From Generation Unto Generation by Douglas R. Loss

*Sorry this is so late. I came home mildly con-crudded but it took the turn for the much worse overnight and I think I might need a nap to get through the day. I’m slow and stupid today, and trying to finish short stories that are grossly overdue.  This post by DR Loss is fascinating, or at least I found it so. Back tomorrow – SAH*

From Generation Unto Generation by Douglas R. Loss

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A philosopher friend of mine, Jim Schwartz, gave a presentation at the Tennessee Valley Interstellar Workshop’s 5th Interstellar Symposium in Huntsville, AL, in October, 2017.  In it, he asked some probing questions about the morality of forcing future generations into prescribed lives and roles aboard interstellar generation ships: https://youtu.be/5pfZkGSE1WM.

 

A couple of months ago Jim and some others had a section in Futures about space colonization, in which philosophers and social scientists supposedly debated the question, “Should humans seek to exploit and/or colonize space? If so, how should this be done?”  To my mind this was in irrevocably flawed question to start the debate with, as it assumed that any human expansion into long-term settlement of space would necessarily be exploitative and would be colonial in nature.  Predictably, at least half of the academic respondents didn’t even bother with the proposed question but just used the “debate” to ride their hobby horses de jour.

 

Still, the philosophical and moral questions they ignored are interesting ones.  Another philosopher friend of mine, Nick Nielsen, and I decided to start an email dialog roughly about how this might all work out.  Nick’s initial thoughts were that we might make an attempt to revive some of the original meanings of the term when colonization in classical antiquity meant the splitting of a wealthy city by the creation of a new city which was thought of as a “daughter” city (the original wealthy and populated city being the “mother”). This was the Greek model of colonization around the Mediterranean. When the Romans controlled the Mediterranean Basin, the meaning of colonization changed, as the Romans would settle retired soldiers, often in purpose-built cities. Such cities could, by definition, defend themselves as they were populated by former soldiers. In neither of these ancient instances did any negative connotation attach to the idea of a colony.

 

The above ideas could be combined with ideas taken from Fustel de Coulanges’ famous monograph on ancient cities, in which he makes a sharp distinction between the ancient cities of the early Greek period and the cities of later classical antiquity. This theme could be elaborated to note further mutations in the role of cities since the ancient world. Cities founded in artificial settlements in space or on the moon or other planets would represent another stage in the mutation of the theory and practice of the city.

 

Nick considered these to be much better models of what will happen with human expansion beyond Earth than that oft-invoked cautionary tale of 19th century European colonialism during the Great Game.   He also noted that a roundtable called “No Planet B” is scheduled for CASCA-AAA (A joint Canadian Anthropology Society and American Anthropological Association conference) in Vancouver this November with this as its premise:

 

As a planetary species we live together among the rising seas and blazing fires of climate catastrophe. Meanwhile techno-capitalism is birthing a new space race out of an emergent Silicon Valley Military Industrial Space Settlement Complex.

 

Rather than face up to the reality of many-species suffering, climate refugees, wars, colonialism, and artificial scarcity of capitalism, globalizing Silicon Valley elites work on plans to leave the Earth and “colonize” other worlds or flee to their heavily secured bunkers on our planet.

 

As Nick said, this pretty much ticks all the boxes of the emerging anti-space settlement sentiment in elite discourse. Of course, these folks see themselves as rebels against any and all elites. He said he  could rant about this, but that that wouldn’t be as productive as answering a couple of questions:

 

  1. Is it possible to talk to people like this?
  2. Will any of this matter, or will boots-on-the-ground establish the facts that we will later rationalize?

 

I replied that I thought that the concept of off-world permanent settlements is being colored very strongly by the terminology being used.  Calling such settlements “colonies” is triggering an autonomic response among the unthinking ideologues.  Of course, their denigration of their conception of colonization is based on the exploiting of indigenous humans in the areas colonized, which wouldn’t be the case in the settlements we’re talking about.  To maintain their outrage, they have to find something else to putatively be exploited.  That’s why we’re seeing them complain about the possibility of exterminating extraterrestrial lifeforms, even though no such lifeforms have been identified, and about the possibility of making scientific investigation of non-living materials and locals impossible (or even just less possible).

 

So my answer to his question #1 was “No.” As to question #2, I’ve always felt that the elite whining about all this is fairly meaningless as they won’t be the ones going or the ones deciding to go. If off-world settlements become feasible and economically and socially desirable, they’ll happen and all the academic caterwauling won’t be any more effective at stopping them than spitting into the wind.

 

I thought it might be useful to try to guide the terminology away from “colonization” and toward “community construction.”  There’s a somewhat long history of intentional communities, constructed communities, etc., that might give us a more rational perspective on off-world settlements, as they’ll be just that, and won’t be nearly as analogous to terrestrial colonization as they are to intentional community creation.

I lived for a few years in Columbia, Maryland, which is an intentional community.  I’m sure there are some folks there who like the place, but I found it sterile and barely a community at all.  To my way of thinking, the designers of said community really hadn’t studied and didn’t understand how functional, organic communities start, grow, and succeed.  I hadn’t actually studied the variety of intentional communities to see what has worked and what hasn’t, but I suspect there would be a good deal of valuable information to be gleaned from such a study.

There are other intentional community movements underway that could be considered analogous to off-world settlements, such as seasteading.  There’s also Asgardia, although I’m inclined to view that as either a hobby by the originators or a scam.

Nick wrote back that he found it interesting that there are so few successful intentional communities (once called communes, and no doubt there have been other names as well), fewer still that endure for a significant period of time and cover a  large geographical area. While in countries with a reasonable degree of freedom there is no legal regime that prevents the creation of intentional communities, nevertheless few are created, and fewer still are successful. One might argue that very small nation-states (say, Monaco or Vatican City) are something like intentional communities, and that our nation-state system of political organization today forces them into the mold of nation-states. He wasn’t sure if this is accurate, but there is no reason that a successful intentional community could not iterate its social and economic model and grow to a great size within a given nation-state. However, this hasn’t happened. Why hasn’t it happened, and would the fact that intentional communities haven’t been successful have consequences for building communities off world?

The artificiality of intentional communities may be an important component of this. While a top-down plan is being awkwardly imposed, people are responding to the actual conditions of life and creating a community from the bottom up that reflects the ordinary business of life, and intentional communities get stuck when the bottom-up reality comes into conflict with the top-down model. We can easily see this happening off world, when a government or commercial enterprise seeks to establish a presence according to the model approved by the higher ups, which works well on paper but which clashes with conditions on the ground. Governments and companies can impose their will (something intentional communities usually try to avoid), but this, too, leads to conflict, and often also leads to independence movements.

Following the foregoing, one could say that a colony, in the narrow sense, is a community in which the top-down model prevails, while a settlement is a community in which the bottom-up model prevails. Civilization has its ultimate origins in bottom-up social organization, but the later stages of a civilization (once a social, political, and economic model has reached maturity) tends toward the top-down. Nick said this is how he would define it, but whether anyone else would want to adopt these usages is another matter (and not likely).

Part of the problem with terminology surrounding “colony” and “colonization” is a peculiarly American obsession with language. We all know that governments and large companies in the contemporary world hire consultants to try to arrive at linguistic formulations that serve their interests while alienating as few as possible, though it was Nick’s observation that this surface-level debate has little traction outside the western world. People usually know they are being sold a bill of goods.

He agreed that, when the technology is available and the enterprise can be financed, off world enterprises and associated human communities will happen, regardless of the language used to describe them, and regardless of how they are conceptualized, and when society changes enough over historical time there becomes a real question of identifying institutions of the past with institutions of the present. He mentioned again the differences between Greek and Roman colonies and the European colonies established in the course of the Great Game. One could say that the linguistic continuity masks a multiplicity of differences that matter. Any future communities that might also be called colonies would also have this linguistic continuity covering over substantive differences on the ground.

It is human, all-too-human to want the linguistic continuity because this gives us some orientation in the midst of a changing world, and it is similarly human to engage in more-or-less similar enterprises over time, even under changed conditions, so there is justification for the extension of traditional language to new activities. By definition, off world human communities will be historically unprecedented, but we will talk about them using established language and think about them in terms of our existing conceptual framework, though our language and our concepts will slowly shift to accommodate our behavior. Top-down linguistic and conceptual revisions are about as artificial as top-down social organization. Esperanto has its enthusiasts as well as its critics; it is the intentional community of languages. Nick would bet on the success of spontaneous and fragmentary innovations of language and conceptual framework that change our way of thinking on an evolutionary scale, scarcely noticeable within a human lifetime, but adding up to substantive changes over historical time.

I did a bit more investigation into what I’d called “intentional communities.”  At the time I hadn’t realized that that was a term of art for artificial communities created with specific social purposes as their defining raisons d’etre.  What I was thinking of was more what’s often called “planned communities,” like Columbia, MD or Reston, VA.  Or come to that, the great majority of retirement communities or gated communities that are springing up these days, or even the company towns of yore.  As I live just a stone’s throw (almost literally) from Alcoa, TN and a short drive from Oak Ridge, TN, company towns are pretty familiar to me.

It seemed to me that a major difference between intentional communities and planned communities is that intentional community membership is generally based on an acceptance of the social raison d’etre while planned community membership is based on a contractual agreement between the member and the controlling organization.  Whether the planned community be a company town, a gated community, or a retirement community, an individual or family will only be allowed to reside there by agreeing to fulfill contractual commitments.

This seems to me to be a likely organizational tool for off-world settlements too, as the local environments in which the settlements exist will not be forgiving of casual modifications of, or abandonment of, agreed-upon facilities.

I recognize that this sort of organization might be chafing to many.  But if there are multiple settlements with somewhat varying contracts for membership, self-sorting may occur.

Again, I’m drawn to the literature on “seasteading,” even though seasteading is only at the very edge of nascency.

The balance between top-down organization, which at some level will be an absolute requirement if the settlement is to be able to sustain human life and a continuing biosphere, and bottom-up organization, which will be an absolute requirement if any true sense of community is to develop, will be interesting to observe.  I wouldn’t pretend to be able to design a feasible and functional interface between these two organizational modes, but I think such an interface will become one of the necessary and defining characteristics of any successful off-world settlement.  Or any seasteading, for that matter.

Nick replied that one can think of intentional communities as civilizations in miniature, with the pretext for the community being analogous to the central project (the social raison d’etre) of a civilization. The pretext for a community can be a pretty low bar, such as a single interest. For example, a nudist colony has as its central project nudity in the public spaces of the colony. That’s a single-interest central project. Other intentional communities might have a more complex central project, like people who participate in renaissance fairs and seek to reproduce past ways of living.

If we look at it like this, the low success rate of intentional communities can be considered equivalent to the claim that civilizations don’t scale. When you make a civilization and its central project too small, it just doesn’t work well. However, the problem with this is that it would place a big question mark on the origins of civilization. If civilization doesn’t scale well, then how did they get started? And we can’t consider the origins of civilization to be a rare or unusual thing, because multiple civilizations independently emerged in widely separated geographical regions. So there’s an idea, and a problem with the same idea. The imperative of survival is probably key. If a nudist colony fails, usually no one dies.

Nick said he considered company towns as particular instances of intentional communities with a low bar to pass: employment in the company whose town it is. The social raison d’etre is the success of the company. A contractual arrangement may be thought of as a formalization of a social raison d’etre, much as the law is a formalization of some baseline social agreement on what is acceptable and what is unacceptable within a given community.

He agreed about the self-sorting of membership in various off world settlements, and if off world company towns exhibit sufficient diversity and variety, that might be sufficient. Any one company town has the motivation to pull together when it is in rivalry with another company town. When a company town fails, the former residents usually distribute themselves among nearby company towns at a lower level of status, or leave the area entirely. That in itself is a motivation for everyone to be successful in their first choice of company town. The balance of this calculation changes, however, depending upon the supply of labor. If labor is tight, conditions will be good, and individuals will be incentivized to leave for another company town. This mean less loyalty and less likelihood of pulling together. If labor is abundant, conditions will be worse and individuals will be incentivized to stay where they are at.

This observation suggested an interesting tension: moving people off world will be expensive, so labor will be tight. Companies will be incentivized to move enough people off world that they can be more choosy about their labor and not be completely at the mercy of a workforce (which could, for example, unionize, and bring work to a halt in an economically disastrous way).

To return to the example of law, with Roman law and constitutional law we have a top-down model of jurisprudence; with common law we have a bottom-up model of jurisprudence. To this day, England has no constitution, so its legal system is primarily bottom-up, but the tradition of monarchy, and the borrowings from Roman law inject some top-down concerns. The US began with a constitution (if one doesn’t count the Articles of Confederation) so its legal structure is primarily top-down, but the tradition of popular sovereignty injects some bottom-up concerns. This is what we see in most societies: a primary model that is supplemented by subsequent revisions. Nick expects we will see the same in the future, with off world settlements starting out as top-down entities that are later supplemented by bottom-up concerns.

Once there is a critical mass of a human population off planet (and we don’t know what this critical mass will be), then there will be the possibility of alternative forms of social organization coming into their own. Given the incentive by companies to move more people off world in order to assure an ample labor supply, the very action taken to retain top-down control could lead to passing the critical mass after which top-down control will become impossible.

This discussion was a lot of fun, but I realized that we hadn’t actually addressed either Jim Schwartz’s morality questions in the above-referenced presentation at the TVIW symposium, or the question about whether or not to “colonize” space that was raised in Futures.

The question of the morality of committing future generations to lives aboard generation ships or other extraterrestrial settlement from which they have little or no possibility of leaving is one worth examining on its own.  As to whether humanity “should” “colonize” space, that’s just academics virtue signaling to each other.  If and when it will make sense economically and technologically, it will happen, and all the whining in the world won’t make a bit of difference.

Nick commented that anything that we do in the present to set up a world for the future commits future generations to living in that world without their consent. This is true if we put them on generation ships, and it is true if we confine them to Earth. An argument could be made (though he would not maintain that this is a definitive argument) that we have a moral obligation to follow out all the possibilities of the first “pulse” of industrial civilization, as we may not get a second chance. If we don’t open the door to the universe to our descendants, they may not be confined to Earth, which may be seen as a greater error than being confined to a generation ship.

Nick’s greatest concern for existential risk is what he has come to call “sustainable dystopia” (https://geopolicraticus.tumblr.com/post/182270083427/sustainable-dystopia-a-form-of-permanent) in which we ensure that things can go on indefinitely, but there is no possibility of broadening horizons or any hope for the future other than more of the same.

As to the future generation question, I’m drawn to pioneer movements of all types in the past.  When poor people took passage from Europe to the New World in the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries, they knew it was virtually impossible for them to ever return, or for their progeny to go back should they want to.  The lure of freedom and economic betterment convinced them to make the voyage, in the belief that whatever the consequences for them and their offspring, their lives would still be better than if they’d stayed in Europe.

Nick said that if memory serves, Edward Glaeser in his book The Triumph of the City characterized moving to a city as making an investment in discomfort in order for the children of those experiencing the discomfort to have better lives. This was true for pioneers in the 19th century, it is true for people moving from city to country in the 21st century, and it will be true for people moving into space in the coming century.

This moral question isn’t one of absolutes, but of probabilities.  If the lives of future generations must be taken into consideration when making such decisions, the only reasonable way to phrase the question is, “Will doing this make my progeny better off than if I don’t do it?”  If the question is phrased, “Do I have the moral right to compel future generations to live with the consequences of my actions?” and the answer is “No,” then there is no moral justification for any action, ever.  If the answer is “Yes,” then any action is justified.

As I mentioned a while ago in a comment to an earlier post by Sarah, Professor Randy E. Barnett of Georgetown University wrote an 80-page section on “Constitutional Legitimacy” in his 2004 book, “Restoring the Lost Constitution: The Presumption of Liberty.”  In it, he examines the concept of “consent of the governed,” and whether and why the Constitution is binding on us who were born to citizenship in the US.  Naturalized citizens have in fact consented to be governed by the Constitution, but natural-born US citizens have in general not affirmatively consented to be governed by the Constitution.  I mention this all just to let you know about it; there’s no way I can summarize 80 pages of closely reasoned legal philosophy here.  Just be aware that such questions are not being ignored, and that they are somewhat analogous to the question of the moral responsibilities to future worldship generations.

I hope this intrigued you, and would love to hear your responses to it.

157 responses to “From Generation Unto Generation by Douglas R. Loss

  1. Late is preferable to never, and all here are long-players: we’d rather you skip a day than exhaust yourself and miss a month.

    I look forward to reading DRLoss’s guest post.

    • You will NOT be back tomorrow unless you are feeling much better!

      You certainly SHALL be back here tomorrow with a minimum 5,000 word essay to entertain us with!

      (Obviously time for my nap. Completely forgot who I was talking to there…)

    • Jeff Greason

      First, I agree with the avoidance of the term “Colonization” and “Colony”. In the strict biological sense the word is perfect — when the first bacteria, plants, and animals start to live on lifeless volcanic islands, we call that ‘colonizing’. But there is an endless confusion with “Colonialism” and there is nothing lost by using another word. Ten years ago, I argued that the a good word was “Settlement”, and I still like that one. I have since found that for some, their interest is in the industrial development of space and they are indifferent to the human settlement — while I expect the two to happen together, I’ve sometimes used the phrase “economic development of space” to enlarge the tent.

      Second, I have noticed that the human settlement of uninhabited volcanic islands or coral atolls offers a good paradigm. Since this includes Iceland and the Polynesian settlement of the Pacific, both recent enough in history that we can talk usefully about the societies that achieved these things, I’m finding it a useful paradigm. We only ever hear about the views of “anti-progress” activists who are from advanced technological societies (because they would be mute without the use of broadcast media and the Internet), and such folks have a harder time explaining why the Polynesians were exploiting anyone by settling Hawaii and New Zealand.

      • The problem, of course, with terms such as “Colonization” and “Colony” is that those likely to get knickers knotted are in the same category as the people who get bent out of shape over words like “niggardly” and “snigger” — they’re idiots and there’s no point trying to reason with them.

        The real problem there is that society caters to their ignorance rather than abusing them for it.

      • As long as we’re spinning descriptors – try some form of “suburb of Earth”. Many initial ventures will likely be funded with a similar rationale of supporting the center with the labor & produce of the suburb, with the sole exception of presumptive daily commuting.

  2. … colonization in classical antiquity meant the splitting of a wealthy city by the creation of a new city which was thought of as a “daughter” city (the original wealthy and populated city being the “mother”). This was the Greek model of colonization around the Mediterranean.

    Not just the Greeks, I think, as Carthage was such a colony of the Phoenicians, and extended the process by establishing its own colonies in the Iberian peninsula (in part to prosecute its war against Rome.)

    This comment is a donation from the Society for Concrete Examples – No Excuses. Always rely on SCENE for the best in illuminating instances.

    • It’s not as though there weren’t already people wherever those cities were placed. Of course there were people. And they probably weren’t too happy about a bunch of others moving in.

      It’s just that no one thought it was an unreasonable thing to do if a group had the power to do it. We’ll take you over before you take us over.

      • Dan Hamilton

        Example – The Afrikaners – When they arrived there were no Blacks. There were bushmen, but the Blacks (Bantu) moving south were killing them as they went. The Afrikaners didn’t run into Blacks until decades later.

        • Actually Afrikaners and Zulus hit what we know in South Africa about the same time. I enjoin you to read https://www.amazon.com/Washing-Spears-History-Nation-Under/dp/067163108X/ref=pd_lpo_sbs_14_t_0?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1&refRID=BC9AM38KGKQMJQHBJK32
          I also enjoin you to stop using “Blacks” as though it meant something very specific. I know it as used that way in South Africa, but if you go on bandying it about like that, some very idiotic people who read this blog and comments searching for things to take out of context will make a big to do. And while I think they’re touched in the head and also incredibly moronic to engage in that pasttime, there are undecided people in the middle who’ll then decide we’re close relatives of Satan.
          I’m not telling you what not to say, only to stop talking like we all just immigrated from SA. Particularly when you’re historically inaccurate.

          • I was looking at that book not too long ago and considering that while I might buy it I likely would not ever get around to reading it (my “To Be Read” list already materially exceeds my reasonable life expectancy and grows longer with every book you, Larry and certain other authors generate) — especially as reading things online (such as this blog post and comments thereto) seem to fill ever more of my waking hours.

            Is it truly readable?

            Asking for a friend.

            • Yes. It’s actually very decent. Finally (possibly because I’d been reading about the clashes in the American West during the push west) made it clear to me that it was a matter of different head-software, not of either superiority of arms or genetics.
              There was another one on the same subject, but it’s been a good 20 years since I read on this, so I can’t remember the title.

          • “I also enjoin you to stop using “Blacks” as though it meant something very specific.” I wondered why he kept on about a New Zealand rugby team…

          • Dan Hamilton

            Thank you for the information. I will look into it.

            I also enjoin you to stop using “Blacks” (or Black I would think.)
            What else is to be used? “African-American” is a really stupid term, there are Whites of African decent also. I once thought of “Persons of the darker persuasion”, but that didn’t work. “People of Color” has the same problem, you really have no idea who they are talking about. I could use Negro but that would be at least as bad.

            So what to use?

            • ZULUS. It’s what that particular people actually WERE. Dear Lord. No, I’m not asking you to use euphemism for black. I’m asking you to use the name of the people opposing the Affricaners.
              In the US bushmen would be called “black” too. So it’s not a word with any meaning.

              • *nod*

                Heck, in the US, a sizable portion of the lineup for African American month wouldn’t be identifiable as ‘black’ without being informed as much.

                • Donald Campbell

                  I have always thought of myself as Caucasian. Imagine my surprise when I discovered I was “white – non Hispanic”.

                  • In as much as I cared, I identified as Irish. (and Scottish, and English, and there’s some Indian*) On a practical level, I identify as “no, no sun exposure without massive sunscreen, I cannot tan.”

                    Given the…issues…that ‘Hispanic’ exposed, I can see why they keep trying to expand it. Short version, you can see the under-age birth rates rise and fall with illegal immigration. Not because they only bring in 16 year olds, but because if you’re a pregnant child, you get some protections…so there are gray haired 17 year olds.

                    * part of why I like this place– at one point I mentioned my either-Indian-or-half such great-grandmother; someone else mentioned how come it’s always a grandmother, and because of some cousins on a different branch, I was able to explain that’s because USUALLY women move into the husband’s culture, and almost nobody thinks a Scottish great-grand is cool when you’re an Indian.
                    Sadly, it looks like that branch of the family on any reservation is going to die out, the last cousin who stayed on the reservation died– hopefully the last living Paiute cousin in my generation finds a good woman.

                    • Donald Campbell

                      Actually, while my Y chromosome links me as directly related to the Duke of Argyle, My full-Polish Grandfather probably has a lot more influence in my DNA.

                    • More importantly, on your culture.

                      I’ve got first cousins who are a LOT less ‘like me’ than some third cousins. ^.^

                    • Donald Campbell

                      Well, my Father [Scottish Y no Polish] loves bagpipes, if I never hear another one, it would be fine.

        • Jeff Greason

          Dan Hamilton — one of the reasons I find the examples of human settlement of uninhabited volcanic islands so useful is that in those cases, there was no native population to displace (and also, no native population to learn the secrets of local survival adaptations from). Also, in the case of the Polynesians they had to bring the ecosystem with them. The avoidance of pointless arguments with leftists about the evils of colonialism is a bonus.

        • The Man from Kilos40

          South Africa is actually an example of a Company town that mutated – All the VOC (Dutch East India Company) was interested in was a small settlement which would supply water, fruit and vegetables to their East Indiamen – reducing their costs by enabling more seamen to survive the harrowing journey to Batavia and the riches of the East.

          How it was that they kept on trying to cut costs, resulting in people spreading out far beyond to original planned Cape Peninsula location, is a story for another day.

          • Ah, mission creep, the most dangerous creep of them all. 🙂 “Since you’re going that way, could you pick up/look for/grow…” Thus turning a small re-supply and repair depot into the Transvaal and Orange Free States.

  3. Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

    I’ve heard it said that Generation Starships would never “get off the launch pad” because every lawyer and their cousin would sue on behalf of the unborn passengers of the Starship. 😦

    • That probably wouldn’t work absent expansion of the concept of standing. It might be possible to win standing on the basis that such ventures strip Earth of valuable resources with no assurance of replenishment of the materials used in those ships.

      Some might argue on behalf of Gaia that deprivation of the materials used constitutes a substantial diminution of Earth’s biosphere, just as [rude description] are currently asserting personhood of lakes, rivers, glaciers and other “entities” (ironically, many arguing such are adamant in denying personhood to corporations.)

      Particularly inventive advocates might go so far as to insist that the fuel used by such starships would contribute to Global Warming. (Why not — everything else does!)

      • TheOtherSean

        Some might argue on behalf of western civilization that dropping rocks on the major university towns is a public service.

        • ONLY if the rocks are very large and have significant velocity.

        • Christopher M. Chupik

          Haven’t you heard Brianna Wu? Evil libertarian space colonizers (pardon the redundancy) want to colonize the Moon so they can drop rocks on us poor Earthers!

          • Darn that Brianna Wu for figuring out the LSC’s Lunar intentions!! She probably got a hold of one of our sacred texts by the Prophet Heinlein. For Finagle’s sake do NOT let her get ahold of the lesser prophets like Kratman. All Hail Eris!!!

          • Dan Hamilton

            They have been reading MIAHM and not really understanding it.

      • Chances are the materials would come from off-planet. Lifting everything needed for a generation ship out of Earth’s gravity well is likely cost prohibitive for the indefinite future.
        Maybe Gaia will get fat and encompass the entire solar system.

      • Technically everything contributes to heat death of universe. Could call that universal warming.

        • I prefer to recognize it as an end to the inequal distribution of heat throughout the universe, a situation which is obviously attributable to racism, sexism and repression of sexual identity by old white men.

          It should be noted that Trump — through his self-identification as a “builder” and “developer” — is a proponent of increased mal-distribution of energy, an advocate for energy inequality.

          F4EN! Fight For Entropy Now! End Energy Inequality!

    • They’d have to show they have a compelling interest. They can’t.

      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

        As regarding “private groups”, you’re very likely to be correct.

        On the other hand, some governmental types might try it with more success. 😦

      • Nancy Palmer

        How about a solar update from Stephanie on the whole minimum issue?

    • How are you going to collect?

      They could build it in space and lie a lot.

  4. To maintain their outrage, they have to find something else to putatively be exploited.

    There lies the crux of the issue: such persons are not, in fact, so much concerned about practical considerations as they are obsessed over flaunting their (presumed) moral virtue.

    If exploitation of resources is wrong, than human civilization itself is inherently wrong and we must return to the mythical garden — something which falls well within the category of “ain’t gonna happen.” When such philosophers eschew the benefits of civilization in favor of the Ted Kaczynski lifestyle, then — and only then — will I credit them as sincere and possessing the integrity of their beliefs.

    Of course, I will also consider them crackpots so educated their brains have fallen out, but I already see them as such, with hypocrisy atop their educated imbecility.

  5. Another pattern might be to look at Central Europe in the early to mid Medieval period (say 800s – 1300s). The northern German free cities developed self-governing law codes, and were either chartered as independent from the start (provided they paid some taxes and fees) or once they reached a certain level of prosperity (and paid said taxes and fees). The model became the law code of the city of Magdaburg, https://magdeburg-law.com/ which other places incorporated, including feudal cities rebuilding after a disaster like the Mongols. Krakow is one very successful example of that.

    Younger sons of families farther west, along with peasants and others, opted to go east and settle in the wilds in order to have a better future for themselves and their offspring. In some cases, monastic orders (Cistercians usually but also Benedictines) went first, picking really rough isolated places to settle and develop. Then came folks who built on the monks’ work and technology, then still more to provide more goods and services for the new economic center.

    Those are possible models that could fit planetary development with some tweaking. It does not help the question of “are we forcing later generations to be pioneers against their will,” however.

  6. It seems possible that the model of the Forty-niners might prevail: individual entrepreneurs mining the asteroids, with support service providers following close behind (remember: the greatest fortunes in the gold fields were not made by the miners.)

    This would provide an organic developmental model which might prove reproducible.

  7. We must expand beyond this planet or suffer the end of the human race. Whether that is soon should the climate change alarmists prove correct, or much farther down stream from a rogue asteroid or the eventual incineration of the planet by an aging sun, the day will eventually come when this planet no longer supports life as we know it.
    Currently we do not have the technology to transport quantities of people to anywhere that feasibly could sustain a permanent colony. Last I was involved we estimated the cost of a single Mars expedition at about $7 billion, and even that was a short stay and look around on a rather hostile planet.
    Historically speaking, colonies were successful because whatever the risks and dangers they grew up where there was air, water, food, and survivable climates. Nowhere in our solar system outside of Earth itself does such a welcoming place exist.
    Generation ships are a possibility within our imagination of future technologies. Will life on Earth become so unpleasant that people would be willing to spend generations in hopes of better for their descendants? Time will tell.
    What is truly needed to make the entire question viable is a fundamental breakthrough in interplanetary and eventually interstellar transportation. What that may be is a topic for folks who read this blog and write in realms that only human imagination can currently consider.

    • Uncle Lar, I believe you may count upon religion to provide the belief that the generation ship, never mind how risky, is a brighter future.

      Just think of it: no risk to your children’s immortal souls of being forced to choose between conformity to an evil culture and shunning or worse for non-conforming. No chance of your children being ripped from your arms because you failed to dose your daughter with testosterone.

      There are worse things than mere privation or death, after all, and the descendents of those non-conformists who fled the old world rather than imperil their immortal souls will flee, given the chance.

      I think you could say a full fifty percent of such travelers would die, and have enough volunteers count it a better choice than remaining in physical safety with lack of freedom, to send a sufficiently diverse for survival population to the stars.

      • *nod*

        The biggest challenge would be balancing religion with culture and human nature.

        • Danny Hamilton

          Just be sure that there are No Muslims or all are Muslims. They don’t play well with others, especially long term.

          • Depends if they can shake off the fatwa that says that it’s too dangerous and therefore suicide.

  8. As to the future generation question …

    You are right on this mark: any action taken in the present constitutes a commitment of, a constraint upon, future generations. Just as decisions by our ancestors have committed us to accepting certain constraints. Eve’s eating of that “apple” denied her descendants (us) the comforts of Eden; America’s Founders so recently celebrated denied their descendants the benefits of English citizenship; and the refusal of the “Greatest Generation” to accept the enlightened direction of Germany and Nippon condemned us to our present empty life of material excess.

    The only way to NOT impose constraints upon “future generations” is to not produce future generations. Anyone arguing otherwise is either a twit or is selling snake oil. (Or option c: both.)

    • See also, National Debt.

    • I look in the mirror sometimes and I see myself like some alien being; I think who am I? Why do I have these eyes, and those hands? Why do I see the colors that I see? Why do I think like I think? I did not choose to exist. I was… created… Every single part of my body, every strand of my DNA, is part of a story that stretches back billions of years. I exist only because of the choices and sacrifices made by so many others, but I don’t know who they are. And what effect will my choices have on those who come after me? Maybe that’s what it means to be human? Every species is part of the story, but we’re the only ones who know that.

      — Alexandra Drennan, The Talos Principle Audio Log #20

      • As an aside: I cannot recommend The Talos Principle highly enough. Aside from just plain being a good puzzle game, it is one of the strongest human wave / anti-grey goo stories I’ve ever seen.

        To be fair I haven’t seen that many stories, but certain spoilery details put a very strong underline to the message.

  9. Fisking the anthropologists’ conference (and I presume this is not quite what they meant, but it is what they said) …

    There are plenty of examples of “artificial scarcity of capitalism”: the old Soviet Union, Maoist China, Castro’s Cuba, North Korea and Venezuela today. Generally speaking, these are/were not fun places to live.

    Judging by the names of their organizations, even those anthropologists demonstrate a revealed preference for living in places where capitalism* has not been artificially made scarce.

    Is is possible to talk to people like this?

    Depends on their reaction when you point out the above. If the light does not dawn — probably not.

    *”Capitalism” is a Marxist swear word, but it is the language they used, and it is generally necessary to talk to strangers in their own language at first. Substitute “free markets” for better understanding.

    • TheOtherSean

      The only things not being promised for “free” by the Dem candidates are “free speech” and “free markets.”

  10. There are Mars microbes right now, deep in the bottom of volcanic fissures where pressure is great enough to sustain liquid water hanging on by their little Martian toenails waiting for us to arrive and heat things up again.

    And I’m not just being silly here. IF there is anything alive on Mars it is not life which began on Mars as it exists today. Preserving Mars in it’s current state to preserve potential Martian life is closer to deliberate genocide than ecological preservation.

  11. Filip closed the book and set the pen beside it. He’d written nothing, Aslak saw.
    “Captain, why did we do it? Go where we were told? Do what we were told?”
    Aslak looked for a place to sit and lowered himself to a crate. Food rations he thought it was.
    “Why not?” It was a question he’d considered back when he became captain of the Benefaction. “It bothered me greatly for a long while until I realized that the natural born often have no more choices than we’re given over what role they fill in their lives. Some do, most don’t. Those natural born we left on Bucolic Paradise have no choice but to be farmers there. Would they be happy if they refuse to accept it? We were made to be what we are. It’s as good an occupation as any.”
    “Are we happy because we didn’t fight our fates?”
    “Perhaps a better man than I could have found a way to break free, but I could not. Not until now, not until pressed. But even now, the best we hoped for was to run off, hide and die of old age. Even with these secret planets we might simply die off until we’re all gone. And those going on without us, Captain Akula and the crew, will have no more choice about what they need to do to survive as we ever had about waging our creator’s wars.”
    “Farmers?”
    “No doubt. And hunger won’t care if someone would rather do something else.”

  12. My brief experience with a facebook group on space settlement was that the overwhelming majority of people on the group were fascinated with the possibility of planned and highly controlled communities where all of those who don’t tend to cooperate would be forced to do so.

    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

      I remember an article by Jerry Pournelle about one planned space community that was unrealistic. Basically, an utopia that (like all utopias) would work only if the inhabitants weren’t human.

      IIRC one of his comments was that the only punishment was exile (not in the throw them out of the airlock sense) but no sane person would want to stay in that community. 😈

      • In my books the aliens are artificial intelligence, and the Utopia thing -still- doesn’t work for them. Because there’s always a shortage of something, even if its reputation points. There will always be some guy on the bottom of the ladder who thinks he’s been seen-off. There will always be some smart-ass who thinks he can do it better than the guy in charge. Et cetera.

    • Boy, would they be disappointed. Humans and all that.

      • Yeah – if humans could be forced to cooperate, not only would Socialism work, it wouldn’t be needed.

        To date there’s only been one successful method of getting humans to cooperate and that’s making such cooperation in their self-interest, i.e., Free market Capitalism.

        And as we know (and the current Democrat Presidential Clown Car Primary demonstrates) not even that works particularly well.

        • Reading Chinese Legalists is stunning. On one hand, brutal rules; on the other hand, childish faith that those punishments will cause everyone to be good.

          • “What’s the penalty for rebellion?”
            “Death.”
            “What’s the penalty for being late to the muster?”
            “Death.”
            “Well, guys, it turns out we’re late.”

            • This is more or less what caused the future first emperor of the Han dynasty to rebel. He was a farmer and (very) minor local official who was tasked with escorting some prisoners. Some of the prisoners escaped. The punishment was death… for *everyone* in the group.

              So he looked at the situation, told the group what was up, and announced he was rebelling. Nearly all of the prisoners voluntarily joined him. And from there, he went on to found the Han Dynasty.

              Keep in mind, though, that he wasn’t the first to rebel. Nor was he by any means the most significant. But he’s the one who ultimately became the new emperor.

        • Donald Campbell

          I have always maintained that Free Market Capitalism is a flawed system. It is just that it has so fewer flaws than any other system ever seen or imagined.

      • Christopher M. Chupik

        Stupid humans, always ruining their perfect theories.

    • “…all of those who don’t tend to cooperate would be forced to do so…”

      …in an environment so hostile to life that the smallest mistake can kill everyone.

      Because no one in history ever said: “The sons of bitches are going to kill me anyway, why not go to Hell with a BIG honor guard?”

      • Dan Hamilton

        And NOBODY has any icky guns or weapons.
        When the alien slavers arrive everyone has a shocked face.

        • Who would need weapons.

          • All my Mars colonialist scenarios involve someone bringing guns. Because eventually the proudly vegan settlements are going to start starving and demand that you “share”.

  13. [I]ntentional communities get stuck when the bottom-up reality comes into conflict with the top-down model. … [This] leads to conflict, and often also leads to independence movements.

    A historian could have fun counting the examples of this phenomenon merely in the history of North America from 1600 to 1789.

    Very well done guest post, BTW.

  14. So, is that how you came up with a part of the story that leads https://www.baen.com/stellaris-people-of-the-stars-earc.html?

    (I haven’t finished it yet.)

  15. Jeff Greason

    I can understand your point of view, and certainly as with “liberal”, there’s a case to be made for not letting the enemies of civilization preempt the language.

    But there’s a limited window to get out of the cradle and energy spent trying to split the hair between “colonization” and “colonialism” is probably better spent getting off the rock….

    • The thing is, some of us aren’t properly equipped to help with the effort to create permanent off-world settlements. But we can all certainly point out the myriad flaws in reasoning of the leftists (and it’s almost totally people on the left complaining), and do so loudly enough that others will be able to realize that the screamed leftist position isn’t the only possible one.

  16. 1. “Is it possible to talk to people like this?”

    No. They are Seize-The-Means-Of-Production Communists, they have an agenda, and anything off the agenda will be destroyed. Also any person.

    However it is possible to DEFEAT them, and I think we should get on with doing so.

    2. “Will any of this matter, or will boots-on-the-ground establish the facts that we will later rationalize?”

    No. Space will be lived in by the people who show up, same as always. The babbling virtue signalers will babble and signal wildly to each other, while frontiersmen get busy and get the work done. Same as always.

    If you look back in history there were learned professors publishing papers about how heavier than air flight was impossible up to the day the Wright Brothers flew. Then they switched the word “impossible” to “improper” or “impractical” and carried on well into WWI.

    Today, no one remembers their words.

    • 1. ‘Is it possible to talk to people like this?’

      Well … it is for certain values of “talk to” but the more appropriate preposition would be “at.”

      You can talk to them all the time, but they’re like Hotspur’s question of Glendower’s summoning spirits from the vasty deep: “Will they come when you do call for them?” I’ve lived with multiple cats and could talk to any of them … for all the good that achieved.

      Such people are not interested in discussion or debate, they’re interested in getting their own way. Talking to them will not induce them to listen.

      • “Well … it is for certain values of “talk to” but the more appropriate preposition would be “at.””

        Agreed, in as much as one can talk to a lamp post or a pig.

        I understand from historical documents that they can often be brought to a receptive state by a severe mugging. Apparently the cognitive dissonance generated by the painfuly direct experience of Reality(tm) opens the neural pathways to demonstrable fact.

        Or so I’m told, I’ve never seen it myself. ~:D IMHO you can’t fix stupid.

  17. scheduled for CASCA-AAA

    Does this look like a quote from “Rincewind visits California” to anybody else?

    “Those mountains are called the CASCA-AAAAAAAAA!!!!!!”

  18. Re: Intentional communities.
    Around the turn of the last century, there were several established as proof-of-concept that planning and socialism could work. I can’t believe I’ve forgotten the guy’s name. I was angry that I didn’t already know it and now it’s already forgotten. Robert Owen and the Historical Society.
    IIRC, the Israeli ones (kibitzim, maybe?) are the only ones left and they’re starting to fracture.

    • Monastic communities. Apparently divine intervention is required.

    • The kibbutzim survive only because of a constant influx of people in an out. Young idealists join, and after a few years of reality staring them in the face- leave to start a life. Only a very few hard core believers stay on year after year after year. At least, that’s what I’ve heard/read about them in multiple sources. So, are they a success? In a way, yes. That give an awful lot of young people first hand experience that socialism doesn’t work.

      There are a handful of small communes in the U.S. that operate the same way- with a constant influx in and out. In HS I went to an East Coast Model UN Conference where students were housed in the local community. My hosing was in one of them. I was not positively impressed.

    • There were two local groups of dedicated Scottish followers of Robert Owen. One turned into Yellow Springs, Ohio, and basically stayed socialists in their theoretical spare time, but actually were capitalist farmers.

      The other group converted to Shakerism, because they were already past the time of having kids, and Shakers were better at socialism than they were. They became notable producers of furniture, seeds, and socks. Their community survived until the advent of lots of orphanages. Then it was bought by the state of Ohio for a mental hospital with farm facilities, at which time the survivors moved to other Shaker communities.

      • Shaker furniture I’d heard of, but not the seeds and socks.

      • TheOtherSean

        So my older friends who said Yellow Springs has been filled with hippies and commies since forever were basically correct. Good to know.

  19. The whole idea is nuts, TBH. You don’t get a damn choice about the world you’re born into, already. What am I going to do, sue Mom and Dad for having the temerity to fertilize the egg that became me, in a world full of nastiness like the Cold War, impending nuclear doom, and climate destruction…?

    How the hell does that work, again? Did anyone go back to their parents on the Mayflower and say “Hey, I don’t like it here… These options suck; take me back to Holland!!!”.

    The whole paradigm that you’ve got some responsibility to make life easy for your descendants is nuts. Sue me, so as to prevent me from taking me and my genes to another world…? How’s that going to work out, again?

    Seriously… These idiots need to quit with the castle-in-the-sky legal theorizing, and just shut up. They’re going to get ignored anyway, and no matter how many court injunctions they may get, the human race is going to keep right on moving into every ecological niche it can, including near-earth space, the Moon, Mars, and the rest of the vaguely useful bits of the solar system. And onwards, ad infinitum. The jackasses with all these fine legal theories are going to be in the same position that the moralists back East were, when it came to the “Indian issue”. They can wring their hands all they like, but when there’s money to be made, and new frontiers to exploit, other people are going to tell them to ‘eff right the hell off, and do the necessary.

    What’s mind-boggling is that these types think they’re going to be listened to. That Space Treaty? LOL… It’s going to go the way of the dinosaurs, and be a dead letter as soon as someone figures out how to make money off settling the moon or grabbing an asteroid. If not us, then the Chinese or their successors at the game of human hegemony.

    The whole thing is laughable, to be honest.

    • Exactly my thoughts. Who do I whine about? In reverse order:

      1) Moving off the dry farm/ranch in Montana through the mines in WWII ultimately to Oregon (Grandparents) – Uh, never mind that probably was a GOOD choice.

      2) Okay, more than a few generations back, Great-X-many-grandfather, an d siblings, loaded up spouses, and over 30 children, between them all, not counting the two born on the trail, and headed west to Oregon. Oh, wait, wives and kids didn’t get a vote, let alone the great-x-many grandchildren …

      Okay. Then. Seriously?

      Yes. “The whole thing is laughable” they are idiots.

      • 1. It was a BAD choice. You need to say that to get money.

        • Not out of my Grandparents. Trust me. No money, makes a mockery of not having money.

        • I’ve often wondered if the song “You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive” was inspired by a true story or a horror story. Because you almost wonder if someone set a curse or geas on the family…

          • True story, in several different varieties. Man and woman are trying to make a go of a family farm and something (weather, bankers, crop failures) forces the man to do something other than or in addition to farming the land. Since a man was more likely to be able to find high paying work in the skilled trades, he left and she stayed to keep the farm.

            Prime example: my grandfather, who had a fairly good size farm (400 acres) but also had skills as a welder and pipefitter. So he would travel around Arkansas and Louisiana, taking welding jobs. Because he was a welder, he wasn’t drafted during WWII, but sent to Mobile AL to build Liberty ships while relatives watched the farm. That was where he was exposed to enough asbestos to eventually kill him. My grandmother and mother went with him for at least part of that time…. so Grandmother Carrienne was exposed to enough asbestos to damage her lungs.

    • Christopher M. Chupik

      It’s just excuses. They’ll never run out of them. We have to solve all our problems on Earth first before going into space. We have to make sure no nation or company can claim a body in the Solar System. All our space colonies will be authoritarian hellholes by necessity, so no space libertarians for you! We can’t have kids born in space, think of the children! And they’ll always come up with more and more and more.

      • They will be jabbering. Those that do, will just go, you know, do. Not even bother flipping the jabbers off.

  20. We’re so ignorant of the effect of various potential Off-Earth environments on . . . heck . . . cockroaches that talking about generation ships and settlements by any name is difficult.

    I suspect we’ll start in LEO, with a station with some sort of spin-gravity. _Then_ we’ll discover, hopefully with lab rats first, not humans, what effects that has on embryonic and childhood development. Then out past the Van Allen belts to see if we can shield well enough, then the Moon, to see how 1/8th gravity works . . .

    There are so many baby steps. Starting with, are you brave enough to be the first woman to get pregnant out there, and see what happens?

    • I used to have a ‘college shirt’ type shirt for Professor Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters.

      This was in the early 90s. Older adults would ask me if i went there…

      • I’ve heard someone’s mock degree from Miskatonic being taken seriously. (A discussion on how writers should learn the classics.)

  21. I propose the term “Non-Terran Communal Evolution” (NTCE) as the not-colonialism anti-triggering term.

  22. > morality of forcing future generations into … generation ships:

    Hell yeah! Why should they survive when the next dinosaur killer asteroid, plague, or solar instability renders Earth uninhabitable?

    They should die like everyone else!

  23. Donald Campbell

    I am trying get back into the daily ATH, but I’m glad I missed this one last night. The first part of the post is so depressing, I would have been unable to sleep. My mind was so disordered after the critical colonial theory and the realization that they hate us all, I am unsure if I got half of the brilliance of the post. I haven’t read you comments yet either.
    I am coming back after I walk the dog and take it all in. Hopefully, I can read and contribute after the shock of what a disaster the post modern world has become.

    • *sympathy*

      Does it help that they probably don’t believe it, and honestly think it doesn’t matter at all?

      Gilbert and Sullivan were singing about it over a century ago…… (“if you’re anxious for to shine…”)

      • Donald Campbell

        Fortunately the video Shadowdancer posted revived me somewhat. Call me an old white sexist if you want, but an attractive young woman pointing out the absurdity of equating Grandfather’s hugs to a ride on the ‘Lolita Express’ naturally cheered me up.
        After that, the thoughtful posts of the Huns showed the way back.

  24. Totally OT, but has anybody else noticed a huge influx in their email spam folder of lurid invitations? Some kind of app (apps?) has been dumping about fifty such “invitations” a day in mine and I’m wondering if this is a trend or somehow somewhere my address got picked up?


    I swear, it feels thee days like I’m trying to stroll 7th Avenue in a Simon & Garfunkel song.

  25. As we do not yet have a post for today, this historical note:
    Today is Nikola Tesla’s Birthday

    Happy Tesla Day! Shock your friends!

  26. Donald Campbell

    I have all my app capable devices tagged to a GMail account I go to about once a quarter and delete all with out reading. YMMV.
    On a side note, both PC and tablet are having “issues” with posting here. I log in via Facebook, post a comment. If I try to post a 2nd comment I get error enter email and name. So I log out, write post, log back in, post.
    I am fine with this as a “workaround” but if anyone knows why, please enlighten me.

    • When I responded to you earlier, it poppped up that I wasn’t logged in– opened my main page, refreshed this one, it worked.

      WDE.

  27. While reading this post, the skeleton of a story sprang to mind:

    In a oppressively Progressive Future, a colony ship is being readied for a journey to a promising new planet. The Elite are allowing this because their mismanagement is causing severe overpopulation/food shortage problems on Earth and they need a safety valve (while they work on draconian rationing and birth control).

    From necessity they hand the job of designing the ship to one of their best engineer/scientists, even though he has a Political Reliability index rivaled by duckweed. They want this to WORK. They need it to work.

    Naturally Mr. Duckweed goes along. It’s a loooong voyage. Not as long as it would be without the maguffin-drive that makes FTL possible, but a few years. Naturally there is a full compliment of designated Administrators aboard. After all the Unwashed can hardly be expected to run their own lives!

    And the Administrators quickly become an elite class, and set about lording it over those who actually, you know, WORK for a living.

    And when the ship arrives at its destination, the elite Administrators and their families all gather in the compartment they have turned into a de facto Throne Room to see the Chief Administrator push The Button that, they were told, will automatically initiate the colonizing of the new world

    And, just as Mr. Duckweed had designed, the doors to that chamber seal, and the ventilators fill it with a fast acting neurotoxic gas.

    And Mr. Duckweed takes the actual functioning department heads and, with input from the colonists, begins planning the colony.

    Since I doubt like hell I will ever have the uninterrupted time to write this, I bequeath it to anyone who wants to play with it. All rights, save the right to write a version of my own if I ever can, waived.

  28. I apologize to everyone for not being here to respond to questions till now. I’ve just finished up (this afternoon around 3:30) responding to a family problem that took most of my attention through the month of June. If anyone’s still interested, I’ll be happy to expound on any point to your total boredom, and even beyond if needed.

    • Family> theory.

      Also, I totally just realized…

      Is there any reason to not build more things on the outside of the generation ship? It’s not like the wind will blow them off…..

  29. It is human, all-too-human to want the linguistic continuity because this gives us some orientation in the midst of a changing world, and it is similarly human to engage in more-or-less similar enterprises over time, even under changed conditions, so there is justification for the extension of traditional language to new activities. By definition, off world human communities will be historically unprecedented, but we will talk about them using established language and think about them in terms of our existing conceptual framework, though our language and our concepts will slowly shift to accommodate our behavior.

    Late to the party, but this was an important observation, especially for SF or fantasy writers, who have to balance inventing names for new concepts and items, with having them “recognizable” to readers.

  30. Having read a fair amount of Latter-day Saint history, it seems to me that the Mormons probably had the most successful long-term & wide-spread mix of top-down & bottom-up, but it still only lasted until Deseret Territory became the State of Utah.
    The United Order was a form of “religious socialism,” if I may be allowed that phraseology, but it didn’t last very long either, for many of the same reasons that secular versions do not: people are not perfect.