to start with young women, as you want them to have their children in space rather than on Earth, so you do not have to transport the children into space. You wait till later in the process for the elderly, as few people over the age of 70 are healthy enough to survive liftoff.
AlexanderHowl is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 08-31-2018, 03:27 PM   #3
ericthered
Hero of Democracy
 
ericthered's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2012
Location: far from the ocean
Default Re: [Sci-fi] Plausible scenarios for the evacuation of Earth at TL10-11

You may want to look at it as turning earth over as a preserve/museum. Orion's arm has a conservation AI named GAIA kick humanity off world, but you don't have invoke an unfeeling AI: people can be dogmatic too, or you may have the resources to move everyone.



If you're going a hard-scifi mass migration route, you may want to look at orbital rings. They're only worth it if you're lifting large amounts of mass off earth, but you plan to do just that. They don't require much in the way of new tech, just old tech applied.
__________________
Be helpful, not pedantic

Worlds Beyond Earth -- my blog

Check out the PbP forum! If you don't see a game you'd like, ask me about making one!
ericthered is online now   Reply With Quote
Old 08-31-2018, 03:28 PM   #4
Michael Thayne
 
Michael Thayne's Avatar
 
Join Date: May 2010
Default Re: [Sci-fi] Plausible scenarios for the evacuation of Earth at TL10-11

Without a lot of warning, the prospects for getting very many people at all off-earth are pretty grim. The most economical near-future methods of getting stuff into orbit require expensive infrastructure that would be almost impossible to scale up quickly: space elevators and laser lift systems. In a setting with roughly the THS level of development, I'd guess you're looking at being able to move somewhere on the order of ten million people per year—even with many years of warning, you're only evacuating a fraction of Earth's population.

But that's nothing compared to the problem of housing all those people. In a setting with THS-like rapid terraforming of Mars, maybe you could set all the minifacs to crank out very basic survival gear (CO2 filter masks and such), but otherwise the actual number of people you save is going to be much less than the number you could theoretically get into orbit in a year. (This makes sense if in your setting the orbital population is dominated by tourists and people who work in orbit for stints of weeks or months rather than years.)
Michael Thayne is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 08-31-2018, 03:33 PM   #5
johndallman
 
Join Date: Oct 2010
Location: Cambridge, UK
Default Re: [Sci-fi] Plausible scenarios for the evacuation of Earth at TL10-11

Quote:
Originally Posted by Seneschal View Post
A facet of EP that we did want to keep is the evacuation of Earth. This gives us several things we're looking for: a crisis that has affected all of civilization (but not made it unrecognizable) in the not-too-distant past, a new environment that humanity has to quickly adapt to, a shake-up of Earth-based geopolitics so that we may tweak existing cultures, social structures and economic systems, and an exploratory vibe, with various factions looking to resettle a derelict Earth.
Relevant SF: John Varley's Eight Worlds setting has many of the elements you're looking at, and is also a lot of fun.
johndallman is online now   Reply With Quote
Old 08-31-2018, 03:49 PM   #6
jeff_wilson
Computer Scientist
 
jeff_wilson's Avatar
 
Join Date: Aug 2004
Location: Dallas, Texas
Default Re: [Sci-fi] Plausible scenarios for the evacuation of Earth at TL10-11

A more efficient use of resources might be to construct aerostatic greenhouse domes, sometimes known as "Cloud Nines", that take advantage of the square-cube law to achieve buoyance with few cubic miles of air kept at shirtsleeve temperature. This keeps you well above most apocalyptic goings on, don't require rockets or spaceflight at all, and lets you replenish air and water at your leisure. Brave gondoliers descended from generations of champion Kramer Krane players can man the scoops to retrieve heavier elements.....
__________________
.
Reposed playtest leader.

The Campaigns of William Stoddard
jeff_wilson is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 08-31-2018, 04:08 PM   #7
Seneschal
 
Seneschal's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jul 2009
Location: Pula, Istria, Croatia
Default Re: [Sci-fi] Plausible scenarios for the evacuation of Earth at TL10-11

Quote:
Originally Posted by AlexanderHowl View Post
I have modeled the scenario of evacuating everyone physically using fusion rockets and it takes around 20 years for a population of 10 billion (anything more rapid and you cause such severe economic and environmental trauma that you would not be able to evacuate everyone). You actually need to start with young women, as you want them to have their children in space rather than on Earth, so you do not have to transport the children into space. You wait till later in the process for the elderly, as few people over the age of 70 are healthy enough to survive liftoff.
That's not bad, actually. I'm mostly interested in whether transporting even one billion in the span of a decade or two would be plausible. With an event like Yellowstone, it's likely that much of the southern hemisphere would remain (somewhat) habitable, and a portion of humanity could remain dirtside - there would still be quite a bit of planet left to resettle (and have frontier-like adventures on) once the ash clears. Another large group could undergo mind uploading to create a large "infugee" population that might as well ride the crisis out in storage.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ericthered View Post
You may want to look at it as turning earth over as a preserve/museum. Orion's arm has a conservation AI named GAIA kick humanity off world, but you don't have invoke an unfeeling AI: people can be dogmatic too, or you may have the resources to move everyone.

If you're going a hard-scifi mass migration route, you may want to look at orbital rings. They're only worth it if you're lifting large amounts of mass off earth, but you plan to do just that. They don't require much in the way of new tech, just old tech applied.
I don't think humanity would give up such a piece of prime real-estate, given how hostile the rest of the Solar system is to life, but I do expect much of the planet to remain like a sort of quarantine zone for at least 20 years.

As for the orbital rings, I read about those in preparation for the campaign. I'm just not clear on how much easier or harder they are to construct than a space elevator. Making a ring in low orbit dodges the need for a HEO string and counterweight, but it still seems like a giant construction project, requiring more resources overall than an elevator.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Michael Thayne View Post
Without a lot of warning, the prospects for getting very many people at all off-earth are pretty grim. The most economical near-future methods of getting stuff into orbit require expensive infrastructure that would be almost impossible to scale up quickly: space elevators and laser lift systems. In a setting with roughly the THS level of development, I'd guess you're looking at being able to move somewhere on the order of ten million people per year—even with many years of warning, you're only evacuating a fraction of Earth's population.

But that's nothing compared to the problem of housing all those people. In a setting with THS-like rapid terraforming of Mars, maybe you could set all the minifacs to crank out very basic survival gear (CO2 filter masks and such), but otherwise the actual number of people you save is going to be much less than the number you could theoretically get into orbit in a year. (This makes sense if in your setting the orbital population is dominated by tourists and people who work in orbit for stints of weeks or months rather than years.)
Ten million a year does paint a pretty grim picture, given that the supervolcano scenario renders an area housing at least 600 million almost entirely uninhabitable immediately, and affects roughly 2 billion people nearby not long after.

I seem to need a good excuse to spark a big colonization effort several decades before things go downhill; something like rendering Mars not-a-complete-dump or having considerable portions of the population already in space by that time.

If I'm not mistaken, THS has something like a few hundred million people off-Earth by 2100. Given a nudge somewhere around 2060, they probably have the technology base to push that into the billions by 2100.

Last edited by Seneschal; 08-31-2018 at 04:19 PM.
Seneschal is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 08-31-2018, 04:48 PM   #8
AlexanderHowl
 
Join Date: Feb 2016
Default Re: [Sci-fi] Plausible scenarios for the evacuation of Earth at TL10-11

I think that THS has less than 100 million people in space, and most of the biosapients were born/grown in space. Titan, for example, has less than 100,000 people.
AlexanderHowl is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 08-31-2018, 05:36 PM   #9
ericthered
Hero of Democracy
 
ericthered's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2012
Location: far from the ocean
Default Re: [Sci-fi] Plausible scenarios for the evacuation of Earth at TL10-11

Quote:
As for the orbital rings, I read about those in preparation for the campaign. I'm just not clear on how much easier or harder they are to construct than a space elevator. Making a ring in low orbit dodges the need for a HEO string and counterweight, but it still seems like a giant construction project, requiring more resources overall than an elevator.
Orbital rings are only hard to build in the sense that they don't scale down well, because you've got to build a human-scale structure around the entire planet. If you've got a 2 trillion dollars to invest into getting off the planet, you should be building an orbital ring. Once its in place, it drops the cost of getting into space to something approaching modern freight costs.

While they are often associated with space elevators, orbital rings are actually very different. Some key differences:
  • Space elevators require minimal maintenance, but have a fairly strict capacity in kg/day. Orbital rings require a constant energy input, but if you increase the energy input, you can lift more.
  • Space elevators require materials science we currently don't have. Orbital rings don't, but require Billions of dollars minimum. The tech is fairly straightforward though.
* if building on earth. For moon sized bodies you can use steel.


Quote:
If I'm not mistaken, THS has something like a few hundred million people off-Earth by 2100. Given a nudge somewhere around 2060, they probably have the technology base to push that into the billions by 2100.
THS kind of is the pushed version. What you really need is time. And either superscience or an orbital ring.
__________________
Be helpful, not pedantic

Worlds Beyond Earth -- my blog

Check out the PbP forum! If you don't see a game you'd like, ask me about making one!
ericthered is online now   Reply With Quote
Old 08-31-2018, 07:11 PM   #10
Anthony
 
Join Date: Feb 2005
Location: Berkeley, CA
Default Re: [Sci-fi] Plausible scenarios for the evacuation of Earth at TL10-11

The problem with your scenarios is that, absent cheap FTL drives and a convenient habitable planet, your scenarios are insufficiently dire for evacuation to make sense.

The cost of evacuating people is the actual transport cost, plus the cost of construction of new places to live. Even if transport costs are zero, as long as Earth is more habitable than the place you're moving people, it's cheaper to just build habitats in place.

There are possible disasters on that scale, but they aren't 'ecological collapse the Earth will take decades to recover from', they're 'everything dies' scenarios. For example, mega-asteroids (and I"m not convinced that it wouldn't be easier to deflect the impactor or just endure it even so). A Theia scale impact would do the job, but isn't going to have anyone investigating the ruins of Earth...
__________________
My GURPS site and Blog.

Last edited by Anthony; 08-31-2018 at 07:15 PM.
Anthony is offline   Reply With Quote
Reply

Tags
eclipse phase, sci-fi, transhuman space

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Fnords are Off
[IMG] code is Off
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump


All times are GMT -6. The time now is 07:32 AM.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.9
Copyright ©2000 - 2021, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.