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jawillroy February 26th, 2019 02:11 PM

Sustainable Tech Levels?
 
*LOGORRHEA ALERT*

SO. I've been reading Jared Diamond's 2011 book on societal collapses, and it's been bouncing all around the Traveller parts of my brain.

Greenland, for example.

Here we have a Norse population trying to maintain themselves as culturally and technologically European in the most remote European settlement of its time, barring Vinland. Ultimately, their unwillingness to dispense with their cattle and their sheep leads to destruction of their soil, total loss of their trees, total loss of the ability to produce metal... their insistence upon participating in trade with Europe (rather than self-sustainability) meant that weeks better spent on nurturing their marginal hayfields were spent walrus and bear hunting for ivory and furs for export, to trade for iron and luxuries.

Their pressures wouldn't have been as deadly if they were as close to Europe as, say, the Faroes - which were as barren but close enough to import everything they needed.

So I'm wondering about non-industrial Traveller worlds with technological levels dependent on industrial production. For example, the TL 13 world with a population of forty thousand, or five thousand. Or three hundred.

In order to maintain that technology, how close does that world have to be to a population 7+ world of TL 13 or better?

Suppose you've got one little TL15 world with a population of 300 or so, and within 10 parsecs there's one TL 11 industrial world and a mess of other systems between TL 5 and 9.

Do you just handwave it all, and say yep, that's a TL 15 world?
Is it a TL 11 world with a few TL 15 gadgets?
Those Norse Greenlanders did everything they could to avoid behaving like the Inuit. Apparently they didn't even eat fish, not even when they were still able to keep boats afloat. That's akin to our TL 15 enclave refusing to adopt nearby TL 9 methods when their own gear fails - are those non-industrial enclaves just lining up to die off?

***

Suppose our TL 13 pop 2 world is moderately isolated; let's say there's no major environmental stress: a shirtsleeve world of Atmosphere 8 with 50% oceans. Humans can survive there at tech 0, notionally.

The highest tech *producing* world is a jump away, TL11 pop 7.

The nearest TL 13 *producing* world is 6 parsecs away: two J3 or three J2, or some other combination with a leg or two of J1 thrown in. To get something there, you really have to WANT to get it there. No easy one-leg routes.

So the easiest imports for our TL13 outpost are liable to be TL11 stuff. Is the REAL TL of our outpost TL11? Or less, even?

Or do we assume the TL13 outpost exists because what it produces is of such high value (economically or scientifically or strategically) that the ships from the homeland will be there sufficiently regularly to maintain TL13 standards, despite the distance?

Supposing there's NO nearby worlds of high enough population to produce goods for export: Does that world get to stay TL13? Or do we say it's a TL1 world with a lot of broken TL13 ornaments?

***

And another thing. Supposing that the TL13 world with population 2 has a type A starport.
Can those few hundred people still build my starship?

whartung February 26th, 2019 02:32 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by jawillroy (Post 599493)
In order to maintain that technology, how close does that world have to be to a population 7+ world of TL 13 or better?

2-3 months round trip travel, arguably more, 6 months to a year, depending on the tech.

Simply put, anything "vital" enough that it can't be down for the travel time, should have spares on hand.

This is not a matter of travel time per se as it is a matter of stores and expertise.

It doesn't help travel times to have your single Fusion Plant engineer die in a bowling accident just before winter.

But 2-3 months is isolated enough, but not that isolated.

A simple example are the trappers annual rendezvous that happened in the Rockies. Each year, essentially, everyone would come out of the wood work to bring in their furs, load up on bullets, powder, and backy, then head back out for another year of work.

But for a technological society, you want spares for the machinery, medications for routine illnesses. Best to have, say, an 18-24 month supply of antibiotics if the medical ship is coming every 6 months. That's something you want to over provision, and not store all in the same refrigerator.

Then there's consumables, like fuel, and such, but with reliable fusion power, less of an issue.

And any colony could do a lot worse than having a spare starship or two just standing by (Scout ship, small trader, even a pinnace or a gig). For local lift capacity, extra power, search and rescue, driving herds of Grasscloppers off the cliff for extra meat.

But, simply, areas with some redundant systems that can degrade gracefully (if X fails, we always have Y, and Z after that) can sustain themselves for quite some time.

Enoki February 26th, 2019 02:56 PM

Quote:

So I'm wondering about non-industrial Traveller worlds with technological levels dependent on industrial production. For example, the TL 13 world with a population of forty thousand, or five thousand. Or three hundred.

Suppose you've got one little TL15 world with a population of 300 or so, and within 10 parsecs there's one TL 11 industrial world and a mess of other systems between TL 5 and 9.
This would depend a lot on exactly who the people were that were there and what they did.
Taking a real world modern example, you have a bunch of islands around the world that have very small populations and are quite distant from easy economic and technological support.
But, many maintain a high level of both by one means or another.

For example, you might have one that has a valuable resource that is scarce but in abundance there. Nauru with phosphate was one such island. The small population got rich selling the rights to a mining company. Yea, they squandered the wealth, but while they had it they could live quite well.

Kawajalein atoll or Guam are good examples of another means. Both house considerable US military and government facilities thus they have a population that is paid well to be there to do something. Everything gets imported but the islands themselves are not very well economically established.

The Falklands are another. They get by fairly well even as nearby Argentina is unfriendly to them.

So, you could easily have such instances that parallel these in the Traveller universe. A system that has an abundant resource. A really nice planet that has low population but all of them are filthy rich and it's their retreat.

I did one that was low population and listed as low tech. But, there were pockets of cutting edge tech on the world in the form of a handful of resorts / spas and the planet was a recreational "playground" that also did things like safaris, going so far as to import specific animals that hunters wanted to hunt from elsewhere (including endangered ones). They would charge the wealthy through the nose to get the exclusivity of being able to go there and get away from it all, or shoot the rare animal of their choice.

There are really no limits to what you could come up with to explain a high tech low pop world in the proverbial "Middle of Nowhere."

mike wightman February 26th, 2019 03:09 PM

A TL11 world is TL11 because it has the infrastructure to make stuff at TL11. An industrial world classification is earned if it has the capacity to export a large amount of its manufactured goods.

TL11 is three point two TLs beyond our current TL.

They have cheap fusion power, control of gravity; their robotic/computer controlled resource exploitation, refining and manufacturing capability make out primitive AI controlled robotic factories look like something Leonardo would have drawn.

By TL13 they are two TLs beyond this, their robots can now learn as they are going about their business, they can manufacture synthetic workers as they are needed...

jawillroy February 26th, 2019 03:52 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by mike wightman (Post 599498)
An industrial world classification is earned if it has the capacity to export a large amount of its manufactured goods...

Well, I'm not sure how the other systems do it, but in CT (which I'm using) the designation whether a world is Industrial or Non-Industrial is dependent upon population (and pollution).

So I suppose the question is whether at higher techs, the ability to produce *that tech* at an industrial level is (should be?) dependent on population.

kilemall February 26th, 2019 06:13 PM

I've posted before on how well many things 'travel well' because they are intrinsically valuable- you get into MCr per dton resources or starship drives or computers or other equipment, you can pay Cr100000 per ton to ship 100 parsecs and it's just 10% of their value.
Fortunes are made on transport margins much greater then that.

So the economics as presented suggests a few IND worlds dominate big ticket production for 50-100 parsecs around, right in keeping with the megacorps.


Where local production would matter comes in much cheaper raw materials and foods and finished products that don't travel so well.
The lower the per dton cost, the greater increasing pressures to buy within the subsector and then ultimately develop an indigenous production/support capability.


So your TL15 remote colony may be shipping something valuable enough to sell 25 parsecs away at Cr250000 dton each and earning import money, but TL15 basic appliances are produced at 5% margin via the local maker industrial park.

nobby-w February 26th, 2019 07:40 PM

Some studies about space habitats and other related topics came up with some figures:
  • Several hundred is the minimum necessary to maintain sufficient genetic diversity.
  • About 100,000-200,000 is the minimum to maintain a self-sustaining economy.
  • About 500,000-1,000,000 is the minimum to maintain a culture with more esoteric functions such as research universities.
That would imply that population 6 is really the minimum to sustain a technological society without external support. How high a tech level this could sustain is left as an exercise for the reader, but one could presume that at least TL8-10 could be sustained in this way, and maybe higher levels of technology. If the R&D was available externally (i.e. the intellectual property could be purchased) then an arbitrarily high tech level could be sustained under these circumstances. Even if the world is not primarily industrial, it could have enough industry to be self-sustaining and perhaps import some items externally.

Smaller populations with any significant technology base would have to be dependent on external parties by this reasoning.

You could stipulate a larger population as being needed to sustain higher tech levels without access to external sources of intellectual property and R&D.

kilemall February 26th, 2019 08:09 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by nobby-w (Post 599512)
Some studies about space habitats and other related topics came up with some figures:
  • Several hundred is the minimum necessary to maintain sufficient genetic diversity.
  • About 100,000-200,000 is the minimum to maintain a self-sustaining economy.
  • About 500,000-1,000,000 is the minimum to maintain a culture with more esoteric functions such as research universities.
That would imply that population 6 is really the minimum to sustain a technological society without external support. How high a tech level this could sustain is left as an exercise for the reader, but one could presume that at least TL8-10 could be sustained in this way, and maybe higher levels of technology. If the R&D was available externally (i.e. the intellectual property could be purchased) then an arbitrarily high tech level could be sustained under these circumstances. Even if the world is not primarily industrial, it could have enough industry to be self-sustaining and perhaps import some items externally.

Smaller populations with any significant technology base would have to be dependent on external parties by this reasoning.

You could stipulate a larger population as being needed to sustain higher tech levels without access to external sources of intellectual property and R&D.


Makers and transportable sperm/ovum/DNA and unlimited data storage and robots/biobots can change that equation.

GypsyComet February 26th, 2019 11:58 PM

Both MT's Hard Times and TNE's core have rules and/or guidelines for determining what TL a world needs to be self sustaining. The minimum can be safely ignored in a large polity as someone will cheerfully sell you the parts and tech you need to survive. Once that commerce link is severed, however, you adapt, settle above the minimum, leave, or die.

Carlobrand February 27th, 2019 02:01 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by jawillroy (Post 599493)
...Suppose you've got one little TL15 world with a population of 300 or so, and within 10 parsecs there's one TL 11 industrial world and a mess of other systems between TL 5 and 9.

Do you just handwave it all, and say yep, that's a TL 15 world?
Is it a TL 11 world with a few TL 15 gadgets? ...

Even with bots and fabricators, there's not enough there to make all the parts and dig up all the resources they need to keep everything running. So it's a TL15 world until whatever critical import they've been importing to keep the bots and fabricators running stops coming in. Then, whatever they were having the bots do to produce exports to buy the parts starts getting harder to do, the fabricators start breaking down, and things get ... interesting.

Depending on other stats, it could be a TL15 world that's likely to get very hungry, or at least very tired of Soylent, if it doesn't have an environment that already has edibles available to fall back on. Even then, it might be a real struggle for a community that small to figure out how to gather those resources without the help they were used to before things go completely downhill, but it might come slow enough for them to figure that out.

Be a hell of a thing to have everything go bad because you hadn't bothered to scout out deposits of gold to replace the little bit you were importing for your electronics or some similar thing, especially since the experts in that sort of thing aren't likely to be living in your little colony.


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