Spectrum Dispatch







August 9th 2016

Showdown: "Scarcity Theory"


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EP:60:56 : “Scarcity Theory …”

ERIA QUINT: Hello and welcome to Showdown, your source for balanced debate on some of the Empire’s biggest and most critical issues. I’m your host and moderator, Eria Quint.

Since Nicholas Croshaw’s first interstellar jump, Humanity’s Powers-That-Be have continually pursued a policy of expansion farther and deeper into the stars. With well over three dozen systems under its control, the Empire still spends a considerable amount of credits and resources on exploratory missions each year. The question we put forth today: should the government continue to push a policy of star acquisition or should we focus our efforts inwards on the systems that we already have? My two guests hold differing opinions on which path will offer the brightest future to our species.

Allow me to first introduce Dr. Janelle Taglion, author of “Scarcity Theory,” a recent paper published in the Journal of Imperial Economics that proposes that the Empire has expanded as far as it feasibly can while continuing to sustain itself. Welcome, Dr. Taglion.

DR. TAGLION: I’m delighted to be here, Eria.

ERIA QUINT: Also with us today is lead researcher at the Imperial Cartography Center and expansion advocate Darcy Lizu. Good to have you here.

DARCY LIZU: Please, call me Darcy. Real pleasure to be on the show. Thrilled to have a chance to discuss this important issue with you and Dr. Taglion.

ERIA QUINT: Then let’s get right to it, shall we? Dr. Taglion, for those out there who haven’t yet had a chance to read your work, could you summarize your theory and explain why you think the UEE may be on the cusp of over-extending itself?

DR. TAGLION: Glad to. It all comes down to resource availability and management. If we look back in our species’ history, back before we had multiple systems to expand into, back when we were exclusively living in Sol, there was real concern about scarcity of resources. At the time, overpopulation was threatening the very existence of our species and it was that crisis which lead to the settlement of Luna and the terraforming of Mars, both of which were major technological leaps forward. Even generations earlier, the risk of running out of fossil fuels led to unprecedented sparks of ingenuity. We see this repeated over and over. Competition equals creation. Now look at us today. Thanks to jump drives and scanners, we believe that we will always be able to find new systems. We’ve grown complacent. If you look at our technology advancement curve it has almost flattened in the last few centuries. Major innovations like the synthworld project seem to wither on the vine.

ERIA QUINT: And you believe continued expansion will lead to the collapse of the Empire?

DR. TAGLION: It’s the only conclusion to draw if you take the economic patterns that have evolved and trace the model forward at this current rate of growth. I am afraid that if this modern manifest destiny that has sought to expand our Empire persists, it will lead to stagnation, which will lead to instability and eventually collapse.

ERIA QUINT: I can see that you are eager to respond, Darcy. What do you think of Dr. Taglion’s theory?

DARCY LIZU: First of all, let me say that Dr. Taglion presents some very interesting correlations, but as we are reminded over and over, correlation is not necessarily causation. To just dismiss offhand the boon to Humanity that our continual expansion has been paints a very lopsided view of our development. What we learn about the universe and ourselves as we travel to new systems is invaluable. Discovery, exploration, knowledge. These are the core values that drive us as a people. Not competition and scrabbling for resources.

DR. TAGLION: Why do people explore? To find more resources. But our exploration tech has reached the point where it is good enough to sustain itself for centuries more without major development. The sheer fact that the ICC operates ships that are nearly identical to the ones used one hundred years ago should be indication of this alone. Where is the advancement that’s on the same level as our transition from boat to plane? From sky to space? We have grown complacent, and it is dangerous. Leave the frontier where it is and let the Empire turn its focus inward. Let us try to make the worlds we do have better worlds, instead of investing billions in terraforming new ones.

DARCY LIZU: What you are talking about goes against our natural biological imperatives. As living organisms, it is in our best interest to spread out as far and wide as possible. Imagine what would have happened if we had only inhabited one system when the Vanduul found us. We would be extinct. This year alone, we have discovered two new naturally occurring metallic crystals that we never knew existed. Not to mention a new species of algae and a small blue beetle that hums a distinct melody, both of which are currently being researched for bio-engineering applications. These discoveries that you are dismissing may lead to unimaginable breakthroughs.

ERIA QUINT: What about the argument that Dr. Taglion put forth that one of the most limited resources of all is the Empire’s ability to properly govern itself?

DARCY LIZU: I’m no political expert, but the sheer fact that we have gotten where we are today and still have a functioning government implies that we have the capability to continue to adapt as we add more systems. And I will note that just because we discover a system does not automatically imply that we will incorporate it into the Empire. How many systems have been left unclaimed?

DR. TAGLION: But by that line of reasoning, couldn’t you argue that some of the systems that are currently part of the UEE would have been better left unclaimed as well?

ERIA QUINT: All right, I am going to have to hold us right there so we can take a quick break. When we return, we dive further into the question of continued UEE expansion and how does the current goal of reclaiming Vanduul systems factors in. Plus, we will hear from a former explorer who has given up searching for new jump points after reading Dr. Taglion’s paper. All coming up next on Showdown.

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