Welcome to the Escape Velocity WikiEdit
Escape Velocity aims to build and explore a futuristic post-cyberpunk Earth.
The events of the story begin in 2092.
Technologically, computing and connectivity have evolved to a scale where humanity experiences physical and virtual reality simultaneously and continuously. Medical and materials technology have advanced to a point where cybernetic augmentation is widely available but except for several pieces of computational hardware, relatively unused due to the availability of superior options. The gerontological treatment, effectively halting the aging process and bringing new vigor and energy to the elderly has been available for almost two decades already; the oldest human is already over 125 years of age. The successful implementation of fusion energy and the development of high energy batteries and suprapowerful electric motors has allowed Earth to circumvent many of the limitations relating to energy of the 20th and early 21st centuries. Nano, engineering and constructing material at the single molecule level, is only just beginning to come into its own. Rho-field manipulation allows the levitation of rho-eggs (flying cars) and rho-trains, as well as opening new avenues in medicine and space exploration. Man has colonized the moon.
And so while technology has answered many of the pressing needs of previous decades and centuries, it has also led to new concerns and crises. The ‘internet’, which we call the maelstrom, serves as a breeding ground for virtual ‘life’, and that ‘life’ has learned from us how to kill biological systems, like humans, making us of the maelstrom. Fusion energy is not nearly as efficient or cost-effective as it needs to be to produce the energy the world needs. Despite our best efforts at curbing climate change, and our first tentative steps towards terraforming our own planet, the damage of our ancestors remains and we continue to do active harm to our atmos- and biospheres. The longevity treatment has led to huge social upheaval across the globe. It is expensive and time-consuming, the wait times for treatment measured in years, and occasionally in decades. Those without are known as ‘mortals’ and those with… well, one wonders what they sold to afford the treatment. The masses speak of divergent speciation.
Socially and culturally, and especially politically, the world has changed. The trend towards globalization that was reinventing the economic and cultural identity of Earth’s people for the last hundred years has only accelerated, linking us physically through wide-spread transport availability, economically, though millions and millions of worldwide transactions every day, and of course through the connectivity of modern computing. Certainly almost every political border has been redrawn as nations and national identities have collapsed, to be replaced with a post-national structure called ‘phyles’. Trans-national corporations with greater wealth and resources than most early 21st century first-world nations govern populations alongside phyles built around cultural or ideological identities. While each of these have central ‘heartland’ territory where their presence is dominant, they all also have tens or hundreds of thousands of enclaves as large as major cities to as small as a single office tower strewn across the globe, making physical borders between the phyles effectively impossible to define, let alone police or limit.
Free-market capitalism, like communism at the end of the 20th century has for the most part collapsed, the run-away predatory nature of its largest and most competitive- and most successful- institutions ultimately leading to the downfall of the system as a whole. This was cemented when the majority of the world’s population rose up against accelerating wealth segregation and the dissolution of the middle class first, unsuccessfully in the late 2050s, then again, with greater success, in 2061. Today much of the world’s population lives in financial systems variously called social market capitalism, coopetition, or democratic economics, depending on its implementation and the speaker.
Despite this, the transition to a post capitalist economic model is not complete and much of the world continues to live in abject poverty. The supra-rich aren’t going anywhere fast and are only too eager to continue to exploit social and world resources when they can to entrench their positions. And the poor are so very expensive to care for, many have no state, no phyle to call home and have come to be known as the unaffiliated. Without medical or nutritional support, beset by the effluent and pollution of the wealthier, and their inexpensive labor often predated upon by those with better prospects, their lives are often diseased, violent, and short. And despite the successes of the ‘middle way’, the world is as fractured by competing economic models as it is by culture, religion, or ideology,
And so the world is not the dystopia of the cyberpunk genre, where there is no hope and one lives a life in rebellion of the faceless powers above, and neither is it the utopia of imagined science fiction writers of old. It is something else, something I hope is both realistic and interesting.
Won’t you join me in building the world of Escape Velocity?
Themes, Ideas, and Story-WritingEdit
World-Building Escape VelocityEdit
Escape Velocity is designed to explore a number of ideas and themes that I hope our experience in collective world building can provide insight into. I hope we can obtain new perspectives through both the research that invariably goes into writing our stories, orders, and updates, and also through the explorative and collaborative thinking involving in building this shared experience.
I hope that when you write your stories and contribute to this world-building effort you will join me in exploring the social, psychological, and day-to-day effects of the following themes.
Escape velocity explores the ‘death of nations’ and the rise of what I’ve referred to as the ‘post-national’ order.
The phylar system has evolved to better suit the needs of humanity in an age when the hyper-globalization has connected people in a way we could previously not even have imagined. Void airships provide low cost, reliable, and relatively fast air travel to anywhere in the globe for all but the poorest. Commercial aeropacecraft, admittingly only available to the richest and most influential, routinely travel at altitudes and speeds that mean they can reach anywhere on the earth within 2-3 hours. The exocortex has meant that communications between people anywhere in the world is instantaneous, mostly safe, and so integrated, that the very idea of dividing people by where they live or make their home seems so antiquated, even ludicrous, to be unfathomable by many- especially the youth.
Today, membership in phyla is always purely voluntary, and often an individual will move from one phyle to another two or three times throughout their life, perhaps as a result of changing personal beliefs or ideologies, perhaps as a change in their social relationship and obligations, perhaps or protection and security. Social membership is dynamic and varying in a way national identity was, only with ideology driving membership instead of borders.
How does social organization in a post-national world affect and define society? How does it affect psychology? How are these affected by hyperglobalization?
I repeatedly refer to the end of capitalism in the wiki, and most of the large population phyles are socialists (United Socialist Peoples, Chavis, to a lesser extent, Apauruṣeya), communists (Lei Feng), or communalists (Pambazuka). Even some of the corporate phyles practice corporate coopetition (Mitsubishi, Pusczca Wynd).
Ultimately I envision a system where capitalism was the victim of its own success- a continuation of some of the trends we are seeing now in our own time. Capitalism’s successes lead to the increasingly concentration of wealth by those who have capital to invest. At the same time it continues to disenfranchise those who don’t. Ultimately the middle class drops out, and with it its tax income. Popular discontent leads to riots, violence, and finally social revolution.
Today, with the notable exceptions of Qeng Ho, Atlas America, and to a lesser extent New Altantis, the majority of the world’s megaphyla accepts that capitalism, while a very successful economic model, is inherently predatory and exploitive, and effectively unsustainable. Or perhaps these phyles accept this idea as well and are happy to prey upon or exploit for as long as they can. You, as players, may have a problem with this, but there is a ton of writers who don’t and for the sake of world-building, its those writers who we’ll assume are right.
I encourage you to consider the economic models developed for sharing, group ownership, or wealth distribution in your phyle or in the world.
The EV wiki makes repeated mention of divergent human evolution: the emergence of a new human species, something near-ascendant.
Escape Velocity illustrates how technology has allowed us to divorce our ancestral genetic template- to achieve beyond our potential. It is a world where all but the poorest of the poor receive some genetic engineering to correct things like cystic fibrosis, familial hypercholesterolemia, Huntington’s disease or even astigmatism. Amongst the members of the better-ranked phyles, there is a trend towards homogeneity in appearance- everyone is trimmer, better proportioned, ‘prettier’ than their non-engineered ancestors. And occasionally, they may appear racially homogenous. Members of the New Atlantian phyle who never had an Anglophone ancestor may appear slightly more Caucasian, Anglo, then their heritage would suggest. And the same is true for the Qeng Ho, with many of their members adopting Han Chinese features, at least to some minor degree.
Perhaps the most obvious and glaring example involving the ‘ascendance of humanity’, the ‘divergence of the species’ is the development of the gerontological longevity treatment. Able to effectively slow, or even reverse aging, at least for some limited period, the treatment appears to add at least 20-30 years of vitality and youth to the human lifespan and sequential treatments may add more. Scientists, the media, and the blogosphere already makes frequent mention of the ‘Longevity Singularity’, where each year of medical research adds more than a year, on average, to the human lifespan. It is a point at which humanity has effectively made its members immortal. And most think we’ve already crossed it. The treatment is expensive, and except for the United Socialist Peoples phyle who have effectively dedicated the better part of two decades to providing the treatment to their people universally, it is almost always only the richest and most influential who are able to obtain treatment. What effect will this have upon speciation by class? Certainly it has created conflict and instability throughout the world. At 14-billion the world is already well-beyond its natural carrying capacity already; what would happen if we all received the treatment?
Escape Velocity also explores how people relate to one another. In the 2092, humans can ‘speak’ to each other purely through thought by linking their implanted exocortices in a network. This is so common and ubiquitous amongst those with the means to do so that in certain phyla, such as the New Atlantian, Pusczca Wynd, or Qeng Ho, the spoken word is associated with children, poverty, or saved for theatrical use. Adults, in their day-to-day lives, simply don’t speak verbally. Those that cannot partake in these communications are simply, by virtue of their poverty or otherwise, excluded from one of the, or perhaps the defining, aspect of human society.
Escape Velocity explores human perception. Humanity often experiences the world filtered through computers. Mediated reality IS reality. With computers routinely interfacing with a user’s personal node at a level between sensation and cerebral processing, the brain cannot really distinguish between electrochemical signals originating from its eyes and those originating from software being transmitted from a nearby node. A little girl walks down the street towards you. Next to her, holding hands with her, walks a giant purple teddy-bear. For your brain, both the girl and the bear appear ‘real’. Of course, you can turn down the input from the bear and it will fade and disappear, but the point is made; everything we experience is filtered through, added to with successive layers, and even cognitively focused, through our capacity to augment and mediate our senses. We are almost all connected, all the time.
What effect are these technologies having? What are their effects upon our society? Their effects upon the way we relate to others, even to ourselves?
Evolution of WarfareEdit
I am intrigued by bloggers and writers who discuss the movement of global powers away from conventional warfare and towards various types of ‘special war’. When I read about the events in Ukraine this summer, it seemed to me that this sort of mixture of espionage, subversion, deniable involvement through use of unofficial third-party actors, exacting use of highly trained special operatives, and even terrorism, while also applying pressure through diplomatic, financial, and even defined media narratives, would be more and more common in the future.
Escape Velocity describes a trade war between China and the USA in 2041 that almost but doesn’t quite erupt into a military conflict. I imagined that by 2041 even the threat of war, the general public belief that there would be war- would be enough to rattle world markets and speculative, often-automated, trading. Just the perception of imminent war between national superpowers would wreck havoc on the world economy- and in Escape Velocity, did exactly that.
No, conventional war between major powers would be avoided by the ‘haves’ at almost any cost; the price would just be too high. Instead, conflict has moved into the shadows, into the electromagnetic spectrum, and into the nooiome. Soldiers and drones and jets still exist, but they are primarily meant to support, and protect against, the covert espionage and sabotage that I believe the worlds’ powers would come to rely upon more heavily.
As moderator, I will reward creative use of pin-point assaults upon communications and command facilities, creative applications of cyber and electromagnetic warfare, the use of paramilitaries, subversion and espionage- all more highly than a the wide-scale use of say, tank squadrons. This is because that is what conflict and even warfare is in Escape Velocity.
Ecology and EnvironmentalismEdit
I’ve previously explored catastrophic environmental failure in Blood from a Stone (1). In Escape Veloctiy, I take a somewhat cynical vis-à-vis our own ability to rise to the challenge of accelerating climate change. By 2092, the population has had no choice but to recognize and respond to these challenges- indeed climate change is indirectly responsible for tens of millions of deaths annually.
The world is warmer and wetter than it was in 2014. It is beset by storms and drought. Many species have gone extinct.
And yet, despite the cynicism of our ancestors and the damage inflicted, while global warming continues, the rate of warming has finally slowed. Geoscale engineering projects by Puszcza Wynd and Pambazuka are successfully sequestering a huge amount of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere via genengineered plants. Additional projects increase earthly albedo by seeding moisture to create greater cloud cover and by using high altitude sulfates to reflect sunlight.
Effectively, in the absence of having prevented climate change, we are trying to reverse it by terraforming Earth. And while most of the population is happy with this, the religious ‘Garden’ order, and many members of the environmentally conservative Amazonia phyle, are more hesitant. Kudzu-4 and its marine counterpart were designed to be very survivable, to require minimal nutrition, and to grow very quickly- which means they can outcompete native species very effectively. At the same time, sulfur in the atmosphere leads to further acidification of the oceans. Regardless of the drawbacks however, the last twenty years has seen substantial reductions in the rate of atmospheric warming, though on average the atmosphere does continue to warm- just not as quickly.
Environmentalism and ecology are under threat in Escape Velocity but there is also reason to have optimism. The world has come together to deal with environmental change. We’ve solved many of our energy crises and global warming is slowing.
How has global climate change, drought, storms, geoscale engineering affected society? Your population? What do we expect to experience in the future?
Twenty-ninety two has seen people on mars, the establishment of permanent lunar colonies, and the successful commercialization of space. Its also seen the ‘Dark Sky’ event when most orbital satellites were destroyed. Since then earth orbit has been increasingly militarized with both laser weaponry and rho-based shielding.
What will the future hold? Will we see colonization of mars? Other habitats? Will space be colonized?
Space is a big ‘if’. If the world’s phyla don’t turn against themselves, don’t sabotage each other’s efforts or waste their resources on war, then I feel that we could see significant development within the solar system. If we do, well, we’ll be too busy focusing our efforts elsewhere.
So this takes us full-circle, back to world-building. I hope you, the player, write stories and contribute to world building. But I also hope you make an effort to especially consider the social and personal consequences of what the ideas and themes above have upon your people.