09w21:1 A History of Earth, in 2171

by timothy. 0 Comments

From Greg Bear’s Moving Mars (1993)

History of the Earth

From the perspective of 2171

Context: By the late 22nd Century (2170s) the 21st Century is of course a well understood historical epoch. Cassia Mujamadar, in an interview with the Thinker Alice, is required to narrate this history.

I cautiously threaded my way through a brief history, conscious of Alice’s immense memory, and my necessarily simple-appraisal of a complex subject.

By the end of the 20th Century, international corporations had as much influence in Earth’s affairs as governments. Earth was undergoing its first dataflow revolution; information had become as important as raw materials and manufacturing potential. By mid-21, nanotechnology factories were inexpensive; nano recyclers could provide raw materials from garbage; data and design reigned supreme.

The fiction of separate nations and government control was maintained, but increasingly, political decisions were made on the basis of economic benefit, not national pride. Wars declined, the labour market fluctuated widely as developing countries joined in – exacerbated by nano and other forms of automation – and through most of the dataflow world a class of therapied, superfit workers arose, highly skilled and self-confident professionals who demanded an equal say with corporate boards.

In the early teens of twenty-one, new techniques of effective psychological therapy began to transform Earth culture and politics. Therapied individuals, as a new mental rather than economic class, behaved differently. Beyond the expected reduction in extreme and destructive behaviors, the therapied proved more facile and adaptable, effectively more intelligent and therefore more skeptical. They evaluated political, philosophical, and religious claims according to their own standards of evidence. They were not “true believers.” Nevertheless, they worked with others – even the untherapied – easily and efficiently. The slogan of those who advocated therapy was, “A sane society is a polite society”.

With the economic unification of most nations by 2070, pressure on the untherapied to remove the kinks and dysfunctions of nature and nurture became almost unbearable. Those with inadequate psychological profiles found full employment more and more elusive.

By the end of twenty-one, the underclass of untherapied made up about half of he human race, yet created less than a tenth of the world economic product.

Nations, cultures, political groups, had to accommodate the therapied to survive. The changes were drastic, even cruel for some, but far less cruel than previous tides in history. As Alice reminded me, the result was not the death of political or religious organization, as some had anticipated – it was a rebirth of sorts. New, higher standards, philosophies, and religions developed.

As individuals changed, so did group behaviour change. At the same time, in a feedback relationship, the character of world commerce changed. At first, nations and major corporations tried to keep their old, separate privileges and independence. But by the last decades of twenty-one, international corporations, owned and directed by therapied labour and closely allied managers, controlled the world economy beneath a veneer of national democratic governments. Out of tradition – the accumulated mass of cultural wishful thinking – certain masques were maintained; but clear-seeing individuals and groups had no difficulty recognizing the obvious.

The worker-owned corporations recognized common economic spheres. Trade and taxation were regulated across borders, currencies standardized, credit nets extended worldwide. Economics became politics. The new reality was formalized in the supra-national alliances.

GEWA – the Greater East-West Alliance – encompassed North America, most of Asia and Southeast Asia, India, and Pakistan. The Greater Southern Hemisphere Alliance, or GSHA – pronounced Jee-shah -absorbed Australia, South America, New Zealand, and most of Africa. Eurocon grew out of the European Economic Community, with the addition of the Baltic and Balkan States, Russia, and the Turkic Union.

Non-aligned countries were found mostly in the Middle East and North Africa, in nations that had slipped past both the industrial and dataflow revolutions.

By the beginning of the 22nd Century, many Earth governments forbade the untherapied to work in sensitive jobs, unless they qualified as high naturals – people who did not require therapy to meet the new standards. And the definition of a sensitive job became more and more inclusive.

There were only rudimentary Lunar and Martian settlements then, with stringent requirements for settlers; no places for misfits to hide. The romance of settling Mars proved so attractive that organizers could be extremely selective, rejecting even the therapied in favour of high naturals. They made up the bulk of settlers.

All settlements in the young Triple accepted therapy; most rejected mandatory therapy, the new tyranny of Earth. […]

I wondered what it had been like to live in a world of kinks and mental dust. I asked Alice how she visualized such a world.

“Very interesting, and far more dangerous,” she answered. “In a way there was a greater variety in human nature. Unfortunately, much of the variety was ineffective or destructive”.

“Have you been therapied?” I asked.

She laughed. “Many times. It is a routine function of a thinker to undergo analysis and therapy. Have you?” […] [p.121-124]

Alice described in words and graphic projection an Earth rapidly approaching 90% agreement in spot plebiscites – the integration of most individual goals. Dataflow would give individuals equal access to key information. Humans would be redefined as units within a greater thinking organism, the individuals being at once integrated -reaching agreement rapidly on solutions to common problems – but autonomous, accepting diversity of opinion and outlook.

I wanted to ask, What diversity? Everybody agrees! but Alice clearly had higher, mathematical definitions for which these words were mere approximations. The freedom to disagree would be strongly defended, on the grounds that even an integrated and informed society could make mistakes. However, rational people were more likely to choose direct and uncluttered pathways to solutions. My Martian outlook cried out in protest. “Sounds like beehive political oppression,” I said.

“Perhaps, but remember, we are modeling a dataflow culture. Diversity and autonomy within political unity”.

“Smaller governments respond to individuals more efficiently. If everybody is unified, and you disagree with the status quo, but can’t escape to another system of government – is that really freedom?”

“In the world-wide culture of Earth, dataflow allows even large governments to respond quickly to the wishes of individuals. Communication between tiers of the organization is nearly instantaneous, and constant”.

I said that seemed a bit optimistic.

“Still, plebiscites are rapid. Dataflow encourages humans to be informed and to discuss problems. Augmented by their own enhancements, which will soon be as powerful as thinkers, every tier of the human organization acts as a massive processor for evaluating and determining world policy. Dataflow links individuals in parallel, so to speak. Eventually, human groups and thinkers could be so integrated as to be indistinguishable.

“At that point, such a society exceeds my modeling ability,” Alice concluded.

“Group mind,” I said sardonically. “I don’t want to be there when that happens.”

“It would be intriguing,” Alice said. “There would always remain the choice to simulate isolation as an individual.” [p.125-126]

As we climbed through the cylinder, from the observation deck to the forward boom control walkway, Orianna told me about Earth fashions in clothes. “I’ve been out of it fro two years of course, ” she said, “But I like to think I’m still tuned. And I keep up with the vids”.

“So what are they wearing?” I asked.

“Formal and frilly. Greens and lace. Masks are out this year, except for floaters – projected masks with personal icons. Everybody’s off pattern projection, though. I liked pattern projection. You could wear almost nothing and still be discreet.”

“I can redo my wardrobe. I’ve brought enough raw cloth”.

Orianna made a face. “This year, expect fixed outfits, not nano-shaped. Old fabric is best. Tattered is wonderful. We’ll dig through the recycle shops. The shredbare look is very pos. Nano fake is beyond deviance.”

“Do I have to be in fashion?”

“Abso not! It’s drive to ignore. I switch from loner to slave every few months when I’m at home”.

“Terries will expect a red rabbit to be trop retro, no?”

Orianna smiled in friendly pity. “With that speech, you’re fulfilled already. Just listen to me, and you’ll slim the current.”

[…] “You still say ‘trop shink’ on Mars. That’s asbo neg, mid twenty-one. Sounds like Chaucer to Terries. If you don’t drive multilingual, and you’d better not try unless you wear an enhancement, best to speak straight-up early twenty-two. Everyone understands early twenty-two, unless you’re glued to French or German, or Dutch. They ridge on anything about twenty years old fro drive standard. Chinese love about eight kinds of Europidgin, but hit them in patrie, and they revert to twenty Putonghua. Russian – ”

“I’ll stick with English.”

“Still safe,” she said. [p. 155-156]

My Earth studies and conversations with Alice had left me with the impression of a flawless society, cool and efficient. But what I head in conversation with Orianna seemed to contradict this. There were great disagreements between Terries; nations within GEWA and its southern equivalent, GSHA, arguing endlessly, clashing morality systems as populations from one country traded places with others – a popular activity in late [21]70s. Some populations – Islam Fatimites, Green Idaho Christians, Mormons, Wahabi Saudis, and others – maintained stances that would be conservative even on Mars, clinging stubbornly to their cultural identities in the face of Earth-wide criticism.

Paleo-Christians in Green Idaho, practically a nation unto itself within the United States, had declared the rights of women to be less than those of men. Women fought to have their legal powers and rights reduced, despite opposition from all other states. On the reverse, in Fatamite Morocco and Egypt, men sought to glorify the image of women, whom they regarded as Chalices of Mohammad. In Greater Albion, formerly the United Kingdom, adult transforms who had regressed in apparent age to children were forbidden to hold political office, creating a furor I could hardly begin to untangle. And in Florida, defying regulations, some humans transformed themselves into shapes similar to marin mammals … And to pay for it, organized Sex in the Sea exhibits for tourists.

In language, the greatest craze of the [21]60s and [21]70s was invented language. Mixing old tongues, inventing new, mixing music and words electronically so that one could not tell where tones left off and phonemes began, creating visual languages that wrapped speakers in projected, complex symbols, all seemed designed to separate and not bring together. Yet enhancements were available that were tuned to the New Lingua Nets or NLN. Installing the NLN enhancements through nano surgery, one could understand virtually any language, natural or invented, and even think in their vernacular.

The visual languages seemed especially drive in the [21]70s. In GEWA alone, seventy visual languages had been created. The most popular was used by more than four and a half billion people.

Despite what Alice had said, it didn’t sound at all integrated to me. To a Martian, even to a native like Orianna, Earth seemed diverse, bewildering, crazy.

But to Alice, Earth was entering the early stages of a new kind of history. [p157-159]

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