Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

Asteroid Philosophy

with one comment

You, and a quarter of a million other folks, have embarked on a 1000-year voyage aboard a hollowed-out asteroid. What sort of governance and society do you think would be most comfortable, not to mention likely to survive the trip without civil war, famine, and reigns of terror?

How do you design a society for the really long term? Charlie Stross uses a hollowed-out asteroid to jumpstart a thought experiment combining the Veil of Ignorance, the tragedy of the commons, sustainability, stability, and the long now. Watch out, true believers:

One thing I’m pretty certain of is that the protestant work ethic underlying American-style capitalism, with its added dog-eat-dog ethos, would be a recipe for disaster aboard a generation ship — regardless of whether it’s run as a democracy or a dictatorship. American (or British) working hours are a bizarre cultural aberration — and a very local one. More to the point, competitive capitalism tends to reward increases in operational efficiency, but efficiency is most easily optimized by paring away at the margins — a long-term lethal threat to life in this situation. The “tragedy of the commons” has got to be engineered out aboard a generation ship, otherwise the residents will wake up one [virtual] morning to discover someone’s acquired a monopoly on the oxygen supply. And that’s just for starters.

The comments are worth reading through as well; how else would I have found Wikipedia’s list of oldest companies, including Japanese construction company Kongō Gumi, 538 (!) – 2006? That’s Catholic-Church-style longevity. (via)

One Response

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. See my solution to this problem in my forthcoming novel, Asteroidopolis!, publication date 2022.

    gerrycanavan

    December 11, 2009 at 3:37 pm


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: