Jon Michael Galindo

~ writing, programming, art ~

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15 August 2015

What Futures May Come

This post is about sci-fi, or speculative fiction, specifically population size speculation.

Imagine a lonely world populated by three or four humans, geniuses in their own right, yet weighed down by a heritage of millenia. "Has every book been written, every song sung? What could I possibly add to the vast treasure of humanity's past?"

The sci-fi stories of which I am aware involve large populations. Sometimes this will mean an over-crowded Earth, though more often it will mean over-crowded space wherein the majority of the population is inhuman.

I took a different route for most of my recent stories.

In this future, humans are spreading quickly across the galaxy. Technology is stable and light-speed, interstellar travel is both common and resource-intensive. At this point many aspects of technology have been automated; machines repair themselves and carry out a pre-programmed mission to send resources "home" and to propagate to nearby systems.

Unfortunately, these systems still fail eventually. There are only so many redundancies and self-diagnostics that can be stuffed into the hardware, and in time only human engineers can keep them operational and well upgraded.

This tipping point, just prior to fully automatic, self-replicating machines, creates a marvelous opportunity for imagination.

Humans are scarce. This is not to say that there are few of them; on the contrary, cloning centers produce humans by the legions. But, they are never sufficient to the machines' exponential expansion. Moreover, these humans cannot be rushed: they must be genuine humans, and nothing less. These are not mindless drones; every one of them must be a scientist, artist, philosopher, and inventer. To spend their lives on distant worlds in small groups requires deep-rooted loyalty, perseverance, and a strong sense of right and wrong.

Can you imagine being born into an ancient information culture? One where we had not a few hundred years of writing, most of it decayed and lost, but the perfectly preserved masterpieces of a thousand generations?

In this future, humans are scarce, brilliant, a bit lonely, and struggling to create something new in a world of a million million books. Meanwhile, technology is changing. How many years remain until humans become obsolete?

© Jon Michael Galindo 2015