Robot Replacements

From Bloomberg:

The appeal for factory owners is clear: German robot maker Kuka AG estimates a typical robot costs about 5 euros ($5.38) an hour to operate over its life. The hourly compensation cost of U.S. manufacturing was $36.49 per employee in 2013, according to The Conference Board.

In Traveller, we get sentient robots at TL 12. That may well be true in real life, depending on where you tag TL 12… but robots are going to get a lot more common in the next two decades, way before we get to that level of know-how.

And in some countries, the future will arrive sooner than others. Especially those nations that are 1) very wealthy, 2) have a love of high technology, and 3) depopulating fast.

From Marketwatch:

Professor Richard Thaler, an expert in behavioral economics, talked to MarketWatch about his ‘lazy’ investing strategy that allows investors to maximize their returns while doing very little.

In essence, Gartman explained in an interview, robots are enabling Japanese corporations to turn a demographic liability into an asset. Once roboticized, those corporations will easily outperform firms from other countries that are more dependent on labor.

After all, he argued, “Robots don’t go on strike, they don’t sexually assault other robots, don’t ask for health care, don’t protest, and they do their job consistently and for the most part flawlessly.” As a result, Gartman predicts, profit margins at Japanese companies will “rise sharply and perhaps relentlessly.”

It’s no accident, he continued, that Japan is already at the forefront of the robotics revolution. And its lead is likely to widen even further, as the country is forced demographically into investing even more in that revolution.

Strange: we already know the first country where robots will outnumber humans, but there has been few scenarios where the implications of this has been chased down and spelled out.

An interesting Traveller scenario, yes?

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Imperial Fashion

From Iilsuika

Your hairstyle can have political significance, especially in tightly conformist cultures like the Asian and Vilani peoples.

Few Travellers are going to bother ask ahead about the significance of a haircut or a beard, or a style of clothing. Referees should remind them of it, when the situation warrants.

What’s the use of being a Noblewoman, if you can’t indulge in outrageous fashion statements?

I personally doubt that the Far Future is going to be dominated by today’s same-old, same-old. Especially when there is a truly vast range of possibilities out there, waiting to be brought to life!

Any Imperial Dynasty that lasts long enough will have a period of “Regrettable Errors in Judgement” — like certain fashion choices made in the early 800s, say — that are best not dwelt on.

Looking up on what happened to these outliers, black sheep, prodigal sons, outcasts, disinherited heirs, and family secrets, though, could be quite interesting. And maybe financially rewarding.

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We don’t actually own the stars, until our children can lawfully inherit it from us.

But when that day comes: when we can see our children built up on what we made, and our grandchildren go even farther than we ever went… then we can rest easy: all our work, all our pain, it all actually meant something in the end.

In the Biblical view, Inheritance is the last of the five covenental points:

  • Transcendence/Immanence/Sovereignty
  • Hierarchy
  • Ethics/Laws
  • Oath/Sanctions
  • Succession/Inheritance

In Imperial terms, you have

  • The Emperor
  • The Nobility
  • Imperial Law
  • Imperial Oaths, Honour Codes, and Justice
  • Lawful Succession & Inheritance

And on the scale of a starship, you have

  • The Captain
  • The Crew
  • Ship’s Law
  • Ship’s Justice
  • Changing/Dissolving Ship Ownership
    (Ship shares comes in here)

Military ships can run a Captain’s Mast for minor offenses, and can turn to formal Military Trials for major issues.

For civilian ships, things are more murky – see the current state of cruise ship law for more info.

But that’s all from the Traveller point of view.

Most Imperials are not Travellers, but remain on just one world all of their lives. Most (but not all) have families: many (but not all, perhaps not even most) have children.

As a rule of thumb, they want their children to inherit what they built up, and make their family grow even stronger and wealthier over time, building up the family name.

This attitude has broadly died out in the West: but our society is not organized around aristocratic/clannish/familial lines:

  • The Archon
  • The Family Elders
  • Familial Law
  • Familial Punishment
  • Familial Inheritance (including property and businesses)

I myself prefer the nuclear family model, with every son sent out to found his own family and work out his own calling, and every daughter to join with a suitable man of her choice, with only ties of sentiment and love (not command or authority) linking the extended family together. But there are many Solomani cultures who disagree with me: and I can see the Vilani disagreeing as well.

But after all that, I still believe that “A good man leaveth an inheritance to his children’s children: and the wealth of the sinner is laid up for the just.” (Proverbs 13:22), and — more to the point — a majority of Imperials, even the more decadent ruling Nobles, also want to leave something good for their children after they die.

Of course, I would want my wealth to be used as tools of dominion, to further extend Christian civilization. But other families would have other goals, from the Roman-style glory of the family name, to protecting their own nation, land, and race; long-term tasks like terraforming a world or taming a continent for your own people, ideology and culture; or even the interstellar arena, like gaining a senior position in a vast megacorp, following the family tradition of Imperial Service, or leading the exploration and settlement of a distant subsector.

Merely because you preach the goals to your children, does not mean that they will take those goals as their own. And even if they seem obedient, they may well change their minds after your body has cooled and your assets transferred to their name.

But then again, they may well catch your vision, and — after changing it somewhat to make it their own, for better or for worse — become rightful heirs not only to your genetic legacy and your property (and any Imperial fiefs & titles!), but to your spiritual legacy as well.

(Yeah, I miss those glorious covers of yesteryear. Sure, the art here isn’t all that good: but it tells a story, and it’s definitely imaginative, speaking of daring adventures on a far away future world. What more could a Traveller want?)

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Chechen Wars

This is not a bad template, for a major military campaign within the Imperial Empty Quarter.

(An alternate universe Empty Quarter: too many Hindi, Vilani and Bwap to make this a perfect fit.)

An interesting consideration: who gets to play the hardcore Emperors, Stalin and Putin?

Looking at this from another perspective, the video provides good food for thought for any really troublesome Imperial border zone… as well as typical Imperial military errors. “Sending armoured columns into a rebel city stuffed with anti-armour weaponry? Not the brightest decision ever made…”

A bonus video, with an anti-emu attitude I can sympathize with.

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Every Traveller Comes From Somewhere

As I tend to push for a immersive Traveller environment, I’d like to take the time that every Traveller actually comes from somewhere, and there’s a reason why he isn’t at home.

Many expatriates still keep some ties to back home: typically familial or religious, sometimes linguistic or even military. Even today, some nations are visibly bolstered by their diaspora: not just Israelis and Mexicans and Vietnamese, but Armenians and Indians as well.

Even a great power like China can be occasionally dependent on their overseas families: in Mainland China’s case, it was the Chinese of Malaysia & Indonesia, as well as the United States, Singapore, and Taiwan, who provided the know-how and the cash to get the country going after its disastrous experiment with Maoism.

(And then, there are those nationalities who don’t worry too much about the Motherland…)

A Traveller crew, returning home to give a hand at the hour of need, would make an interesting storyline. Especially if the reasons why they left in the first place are addressed…

For example, for a long time the Communist government of Vietnam turned a blind eye, when remittances from Vietnamese-Americans were stolen by postal workers. A Traveller who sent tens of thousands of credits home, only to find out that most of it was stolen before it got to his family, might find a pointed way to express his displeasure… especially if the tech gap between himself and the local authorities is large enough.

Nations with jet aircraft should not annoy visitors with starships.

On the other hand, the money escapee North Koreans send back home has changed local perceptions of the defectors, from “enemies of the State” to “helping hands from abroad”. North Korean State Security is far more interested in getting a percentage for itself, rather than stopping the money flow entirely and killing the golden goose.

Ideological purity won’t put meat on the table, after all!

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Near Death Experiences

A few days ago, this site was off-line, with the domain for sale.

Now, it was recovered by the rightful owner, so all is well. But, it is a good reminder that you can’t guarantee that a given site will be there tomorrow.

So if you like the material and want to keep it, there are a couple of site copiers out there.

Even better: if you have your own ideas on expanding Traveller, why not raise up your own site? Get your ideas and thoughts out there, maybe a few posts a week, and if people like what you do they’ll let you know!

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Exploring Titan With Aerial Platforms

From Universe Today

Last week, from Monday Feb. 27th to Wednesday March 1st, NASA hosted the “Planetary Science Vision 2050 Workshop” at their headquarters in Washington, DC. During the course of the many presentations, speeches and addresses that made up the workshop, NASA and its affiliates shared their many proposals for the future of Solar System exploration.

A very popular theme during the workshop was the exploration of Titan. In addition to being the only other body in the Solar System with a nitrogen-rich atmosphere and visible liquid on its surface, it also has an environment rich in organic chemistry. For this reason, a team led by Michael Pauken (from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory) held a presentation detailing the many ways it can be explored using aerial vehicles.

The presentation, which was titled “Science at a Variety of Scientific Regions at Titan using Aerial Platforms“, was  also chaired by members of the aerospace industry – such as AeroVironment and Global Aerospace from Monrovia, California, and Thin Red Line Aerospace from Chilliwack, BC. Together, they reviewed the various aerial platform concepts that have been proposed for Titan since 2004.

One thing I have always regretted is the distinct lack of drone/robot use among Classic Traveller Scouts. A planet – or even a decent-sized asteroid – is a big place.

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The Cheollima Group

An interesting model for a Traveller Intervention association, perhaps tied to transporting refugees and fleeing families from Zhodani or Solomani Space, to the safety of the Imperial worlds.

The man claiming to be Nam’s son in the latest video doesn’t talk about the whereabouts of his family or how they were being protected. The video was posted on the YouTube channel of Cheollima Civil Defence, which describes itself as a group helping North Korean defectors.

The group said on its website that it responded to an “emergency request” last month by three members of Kim Jong Nam’s family and relocated them to safety. The group expressed gratitude to the Netherlands, China, the United States and a “fourth government to remain unnamed” for providing assistance in protecting the three.

South Korea’s Unification Ministry said it had no knowledge of the Cheollima group.

I especially like the ties to various helpful governments, including the “fourth government to be unnamed”. In Traveller, that could well be various corporations, Noble Houses, or NGOs (religious or ethnic, most likely).

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Upside Down Deaths

Typically, I have always envisioned most Travellers dying by ballistics, explosives, radiation, the joys of (not) breathing vacuum, and occasionally disease and low-tech pointy and blunt instruments.

Then, there are the Scouts, who have apparently made it their mission to die in wildly improbable ways…

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Room Breaching & Clearing

For Referees who have exactly zero military experience – like yours truly – this is a smooth, simple, and clear review of the basics.

The thing that immediately stands out for scenario/tactical mapping is:

  • it’s really important where those doors and windows are, exactly;
  • it’s really important how many levels – basement & above-ground – the building is.

There are various subtle issues I can already spot for far future fighting, that I leave to Imperial Marines and grav-belt troops to handle.

Also, explosives are really important even in squad-scale, four-man Traveller team assaults. Just the basic job of adding an instant additional entry point needs stuff that goes boom.

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