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September 30th 2020

New United: 2950 Imperator Candidate Debate

New United NewsOrg Presents

Welcome back to the final Imperator candidate debate of 2950. I’m today’s moderator, Rachel Yevin of the New United. This debate is divided into segments dedicated to a specific topic so each candidate can address the issue and respond to what’s said. The five candidates have already discussed their various First Act policies and held a spirited debate over how to provide safety and security to the empire. Now let’s turn to a topic that has yet to be broached in any of the previous debates: Synthworld.

Announced in 2872 by Imperator Corbyn Salehi, the Synthworld, officially known as Project Archangel, is a multi-discipline research project to see if the UEE could build a habitable planet from scratch in an effort to retire environmentally destructive terraforming technology. Almost 80-years later, the empire continues to spend significantly on the project. While progress has been made, the scope of the project is such that some scientists still aren’t sure if its ultimate goal is possible.

Let’s begin with you, Candidate Sharrad, as you are the only one on this stage to call for an immediate freeze on Synthworld funding. What would be the future of Synthworld in a Sharrad administration?

Illyana Sharrad ( U ): Well, Rachel, in the short term, I would hit the pause button on Synthworld and request a thorough review to answer the question on everyone’s mind: Is this project even possible? My administration would want that question answered with a resounding ‘Yes’ before putting another taxpayer credit toward it.

Titus Costigan ( U ): I find it strange that Candidate Sharrad would be so concerned about Synthworld funding now when she’s been High-Secretary for the last eight years. If she was really concerned with Synthworld’s cost, why hasn’t she already requested such a review? Correct me if I’m wrong, but that’s certainly under your purview.

Illyana Sharrad ( U ): I know Candidate Costigan is new to politics, but I didn’t think I’d have to remind him of a High-Secretary’s duties. I have faithfully executed the current Imperator’s vision for the empire. I’ve learned a lot working with your father and plan to bring that expertise to bear when elected to guide the empire in a more fiscally responsible direction.

Titus Costigan ( U ): Pausing Synthworld funding also conveniently frees up considerable credits for Candidate Sharrad to pay for all the infrastructure projects she’s promised to win over voters. Without those Synthworld funds, her core campaign promise falls apart. This isn’t a policy position based on some deep conviction to curb out-of-control government spending, it’s merely politics.

Illyana Sharrad ( U ): I think that’s a gross mischaracterization of my position.

Titus Costigan ( U ): I’m merely making a point that she’d prefer voters to not consider. The centerpiece of her campaign is only possible if she diverts Synthworld funding. How else could her administration afford new infrastructure projects in every system? She’s never provided voters a clear answer and even dodged the question during the First Act part of this debate.

Paul LeSalle ( C ): Allow me to interject since there’s limited time and the Universalist candidates would argue endlessly over the color of the sky if they thought their position could siphon a few votes away from the other.

Let’s refrain from personal remarks and refocus the conversation on Synthworld.

Paul LeSalle ( C ): My apologies. Now, regarding Synthworld, my plan calls for setting concrete milestones that the project must meet in order to continue receiving tax-payer credits; it needs to produce sustained progress or get shut down. As for my opponents’ plans, I can’t believe I have to state the obvious here, but in the unlikely chance there is a Sharrad administration, they couldn’t simply ‘hit pause’ on the project and divert funds to other projects. Overwhelming senatorial support would be needed to validate such an initiative. I’m sure someone in the Costigan campaign told the candidate that when he was studying up on how the government actually works.

Titus Costigan ( U ): Yes, I don’t have the firsthand political experience that some of my opponents do but I’m far from a stranger in this world. I’ve watched Kelos Costigan masterfully lead this empire through trying times. I’m the only candidate in this race who can claim to bring an outsider’s perspective to the position while also being intimately familiar with what it takes to do the job.

To keep us on course, how has this perspective shaped your Synthworld policy?

Titus Costigan ( U ): Well, Rachel, unlike Candidate LeSalle who wants to pull the plug at the first setback or Candidate Sharrad, who is looking to kill the project outright—

Illyana Sharrad ( U ): That’s another misrepresentation. My goal is to ensure the project is attainable before it bleeds this empire dry.

Titus Costigan ( U ): My policy would achieve the same objective without inflicting serious economic damage to those who make a living working on Sythworld or delivering supplies to it.

Mira Ngo ( T ): I’d like to know exactly how Candidate Costigan plans to do that?

Titus Costigan ( U ): To begin, I would continue Synthworld’s development but make the entire process more transparent. What that means is a clear accounting of where every last credit is spent, plus frequent and detailed public updates on the project’s development, so experts outside of the government can track the progress and keep us accountable. Too many people see Synthworld as a black box. Money goes in but all that comes out are claims from those associated with the project that it should continue. I want to shine a light on what’s happening so anyone interested, both inside and outside of government, can see that the rewards are worth the risk.

Mira Ngo ( T ): So your policy is essentially the status quo. Maintain funding but require more transparency about what the project is actually doing. Are you not concerned that powers outside the UEE or in the private sector might use that information to engineer similar systems? Essentially devaluing the proprietary tech that UEE taxpayers have funded?

Titus Costigan ( U ): Security protocols would obviously remain in place for classified parts of the project.

Mira Ngo ( T ): Which currently covers most of it, so it’s filtered information. Not a complete picture. I’ve been on a Senate committee that has dealt with this exact issue and I assure you, it becomes very easy to justify restricting everything.

Titus Costigan ( U ): I’m familiar with the work of that committee and know the results were highly politicized.

Mira Ngo ( T ): That’s a bit of an overstatement. The committee disagreed over exactly what details should be shared publicly for the reasons I just mentioned.

Titus Costigan ( U ): And based on my conversations with other Senators involved, more can be done to increase transparency and public trust in the project.

Paul LeSalle ( C ): Let’s not forget that Candidate Costigan has plenty of friends and business associates who would love to know exactly what’s being developed there. A glance at his campaign donor list should give voters an idea of who his policy is truly tailored toward.

Titus Costigan ( U ): I resent the implication. Candidate LeSalle can’t seem to debate me on the merits of my proposal, so he has to resort to another personal attack.

Mira Ngo ( T ): Most likely because his stance is essentially the same as Candidate Costigan’s.

To be fair, everyone up here with the exception of Candidate Sharrad supports the continued funding of the project but demands better oversight. The differences being how each of you plan to achieve that goal.

Mira Ngo ( T ): In regards to Candidate LeSalle’s plan, deadlines with drastic punishments are good for two things, sloppy rushed work and helping politicians look tough. My plan calls for creating a taskforce to scope down the project into achievable phases. Let’s focus our efforts on what we need right now and move forward from there. I believe in the vision set forth by Imperator Salehi, I just want to make sure that it is backed by a plan fit for the needs of the 30th century.

Candidate Addison, you have yet to join this conversation. How does Synthworld fit into your agenda focused on fostering scientific innovation?

Laylani Addison ( I ): I think listening is a vital part of any conversation, Rachel. After hearing what my opponents have to say, I remain committed to Synthworld’s development and believe it’s a worthwhile endeavor even if the goal of building a habitable world is never achieved. In fact, I would increase funding to this project.

Illyana Sharrad ( U ): That’s just… Why am I the only candidate concerned that Synthworld’s exorbitant price tag might irreparably damage this empire?

Laylani Addison ( I ): I won’t speak for the other candidates but cost is definitely on my mind. Budget has to be a factor, but we should not run scared from this challenge, we should find ways to overcome the financial obstacles. That’s why I would collaborate with the scientists and engineers in charge of Synthworld to prioritize the technology that could have applications outside of the project. The sooner we can get technological advances developed by the Synthworld team into the hands of people, the sooner everyone will benefit from their work and see the importance of it.

Titus Costigan ( U ): Should it really be a small group of engineers that gets to decide what is worthwhile for Humanity? My call for full transparency will allow the free market to do what it does best and innovate.

Mira Ngo ( T ): Yes, of course. Because we all know corporate interests always have the Empire’s best interests at heart… And while I applaud Candidate Addison’s dedication to supporting scientific research, I don’t believe pouring more money into Synthworld at this moment is either good for the empire or will have the effect she desires.

Laylani Addison ( I ): Perhaps not. But there’s also a chance the research could lead to an unexpected discovery that changes the course of history. If you remember, it was a short circuit due to a wiring error that led to the discovery of the Chan-Eisen field and ultimately unlocked the science behind quantum drives.

Illyana Sharrad ( U ): I’m sorry, you want to increase funding to Synthworld in the hopes that it’ll lead to an unexpected breakthrough?

Laylani Addison ( I ): I want to increase funding for the project in the hope that it’ll achieve the desired result. But I’m arguing that even if a full, habitable world is never built, that this investment could be worthwhile for other innovations.

Paul LeSalle ( C ): That’s quite the gamble to be taking with taxpayer money.

Laylani Addison ( I ): And it was a gamble when Nick Croshaw flew into that first jump point or when Terran Senator Akari defied the Messers to negotiate peace with the Xi’an. This empire was built by the bold, by people willing to gamble their lives and livelihoods for the betterment of us all. I’m not blind to the issues currently before us, but I also won’t let fear keep me from pursuing new ideas that could lead to extraordinary and unexpected new horizons.

Titus Costigan ( U ): That I believe, considering your support for increased AI research despite calls from some of the empire’s top scientists that doing so would be reckless and potentially dangerous.

Laylani Addison ( I ): During the First Act section of the debate, I spoke in great detail about why it makes sense to support increased research, so I won’t repeat myself here. Instead, I’ll use this moment to announce that an Addison administration would also fund a program to search for and hopefully find the Artemis. It’s been centuries since this government made a concerted effort to find out what happened to the brave souls aboard that ship after they disappeared in 2232. Our technology and understanding of the wider universe has advanced enough to warrant another investigation into what happened.

Illyana Sharrad ( U ): Does the election of Candidate Addison to the Imperatorship somehow make money an infinite resource?

Titus Costigan ( U ): Maybe that’ll be one of the Synthworld discoveries. A machine that helps candidates pay for preposterous proposals. Something you could use yourself, Candidate Sharrad.

Mira Ngo ( T ): Forget the cost of tracking down this rogue AI, what about the risk to Humanity? Seems that despite Candidate Addison’s claims to the contrary, she’s intent on ushering in an age of AI no matter what. Five thousand died when the Artemis was lost, how many more will die when it’s found?

Laylani Addison ( I ): Talk about a completely reactionary stance. I for one had thought that Candidate Ngo would understand that a shift in perspective and focus is exactly what this empire needs. Isn’t that reasoning also partly behind your promise to move the UEE capital to Terra, Candidate Ngo?

Mira Ngo ( T ): Among many others. Again, I appreciate your unique perspective, and would welcome your input on a wealth of topics if elected, but I also know from my decades in the Senate that an elected official’s job is to consider as many factors as possible, even ones that are highly unlikely to occur. You can’t just pick your policies because they sound like interesting things to do.

Illyana Sharrad ( U ): Thank you Candidate Ngo for injecting a bit of sanity into this debate. Both Candidate Addison and Candidate Costigan are new to the political arena and seem to believe that inexperience is a good thing, but seeing how both of them have handled their campaign leaves me worried and reminds me of a favorite quote of mine: “An expert is someone who has seen the worst mistakes, so they have the knowledge to avoid them in the future.” With the UEE currently engaged in a vicious war with the Vanduul, rising crime rates, and bloated government budgets, now is not the time to entrust this empire to someone not intimately familiar with how to govern it.

Paul LeSalle ( C ): As the most politically experienced person on this stage, I say, “hear, hear.”

Titus Costigan ( U ): And therefore have been the most involved in all the problems we have today. Why should you be allowed to fix the mistakes you caused? I say that a new voice is exactly what the government needs right now. Not more stale ideas.

Laylani Addison ( I ): A new voice who is the son of the current Imperator… Well, I guess if you are content with the current state of this Empire, then it’s clear which candidates are for you. But if you believe more is possible, if you believe that we can be better and do things differently, then I’m the clear choice.

We need to take a commercial break but when we return the discussion will turn towards the economy. The final debate of the 2950 election will continue just after this.

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