Erin takes Kate to the Conference
Earth – November 2625
I burst into Erin’s room in the morning of the plenary. He was in the hotel suite, getting ready for that day’s meeting.
“What were you thinking?” I demanded an immediate answer without wasting time for mere courtesy of a greeting. Yet, in my heated moment, I still made the pleasing note in my head that he had hardly changed. It was still the Erin I’d always known.
He looked at me calmly, and his eyes narrowed to a thin line with a joyful smile. This expression was somewhat unfamiliar, as in my childhood memories Erin was always a bit guarded
“Come with me,” he grabbed my hand and we stepped out of the room. I just noticed it then that April was in the adjacent room, instantly joining us after picking up some heavy pieces of jewelry that matched her attire.
The next moment I was aware that we were going through various security gates to arrive at the conference hall, which finally provided the venue for the decision of launching the human colony at Tau Ceti.
“Welcome, April, welcome, Erin. How are you this morning?” The security guard greeted the two diplomats. “I see you have a guest today. Welcome, ma’am,” he acknowledged my presence.
“She’s my niece,” Erin told the guard reassuringly.
We arrived at the huge conference hall where only a couple of seats were occupied. They brought me to the balcony that was reserved for the councilors of various governments and the company executives. The room that accommodates hundreds of people has been slowly filling up, as most of the participants have joined in the assorted discussion panels and getting the status of the Council itself on the I-com network. However, the main venue of the United Council was finally full at the start after many personal holograms appeared in the reserved seats, as many people preferred that mode of attendance at the important event instead of the long-distance travel.
At this meeting, literally, every member of humanity was represented; there were leaders of nations, heads of multinational companies, and representatives of small space colonies. Basically, the participants formed a few distinct interest groups: the Old Western World, the European nations and North America; the Martian Federation and space colonies, which were major stakeholders of local expansions; the Asian Commonwealth; and the International Space Technology Corporation, as the largest player in the space mining market.
QI, the largest manufacturer of artificial intelligence applications and bots with perhaps the fewest number of human employees among all of the big companies, was also present. Sasha Holding — the name that was present practically at every market, from the entertainment industry, architecture, fashion and jewelry, and even as the owner of I-com — was also there. In addition, and to everyone’s surprise, the extremist groups also appeared. Although God Created Us fundamentalists, Allah’s Jihadist Circle and Quantum Brain had little hope to have any significant influence on the outcome.
The meeting was opened by the renowned and venerable Chin Sin Huang.
“I think everybody agrees that we have a very important decision ahead of us. I’m not exaggerating when I say we are talking about the most expensive undertaking of mankind. We will decide whether some of us will start a new life in another star system, separated from humanity, and creating a new colony outside our home around the Sun. We’re all aware of the risk that this new opportunity may present serious dangers. Ladies and gentlemen! The floor is yours.” The chairman of the Council opened the conference with the short lead. After sitting down with a hand gesture, he gave the floor to one of the most senior representatives of the Council.
“There is no doubt what we have to do,” rose from his chair the Joint Minister of Europe and the Americas, to state his position. “Humans are born to be curious. If we lacked that tendency, we would still be afraid of fire and eat raw meat in caves. America became great thanks to its adventurous and curious immigrant population. I think if we overcome the initial difficulties together, that colony will thrive, be able to exploit the natural resources to build a strong community and, after centuries, be the first forward bastion of mankind to discover the infinity of space.
“And just what will be a benefit for the people of today and the children of tomorrow? I’m asking along with many others,” Romanov took the stand. “With huge human and material sacrifices, we will only be able to build a paltry shelter for a few thousand people at Tau Ceti. Is our technology even enough to assure real success that’s more than mere survival? Let’s admit, it is a fool’s errand to risk those people’s lives with such odds. How will they benefit and us staying back home? They will, practically, experience nothing but daily struggle and the abandonment of all current comfort. Or even sink back to a sort of existence that nobody since the coal miners of old days had to endure: spending most of the time underground and waiting for the ceiling to cave in.
I am not stating that instead of bots, they will be forced to mine the ores, but most of the ultimate maintenance tasks will be their responsibility. If they can’t solve something because of resource constraints, they will have to wait 22 years for help. If they can live that long. Nowadays, every child grows up without the lack of needs within the limits of common sense, of course. Even as adults, we don’t face deprivation of any kind. Perhaps that’s why these would-be adventurers are so brave because they don’t know the real pain of scarcity. Knowing what is waiting for them, we can’t turn a blind eye and send them to live the life of unthinkable terror, destitution and suffering. So I ask the question: are we really prepared? Not technologically but with a clear conscience,” Romanov, the envoy of the Martian Federation voiced his contrary opinion.
“I agree with Mr. Romanov. For this reason, we worked out a detailed proposal with the government of the Asian community — beyond what was originally planned — on how to properly tame the environment there before establishing a human colony. The planetary bot system we have designed is capable of performing tasks that would terraform the entire surface of the Tau Ceti planet. I do not claim that our human explorers can move tomorrow because the process takes a long time. Therefore, we advise the Council to support the launch of a terraforming expedition that would automatically convert the entire surface of the Ceti for our courageous travelers,” Gelligen, the communications director of International Space Technology Corporation said.
“Perhaps this so-called terraforming craft has already been prepared. Isn’t that right, Mr. Gelligen?” Fired back the CTO of Spacewagen, responding to the competitor’s proposal. “I received information from reliable sources that the survivors of the disaster of our research vessel, which occurred the other day, have found equipment on the International Space Technology’s flagship that is capable of mining an entire planet.”
Nearly everybody in the room knew that the technical director referred to the unfortunate incident of Spacewagen’s research vessel colliding with the International Space Technology Corporation’s craft. Some believed that the East-related company outfitted the flagship with serious mining equipment. The parties, nevertheless, kept pointing fingers, arguing that the other side was responsible for the accident. And this was not the first time that the fierce competition of the two space technology companies had resulted in crossing the line.
East and West, two civilizations with different historical backgrounds and cultures. One regards the community as an asset superior to the individual’s need and puts a major emphasis on respect and prestige. The other declares that individuality, freedom, and open competition drives the world order. What they have in common is that lofty declarations of peace and prosperity are in complete opposition to their backchannel machinations and petty backbiting. Similar traits of behavior appeared 12 years ago when Charon’s mining rights were acquired. A literal mercenary army rained down on the International Space Technology Corporation’s lunar base, which was filled with professionals in the process of assessing and planning the extraction of minerals. The International Space Technology Corporation accused the Mars Federation, which, of course, denied everything, of training large groups of criminals on the red planet with the aim of sabotaging the expansion.
“Please, Mr. Goldback, don’t call your sources trustworthy,” he said with slight sarcasm in his voice. “Let’s take a look at the next recording, where by chance, your so-called research vessel opens fire on the Endeavour.” Anybody interested could immediately look at his I-com. “What else would you call this, if not an overt attack on our company’s assets.”
“There were no people on that ship, but …”
” So you admit the fact that it was an attack!”
“… but we didn’t shoot first,” Goldback raised his voice.
The already hostile atmosphere was further exacerbated by the fact that the crowd came to witness this momentous decision became more and more impatient and resented these parties airing their petty grievances before such a grand gathering.
The argument soon headed straight to the threats, and the feuding parties came close to openly declare war on each other.
“History will repeat itself if we don’t learn from it. It seems like once again we are forgetting our ancestors’ mistakes. Are we really nothing more than simple creatures driven by the genes of competition? Can we possibly overcome this primal aggression? Did 150 years of peace really gave us collective amnesia about the horrors of war?” Chin Sin Huang Ti interrupted the shouting to get ahead of the conflict unfolding in front of everyone.
Erin Amodan used the unexpected interjection and rose from his seat. Chin gave him the floor. In the recent past, he and Erin became engaged several times in deep philosophical discussions, in which Erin was an impeccable partner, not to mention his sweeping suggestions concerning the preparation of the voyage. Chin found in Erin a partner in his aspirations; perhaps he let him speak in hope of hearing something enlightening once again.
“We wish to rise above our personal pettiness, speak on behalf of major organizations and states, yet we are still guided by limited self-interest. We’re making the same mistakes over and over again. Terraforming the sixth planet of Tau Ceti is only controversial because we believe that the planet’s resources are the ultimate goal of this joint venture. It is, however, a mistake. We see differently about the very same thing: while a person from West views the path to self-realization through competing with others, an Eastern individual values self-sacrifice in service of the community.
Have we ever wondered whether people from both cultures might be right and looking at the two sides of the same coin? In the global perspectives, no matter who possesses the resources. In our unified civilization, total prosperity does not change when a given resource passes from the right hand to the left, so to speak.
By achieving narrow individual goals, we waste our efforts that do not reach past our lifetime at the most. We did this collectively in the last thousand years. We built a technological society to achieve prosperity but wasted our energy to spread at the expense of many.
It appears that we’re going back to our old habits concerning Cetis and want to be the first at all costs to prove our superiority. Nevertheless, we must work together, not in isolation from others.
We refused to see that had we created the mining colony on Charon with a common effort, and we would have produced more deuterium together than ended up getting separately. Of course, these synergies will not be recognized at the level of private company interests because of their inherent tunnel-vision focusing on profit.
One solution could be the willingness to set up an independent, centralized intelligent system of budget and accountability that is able to recognize the synergies, which affect common interests and, most importantly, work autonomously from people and organizations. Such intelligence could surmise the usefulness of the Tau Ceti trip on a global scale, and help us coming to decisions when the need arises. All of us have access to I-com that is capable of organizing our everyday affairs, collect and forward the necessary information. A common “I-com” of society could notify the affected parties about an opportunity of resource utilization that will benefit the entire collective.”
Erin’s speech won over the majority, and, of course, it was entirely possible to create such an artificial intelligence with minimal effort. Nevertheless, the fact that it would be able to provide objective suggestions beneficial for everyone sounded too good.
“And if this ‘Centralized Intelligence’ comes to the conclusion that the East was not responsible for attacking Endeavour?” Goldback continued his pointless argument. “If this Intelligence finds that the Spacewagen opened fire first?”
Even before the ‘greater sinner’ debate continued, Elen Fion, the head of the European and United States, a statesperson who had marshaled the utmost respect because of her life experiences and intelligence, asked to speak. When she stood up, everyone became silent, as even the biggest opponents were attentive to the Western president.
“I think it is clear that the question is no longer whether we ought to settle on that distant planet because everyone has planned it already in its own way. What remains to be decided on how we do this, individually or together.”
“We can also see that old principles and competition in such an enterprise will not be practical,” the Secretary-General of the Community of Asian States said smiling.
“Yes. I think the solution suggested by Erin could help us get over this impasse,” the president noted approvingly of the Secretary General’s and Erin’s notions.
There were no more speakers at the moment, so the chairman of the Council expedited that sudden idea for a vote in front of the entire United Council assembly:
“Proposal for an independent investment in the creation of artificial central intelligence capable of optimizing the plan for the habitation and utilization of the sixth planet of Tau Ceti. Anyone agreeing with the proposal, vote yea, representatives against it, vote nay.“
The people in the assembly cast their votes on I-com, which was immediately displayed on the holo screen. Eighty-nine percent of the voters agreed with that innocuous idea; even Gelligen and Goldback voted in favor.
After that, there was still a long debate between the parties about the way and time of launching the expedition, which did not come to any final conclusion. The only formal decision that day was made about the launch of the expedition itself. With a 99% majority, it got green-lighted.
Such was the beginning of the first truly joint venture of mankind toward an unknown society.
metaphysical & visionary