Studying Men, Across Time and Space

So, we have a  study which studied 724 men, from the thirties to today, starting in the middle of World War II. Most of these men are now in the 90s: one set were sophomores from Harvard College (one became President), and the other set was from the poorest neighbourhood boys from the worst families, often without running water, hot to cold.

“Some climbed the social ladder from the bottom all the way to the very top, and some made that journey in the opposite direction.”


Now,let’s retrofit this study into the Imperium.

Set up one of those multi-billion credit foundations, and tie it to the greatest educational institution in the Imperium. That would be the AAB, the Argushiigi Admegulasha Bilanidin (literally: “The Vilani Repository of All Knowledge”), and not some newcomer like the University of Sylea or Harvard University.

Then, have the PCs crew a scout, bearing a researcher and a graduate student, and have them jump around a subsector or sector, tracking the lives of the rich and poor members of the study. Face-to-face interviews are part of the process: this can be fobbed off on the NPC egg-heads if the players aren’t interested in immersive roleplaying, or taken up by the players themselves if they really want to get deep into the Traveller frame of mind.

Which study subjects rose to subsector corporate tycoons… to underworld foot-soldiers… to a factory hand in a domed city… to a shallow grave on a colony world? Go and see!


Following Vilani & Vargr (page 8), the Referee could have Kasiiga University lead the study. “Vland’s foremost centre of higher education. The personnel and resources of the AAB form the backbone of the University’s faculty and curriculum. Kasiiga University enjoys an Imperium-wide reputation for its historical and social studies.”

Man for man, universities are the second-most greatest sustained influence on societies over time, behind religious organizations but ahead of governments. Most government and cultural leaders are trained in universities, and universities – unlike the philosophically-oriented Greek academies of antiquity – can certainly span centuries of time. If you can have Vilani megacorporations span thousands of years and all three Imperia, then Vilani universities can definitely do the same!

And these are the kind of people who would certainly be most interested in such a long-term stud. The Harvard study above is oriented to answering the question

  • “What makes a good and happy life?”,

but as a certainly the Vilani equivalent would focus on answering this question,

  • “What factors most strongly encourages a deep and stable consensus across all social strata?”

Conformist cultures think differently than individualist cultures! Their questions are different, their goals are different, and their ideas of a life well-lived are different.


From the video:

To get the clearest picture of these lives, we don’t just send them questionnaires. We interview them in their living rooms. We get their medical records from their doctors. We draw their blood, we scan their brains, we talk to their children. We videotape them talking with their wives about their deepest concerns. And when, about a decade ago, we finally asked the wives if they would join us as members of the study, many of the women said, “You know, it’s about time.”

The Vilani would have probably stuck with the men, as they dislike changing the parameters of a study mid-stream. On the other hand, they would have started out with an equal division of men and women in the study: being industrial/post-industrial for a far longer time — thousands of years by the end of the Roman Empire/start of the Ziru Sirka, vs about 30 years at the start of the Harvard study — Vilani women would have long ago gained enough cultural & financial authority (read: electricity) to be a factor in all academic concerns.

No, feminism never did arise in conservative Vilani cultures: but then again, neither did egalitarianism, or even republicanism. On the other hand, the Vilani are intensely practical people, and women with more financial & social power are going to inevitably get more political pull as well. Moreover: long-lived Vilani women spend a smaller percentage of their lives bearing & raising their four children, and have additional decades to devote to wealth-production for their families and corporations. “First the kids, then the money.”

Most of these long-term studies are going to be Vilani-only in the First Imperium: few such studies would have been launched in the turbulent and unstable Rule of Man (“Ramshackle Imperium”) era. In the Third Imperium, you would have studies for Vilani, Mixed Vilani, and Solomani humans: eventually, especially after the rise of the Alkhalikoi Dynasty (and the first Vargr Archduke), you will have studies on Aslans and Vargr as well. (Probably not the Droyne, except perhaps for the Leader and Scout castes.)


The founders of this study would never in their wildest dreams have imagined that I would be standing here today, 75 years later, telling you that the study still continues. Every two years, our patient and dedicated research staff calls up our men and asks them if we can send them yet one more set of questions about their lives.

Many of the inner city Boston men ask us, “Why do you keep wanting to study me? My life just isn’t that interesting.” The Harvard men never ask that question.

I have visions of fame-loving Imperial Nobles (…and the more wealthy Vargr…) sending out fat, richly illustrated autobiographical books on their lives for free ‘as a public service to the masses.’ The more intensely self-infatuated Nobles/charisma-fuelled Vargr will set up entire personality cults (…which will last as long as the money and the freebies do…), sending out expensively filmed documentaries on Themselves to various media outlets.

A good PC team with strong media skills — ranging from low-tech public oration, to industrial-tech yellow journalism, to internet publication, to far-future virtual world design — could do quite well financially, keeping an Noble ego well-fed.

So, you really want to know the results of that Harvard study, don’t you?

The clearest message that we get from this 75-year study is this: Good relationships keep us happier and healthier. Period.

We’ve learned three big lessons about relationships. The first is that social connections are really good for us, and that loneliness kills. (…)

And we know that you can be lonely in a crowd and you can be lonely in a marriage, so the second big lesson that we learned is that it’s not just the number of friends you have, and it’s not whether or not you’re in a committed relationship, but it’s the quality of your close relationships that matters. (…) The people who were the most satisfied in their relationships at age 50 were the healthiest at age 80.

(…) And the third big lesson that we learned about relationships and our health is that good relationships don’t just protect our bodies, they protect our brains. It turns out that being in a securely attached relationship to another person in your 80s is protective, that the people who are in relationships where they really feel they can count on the other person in times of need, those people’s memories stay sharper longer.

So there you go, a nice dollop of individual-oriented Solomani wisdom.

The equivalent Vilani study would be an interesting read… if the Vilani existed.

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About Alvin Plummer

I'm working to build a better world, a world that blesses Christ and is blessed by Him. I hope that you're doing the same!
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