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 08-12-2009, 08:54 PM   #1
Agemegos
 
Agemegos's Avatar
 
Join Date: May 2005
Location: Oz
Default Sectors of an Ultra-Tech/Bio-Tech economy

High technology is not just a matter of using newly-discovered scientific and engineering principles. The higher a tech level goes the more sophisticated its products become, which means that each product has many sub-assemblies, many, many components, scads of materials etc.. These are all produced by different special refining, fabrication, and assembly processes. And the range of different products also rises dramatically with tech level. All of which means that as tech level rises the number of different refining, fabrication, and assembly operations, special skills and tools, machines, factory layouts etc. required rises sharply. Now, it is well-known that each worker, tool, machine etc. is most efficient and productive when he concentrates on or it is specialised for a single operation. Generalists and general-purpose manufactories are dramatically more expensive that hyperspecialists working in assembly lines or distributed manufacturing enterprises.

It follows that an ultra-tech economy can only produce ultra-tech items economically if it has enough workers and capital employed that each worker and machine can be fully specialised to the degree that the sophisticated products require and fully employed in that speciality. Integrated over the range of special materials, fabrications, sub-assemblies, and products, this means that there is a minimum economic scale for each tech level, which rises with tech level.

It is a feature of my SF setting (conservative hard SF with radical touches and a minimum of superscience) that the development level of different colonies depends largely on the extent to which they are able to integrate their economies and achieve the scale that will let producers specialise. Depending on population, population density, physical and institutional infrastructure, peace, appropriate regulation, and government honesty, the development level of a world ranges from TL1 to TL10, and the average income with it, also the real exchange rate.

Almost all the worlds participate in the interstellar economy to some extent, but the ill-developed ones are only able to do so by exporting comparatively crude products, which compete with locally-made equivalents on highly-developed world by being sold cheaply. TL2-development economies export agricultural products (these are higher-value than you might think, because of legacy biotech) and even minerals. High-development economies import copper and plastics, not because they can't make them locally, but because of Ricardo's Law. They concentrate on making, and therefore export, the fabrications, components, subassemblies, and assemblies that require vast fab plants and hyperspecialised workers.

A further feature of the setting is that there is a small group of worlds called "the Suite" that specialise their individual economies and integrate them with interstellar transport, allowing a scale of production larger than any one world economy could achieve, and consequently the specialisation to make products of a sophistication greater than that which any merely planetary economy could achieve. Each planetary economy supports in effect one sector of the integrated economy of the Suite, and the Empire is the transport sector that permits this integration. The worlds of the Suite are consequently rich.

Certain worlds develop into the Suite or decline out of it from time to time. The Suite is generally growing (and slowly becoming able to sell products that were unknown even on Old Earth!). At 541 PDT (AD 2926) it consisted of Tau Ceti, Xin Tian Di, Paráiso, Aeneas, Esbouvier, Todos Santos, Jungfrau, New Earth, Vanaheim, and the Empire. At 603 PDT (AD 2988) it consists of Tau Ceti, Xin Tian Di, Paráiso, Aeneas, Esbouvier, Todos Santos, Jungfrau, New Earth, Eden II, Vanaheim, and the Empire. The Suite has a scale of economic integration about one order of magnitude larger than the population of a TL10 planet, and each planet in the Suite supports one sector consisting of about 10% of a ~TL11 economy.

The question arises from time to time of which colony specialises in what. The Empire specialises in starships, naturally. It has been established that Tau Ceti makes the best beam weapons (probably optical phased array emitters rather than actual lasers) and holographic equipment. Todos Santos has been noted for psychology, pedagogy, brain-hacking, mind-emulations, mind uploads and downloads, and computer software. Esbouvier has been noted as the place for artificial species, parahumans, and the like.

Before I commit myself any further, I'd like to sort out a reasonable division of an Ultra-Tech economy into about ten sectors each making up about 5–15% of economic activity. Would anyone like to suggest a likely division or a few likely economic specialisations for worlds?
__________________

© copyright Brett Evill
Discussion of FLAT BLACK

Last edited by Agemegos; 08-13-2009 at 09:29 AM.
Agemegos is online now   Reply With Quote
Old 08-12-2009, 11:07 PM   #2
Fish
 
Join Date: Sep 2007
Default Re: Sectors of an Ultra-Tech/Bio-Tech economy

I'm not entirely sure where you mean to begin. Let me just toss this out there for your perusal. Some time ago, I created a 3-dice-randomizer chart for race/ethnicity, education, wealth and occupation, based on the August 2007 Bureau of Labor Statistics data for the United States. I made it, because I thought it would be useful for randomizing NPCs. These are more or less accurate reflections of a TL8 economy in modern times (although to fit into the probability curve of a 3-dice roll, I had to adjust the relative percentages up or down by a point or two).

Code:
OCCUPATION.  Roll 3d to randomly determine occupation, or select an area of
occupation below.  This random list may be used instead of the Education
and Wealth rolls; they are not designed to interact.  The distribution of
professions is based on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, August
2007.

	3	0.5%	Natural resources and mining (roll again)
	4	1.4%	Military
	5	2.8%	Information (roll again)
	6	4.6%	Wholesale trade (roll again on Manufacturing list)
	7	6.9%	Construction (roll again)
	8	9.7%	Manufacturing (roll again)
	9	11.6%	Retail trade (roll again)
	10	12.5%	Professional (roll again)
	11	12.5%	Education and health (roll again)
	12	11.6%	Local government (roll again)
	13	9.7%	Leisure and hospitality (roll again)
	14	6.9%	Financial (roll again)
	15	4.6%	Transportation (roll again)
	16	2.8%	State government (roll again)
	17	1.4%	Federal government (roll again)
	18	0.5%	Utilities
Disregard the instructions to roll again; I had been working on a series of additional random charts intended to break down the sectors into specific occupations, but I never finished.

Is this a good starting point for you?
Fish is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 08-13-2009, 12:10 AM   #3
nick012000
 
Join Date: Jul 2009
Default Re: Sectors of an Ultra-Tech/Bio-Tech economy

Seriously?

Von Neumman Robots
Everybody Else
nick012000 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 08-13-2009, 08:15 AM   #4
Captain Joy
 
Captain Joy's Avatar
 
Join Date: Nov 2006
Location: Heartland, U.S.A.
Default Re: Sectors of an Ultra-Tech/Bio-Tech economy

Quote:
Originally Posted by Brett View Post
...I'd like to sort our a reasonable division of an Ultra-Tech economy into about ten sectors each making up about 5–15% of economic activity.
Off the top of my head:
• fuel production
• energy weapons
• bio/medical tech
• nanotech
• spacecraft
• communication/media/sensor/security tech
• computer tech
• power distribution tech
• personal vehicles
• construction
Captain Joy is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 08-13-2009, 08:35 AM   #5
Mailanka
 
Mailanka's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2006
Location: Eindhoven, the Netherlands
Default Re: Sectors of an Ultra-Tech/Bio-Tech economy

Quote:
Originally Posted by Brett View Post
It is a feature of my SF setting (conservative hard SF with radical touches and a minimum of superscience) *snip*

High-development economies import copper and plastics, not because they can't make them locally, but because of Ricardo's Law. They concentrate on making, and therefore export, the fabrications, components, subassemblies, and assemblies that require vast fab plants and hyperspecialised workers.
You might have a problem. If you're playing a conservative hard ST game, which I assume means difficult FTL, Ricardo's law won't help anyone.

A planet is a really big place, a solar system even more-so. You can easily have highly developed industrial complexes on the same world as a copper mine without violating Ricardo's Law, because the society that springs up around the copper mining will fixate on that, while the society that springs up around the industrial area will fixate on tech. So you'll see imports, just not interstellar imports.

For interstellar trade like this to work, you're either going to need more precious resources ("Hey look, a Beryllium mine!") or easy FTL travel, so it takes no more energy to hop from the Alpha Centauri copper mines to Terran computer tech firm than it takes to hire a naval ship to cart copper up from the african coast and into a Dutch tech complex.

(I note that you mention you have "superscience where necessary," and I assume that means you do have FTL, but the considerations of that FTL matters)
Mailanka is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 08-13-2009, 08:58 AM   #6
whswhs
 
Join Date: Jun 2005
Default Re: Sectors of an Ultra-Tech/Bio-Tech economy

Your decision of an integrated multiworld economy puts me in mind of Gordon Dickson's treatment of interstellar trade as the basis of economic and political conflict in his "Dorsai" series. It's not a topic that's been addressed very often in science fiction.

The basic idea that you need a minimal scale to make certain industries economically viable makes sense to me. It's not so obvious to most of us for high-tech industries, but if you look at older ones, then, for example, the cost of printing a book from carved blocks is much lower than that of hand copying it . . . but only if you can spread the cost of carving the blocks over at least hundreds of copies, which implies a book market than can buy hundreds of copies. Setting up a print shop of that sort in an isolated village of 500 people would almost certainly not be economically feasible; even a town of 10,000 would be marginal . . . it might work for the scriptures of a universal religious faith or for laws that the rulers wanted everyone to see, but special interest titles would likely be cheaper to hand copy. But I'd like to see estimates of the actual economic sizes that support various sorts of enterprise, historically.

Bill Stoddard
whswhs is online now   Reply With Quote
Old 08-13-2009, 09:00 AM   #7
Icelander
 
Icelander's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: Iceland*
Default Re: Sectors of an Ultra-Tech/Bio-Tech economy

Quote:
Originally Posted by whswhs View Post
But I'd like to see estimates of the actual economic sizes that support various sorts of enterprise, historically.
You know he's going to go and research this now?

And drown you in data. And neglect his GMing duties. And pour some more data on you. With diagrams.

I'll hold you responsible. ;)
__________________
Za uspiekh nashevo beznadiozhnovo diela!
Icelander is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 08-13-2009, 09:15 AM   #8
whswhs
 
Join Date: Jun 2005
Default Re: Sectors of an Ultra-Tech/Bio-Tech economy

Quote:
Originally Posted by Captain Joy View Post
Off the top of my head:
• fuel production
• energy weapons
• bio/medical tech
• nanotech
• spacecraft
• communication/media/sensor/security tech
• computer tech
• power distribution tech
• personal vehicles
• construction
Judging by conditions in the United States, if you view health care as an industrial sector rather than a public service, it could easily become quite large. I'm going to suggest one-third of the economy, assuming that things have advanced to the point of massive life extension . . . not immortality or fundamental genetic fixes, but just ensuring that the normal person lives to a hundred or so.

Intangible industries are also going to be important. How big an entertainment, recreation, and tourism sector will there be? What about the "finance, insurance, and real estate" sector?

Going by the "rise of the creative class" thesis, the creation of new content seems likely to be economically important. So would there perhaps be a basic research sector absorbing maybe 5-10% of economic activity?

What about secondary scientific activity? Already there are important abstracting journals and research services. Imagine an economic situation where (a) science has grown even larger and more difficult to keep track of, (b) productive research often comes about because some enterpreneurial scientist sees a payoff in taking a result from field A and examining it in light of theoretical models from field B, and (c) such entrepreneurs of science make up a substantial economic sector in their own right.

Then there is Vernor Vinge's bit where a starship travels from one solar system to another carrying a precious cargo of—long random numbers usable for encryption! It's about as high a value-to-weight ratio as you're likely to get.

Bill Stoddard
whswhs is online now   Reply With Quote
Old 08-13-2009, 09:15 AM   #9
Agemegos
 
Agemegos's Avatar
 
Join Date: May 2005
Location: Oz
Default Re: Sectors of an Ultra-Tech/Bio-Tech economy

Quote:
Originally Posted by nick012000 View Post
Seriously?

Von Neumman Robots
Everybody Else
Everyone else is a Neumann robot.
__________________

© copyright Brett Evill
Discussion of FLAT BLACK
Agemegos is online now   Reply With Quote
Old 08-13-2009, 09:16 AM   #10
whswhs
 
Join Date: Jun 2005
Default Re: Sectors of an Ultra-Tech/Bio-Tech economy

Quote:
Originally Posted by Icelander View Post
And drown you in data.
May God smite me with it, and may I never recover. Or in the American idiom, "Please don't throw me in the briar patch!"

Bill Stoddard
whswhs is online now   Reply With Quote
Reply

Tags
bio-tech, economics, flat black, trade, ultra-tech

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 08:33 PM.


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