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 > Transhuman Space

Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
Old 04-12-2012, 02:14 AM   #1
antares
 
Join Date: Apr 2012
Location: Germany
Default Probability of THS scenario - in light of the last 10 years

Hi guys,
recently I got to know THS and I am really fascinated. Looks like all transhumanists have been working together in order to develop a realistic depiction of the future.

I am wondering how realistic the positive scenario that is presented in this rpg really is. I hope I do not repeat a discussion that has been conducted over and over again. I am really curious about your thoughts.

In principle I regard most assumptions of THS as being rather realistic. However I have the following concerns that I do not see covered in the books. Most concerns touch on economic/financial issues.

- Europe is being shown as a very well-off power bloc. However THS also acknowledges the fact that Europe was and is rather conservative on emerging technologies (think about GMOs). So is the assumption of a strong Europe really realistic?

- Somewhere I read that big corporations still hire a lot of "cheap" labor from developing countries. Something that is has also been driving globalization over the last years. Again, is it realistic that high-cost countries fare so well?

- Public debt and the non-sustainability of the warfare state (US) and the welfare-state (EU) - i.e. the current problems are not treated. Of course I can see that in the long run nanoprocessing will enable a generous welfare state. Still, there is still global competition on taxes.

- Similarly there is a problem with pension systems

- bitcoin is not mentioned at all;)

- How do financial markets work in general? Any changes here?

- With respect to technology. How does space travel work? I do not see an economical way to get into orbit. How has this problem been solved?

Final question: How would you rewrite the THS timeline ten years after you initially designed the RPG?
antares is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-12-2012, 06:19 AM   #2
johndallman
 
Join Date: Oct 2010
Location: Cambridge, UK
Default Re: Probability of THS scenario - in light of the last 10 years

Quote:
Originally Posted by antares View Post
Looks like all transhumanists have been working together in order to develop a realistic depiction of the future.
Well, no. One guy, David Pulver, is responsible for the setting, although he took ideas from many sources - see the bibliography.
Quote:
I am wondering how realistic the positive scenario that is presented in this rpg really is.
Not very. It's extremely optimistic about the success of a huge range of technologies, and about their take-up and the social reactions to them. Some things, such as the partial terraforming of Mars, are portrayed as having happened in implausibly short times.

Something to remember is that most science fiction, including THS, is not about predicting the future. It's about telling a good story that also makes you think; THS provides a framework for a variety of games, and the setting is weird enough to require quite a bit of thought.

SF always reflects the time at which it was written, and THS reflects the rather unfocused optimism of the time between the fall of the Eastern Bloc and 9/11. It's hardly surprising that it seems less plausible 13 years later, after many things have changed.
Quote:
Europe is being shown as a very well-off power bloc. However THS also acknowledges the fact that Europe was and is rather conservative on emerging technologies (think about GMOs). So is the assumption of a strong Europe really realistic?
There's a trick with technological conservatism: don't waste money on every wild idea, but back the ones that are workable hard at the right moment. However, Europe has failed in the last decade to get its economy organised so as to operate as a single entity, and now has a crisis caused by the resulting imbalances, so its future doesn't look so good at present.
Quote:
Somewhere I read that big corporations still hire a lot of "cheap" labor from developing countries. Something that is has also been driving globalization over the last years. Again, is it realistic that high-cost countries fare so well?
They could, if dramatic technological progress created the wealth to sustain them. This has not happened. The climate of fear and suspicion produced by the reactions to 9/11 has limited business risk-taking, causing a preference for asset bubbles instead. The lack of co-operation of the laws of nature in allowing that easy technological progress hasn't helped either.
Quote:
bitcoin is not mentioned at all;)
Well, the name won't be, not having been invented at the time. It might well be an ancestor of the secure finance systems of THS, but it's unlikely the brand name would survive 90 years.
Quote:
How do financial markets work in general? Any changes here?
Those aren't what the authors were interested in. Again, THS is not a serious attempt to predict the future.
Quote:
With respect to technology. How does space travel work? I do not see an economical way to get into orbit. How has this problem been solved?
By a combination of mass-produced launch hardware, use of nuclear power, and ignoring the problem, because this is not a prediction, just a game.
Quote:
Final question: How would you rewrite the THS timeline ten years after you initially designed the RPG?
Realistically? No large-scale space travel at all, no powerful AI, no advanced biotechnology, and a world divided into quarrelling power-blocs with populations largely distracted by the descendants of the Internet. But that's no fun.

Last edited by johndallman; 04-12-2012 at 06:22 AM. Reason: quoting, spelling
johndallman is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-12-2012, 07:40 AM   #3
whswhs
 
Join Date: Jun 2005
Default Re: Probability of THS scenario - in light of the last 10 years

Quote:
Originally Posted by antares View Post
- Public debt and the non-sustainability of the warfare state (US) and the welfare-state (EU) - i.e. the current problems are not treated. Of course I can see that in the long run nanoprocessing will enable a generous welfare state. Still, there is still global competition on taxes.
Actually that is treated. One of the books says that as an outgrowth of life extension, the idea of a right to publicly funded retirement, even at the low level of Social Security, has simply been abandoned as unworkable. There are eloi (wealthy people who live on their investments) in vastly increased numbersóbut that's not a welfare state; that's a vastly enlarged capitalist class. I don't think Pulver and his colleagues anticipated this becoming an issue quite so soon . . . the timeline doesn't predict the current economic crisis . . .but it's in there, along with the massive population decline in Europe and Japan that's now starting.

Bill Stoddard
whswhs is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-12-2012, 08:20 AM   #4
antares
 
Join Date: Apr 2012
Location: Germany
Default Re: Probability of THS scenario - in light of the last 10 years

Thanks for the answers.

Quote:
Originally Posted by whswhs View Post
Actually that is treated. One of the books says that as an outgrowth of life extension, the idea of a right to publicly funded retirement, even at the low level of Social Security, has simply been abandoned as unworkable. There are eloi (wealthy people who live on their investments) in vastly increased numbersóbut that's not a welfare state; that's a vastly enlarged capitalist class. I don't think Pulver and his colleagues anticipated this becoming an issue quite so soon . . . the timeline doesn't predict the current economic crisis . . .but it's in there, along with the massive population decline in Europe and Japan that's now starting.

Bill Stoddard
Well in Fifth Wave I somehow read that 30 or 35% of people were unemployed and are basically fed by the government. Well to me that should eat up quite some tax money.
antares is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-12-2012, 08:37 AM   #5
antares
 
Join Date: Apr 2012
Location: Germany
Default Re: Probability of THS scenario - in light of the last 10 years

Quote:
Originally Posted by johndallman View Post
Well, no. One guy, David Pulver, is responsible for the setting, although he took ideas from many sources - see the bibliography.
Well, Anders Sandberg is also quite a big shot in h+ circles. I am into it a bit myself, so I recognized his name. I am sure there are even more spreading the meme ;)


Quote:
Originally Posted by johndallman View Post
SF always reflects the time at which it was written, and THS reflects the rather unfocused optimism of the time between the fall of the Eastern Bloc and 9/11. It's hardly surprising that it seems less plausible 13 years later, after many things have changed.
Well some things are maybe even a bit too conservative. there are very few countries whose culture changed fundamentally.

Quote:
Originally Posted by johndallman View Post
By a combination of mass-produced launch hardware, use of nuclear power, and ignoring the problem, because this is not a prediction, just a game.
I looked it up and I got the impression that nuclear power was only used in space not as a means to get into orbit. Hence my question

Quote:
Originally Posted by johndallman View Post
Realistically? No large-scale space travel at all, no powerful AI, no advanced biotechnology, and a world divided into quarrelling power-blocs with populations largely distracted by the descendants of the Internet. But that's no fun.
My ideas on how to broaden / improve the system:
- Add details on World economy and finance. This is actually quite an interesting topic as we had to witness over the last years. Duncanites could be presented as the adherents of currencies like bitcoins that threaten to undermine established monetary systems. (I for myself think that for the future this topic might become just as controversial and important as nano-socialism).
- Additional content on Virtual Reality. Just because THS is not Shadowrun we do not need to give up on doing Runs, do we?
- Introduce a big foe. Most players are struggling to come up with generic simple campaigns (like kill the wizard and rescue the princess). To me most "enemies" are actually not 100% evil (TSA, blue shadows, ...), or are too boring (Martian Triads) or are just too powerful to combat as a group of 4 slightly-above average dudes (Kazakztan dictator)
My suggestion: It would be cool to have an adventure on xox cults. Because these guys are really spooky but not completely unrealistic.
antares is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-12-2012, 08:46 AM   #6
malloyd
 
Join Date: Jun 2006
Default Re: Probability of THS scenario - in light of the last 10 years

Quote:
Originally Posted by antares View Post
- Europe is being shown as a very well-off power bloc. However THS also acknowledges the fact that Europe was and is rather conservative on emerging technologies (think about GMOs). So is the assumption of a strong Europe really realistic?
Sure, it's got a lot of capital resources. In fact though much of the rest of the world *has* seen more economic growth (as measured through Power scores) than the developed world - i.e. the gap is closing - and despite all these new technologies the entire world saw less total growth percentage in the 21st century than in the 19th or 20th.

Quote:
- Somewhere I read that big corporations still hire a lot of "cheap" labor from developing countries. Something that is has also been driving globalization over the last years. Again, is it realistic that high-cost countries fare so well?
Those are pretty much unconnected. The fact is that supplying commodity resources (and cheap labor basically is one) simply isn't a good way for a country to get rich. Sure it's better than subsistance agriculture, but the third world countries that are starting to show real economic takeoff are doing it by moving *past* supplying cheap labor and starting to produce domestic supplies skilled (and hence expensive) labor like say engineering and software development. Anyway, employment is down so much world-wide that there should be no shortage of cheap labor in Fifth Wave states if they really needed it for anything.

Quote:
- Public debt and the non-sustainability of the warfare state (US) and the welfare-state (EU) - i.e. the current problems are not treated. Of course I can see that in the long run nanoprocessing will enable a generous welfare state. Still, there is still global competition on taxes.

- Similarly there is a problem with pension systems
Actually it is mentioned. Really though, this is overblown. These systems are going to crash or be reformed in the next couple decades, by a century out, nobody will care. A description of the modern world wouldn't need to talk about the major economic problems of the 1920s very much either. You need to watch out for short term stuff like this when developing a distant future setting. For example one of the issues I had with the Fifth Wave playtest was a constant inclusion of discussions on the problems of "former communism" in eastern European and Soviet states, much of which did get killed out. That is starting to seem a dated concern *now*, in a century....


Quote:
- With respect to technology. How does space travel work? I do not see an economical way to get into orbit. How has this problem been solved?
Well reusable spacecraft and laser launch help a lot. But really the large scale space presence in TS is somewhat handwaved, because its a "space" setting. There's a reasonable chance that expansion into space will *never* be an economically justifiable decision, but that's boring.
__________________
--
MA Lloyd
malloyd is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-12-2012, 08:46 AM   #7
whswhs
 
Join Date: Jun 2005
Default Re: Probability of THS scenario - in light of the last 10 years

Quote:
Originally Posted by antares View Post
Well in Fifth Wave I somehow read that 30 or 35% of people were unemployed and are basically fed by the government. Well to me that should eat up quite some tax money.
Yes, but that's not the same as social security for the aged.

The idea that Europe can continue to sustain a massive welfare state is looking less convincing now than it did ten years ago, to be sure. Back around the turn of the century, most people still enjoyed the sense of optimism that goes with an economic boom and continuing moderate inflation.

Bill Stoddard
whswhs is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-12-2012, 08:52 AM   #8
antares
 
Join Date: Apr 2012
Location: Germany
Default Re: Probability of THS scenario - in light of the last 10 years

Interesting discussion. thanks for the comments already given.
antares is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-12-2012, 10:25 AM   #9
Kitsune
On Notice
 
Kitsune's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2005
Location: At the Stern, Raising the Black
Default Re: Probability of THS scenario - in light of the last 10 years

Quote:
Originally Posted by antares
- Europe is being shown as a very well-off power bloc. However THS also acknowledges the fact that Europe was and is rather conservative on emerging technologies (think about GMOs). So is the assumption of a strong Europe really realistic?
Over the last decade I became more and more pessimistic about Europe's future. It may be, that the whole continent is downright sleepwalking into oblivion right now. From todays viewpoint it seems possible that the European Union, as we know it today, will not even exist in 10 years anymore. But things are more complicated, since it is also possible that the EU's disolution may turn out to be a good thing, while its continued existence and ongoing integration may exactly lead to the worst disaster. The only thing that seems quite certain to me is that the next few years will be very important in determining the future of the Old World. If we Europeans think clearly and level-headedly, we may still get out of the mess. However, it is doubtful that we do so.


Quote:
Originally Posted by antares
- Somewhere I read that big corporations still hire a lot of "cheap" labor from developing countries. Something that is has also been driving globalization over the last years. Again, is it realistic that high-cost countries fare so well?
I would not rule it out. Over the last centuries there have been always some countries that were much richer and better off than most others. You may doubt that this will still be the case in 2100 if you believe in a overwhelmingly equalizing power of modern technology. But I, for my part, do not.



Quote:
Originally Posted by antares
- Public debt and the non-sustainability of the warfare state (US) and the welfare-state (EU) - i.e. the current problems are not treated. Of course I can see that in the long run nanoprocessing will enable a generous welfare state. Still, there is still global competition on taxes.

- Similarly there is a problem with pension systems
I like the expression about America's warfare state in contrast to Europe's welfare state. Right on the mark. At present it seems likely that both models will turn out to be utterly unsustainable - but this revelation will most likely make itself felt within the next one or two decades already. The big question is really: "How much will technology in general progress within the next century?" It is the answer to that question that will ultimately decide wether the Wonderlands of Transhumanism will become possible that fast or even at all. Once again, I tend to be sceptical. It may very well be that the Transhumanist movement utterly overestimates said progress. But so far, the "we may even underestimate it" meme is still very widespread among them (consider people like Raymond Kurzweil). But I doubt it very much.

I don't even want to get into bitcoin or the workings of the financial markets of the future (as it is, I am pretty clueless about how those of today work). Regarding the real space travel of the future, I suspect that there will not be too much of it. By and large I agree with johndallman's assessment about the future:
Quote:
Originally Posted by johndallman
No large-scale space travel at all, no powerful AI, no advanced biotechnology, and a world divided into quarrelling power-blocs with populations largely distracted by the descendants of the Internet. But that's no fun.
It may indeed not be too much fun, but neither was the end of the Roman Empire or the plague. In any case, history seems not to mind.
__________________
"I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams."
Kitsune is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-12-2012, 10:56 AM   #10
antares
 
Join Date: Apr 2012
Location: Germany
Default Re: Probability of THS scenario - in light of the last 10 years

Quote:
Originally Posted by malloyd View Post
Actually it is mentioned. Really though, this is overblown. These systems are going to crash or be reformed in the next couple decades, by a century out, nobody will care. A description of the modern world wouldn't need to talk about the major economic problems of the 1920s very much either. You need to watch out for short term stuff like this when developing a distant future setting. For example one of the issues I had with the Fifth Wave playtest was a constant inclusion of discussions on the problems of "former communism" in eastern European and Soviet states, much of which did get killed out. That is starting to seem a dated concern *now*, in a century....
Well, if you take Austrian economists and Ron Paul seriously and I do not see any reason why not to - then we are going to get something called a "crack-up boom".

Lets assume that there will be no miracle and that the crisis turns out to be as dramatic as the Great Depression. Then long-term consequences can be dire indeed!

I know a bit about history. What most people do not know: Hitler was not elected because everybody was anti-semitic and because everybody wanted to have revenge for the defeat of WWI. Of course this part of his agenda was also communicated and well-known. But during his election campaigns, the focus was really on

1) fighting the communists and bringing back law&order and more importantly
2) to create employment through economic policies similar to the ones of FDR
I do not want to be alarmist, but things might happen that will have large repercussions.
antares is offline   Reply With Quote
Reply

Tags
economics, scenario, ths

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 05:50 AM.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.9
Copyright ©2000 - 2017, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.