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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.

jawillroy February 27th, 2019 11:32 AM

One bit that I noted is that if you apply the "Shipyard capacity" rules from TCS, worlds of population 4 tend to have shipbuilding capacity in the tens of tons, population 5 can manage within the hundreds, and population 6 in the thousands. So even setting budget limitations aside, the smaller worlds don't have the infrastructure to maintain shipyards capable of building major fleets, starport type and tech notwithstanding. I'd say that the type A port with population 3 has the parts and technical knowhow to fix or replace, or build a jump drive - but they don't have the facility for building a whole ship.

In order to maintain that high tech capability, they'd need a regular supply of tools, spares, and so on.

So should that *fail* then it seems as though a few options might follow:
1) the high tech outpost adopts the tech and culture of the nearest, highest developed exporter (Not trivial: there are not many among us who would willingly adopt a tech 6 lifestyle. I suspect abandoning tech level 15 to adapt to a TL 9 or 10 existence would be akin to the population of New York City choosing to live like the Sentinelese*)
2) the outpost collapses, devolving to the lowest tech and population that can survive in isolation on that world, up to and including a complete die-out.

*though I can sympathize with the urge to shoot arrows at incoming traffic on the George Washington Bridge.

jawillroy February 27th, 2019 02:03 PM

There's something to be said for the notion that interstellar tech levels *require* an interconnected interstellar society by definition, and that without connection to other worlds of at least adjacent tech, they'll be hampered at best.

nobby-w February 27th, 2019 04:45 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by kilemall (Post 599516)
Makers and transportable sperm/ovum/DNA and unlimited data storage and robots/biobots can change that equation.

Care to elaborate on that?

Carlobrand February 27th, 2019 11:27 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by nobby-w (Post 599512)
Some studies about space habitats and other related topics came up with some figures: ... That would imply that population 6 is really the minimum to sustain a technological society without external support.

So, tech-level dependent. Primitive agrarian societies did quite nicely with smaller numbers. Things actually got tricky when their population density got up beyond a certain point: they'd start fighting each other and needing to form more complex societies. Probably TL4 or below is fine down to a few hundred population.

There's also the other end: once robots of sufficient ability appear on the scene, they begin to compensate for lower population.

Quote:

Originally Posted by jawillroy (Post 599527)
... there are not many among us who would willingly adopt a tech 6 lifestyle. ...

Well, maybe there's a Society for Creative Anachronism chapter. :D

Quote:

Originally Posted by jawillroy (Post 599530)
There's something to be said for the notion that interstellar tech levels *require* an interconnected interstellar society by definition, and that without connection to other worlds of at least adjacent tech, they'll be hampered at best.

Hard to argue that for populations in the billions since interstellar trade is such a very small part of their economy, at least in the versions that give you data to judge such things by.

Timerover51 February 28th, 2019 01:27 AM

I guess I first look to historical examples of what size populations could support a given Tech Level. First, it might be a good idea to state which edition you are using for Tech Levels, although they are all similar. I will be using the Tech Level Chart in The Traveller Book for Tech Levels.

First, it should be noted that under Tech Level "0", the Stone Age, the following advances were made: the bow and spear-thrower were developed, agriculture appeared along with irrigation, animals were domesticated, pottery was developed, ships of sufficient size and seaworthiness to settle the islands in the Mediterranean and the numerous archipelagos in the Pacific, brick and stone architecture appears, large monuments are built over periods of time, and city-states comprising thousands of people developed, including fortifications. Textiles appeared, made from a variety of materials, and in some cases, small villages and towns were built out over the water, presumable for protection.

The Greek and Italian city-states did not seem to have many problems supporting a Bronze or Iron Age Tech Level of 1, so a few thousand would be adequate for that Tech Level.

Tech Level 2, circa 1400 to 1700, so the introduction of gunpowder and cannon into the technology base, as well as the developed sailing ship and warship. Against that, none of those developments was that excessively labor intensive, so a population level of a few thousands to tens of thousands of inhabitants should be more than adequate.

Tech Level 3, circa 1700 to 1860, and Tech Level 4, circa 1860 to 1900, probably are going to require a larger population, on the order of tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands

Once you get to Tech Level 5 and 6, the population needs go up. Great Britain had no problem producing all of the material for Tech Level 5 with a population in the tens of millions, with about 46 million people all told. It they had not had their economy so badly damaged by World Wars One and Two, Tech Level 6 should not have been a major problem. Tech Level 7 might be a bit iffy, but attainable.

Once you get into Tech Level 8 and higher, I start thinking of a population in the upper tens of millions to hundreds of millions for self-sufficiency. You probably could manage with a population in the mid tens of millions for Tech Level 8 and higher if some of the information is imported, or basic models to be duplicated are available.

mike wightman February 28th, 2019 03:52 PM

Automation and robotics/computer control mean that the population requirements then start dropping from TL7+

A car factory today employs an order of magnitude less staff, similarly farms can produce an order of magnitude more produce thanks to automation and machinery.

As TL rises to the science fictional rather than historical you can expect even greater productivity.

jawillroy February 28th, 2019 04:59 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by mike wightman (Post 599563)
Automation and robotics/computer control mean that the population requirements then start dropping from TL7+

A car factory today employs an order of magnitude less staff, similarly farms can produce an order of magnitude more produce thanks to automation and machinery.

As TL rises to the science fictional rather than historical you can expect even greater productivity.

At the same time, don't those factories still depend on resources from other countries produced at lower levels of automation? We might have some gee-whiz-awesome factories assembling a car, but you've still got assembly lines producing the individual components elsewhere.

kilemall February 28th, 2019 06:12 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by nobby-w (Post 599534)
Care to elaborate on that?


Sure.


The makers and robo/biobots would be all about supplanting human labor so major populations are freed up to do creative or engineering things.

The genetic material is an easy way to promote genetic diversity on even the farthest colony worlds- if you can get a low berth to the planet and they can do fertilization, the colony can introduce new genes on low impact infertility treatments or support major birthing/gene pool enhancement efforts.

The unlimited data part is about the knowledge transfer to maintain the educational systems to keep up the tech. It would also have the tech skill packages for the robots, possibly mRNA skill implants for sophonts/biobots, and at a high enough tech level the captured templates for creating sperm/ovum out of tissue makers from raw data.




What lower pop would do to research is limit how many lines of work could be done at a time, stretching out development over longer periods and/or having to do just a few critical items. Such a planet would likely stalemate on just maintaining it's setup tech.

A smaller pop would be vulnerable to tech crash due to a critical segment being harmed/destroyed by events, sophont-made or natural, or moving onto another planet. If the maker engineers were gone for instance, I would expect the TL to devolve quickly.

So that is an argument again for the pop to be increased to your levels for disaster redundancy, through a concentrated babymaking initiative.

Another factor is that only a certain percentage of the population si going to be good for high-end engineering/manage bots and the rest not, so you have to have numbers for that unless it is some sort of dystopian eugenics society.




So initial TL and then challenges to maintaining and growing, which probably involves growing to your suggested levels long term but which can do reasonably well with less pop.

Note I am talking about a setup colony, not an entirely isolated civilization.

Timerover51 February 28th, 2019 07:33 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by mike wightman (Post 599563)
Automation and robotics/computer control mean that the population requirements then start dropping from TL7+

A car factory today employs an order of magnitude less staff, similarly farms can produce an order of magnitude more produce thanks to automation and machinery.

As TL rises to the science fictional rather than historical you can expect even greater productivity.

The agricultural production increases are already cranked in, and I did allow for Tech Level 8+ at population levels of the tens of millions. There is a limit as to how much food you can produce per acre no matter how advanced you get, unless you can produce continuously, which is not cheap unless you are in the tropics on a fairly standard atmosphere planet.

You still need a certain amount of people in infrastructure work and also as the Tech Level rises, you are going to have increases in service industries. I see a population in the tens of millions, and the higher tens of millions at that, as the minimum for very high Tech Levels.

whartung February 28th, 2019 09:04 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by jawillroy (Post 599564)
At the same time, don't those factories still depend on resources from other countries produced at lower levels of automation? We might have some gee-whiz-awesome factories assembling a car, but you've still got assembly lines producing the individual components elsewhere.

Not necessarily. Considering car parts, the entire supply chain is heavily automated. At all levels, workers are there to either support the machines, or for the specific stages of assembly and evaluation where the modern robots simply don't have the dexterity or judgement to be able to do the job. Any major subsystem is a series of automated steps with
manual intervening steps.

The industry is large and lucrative enough to be able to afford continual improvements in automation and streamlining manufacturing.

Part of the issue, specifically with things like cars, especially cars to America and Europe, is simply standards of manufacture require modern automation to be met. Materials, tolerances, assembly, etc. We pay a premium for it. That's why you don't (necessarily) want to buy, say, an Indian or Chinese vehicle compared to a Japanese or Korean one. And 30 years ago, folks said the same things about Korean cars.

It's not that the Chinese or Indians CAN'T make higher quality components, they simply service markets with less money that can't afford the prices of the higher quality components.

iPhones are assembled in China to very high standards, yet you just know that right next door is another factory assembling some other gizmo to a lower quality standard for less money.

BMWs has motors manufactured in China. It's an Austrian design, "German engineering", and I don't know where the parts are sourced (but also likely China), but the assembly is in China. For some consumers, this is a point of contention. But it's a knowledge sharing, education, training, and workplace culture thing -- and much of that can be transplanted to a new labor force. But don't think that this line is any more primitive than one in Munich. It's more a overall labor savings plus parts sourcing and logistics thing to place the plant in China.

As robotics get better, more dextrous, better vision, better judgement, better "feel" for soft "fit" issues, better working with soft materials (like sewing fabric), they will slowly replace manual labor. Add in "light-sentience" (for lack of a better word) to make them easier to train (vs "move 34.7 cm left, drop 5cm down, rotate at 3700 RPM using tool 7...") and make them more general purpose. But even if they're bone stupid, they're likely worth programming.

Also, in a realm like Traveller, it's not like this level of automation doesn't exist. Even better, it's a durable good. No reason you can't import "TL15 robot seamster" to stitch clothing together, train up a staff to replace FRU (field replaceable units) that are kept in stock to maintain the line. Don't need to be an AI wiz to run a robot, just to make one in the first place.

mike wightman March 1st, 2019 03:10 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by jawillroy (Post 599564)
At the same time, don't those factories still depend on resources from other countries produced at lower levels of automation? We might have some gee-whiz-awesome factories assembling a car, but you've still got assembly lines producing the individual components elsewhere.

Nope.
Resource harvesting uses the same automated machinery to reduce the workforce required.

Look up strip mining in Australia for example.

mike wightman March 1st, 2019 03:14 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by timerover51 (Post 599572)
The agricultural production increases are already cranked in, and I did allow for Tech Level 8+ at population levels of the tens of millions. There is a limit as to how much food you can produce per acre no matter how advanced you get, unless you can produce continuously, which is not cheap unless you are in the tropics on a fairly standard atmosphere planet.

You build multistory farms with controlled microclimates to allow continuous production.

Quote:

You still need a certain amount of people in infrastructure work and also as the Tech Level rises, you are going to have increases in service industries. I see a population in the tens of millions, and the higher tens of millions at that, as the minimum for very high Tech Levels.
I can see a time when there are only a handful of people served by millions of robots...

Carlobrand March 1st, 2019 03:22 AM

Below TL5, the large fraction of the population involved in agriculture - and the fact they're using animals that can be bred instead of something that has to be built - insulates a culture from technological collapse. Famines and plagues may decimate a population, but the farmer behind his plow doesn't care whether there's a city capable of producing Gothic plate or only a town capable of producing Visby armor; he just needs a few people who know how to locate, refine, and work iron enough to get him the plow he needs.

The real core of technology at that level isn't the art or the weapons, it's the agricultural refinements: the thundering invader may cause great societal disruption, but it doesn't tend to make the farmers forget how to rotate crops or make a horse collar once they've learned that. Knowledge is being spread parent to child, by word and example, rather than through some vulnerable technological system, and that's a pretty robust method for holding on to knowledge when large fractions of the population are all basically doing the same thing.

jawillroy March 1st, 2019 11:21 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by mike wightman (Post 599580)
I can see a time when there are only a handful of people served by millions of robots...

A hellish existence.

And to what end?

I can see a robot-driven installation as a necessary link in a chain of high-tech worlds, sure. A dangerous climate hampers access to necessary resources, so set up a robot mine or what have you, a robot port facility to handle the product. That's a high-tech mechanized facility to meet an external demand, with repair and maintenance resources imported from similarly high-tech worlds.

But how self sufficient is it, really? If the demand for the resource stops, then what's the real tech level of what's left? A world of inert robots waiting to fulfill order for unobtainium that are no longer arriving?

If the world in question has the raw resources in abundance for robot makers to fabricate everything they need on site to maintain the whole fleet of robots to make... what? How's that world *not* going to get settled to capacity by living sophonts instead?

And if it's a luxury existence you imagine for your handful of humans with millions or robot servitors... Millions aren't needed for that, surely. How does that work?

jawillroy March 1st, 2019 11:38 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by mike wightman (Post 599579)
Nope.
Resource harvesting uses the same automated machinery to reduce the workforce required.

Look up strip mining in Australia for example.

Automated mining in Australia stops if A) there ceased to be a demand for the resources being mined or B) the resources run out. OR C, it becomes cheaper to get the resources elsewhere.

If for "Australia" we read "the sixth planet of Star X" with a population of 500 (or five!) and a massive agglomeration of tech level 12 robots which no longer have any reason to be producing what they're programmed to produce, I'm not convinced that for all intents and purposes that's really a tech level 12 world anymore.

whartung March 1st, 2019 03:33 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by jawillroy (Post 599587)
If for "Australia" we read "the sixth planet of Star X" with a population of 500 (or five!) and a massive agglomeration of tech level 12 robots which no longer have any reason to be producing what they're programmed to produce, I'm not convinced that for all intents and purposes that's really a tech level 12 world anymore.

No, it's now an X starport with 0 population and, oh, all of the iron missing.

jawillroy March 1st, 2019 06:33 PM

So perhaps this formulation works:

A low-tech, low population world is non-industrial because the population is insufficient to support industrialization;

A high-tech, non industrial world has a low population because its specialization and automation permit it.

Timerover51 March 1st, 2019 09:29 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by jawillroy (Post 599592)
So perhaps this formulation works:

A low-tech, low population world is non-industrial because the population is insufficient to support industrialization;

That would be a very reasonable characterization.

Quote:

Originally Posted by jawillroy (Post 599592)
A high-tech, non industrial world has a low population because its specialization and automation permit it.

I would argue for a world dependent upon imports to maintain its high tech level. Otherwise, a self-sufficient high-tech world should be an "industrial" one.

jawillroy March 1st, 2019 11:02 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by timerover51 (Post 599596)
I would argue for a world dependent upon imports to maintain its high tech level. Otherwise, a self-sufficient high-tech world should be an "industrial" one.

That's my thought, pretty much - or at least, something in that pop 7-8 grey area.

Carlobrand March 1st, 2019 11:13 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by jawillroy (Post 599586)
...

And if it's a luxury existence you imagine for your handful of humans with millions or robot servitors... Millions aren't needed for that, surely. How does that work?

Imagine the wargames you could play! :D

Quote:

Originally Posted by timerover51 (Post 599596)
...
I would argue for a world dependent upon imports to maintain its high tech level. Otherwise, a self-sufficient high-tech world should be an "industrial" one.

I would agree that a non-industrial high tech world would suffer gradual decay without imports. Between industrial and non-industrial, there might be worlds that find a sweet spot under the right conditions.

vegas March 2nd, 2019 01:18 AM

My answer isn't that different from some that have come earlier in this thread, but I approach this kind of question a little differently. The OTU tells us two things:

1) societies fell backward in TL after the Empire collapsed and the Long Night began, and
2) there is significant TL diversity between systems within the 3I even after a 1000+ years.

How to account for those two "historical facts"? There are probably multiple ways to skin that cat, but whatever you posit for how TL and industry works in the far future, it is constrained by those facts.

My answer is that far future economies are both incredibly human and capital intensive, so much so that resources from multiple systems have to be pooled to support it. As a zero-order estimate I assume capital requirements go up 10x per TL for each high tech sector in the far future, but productivity only increases at historic rates, say 60% per TL. Similarly at higher TLs a diminishing percentage of the population is capable of performing the technical work or producing the technology. That drives the need for a very large, very well trained labor force to get the qualified bodies high TLs need.

That is why there is a Long Night; one system doesn't have the capital nor human resources to support all the industry a high tech economy needs. Interstellar trade is required to maintain it. And that is why tech doesn't transfer in the 3I; it is too expensive to replicate the industrial and human-capital base required.

Why doesn't Mike's automation solve the problem? I don't know. How about, the quantum mechanical problems involved in jump / grav / and other far future industrial technologies are not subject to closed form solutions or machine learning techniques but require a combination of art and intellect that can't be coded or automated.

Why not clones of scientists then? I don't know. How about since intelligence isn't strictly genetic it is not efficient / practical to just clone your workforce. Perhaps the level of intellectual diversity needed is too great too. Clones help but you still need huge numbers.

Maybe you don't like my answers to the objections, but we have to handwave the objections away somehow because we have the setting facts of the Long Night and 3I TL heterogeneity.

mike wightman March 2nd, 2019 04:14 AM

The automation didn't help the Vilani Empire worlds that suffered the Long Night because the Vilani Empire ensured that no world was self sufficient.

World A makes fusion power plant chambers, world B makes fusion power plant plasma control systems, world C makes the fusion power plant housing, world D assembles the lot.

The Vilani had a pathological fear of achieving TL12, if they had granted fully self sufficient technological knowledge to every TL9-11 world within their empire they wouldn't have been able to prevent it...

vegas March 2nd, 2019 01:32 PM

Mike, that is a plausible explanation for Vilani colonies might be prone to suffering a fall back in the Long Night, but I think it raises lots of questions.

First, it doesn't address the lack of tech transfer in the 3I at all.

Why did the Vilani themselves fall back in the Long Night? It is one thing for their colonies to be kept in the dark, but how do they themselves fall back to TL9 from TL11. Obviously they themselves were kept in the dark about there own technology.

Why didn't the Rule of Man mitigate the imposed Vilani tech isolation? They had over 200 years in power. If tech/knowledge could easily transfer and be sustained by a single system, why didn't that happen anywhere among former Vilani colonies? Why wasn't it commonplace?

And perhaps most difficult, why did the Long Night affect the Solomani region if it was a Vilani cultural problem? The Terrans were TL12 and had a very different culture.

Timerover51 March 2nd, 2019 03:36 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by vegas (Post 599608)
.........


And perhaps most difficult, why did the Long Night affect the Solomani region if it was a Vilani cultural problem? The Terrans were TL12 and had a very different culture.

Two Words.

Plot Device.

vegas March 2nd, 2019 04:50 PM

@timerover, Well sure, you can always just bash the setting. That is easy.

Instead I try to find solutions that are plausible within the setting. I don't subscribe to the theory that the Long Night was just a Vilani cultural problem, rather I propose that the capital (human and physical) intensity of high TLs requires massive scale: interstellar scale. Thus when interstellar trade withers, TLs fall back to system-sustainable scales.

@jawillroy, getting back to the OP

Quote:

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?
Quote:

Suppose our TL 13 pop 2 world is moderately isolated;…

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?
I feel like these two cases are very similar and get the same answer. As usual with CT (and I come from a CT mindset) you get to make up whatever answer you want. But contra Mike (and for the record, I hate to be contra Mike since I usually agree with just about everything he posts around here) TL can mean many things, not just "it has the infrastructure to make stuff at [that TL]"

From LBB3 pp 7-9, TL refers to:
the degree of local tech expertise
the capabilities of local industry
the types of goods in general use
the types of weapons used by public
the general ability to repair or maintain items
the quality and sophistication of products of the world
the common and available equipment

I don't take that laundry list to be a single definition, rather I think those are the many dimensions on which TL gets measured. So capabilities of local industry is one way to be high TL. Another is having local high tech expertise or to in fact be using high TL equipment, even if they are largely imported.

(Side note, even if you subscribe to Mike's idea that TL has to mean "you can make stuff" at that TL it doesn't have to mean you have the breadth of infrastructure to make anything at that TL.)

So in MTU, you wouldn't have a self-sustaining 300 person TL 15 world, but you certainly could have a TL15 outpost where all the high tech is imported. Maybe it is a noble's system or a mega-corps research facility. So long as a backer has the financial resources to drop TL15 stuff on the area, it really wouldn't be hard to support 300 people at high tech. Expensive, but not hard.

And I like your scenario where your 100s population TL13 planet is in the process of falling back if it is truly isolated. That is another fun explanation.

mike wightman March 2nd, 2019 06:50 PM

I agree with you, TL can have different meanings.

In a setting where worlds are isolated then TL probably indicates only local manufacturing capability, the presence of higher TL items would point towards off world trade and an adventure hook - where are the off world merchants getting their high TL stuff from?

In a setting like the Third Imperium circa 1105+ then local TL will be a combination of what is locally manufactured and what is imported, but note that this can go all the way up to TL15 stuff popping up on a world with TL5...

An industrial world, though, will have a TL that indicates manufacturing capacity.

(As to the changing nature of the Vilani during their 7000 years in space before the long night, how the long night actually affected former Ziru Sirka worlds and why and how the Syleans promoted the concept of a long night to legitimise their ascendancy to Empire that requires a new thread or possibly an old one:))

Timerover51 March 2nd, 2019 07:09 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by vegas (Post 599615)
@timerover, Well sure, you can always just bash the setting. That is easy.

I am not "just" bashing the setting, but looking at it from the standpoint of a historian that has studied societal inertia and what it takes to reduce a level of technology.

Quote:

Instead I try to find solutions that are plausible within the setting. I don't subscribe to the theory that the Long Night was just a Vilani cultural problem, rather I propose that the capital (human and physical) intensity of high TLs requires massive scale: interstellar scale. Thus when interstellar trade withers, TLs fall back to system-sustainable scales.
Quite simply, I do not see a plausible explanation for the Long Night affecting such a large volume of space or worlds. Given the limitations of the Jump Drive when it comes to communication speed, any world with a reasonably large population is going to work at being as self-sufficient as possible. That means making sure that they can sustain, by their own efforts, the level of technology that they have reached.

The original poster's example of a Tech Level 15 World with a population of 300 means to me that it is either some form of research station or industrial facility that happens to be at Tech Level 15, with no ability to maintain that Tech Level without continuous outside support. Given the description of the location, I would probably either call it a Relics site with the population actually at a much lower Tech Level, or toss the Tech Level 15 rating out the window, and set it to something that I would find more reasonable.

vegas March 2nd, 2019 08:28 PM

@Mike, fair points all. And as to
Quote:

(As to the changing nature of the Vilani during their 7000 years in space before the long night, how the long night actually affected former Ziru Sirka worlds and why and how the Syleans promoted the concept of a long night to legitimise their ascendancy to Empire that requires a new thread or possibly an old one)
Yes, I think I know where you are going with that, and it is a way to brush aside the "historical facts" I reference. That can work too. Lots of ways to skin this setting cat.

@timerover, well, to paraphrase Mike:

As TL rises to the science fictional rather than historical you can expect even greater capital (human and physical) intensity such that pre-TL8 historical experience isn't necessarily a good guide.

But its all just horses for courses between MTU and YTU.

Carlobrand March 3rd, 2019 01:23 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by vegas (Post 599615)
...
Instead I try to find solutions that are plausible within the setting. I don't subscribe to the theory that the Long Night was just a Vilani cultural problem, rather I propose that the capital (human and physical) intensity of high TLs requires massive scale: interstellar scale. Thus when interstellar trade withers, TLs fall back to system-sustainable scales.
...

At the core of it, Timerover is correct: elements are put in place to drive the story. Some of those elements may be very difficult to reconcile, but the story value is sufficient to make them useful. Star Trek gave us the transporter, then had the thing fail or glitch so often that any intelligent captain would have gone to shuttles and left the transporters as an emergency back-up option, but they kept being used because they added color, simplified the storytelling for television purposes, and occasionally made for a good story by themselves.

The Long Night is one of those bits of Traveller color that is difficult to reconcile. The problem is one of scale: to argue the interconnectedness that might account for a Long Night on even the largest worlds, we also need to argue for a scale of interstellar commerce that neither exists in any version of the game I know nor would be particularly useful in an adventure role-playing game.

Consider the Spinward Marches, the area I'm most familiar with: 439 worlds, a bit under 400 billion souls depending on the version, 93% of the population concentrated on 40 of those worlds, and trade - where game versions allow trade to be calculated - accounting for less than 1% of the GDP of those worlds, typically much less. Ramp up the trade to the level where those worlds would actually notice an interstellar collapse in trade, and I ramp up the number of ships flying around - and by extension the size of the Imperial fleet defending them - by a factor of 10, 20, maybe 30, because the budget is there for it and the temptation by hostiles to disrupt trade would be that much stronger. I've already got a problem explaining why there isn't at least one Imperial destroyer-escort monitoring every system against piracy or outlawry - what a dent that'd make in the players' adventuring fun - and now I multiply the problem by a factor of 10 or more.

Situation isn't dramatically different in the Imperial core, so explaining a collapse at a world of tens of billions in terms of interstellar trade is very difficult: it would require ramping up interstellar trade to a level that ends up impacting the adventuring experience, and the game is first and foremost about the adventuring experience. To preserve the adventuring experience requires imagining a level of trade that leaves room for players to visit small frontier worlds without expecting to see an Imperial monitoring outpost at every turn, which leaves those big high-pop worlds pretty much immune to the broader collapses that would crush probably 2/3 of their neighbors.

For me, the best answer is, "They don't know." Maybe it was the Third Imperium version of Medieval Europe's Dark Ages (which in fact weren't so dark in most areas, but most people don't look closely enough at history to know that). Or maybe some as yet unmentioned factor led to instability on worlds that should in fact have been islands of stability. It is ancient history, and the Imperium's historical economists are still arguing among themselves about how it happened or even whether it happened in the way people believe it happened, but most people are content with the story that's being taught in the elementary schools. That's as good an explanation for the players as any, and it's better than explanations that might have undesirable implications elsewhere. Sometimes the best explanation for something that doesn't make sense is, "It doesn't make sense to them either."

Timerover51 March 3rd, 2019 01:45 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by vegas (Post 599621)
@timerover,

My screen name is Timerover51, not timerover. Use that again and I will assume a deliberate, calculated insult.

Quote:

well, to paraphrase Mike:

As TL rises to the science fictional rather than historical you can expect even greater capital (human and physical) intensity such that pre-TL8 historical experience isn't necessarily a good guide.
I will agree that 7000 years of a static society such as the Vilani is without historical precedent. See Timeline in T5.0.9, page 17.

Quote:

But its all just horses for courses between MTU and YTU.
I think that I have pretty well laid out the basis for the relationship between population and Tech Level in my universe. What is available in a given Tech Level will be given in more detail under the Cepheus Engine thread. The top Tech Level of my Piper-Norton Out Rim sector will be 12, so I am not terribly worried about Tech Level 15, but there will be some surprising ruins in the sector. My Tech Level 12 might not match other Tech Level 12 concepts, however.

As I see it, to each his or her own.

Timerover51 March 3rd, 2019 01:47 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Carlobrand (Post 599626)
At the core of it, Timerover

Would you kindly use Timerover51?

Straybow March 3rd, 2019 03:42 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by jawillroy (Post 599493)
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.

First, I haven't read Diamond's book. I have studied a bunch of other stuff. Greenland colonies perished because the ecology changed at the end of the MWP. It didn't matter what the colonists did, the climate became too cold to maintain their pasture land and lumber/firewood. Yes, transition to a fishing economy could have allowed them to persist for some time, but the Little Ice Age would have pushed them off the island anyway. They still wanted to be Norsemen, and therefore live at least partly off their cattle and crops.

Quote:

Originally Posted by jawillroy (Post 599493)
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?

The rules say TL is their production capacity. A TL 7 world might still have high tech stuff in general use, entirely dependent on imported spare parts.


I understand that there are no LCD/LED TV/tablet/smartphone screens produced in the USA, but that doesn't mean we're stuck with CRTs. Our supply lines, in terms of transit times and delays, are probably as long as a low TL planet a few jumps away from the nearest high TL producer.


Quote:

Originally Posted by jawillroy (Post 599493)
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?

Yes. It has a robotic shipyard. Its tonnage per year might be rather low, and there may be a waiting list before your project gets started.

aramis March 3rd, 2019 05:55 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by timerover51 (Post 599628)
My screen name is Timerover51, not timerover. Use that again and I will assume a deliberate, calculated insult.


Don't go that way - it comes across as being far ruder than the informal shortening.

It's not an insult, but a normal human reaction to a compound name.

No one will be, nor has anyone been (to my knowledge), dinged for using partial sets of people's usernames, at least not when it's a discernible chunk of a compound.

Being excessively prickly about such things has gotten people infractions. Why? Because it's more rude than the objected to behavior. It's an ad hominem attack, even when it's not an ad hominem fallacious argument. And it's a detriment to the board.

Carlobrand March 3rd, 2019 08:37 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by timerover51 (Post 599629)
Would you kindly use Timerover51?

My apologies, I will in future.

Old School March 3rd, 2019 09:19 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by timerover51 (Post 599628)
My screen name is Timerover51, not timerover. Use that again and I will assume a deliberate, calculated insult.

If you’re going to insist on such precision on an internet message board, you should at least get your own screen name correct. Your screen name is timerover51, not Timerover51.

Carlobrand March 3rd, 2019 10:56 PM

So, moving back to the subject of the thread ...

I recall some discussion about considering the starport staff as being distinct from the planetary population. Trade volume's based on the local pop - except there might also be pass-through traffic. One of the systems had a process for calculating starport staff and construction tonnage. Anyone recall which book one that was in?

kilemall March 4th, 2019 05:53 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Carlobrand (Post 599667)
So, moving back to the subject of the thread ...

I recall some discussion about considering the starport staff as being distinct from the planetary population. Trade volume's based on the local pop - except there might also be pass-through traffic. One of the systems had a process for calculating starport staff and construction tonnage. Anyone recall which book one that was in?




Kansas City is that way for railroads- it handles over a billion tons of rail traffic per year but most of it is pass-through and neither originates nor terminates there.

Old School March 4th, 2019 08:04 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Carlobrand (Post 599667)
So, moving back to the subject of the thread ...

I recall some discussion about considering the starport staff as being distinct from the planetary population. Trade volume's based on the local pop - except there might also be pass-through traffic. One of the systems had a process for calculating starport staff and construction tonnage. Anyone recall which book one that was in?

I believe that was GURPS Far Trader.

Carlobrand March 4th, 2019 09:09 AM

So, if I understand GURPS correctly, the nature of that Class A starport on that 200-pop TL13 world would be dictated in part by its neighbors. If it happened to be between two worlds that were putting out a lot of trade, it could have a very busy starport with lots of ships passing through. It's just, for one reason or another, there's little interaction between the port and that tiny population, or at least little interaction that might affect the population size. Maybe it's a bunch of snobs living in a gated community, with strict laws about settlement by outsiders.

Condottiere March 6th, 2019 10:50 PM

The minimum sustainable civilization would have a technological level eight industrial base, since with early fusion you have relatively free energy, that can be used for all sorts of uses and projects.

You'd also need to have a work force that can maintain, understand and expand it.

It's also one prototype stage off technological level nine factor one jump drives, that with some risk will allow continued interstellar links.


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