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PostPosted: Thu Aug 20, 2015 5:26 pm 
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As I've mentioned before, there are various contradictions between the Elite or Oolite setting as derived from books such as the Elite manual and the Dark Wheel, and what actually happens in game. While thinking about these I decided to work out what might have happened if the setting had just been based on the original Elite game - no significant flavour text in the manual, no FE2/FFE follow-up games.

Some of the results of this ended up being background material for Extracts, and the setting of the Altmap test OXP is very loosely related in a "what if" way to them too. The notes themselves aren't in an especially readable form at the moment, so what I've done is tidied up the very first part of them - if there's interest I'll do more of them.

===========================

Any setting for stories is basically about people, and it was people that first got me thinking along these lines, when I went through the planet list and added up all the populations. In total, there are 7100 billion people registered.

So, what can we start concluding from this?

The setting is a long way into the future. Around half of the planets are listed as Human Colonials population. Whether that's "sole", "dominant" or merely "single largest" species we're probably looking at around 4000 billion humans (possibly if it's "single largest" you could argue for half that, but it doesn't make a lot of difference).

Not only is Sol not on any of the charts, but neither are any other recognisable star names. Certainly something like "SAO 12345" or "HD 1280" - or even "Rho Tauri" - might be expected to have been named something more interesting now it has a billion-plus inhabitants, but it does suggest that the region of space is some distance away from Sol - either by a jump like the galdrive which you can't make in-game, or a long straight-line distance from a chart edge. (Another hint at this is that the stellar density is quite a bit higher in the eight charts than in the region immediately around Sol)

From a human population of 6 billion in 2000, you'd need around 10 doublings of population to reach 4000 billion, without any significant disasters. Unless initial colonisation is really straightforward, you probably can't double population on new worlds all that often. We also have no way to know what fraction of the human population is in the eight charts - but the evidence suggests it's probably not a very large fraction.

Assuming doubling every 30 years (which is fast and certainly not known to be sustainable on a scale of centuries) that means it's at least 2300 (assuming hyperdrive is discovered tomorrow and everyone goes to the eight charts) and probably considerably later - something like 4000 or 5000 would be entirely reasonable if you allow for disasters, start with a relatively small initial population for the region, and so on.

It's also worth noting that planetary populations are in a fairly narrow range of approximately 1-6 billion, with higher-tech planets correlated strongly with higher populations. This suggests that the colonisation of the eight charts was completed some time ago - all the colonies are clearly well-established - which also suggests that the current rate of population growth is slow or stable ... which implies that even low-tech worlds have the ability to control population well. (And without any major disaster: even the worlds with deadly civil wars or various natural hazards have populations measured in billions)

It's not likely to be the environment controlling population: the low tech worlds tend to be agricultural, which suggests they've been terraformed rather than extensive use of artificial habitats which might have severely limited space - even though "minerals" and "radioactives" being on the export list suggest that it might be "agricultural and mining" they all export plenty of animal products too.

So, in summary:
- it's at least 500 years in the future even with extremely favourable assumptions. 3-5 thousand or so seems more plausible to me. The original Elite timescale of 3100ish isn't completely impossible with extremely fast and focused population growth, but seems unlikely.
- colonisation is not currently going on and probably hasn't been for a while
- all systems have been colonised (or had native life, but that's in a bit of the notes I haven't tidied up yet)
- populations are now fairly strongly controlled by one means or another
- terraforming has made all systems inhabitable (and may well have been the limiting factor on colonisation speed)

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PostPosted: Thu Aug 20, 2015 5:45 pm 
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I don't recall reading the manual much when I had BBC Elite, and I certainly never read TDW (not past the first page, anyway). I kinda created my own legend for the game's background - a star cluster long cut off from Sol etc, is how I saw it. The above sounds about right to me - and more would be appreciated.

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PostPosted: Fri Aug 21, 2015 2:16 am 
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As I've mentioned before, there are various contradictions between the Elite or Oolite setting as derived from books such as the Elite manual and the Dark Wheel, and what actually happens in game. While thinking about these I decided to work out what might have happened if the setting had just been based on the original Elite game - no significant flavour text in the manual, no FE2/FFE follow-up games...

So, in summary:
- it's at least 500 years in the future even with extremely favourable assumptions. 3-5 thousand or so seems more plausible to me. The original Elite timescale of 3100ish isn't completely impossible with extremely fast and focused population growth, but seems unlikely.
There is always the possibility that the original colonisation imperative was initiated by an impending cataclysm and a decision was made to 'reset' the calendar (not unheard of :) ). So even though the current galactic administration is relatively young, the development of this corner of the galaxy is +3000years and Earth/Sol is likened to an ancient culture such as the Egyptians or legend such as Atlantis or Arthur and Camelot.

Alternatively, if this corner of the galaxy was initially colonised by generation ships, it is possible that the population growth could have been significantly supplemented by cloning technology. The generation ships being the receptacles of such tech that (over either 500 or 3000 years) were perhaps the foundations of the orbital stations or terraform engines, the knowledge of which resides in dusty libraries and not common knowledge.

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PostPosted: Fri Aug 21, 2015 5:07 am 
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Thanks for posting this, cim.. some interesting thoughts are already coming out of it.
Quote:
Assuming doubling every 30 years (which is fast and certainly not known to be sustainable on a scale of centuries) that means it's at least 2300 (assuming hyperdrive is discovered tomorrow and everyone goes to the eight charts) and probably considerably later - something like 4000 or 5000 would be entirely reasonable if you allow for disasters, start with a relatively small initial population for the region, and so on.
Heh.. for some reason, this reminded me of a discussion between a couple of characters in one of my favourite books..
Quote:
"Let's say that six billion inhabitants represents a reasonable planetary maximum for your species (though I suspect that six billion is actually much more than a healthy maximum). You'll reach that six billion well before the end of this century. And let's say that you had instantaneous access to every habitable planet in the universe, to which you could immediately begin exporting people. At present your population is doubling every thirty-five years or so, so in thirty-five years you'd fill a second planet. After seventy years four planets would be full. After a hundred and five years eight planets would be full. And so on. At this doubling rate a billion planets would be full by the year 3000 or thereabouts. I know that sounds incredible, but, trust me, the arithmetic is correct. By about 3300 a hundred billion planets would be full; this is the number you could occupy in this entire galaxy if each and every star had one habitable planet. If you continued to grow at your present rate, a second galaxy would be full in another thirty-five years. Four galaxies would be full thirty-five years later, and eight would be full thirty-five years after that. By the year 4000 the planets of a million galaxies would be full. By the year 5000 the planets of a trillion galaxies would be full — in other words, every planet in the universe. All in just three thousand years and working under the improbable assumption that every single star in the universe has a habitable planet."

I told him these numbers were hard to believe.

"Do the arithmetic yourself sometime, then you won't have to believe it, you'll know it. Whatever grows without limit must inevitably end by overwhelming the universe. The anthropologist Marvin Harris once calculated that if the human population doubled every generation — every twenty years, as opposed to every thirty-five — the entire universe would be converted into a solid mass of human protoplasm in less than two thousand years."

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PostPosted: Fri Aug 21, 2015 6:55 am 
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Alternatively, if this corner of the galaxy was initially colonised by generation ships, it is possible that the population growth could have been significantly supplemented by cloning technology. The generation ships being the receptacles of such tech that (over either 500 or 3000 years) were perhaps the foundations of the orbital stations or terraform engines, the knowledge of which resides in dusty libraries and not common knowledge.
That would certainly provide an explanation for how settlements got into areas of space restricted by the 7LY limit like Oresrati - and even into the eight charts as a whole.

For reasons I go into in the next bit of notes, which I'll try to write up tonight or this weekend, I don't think there has been rapid population growth - and if the region was settled by generation ships, there weren't many of them used, implying a small initial human population in the millions rather than billions.

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PostPosted: Fri Aug 21, 2015 9:48 am 
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so what your saying is there are too few people or too many people given the time available?

(because I thought I'd fixed this in chronicles.)

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PostPosted: Fri Aug 21, 2015 5:02 pm 
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so what your saying is there are too few people or too many people given the time available?
I'm saying that if we didn't have 3100ish AD as a date in the Elite manual it's unlikely that we'd have guessed that was when it was.

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PostPosted: Fri Aug 21, 2015 8:02 pm 
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The second part of the notes goes on from the raw population to look at population distribution and techlevel and what this says about society.

Previously, I noted that the population appeared to be stabilised in a post-colonisation state. The next thing to look at is the population distribution - it's basically random. There's no sense that the colonisation started at one point or edge and proceeded outwards.

This suggests that either terraforming technology was developed as colonisation progressed, or that some systems took longer to terraform than others - either way, the speed of terraforming may well have been the limiting factor on growth, rather than population.

In this model systems were inhabited in a "best/easiest-first" approach, with new systems opening up as terraforming completed / terraforming tech improved.

Another bit on this is that colonisation is long complete, populations are stable ... but tech level varies considerably between systems. There could be various reasons for this:

1) the jumps in tech level are extremely large - perhaps corresponding to major events like the Industrial Revolution - and take a long time to roll out across a planet. It's also not practical to shortcut this development and just drop a TL:10 colony onto a planet. In this case, even if TL:1 is barely space-capable or even Iron Age tech levels, TL:5 is unimaginably advanced, and much above that is purely incomprehensible. ... and yet, the difference between equipment available at TL:5 worlds and TL:10 worlds doesn't usually seem that great. It's better ... but not "pointy stick vs ICBM" levels of different for the weapons.

...so that suggests maybe

2) tech level is relatively unimportant and there's no particular incentive to increase it. Productivity is tied fairly closely to TL - but productivity/capita only varies between 1 and 10 across the entire TL range. If TL:1 is a high baseline, with terraforming, well-populated worlds, then there might be no particular incentive to increase it (which might also mean there was a directional trend to habitation after all).

The counter to this - at least in space TL:1 worlds tend to be quite dangerous too. You don't get the impression that the inhabitants are living in a relaxed post-scarcity lifestyle ... and indeed, the existence of Slaves as a commodity suggests that the setting is nowhere near "post-scarcity" (given that Slaves are exported *from* the agricultural/extraction worlds *to* the industrial worlds, that suggests that even a high-tech industrial isn't a particularly well-off place)

If you're not post-scarcity, a ten-fold improvement in per capita income is significant - that's roughly equivalent to the improvement in living standards between 1900 and now for somewhere like the UK - so if it's not that difficult to become TL:15 wouldn't everyone do it?

...which suggests another alternative

3) tech level is moderately important, but the lower TL worlds are deliberately not being allowed to advance, perhaps by the same powers which control their population. The military advantage granted by higher-TL ship equipment can be used to enforce this. Even TL:15 isn't *that* high, though - it probably just reflects increased industrial capacity and access to technology, rather than anything fundamental in terms of knowledge.

This means that the higher TL worlds are - in a fairly typical pattern - getting their living standards by outsourcing the dangerous work (agriculture, extraction, being slaves) to the low TL worlds.

There's an interesting thing in this case that the civilisation(s) have access to some very strong terraforming technology (assuming they didn't get seriously lucky and find regions of space with masses of basically habitable planets) but otherwise (despite the significant passage of time) aren't particularly technologically advanced.

SteveKing's theory about generation ships (or otherwise disconnected colony ships) carrying high-end terraforming and settlement tech from a generally technologically advanced civilisation, but not having general access to that civilisation's general technology certainly seems plausible as a mechanism for this. The need to have extremely good environmental and population discipline aboard a genship would also explain a lot.


I suspect 3) best fits the facts of those theories for the techlevel distribution, though there may be others.

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PostPosted: Mon Aug 24, 2015 6:27 am 
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Although population distribution is basically ‘random’, population/tech level and its distribution might be related to; the ability of a world to be terraformed/colonised, its natural resources and/or basic environment. Consider four different types of world –
1) An earth-like world with an ideal environment and abundant resources (rare, but exist). Is easily colonised and whose resources are quickly integrated into the economy of a colony (be it human or other). Eg., Inera

2) A marginal world that is easily terraformed, but takes time. Once terraformed, falls into a similar category as 1. Eg., Onrira – basic environment suitable for frogs, and the deadly yaks are only found in the high dry plains away from normal habitation, the deadly Esonatoid is just about extinct and can be found only in zoos and nature reserves.

3) An earth-like with a harsh environment, can be colonised (perhaps with a suitable race), but is lower on the priority for terraforming. The harsher environment limits its ability to be overly productive, but making it ideal as a basic Agric or Indust. Takes more time to evolve into a more favourable environment or gets some terraform options after some time (and a lot of money). Eg., Engema – plagued by an evil disease, a consequence of not being able to enhance the environment with terraform elements, perhaps limiting the colonisation on two of the three main continents.

4) A terraformable world that can only be turned into something like 3 (above). Is either still undergoing the process, or is perhaps only productive and habitable over a small portion of the planet. This proportion could be infinitely variable. Eg., Bivea – where solar activity reduces the habitable portion of the planet to the poles where half the planets year sees it in twilight, and the solar radiation devastates many of its crops keeping it poor.

With this sort of variability, there is no end to the variety of colonised worlds throughout the sectors. The rare earth-like worlds would have been initially targeted by the colonists and their generation ships. During the establishment of these worlds, the terraforming tech would have been dispatched to the best candidates in the local galactic region, some of which might have been co-habited during terraforming. Some of the more marginal planets could have been initially colonised with outposts that have grown slowly, others may have had less time for colonisation or beset with natural disasters (meteor storm, extreme solar activity) or man-made ones (civil war).

Tech level is necessarily related to the wealth of a system, so at the marginal end, there little money to access the technology to improve a population’s lot in life. Research gravitates toward rich systems where there is surplus wealth to conduct it and so the wealthy systems benefit from the tech.

Include CIM’s point 3, where the local government also has influence on how a planets economy evolves, and you easily have many different types of society at many different tech levels on many different types of world. Consider our own planet in Victorian times where part of the world’s population was benefitting from the steam age of industrialisation, yet there were other societies that hadn’t left the nomadic stone-age.

It is not necessary that all or any of the planets are in a stable post-colonised state. The present time (of Cmndr Jameson) is a snapshot in the evolution of the Galcop worlds.

edit to add: Having just re-read what CIM wrote, I think I just said what he did :oops:

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PostPosted: Thu Dec 24, 2015 3:03 pm 
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When the original Elite was created the timeline may have been more feasible - after all it was the end of the '80s. If we hadn't had all the expenditure on war in the Middle East and terrorism issues of the last 25 years perhaps we would be further on, similar to how the utterly futile Vietnam "war" drained money from NASA into the military.

I personally am fine with the calendar reset explanation. These people all have different length days, months and years for a start. so a galactically agreed "normal" date would have to come from a central point - Earth is too remote. Also, we currently have BC and AD, we have had other calendars in the past. Perhaps the Elite/Oolite timeline is AE - After Earth.

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PostPosted: Fri Jan 15, 2016 7:56 pm 
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so what your saying is there are too few people or too many people given the time available?
I'm saying that if we didn't have 3100ish AD as a date in the Elite manual it's unlikely that we'd have guessed that was when it was.
That's fair. The humans are a problem and if I am honest something I did not consider.

Sorting this one out would take another story. I am a touch busy "seaming" tail end oolite into fronteer whilst leaving oolite free to exist. But I can collaborate on a little something if you like?

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PostPosted: Sat Jun 18, 2016 7:40 am 
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yes the manual refers to around 3100 AD, to specify AD does sound like knowledge of the Christian calendar is still known. Also Dark Wheel refers to flying over London of Old Earth, and mentions Earth quite a few times, so certainly the mother world is within recent history or perhaps even still accessible. The existence of generation ships, presumably for centuries before faster-than-light travel followed by planets being occupied for centuries makes the timescale a bit compressed but maybe its all possible. I don't know to what extent terraforming is used/assumed, that would also take centuries/millenia, more likely opportunist colonization/occupation occurred. I get the impression that both Diso and Lave had significant feline populations before Lave's was dominated by human colonials.

As for the Elite code, the [EliteWiki] random number generator sets both the economy and government levels first and quasi-independently. Then some downgrading to Rich, Average Industrials and Rich, mainly Agriculturals occurs if the government type is Anarchy or Feudal to make their situation more plausible. You can infer this is the case by considering the numbers in the economy tables at the [EliteWiki] planet lists. The Government and adjusted Economy then naturally generate the TechLevel, which is at least = 1 to ensure membership of GalCop and orbiting space station. Then the population and productivity are derived. So a back story can work by motivating an intended economy (due to resources, environment) and recent government history and adjust economy and other parameters accordingly. Most planets are slightly smaller than earth with lower populations, which sounds plausible if they satisfy the GalCop membership requirements, eg. sentient population > 0.8 Billion.

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