Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Post 4000: Updating Pournelle's CoDominium

Pondering Post 4000

This is not the original post that I intended for post 4000.

Originally, I wanted the next Xenopermain post to take that slot.  However, a few things have dissuaded me.  First off, the post is still too rough around the edges.  It needs a lot more work before its ready.  I've decided to shift bits here and there and make chagnes as well as clean it up.  So, Xenopermian is out.

I went back and saw that my 2000th entry was an argument for the annexation of Mexico.  So, it struck me as something off the wall was needed.  I am too busy to write something with a serious political bent; though, I did consider it.  Then, I thought, why not write about something that is easier and fun.  Something I've kicked around with friends a few times.  Something that could be thought provoking as well as twitting just the right folks.  Like last time.  When I reviewed Through Struggle, The Stars, I referenced the Pournelleverse, in passing.  Then it occured to me.  A whackadilly post that could be fun and fill the 4000 requirement.


Let's look at the Jerry Pournelle CoDominium and see if we might update it and address some of the things that now look a bit...dated.  To put it politely.

A Bit of Background:

The idea of the Codominium seems to have hit print, or at least become most commonly known, through Pournelle and Niven's The Mote in God's Eye, but there were a couple short stories set in the timeline released earlier.  The basic idea was that the United States and the Soviet Union formed an alliance and dominate the world together rather than competing with the other states that were going through convergence with the USA and USSR (at that point largely recovering from the effects of WWII).  Other bits that were included in the basic background were that the world had developed space travel to a significant degree, developed faster than light travel (alderson drive) and that technological research was quashed for the purposes of maintaining the status quo. 

A lot of this is dated.  Badly.  What has to be shelved, dumped and redone?

The Changes to the Geopolitics Leading to the CoDo

The obvious off the top is the extinction of the Soviet Union.  Its a little hard to build the CoDo with a nation no longer in existence.  The primary successor, Russia, to the Soviet Union is not one of the two top nations in the world no matter how you cut it.  It is also not projected to rise above the top of the pack in the next 40+ years.  That means we need to find at least one replacement for the duo to put the Co in CoDo.

The is an obvious answer to that: China.  China is now the second ranked country in terms of, well, virtually everything.  Its slated to become the #1 country some time between 2030 and 2050 (on the outside).  It may even happen sooner.  There's one of the two partners.  The question is whether or not we believe that the US is likely to be the other.

Most likely, the answer is, yes, the United States would be one of the two partners in a CoDo circa 2030 to 2050, at least.  However, there is another possibility that is fun and interesting.  What-if the US is surpassed as the second power.  Or What-if, the US so alienates an up and coming power that they might ally with the Chinese (this is far fetched to the point of unrealistic, but the whole Codo scenario is one that is just that anyways...)

India.  Yep.

Why would they form a CoDo?  The same reason that Pournelle  suggested.  This would mean that other parts of the world were converging with the power of India and China.  If you did this right, it might mean a 'reconvergence' of the US, Japan and EU with their power and economic clout: possibly Nigeria and Brazil or even Russia.  This could be the rise (finally) of technologies that decouple population size with productivity.  Automated factories, frex.

What would an Sino-Indian CoDo look like? Some obvious things is that there's no St Ekaterina.  Another likewise is that Sparta s not the capitol of any Empire follow-on.  The mythology that would follow would be rather different.  When and if they were to encounter the Moties, it'd be under a rather different paradigm than a resurrected 19th century empire.

Warfare of the Sino-Indian CoDo.

Like in the original Pournellean Soviet-American CoDo, neither side would trust the other to have the military.  The question now becomes who do we model the CoDo marines after?  The originals were based on the French Foreign Legion.  That's possible, still, but seems moderately unlikely.  Things have changed since the 1970s and Europe has come into its own as the Holy Roman Empire resurrected.  Neither would probably want the United States as the basis of the military (though my nationalist vanity does want to make that leap here).  Its not likely to be European whatsoever and Japan is 100% certainly out.  If its not the EU and its not the US, who could China and India settle on that would work at least moderately well?  If you are projecting into 2030 to 2050 for the creation of the CoDo?

If you had to pick a nation to base the CoDo military forces on, that pick would have to be based on the fact that the warfare of our updated CoDo is not what the CoDo of original Pournelleverse was like.  He posited ground warfare closer to that of pre-WWI for all but the most major engagements.  That is not what we'd have if we had our jumping off point between 2030 to 2050.  Rather we're likely to see war based on drones and special forces.  Not mass armies, although those may still exist and be of use.  That would leave one of two nations, if the EU and US are excluded: either Russia or Israel.

Russia has a proud tradition with the Spetnaz.  If they could catch up sufficiently technology wise - they are very far behind now - then they are not a bad choice: China and India could work with them.  Lermontov might still be an important name in the updated CoDo-verse.

On the other hand, Israel has a special forces tradition and the tech for dealing with drones and more.  They are a force that would be of use in a significant way.  Neither side would have concerns about Israel leading a military coup against the other.  You're looking at several orders of magnitude difference in people and the Defense Forces have quite the ability.  They also have ties with both militaries.

An Israeli based CoDo military would be...interesting.

As noted, SpecOps, CyberOps and drones will dominate.  Remotely operated machines, powered armor, and...yes, given the setting the CoDo space navy, aka The Fleet.

Space Development, Exploration and the Fleet in the Sino-Indian CoDo

In the original Pournellean timeline, Caltech developed the Alderson drive between 2004 and 2008.   In 2008, the first exploratory ships leave the solar system.  The ships use a fusion drive.  Obviously, this is not happening now.  We have hardly sent manned spacecraft outside the solar system nor have we developed an FTL drive.

So, obviously, this needs to be updated.

There's no issue with Caltech developing the drive still, but its as likely to be John Hopkins or MIT or Stanford or Berkeley or even someone at CERN discovering it rather than the JP/N bias to SoCal.  It might even be one of the Chinese, Japanese or Indian universities.  The Chinese have been working on entanglement and you could even handwave an update to the Alderson Drive that matches this.  Spooky action at a distance being the key to the existence of the Alderson Drive...or whatever Chinese name would be attached.  For geopolitical reasons, it'd be better if it was either the US or EU that developed it...and that might be part of the reason that the Sino-Indian CoDo developed.  We could keep the name Alderson for that reason.

Given that the Alderson Drive is really, really unfriendly to computers, people are going to necessary.  That would mean a massive expansion past the ISS.  I can say in 40 years, its possible to have the presence in space to support the idea of the Fleet and whatnot, but it will be tough.  We've learned just how hard it is to get off world and only some sort of ideological reason will do, rather than economic.  Two rising powers overtaking the former leader would probably do and then they attempt to outdo one another would be best.

The second problem with the Fleet is that we STILL do not have anything like a fusion drive that is used in the CoDo universe.  The NIF has failed to produce inertial confinement fusion and probably lacks the power to do so.  This means that we would need to have a breakthrough here in a big way.  Even if we do, we're likely to see accelerations and whatnot that fit more with those shown in Through Struggle, The Stars, than those shown off in the Pournelleverse for a SinoIndian CoDo.  However, the use of antimatter would be questionable, to me at least.

The third bit that is radically different from the original CoDo setting is that we are discovering exoplanets at a rate that is amazing, even has someone that has dabbled in that 20 years ago.  We're highly likely to have the habitable worlds IDed prior to the formation of the SinoIndian CoDo.  The largest that the CoDo was supposed to be was ~200 light years across.  By 2050, we're likely to have found all the planets within that sphere and very likely we will have found all the habitable worlds. 

There are 15,000 worlds within 100 ly.  If there is even 1% with habitable worlds, the SinoIndian CoDo is likely to have 150 worlds that it could settle.  Assuming that they are all reachable.

Demise of the SinoIndian CoDo

The CoDo in the Pournelleverse tore itself apart.  The Soviets and the Americans, even though they had become so much like each other, hated one another.  The extremism we have in Congress with nuclear weapons.  That could happen here, too.

Personally, it feels more likely that the other powers would revolt.  At some point, the burden of India and China running the world and known space absolutely would become too much.  The Americans, Brazillians, Europeans and Japanese (perhaps Nigerians and Indonesians) are going to chafe at the limitations.  Even one of them throwing in shoes to the gears of everything could set off a conflagration. 

If we give this new CoDo a 100 year lifespan like the original, then we're seeing everything go up in flames around 2150 +/-.  Earth gets bombarded into oblivion, nuclear and otherwise, and the Fleet has an exodus.

Where the fleet settles...IDK.  An Indian constitutional monarchical world?    Attempting to fit into the original theme here.  Half going to New Beijing?  Or some such.

Far Flung into the Future

Assuming that you attempted to keep even remotely to the timeline, even if changed for the future, there's one more thing.  Supersoldiers that the Saurons produced as their ideal made sense at the time that Pournelle and Niven wrote their book: it was 30 years after WWII and the super race nonsense that the Nazis espoused.  That resonated with the readership.  This.  Was.  Evil.  These days, as noted in Through Struggle, The Stars, everyone is likely to get gene upgrades in the future, just like we get dental work done.  Superhuman?  Perhaps, but not by the comparison between their peers.  What sort of nemesis could be something that would bring down the Empire?

I would suggest naming the world of the nemesis 'Blight,' 'Vinge,' 'Kurzweil,' or 'Stross,' to be honest. That traitorous villain ought to be blatant and apparent.  And amusing.  One starship escapes the empire crashing war to...a system with a habitable Moon?

And the folks that the Moties meet...well...they are not named Roderick or Sally, let's just say and I'd be more worried about the Moties than Humanity.

Wrapping Up and Summing Up.

There ought to more to go in and play with to update.  However, I'm out of time.  We have a SinoIndian CoDominium with a starship fleet with a CoDo Marine Corps derived from the Israelis.  All because the Soviet Union fell and the US didn't find an FTL before losing its hyperpowerhood.  Tsk.

I hope you enjoyed post 4k and I at least got this bug out of my head.  Back to regular blogging.  And the XenoPermian.


James Davis Nicoll said...

I kind of like the US pulling a Nepal and exporting elite soldiers in return for enough renminbi and rupees to shore up families in US.

Anonymous said...

This kind of assumes something bad happens to the US. "Something bad" doesn't have to be dramatic -- it can include a few decades of economic stagnation and relative decline. But you need to work to make a future where the US, Russia and Europe aren't very relevant, if only as restive vassal states or junior partners. (This was a soft spot in the original CoDo; no entity other than the US/USSR has any agency whatsoever. The other nations of Earth are relevant only as sources of immigration.)

To get to Alderson Points, we need constant-thrust drives or better, which means (at a very minimum) low-mass fusion plants. Which I could accept in a late 21st / 22nd context... I don't believe in them, but I could accept it.

A key part of the CoDo future was that much of humanity's expansion was involuntary -- viz., it was accomplished by the CoDo governments shipping lots of troublesome ethnics and dissidents into space. This implies a breakdown of the post-WWII liberal international consensus. Which, sure. I think having a liberal international order is great and I hope it lasts for a long long time, but I see no reason to reject a future where it hasn't.

Doug M.

Anonymous said...

Actually funny you should mention Nepal, the Panchsheel treaty (and Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence) between China and India (which both parties observe towards nepal as well) would make a good starting point for a indo-sino codominium.

And having the military be operated by Nepal makes sense; The Gorkha regiments of india provide the whole "foreign legion" expy and model for a space force made up of myriad foreign nationals, while Nepal's closer military freindliness with China ( their aiding china during the 2008 sichuan earthquake disaster for instance), means that Nepal is very much both geographically and militarily exactly balanced between the two nations without ever potentially being a real threat to either (because it's a tiny country wedged between two nuclear powers).

And Given the barrage of Math, literacy, linguistic and fitness tests that nepalese have to pass to get into the indian Ghorka and british Gurka regiments, a "droney" mobile infantry based on the ghorkas would be able to very much square the circle between Heinlein's Space Cadet and Starship Troopers.

Will Baird said...

James: Having the US do a Nepal would assume something REALLY bad has happened there. More than what I can reasonably project without knocking China and India down, too.

Doug: (re: US not mattering) Twenty, thirty years of economic malaise would be fine for this. Rather than an economy of 2x+ for 2050, we could have an economy of 1.5 or less. A worsening of the GINI might work, too.

On the other hand, you might see China keep up a high growth and India hit the 10+% economic growth as well. They form the CoDo because EU and US snap out of their malaise and start growing again like gangbusters. Out of fear...

(re: involuntary transportation) I can see China shipping out troublesome minorities easily. Tibet? Yep. Uighurs? oh yeah. etc. India might get tired of ... say the pain up in Kashmir. Actually, I could see India starting out as seeing itself as the defender of liberty and potentially going through the same devolution the US went through. Inconvenient places for other nationalities would be a possibility.

(re fusion drives) I can buy they eventually exist. Another topic for another time though.

fridgepunk: I can see Ghorka and Gurka regiments, but...not sure you could scale up from that. I chose the Israelis because I can see them being scaled up, having the right techno base and having good to excellent relations with both nations without being a threat whatsoever. Nepal has good recruits, but...

Noel Maurer said...

Not sure that I buy this but ...

You gotta get the U.S. and E.U. and Brazil out of the way somehow. A CoDo, as I understand it, is formed as much to prevent the two main powers from going at each other as it is to keep the rest of the world down.

So you need the rest of the world to voluntarily lay down. That was easy for a future taken from the 1970s -- Europe already had and the rest hadn't really gotten up. It's a bit harder to buy for one taking off from the 2010s. The E.U. you can get out of the way, easy, the other big countries you can undercut, and Russia whatever ... but the U.S. and Brazil are going to be lurking. They are not going to roll over and say, "Monroe schmonroe CoDo."

The final thing, as I understand it, is you need a threat to world peace that would provide the legitimacy for a CoDo-like thing. (James, no, don't, please. It's boring!) What could that be?

Finally, unlike Doug I do not buy the high-acceleration drives ever period. Your Alderson points can be reached by slow ships, or I ain't reading.

In short, you gotta explain what happened to the U.S. It isn't going away. In fact, it isn't even relatively declining all that much. What then gets the U.S. to accept not just second but third-rate status absent some sort of handwavingly silly political or economic crisis that magically fails to spread beyond U.S. borders?

James Davis Nicoll said...

(James, no, don't, please. It's boring!)

I have no idea what you mean.

What could that be?

Geo-engineering management: not only are the general climate interests of various nations not necessarily compatible but someone has to be willing to step on demented rich people determined to do stuff like this:


"But Canada is a hotbed of geoengineering, says a watchdog group, and has been involved in similar experiments in the past."

But we probably don't have the population and economic base to be a credible threat to the world. Not for long, anyway.

Will Baird said...

Damnit. I need to reply to these.

I'm working on a reply to a technical question/comment that Noel posted. It's going to get its own post.

That said, climate change is likely to whack China as bad if not worse than the US. If we go Neo Oligocene, we're likely to have everything up toa couple hundred miles of the coast become arid. That would be bad.

India gets wetter under a Neo Oligocene though.

In the Neo Eocene...China gets dry again, too. India dries up some. The US gets wetter though.