Thursday, 14 April 2016
Early Extrasolar Colonization In Alternative Timelines
We will now consider in slightly greater detail Poul Anderson's Psychotechnic and Technic Histories and Jerry Pournelle's CoDominium History.
As in Heinlein's Future History, extrasolar colonization begins with slower than light generation ships. When the hyperdrive is invented, although there is no economic incentive for emigration, many leave Earth because they have been marginalized by cybernetic society. Colonists scattered across a planetary surface dwell apart but are connected by telescreens and gravity fliers. Cities, abandoned on Earth, are revived for spaceports, warehouses etc but only one per planet or even per system. Colonies diverge culturally and unpredictably.
When the hyperdrive is invented, an exodus called the Breakup enables citizens who dislike their governments to live freely elsewhere. Because it is cheaper to import than to synthesize, interstellar trade flourishes and, because there is not yet any interstellar government, the Polesotechnic League becomes a loose supergovernment.
The almost energy-free Alderson drive causes the Exodus in the early twenty first century. New colonies lack hard currency and capital equipment although not human labor which the Bureau of Relocation provides in abundance. Wealthy governments or corporations finance industrialization of some colony planets whereas other colonies lapse into pre-industrial peasant economies. In intermediate cases, technological elites rule impoverished masses.
In much of this series, the bulk of the population seems to be regarded as a problem, unemployed, uneducated, unreasonable and unenterprising. That is not my experience of humanity in Britain or my perception of humanity elsewhere. Political and social unrest with only military solutions on offer is a very bleak future vision that does not do justice to human invention and creativity.