A Faster Orbit

This would actually be a very interesting scenario for a world-designer to set up. A permanent superhumid, turbulent equatorial barrier between north and south has a lot of story possibilities!

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The World of Mosir

Mosir
Ganymede, better known by 2525 as Mosir, is the seventh and largest moon of Jupiter and is thus a primary component of the Jovian Trellis; the grand confederacy of moons, Lagrange-point stations, Trojan habitats and orbital situates that constitute the most powerful polity in Sol. Initially terraformed relatively early in the mid-2200s, Mosir is an icy water moon with permanent ice-caps at either pole and a string of artificially construed archipelago across it’s comparatively warm equator even as it freezes over in winter. These small islands are inhabited by all manner of snow beast, from coywolf[1] to moose to deer to llama to yaks and polar bears and alpine eagles to the reindeer so typical of Siberia and penguins of Antarctica. They accompany an ocean that possesses millions and millions of relocated and genetically adapted sea life, including whales and sharks and truly giant squid and sea lions and great white sharks and orca and countless variations of fish. 

[…snip…]

From Mosir, by Dain-Siegfried

An interesting write-up and map, easily portable into Traveller.

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Infiltration 2.0

A bombshell new report in Foreign Policy reveals that up to 30 CIA agents and assets working in China were identified and executed by Chinese counterintelligence over a two year period after the CIA’s encrypted communications system was infiltrated

The report is based on former and current unnamed CIA officials who were part of the program, which established a network of spies across China. The in-country spies communicated with their CIA handlers via an online system capable of being logged into from any laptop or computer.

But when starting in late 2010 Chinese authorities began to sweep up the network of spies for interrogation and eventual execution, the CIA was “shellshocked” in the words of one former official, and for eight years a joint FBI-NSA-CIA investigation has sought answers as to what went wrong in what is widely considered “one of the CIA’s worst failures in decades”.

For the first time, it appears answers have been made public. Foreign Policy asks, “How were the Chinese able to roll up the network?” and begins by answering:

Now, nearly eight years later, it appears that the agency botched the communication system it used to interact with its sources, according to five current and former intelligence officials. The CIA had imported the system from its Middle East operations, where the online environment was considerably less hazardous, and apparently underestimated China’s ability to penetrate it.

From ZeroHedge: Shocking Report Details How CIA Hubris Exposed Agents In China, Resulting In 30 Executions 

Obviously, this can play out as a Imperial fiasco in the Solomani Sphere. But not so obviously, it can also work in reverse: people who lived in a surveillance society all their lives, grossly underestimating those “prissy aristos and their minions.”

After all, Imperial society has lots of governments, corporations, and families going neck-deep in secretive skullduggery. Imperials have their faults, but naivety isn’t usually one of them.

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Surveillance Boxes

Various human cultures long to observe – and manage – our interior lives. But bureaucratic cultures need to sort the subjects into boxes, and ignore their flaws:

The world is being flooded with technology designed to monitor our emotions. Amazon’s Alexa is one of many virtual assistants that detect tone and timbre of voice in order to better understand commands. CCTV cameras can track faces through public space, and supposedly detect criminals before they commit crimes. Autonomous cars will one day be able to spot when drivers get road rage, and take control of the wheel.

But there’s a problem. While the technology is cutting-edge, it’s using an outdated scientific concept stating that all humans, everywhere, experience six basic emotions, and that we each express those emotions in the same way. By building a world filled with gadgets and surveillance systems that take this model as gospel, this obsolete view of emotion could end up becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy, as a vast range of human expressions around the world is forced into a narrow set of definable, machine-readable boxes.

[…]

Gone are fallible human brains, replaced by emotion-detecting AI that watches humans in airports, through CCTV, and in police interview rooms. This isn’t science fiction—the sunglasses of some Chinese police officers already have face recognition technology built into them.

“Welcome to the Solomani Confederation. Please insure compliance to all Confederation and Planetary rules and regulations. Visitors are reminded that they will be under observation at all times.

We remind you that Imperial citizens of Pure Solomani descent are automatically members of the Solomani Party, and are strongly encouraged to visit the nearest Ministry of Racial Purity office for verification and initial indoctrination an introduction to the benefits and responsibilities that bind all the sons and daughters of the Race.”

Anyways, back to the surveillance society:

  • While the Solomani Confederation watch you closely, it’s the Vilani who restructure your personality
  • Machines work in boxes, and so miss edge cases and data that doesn’t fit. Still, its possible that people may force their faces to fit in to the approved boxes to avoid trouble.
  • The amount of data is always greater than the number of competent analysis to sort it out, dump the false positives, and pick out the real troublemakers. Also: it’s always safer for a bureaucrat to just follow the rules, instead of acting on their initiative. Often, this means “fill in a form, and do nothing.”

See also: Senior Google scientist quits over Google’s censorship in China He believes it “contravenes widely accepted principles of international law and human rights” Some believe that any censorship system that a human being can develop can somehow be got around by another human being. China may provide a way of testing that.

I sense a Traveller Challenge coming on…

Quotes from:

You Have just Six Emotions (At least it would be easier for machines if we did.)

…an article based on…

Silicon Valley thinks everyone feels the same six emotions

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Socialist Nobility

“The Right Honourable Baroness Alexandria of House Ocasio-Cortez. As her demanse of Bronx covers a major portion of a high-pop/high-tech system, the word of the Baroness has some pull across the subsector.”

An amusing story from FEE – Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s $3,500 Suit Fits a Longstanding Socialist Tradition – highlights some interesting points regarding socialism.

Collectivism and Central Planning Create an Elite Ruling Class

Practically speaking, the process of proselytizing and mobilizing a population, consolidating power, and converting an economy to central planning—to say nothing of running it—starts and ends with a small, elite corps of ruling intellectuals. That over time they accord to themselves the trappings of the moneyed class they simultaneously assail is neither surprising or hypocritical. Collectivism of every stripe— democratic socialism, national socialism, communism, syndicalism— cultivates a new, political aristocracy.

Ocasio’s affluent attire is thus in keeping with a longstanding tradition of exceedingly well-heeled redistributionists, as are Bernie Sanders’ homes, the wealth of Cuba’s Castro brothers, North Korea’s Kim family, Hugo Chavez’ daughter, and historical cases that include Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, Chairman of the People’s Republic of China Mao Zedong, and many others.   (An interesting side note is that another of the accouterments of high peerage—nepotism—is found in nearly every example, as well.)

Despite the core assertions made by its adherents and promoters, in practice socialism is always an exercise in privilege. It should come as no surprise that in a political/economic system helmed by an elite, the trappings of a ruling class inevitably follow, as does the very wealth that by pillorying they ascend to. ‘Revolution’ indeed.

The unity of elitism and imperialism is something I will leave for others to investigate. I will note here, though, that the Ziru Sirka, the First Imperium, was a strongly collectivist organization where money per se did not exist except as an accounting tool: access to goods were determined by your appointed work caste.

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A Fable of Lions and Mice

Story

Taken from a Grade One story, for six year old children.

So, one day, a lion caught a mouse…

He lifted her by the tail.

He swung her slowly through the air.

“An afternoon snack,” Lion said.

“Delightful.”

Mouse felt his hot breath on her fur.

She was so scared.

Her voice was just a squeak.

“Spare me,” she cried, “and one day I will help you in return.”

Lion laughed loudly.

Mouse trembled.

“You, help me?” he laughed.

“You are a funny little one.”

Still, he let mouse go.

He soon dozed off again under the hot sun.

Mouse dashed home.

She was happy to be alive.

The PCs should get that same feeling, every so often. But to get that feeling, they should remember that some fish are bigger than they are.

Most PCs would be the mouse: but people who own starships and guns are lions in some settings, including much of the Imperial Empty Quarter.

The day came when the lion stepped into the hunter’s net.

He was trapped.

Lion struggled.

The net pulled tighter.

Travellers, by their very nature, don’t always know the lay of the land. And in some lands, ignorance kills.

The more exotic and unknown the culture, the more uncharted the land, the easier it is to get into serious trouble.

Moreover: while the Traveller may not understand the environment, he may well have enemies who do.

Lion roared in anger.

Then he roared in fear.

A good Referee can set up an entire campaign on the above two sentences.

A great Referee can lead a PC group through those two sentences, in a single encounter.

His loud roar carried in every direction.

Many animals heard him.

None came to help.

This could be due to

  • “Reality ensures”: anything that can take down a lion is not to be challenged, if you value your life.
  • “Indirect vengeance”: when a hated ruler cries out for help, the people may well decide that its time to suffer unexpected hearing loss.
  • “Crying wolf”: too many false alarms can lead to deafness, as well.

None dared to free Lion, except Mouse.

Mouse ran to Lion’s side.

She found him in the trap.

Mouse chewed away the net with her sharp little teeth.

Sharp little knives can work well too, in certain situations.

Or even sharp little words, when the conflict is more social and less kinetic.

Reflections

The story advises the strong to be gentle/just to the weak, as they will have need of their services someday.

Well…. unlikely, but possible. It’s a tough world, so I’m not going to turn my nose up on “goodness as insurance policy.”

Still: it would be wiser for a ruler to be just, simply because righteousness is a more enduring, profitable, and spiritually satisfying foundation for power than evil is.

Assuming – like the standard Imperial Noble – that you want your family to rule forever, and so you want profitable, happy subjects who both respect your authority and even prefer your rule, rather than entertain the pretensions of your worthless competitors and challengers.

“Legitimacy is the coin of the realm,” keeping power is far more costly, if your subjects loathe you are are always inflicting costs on your administration, directly and indirectly. Unprofitable fiefs weaken your power, and weakness is to be shunned.

(Of course, you can always just kill them all… resulting in the quiet mockery of your peers, especially the Solomani ones. “Good luck extracting tax revenues from radioactive craters and mass graves!”

<Insert: Vilani nobles, gritting their teeth.> )

This is in contrast to the standard dictator, who merely wished to rape the nation to extract maximum benefits for yourself, personally, immediately.

(If you’re lucky, he is merely for pleasuring himself, instead of grinding down the nation for some collectivist cause. Personal lust and greed can be satiated, but there is no end to the demand for earthly perfection.)

Or – as per the standard democrat – you merely want to get re-elected, and you really don’t care much what happens after you’re out of office. “That’s someone elses’ problem.”

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Interest in the Heavens

This label of the Dark Ages was applied to the Middle Ages by the folks that lived just after the Middle Ages who thought of themselves as better — so sort of a form of chronological snobbery if you will — and which is easy to do and easy to make up these stories. But when you look at the evidence you find that during the medieval medieval period yes the church had a Christian Church had a very strong influence in society and in fact they were the number one supporters of astronomical research. I know of a prominent historian of science, John Powell Braun, who is definitely not a religious person, who’s documented the church has been the number one supporter of astronomical research over centuries of time, not just in the Middle Ages but into to the early modern period as well.

What is of interest to the Traveller is that, when visiting the backwater worlds, it is most likely religious institutions — from the Babylon-style astrologers and star chartists to Church-backed scientists and observers — who are most likely to have some interesting data that was overlooked by others. This is especially true when uncovering things that happened in the past, like dating nova’s and impacts.

And this is not only true in the past: The Church of Stellar Divinity is sure to have a vast treasure trove of stellar data, right across the Imperium, and it can be safely assumed that other religious organizations have their own set of records that can be data-mined and cross-referenced profitably… if you know what you are looking for.

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