Mission Specialist Isaac Faraday was in the middle of a delicate repair on one of the outer module walls of the International Space Station. At first he thought the momentary splash of refracted light across the module had been sunlight reflecting off one of the ISS solar panels or perhaps off of an errant piece of nearby space debris. However, something about the light and it’s pattern seemed too precise to be a random accident. He turned and attempted to locate its origin. He looked behind him, trying to guesstimate the source of the beam. With the sun as a reference point, he concluded it came from somewhere over his left shoulder. He scanned the blackness. Nothing. But just as he turned his attention back to the module his attention was again called away. The mysterious blue beam, as if passing through the quivering surface of a lens made of water, made its third jolting appearance, confirming in a millisecond what the previous strikes had prepared Faraday’s mind to assess. An unknown anomaly. This time Faraday’s‘s attention was in perfect alignment for the flash of light that followed two seconds later. A broken and randomly speckled pattern of blue beam flashed across his clear visor onto his unblinking eyes and blank expression in the absolute silence of space. He acted.
“ISS. Charlie, do me a favor and look out the port window of node five. Faraday, over.”
From inside ISS, Commander Charlie Akari acknowledged specialist Faraday with an affirmative and floated to the window of node five.
A minute later, Akari’s voice crackled in Faraday’s headset. “Ah, is there anything I’m supposed to see out of node five? ISS, over.”
“Affirmative on that”, Faraday said. “Please allow about a minute of observation, if you will, Commander. Over.”
Ten seconds later, a light danced over the entire station.
Faraday’s radio blared with his palatable excitement, “Whoa! ISS. Requesting confirmation of light event from your position in module five! Over.”
“Affirmative, Affirmative. What the hell is that?” Commander Akari muted ISS communications with NASA. Minutes passed as the crew of the ISS observed a series of subsequent flashes, all the while scanning the void for the source. In response to one of these light events, the astronauts fixed their gazes on an area of the inner solar system, near Mercury.
“Isaac, can you confirm an origin for the observed light event?”
“It’s starting to look more artificial from here, Charlie, but I don’t want to rush to judgement. I see an intermittent projection of a laser-like event. Looks to be a massive formation of large multiple craft, as near as I can tell. Can ISS confirm?”
“Copy that. Right now we’re postulating ninety-nine percent certainty on that.”
Mission Co-Pilot Illana Yugarov weighed in over Akari’s shoulder. “Could it be an asteroid formation? What is the source position in relation to the Earth?”
Akari shot that hypotheses down. “Negative. Asteroids don’t reflect sunlight like that and the belt is nowhere near where this is. It’s coming from the direction of Mercury, and the formation pattern is far too uniform. The light is undoubtedly artificial. This is fucking amazing.”
They allowed another ten minutes of steady observation to confirm both astronauts and the rest of the accompanying ISS crew were all not hallucinating. After the ten minutes had elapsed, the phenomenon had only strengthened the validity of their conclusions.
“There must be tens of thousands of them,” Faraday said.
Commander Akari opened a private communication line with NASA.
“Houston, this is ISS. Are you reading us?”
“Roger that, ISS. You are loud and clear.”
“Ah, Houston, can you confirm any artificial probes or activity scheduled for any of the inner celestial bodies at this time? Over.”
“Stand by, ISS.”
“Standing by. Over.”
“Ah, that’s a negative on any scheduled inner celestial activity. Over.”
Akari took a moment before responding. He looked out the window of node five again. There could be no mistaking it. After a long pause and a few glances exchanged with the crew, all reflecting back their mutual disbelief of the strange scenario, he pressed the button on his mic.
“Houston, this is ISS. We’ve got visitors.”
Before NASA could even respond, one of the spacecraft, considered less a potential threat at its previous distance, was upon them in an instant. A spacecraft that must have been the size of a small city, slide into perfect view of the space station as the panicked Russian and American crew watched from the windows.
Commander Akari and the rest of the crew lost all composure. “Houston, we need to get out of here! This ship…It’s massive! It’s right on top of us!”
Outside, Faraday was frantic, “I can see beings in there, Charlie. They’re at the windows. Thousands of them. Bloody God, what a view.”
This ship appeared almost immeasurable in size. Its shape somehow giving the inexplicable impression, for a craft so different in form and use, of an English galleon but with a massive rectangular vertical tower section in front and slightly less massive and flatter vertical tail section. Both were sandwiching a similarly scaled horizontal body balancing an enormous disc-shaped dome on its back, with the outer edges of the disc jutting out like fat wings into the space on either side. Thin ribbons of windows encircling the dome periodically at tiered levels in its shape revealed its possible use as an unfathomably large greenhouse or artificial habitat. This dome alone appeared to be ten times the size of the largest stadium on Earth.
Back inside the station, Akari was just regaining his focus when a voice in an unintelligible language rose from the station’s ham radio system.
The visitors were attempting to open a channel with the space station.
“Good evening. I’m correspondent Brian Sheffield from the British Bureau of Unite News. On tap tonight, a one to one sit down with perhaps the most beloved and well-known representative of the newly revealed Energian Civilization. Ambassador and Fleet Botanist AngleSphere2500|0313. During our meeting I engaged the ambassador extensively on many topics of worldwide curiosity, including the structure and details of different aspects of Energian culture, technology and economics. We are confident the clearer picture that arose of Energian thought and behavior from this interview will be both illuminating and, at times, surprising to our viewers, not only for what it reveals about Energian society but, perhaps, also our own. As the following program will unveil, our civilizations share many similarities but also stark differences in how we approach our existence and the management of our respective planets. Arranging this interview was a long journey that started from the moment the Energian fleet entered Earth orbit almost two years ago. Many failed attempts were made through both official and back channels until the ambassador was finally available for his first face-to-face sit down with a major network. Even then there were a number of security hurdles to overcome due to both intense cultural curiosity and potential biological contamination. Although, our scientists agree there is very little chance of viral contamination or epidemic, special atmospheric chambers had to be constructed to ensure the Energian landing party access to a readily available and breathable backup atmosphere should any of their suits fail or their return to their fleet be delayed for any reason. Nearly a year later, those hurdles were ironed out and the proper steps completed for the British government to grant permission for the meeting. It has, indeed, been a long journey in many ways. And now, our exclusive interview with Ambassador AngleSphere.”
Interview Narration Overdub: Ambassador AngleSphere2500|0313 stood before our cameras with the dignified appearance and conduct of a lifetime official, the rest of his landing support party filling the room behind him. Due to the high possibility of public interference and disruption, our interview had to be conducted at an undisclosed and secure location in Northern England, with heavy governmental and military support and supervision. We were one-hundred a fifty miles from our crew’s news bureau in London and sixteen light years from the Ambassador’s home world, Energia, an exoplanet five times the size of Earth, population approximately 21 billion and previously designated by our astronomers before contact as Gliese 832 c. The Energian fleet that took them here is comprised of one-hundred and seven generation ships, one-hundred and four of which are unused and in tow, only three being occupied by crew and passengers on the high end of one million per ship and many thousands more support ships and craft bringing the total Energian population in orbit around our sun to a cool 3.5 million.
[_ Some viewers will be surprised to learn that every one of those 3.5 million Energians-- and all 21 billion back home-- has a uniquely identifiable name traditionally comprised of a combination of symbols and numerical based characters that lend themselves well to both social usage and official record keeping. Of course, the Ambassador and members of his party have generously allowed their names to be translated from the Energian original to an English approximate. As precise as each name is in their ability to convey a citizen's birth region on Energia, gender and where to access their digital profile and initiate contact, I am told they also roll off the tongue smoothly and efficiently. This is because name combinations are effectively generated to produce a pleasing sound and expression of familia connections are left to data records and profile links. At a summit in New York, I spoke with an Energian official and asked about the Energian naming system. He explained all Energian names start with two simple symbols taken from geometric shapes, objects or physical phenomenon. The first symbol, signifies which region of the planet in which a citizen was born, and the second, represents which data bin under that region a citizens profile folder may be found, followed by two whole numbers. The Ambassador was born in region Angle and his data and communications can be found and directed to somewhere in the Sphere data bin for that region. Thus, AngleSphere. The numbers narrow a citizen's identity down even further. The first number tells which folder in that data bin a citizen's file is under and the second is their file number. All new born Energians are given two file numbers in consecutive order, one odd and one even. One used and one unused. Males use their fully odd file numbers, females their fully even. The second unused file number is for those who transition between gender. Once they transition, their profiles can be moved to the second file number so their name reflects the correct and updated gender data number of preference. This allows individual profiles to still be easily found based on old identity records. If a citizen's profile no longer shows up at a specific name, there is only a small range at which their new profile and contact info can exist. Those Energians who identify as both genders simultaneously at any time in their lifespan can use decimal extensions between one and nine with their given odd or even whole file numbers to indicate more subtle degrees of gender identity-- such as a personality moving more or less away from their birth gender. Essentially, Energian names are all electronic mail and url addresses with a small number of aliases or sub-url's available to each citizen for specific purposes. With this kind of super efficient digitized naming system, no two Energians could ever be confused with each other nor a profile lost and a great deal of data about each citizen is quickly imparted from just a name. Depending on the numerical size and location of present company, different parts of each name can be omitted and used when addressing a fellow citizen. If it is known that most in your company are from the same region, usually there is sufficient name displacement to allow for the use of just a person's data bin symbol for it to be understood to whom one is referring in a crowd or group environment and not have them confused with any one else. Should there be a need to narrow identities down even further, folder and file numbers can be employed. Hence it is very common among Energians who know they are from the same region with profiles under the same data bin to refer to each other by only their folder numbers which never exceed more than four digits. As it is a rare occurrence for citizens sharing the same folder number to encounter each other, it is seldom required to use file numbers to specify identity in social settings but it is available if socially necessary and required for digital profile access and communication. In rare cases where number overload can blur identities, such as high density social situations of individuals all from the same region and data bin, citizens often will stitch both one symbol and one number of a name together to facilitate better recall. Region data bins have a limit of 9999 folders of 9999 files each but can be created in infinite supply and so there is no danger of ever running out of names. Through all these methods, Energian identities remain always unique both locally and digitally and of manageable length at all times. _]
The tiny percentage of Energian technology the world has been allowed access to has already made our heads spin with much more to be shared if all goes well diplomatically. And with the strong Energian history of cooperation amongst themselves, the stability of our future relations rather largely depends on the human variable. Although I was told by the Energians they would be supplying a high level official for only parts of the interview, they assured me that Ambassador AngleSphere, a fleet botanist, is well studied on both our civilizations and quite capable of fielding most questions I had. Probably of more significance to the public, he has built a well known reputation as an amicable and well-liked conduit between our two civilizations. His live online weekly question and answer sessions conducted between himself and the general public from the comfort of the orbiting Energian fleet have become legendary, receiving world-wide attention and throngs of hits from dignitaries to children, who enjoy his many antics. His online social account topped 100 million followers this month. This would be a serious interview however and the Ambassador sat before me in the formal spacesuit – unfortunately Energians cannot breath our atmosphere – of an informally deputized official. His entirely artificially bronzed skin, until his recent rendezvous with our sun, appearing through his face mask, the envy of all earthly sun worshippers. His body structure, remarkably similar to ours. Despite, the many differences in the mixture of elements and compounds employed to sustain both Earthling and Energian life, scientists have explained the similarities between both our body structures as a consequence of the similar physical environments of our planets, the physical requirements placed on their respective inhabitants and the similar actions an advanced intelligent species was required to perform in order to evolve in, more or less, the same directions on both worlds. In essence, the similarity boiled down to physics giving rise to parallel evolutionary development. Being around Energians and observing them interact with one another I was first struck by the silence. It’s not a complete silence but a lack of extraneous noises and superfluous vocalisms one is unconsciously used to hearing when among humans and doesn’t notice until one encounters its peculiar absence. If you don’t see Energians it’s hard to tell that they’re even there. The second striking aspect was what served as a head of hair for a typical Energian. It was not hair at all but an elegant fibrous helmet that rose smoothly out of the forehead to curve over the top of the skull and down around the back. This helmet was not artificial but a natural extension growing out of the skull and through the epidermis. It was solid and smooth with the texture of a tucan’s beak and appeared in a variety of natural colors every bit as varied as human hair with even some teal blues and bright reds and occasionally even a mixture of colors. Such a configuration not only served the biological function of conserving heat in their prehistoric ancestors but could be infinitely styled and even filed down entirely with only a little more effort than required for human hair to only grow back.
The white Energian flag of blue ninety degree intersecting lines emblazoned on his sleeve, the Ambassador met me with a traditional greeting and smile as we began an interview where he would patiently field questions on a host of topics for over five hours. Not too far into our interview the Ambassador would display the kind of patented humor that has endured him to young and old alike worldwide. As we settled into our long discourse, the Ambassador appeared in very good spirits and the ideal participant…
Correspondent Brian Sheffield: “Ambassador AngleSphere, thank you for joining us.”
Ambassador AngleSphere2500|0313: “My pleasure, Brian. All Energians love a good interview. They are very popular among us. So let us hope for a good one, yes? Shall we sit now?…Good hours to you…good hours to you…”
Interview Narration Overdub: Some viewers will recall, Energian greetings depended on the expected length of the interaction or, in the case of parting, the expected time the two parties will be away from each other: “Good minutes to you”, “Good hours to you”, “Good years (or orbits) to you” and so forth. For more formal occasions and longer separations: ”A Trillion (or Many) Tranquil Orbits to you…”. An amalgamated earth version of the Energian greeting even sweeping the vernacular and texting of teenagers in much of the English speaking world in the form of “totu”, teen-speak for “Tranquil orbits to you”. In a still further remarkable coincidence, in Energian, the phrase is pronounced “tee-oh tee-ewe” just as it is written in English text-speak, although the sounds represent different words in different order. The “ewe” sound word, for example, in Energian means “orbits” rather than “you.”
Sheffield: “I sense Energians love their interviews to a much greater extent than on Earth, Ambassador.”
Ambassador: “Indeed. Interviews draw millions of viewers in Energian culture and are not only more extensive but any random Energian can find themselves the focus of an on-the-spot and in-depth profile piece broadcast to millions of viewers. With their permission, of course.”
Sheffield: “Is that a fact?”
Ambassador: "Indeed. On Energia there is-- well, as far as we know-- still is an interview program called Devi Minplitaa, which means Random Citizen. Willing but unknown citizens would be selected off the Energian streets for serious focus pieces as every bit as followed and promoted as the one you and I are conducting now.”
Sheffield: “As an interviewer I must say that sounds like a lot of work and siphoning of resources in order to profile random unknown citizens.”
Ambassador: “That’s the draw of it. Energians have a romanticism for nameless faces lost among our masses. We want to know who are our most invisible and overlooked. Even to a greater extent than our famous. We want to know who the nameless are, their struggles, their thoughts, their hopes. Including the nameless here on Earth.”
Sheffield: “But right now the nameless and named of Earth wish to know more about you, Ambassador. The last time we spoke directly was at the world summit last year in New York where I unsuccessfully tried to land an earlier interview. How are you?”
Ambassador: “Well, to be totally honest, Brian, I feel like a fool in this clown suit. I can’t breathe in here… oh, actually, I can only breathe in here. I can’t breathe out there, which is much worse! Either way, it’s not fun, Brian. But please, call me Angle.”
Sheffield: “I could not be so informal with someone so respected. It is, after all, an honor, Ambassador.”
Ambassador: “Don’t be silly, Brian. I am a low-level Energian citizen.”
Interview Narration Overdub: The ambassador looked over and smiled at some of his bemused and confused entourage.
Sheffield: “I highly doubt that. Is it common for Energians to joke to the extent that you do? You seem to have connected with the people of Earth in a way that most of your compatriots have not or even seem inclined to attempt.”
Ambassador: “Actually, most Energians joke around all the time. The problem is they can’t take a joke. That’s the problem.”
Interview Narration Overdub: The ambassador, again, looked over at his landing party, who shifted uncomfortably.
Ambassador: “Frankly, Brian, I was hoping they would just drop me off and leave.”
Sheffield: “Your landing party?”
Ambassador: “No. My species.”
Sheffield: “But kidding aside, Earthlings have been interacting with Energians over two years now. Why do you think your citizens shy away or are reluctant for deeper interactions with our species? Certainly, both civilizations have sensed a distance, a disconnect?”
Interview Narration Overdub: The Ambassador delayed his answer with a short and confident pause but showing no visual indication the question put him off balance in any way.
Ambassador: “Right away with the serious questions, Brian. What a downer you are! Look, Energian social interaction is a very complex affair. Energians are used to giving and getting a certain, shall we say, quality of treatment from one another and they don’t have to fight and claw for it. The typical Energian does not have to belong to a special class or achieve a certain status to receive this treatment. It’s not special treatment. It is a given of our culture, as natural as the atmosphere or sky. Quite honestly, many of my species can be taken aback by the brutality with which humans treat each other socially. Our social rules of behavior do not allow for certain actions to slip by without being questioned. Disagreements, offenses and social grievances in our culture, rare as they are, when they occur, mostly by accident of circumstance, are resolved and rectified totally. As Energians have evolved to settle issues diplomatically and not competitively, this almost always never requires an official mediator or outside authority. Diplomacy and cooperation are embedded into our natural pattern of behavior. In contrast, such social issues on your planet seem to be allowed to first fester unaddressed and then grow in scope until they explode, whether it be at a family, national or international level. And in many cases one or more of the participants, following a distinctly different human pattern, seem to will it to happen. It is very puzzling and disturbing to Energians to see that grievances are allowed to go unresolved on your planet. As you can imagine this would be a quite laughable scenario in the eyes of my culture if it didn’t, so often, lead to tragic consequences due to your competitive culture. Obvious signs of deception or artificially arranged and constructed conflicts and lapses of assistance devised to intentionally spread dysfunction, chaos and inhibit the progress of individual citizens are sternly looked down upon by our society, are always investigated by our authorities in the rare cases when they can’t be resolved and are sometimes regarded as symptoms of mental impairment. It is an extremely rare but serious issue in our society to impede the healthy progress and growth of an individual, whether openly or by stealth. Unfortunately, in addition to your violence, we see heavy signs of this behavior in all your societies with poor to zero monitoring or oversight and usually when the damage has already been done or the situation has gotten out of hand. We see many instances where your citizens feel excluded and ostracized intentionally, by race, gender, sex identification and a host of other reasons that would be deemed petty, hostile and unjust on Energia. It seems Earth culture is still struggling to override its more primitive instincts of aggression, fear and competitiveness for a more self-aware, conscious deliberation. Apparently, your species is not living entirely in your present age of technological progress but is repeating primitive, out-of-date and, unfortunately for an otherwise modern society, self-destructive behavior patterns. Such a social system is completely intolerable to the average Energian. So, I am afraid, until your planet has made progress on these issues and the underlying cause, there will always be a distance between our two civilizations in that area. But I want to point out it is not personal. It’s just a social incompatibility issue, which is not considered an insulting rebuff on Energia. When at their best, humans are extremely socially compatible with Energians. The problem is they are not as consistent at overriding their more unhealthy instinctive behaviors. And so humans tend to fall back on them to a degree which Energians do not and would find disrupting and chaotic in a social encounter. The good news is, if you stay conscious of this tendency, you can eventually break these behavior patterns. But Energians are not a species to make demands for others to change who they are and we hope your species is the same in this thinking. And so we are happy to work with humans as closely as our cultural patterns permit, even stretching them sometimes as I and my fellow ambassadors do, but we also realize there are some behaviors for which both our species need to function separately.”
Sheffield: “But you yourself seem to have built a great rapport with the people of the world through your social media accounts. Your online video channel and social profile, for instance have millions of followers. Many on Earth genuinely like you and it appears the feeling is mutual. So why does that not extend to the majority of Energians, despite their cultural patterns?”
Ambassador: “It is mutual. I take great enjoyment from my interactions with your population and it is very real and voluntary on my part. You know, I do the video and social sites and it is great fun to kid with the earth children, Brian. But one shouldn’t confuse what I do, as an unofficial ambassador and what another Energian chooses. Everyone is different and that extends to Energians. As a diplomat, I am supposed to extend myself to other cultures to more of a degree than any of my fellow citizens. I do it because I like it. I don’t see it as a challenge because I want to learn about your culture and teach you about mine and that requires a certain amount of emersion and exchange. But enjoyment and emersion, derived as part of a chosen activity, does not mean total comfort or social preference. I still prefer and am very much at home in Energian culture, as many Earthlings would feel more comfortable with Earth culture. I just enjoy interacting with Earthlings more than the average Energian because it is my interest.”
Sheffield: “Fair enough, Ambassador. Turning to the details of your incredible voyage, under what power do your generation ships travel such great distances so quickly?”
Ambassador: “Among my species I am not what you would call a physicist or engineer but basically the engines we use for space travel work off what would probably be described as a type of particle deflection or particle bounce. To understand this effect requires an inferred knowledge of the basic underpinnings of the Universe. At its base, and if you will allow me to take some liberties with language, the Universe is basically a solid block of nothingness with levels of object-based dimensions layered within it (all the way up to our macro dimension), with each layer having particles that can cross into corresponding dimensions. What our engines do is bounce these specific cross-over particles off neighboring and fundamental core layer particles of the Universe. When this happens the energy is reflected back from the neighboring dimension producing the thrust or, more precisely, push for our engines. So in essence our ships are pushing off unseen particle walls or core foundation of the Universe.”
Sheffield: “I’m quite confused already. How do you bounce particles off of something you have no direct evidence is there?”
Ambassador: “You do it by understanding both nothing and something are relative, dependent on what is doing the observing and or interacting. We cannot interact with this nothing or core foundation directly ourselves but we know the particles that can and manipulate them using still other particles that, in turn, can interact with them. In effect, using known particles, we can change unknown particles and induce a reaction that crosses dimensions. And so a previous state we would have recognized as nothing becomes something we can harness to create propulsion. But our astro and quantum physics in relation to cosmology are a huge discussion in themselves…more than can be covered adequately under your current parameter of questions.”
Sheffield: “Perhaps we will come back to Energian Cosmology later…”
Ambassador: “That would be fine.”
Sheffield: “So you have these ships… these bio-ships that can go very fast but not fast enough to get you to the nearest star without packing a support system. After all, your society’s main source of power is solar and for the majority of the trip, your ships would be too far away from any star to utilize its energy. How did you travel the vast expanse between stars for so long severed from the life-sustaining rays of any starlight?”
Ambassador: “First, they are not true bio-ships according to your definition. They are not constructed out of biological material. But they contain biological components that enable them to function partly as biospheres. They are more biosphere generation ships with crew capacities of the largest ships being about one million each or that of a small city. Our civilization designed these ships as part of a three phase, four part plan centuries before we were even to attempt an interstellar voyage. The first part of the plan consisted of setting up planet supported stations in orbit around Energia. This first phase involved experiments designed to increase the duration our citizens could exist in space and working out renewable resource production and maintenance of life support systems, including solar energy systems, food growing, both from artificial light and cloning, medical services and onboard reproductive processes and more. At that stage we also developed a simple and effective suit to counter the negative physical effects of zero gravity. The second part of the plan concerned creating several fleets of fully crewed and equipped generation ships themselves and placing some of them in orbit around our star. In this phase, we refined the durability and reliability of many of our systems such as nutritional and energy preservation and reached a point where our ships and crews could exist indefinitely, floating around our star, without support from the Energian surface. This step included the construction of immense manufacturing and farming ships which were designed as support vessels to the generation ships; the generation ships really only being uni-star orbiting colony ships at that time. The factory ships were industrial platforms that could transform the raw material our mining ships collected from nearby planets in our star system into supplies, including robots and other ships, which could then be utilized by the fleet. Our generation ships are equipped with their own hydro-agricultural sections but we also have larger ships accompanying the fleet that are used exclusively for hydro-agriculture. The last phase occurred once we had been maintaining colony fleets around our star for several centuries and so had reached a level of confidence and a permanent population presence outside our planet. This last phase consisted of a two step process of preparation before a fleet, of immense scope and size, was assembled and left in the direction of your planet, which was confirmed to carry life by our astronomers centuries before. The first step in the preparation process was laying out a long chain of supply points the entire distance to your star ahead of our fleet’s departure. This step lasted over a hundred of your Earth years. These giant supply points were actually crew-less and heavily stocked cargo ships carrying every supply you could imagine an interstellar voyage would require, including fresh vessels of every size that would be needed at different junctures for the crews to continue the journey and any extra energy that would be used to run the fleet’s life support systems and our artificial lights. As the fleet would approach these points, it would transmit a beacon that would awake these supply points, which would usually give a reply pinpointing the supply point’s position. A backup supply system was step two of the last phase. A supply chain, constantly fed from our home planet, sent out a long line of cargo ships that overtook our fleet at regular intervals along our journey. We are still receiving these supplies from home to this day like a very long conveyer belt that literally stretches all the way back to Energia. As you can imagine, with the passage of time, we’ve noticed the supplies and technologies coming from our planet have gotten increasingly more advanced and efficient, which only makes it easier for us to stay this far out here.”
Sheffield: “And that’s how you bridged the distance? Interstellar travel is a type of journey for which Earth has rummaged its best minds for ideas for the most fantastical engines and here you are using simple forward and trailing supply chains.”
Ambassador: “That is simplifying it a bit but, basically, the supply chain acts as a replacement for our star’s light. Since most of all life can trace the energy for its existence to starlight, we knew we needed a constant substitute for starlight as we would be away from any natural light for most of our voyage. The supply line is basically a long extension of that starlight in the form of supplies and energy, and the forward supply points, act like little stars along the way. It powers, among many devices, our artificial lights, which, in turn, enable us to grow some of our food, which powers us and allows us to continue generating waste material to feed back into the system. But without the influx of energy for the artificial lights, we would have exhausted our resources before arriving safely within reach of the rays of your star.”
Sheffield: “Unexpectedly low-tech but it obviously did the job.”
Ambassador: And I might add, not a possibility out of your civilization’s reach either, if your citizens and governments can overcome your issues and learn to cooperate on a large scale.
Sheffield: “I’m getting the impression your interstellar journey wasn’t an entirely easy feat, however, on the part if your species. Is that an inaccurate assessment?”
Ambassador: “Not at all. There is some risk in interstellar travel but you minimize that through planning. There is no certainty whenever a species attempts to travel from star to star. Access to resources, through one channel or another, is imperative. And both a local and interstellar source are preferable. You don’t ever want to run out of resources, so once you find a star system with natural light and some mineable planets, it’s preferable to stick around.”
Sheffield: “Of course, given that your medical scientists have been able to greatly increase the average Energian life span, I imagine that improved your mission’s chances and enabled a lot of your original crew to be here that would not be otherwise.”
Ambassador: “No matter your life span, you will die very quickly if you loose access to resources out in space or anywhere. So life span doesn’t really matter when it comes to keeping you alive. But our medical scientists, through sessions of periodic cellular maintenance, selective cloning and genetic and dietary modification have, indeed, been able to increase the typical Energian life span to very close to three thousand of your Earth years. We have also dramatically altered our former primitive diet to reduce the burden on our cells of processing unneeded and harmful bi-products. We exist mostly on a liquefied concoction of plant-based nutrition comprised of everything our bodies need and very little of what they don’t. Biological entities such as ourselves naturally have to process waste by-product over the course of a lifetime. This, in turn, results in decreased cellular performance due to toxic build-up, which can eventually lead to illness and disease. Therefore, we, in effect, externally predigest much of our nutrition before it enters our bodies, alleviating a tremendous amount of internal processing and waste build up that would normally clog up pathways, age cells faster and reduce their efficiency. Before consumption, we pre-extract any compounds and elements our cells will only be forced to expel as waste product after a lot of unnecessary effort, thus greatly increasing our cellular longevity and health by cutting down cellular workload. This all means our activity of consuming and digesting nutrition has been thoroughly streamlined and involves almost no domestic meal preparation or social ritual as it does in your culture. This increased life span has enabled many among our crew, who started the journey as young adult Energians like myself – I was the Earth equivalent of one hundred Earth years of age when we set out – to still be around upon arrival at your star system and contributed greatly to the success of our mission. I am the equivalent of two-thousand one-hundred Earth years.”
Sheffield: “Doesn’t this prolonged life span result in overpopulation on Energia?”
Ambassador: “When our scientists first told us they had unlocked the key to massive increases in life longevity, some of the general citizenry became concerned of rising population densities. This kind of talk was quickly refuted by one of our most prominent scientists at the time. She carefully explained, in a widely viewed lecture at the time, that the purpose of reproduction being the extension of an individual’s genetic code beyond their death, reproductivity would slow in proportion to increasing life spans. Why rush to reproduce if your genes were still alive and well in yourself and projected to be so for a while? She further predicted that reproductive rates would come close to zero once the code for an unlimited lifespan had been cracked for the same reason. There is no need to reproduce your genes if your genes aren’t going away. Our scientists were still working on it when we left. And we have since made medical advances in this area on board our fleet. I should live another three-thousand years at this rate of improvement. As long as I don’t die in a freak accident, that is.”
Sheffield: “You mentioned a space suit, which has been claimed to also have contributed greatly to the practicality of your mission. How did your scientists overcome the long term effects of zero gravity on the Energian muscular structure?”
Ambassador: “It was through a fairly simple design for a lightweight suit that added variable degrees of resistance to all our major muscle movements. These suits would apply a carefully measured and consistent degree of stress upon our muscles and bone structure as we moved about the ship in a fashion calculated and designed to simulate the effects of gravity on Energia. These suits, when worn in special magnetized sections in our ships, were also able to help simulate the direction of gravity’s pull we would expect to have on Energia rather accurately.”
Sheffield: “And how did the Energian scientists overcome the long term effects of interstellar radiation on the Energian biology from prolonged journeys in deep space?”
Ambassador: “The same particle engine that propels our ships completely encloses the hulls of any our ships that serve for prolonged habitation. Small versions of the main engine angle out from the skin of our ships keeping the internal inhabitants safe from cosmic radiation while they are on and helping to assist in forward thrust. The longer we keep these engines on, the better protected we are from cosmic radiation throughout the journey and the shorter the traversal of space between destinations takes. So we incorporated a dual use for our development of an engine for high speed space travel into a solution for deflecting cosmic radiation. But again, the science involves a fairly complicated and lengthy discussion of physics beyond the scope of this interview.”
Sheffield: “You have yet to share why you left Energia. Was it a catastrophic event that precipitated the departure of your fleet from your solar system?”
Interview Narration Overdub: The ambassador looked confused at my question.
Ambassador: “None. The construction of a biosphere fleet that could exist independently in orbit around our star was nothing more than a natural progression following from the knowledge that our species must spread itself out into the Universe to avoid the possibility of a random extinction. After centuries of having perfected our skills and technology of planetary-independence around our own star with our bio-fleets, the natural progression from that was stellar-independence or venturing on to the next star. And that is the exact course our outward exploratory evolution has followed. All stars eventually die and our species could clearly recognize the advantages of having a multi-star presence. Other than that, there was no immediate threat, environmental or astrophysical. It was only thought of as wise to spread ourselves out while we had the technology in case an astrophysical threat, like our star burning out, ever appeared. There are no environmental threats on our planet. Our environment is in near perfect balance. The air and water clean, the land uncontaminated.”
Sheffield: “It is remarkable the similarities in body structure our two species share. Two arms. Two legs. Two eyes. Do the Energians find that as incredible as humans?”
Ambassador: “In many respects it is probably a quite common and natural result of evolution. Only a species whose limbs split into specialized functions for execution of both mobility and finer manual dexterity can evolve into a mobile and tool making species. And tool making species’ evolve big brains. And only a species with a big brain can evolve into a technologically advanced species. So there is a ramp of required steps leading to the formation of an advanced life form. A species whose limbs have only evolved to perform the singular activity of locomotion will be unable to innovate tools. And a species whose limbs have only evolved to perform tasks of manual dexterity, will be poor at terrestrial locomotion and therefore suffer in competition with species of more pronounced skill in movement. So our scientists have concluded this fifty-fifty split in limb specialization is probably a precursor and requirement for the development of all technologically advanced species in the Universe. In essence, it is the plain physics that guided both our close patterns of parallel evolutionary development required to perform all the steps necessary leading up to an intelligent species capable of interstellar space travel to a meeting of worlds. So we were not surprised.”
Sheffield: “What are three things on Earth that you found strange or shocking when you first started learning about our civilization?”
Ambassador: “Obviously, as you might suspect, there are a great many…far more than just three. But as a self-appointed scholar of your civilization, the first of the three that stood out for me, as well as the majority of my species, would be the immense competition that exists between groups and even individual members of your species. As has been shared with your species many times already, the initial instinctual competitive behavior that all life forms must go through to one extent or another was overridden in our species in its very early history. My home planet is thoroughly cooperative. If we were not, we would have never been able to unite and direct our energies to such resource intensive endeavors as interstellar space travel. From observing your own planet, we can now firmly conclude that a project of that size demands a peaceful, cooperative, sharing planet…otherwise I can say with certainty it will not happen for you….at least, not without outside help at this point. You simply can’t explore deep space as a civilization if you are too busy fighting or trying to undermine and outdo each other. If you don’t bring your violence and competitiveness under control, I am afraid humans will always only dream about mastering interstellar space exploration.”
Sheffield: “No doubt many on Earth would challenge that last assertion. After all, humans are in space now while a great deal of violence goes on below them, right?”
Interview Narration Overdub: Every bit the self-made scholar, the Ambassador set me straight.
Ambassador: “Ah Brian, but it is not star-to-star exploration yet, is it? Right now you are on a vast ocean in nothing more than tiny one or two person canoes. If your species does not bring its propensity for competition and violence under control the fantasies of high volume deep and interstellar space travel they entertain themselves with will never happen. Having done it ourselves, we are quite certain of this. Your resources just aren’t there for it. They are being diverted toward competitive pursuits and war preparation.”
Sheffield: “Your conviction on that point, Ambassador, is duly noted. Are there no tyrants or troublemakers on your planet? No one tries to do others harm for selfish reasons or personal advancement?”
Ambassador: “As I’ve mentioned, that kind of instinctual competitiveness has been highly subordinated in my species to our cooperative instincts through thousands to millions of years of evolution. There are cases that arise where one or some of a group may be in error about something or would like to experiment with a different way of doing things. But such disagreements do not fall into abject chaos or warfare as they might on your planet. On our planet, arrangements are simply devised so that the diverging minority is allowed to experiment with their philosophies or behaviors as long as those disagreeing are not subjected to the effects. Given this kind of tolerance, powerful opposition tyrants and extremists do not arise on our planet because there is no one holding a foot on anyone’s chest telling them they can’t try something. There is no one to oppose. What usually happens in these cases is they are experiments. They either work or they do not. When they do not work it is usually quickly realized and the participants gradually abandon the experiment. But the compulsion to allow others to try and experiment for themselves is so engrained and developed in our citizenry that no one even considers enslaving or forcing one behavior or another on an individual except our most criminally insane. So, for instance, if a troublemaker arose on our planet and said he or she wanted to prohibit all social, political or economic experiments but their own, they would get little to zero followers because in my civilization such citizens are not merely political anomalies, they are considered literally insane. Put in terms of your own planet, it would be as if a human citizen tried to form a breakaway nation of cannibals. There is just not going to be enough takers because your species has evolved so far beyond cannibalism. That is how much my species has evolved beyond the use of force. And we suspect the reason you see such violent and reactionary extremism on your planet is because your political and social experiments have to incorporate the use of violence and extremism in order to be allowed to experiment. So it is a feedback loop of suppression.”
Sheffield: “But surely there are cases where your authorities must employ force?”
Ambassador: “Yes. Yes, but not on the scale of warfare or mass oppression. When force is required it is literally usually a case of an individual citizen having a medical episode where their mental faculties have deteriorated or been injured to such an extent they must be restrained. That’s literally the level to which such cases of psychopathy will rise on Energia. You will never see a tyrant with immense military power and political support anymore than you will see a cannibal rise to that degree of power on Earth. Collectively, humans are too evolved beyond such behavior. And it’s the same in regards to forceful psychopaths on Energia. But where force is employed on Energia is as a tool to keep a subject from harming others or themselves. It’s not a tool employed for violent mass cultural and political change or oppression by these large forces you call armies or protest groups, as seen on your planet.”
Sheffield: “But, disputes have occurred on your planet at sometime or another, have they not?”
Ambassador: “I don’t want to give the impression our civilization has never known disputes or competition. In our very early and primitive past, and as expected, our archeologists have uncovered evidence of the employment of violence and of battles between groups. But in the modern sense of the last four hundred thousand to four hundred and fifty thousand years, before even our recorded history, we haven’t used force to settle differences. That’s not to say we do not have disagreements on Energia. However, when disagreements do arise they are handled quickly and peacefully because Energians have evolutionary and cultural behavior patterns that are far more pronounced and evolved than any of our dormant and archaic aggressive behaviors. Our prehistoric competitiveness is so buried and weak from lack of use, it has little chance of overriding our instincts for cooperation and negotiation. The nearest to an actual territorial dispute in our recorded history was a long-standing claim two groups held on an ancient city that had only a passive mutual sentimental and historic significance to both groups, nothing strategic or religious as you would see on your planet, of course…But we are talking fifty-two thousand years ago now…”
Sheffield: “And how was that disagreement settled?”
Ambassador: “Of course, much of the story is now shadowed in myth, but it was proposed at the time that a beautiful modern city would be built on an artificial island that would be constructed for the faction that would abandon their claim to the ancient city. Faced with such an offer both factions encountered the new dilemma of determining who would abandon the old disputed territory to accept the gift.”
Sheffield: “So you bribed them with something better?”
Ambassador: “In a matter of speaking. Both sides were being unusually difficult for our planet, after all…even for fifty-two thousand years ago. In fact, it is claimed there was almost a new dispute over who would accept the offer. And our archeologists have confirmed the island city of Yon, which, in your language, roughly means concord , is located on an ancient artificial island in the same area of the Region Five Sea just where the ancient texts purport it should be. Once completed, the island was considered so technologically innovative and beautiful, the group that originally agreed to pass up the offer-- in, mind you, a much celebrated and honorable gesture-- were so impressed by the island's beauty they decided to build their own artificial island in the same sea. And sure enough our archeologists have confirmed another nearby island is indeed ancient and artificial."
Sheffield: “And what of the long disputed territory the two factions were both claiming?”
Ambassador: “It was largely abandoned for thousands of years afterward. There have been no intense claims made upon it since.”
Sheffield: “Interesting. Perhaps this approach could be useful to solving some of the territorial disputes on my own planet?”
Sheffield: “Your chief ambassador to the UN has said there are no nations or separate countries on your planet. With such tolerance and, as you say, even in some cases support, for social and political experimentation on your planet, how have you avoided fragmentation?”
Ambassador: “This would normally be a question for our social scientists but I think it is clear our tolerance for social and political experimentation allows our planet-wide governing establishment to remain stable. Simply, there are no reasons for the extreme kinds of fragmentation of national borders seen on your planet because there is no extreme enforcement of one social or political behavior over another and, as a secondary consequence, no extreme resistance. Of course, there are specified regions of our planet that are divided and assigned for management and logistical reasons but politically, economically and socially our planet is largely unified the majority of the time and has been for the last 100,000 years of its history. There are occasional political and social offshoots but, again, they are not seen as threats to the governing establishment but as welcomed, or in some cases, humorous experiments within our system. The key principle here is that violence, atrocities and tyrant’s only arise out of suppression. There is no mass suppression on our planet because every citizen is born a diplomat and learns, from their earliest days, how to navigate differing needs without oppression or force. And so the experiments we sometimes do choose, as a corollary, do not require force.”
Sheffield: “Is it true there are no armies on your planet?”
Ambassador: “Yes and no. We do have a defensive force that arose in parallel to our increasing technological advancement in space exploration. But there is nothing in the traditional or historical sense of long-standing opposing armies or international foes as we see on your planet. Again, we are not naive. Our archeologists have discovered and documented evidence of a competitive and somewhat limited violent past in our own very ancient and early history; mostly for survival reasons in the early primitive environment. And we can also see competition today in the lower level species on our planet. So we do know and understand about competition and conflict and have prepared for it to some degree. But we expect any extraterrestrial civilization capable of the same degree of space exploration as our own species would have to be peaceful and evolved beyond violence long before venturing into interstellar exploration. You just cannot organize and cooperate as a civilization to the extent needed without leaving warfare and violence completely and far behind. And so, as a corollary, we do not fear violent civilizations because the degree of violence in a species is conversely proportional to their degree of technological mastery of space travel. If a civilization wants to rise to the stars, its propensity for competition and violence has to plummet to the ground. If a civilization’s violence is high, as a planet, they are no threat to a space-faring species such as ours anyway.”
Sheffield: “But how do Energians avoid conflict at all at the micro-relational level? For instance, how do your relations and cooperative projects not get bogged down in petty quarrels, simple individual stubbornness and retaliations? What is the defining difference in this respect between humans and Energians?”
Ambassador: “We believe the difference is due to two factors, both products of social evolution. As I’ve mentioned, Energians are finely tuned through millions of years of evolution to avoid conflict and find working solutions for differences between two parties. As we instinctively respect the needs of others as a survival adaptation, our behaviors never deviate to extreme or grossly incompatible variability. The second factor is in relation to human evolution.”
Sheffield: “And that is?”
Ambassador: “It appears to our anthropologists humans have what they refer to as an disruptor instinct, something Energians lack or is otherwise severely suppressed by our evolution. In some humans it’s more dormant than others but, essentially, humans have a weak foundational drive for settling differences amicably. Basically and at times quite unconsciously, humans don’t want to settle their differences. They want to compete and outdo one another.”
Sheffield: “Returning to the original question, you’ve mentioned, several times already, Earth’s high degree of competitiveness as one of the three things that shocked your civilization the most. What would be the other two?”
Ambassador: “The second one would most definitely be your fictionalized entertainment.”
Ambassador: “Yes. There is nothing like it at all on Energia. As you are aware, with your civilization’s permission and support, we have tapped into your planet’s interconnectivity system via several of your satellites and so have been remotely studying your civilization from on board our generation ships. There were many humorous and perplexed reactions from across our fleet when we finally realized exactly what was the purpose of this entertainment of your societies. It certainly can be said it takes some getting used to for Energians and, amid our bouts of confusion and amusement, we are slowly learning.”
Sheffield: “Your compatriots have told me before the interview it is our fictional movies and television programming that puzzles Energians the most.”
Ambassador: “Yes, and your fiction books, as well. Books are harder for us to recognize when they are fiction but when we see your people on TV or in a movie, who are clearly pretending in some way, it makes us ask ‘Why are they doing this and why are others watching?’. We find this a very strange diversion for your species’ energies. There are no fictional portrayals or accounts on our planet. Life and learning about it we find stimulating enough. Our entertainment is education and scientific exploration. Lectures and presentations on a myriad of topics are extremely popular. Your documentaries and non-fictional accounts and interviews we understand, as we also have those on Energia, as well. But these fictional stories employing what you call actors?, seemingly designed to artificially evoke and inspire emotions in your citizenry, some of them highly negative emotions, is, indeed, regarded universally amongst my species as one of the strangest behaviors we have observed in yours. The degree to which your species will go to inspire these artificial emotions is far beyond the extent we would go. To devote the energy of writing or reading three to even five hundred pages of compiled information and then, in the end, none of that information is substantially true is just perplexing to Energians.”
Sheffield: “But inventing stories are a way that a culture imparts wisdom and challenges old beliefs. What does Energia do for teachable stories?”
Ambassador: “Your ordinary citizens can provide you with an endless supply of wisdom and teachable stories from their real lives if you are only willing to look. On Energia, the most ordinary of citizens are given a voice and platform upon which to be known and heard and, more importantly, their fellow Energians want to know about them, however ordinary. It’s not what they do that is important to Energians, but who they are. On Earth, it seems the majority of your citizens live and die as nothing more than spectators or as entertainment for spectators when something horrible goes wrong. If I may offer an alternate theory, it seems your species needs to invent stories because the majority of your real lives are perhaps unfulfilling.”
Sheffield: “I can see how your species might have trouble with our literature, film and television fiction as entertainment but do you not have music on your planet?”
Interview Narration Overdub: Utilizing a wrist device, the ambassador prompted his party for an interpretation of the word to be sent to his earpiece.
Ambassador: “Ah yes, and that is probably the only method we employ to artificially evoke an emotional response or create an emotional atmosphere. We approach it still much like a science and there is a great deal of discussion and analyzing around the creation of intricate rhythmic patterns and how that mirrors and reflects our internal condition and aspirations. Our ships occasionally pipe atmospheric pieces of music designed to help the crew relax and function better. And there are well-known experts in this area who distribute their sonic creations to our populace. These experts produce and distribute largely from their homes over our own version of your internet. After our interview, I will have one of my landing party provide you with a selection of Energian music.”
Interview Narration Overdub: The ambassador looked down and quickly typed something on the device encircling his forearm. A female sitting behind the ambassador rose seemingly in response without any apparent reference to a device for receiving the request. This must have been an example of the Energian technology of “whisper texting”, where a text message was transmitted to a recipient’s headset as speech. The ambassador continued…
Ambassador: “During Energian celebrations our planet has a tradition of coordinating a planet-wide music and laser display using special ships designed to hover in our lower atmosphere for days at points encircling our planet and deploy a synchronous deluge of light and sound upon the entire population from the sky. The decibels need to be high at that altitude to reach the ears on the ground with any effectiveness and it can literally shake certain areas of our planet, especially the ocean surfaces, which vibrate from the sound waves. Of course, we take precautions and use a special auditory signal that prevents catastrophic vibrational reverberations. It is probably our most impressive and unifying form of celebration as it literally rocks the world, to borrow one of your phrases. The light show accompanying the thunderous music from the sky at night is something to behold. We are still in talks with your UN to arrange a harmless demonstration for your planet with some of our ships equipped with the proper exterior acoustics, but, of course, we understand and respect the reluctance of your governments to allow our larger ships into your atmosphere to conduct such a display. The videos just do not do it justice. Showmanship aside, a great deal of our populace would probably find the wind or a babbling brook more stimulating to listen to than any artificially produced sound.”
Sheffield: “Your planet-wide sky music sounds absolutely amazing and unifying indeed and I hope my planet can be treated to that experience at a later date but, I’m sorry, did you say the majority of your citizens would rather listen to the wind or a babbling brook?”
Ambassador: “Yes, indeed.”
Sheffield: “Why is that so?”
Ambassador: “Because after analyzing music for so many millennium we’ve come to understand, while not denying its great power, all it is trying to do is artificially recreate the sounds of nature in order to evoke emotions. But what is the point? What could have more dynamics and emotional range than the wind? What can speak to us with more power than the wind? It can go from the most delicate breeze to the most powerful hurricane force, you see? What can be more emotion evoking and beautiful? What could mimic the power of the great waters? Or the warmth of starlight? Or the tranquility of a light rain? The smell and sounds of the forests or shores? The power of a meteor shower? The frozen flash of a super nova? When you can get all that sensory stimuli combined into one good day for multiple days on end, what do you need of music? That said, we do have musicians and many are quite talented at drawing forth from the listener the kind of emotions the contemplation of nature would inspire.”
Sheffield: “These acoustically equipped ships, can they destroy cities?”
Ambassador: “Brian, we are not here to threaten or wage war on your planet. This is not an invasion. Quite frankly, most of your science fiction has betrayed you terribly. We find it curious that when Earthlings envision a more advanced alien species they always project one of advanced technology but seldom one without war or aggression. If we are beyond you technologically, why would you not think we were also beyond war and aggression? We realize there are trust issues involved with such a rare and unusual circumstance between our two civilizations but I can assure you and your fellow citizens, warfare and conquest do not interest us, let alone, are options we are capable of considering based on over a million years of our own cooperative evolution. If I may offer an alternate observation, I suspect it is the 250,000 years of your own competitive evolution that causes you to posit the possibility of such motivations in our species. While we are certainly open to the wisdom that another species can offer, regardless of their technological level, with all due respect and I think you’ll agree, we have observed enough of your civilization’s competitive activities to conclude such behavior does not hold any advantage for our society. Does your planet wish to teach us war? Because I can assure you our species would be a poor student. We would only fly away from you. We have a very ancient saying, a saying passed down via generations older than even our recorded history and born from our observations of the more primitive species on Energia: To elude a competitor is to defeat them.”
Interview Narration Overdub: It suddenly struck this interviewer in a flash of understanding how it must have been thousands upon thousands of generations making the same decision over and over again to flee and survive, rather than fight their ancient enemies and risk death that enabled the ambassador’s ancestors to evolve into the instinctually super-cooperative species they are today. This is how they did it. It was this distaste for conflict that favored and selected the diplomatic and cooperative in each other over the forceful and competitive. I looked at the ambassador’s slight frame and those of his assistants. The competitive must have found no one to reproduce with and therefore any of their robustly built ancestors must have died out long ago while the cooperative thrived and multiplied and passed the cooperative genes onto their offspring.
Sheffield: “A very expected and diplomatic answer, Ambassador. Fair enough then. Lastly, what would be your third choice for most shocking or strange discovery about our civilization?”
Ambassador: “I suppose this would be related to the competitiveness but, I think, the lack of support amongst otherwise cooperative groups of individuals for each other was and is still quite a surprise to all Energians, myself included. Individual problems that would be treated as serious obstacles to group cohesion and progress seem to be ignored as unconnected to the group dynamic precisely because they are personal issues. By contrast, in Energian society each citizen and their well being is of interest to the average Energian. You can even say there is a romantic fascination and care for those Energians who have befallen some obstacle to their happiness and proper socialization with other Energians. We are always curious about a struggling Energian and our immediate instinct is to help them. Again, the absence of this behavior in certain situations is a disturbing aspect of your culture for many Energians. Of course, we know earthlings can display great kindness but nothing near the extent an Energian would. Heaven forbid, an Energian stub a toe the whole planet would have to shut down and stop to help them.”
Interview Narration Overdub: The ambassador, displaying some of the jocularity that has endured him to many humans, looked over at his smiling landing party and emitted again the same Earth-like laughter he had learned and adopted from his many video exchanges with Earthlings.
Sheffield: "One obvious visual difference between humans and energians is clearly visible through your helmets-- the hard fibrous exo-plate covering the contour of your skulls, sweeping back from the top of your forehead and going to the bottom of the neck. I am told this is filed down considerably from its potential natural length to allow an optimal fit for your space suit helmets and is similar in texture to a toucan's beak. Pictures have shown us that at it's greatest extent this plate can grow to fan out and cover the entire length of the upper torso, I would assume, serving, at one time, as a defense against predators and as a current source of envy of many humans. A lot of people I know tell me they wish they had an Energian skull plate instead of hair. Particular points of envy are the low maintenance, varied natural color scheme, which rival natural hair, and the unique and individualistic design themes Energians apply to their head plates. Some Energians have even elected to incorporate small icons of the earth into their designs as a gesture of friendship. The variety is endless. Do your scientists have any theories on how the Energian skull plate evolved?"
Ambassador: “You have that exactly right. Despite a very early and short history as a part time predator species, much of Energian evolutionary history has been spent hunted rather than hunter. As our pre-ancestor species evolved away from quadrupedal motion, what we lost in speed we retained in protection and defense in the form of our hard shelled fibrous skull and upper torso plate. This enabled us to survive as a newly adapted plant eating bipedal species without needing to dominant by going on the offensive. Our scientists have hypothesized that, in addition to conserving body heat in cold climates and cooling us in hot climates, our plates shielded us from attacks just well enough to enable us to dominant not through counter attacks but by our immunity and elusiveness to predators. We dominated the other species on our planet not by force but by their ineffectiveness at dominating, controlling and gaining access to us. The head and spine plate was what gave us the slight edge we needed to survive. Also if you were to examine the Energian spine, it is sunken into our backs for its entire length rather than extruding. This makes it very difficult for a predator to execute a paralyzing bite even if a full length plate were somehow penetrated. As we began to have more control of our environments on Energia, the survival necessity for the longer plates decreased. Now when you see Energians wearing them down to their shoulders or even waist length it is purely for esthetic reasons. Incidentally, as we evolved as a species and began to master our environment, we would eventually extend this defensive, rather than offensive, theme to the construction of our towns and cities. Walls rather than weapons would ultimately prove how we overthrew the dominance of the larger predators.”
Sheffield: “In various videos members of your species have exchanged with ours, it appears the mass of the general population on your planet travel by a simple vehicle very similar to one we have on Earth called a bicycle.”
Ambassador: “Yes, indeed. I think as more of our civilization is revealed, your citizens will be quite surprised at how simple and minimalist our general population lives. Of course, our dual wheeled vehicles have been updated from band driven devices – the bands being similar to your velcro material – to being retrofitted with small, low power versions of our particle engines. They come in four and three wheeled versions with enclosed canopies, as well, for protection from the elements, just as you have on Earth.”
Sheffield: “Yes, I’ve seen the videos. They are much smaller than our SUV’s and even our compact cars.”
Ambassador: “Indeed. We’ve relegated the majority of our large and long-distance mass transit and shipping to a planet-wide and largely underground interconnected tubes with electromagnetically propelled capsules and shipping pellets. We use the smaller vehicles primarily for local personal transportation.”
Sheffield: “Do those smaller vehicles provide enough speed to be useful?”
Ambassador: “They do now, with the addition of the particle engines. Before that there was some compromise between using the belt driven version and a faster carbon fueled vehicle that had an output that was toxic to our environment. We would use that primarily for medical emergencies, some deliveries, long distance travel, where speed was required and for our top dignitaries and officials. But our experiment with fossil fuels did not last long. We decided to satisfy ourselves with the initial slower pace of our electric and solar vehicles than risk the environmental damage to our eco-systems and potential injury to passengers. When not traveling through space, Energians are seldom in a hurry and live surprisingly slow-paced, low-risk lives. We are typically not fans of subjecting ourselves to forces our bodies are not evolved to survive in the case of a catastrophic accident. The average Energian typically does not require risky high speed travel in their daily lives and will mostly avoid it. The vast majority of our terrestrial travel has always been via clean energy sources, whether slower or today’s faster, more secure, methods. Once the electromagnetic tunnels were operational, we started to scale back on the carbon fueled transportation. The increased efficiency of our electric batteries, solar panels and electric delivery generation also helped. Carbon based fuels were always used limitedly; primarily for emergencies, certain manufacturing processes, scientific experimentation, and our initial exploration into space. They were finally eliminated entirely with the invention of our particle engine and more efficient appliances and the other advancements I mentioned.”
Sheffield: “These electromagnetic tunnels…you say they are planet-wide?”
Ambassador: “Yes. They have connected much of the planet now and have seriously superseded travel by sky. A smaller version of these tunnels are employed at the local level. For instance, when a village or community is being drawn up, it will be designed around a central market and municipal hub with all the areas set for private homes fanning out around it. Every home site will have its own private delivery connection to the central hub and the central hub, depending if it’s been updated, will in turn, connect to the larger tunnel grid. When carbon fuels were still being used, this enabled supplies to be delivered while reducing carbon emissions and congestion.”
Sheffield: “So there is no hand-to-hand delivery mail service on your planet?”
Ambassador: “As on your planet, much of our mail exchange is done over our own version of your internet, which, when translated into your language, we call the light line…because it’s information is translated with light pulses. But yes, there are no delivery representatives that bring our supplies to us any longer. What happens is we will request a supply electronically and, depending on availability, it will arrive the same day, first making its way through the large national electromagnetic grid to a local hub, where it’s sorted and sent along the smaller local tunnel grid to its destination. Sometimes it will arrive the next day, if it is on the other side of the planet. If it’s not currently in stock, that might be a little longer because it may need to be manufactured first.”
Sheffield: “So from order to delivery nobody moves on either end? It’s all done through a connection of electronics and underground tubes?”
Ambassador: “I imagine there is a robot in some warehouse retrieving the item from a shelf and sending it on its way through the electromagnetic grid or autonomous electric delivery truck or drone if there is no tube service to the area. We also have a much younger lift beam delivery system which employs a precisely timed and coordinated series of high energy laser beams to support small payloads at certain altitudes where they are essentially held aloft and pushed across our skies. This method is often used for long distance deliveries which are usually too far for our electric drones to cover solely on their own power and in areas without tunnel service. Once a payload is over its delivery point the beams cut out, an onboard electric engine kicks on and the payload is safely lowered to its destination.”
Sheffield: “In respect to drone technology, Earth is somewhat biting at your heels.”
Interview Narration Overdub: Here the Ambassador saying nothing, smiled a little uncomfortably, undoubtedly at my human-like penchant to unconsciously introduce a competitive narrative. I must admit, I suddenly felt uncomfortable myself but continued.
Sheffield: “We have heard that your education system is also throughly automatized, as well. This must also reduce congestion on your roads significantly.”
Ambassador: “Yes. It is automatized for the school season. Students are educated at home through a pre-planned and automated series of lessons and grade-less knowledge tests delivered over the light line. Students are allowed to repeat lessons as many times as necessary to master the material. The lessons are updated, as needed, by citizens who specialize in the different fields being taught but, once the updates are made, the lessons proceed in a fully automatized fashion for each class. As you have mentioned, introducing a fully home educated populace has reduced congestion on our roads but has also freed up resources, previously put into constructing large education centers, for other projects. And of course, as all of our information has been completely digitized for over 20 millennia now, our forests are not plundered to make textbooks for our students.”
Sheffield: “But education on Earth is much more than about learning for our young. There are integrated physical activities that support the development of a physically healthy population. And there is the social aspect. What do your young do for physical activity and healthy socialization?”
Ambassador: “That is not an issue. We have simply assigned those roles to other areas. If the parents haven’t the time to take the initiative on them – and, as we are a fully automated civilization, most of our parents do – there are local activities organized by neighborhood citizens in every region that assure our young are getting the physical exercise and socialization they require. Even if there were no organized activities, every parent knows – no matter what planet they’re from – there are some things you cannot stop the young from doing. And running around with their peers is one of them. But we have found placing children together in large unsupervised groups tends to produce adolescent cultures that challenge, override or conspire against the wisdom of parents. So we avoid too much social interaction too soon between our children and are satisfied with the resulting adults that manifest. Again, we allow it but keep it to a manageable minimum.”
Sheffield: “Is there nothing similar to the competitive spectator sports we have on Earth?”
Ambassador: “No. Certainly there are physical activities our population engages in daily for health benefits but there are no competitive aspects to these activities. Your competitive sports are a somewhat troubling phenomenon to our civilization. Not only for their brutality and competitiveness but it seems only the most athletic can participate, undoubtedly due to the demanding nature of the contests, leaving the vast majority of your citizens disenfranchised spectators. We are puzzled at a society that would engage in and even celebrate activities that leave the vast percentage of its citizens as non-participating sedentary viewers. On Energia, there is neither money nor a winning record riding on any activity so anyone can participate in almost anything if they are able and wish to do so. As long as they can’t hurt themselves, talent and skill isn’t even an issue. Whether it is music, art, dance or another physical activity, we want to see all of what our citizens have to offer in all its variations, ability and uniqueness, not some selected sample labelled the best. As long as it is not something like medicine or engineering, where you have to be skilled and know what you’re doing, we don’t worry about degrees of talent. It is all about personal expression for us. Whether a citizen’s artistic or physical skills are highly honed over years of practice or being expressed for the first time, we want to experience what they have to offer because we want to know who that citizen is, their joys, their struggles, their ideas.”
Sheffield: “Competitive sports are very popular and they do have a large following here. Even some of our noted intellectuals and scientists follow them. But there has been much criticism, some of it from a sociological perspective, from some other noted intellectuals.”
Ambassador: “Yes, we have concluded that as you have a monetary-based society, this allows for the introduction of commercial advertisers, and these advertisers have manipulated your public into behaviors beneficial to their interests. So the affect, is a population of passive yet robotic spectators, although also at times, unwilling consumers, instead of participants. And so competitive sports is one of the means these advertisers employ to control and create these consumers. And then, of course, there is the clear connection of competitive sports to primitive violent behaviors and the psychological preparation of citizens for war that is so obvious we need not even delve into it.”
Sheffield: “There are certainly many on Earth who would agree with your assessment. Continuing with something somewhat related to the subject of entertainment, we’ve heard your laugh, which you picked up from your interaction with humans. I have been told your species does not laugh. Is this true?”
Ambassador: “In the sense of your human laughter, no, we have not evolved an accompanying vocalization as humans have, which sounds somewhat odd to us in your species. But we do have a recognizable expression signifying amusement. We smile much as humans do and, if something quite humorous is spoken or occurs, we can be seriously physically incapacitated. So our culture is rich in humor and playfulness, just no audible symbol for laughter. Our scientists have offered a number of hypotheses as to why your species evolved an accompanying sound symbol for laughter and why ours did not. Since play within many species mimics attack, our scientists have hypothesized that very early in proto-energian history, our ancestral evolutionary predecessors may have had a vocal indicator like laughter to help distinguish between an actual attack and play. As real in-group attacks decreased and essentially disappeared in species leading up to our own, a vocal indicator of safety, or laughter, became less and less necessary and eventually went out of use. But this is still all speculation. As for myself, I enjoy the added vocal component and it is one of the habits I have picked up from my interaction with humans that I personally welcome.”
Sheffield: “Switching to economics. How did your economy function before total automation? I’m assuming your citizens participated in a compensated workforce of some kind?”
Ambassador: “Yes, there was a workforce but no one received any special monetary compensation beyond the standard supplies that are distributed equally amongst all citizenry, regardless of their occupation. I will remind you, our civilization does not have a monetary system.”
Sheffield: “But how did your society coax its citizens into the more difficult occupations such as doctors in your medical field, your scientists, your engineers and so forth if they were no more compensated than a window washer?”
Ambassador: “Simple. Our citizens weren’t coaxed into those fields or occupations. They chose them freely out of a combination of natural curiosity, the instinctual drive to direct ones energies into a useful activity, desire to contribute in some way to a society that cares for and supports them and the practical inclination to gain access to the kind of training and technology that allows them to experiment with their own ideas and innovate new technologies and solutions for their community and society. The only special compensation they might have received were being publicly recognized in their field for their contributions by being selected for various symbolic honors and the pleasure of having contributed something valuable to our world.”
Sheffield: “But without a merit-based system of compensation, what keeps your citizens from choosing the less intellectually demanding and training intensive activity of window washer?”
Ambassador: “Brian, do you really think, in a society that didn’t discourage any segments of its population from pursuing their true interests, that anyone, but those honestly indifferent or unsure of a career choice, would chose to wash windows? If there is anything our citizens could have an ego about it is their ideas. If you have a calling in a particular area, you will enter that field whether there is greater compensation or not. You enter that field for what you can do and because you feel you can advance the field in some way. If you don’t have a particular calling, and there are plenty in our society who do not, you would usually choose one of the service occupations just to channel your excess energy into something useful to the community and as a social outlet. And you must remember, because we have constructed a society where our citizens can be largely self-sufficient, work is not a burden that is forced upon them. Nor does a technologically self-sufficient population in a moneyless economy have to work as much. So our population is not worked to death or to the point where they start to resent being occupied in that manner. Since we are a moneyless economy, there is no danger of losing access to material resources for anyone because of a pay check. Since there is no monetary or social threat from other citizens doing your job, workers can be rotated much more often and thus workloads reduced drastically for individual citizens. So if there are several citizens available to fill your role, you are needed less and it’s not a threat to be needed less because there’s no money involved. So having this ability to rotate many workers without it threatening the livelihood of anyone is how Energia is able to place such a low demand on its individual citizens energies. And so when you are allowed the time needed to enjoy your life, you naturally acquire the excess energy you want to share and give back to the community in a useful way. This is the hard part Earthlings find difficult to understand, in our system. There isn’t really an exact accounting of input energy per provisions received in return that you see in your monetary, merit-based system. There is, I mean, technologically, an exact accounting available, but no one keeps an obsessive eye on it. If I am already receiving a sufficient supply of provisions, for my minimum required input energy, to keep me functioning and my needs adequately addressed, I am going to be less protective and conservative about returning any of my excess energy back into the cooperative system that takes care of me, especially when I know the production of the goods and services all citizens are depending on is the responsibility of the consumers themselves. So for instance, I may be entitled to work less, but if I find I’m feeling pretty good, my needs are being adequately addressed, I’m not hungry or tired or overworked, I like what I’m doing, I’m well housed and so forth, then how will it hurt me if I throw a little extra energy back into the system without the expectation of receiving any more provisions in return than anyone else? When it comes to charity work on your planet, your species does this all the time. Some are not suffering any particular deprivation themselves or under any particular economic or nutritional stress so the thinking is: ‘Why not give my extra energies to charity and helping others without expecting any compensation?’ The difference is, we apply that energy to an actual cooperative economic system of mass production. And so we don’t worry about the lazy on Energia. Our lazy are only those indifferent to what they will do, not that they will do. It is not in anyone’s natural inclination to sit home and be useless to their society. You have to be made to feel either unwanted or exploited for that.”
Sheffield: “So are there no…”
Ambassador: “I just want to add one point to the previous comment.”
Ambassador: “There is also an additional reason why Energians – and remember, we’re still talking before full automation – why Energians do not or did not have a threatening relationship to work. And that was because, due to the fact we were a cooperative moneyless economy. The closest counterpart in our economy to your employer, a project manager, could never be seen as an intimidator or threat to any citizen’s livelihood. If a project manager concluded that you weren’t able to handle a particular position, there was a lot less animosity involved in that kind of conclusion because nothing was riding on such a determination. Your subsistence and access to resources was not in danger by being dismissed and so negative labor verses industry relationships did not arise nor did antagonistic pressure groups form. If you couldn’t perform a particular task and were dismissed on Energia it wasn’t received as the death blow to finances and self-esteem that a firing might be received on Earth. On Energia such citizens could simply reevaluate their abilities and move on to a field and task more suitable to their calling and abilities. It’s not a shameful admission to have to declare you’re not suitable for a particular project. The project manager has no motive to replace or get rid of a citizen able to perform their task. Certainly, not to cut wages, right? No individual citizen’s livelihood is riding on the assignment or dismissal of any useful citizen, whether it’s the project manager or the worker themselves. The only thing riding on the assignment of workers is production. If you don’t have enough workers production stops. So I just wanted to make clear our system functions in such a way that antagonistic relationships between project managers and workers cannot develop to the degree that they can on Earth between employers and employees.”
Sheffield: Interesting. “Thank you for that clarification, Ambassador. I’m sure this particular information will be of great value to the many industry and labor leaders watching our interview. I was going to ask you, are there no rich in your culture?”
Ambassador: “Our society is rich in resources and resource equality precisely because our citizens are not extravagant or demanding in their needs. For instance, it would be considered a shameful weakness in our culture to live in one of the large houses or mansions we see on your planet because you are in effect saying to the group ‘I need to draw all this material out of the planet’s resource pool just for my comfort and my comfort alone.’ Do you see how this would become an extremely selfish act when seen from the perspective of a world where there are others dependent on those same resources for their survival other than just yourself? Now it is not a law on Energia that you can’t build a mansion but the cultural shame involved and practical considerations based on our land management system, discourage such personal construction practices. Others who have the same biological necessities as you are capable of being content in their 8×20 portable houses but you need this palatial palace? If it is not a biological, medical or survival necessity – which our society is happy to make allowances for – what is it? I’ll tell you what it is: ego. Unrestrained ego and material vanity drives troublemakers to insist on having more and more than their neighbor. Not just slightly more. Grossly more. More than one citizen could use or need in a lifetime. Wastefulness for the pride and display of wasting. The ego of regarding oneself as special and deserving of more than others. On Earth the cultural trend is for your citizens to take pride in having more, reviling in it and showcasing it. This is the kind of competitiveness that must cease before a fully cooperative culture, and all the benefits and advantages it brings, can develop at all. And so we have no gluttonous rich on Energia because no one wants to be that kind of citizen. We have citizens who are very comfortable.”
Sheffield: “But doesn’t this emphasis on nature disregard all the energy put into production?”
Ambassador: “Not at all. We understand that citizens put some energy into the procurement of resources and production of materials. But one of the hallmark signatures of any intelligent species that comes to dominate its planet is the efficient application of energy. There is an increasingly higher output return for input energy as an intelligent species evolves. For instance, when your species first started hunting, the resource output to input ratio might have been the energy exertion of five to six hunters per the procurement of one package of meat. As your weapons became more modernized the ratio became one hunter for every one animal. And as your hunting methods became more sophisticated, employing the tactic of driving animals off cliffs, the ratio again employed maybe around five-six hunters but this time the output return was perhaps an entire herd, perhaps more resources an early tribe could even use. With modernization, agriculture, domestication, the assembly line and so forth, the return for energy input became even still more efficient so that the energy a member of your species needs to put into their survival is nowhere near what was required of them at the dawn of your appearance on the planet. So what we have is an output efficiency that has increased dramatically in contrast to a species’ survival requirements, give and take a few luxuries and some enhanced medical capabilities, that have basically remained unchanged. You still require roughly the same nutritional input you needed to function two-hundred and fifty-thousand years ago, if not less now that you are less active, despite an output nutrition to energy input ratio that must have increased a hundred fold since the dawn of your species. Your shelters, despite their exaggerated appearance, still have the same job a cave or hut had thousands of years ago. And yet you insist on making them complicated, resource intensive monuments to your unrestrained vanities. You still require around the same temperatures for your comfort you had since you first appeared on the planet but as your housing has grown in size, along with your egos, so has your need for the energy and power consumption to control your vast interior climates. None of these extravagances come into play on Energia. But all of your basic necessities can be provided today with a fraction of the energy and hardship it took to procure them in your distant past…if you chose to make it easy on yourselves. The same principle can be applied to your knowledge. Increased automation has made the application of your knowledge to the performance of many tasks infinitely easier and accessible, as well. So you have to ask yourselves, how much of a violation is it really if some of the output from this increased energy and information efficiency, instead of being wasted on a policy of resource mismanagement and blind ego-fulfillment, is shared without a personal cost/benefit analysis and without holding every member of your species accountable for their increased comfort? If you are getting what you need and much more with a fraction of the effort exerted thousands of years before, what is the point of denying a part of it from another member of your own species? It matters not whether they are starving or able. The concept of a group, in my culture, implies the sharing of successes. Otherwise, you are not a group but a solitary species. Does not a troop of chimpanzees share territory? And isn’t one member’s discovery of a fruit tree or chasing out of an invader the success of the group that share that territory? Of course, it is. Where you have a group cooperating over anything, sharing in its successes is implied. And the degree to which any group cooperates is proportional to the extent that its individual successes and luck benefit the group and, correspondingly, its social evolutionary development. If I can harvest more berries than I need for myself with the exertion of less energy than the consumption of a fraction of those berries can put back into me, why do I need to withhold what remains from my neighbor or put a price tag on it? I am already far ahead on the energy exerted to nutritional benefit scale that secures my survival with no sign of that ever changing. Why do I need to hoard even more resources for myself? Adding price tags to this excess production would only be an artificial obstacle placed between a cooperative society and its survival.”
Sheffield: “But if there are no profits involved in manufacturing any product or providing any service, what incentive does anyone have to produce or work harder than anyone else? Why shouldn’t everyone just give the minimum of time and effort or none at all to reap the benefits of collective resource distribution?”
Ambassador: “As I’ve been saying, Brian, without profits or money does the need for resources and services go away? Does the need for shelter or food or medical aid and cures go away from a species? Does the incentive to provide resources and services to others go away without a monetary reward? Do we suddenly lose our desire to keep our loved ones sheltered, our children fed and healthy without the incentive of money? Was there no innovation before your invention of money? Will the desire to solve the riddles of aging and sickness disappear without a profit? Is the possibility of lengthening our lives worth less than a pay check? Do you see now the undeserved power you’ve given to money? The desire for life enhancing comforts does not go away just because you remove the profit motive. The incentive for a society taking action to produce those comforts is in having them in the first place. If citizens want the comfort of electric light enough, the lack of a profit incentive will not stop them from pooling their energies and knowledge into manufacturing them. Before money, did it stop them from guarding territory together, from group hunting, from foraging, from domesticating crops and animals? Will we suddenly go from a cooperative species to a solitary one if we can’t have a profitable business? If increased medical investigation and training shows that your unhealthy loved ones and members of your tribe can be cured, the absence of a profitable business model will not prevent doctors from appearing. The results of knowledgable medical intervention are their own reward to a society in a cooperative relationship for survival. Would a society abandon such life saving knowledge if the money was gone but the will and energy of everyone needed was still there? Will shelter still not get built? Food still not grown? Clothing still not made? The sick still not cared for? Scientific curiosity still not occur? Weren’t all these things done before your paid employment existed? No, we do not pay our citizens for producing the necessities of our and their own survival and comfort. Yes, new luxuries still get produced in our society along with vital staples because the visions and needs of multiple citizens overlap, converge and combine to form teams of production with the mutual goal of producing something useful for themselves and the society. They decide what they require and enlist the freely given energies of their fellow citizens so that as many as possible may have it. The desire to see the same innovation produced can exist in the engineer as well as the miner and so their purposes can coincide and their energies teamed without charge to produce it. Is there any point in denying any worthy endeavor a bit of your free time and energy when you are comfortably sheltered, adequately fed, your health looked after and half of your time and energy still your own? Is there any point in denying your work to a cooperative when you will ultimately reap the benefits of its production? Is there any need to drive a free workforce beyond its endurance when you can rotate them from an endless and willing citizenry of free workers? What other arrangement could be more self-sustaining? Why should anyone do anything, you ask? Because some, perhaps you, will either die or live without if you don’t.”
Sheffield: “Why help anyone but yourself? What’s in it for me, so to speak?”
Ambassador: “Are your ties to your own species really so weak that you can ask that?”
Sheffield: “But with all due respect, Ambassador, what prevents cheaters in such a system?”
Ambassador: “The lack of injustice and exploitation that encourages them in yours. Cheaters appear when they feel in danger of never getting enough and because they don’t know what is enough.”
Sheffield: “Exactly. Some who already have enough want more just for the sake of having more than others.”
Ambassador: “And why? Because of a system that always leaves its citizens in danger of exploitation or not having enough. Such a system encourages the gluttony of wealth and resources. So it’s not a surprise that you see cheaters and we do not. If, at the very worst, you are a slacker, why risk the shame of societal disapproval and suspicion if your comfort is secure, your occupation of your energies is going toward what you believe in and your workload light? What calls for the kind of competing economic systems on Earth that are filled with suspicions and corruption, is the desire to protect ones energy from exploitation and the fear of not getting enough for your energies. But when you are getting enough, when your comforts are secure, even in your monetary-based society, you can be more generous and less defensive with freely sharing your excess energies. Our system is about the application of our collective energy, not the centralized accumulation of capital or wealth. Our energy is our wealth and it already exists. On Energia, our energy comes from our star as your energy comes from yours. There is no need to create it, only manage it to the best of our collective survival and comfort.”
Sheffield: “But, in the admittedly rare case of cheaters, how did your system, before full automation, keep track of how much resources each citizen was given to avoid them taking advantage of the system?”
Ambassador: “A regular supply report is kept electronically for each adult citizen, which enable both the governing authorities and the citizen to monitor and review their monthly resource allocation patterns. Upon reception of resources, the supply report, which is still in use today, is updated for that citizen with their latest supply requests. Any attempt to exceed the designated provisions for a single month would automatically induce an alert and an investigation into the matter would ensue. Our system knows exactly how much cooperatively produced goods have been handed out to each citizen so there really is no danger of a citizen walking out of a supply depot or ordering with anything in excess of their monthly allowance of provisions. Not all resources must be reported, as in the case of many self-manufactured goods. Citizens are allowed to have more and less resources than others as long as it does not violate environmental regulations regarding environmental impact or is an abusive consumption of a monitored resource or service. For instance, you are typically entitled to one of any technological device, as they are available, and that device must work. But you are not necessarily entitled to two. It depends on their function and use and production rates. Similarly, when it comes to any service like medical services, you are entitled to whatever will do the needed job all the way up to keeping you alive, provided there is the possibility of resuscitation. Of course, all resources are dependent on availability.”
Sheffield: “As you’ve mentioned, Energian Economics is a non-monetary system. Without money, how do Energians determine how much goods an Energian is entitled? How do they even pick and choose their different item preferences without a monetary value from which to subtract the value of the goods they are taking for themselves?”
Ambassador: “In the Energian system, instead of money, we use Supply Packets. Supply Packets, using your calendar values, can come in Day Units, Week Units, Two Week Units or Month Units. And the Energian citizen can pick and choose in which increment they want their supply packets or a mixture of units but they cannot exceed a Month Unit Packet for a single month. Each of these units are comprised of supplies, let’s use food for an example, that will meet the nutritional requirements for the most naturally robust Energian for either a day, a week, two weeks or a month. And the citizen can pick and choose and swap out any smaller supply packet units they choose within any larger unit as long as the units do not exceed the units set for a single month. These packets are infinitely customizable but in keeping with a population consuming within a range of sustainability and resource balance. So that way the Energian can pick and choose their meals based on their personal preferences without introducing resource imbalance.
There are also, translated into your language, what are called Meal Units. Meal Units are single items which can be swapped out with other meal units that comprise a Day Unit to provide even more nutritional customization in accordance with a citizen’s preferences. So if you want one kind of meal unit, and a Day Unit contains a different kind of meal unit, you can swap the one for the other.
The final size of these Supply Packets is not subject to the whims of a commission or someone with access to the computer program but to the biological nutritional values determined by our scientists to adequately support the daily functions and health of the Energian body for a day, a week, two weeks or a month plus a little bit more to always make sure everyone is covered to their contentment. So every Energian always has access to slightly more a supply of food a month than our scientists’ measurements have determined even the most gluttonous case would tolerate. In fact, early on, most Energians would complain that their regular supplies were too much and we had to make adjustments to our output to accommodate the slightly lower parameters.
And the principle, to varying degrees and dependent upon the shelf life of different goods, is applied to other industry products. Obviously, you would not be able to get a computer, for instance, every month on Energia and you would have to show your current computer has some functional or age degradation to replace it. But, within reason, you can replace things.
It is, however, important to remember, that although the supplied diet has been scientifically and nutritionally calibrated to be slightly over typical requirements, if you want even more food, for example, you are completely allowed, on Energia, to produce food through in-home food cloning kits or a garden by your own hand, as you do on Earth, to supplement your monthly food supply. And if you wanted to sell that food to others willing to participate in some kind of a monetary system with you, you are free to do that. Even though very little gets sold on Energia, the only thing you can’t sell on Energia is land.
There’s one primary reason why you can’t sell your land to anyone on Energia. It discourages the accumulation of land under too few hands that would remove it from free circulation and prevent access to citizens with differing land acquisition and resource management philosophies. You can’t gobble up real estate on Energia and plant the Capitalist flag there and then, when you’re ready to abandon that land, require others to participate in a monetary, capitalist system to gain access to that land. That would be the imposition of one resource management model upon another, which we see is done on your planet with the sanction and reinforcement of your various governing institutions. So you get caught selling land on Energia, you’re in trouble.
In regards to resources besides land, if you want extra on Energia, you are perfectly allowed to add it yourself but without the free help from the Energian labor cooperative if you are not contributing energy back into the system. And if you can’t create what you want yourself, you’ll have to learn to be satisfied with what is granted you by our cooperative labor. The point is, you’re not going to use free cooperative labor to indulge your extravagances without participating in the system yourself. If you want a low-impact home with a kitchen, bathroom, bedroom, living room, light line connectivity and so forth, the cooperative will provide it for you. If you want a palace for yourself, build it yourself. You’re not going to exploit resources and Energian free cooperative work for something you don’t really need anyway to be comfortable. It’s not a system that is going to indulge your every subjective whim and personal conception of comfort. It’s a system that provides a fixed level of comfort based on a scientifically determined universal standard which all share in common biologically and intellectually in conjunction with the technological advancements at any given time. For anything extra you will have to gain the cooperation of others by making a deal with them outside the governing Energian cooperative system. If you want to make extra stuff yourself to increase your personal happiness, fine. But you’re not going to enlist a free cooperative for that unless the intention is that the cooperative group will benefit equally also. You’re not going to make yourself somebody’s slave driver so you can stockpile personal wealth or strip Energia of more resources than anybody else. If you produce a good with the help of the cooperative, the intention must be to distribute it amongst the cooperative or have a very good reason upfront for why the product may only be accessible to or desired by a few, like interstellar space travel or high altitude atmosphere skydiving. But if you make something all by yourself, you can keep it. On Energia we think that’s a balanced approach and, more importantly, it recognizes the difference between individual production and group production, which is a vital distinction to make.
That is not to say any capitalist wouldn’t be free to engage in monetary exchanges with others within the confines and with the allotted free land they have been granted on Energia. A monetary capitalist can exist and is allowed on Energia. Such a citizen would still be able to negotiate with others who prefer a monetary based form of exchange. For instance, you will be able to create products with others and sell them to still others who want to participate in a monetary consumerist relationship, as odd and fool-hardy as that would be considered on Energia. And you will be able to pool your allotted five acres of free land together with the allotted free land of other such imagined and unlikely Energian capitalists to create your business manufacturing enterprises. You can maintain such an arrangement for as long as you are all in possession of your allotted land and do not officially abandon it on record for land elsewhere. You just won’t be able to force your monetary relationship upon others by trying to sell your land when you have finished with it and want to move elsewhere. You will have to freely abandon your land when you are ready to move elsewhere and that means having made allowances earlier for moving your enterprise. But as you are an advocate of a monetary economy, I would expect you to have the resources to move your enterprise if and when you are ready to do so. If you wish to have multiple businesses in multiple locations, you will have to negotiate with others sympathetic to capitalism and a monetary system for the use of their land in partnership or through some other exchange or deal between you and them.
But notice, the Energian system preserves much of your ability to be a capitalist and use money in your exchanges while ensuring everyone is granted a portion of free land to practice whatever kind of economy they want with others who share their socio-economic resource philosophy. But you cannot sell your land or any extra land you have negotiated for its access and use. If you have no more use for the land and wish to leave you must abandon it and freely allow that parcel to circulate back into the public system.
The various merits of either system which you and I have been using to attack each system are entirely beside the point. It doesn’t matter whether one or the other economy will work or not according to our preferences. One, indeed, might be more conducive to quick growth than the other while producing a tremendous amount of waste and unnecessary excess and resource imbalance. While the other might be a slower paced, more technologically reserved system which preserves the environment and efficiently manages resources without waste or imbalanced distribution. None of the logistical specifics of each system matters.
The real point is that everyone has an equal ability and chance to practice the resource management philosophy that they prefer. Now, on Earth that may entail each side making some allowances for and to the other. A capitalist monetary system might not be able to claim the whole planet and its resources in its name and under its use, for instance. The Earth nor Energia, after all, did not come with the giant words Capitalism or Socialism stamped across their surfaces. Energia and its resources always sit in neutral economic limbo and an economic system only applied to any part of it when, and for the duration, that someone is occupying that part. And once that person or group is finished with that part of the Energian surface it returns to its neutral economic state, allowing for the potential of multiple socio-economic philosophies to exist upon it in different places at different times with no one fully able to forcefully claim or control Energia, its resources or its citizens in its name.
So while Capitalism and use of money is not prohibited on Energia, it is in no way a dominant practice chiefly because, in its unrestrained policy of land control, it would nullify or heavily restrict all other economic models. It just so happens that the vast majority of Energians predominantly prefer and practice the cooperative, moneyless resource management system, which is greatly favored. Our few experiments with money, hierarchical labor management and merit-based systems have proven far too conflict-ridden and unattractive to Energians when compared to the predominant cooperative resource management system.
Many more Energians prefer a philosophy of land management with an initial starting point granting a portion of land for all adults without conditions, over one that requires them to obtain money or resources before access to land is granted, which is a very important point and distinction. Just consider the inherent absurdity in your present economic model of requiring resources to gain access to land, that which is the source of resources. Need I say more? But if one was so inclined, one could practice a combination of both moneyless cooperative and monetary exchange on Energia. We just don’t see any of the latter, for many of the reasons I’ve previously outlined.”
Sheffield: “But isn’t recirculating land back into free public access a case of applying a system upon others who may be unwilling to participate?”
Ambassador: “Do you agree that a planet devoid of humans or energians is politically and economically neutral? In other words, there is no stamp on it that says a planet and its resources are hereby reserved in service of either Capitalism or Socialism or Energianism?”
Sheffield: “Yes, of course. But one can determine which works better by…”
Ambassador: “Forget for a moment about the merits of any particular system over any other…We are just concerned with what a planet is without anyone there to apply their socio-economic preferences upon it.”
Ambassador: “So you have an unclaimed, unoccupied parcel of land. Does that unclaimed, unoccupied parcel of land come with an economic theory attached to it?”
Ambassador: “Right. It’s raw land in every sense of the word. An economic theory can only be applied to a piece of land by the way citizens manage that land and use its resources. So before human or energian habitation, all land starts out as politically and economically neutral. The starting point of any land is completely neutral and a policy of management only gets assigned to it when a person comes along and begins to apply a policy of management to that land and its resources. And when that land is abandoned or is no longer of use to its previous occupant, the resource management model that was being applied to it, expires and the land returns to the neutral state in which it was found.”
Ambassador: “So if you are going to claim that people are free to pursue the resource management system of their preference with a limited amount of interference and imposition, that initial neutrality of the Earth, as on Energia, must be preserved. And we do that on Energia by keeping land freely available to all adults regardless of wealth and by maintaining a limit on the amount of land that can be assigned to an individual for use at once. Therefore you cannot sell your allotted parcel of five or less acres on Energia. In the slim chance you were a capitalist on Energia, you could lease or rent out your parcel or a portion of it – not that anyone would buy it – but once you are done using your allotted parcel for the purpose you put it to, whether it was to serve yourself or the cooperative, since its access was freely provided to you, you are expected and required to freely release it back into public circulation when you are done with it. You can use your allotted land to amass wealth while you occupy it, if that’s want you want, and even bargain with others for the use of their land. But you cannot amass land personally and you cannot sell any of the land you use when you’re done with it. You can’t put a price tag on it when you’re ready to leave. You must leave it in the neutral state in which it was allotted to you.”
Sheffield: “But what if I put a lot of work into my allotted parcel that I can’t take with me when I leave, like a house, landscaping and so forth? How do I recoup the expense whether in my own energy or a form of money I paid to other capitalists to work on my house or beautify my allotted land?”
Ambassador: “Then, like all Energians, you should have done some serious consideration on how you wanted to house yourself and develop your land and what you would be willing to part with if you ever moved. Different laws require different approaches. There is a reason why Energians live low impact lives, Mr. Sheffield, and this is it. Energians leave their allotted parcels very much the way they found them.”
Sheffield: “So if I put work into my allotted parcel to make it more attractive and livable that doesn’t get me anything in return than anyone else’s land when I leave it?”
Ambassador: “It is important to remember that there might be other reasons, besides profit when you leave, to beautify and develop your allotted land. There is of course the consideration that you may be making your land more livable for yourself and family. Especially, if it is a parcel you anticipate never leaving or staying on for a long time. If it is a parcel on which you anticipate a short stay, you may further elect to forego improvements until you find a parcel upon which your length of stay will be more significant or permanent. And neither is renting out your developed parcel or a portion of it to reap a profit, in the rare instance on Energia that you participate in a form of monetary capitalism, prohibited to you. Remember, Brian, when it comes to improving ones allotted land on Energia, the untransportable work of the capitalist and the collectivist are both subject to unrewarded abandonment when a parcel is left and depending on the manner in which one develops and improves the parcel. Both will not be able to take every improvement with them and they need to make allowances for that, or, as the Energians have, devise ways and choose improvements that can be taken with them. And consider this one last point, Brian. If, as you say, a capitalist would object to his improvements to his parcel going unrewarded monetarily, let him remember that parcel was freely provided and guaranteed to him under a system organized to make his free access to land possible. So if he must, as a capitalist, factor in cost, let him also factor in the cost of the parcel that would otherwise not be freely provided him under a capitalist monetary system. So he can look at the improvements he left behind as payment for the continued free use of the land he has been provided. Fortunately, most Energians don’t suffer from such a mental dilemma.”
Sheffield: “What about gathering and laying claim to resources on Energia? How do Energians gain access to the raw materials for their goods if those resources lay on lands other than their allotted parcels?”
Ambassador: “On Energia there are personal parcels, where people live and have their homes, and resource parcels. As with a personal parcel, which may also contain resources, any adult Energian citizen can apply for a resource parcel, provided they will use the resource from that parcel toward the production of a good or service. Not every Energian is engaged in directly transforming raw material so not every Energian will be allotted a resource parcel. You have to show that you yourself or in cooperation with others are transforming that raw resource into a good that you are either selling or, more likely on Energia, you are providing free to the cooperative. Once you are allotted your resource parcel the rules are relatively the same as the personal parcel: You are limited to five acres, you can coordinate with others with parcels to produce more goods, you can’t sell your resource parcel when you are done with it and so forth. Other rules that apply to resource parcels are you can’t live on one and simultaneously maintain your personal parcel and if you should stop producing the good for which the resource parcel was allotted to you, you lose access to the resource parcel and it returns to public circulation.”
Sheffield: “What about one-of-a-kind items that your citizens may want? How does Energian cooperative economics decide if I or Tom gets the one-of-a-kind item? It seems impossible to solve without money.”
Ambassador: “Simple. The way it solves everything. An Energian participating in the cooperative resource management system will give the item away. Money is just an obstacle to getting rid of something you no longer want anyway. Unfortunately, Earthlings seem so obsessed with making a profit you cannot even conceive of the simplest answer. Such situations are a mystery and riddle to you without money. The primary goal of our cooperative system is not to eliminate every single minor inequality. If something gets produced in a low number cooperatively, the goods go out on a first come, first served basis. Of course, if you wanted to try and sell it you are free to do so on Energia but I doubt you would be successful and probably get looked at strangely for the attempt. And indeed whatever this item is that is being produced in so low a quantity is probably not any item critical to anyone’s survival. So what value could it have but artificial?”
Sheffield: “Assuming the majority of your citizens are acting within your laws, how do you ensure all goods and services are available under your cooperative resource management system?”
Ambassador: “If the energy to produce any good or service is not there in sufficient quantity, that good or service tends not to be available. But it is precisely this threat, of a vital resource or service being unavailable, that drives a steady stream of volunteers for their production and practice. Citizens do not want to go without these items and services for themselves and their loved ones and, therefore, there is never a lack of candidates for ensuring these items and services remain available. When faced with the possibility of going without certain resources, items and services, citizens take it upon themselves to join the ranks of those providing it or devise additional, and sometimes innovative means, for providing them. Citizens looking for work would purposely scan lists of occupations with low volunteer ranks to apply their energies and ensure a steady flow of that resource. So it’s not money that spurs the application of energy in our dominant economic system, but need. We act to produce and perform certain tasks because we know we need the products of those tasks and fear losing them, not because someone wants to build up a business or wealth for themselves. The alternative is to fall back into a more primitive civilization. Non-production is its own punishment. The essential resources and services, such as food, shelter, healthcare, clothing, etc, would be unlikely to run out if a society wants to continue having these essentials and services. The minute people stop working to provide these essentials and services the society will feel their lack and a disruption of the supply would be its own punishment and incentive for people to return to the exertion of energy to produce them.”
Sheffield: “But what if a group of individuals decides they only want to provide enough of whatever goods and services for themselves and no one else? Suppose they don’t want to use their energies to help anyone outside their group?”
Ambassador: “There have been experiments tried which are more or less microcosms of our larger society. They accomplish nothing but to reproduce our system, but on a smaller and limited scale confined only to themselves. And there have been other experiments where individual families have gone entirely off the socio-economic grid and try to harvest and provide their needed resources and all their services entirely themselves. We have no problem with these experiments, although they are unnecessary. Our system is designed to shield itself and the larger population from any negative or disrupting effects of such experiments. However, if a group within our system still accepting its benefits wanted to provide only for themselves and provide no benefit to the larger population, they would encounter a number of problems. The paramount problem, as I previously indicated, being that if too many decide not to return any energy to the vital areas of the system, the resources, goods and services they are depending on would suffer in availability and eventually dry up. So it makes little sense for the mass of the population to deny the cooperative system their energies in return. They would only be ultimately denying these resources, goods and services to themselves. Secondly, individual free riders of the system are easy to spot and investigate because all cooperative energy input and supply acquisitions are automatically managed by a decentralized and publicly available database. Someone who didn’t show up anywhere on the production and service allocation records, or not enough, yet was still in the supply records would eventually be asked why. Of course, there are allowances made for the disabled, elderly and temporary medical conditions, but any otherwise healthy individual would generate an inquiry. Of course, much of this no longer applies as our citizens have been largely freed from their production and service obligations to themselves and society since total automation.”
Sheffield: “So, in a sense, healthy citizens in your society who didn’t want to work, were compelled by the state to do so? Granted, they were abusing the system, but solving the dilemma still required force on the part of the state to compel them to contribute their energies, did it not?”
Ambassador: “Actually, the inquiry by the state in such matters was not about forcing but more about shielding the system from such abuses. The dominant cooperative system looks upon such free riders as citizens in need of increased self-sufficiency since they seem so reluctant to return the benevolent energies of those dependent upon their own. It’s a case of the resource management philosophy of the individual against the resource management philosophy of the group. One can’t exist with or upon the other and so the free rider is simply given the option by the cooperative to choose one or the other but not both. You cannot be a solitary predator in the midst of a herd of your prey. But I want to emphasize, the solution is not to deny the freedom or choice of the offender but to protect cooperators from exploitation. One of our pre-robotic system’s chief activities was to promote independence and encourage more technologies that make the citizen less dependent on and responsible for others while still ensuring their comfort and survival. We understand the desire not to be obligated to provide our energies to others. That is why our robotic industry developed and took off. But before full automation, we could not allow the cooperative system to be exploited by the non-cooperative. And so if you didn’t want to work before full automation, you were not compelled to do so but you were instead provided with some technologies that enabled you to better draw your resources directly from the environment yourself and then cut off from further goods and services from the cooperative system, if that’s what you really wanted. But given the benefits to costs ratio of our most predominate and popular experiment, it was an option for which only the most hardy and, many would suggest, fool-hardy, would opt.”
Sheffield: “Descriptions of daily life and the structure and planning of your population centers on your home planet has received a great deal if interest and surprise from many members of my species. While some of it is, very much of it seems to be not what we expected from an undoubtedly more technologically advanced society. As you mentioned, most of your citizens, even its highest dignitaries, live in what amount to 8 × 20 portable pods. Can you go into that a little more for our viewers?”
Ambassador: “It’s true. Some of these pods are even smaller. Our early ancestors were nomadic much as yours were…and so our early structures were lightweight, portable and very resource and energy efficient. They were very much like the tipi’s of your early Native Americans. And so the modern pods seen throughout our planet we consider a very natural progression of our earlier portable structures. They, of course, are packed with all the technologies and conveniences that you would expect a modern society to have and will fit. We are very comfortable in them, find them quite luxurious and, more importantly, efficient and accessible to every single one of our citizens. These pods are resource efficient…they are a very manageable and environmentally friendly housing solution, not to mention very easy for the average Energian to learn to construct and maintain entirely on their own. They are also a source of great pride and individual expression. They preserve our environment and free up the mass of our resources for other projects. And lastly, they are low-impact and portable so it makes it very easy and convenient to relocate on the slightest whim. That’s not to say we cannot or do not build monumental structures and buildings. We certainly have them but they are entirely for public, official or scientific use.”
Sheffield: “But don’t you find your private homes constraining and uncomfortable when multiple occupants are all in one pod?”
Ambassador: “No. It is not like that. In the case of multiple occupants of a pod it is no more uncomfortable than it is for me, you and your camera crew to be sharing this room. And besides, if and when personal space becomes an issue for a family member, as it often does, they are provided by their family with their own pod. You see, a maximum of eight pods are allowed in any one five acre rural property at a time so personal space is not a problem. When you need your space at home, do you not retire to your own bedroom or study? Well, it’s the same idea on Energia but you retire to your own pod, which provides a great deal more privacy and mobility than if it was attached to a large house. So this issue of personal space you are talking about is not a problem. But, if I could, I would like to go on and describe our land management philosophy in more detail…”
Ambassador: "As you know there is no buying or selling of land on my planet. Each person or family is limited to occupying, at maximum and at any one time, your Earth equivalent of one five acre plot of land. If your family decides to move, the portable nature of our structures make that very easy to do while returning the land as close to its original untouched natural state as possible. Once your application to abandon your land has been officially approved, your land becomes available to anyone who would like to claim it. No buying, no selling, no contracts, no formal exchange of resources. You submit a form of non-occupancy to the local government, the land is inspected to make sure you haven't left any environmental damage and you're off. No one family can occupy multiple plots of land. You either live in one place or another but you cannot reserve or hold two separate plots of livable land as your own. You can negotiate with others for the use of their land by different means, whether by cooperative or monetary means, the latter being extremely rare, but on official paper, you cannot formally own more land than your allotted share of five or less acres. By this means we have assured a citizenry that never lack a place to live. There is no payment and no minimum requirement of resources to occupy land and so there are no monetary hurdles-- as we see on earth-- placed on any individual's right to a space in which to exist and practice the resource management system of their preference. What is limited is the number of spaces per family or individual and the size. In this way, land occupation never gets too imbalanced in anyone's favor and we assure our full population is granted a livable degree of land use rights."
Sheffield: “What about prime locations? Don’t some citizens occupy better, more attractive and desirable locations than others? How do you avoid a disparity of land distribution?”
Ambassador: “There are several factors at work on our planet that inhibit land disparity and/or land envy. The first is our planet’s environment has not been plundered recklessly or its areas poisoned beyond habitability. So there are virtually endless options and choices for a beautiful and clean setting in which to live. So it will be very difficult to choose a setting to live and still be unhappy with it. Secondly, certain areas like our shorelines have been designated off limits to private housing, period. No one is going to get an ocean view on a natural shoreline no matter who you are or what you do. Our shorelines offer many public resorts citizens may visit for a limited time but no one is allowed anything permanent with an ocean view on a natural beach. Thirdly, we do have issues with demand for parcels closer to our shores. We deal with it on a first come, first served basis. In such areas, an Energian citizen cannot pass the land on to a relative or friend when they move or die, except for one spouse. After the spouse dies, the land goes back into public circulation on a first come, first served basis and any other adults still living there must obtain their own land.That way, everybody at least gets a shot. It doesn’t guarantee everyone access to prime parcels but neither does anything in your system. It does even up the playing field, however, and give every Energian a chance. Fourthly, as you may also have been made aware, full automation has eliminated the necessity for the engagement in regular and local employment. Save for a small contingent of rotating volunteers that supervise and program different processes and occasionally provide undersea repair work for our electromagnet grid, robots comprise the majority of our planet’s workforce and perform the vast majority of its resource gathering, manufacturing and repairs, including themselves. This has freed up our citizenry from having to live around large urban, industrial and agricultural centers and given them many more spectacular and beautiful settings to choose from in which to live. Lastly, we have achieved a civilization so devoted and fine tuned to guaranteeing each citizen, at the very least, a livable and comfortable level of existence and support, our citizens do not panic and shout if someone happens, through accident or luck, to get a little better view than them.”
Interview Narration Overdub: The ambassador smiled here in what seemed obvious amusement, presumedly at the level of pettiness human interactions and relationships can rise.
Ambassador: “They know it is not a disparity that will either last or be allowed to grow into a major socio-economic imbalance or advantage. We are all content and satisfied enough that we don’t feel the need to be hyper-sensitive to every little imbalance or incidental perk. It is such childish microscopic envy that sets runaway consumption and mass resource distribution inequities in motion. We are not children.”
Sheffield: “Can you step back and describe how the Energians arrived at their ideas for large group resource management?”
Ambassador: “To visualize the Energian economic philosophy at its most simplest form, imagine a small group of prehistoric individuals. The survival advantages of a group over a solitary individual are myriad and need not be detailed in this brief rundown. It can be strongly concluded that the formation of societal groups occurred because their formation had survival value for their individual members and the group as a whole. Groups, it therefore follows, are agreed upon instruments of mutual survival and comfort between individuals. They are unwritten contracts their members have with one another to enhance and maintain a certain level of life quality for each other in cooperation. A nation is no less an organized group with codes of conduct and agreed upon rules of behavior, some written, some not, than a group of prehistoric cave dwellers. Nations form, just as tribes, because there is a mutual survival value between its members in uniting or staying united under a larger, official designation. Energian economics centers around distinguishing between what it calls Social Resource Management over and above its direct opposite system, or what it refers to as Individual Resource Management. In Social Resource Management the access to resources of all individuals within the group is the prime consideration. In Individual Resource Management the access of others to resources is beside the point, as Individual Resource Management is a resource management system engaged in by an individual concerned only
with procuring resources for themselves. Energian economics maintains the second a solitary individual enters into a social system with others the economic and social parameters for the success of that individual automatically shifts from a solitary individual economy context of competition, brute aggression, non-sharing and non-compromise to a group economy context of cooperation, sharing and compromise. Energian economics further contends that this difference between solitary individual economics and social economics has an evolutionary basis. To best illustrate how our predominant resource management system was derived from and rooted in the ecological mechanisms of the natural world, we will begin with some simple examples taken from several species, both predatory and prey, in the animal kingdom and work our way toward how that applies or translates to modern Energians. For ease of understanding I will use examples from Earth's animal species to illustrate, as many in your audience are not familiar with the various species on Energia. But, as you will see, the principle is the same. Energian economics begins with the social group and examples can be seen, to varying degrees, even in humans as well as other social animal species on your planet. Perhaps the easiest to use as an illustration is a pride of lions. Not all lions of a pride participate in the hunt but even the non-producers will partake in the kill. Why? If competitiveness is natural, why aren't the non-productive lions treated like any hyena and chased away when food is procured? Some will say because they are close kin, which may have some impact, but not all species remain non-competitive with kin to the same degree or length of time. And just as a quick aside, notice also intelligent species such as Humans and Energians have formed cooperative groups beyond kin and the resulting power and control we have over our respective planets. Lions are clearly treating other lions, regardless of their productive participation, differently than members of other species. That is because there is a survival component to cooperation over resources. Certainly, lions have not overcome all of their competitive instincts-- a lion kill can be a messy, confrontational affair even among close kin-- but they have overcome enough competitiveness to where they can cooperate on a resource so the members of their group, the productive and non-productive alike, can obtain a survival benefit by just being part of the same group. Notice that a pride of lions would be far better at defending their territory than a bear because the lions cooperate as a group and the bear does not. That is because the individual lions within a pride have largely overcome their instinct for competition between each other over territory whereas the bear has not. So, this effects the bears' ability to cooperate in groups and therefore its ability to defend itself successfully against a pride of lions who can cooperate for defense. Also notice that the hyena, much smaller than most bears, because of its more advanced group cooperation, is able to challenge and harass lions on your plains.
Clearly, the above examples show survival benefit to non-aggressive internal cooperation, even if it is expressed in the form of unified aggressive competition with another species. It also clearly represents a step up, evolutionarily, as a member of a species that cooperates with other members of its species obtains a distinct advantage in numbers over a species that follows a solitary behavior pattern. A leopard is not going to challenge a pride of lions over territory or a kill. The difference between a species that accepts the presence and placidly shares territory with the fellow group members of its species and a species that will not accept the encroachment of members of the same species into its territory and the advantage of the former cannot be overestimated. It is a huge evolutionary advantage to tolerate the presence of and to work in conjunction with other group members of your species in holding onto territory. Cooperation over maintaining territory is one of the steps toward cooperative egalitarian culture. If a species can’t overcome its territorial instinct on something so basic as sharing land, there is little chance it will be able to overcome its other competitive behaviors and little chance that it ever could rise to the level of earthly dominance we see in humans today. It can almost be said that cooperation over territory is the smallest step a species can take toward a social economics to which all the other steps, such as sharing of food, social grooming and so forth, have a chance to follow. It is by no means the fullest extent but that it evolved shows it has survival value and we see it in your cousin, the chimpanzee. Chimpanzees typically patrol their territory in troops. Omitting the advantages gained through cooperating over the hunt and cooperating over division of food resources, consider just the benefits of two usual adversaries just cooperating over territory with a relatively stable amount of resources and how such a behavior could have slowly developed. Before sharing of territory developed, the usual response to an adversarial encroachment upon territory was aggression. We still see it in many species like bears, the solitary big cats, snakes and non-kin of group species. The usual outcome of such confrontations is one of the participants is chased away by threat, injury or is outright killed. This may also include serious or even mortal wounds to the victor, as well. Imagine this type of confrontation being played out for thousands of years. Such repeated violent encounters over many generations won’t have as good a track record in terms of survivability compared to two members of the same species that manage to share relatively close or maybe overlapping territories yet shy away from confrontation with each other. Evolution will start to favor the animal with the less aggressive behavior gene and mutually laid back neighbor simply because there are more of them around to replicate since they are not fighting. Meanwhile the numbers of the more aggressive members of the same species are negatively impacted by too many tragic ends to violent encounters and less of their aggressive genes end up being passed on. Of course, two members of the same species that cooperated enough to not only share but mutually defend the same territory would be a step even further along the process of socialization and bring its own new set of advantages.
Another behavior it is clear species have cooperated over is the procurement of nutrition. The repeated circumstances that might have given rise to group sharing packets of nutrition can be easily evoked with the current theories in science and without much liberty of imagination. If you are the successful hunter of a group cooperating over territory, after you have made a successful kill, right away the other members of your group, driven by hunger, will challenge you for your kill. This challenge, once the other members became hungry enough, would inevitably involve serious physical confrontation, as hunger is a great motivator for violence. How the successful hunter responds to the instinctual drive for food from the other members is critical and can determine if the hunter survives to pass his genes on. If the hunter decides to fight it out against the hungry members of his species, who out number him because this would be more of a proto-egalitarian group, where sharing was not quite implicitly understood in all realms, he risks being killed. The hunter that fights over resources is more likely to die and thus not pass on his genes. So the recurring issue of trying to placate the other hungry members of your group in order not to be killed or injured requires a different response from the successful hunter than fighting. So this sets up a grading of responses that lead us to a proto-morality and the refined and non-violent distribution of food we have today.
Once a successful hunter’s life is at stake from a coalition of hungry members of his group over his kill, one response to secure his immediate survival would be to abandon the kill. While this would secure the hunter’s immediate survival, it may be unsatisfactory over the long run, as the abandoned food is nutrition the hunter needs to survive, and again, ultimately reproduce and replicate its genes. This resource pressure on the successful hunter will invoke a ramp of responses modified over time to get to a more evolved behavior. Suppose such abandonment of a kill was an adaptive response to dealing with coalition threats from hungry subordinates? Full abandonment wasn’t quite right and lead to the hunter’s eventual starvation and face to face confrontation was too risky, so suppose the behavior was slowly refined over time from full abandonment or confrontation to an equally agreeable distribution where both parties could obtain a mutually agreeable satisfaction of their needs that didn’t necessitate conflict or flight? Going from full abandonment of a kill, which was too much, all the way through different degrees of too much or not enough until we arrived at not only an equally agreeable blueprint for group food distribution but displacement behavior in the hunter of leaving portions of meat aside for the group as a pre-defensive tactic to ensure its own survival? Successful hunters that practiced this kind of proto-moral behavior of recognizing the nutritional needs of others, would be left alone by hungry coalitions, thus securing an acceptable level of satisfaction of their own needs.
If you compare any species today and examine their level of sociability, you will see as the level of in-group competition falls in a species, the level of survival advantages over out-group competition increases. All other things like size and speed being equal between solitary and social animals: Animals that can coordinate in packs have better chances of taking down prey. Animals that can cooperate for defense have better chances of defending territory, themselves and their offspring. Animals that share food are better nourished than they would be otherwise. Animals that condense in large herds are confusing and harder for predators to bring down. As far as is known, competitiveness and cooperation exist side-by-side in different degrees in all species, including humans. And how much a species cooperates is an indicator of the level of success and dominance of that species.
Undoubtedly, there is survival value in cooperation or social units in any species would not have evolved. But quite apart from any hypotheses describing the evolutionary steps that put both of our civilizations where we are today, there is no doubt we are here and that cooperation of egalitarian societies is what enabled us to evolve to dominant both our respective planets more than any other species. Beyond the artificial contests humans engage in, participating in true competition, the kind found in the eco-chain of Nature, is a danger to the survival of the competitors and any behavior that alleviates competitive activity is a benefit. What confuses the issue for many on your planet is the failure to identify the difference between economics that serve the individual when they are solitary and an economics that serves the individual when they are part of a cooperating social unit. There is a shift in what qualifies as a functional economy depending on whether you are just an individual, solitary species collecting resources from nature apart from a cohesive group by yourself as opposed to a member of a group that is cooperating over a swath of activities. Most of the groups on Earth are still on the cusp between individual resource management thinking and social resource management thinking. Humans are still partly at the mercy of their instinctually driven and individualistic tendencies to compete and employ aggression to serve their needs. That is what keeps your civilization from realizing its full cooperative potential. On Energia we have consciously identified those out of date instincts and completely have overridden the undesirable ones. And this conscious thinking has been what has shaped our economic model.
In addition to recognizing the difference between social resource management and individual resource management, another relationship critical to understanding Energian economics is the aspects of dependence and self-sufficiency. At every possible level, cooperative Energian economics is structured to employ technology and socialization to increase the individual's self-sufficiency and shift their recurring dependence directly upon others to dependence directly upon the environment and technology. Ultimately, and despite the many evolutionary advantages to be gained from group interdependence, dependence upon others rather than the environment represents an intermediary between an individual and the natural resources they require for their comfort and existence. Again, in many ways, this relationship has many benefits such as the specialization of labor to produce ever more technologically sophisticated and useful goods. However, as such a relationship is open to exploitation and abuse, Energian cooperative economics, through the use and production of technology whenever possible, attempts to shift recurring individual dependence and burden away from the group and directly back on to the environment. Whenever possible technology is created and distributed that enables the individual to obtain and produce more and more of the resources and goods they require for their comfortable existence without further or regularly recurring involvement of others. Ultimately, all resources are drawn from the environment, not other members of your species. Although cooperative relationships solve a great many problems and provide a great deal of technological conveniences, new problems still arise when dependence is shifted from directly off of the environment onto other members of your group. Beyond whatever inherent extraction issues the environment may present in obtaining resources, it isn't capable of being additionally consciously difficult or uncooperative. Dependence upon the work of others represents an added, often problematic, step between an individual and the resources they require for their existence. Disagreements over energy input, distribution, labor organization, treatment and so forth, can stifle production, progress and ultimately access to resources. Energian economics, before full automation, was aimed at reducing such dependency as much as possible between individuals. For instance, cooperative work was employed to produce the technology of solar energy collection, but the technology of solar energy collection ultimately reduced the individual's recurring dependence upon the work of others, who's energy might have been applied more regularly upon the extraction of fossil fuels if the solar energy collection technology had never been produced. So, yes, a certain amount of cooperation was required to produce the technology directed at increasing individual self-sufficiency, but the cooperative energy was employed to ultimately, reduce the overall recurring dependence upon the energy of others and shift it back onto the environment. Our robotic industry arose directly out of this approach and eventually solved the remaining problems of unreliability and conflict involved in mutual dependence on the group. Much of your current economic system on Earth, in comparison, involves so much dependence, it doesn't even work as designed for the vast majority of your populace. For instance, why are loans necessary in your economic model at all? Why can't working people procure homes and cars and medical care with their own money after working 40 hours a week rather than being dependent upon others for loans? They must look to others for help to obtain these things in a system that claims it is structured to enable and require citizens to obtain resources themselves. Things are priced out of reach in a system where working is supposed to put them in reach. So what does that say about your system where people are working but still need large loans from others to either obtain shelter or even not be relegated to sub standard shelter? So the essence of Energian economics is simultaneously addressing the issue of recurring dependence and countering the unwanted imposition of what we call individual resource management-- which in many ways promotes these unhealthy examples of dependence-- in a group resource management system."
Sheffield: “You don’t deny that in your very ancient past, members of your species once played the part of an enemy?”
Ambassador: “Of course. Our archeologists have uncovered evidence for such a past in our species of a very ancient nature. It is a learning process all species must go through.”
Sheffield: “And how far along in that process do you believe your species has come?”
Interview Narration Overdub: The ambassador paused for a moment before answering and fixed on me a quiet and intense gaze.
Ambassador: “All the way, Brian.”
Interview Narration Overdub: It was then that it struck me that it was not just an advanced extraterrestrial sitting before me. The Ambassador could have been a Buddhist monk, in comparison, whose species had struggled and taken the steps to acquire wisdom and knew the steps our own species had taken and still had to take. All from a three word response and a laser-like gaze that saw everything.
Sheffield: “So, Ambassador, you have observed and studied the different political and economic systems of Earth, what is the Energian assessment of the mostly competing theories of Capitalism and Socialism? According to a species which has eliminated conflict, which one is right?”
Ambassador: “Neither. Of course, there have been small experiments on Energia with economies similar to both in practice, although the overwhelming majority of Energians preferred the pre-robotic cooperative system of energy management we had before automation freed us from work. Predictably, Energian economics has some aspects that will appear to mimic Capitalism or Socialism. For instance we have the industrial production of Capitalism and freedom of movement and activity, without the uneven distribution of resources, the monetary system or the environmental degradation. We also have the cooperative work and redistribution of resources of Socialism, but we don’t have the control of the movements or activities of our citizens found in the more extreme versions of Socialism. Capitalism and Socialism are two sides of the same coin and only differ in method of operation. They both require dependence. They both have their good and bad points but Capitalism is hardly a superior system, only different and with its own set of problems. Again, the main one being it perpetuates an unhealthy form of dependence and therefore leaves individuals locked in a perpetual struggle against each other. Incidentally, the free market is only a more evolved version of the principle of ‘whoever has the biggest gun wins’. It’s even right in the terminology capitalists freely use themselves. Competition . It's evolved Darwinism, a few steps removed from the combative and territorial existence of the lower animals only the weapons employed are not claws and teeth but the brute power of wealth to gain and control access to resources and deny others that access. It doesn't matter if the socio-economic system you are proposing were going back to a hunter-gatherer approach to resource management and distribution. What right does a monetary system have to reserve huge swaths of the planet-- with governmental sanction and reinforcement-- under its name? None. It's no different than a silverback gorilla claiming the largest part of the banana mangrove to himself by force. No difference. Advocates of a monetary system claim participation is voluntary but if you can't access the most basic resource for your existence-– land– without engaging in a monetary exchange, how is that free of compulsion?
Ultimately, we are dealing with human resource management preferences. Qualitative performance differences between different resource management models have little to do with whether a monetary system has a right to impose itself upon those unwilling to practice it. Any resource model won’t work if you don’t personally prefer it. Different systems must be kept totally separate from those who are unwilling to participate. That’s true freedom. Unwilling participants are the citizens that ruin any system; the ones who don’t want to be there and live under it. If I don’t want to be a hunter-gatherer, that resource management model, according to my preferences, will not work. On Energia we have arrangements available to those who are not content in our predominant cooperative system that don’t involve or allow one model to overlap or intrude to the total dysfunction or prohibition of another model. That would be true tyranny.
No resource management model should impose itself on those unwilling to practice it. Unfortunately, by all indications, your current money based economy does impose itself on those who might prefer not to have to participate. However, our critique and judgment of whether an economic system will work or not is coming from our personal conception of why it won’t work for ourselves. But that may not be true for someone else, who is willing to perform the actions under those conditions to make that system function. It boils down to preferences. Resource management systems are, ultimately, preferences that are selected based on a number of factors and species limitations, including evolutionary development.”
Sheffield: “Many on Earth would argue that Capitalism works. I know you have made yourself familiar with much of our history, including our economics and economic theorists. They would also point to rising wages going against the predictions of Karl Marx.”
Ambassador: “There is a distinction that must be made between what works and what functions. Capitalism functions. Socialism functions. A slave economy functions. Predatory subsistence on prey functions. An economy can function while many of its participants are unhappy and unwilling. An economic system works when those living under it are happy with their roles. How can you say an economic system works when you are in constant battle with a large portion of those living under it? It seems, that if it worked for everyone these complaints against capitalism or socialism would not appear. Complaints just don’t appear out of a vacuum in response to an economic model that citizens are pleased with, do they? As far as Marx’s prediction, let us remember, those controlling capital under your system are mostly free to distribute wages to whatever degree strikes them as useful. They can ease back or raise wages and designate to how many those wages are distributed to depending on how they want to use and manipulate the worker to their self-interest and to create any temporary appearance they want. If, for instance, you want to give a monetary based system a benevolent appearance, you, as a job provider, have the power to raise wages. Labor will not object to that. If you want to exploit workers, you have to be more stealthy about it but you have a number of options to choose from, that is, decrease hiring, laying off workers, cutting benefits, moving production, infiltrating the government and so forth. But let’s not forget, the control of capital and where it goes is in the hands of the capitalist, who of course tries to fight efforts to wrangle some of this control away from them. Your system allows for the purchasing and holding of the energies of the citizen by other citizens to tasks they might otherwise not wish to perform. Our system frees the citizen to apply their energies to tasks and resource models they truly support and that enhance their survival independence. Your system chains their energies to an employer who can exploit them and not grant them enough under a single resource model. Our system grants them enough first and then strengthens their relationship, not to an employer, but directly to the resources of their environment and their community. Our currency is the currency of our star or ve, as it’s called on my planet. The same currency that makes all the other resources possible or attainable to all of life. Your currency is the currency of the mind. Its value determined not by its usefulness to the mutual survival of your species, but by the monetary extent one can compete with members of their species to keep it out of their hands. The currency of the imagined. The invented. The artificial. The unnatural. The inorganic. And the predator. The processed food of economics. And the most loyal practitioners of your system? Gluttons and self-described combatants.”
Sheffield: “To continue playing Devil’s advocate for a moment, many would argue that Capitalism and the practice of using monetary wages and rewards in exchange for certain voluntary actions is free of coercion and leaves people free to practice what they want so long as they don’t forcibly impose it on others.”
Ambassador: “Monetary based Capitalism is certainly not free of coercion. It imposes itself upon the vast majority of your species.”
Sheffield: “How does Capitalism impose restrictions on freedom when, many capitalists define Capitalism as a lack of a system? You are free not to practice Capitalism or use money, if you want, as long as you don’t impose your system on those who prefer otherwise. That’s all. How is that restrictive?”
Ambassador: “On the contrary, there is no doubt your monetary system, under Capitalism, imposes itself on many reluctant participants. The most obvious and wide-spread is the system of land management upon which all its other coercions depend. For the vast majority of your planet’s population, there is no way to use and occupy land without participation in monetary exchange.”
Sheffield: “You mean the buying and selling of land?”
Ambassador: “Yes. I would call that a major imposition upon freedom.”
Sheffield: “But the argument behind the buying and selling of land is that it arose as a civilized alternative to occupying or claiming land by force. Surely, it preserves an individual’s freedom to obtain and part with land at will, not by force.”
Ambassador: "But, again, it is still imposed. Please, Brian. If, as a willing participant of a monetary system, suppose you own a piece of land in say, Colorado--- but live on another piece of land in New York, okay? And so someone who is a reluctant or unwilling participant in a monetary model of resource exchange, the argument goes, and is not required to practice such exchanges, comes along and sees your land in Colorado being unused for many months. Well, they don't believe in a monetary system or that or land in multiple locations can be owned by one citizen. So they see your land sitting there, unused, conclude you already have land somewhere else and decide to practice the land management philosophy they are supposed to be free to practice and settle the abandoned land. But what happens? Your government steps in and tells him he can't do that. That to occupy and use land it must be sold and bought first. That is a monetary resource model imposing itself on someone else's use of a resource."
Sheffield: “But couldn’t it be argued that the new settler is imposing his idea of land management on the advocate of a monetary resource model?”
Ambassador: “No. Who is he imposing it on? The monetarist is not using the land. He is just, for instance, claiming ownership of the land in order to stamp a price tag on it and resell it at a price in exchange for access. Doesn’t the aggressive silverback also put a price, though be it in blood, on access to land? The monetarist is not even there and yet he is trying to control land he is not even using. Not to mention the fact that the government is helping him do it against the freedoms of the settler who holds a different view on land management. In other words, if a monetary based model is not imposing itself on anyone forcefully, the non-monetary system settler would be able to practice his system of land management without interference. You can’t undermine a natural right. Even a lower animal is granted the opportunity to use land freely that is unoccupied by another animal. Who is the monetarist to deny that natural right to another of his species? Imposing participation in a monetary system on your planet’s citizens is not the only way to ensure non-violent land usage and management. While it may be a less violent version of its prehistoric cousin, it is no less guilty of force when there is no alternative way to non-violently and legally occupy and use land without paying tribute to one territorial silverback or another. If behind your claim to your property lies the collective sanction of a cooperative community that would help you defend it, how can you claim it is yours to sell? Could you defend it yourself from a violent hoard? No. So there was some cooperative participation in you securing that land for yourself. So you don’t need a monetary system of exchange to ensure your access to a livable portion of land. You just need a cooperative community to devise and uphold a collective land management system that recognizes and facilitates everyone’s need for some land on which to live. All a monetary system does is complicate this process by putting up a toll or hurdle in front of a citizen’s access to land and resources. Your money is nothing but the evolution of your violence. It is the blood the intruder gives for encroaching on the Alpha male’s forcibly held territory. It is an evolved form of your violence and competitiveness but not a transcendence of it. It conceals and covers up an animalistic physical threat in a monetary exchange but it has never addressed the primitive and territorial instincts from which that violence arises. On Energia we recognize the individual’s need for access to land. We just don’t set up unnecessary obstacles, like territorial physical violence or a monetary system, between an individual and that access.”
Sheffield: “Suppose I am a popular artist, and I like the inspirational view of the distant mountains my parcel provides. What would induce me to let someone farm my land, if not some kind of monetary or other compensation from the would-be farmer?”
Ambassador: “In the Energian system you could go the monetary route by requesting to rent the land. But you could also take the cooperative path and just ask the artist if they would be willing to find another parcel so you could put the land to a use more appropriate to its possibilities. In a land management model where land is provided free, the artist doesn’t require money to obtain a different parcel of land so why would he require money from you to abandon the parcel? Whether you negotiate with money or arguments of utility and the plentiful availability of access, the artist can still refuse anyway. So money doesn’t guarantee access to desired land anymore than a convincing argument of utility would.
If I’m an artist who is doing nothing with the land I’m living on, I’m going to be largely indifferent to where I live. It’s not like the beauty of nature can’t be found on both fertile and infertile land alike, especially in a land management model that encourages the preservation of nature. How will it harm me if I move somewhere else that might be available down the road? And suppose I agree to move, how will it harm the farmer if the artist asks to return to paint periodically? If the land is so uniquely special, under your monetary system the artist could just as likely refuse the farmer’s generous monetary offer as he could the farmer’s logical argument of use under a moneyless system.
The point is, your planet’s whole concept of managing resources by money is the ancestor of management of territory by force. So there is always this conception of ‘I need to use a means that enforces my will upon someone else, regardless of their purposes’, instead of just asking them and reaching a mutual agreement based on logic as a basis for action. If you use money, you don’t have to be the artist’s friend or convince them with logic and you can interact through the cold calculation used by adversaries. Money enables you to sustain the distance a foe would have from the rest of its species’ members. Whereas, in a species truly united for the cooperative benefit of all, results could be achieved simply by convincing the other of the utility of something in respect to natural laws. Agreements can be struck without the use of money. Your species just uses money out of habit the same way the lower animals, and still sometimes yourselves, use force.
Your species is so in the habit of using these two methods of force and money, which are by no means guarantors of success or agreement themselves, you never think to just ask each other for what you want. Your planet is clearly in need of a structure where you can ask each other for what you need and want and employ logic to persuade, not force.
Such a scenario as you have posited is not a problem in the Energian system anymore than it is a problem if an occupant of a parcel refuses to sell his parcel at any price to someone in a monetary system.
The only reason money is a solution in a monetary system is because a monetary system requires money to access resources. An owner of land in a monetary system therefore, can't be persuaded by pure argument because he too has to have money to obtain a new piece of land. But your scenario makes it sound like there is no other piece of land that could inspire the same or a better painting for the artist than the land he is on. And if that is truly the case, no amount of money would persuade him to sell. After all, he would lose his access to the land that provides such inspiration. In effect, the artist is already being made the same offer in the Energian system that he is being offered with a large sum of money in a monetary system; the ability to access other land and resources-- admittedly of a less inspiring nature, if the artist's assessment of his land is to be believed-- in exchange for parting with his current parcel. The artist, in the Energian system, would have the ability to live wherever they chose, much in the same way a large sum of cash would enable him to do under your monetary system.
Moreover, the artist participating in the Energian system is being made that offer every day of his life. Whereas, in your monetary system, you can’t move if you can’t sell and you can’t sell if no one is offering to buy.
And lastly, if you introduce a gradient scale of monetary compensation, as your civilization has, you leave open the possibility of people being bought, ethics compromised, corruption and so forth. Judges could be bought off by private prisons to send more inmates their way by ruling a higher percentage of cases against defendants. Everyone and everything can be bought at the expense of the average citizen. Legislation can be bought at the expense of democracy. Doctors at the expense of the patient. Climatologists at the expense of the environment.
A scientifically fixed resource distribution standard, set by reference to the biological requirements of a species as well as the capabilities of modern technology, would decrease corruption as there would be no systematized way to buy favors, no incentive to mislead consumers, no way to buy legislation and no way to amass resource disruptive imbalances. And, of course, all this we see today in your culture.”
Sheffield: “I should point out that there are other objections to centralized wealth distribution paradigms besides those I’ve presented above. Taxation, for instance. Many will ask what right does a central authority have to forcibly redistribute a population’s wealth or why should a populace allow and support a governing authority having that kind of control?”
Ambassador: “You’re asking a question that is relevant to a monetary system, which is not what we have on Energia. But I will still answer you by pointing out the similarities of your monetary system and the brutality of the natural food chain. In any system where participation is mandatory, whether that be due to natural law, as in the case of the food chain, or forced adoption through lack of established alternatives, as in your monetary system, the application of force to secure resources will arise in certain numbers of a population. It’s just a natural result of the struggle for resources. In any system where negotiation for resources can prove an impossibility for some, the use of force may manifest. Perform or die does not leave a lot of room for negotiation. The players in the natural food chain, don’t have the ability to negotiate. Does any player in the natural food chain stop to contemplate the manner and method they secure their resources? Would you expect them to? In regards to forced taxation, what do you think competitive struggle is in nature? This is the taxation of survival. When one species forcibly attempts to encroach upon the resources of another species, it is because no other means of negotiation for procuring a portion of the resources necessary for its survival are possible to them. The species with the resources is unable to recognize the survival need for a portion of those resources by the species without those resources and so competitive disharmony results necessitating the need for the introduction of force endangering both competitors. A monetary system enables taxation by the same principle the natural food chain enables force. If there’s only one game in town, and that game says there are winners and losers, no one left struggling under its rules is going to voluntarily play along and die for the good of the game because someone says its fair. If the weak should die should not the violent live? If allowing the weak to die is natural, violence for resources is also natural. And yet the enemies of your welfare state complain of the force of the state. You can’t eat your cake and have it too. You need something that adequately addresses basic needs of a population in all its variability or expect force and violence to always arise.”
Sheffield: “Many would respond that they don’t expect the weak to die, only the state not to plunder their personal resources on behalf of the weak. In the American system some strict Constitutionalists would claim the U.S. Constitution does not explicitly address such hardship cases and point to charity as an option for those struggling or lacking sufficient abilities for effective participation in a monetary system. What do you say to that?”
Ambassador: “Ah, charity. I would merely call their attention to the incompleteness of a document that purports to set down governing principles designed to be beneficial to the populace of a nation while leaving the relationship of an entire segment of its population to resources up to chance. The power of the state will protect and defend its working population’s access to resources in the case of theft or deception while granting no such constitutional protections and guarantees to any of its non-working population. Do you think that is a document that is fit to be a reference for an entire population? Your prisoners are granted better access to resources. If both the working and non-working are citizens of the same nation and live under the same document, shouldn’t that document take into account the varied relationships that can occur between citizens and access to resources through no fault of their own? Otherwise, why isn’t the protection and defense of the working population’s access to resources also left up to charity? Instead we see the hypocrisy of those benefitting from the laws and protections of a state to secure their own access to resources, trying to deny others the state’s power to secure resources for themselves. One citizen’s life is defended and protected by the state. Another citizen’s life is left up to chance. One citizen wants the state to recognize their vulnerability and weakness in securing resources against others and come to their aid when they require it. But they don’t want the state to recognize the vulnerability and weakness of another citizen in accessing resources or come to their rescue. It is absolutely blind, self-serving, insensitive and hypocritical. And to uphold such an incomplete document as some kind of sacred and final reference to the laws by which intelligent beings should govern their relationships would be absolutely unacceptable to any Energian.”
Sheffield: “But aren’t the workers, as opposed to the non-workers, paying taxes to the state and so deserve that protection.”
Ambassador: “It’s questionable whether the workers could indeed pay a portion of their resources in taxes to the state without the state there to protect the whole of it.”
Sheffield: “I want to switch now to a lighter topic. The Energian family. There has been a lot of debate over the Energian style of parenting. Can you describe the family dynamics of the typical Energian household?”
Ambassador: “It is important to realize upfront that Energians do not see their productive activities for their fellow citizens as employment. And so children of Energia are not being prepared for subservience to an employer. Indeed, there is no word for employment in our language. We simply know this behavior by a similar word as your helping. Energians are eager to help because they see and are brought up in both a family structure and society where others are helping and giving to them all the time. Parents show their children both the lesson of helping others and the responsibility of taking care of your own things by not asking their children to do chores. Energians have discovered, whether it is a piece of land, a house or a child, when the control of anything is under your name, under a family dynamic, it is best that the maintenance duties and supportive roles go to the parent, not the child. As a result, Energian parents regard the handing off of domestic chores, responsibilities and duties for their lives and homes onto children as a fatal parental error and a complete misdirection of their supportive role as guardians of their child. To avoid any kind of dysfunction, the guiding principle of Energian parents is ‘My house, my responsibility.’ And this philosophy extends to their children. This method doesn’t entirely lift the burden or shield the child from the eventual lesson of responsibility, it simply shifts it for the child further down the road where it really belongs, where there will be less conflict and contention over chores, by showing the child that it is something all adult citizens must do when they are on their own if they don’t wish to live in an unsanitary and disorganized household. This ensures that the child won’t be confused about their role and responsibilities when they have a home and family of their own while preventing parental/child conflicts, exploitation and waste of a child’s formative learning years. Why go through years of drama fighting over chores with a child that doesn’t have the maturity yet to understand why these things must be done? It’s far more efficient to the family dynamic to leave the execution of such minor tasks to those mature enough to appreciate them. And again, it is the parent’s house, after all. Of course, if a child requests to help with chores out of their own free will, which is what this policy is, in part, designed to encourage, the parents will welcome the help but, what’s important to note is, they don’t require it. If they required the child to do chores they would only be teaching the child that domestic chores are so much of an annoyance they must be forced on our children. By resisting doing that the lesson Energian parents send instead is simply, ‘Domestic chores are just what one does as an adult.’ And besides, Energian parents put very little importance into the performance of menial chores by their children. Menial tasks are not considered magic stepping stones to greater achievements on Energia. Such tasks can be learned as needed during the general course of life. They would far more prefer their children devote their time to learning and discovering high level interests such as in the sciences, rather than waste their early development mastering mindless repetitive tasks out of some undefined, unnecessary and poorly executed obedience to an authority.”
Sheffield: “Is it true that Energian parents don’t punish or even yell at their children?”
Ambassador: “Yes, indeed. In cases where the child is acting up or engaging in an activity that might result in injury to themselves or others, the emphasis is on controlling the situation calmly, not reacting hysterically and lashing out at the child. Energian parents see punishment as an easy but harmful way to get out of true parenting. True parenting involves supervision and control in the early stages and fairness and diplomacy in the later stages. The use of punishment is an attempt to short circuit this step by the use of negative reinforcement and fear. The assumption being, if the parent can make the child afraid of engaging in an unwanted activity, the parent can then permanently avoid the needed time and effort to supervise and control. Unfortunately, the child learns more of a lesson about fearing abuse from the parent than about avoiding risky behavior with such a method.”
Sheffield: “But isn’t it impossible for a parent to be around to supervise their child all the time?”
Ambassador: "Yes, it is difficult when you feel you can't trust your child not to cause problems or concern when left unsupervised. But Energian parenting philosophy strongly emphasizes not having children unless a parent will be fully available to control a child's actions-- mostly related to their physical safety-- until they are mature enough to make safe choices by themselves. If you fear your child's behavior, at any time, could result in injury to them or others, you need to be there to control and supervise them. That's what a parent is for. To be there when you have doubts and lack confidence in your child's maturity and ability to make a safe decision. Any other parental concerns unrelated to physical safety or injury to others are deemed less worthy of hyper-vigilance or control and are regarded as par-for-the-course with children. The Energian parent is not interested in being an authoritarian or in making demands of extraordinary achievement and performance from their child. Their chief concern is that their child arrive safely at adulthood not having harmed themselves or others. That is success to an Energian parent. The rest, the child's innate interests and calling, direction of their energies and so forth, will take care of itself. The Energian parent has no role in those choices except in encouraging their healthy exploration and development."
Sheffield: “But what if the child is not in any immediate danger but simply refuses to brush their teeth? There are countless examples where a child will simply try to undermine a parent’s, I hate to say, authority, but that’s what it is.”
Ambassador: “What you must understand about Energian parents is they have already factored in, before they’ve even had a child, that sometimes their future child is not going to listen. So they are already mentally prepared for their role and duties as parents. So if the child doesn’t want to brush their teeth, the parent turns it into a lesson about helping and patiently brushes the child’s teeth for them. So what? And sure enough, the Energian child still grows up with a healthy set of teeth and, even more important, goes on to display this same kind of patience with their own children. Harmless acts of disobedience to Energian parents are nothing. We just work right around them. I mean, after all, how good a job at cleaning their teeth can a parent expect a child to do? The child will learn the importance of keeping healthy teeth soon enough when they find their first love. So why become authoritarian about who performs the task when they are still immature children ignorant of the benefits of proper hygiene? Energian parents know not to give a child too much knowledge of a hierarchy struggle. If you put up too much of a fight with a child you teach hierarchy and dominance and competition and get more resistance back. You teach the exploitation of power. Energian parents try to limit that resistance and pick our battles.”
Sheffield: “I guess the positive of such an approach is that Energian parents must develop stronger bonds with their children, yes?”
Ambassador: “Exactly, Brian. There is a much stronger bond and no drama, no yelling, because…because these matters are settled before the child is even born by the pre-set Energian approach to parenting.”
Sheffield: “On the other hand, an argument can be made that Energian parents spoil their children.”
Ambassador: “If showing a child how much an Energian parent is willing to do for their child is spoiling, then, fine, it’s spoiling. But isn’t that the point? Don’t all parents want their child to have an easier life than they did? Isn’t that the whole point of the evolution of any civilization? Isn’t the agriculturalist spoiled compared to the hunter-gatherer? Isn’t your grocery shopper spoiled compared to the agriculturalist? Isn’t the electric stove cook spoiled compared to the open fire cook? I mean, should Energian society dispense with its nearly entire robotic industry?… Because that has surely made Energians spoiled. Do you see the absurdity of that argument? We are all recipients of technological welfare. The past environments of both Earth and Energia were much more demanding than they are now due to the changes our species have imposed on our planets. For the most part, making things easier on ourselves through automation and mass cooperation hasn’t weakened our survivability as individuals or as a species but enhanced it. What weakens us is when we don’t have these work saving options or when they are taken away. Energians are used to high quality treatment. That’s not spoiling. That’s progress. That’s cultural advancement.”
Sheffield: “Fair point. Will you describe the structure of Energian personal relations and its mechanisms of attraction?”
Ambassador: “For this question I would like to introduce Official VaporLight8081|0002. Official VaporLight has the Energian equivalent of a doctorate in the sciences and studied extensively in this area as part of her anthropological profession on Energia. She has made herself thoroughly familiar with Earth anthropology, as well. She will be better able to address your inquiry.”
Interview Narration Overdub: At this point in our interview, an attentive but unassuming female member of the party rose from a seat just behind the Ambassador, giving us the standard Energian greeting, and took the empty chair beside him.
Sheffield: “Welcome Official. As the Ambassador indicated, you are a professor of Energian anthropology. As stated, your full name is Official VaporLight8081|0002 and your full title, translated to English, is Honorable Advisor to Anthropology amp; Science of Energia. It is an honor to have you join us.”
Official VaporLight8081|0002: “Good Evening, Mr. Sheffield…and good evening to the audience watching at home.”
Sheffield: “How shall I refer to you this evening?”
Ambassador: “Official VaporLight, is fine.”
Sheffield: “As with the Ambassador, I am reluctant to address you by anything but your highest title but I fear doing so would greatly extend the length of this interview. So, please forgive me.”
Official VaporLight8081|0002: “The titles are only used to indicate levels of formal education on Energia for practical purposes. There is no classist, protocol or personal requirement for their use.”
Sheffield: “Very well. Again, I shall redirect the question to you, Official. Will you describe the structure of Energian personal relations and its mechanisms of attraction?”
Official VaporLight8081|0002: “Modern social attraction between Energians can be fundamentally described as the conscious selection of compatible traits and behaviors in others in relation to present day factors and behaviors required to support and reinforce an individual’s existence, happiness and reproduction. Instinctual and reflexive patterned behavior in the realm of attraction and sexual selection in opposition to environmental relationship fluctuation and technological advances, such as we see on your planet, has been entirely outmoded and consciously overridden through thousands of years of conscious deliberation. As considerations such as fitness for hunting and warfare and personal resource abundance no longer apply in the modern Energian societal model or environment, Energians no longer respond to or seek such traits and personal resource advantages. Energian attraction initiates in response to higher mutual compatibilities, common interests, shared social struggles, similar personalities. Selection of males by females based on physical strength, dominance and control over resources and others through force, intimidation or wealth has long since been superseded in our species in favor of cooperative traits and behaviors such as negotiation, sharing, cooperative actions, conflict avoidance, especially of a physical nature, and humility. Energians are, thusly, not primarily attracted to overt displays of masculinity in the male or exaggerated behavioral femininity in the female. Energian women do not require male rescuers. They do not require personal heroes, place unnatural expectations on or feel entitled to the life assistance or coaching of Energian males. The cooperative gives all Energians the self-sufficiency to be free of the need for a personal savior and the ability to manage their own dreams and lives. Therefore our males are not pressured to be heroes or posture some exaggerated hyper-masculinity or put on an act that ignores and suppresses their own needs and, most importantly, their own personal limits, whether physical or psychological. As all Energians receive enough resources for their comfort and our culture is completely non-violent, our females can select males based on true compatibility and need not corrupt their choice with cynical considerations of a potential partner’s degree of resource wealth or physical ability to protect them from other males. Thus the structure of our society gives Energians a much wider field from which to choose their potential partner. Procreation is typically taken up as a challenge of two parents who have exhibited and experienced success and satisfaction in providing for their own needs and now experience a desire to use their expertise to provide for the needs and happiness of another. Personal and sexual selection for both male and female is made irrespective of physical externalities and attributes which, given our advances in cloning, has, nonetheless, allowed for a more equitable degree of symmetrical appearance in our population. However, as physical traits cannot at all reflect neither intellectual compatibilities or the prospect of a generally productive and mutually beneficial interaction and/or partnership, Energians neither respond to, approach or segregate potential companions based on physical appearance. Nor are sexual relations engaged in recreationally to the same degree by our species, a behavior we find unusual in yours but not surprising for its symbolic employment of dominant and submissive roles congruent with the hierarchal structure of your society and for the extreme lengths participants will go to reenact that oppressive hierarchy. Recreational coupling is not seen as an instinctually driven, biological need but as an activity preference, like a preference for jogging or boating, and so its pursuit does not dominate our society and lead to abnormally obsessive behavior patterns and conflicts on Energia as such behaviors lead to on Earth. This may sound strange to many humans, given their unique obsession and degree of participation in recreational coupling, but from the perspective of a great many more species, sex is just a seasonal activity reserved for procreation. If you doubt the legitimacy of what I’m saying just look at the growing number of romantic relationships that have already developed between our two species, both partners knowing they will never be able to make direct physical contact with one another. At least a small number of humans are starting to adopt and appreciate our ways and with these examples of humanity our citizens can conduct productive and mutually beneficial personal relations. If the human species were to survive long enough, it too will eventually evolve beyond its instinctual and faulty passions, as the Energians. So there are a myriad of activities two partners can engage in that are far more conducive to personal bonding than physical copulation and, as such, hold a much more prominent role and hierarchal standing in the collective consciousness and activity preferences of Energian culture.”
Sheffield: “What kind of activities?”
Official VaporLight8081|0002: “For instance, the simple but carefully conducted and shared experience of silent and mutual immersion in the pure and unfettered presence of one’s admired counterpart is regarded by Energians as the highest and most intimate activity our species can engage in with one another. It is an experience that would be completely ruined by the introduction of animalistic copulation and potential physical prejudices.”
Sheffield: “But doesn’t the physical intimacy of sex provide a necessary line in regards to with whom it can be performed? I mean, if your most intimate experience is to sit quietly in a room or on a park bench with someone, that could happen with almost anyone.”
Official VaporLight8081|0002: “First, it is not an experience that is as easy as you think to replicate accidentally, although it does leave such an occurrence open to possibility and it can happen. Mostly it is an experience that is verbally agreed upon beforehand. Secondly, that is precisely what Energians find so beautiful about it. There are no limitations or primitive conditions placed on the experience. All Energians can engage in it without inspiring envy, or jealousy in others or fear, shame and inadequacy in themselves. Barring a combative or uninterested personality, everyone is worthy. It can be engaged in as an act of love for one’s partner, as an act of sharing for one’s friend or even as an act of kindness to a stranger under the right circumstances. The effect is it unites the Energian culture and eliminates combative social relations through the cooperative recognition of the need for some kind of personal intimacy at any given time for any given individual.”
Sheffield: “How does that work? If I encounter a stranger I admire, can I ask her to share her presence with me for a awhile? What if she is married?”
Official VaporLight8081|0002: “It doesn’t matter. Under the right circumstances such an occurrence does happen on Energia and it happens quite frequently. Such a proposal is a compliment on Energia without a threat or the high odds of it being a perverse proposal as it would have on your planet because that is all the person is going to get and, on Energia, it is already considered the highest form of social activity in which Energians can engage. Energians, by whatever evolutionary road lead us here, are not obsessed with sex and so our relations are not fraught with potential danger over its access. If anything we are obsessed with social and intellectual compatibility with sex as a distant afterthought. We understand the early evolutionary necessity for stable reproduction rates but why your species seems to continue to fixate so intently and grant a physical act such a prominent place in your value hierarchy is, admittedly, a sign of regression into primitivism.”
Sheffield: “So let me get this straight. The most intimate activity two Energians can engage in is sitting in silent contemplation of each other’s presence?”
Official VaporLight8081|0002: “Absolutely. There is a certain ritualization and care given to performance of the activity that is not readily expressed in words but, in essence, it is indeed the highest form of social interaction most any Energian would welcome above any other form of interaction.”
Sheffield: “I think this is the first time the people of Earth are hearing this. And how is interest initiated or indicated on Energia? Is a physical display or body cue employed?”
Official VaporLight8081|0002: “Being a species that has innovated and adopted verbal communication, body language is not employed in any approach and is not recognized or acknowledge by the object of attraction. It would be regarded on Energia as you would regard someone who adopted and employed the mating language of a prairie chicken to signal availability or express attraction. When we are interested in someone on Energia, we form sentences.”
Sheffield: “That last part could be interpreted as a little insulting, don’t you think?”
Official VaporLight8081|0002: “It could be taken as insulting but in the context of a statement of fact it is nothing of the kind. Energians understand that species, as well as individuals, learn at their own pace and, to much extent, have little control over this pace. There is no shame in this any more then when humans observe how clumsy the lower species on Earth are at their own survival. Yes, I said clumsy for despite your celebration of their physical prowess, no other species on your planet has so mastered survival in a competitive context than humans. In a cooperative survival context, humans are a paradoxical story where the results can appear both adorable and tragic. In the same vein, Energians find humans to be clumsy thinkers but it’s nothing to be ashamed of and certainly nothing to dwell on. It is the competitive nature of humans that turn such observations in to, well, a competition. Human, not Energian, thought implies the insult. And while your species can and does also employ speech in the same context at times, such interactions on Earth are still awash in physical behavior cues. In a society fraught with both physical and social aggression, such cues evolved as helpful indicators of either safety or hazard. Members of species that regularly exhibit threat and aggression must have subtle and varied ways of indicating openness and non-threat. But in Energian society we have no use for such physical cues because our citizens are not in danger of being hurt by one another either physically or emotionally. Energian on Energian physical attack is virtually unheard of in our society. And no Energian would reject or hurt another emotionally in the gross displays of superficiality and vanity that many of your citizens fall prey to at the hands of their our species. As stated earlier, by instinct, all Energians treat each other to what, on your planet, might be regarded as the highest order of respect possible without subservience. To us such treatment feels more casual and effortless and we don’t even think about it.”
Sheffield: “You mentioned selecting for aggression and traits of physical strength and robustness of any kind has long since died off on Energia. So neither gender on Energia plays a protective role for the other in any capacity?”
Official VaporLight8081|0002: "There is an illusion among your species of the male as the protector and provider for the females. As the one who is going to protect the females from the dangers of your world. However such thoughts are a product of the illusion of the mind and the complacent acquiescence of your culture to such thought paradigms. The truth is the male cannot protect the female of your species from the injuries and violence of the Universe despite the insistence and personal preference of a large section of your populace to see your females as helpless without males. No matter your masculinity or posturing if the random perturbations of the Universe conspire to take you out, you will be taken out. Protection is a relative term among all species. To suggest female humans would cease to exist without male counterparts of a specific physical robustness above their own is to imply no species under that level of robustness could survive. And yet such species do survive and have existed for millions of years longer than humans themselves. It was your minds that conquered the large beasts of your planet, not your muscles. A male human, no matter his strength, can no more defend against the attack of one of your rhinoceros than a female. So such assertions are, of course, patently false. If physical robustness ran parallel to technological development, a species such as your rhinoceros would be a more technologically advanced species than humans. And quite frankly, the majority of violence perpetrated on the human female of your species-- and both genders, really-- has been at the hands of the human male, through the activities of war and crime in particular. As purely a hypothetical illustration and not practical application, there would be far less violence and injury to women if the male of your species simply didn't exist in its present form-- all other things remaining the same. So the females of your species are not benefitting from the males ability for hyper-aggression and strength but are suffering, as all humans, are suffering. As eliminating males would adversely damage the ability of your species to reproduce, that is not a realistic or moral option, of course. But thanks to some social progress, each human female is largely still in control of the kind of male with which she selects to reproduce. Simply granting more conscious attention to this selection process and selecting males with less explicit tendencies and abilities to engage in aggressive, non-cooperative activity, would eventually tip the scales toward a more peaceful civilization. However, what we see is a species still primarily selecting in favor of symbolic aggression in males. There is still a propensity to see a hyper muscular and competitive male as a desirable counterpart to the female, creating a socio-genetic feedback loop where males are selected for their propensity to wage aggression, even if the traits sometimes selected are for a purely symbolic expression, a more aggressive culture inevitably follows through offspring and with it still a further propensity to select for aggressive males to conform to the aggressive culture. Indeed, even your feminists movements can see no contradiction in adapting, at times, the very corrupt patriarchal social behaviors and methods they claim are oppressive to themselves, even if albeit in the defense of women. Shifting a wider and wider demographic to the more competitive and aggressive side of the curve, instead of bringing those currently inhabiting that side over in the opposite direction, is a recipe for failure. Ultimately, granting all equal access and freedom to embrace and express aggression, interpersonal coarseness and engage in competition and warfare will not solve your competitive dilemma of societal violence and exploitation, only facilitate a growth in who and how many can contribute to the destruction of your planet and the breakdown of your societies. Only by renouncing the competitive and aggressive ethos, in whatever degree it is promoted and rewarded in yourselves and your society, will you free yourselves. So from the view of Energian culture, your society is, in this respect, in an extremely primitive state and at a dangerous crossroad. There is no cultural pattern or trend selecting for aggressive traits in either gender on Energia and so we do not see the violent civilization some of your best minds, with very good intentions, are currently struggling under on Earth. A propensity for aggression does not protect the members of your species from violence. All it does is make your planet a battleground. The ability to defend always carries with it the ability to offend and it is often your planet’s worst offenders who learn their violent ways under the pretense of first being defenders of life.”
Sheffield: “But how could this be solved? Are you suggesting selective breeding in the sense of a state directing the reproductive activities of citizens?”
Official VaporLight8081|0002: “On Energia it is not the state that directs reproduction but the cultural trend. Our culture as a whole has been selecting non-violent males as a cultural trend for so long, it does not need state direction to transform the social landscape. All it took was individual Energians over time being more conscious in more numbers and explicitly identifying what kind of traits would be more conducive to cooperative partnerships over antagonistic ones. That required relying less on instinct and just applying more thought on an individual basis to the matter. In the case of Earth where you have a cultural trend reinforcing a negative activity, your citizens have to be prepared to question the cultural trend and deviate from it. But if you keep selecting for violence and antagonism, essentially rewarding it every step of the way, violence and antagonism is what you will keep getting.”
Sheffield: “But you can’t deny there must be a survival advantage to aggression, otherwise it would have never evolved.”
Official VaporLight8081|0002: “Hyper-aggressive masculinity evolved during a time when humans had not domesticated livestock, had little means and weapons for controlling highly aggressive and robust wild animals but needed to procure nourishment. Humans and their ancestral precursors needed to stay competitive to some extent with other wild animals and tribal groups and so a robust variant was required in that early primitive and violent environment. But since taming and domesticating much of the animal kingdom and, for the most part, themselves, such overt aggressive abilities are no longer required of modern humans. However, that doesn’t stop humans from engaging in what some of your evolutionists call ghost behaviors where a species will pattern certain past behaviors automatically despite the usefulness and environmental setting for such behavior being long gone. Despite your mastery of the other animals with your brains and technology, humans still seem to think modern equivalents of physically overpowering a wild animal or other human hidden in the form of rodeo, wrestling, competitive fighting, football, boxing and so forth, are all somehow useful and largely necessary masculine abilities to have today. However, if you view most or all of your competitive and aggressive modern sports objectively, there is little rationale for their existence other than satisfying some outdated evolutionary program and un-examined instinctive need for competition.”
Sheffield: “Relations between Energians of biological origin are not the only personal interactions that occur in Energian culture, correct?”
Official VaporLight8081|0002: “Correct. In addition to the long sociological interplay between members of the Energian species that has been occurring for millions of years, about sixty thousand years ago, another level of interaction was introduced on Energia. That is the interaction between the Energian species and our artificial population. Some of the individuals you see and have interacted with among our landing party are fully artificial, of course, as revealed by the only visible difference of lacking an atmospheric mask.”
Sheffield: “I thought something looked slightly off about them. This shows a profound degree of technological sophistication and advancement in the area of robotics. What is the role played by such an artificial population in the current Energian culture and industry and how has it transformed the Energian workforce?”
Official VaporLight8081|0002: “For this line of questioning I will now excuse myself from the discussion and direct you back to Ambassador AngleSphere. Good orbits to you and the audience at home.”
Sheffield: “Thank you, Official VaporLight.”
Ambassador: “Good orbits, Honorable Advisor.”
Interview Narration Overdub: As Official VaporLight8081|0002 rose and returned to her seat with the rest of the Energian landing party, we turned back to the Ambassador.
Sheffield: “Ambassador AngleSphere, same question to you.”
Ambassador: "The effects of full automation have been immensely transformative to the extent that much of our previous conversation on the production of goods in Energian society is now, of course, obsolete and irrelevant. You can truly say no Energian is really working anymore, in the sense of being chained to a form of employment for sustenance. Food production, construction, resource collection, the majority of manufacturing, power generation, mass transportation, health care, education, emergency and law enforcement, all have been liberated from biologically sourced labor by our robotics industry. For the past forty-thousand years Energians have been free to pursue their interests, science being, by far, the most popular, but also art, adventure, exploration, travel, technological and medical innovation, any field you can imagine that would attract a great deal of interest. There are a few industries that do require the hands on supervision of our citizens-- for the time being-- due to the delicate and precise nature of the activities required and as proscribed by our laws, such as contagious disease control, biological research and some activities in the cloning industry. However, those industries are also getting closer to full autonomy as our artificial workforce becomes more sophisticated and as cures and ecologically safe substitute processes are found and implemented. But, for the most part, Energians live in a society where they simply select what they require and some form of automated system provides it. Of course, as explained before, there are limits set on consumption to prevent catastrophic resource depletion and environmental destruction."
Sheffield: “Not as if Humans were anywhere as far along as Energians were …But what is holding up full automation in cloning on Energia?”
Ambassador: “Yes. In the case of cloning, the cloning of food is fully automated. Food cloning kits are a common household and personal appliance, for instance, but the medical cloning of our own population, while a widely adopted practice that has helped eradicate countless diseases and medical conditions, is still too delicate a process to entrust to full automation just yet.”
Sheffield: “Doesn’t selective cloning on Energia stir up ethical debates?”
Ambassador: “In what sense would it?”
Sheffield: “In the sense of favoring certain physical characteristics for reproduction over others.”
Ambassador: “That is done today among your own species without cloning. There are a myriad of medical procedures on your planet to deal with many currently unwanted physical characteristics and medical issues, from cleft palates to cancer. Why would addressing such problematic physical anomalies and medical issues beforehand through selective cloning bring ethical questions?”
Sheffield: “Touché. Did your population respond well in the initial push to implement full automation?”
Ambassador: “As the wave of automation moved through our workforce there was some social trepidation, chiefly among our older working populations more set in their behaviors. Obviously, there was no financial panic, as Earth might see, since Energians have never worried about free access to resources. Mostly the concerns were around what a citizen would do with their time and loss of some social ties. Nothing severe. With the progress of automation on Earth, the issues may be magnified here because of the monetary system that is in place. Automation on Earth is inevitable and yet you have a socio-economic system that requires employment and consumption to keep it functioning. Humans need to be working to be paid wages. If humans aren’t being paid wages, they can’t consume. If they can’t consume, industry can’t produce and neither can survive. And yet automation is a useful and energy efficient technology. How do you deal with it? Does your society stifle advanced technology just to preserve its economic system? That really makes no sense. Earth is facing a huge dilemma and it’s not going away. But getting back to the reaction on Energia to automation, obviously our population and industry did respond well, as many menial tasks performed by the populace were phased out. Later, as the sophistication of our robotic technology grew, so did the complexity of the tasks it could relieve our population from performing. Things such as health issues took a little longer to see progress, at first, and have been addressed and resolved through applying a combination of robotic, genetic cellular and nano molecular maintenance advances. As far as the phasing out of the workforce, this occurred early on and spread through different industries by degrees. There were concerns about losing access to resources if citizens could no longer contribute their energy to the cooperative but no one who knew anything about the plan took them seriously. As citizen labour was phased out by automation, instead of threatening, it actually reinforced the population’s access to resources because the resources were increasingly being gathered and produced by an automated labour force that would not complain, would not tire, would not lose focus and would not make errors.”
Sheffield: “What is the role of the Energian government?”
Ambassador: "The main role of the voluntary Energian government is assurance of the fair management of land and cooperatively produced resources and all such a role involves. This entails supervision of the following areas; Environmental oversight and protection, natural resource extraction oversight, oversight of inter-regional transit and shipping, oversight of inter-regional communications, oversight and authority over all armed forces and weaponry, and oversight of mass cooperative resource distribution, mass industry and the distribution of technology, including robotics. Large scale projects that remain within a region fall under the governing of that region. Once distributed, land, resources, personal technological devices and all other provided supplies are privately owned and citizens, except for selling land, are free to use and dispense with their personal resources as they see fit. They can keep them, and yes, even sell them or return them into public circulation-- by far, the most chosen option-- when they are done using them. Of course, although selling would be allowed if it was even on the average Energian citizen's mind, it would have a tough time getting converts given the existing moneyless system. But to the extent I detailed, our property is every bit as private as yours. Unless laws are broken, once given, a citizen's supplies can't be taken away. Many choose to give some of their supplies away when their use has been served. But it is their property to do with what they will. Even your land is your private property with the one stipulation of you can't sell it."
Sheffield: “Why isn’t land distribution managed by your regional authorities instead of your global government?”
Ambassador: “Because, once again, the free distribution of land is non-negotiable. The citizen’s access to a portion of free land must be preserved in order for the individual to remain truly free. The Energian system is one of resource management neutrality and economic impartiality. And so there is no need to expose this right to a regional decision process or vote.”
Sheffield: “How does political ranking and ascension operate on Energia? How do Energian citizens enter strictly government management occupations? I assume you still have some kind of governing oversight of the system, correct?”
Ambassador: “Yes and, for the record, really all previous and the few remaining occupations on Energia are government service. But I understand your distinction and, yes, governing management positions would never be automated, for obvious reasons. Energia is divided into regional sectors, for ease of management, and each region has the same gradient of governing positions. Citizens wishing to serve in a governing position must meet the prerequisite educational and service requirements and then wait their turn in the queue until a desired position is left vacant by someone leaving a position by moving on to another one after their term has ended or leaving government service altogether. There are no elections or political parties. Any Energian citizen can complete the required education for an entry level position in government service and get in the queue. The more education completed and positions served in, the more positions you are deemed eligible for and the further in the queue you move, all the way up to a Planetary Operations Monitor , the governing position with the broadest supervising responsibility. All these governing positions do is make sure each part of the Energian cooperative system is functioning optimally, all laws are being respected and that all technologies are being applied to their fullest possibilities and efficiency. Each position has a term and a citizen must leave that position at the end of their term, either leaving government service entirely or moving on to another position. If a citizen has served in all governing positions in the service gradient-- something that occurs very rarely-- they must then retire from government service. While there are no elections, a citizen is always subject to and can be voted out of their position, or government service altogether, and before the completion of a term, by a vote of the citizens under that official's governing jurisdiction. This is to protect citizens of a region or the planet from any ill effects that might manifest due to the poor governing of an official. However, such voting power is very hard to manipulate and abuse since it requires a large majority vote to remove any official and that means a legitimately unhappy regional or planetary population, something very difficult to fabricate."
Sheffield: “Do government officials receive any perks or advantages unaccessible to the average Energian not in government service?”
Ambassador: “The only difference between a governing Energian official and a citizen doing something else would be in the access to the tools and degree of use that is needed to perform their occupation. For instance, planet-wide travel is available to all Energians but, obviously, an Energian official may need to access our planet’s transit system more frequently to perform their job. In terms of access, a scientist, through the proper education and training, will be given access to certain laboratories, travel methods and tools it would be too dangerous to provide to someone who did not know what they were doing or wasn’t performing science. Access is available to all on Energia at no cost, provided you take the steps outlined by public safety standards and practical concerns to get there.”
Sheffield: “So, let’s say, an Energian official has access to a private aircraft in which to travel long distances on your planet. Can the average citizen charter a private aircraft on Energia?”
Ambassador: “Sure, assuming they didn’t want to just use the electromagnetic tunnels. If they can find one available and a pilot who is willing. Why not? But this brings us back to the tools of one’s occupation. An official on Energia, especially a well-known one, is going to require and will get a more sympathetic ear to the plight of their occupation from pilots than the average citizen just wanting to go on a trip overseas. By require I mean an Energian official’s job just can’t be executed properly without access to readily available travel options. And so understandings have to be ironed-out between parties of different occupations and services, in some cases, where unimpeded access to something has to be understood and available. It’s as simple as that. And we accomplish these cooperative activities not by money or power but simply by making our case. If a request can be honored without sacrificing any pre-made obligations, it will be honored. In other words, it’s not a matter of money on Energia, it’s a matter of availability and promised obligations and working within those constraints.”
Sheffield: “I must say, an interesting way to manage the distribution of one’s personal energy and time. Do the lines and squares on the Energian flag symbolize anything? The flag represents the whole of your planet, correct?”
Ambassador: "Correct and, indeed, the design has great meaning to us. The lines acknowledge the social structure of our species, the connections, mutual dependence and advantages to be found in non-competitive group organization and group cooperation. At the same time, the squares or cells, which the lines form, represent the recognition of the boundaries and needs-- biological, social, psychological, sometimes unique needs-- of the individual. It's a very simple yet inspiring statement to Energians. So the squares represent the individuals and their personal needs and the lines represent the cooperative connection individuals have to the greater group. It's a balance of connections and boundaries. The individual is respected and yet the advantages only accessible through the group are preserved."
Sheffield: “In many Energian videos uploaded to the internet, we see the Energian flag changing color. What’s going on there?”
Ambassador: “The Energian flag, in its official incarnation, is an ultra-flexible, highly efficient, ultra thin-film, spherical solar panel. The cells that form the squares are actually made up of white organic solar cells. These cells power a background pixelated illumination grid, which can be activated to produce a series of animated color changes and even temporary design alterations, mostly used in the case of acknowledging Energian holidays, deceased dignitaries or expressing social unity during traumatic events such as natural disasters.”
Sheffield: “Energian society seems to be full of such multi-use items on a level, certainly in many cases achievable on Earth, but unrealized here simply because we haven’t thought of them. Indeed, it’s as if the flag material itself was infused with a color shifting soft glow but never a blinding shine.”
Ambassador: “Yes. That is, of course, our nanotechnology at work there. Such is the depth to which technology can be integrated into a civilization when its minds are free to think of other things besides competition, warfare and righting the endless wrongs being perpetrated upon one another.”
Sheffield: “Perhaps I should have directed this question to Official VaporLight before but what is romantic love like among Energians?”
Interview Narration Overdub: Official VaporLight, still seated behind the Ambassador, looked up from the electronic device encompassing her forearm and gestured toward him and our crew…offering to provide a brief, over-the-shoulder description while seemingly multitasking.
Official VaporLight8081|0002: “Ambassador, if you don’t mind…”
Ambassador: “Of course. Please, Advisor…”
Official VaporLight8081|0002: “Yes, Earth’s conception of romantic love. It is indeed very different from that of our culture. On Earth the trend and ideal being toward permanent coupling, whereas on Energia, a single life is the more dominant trend and often just as legitimately the ideal, contributing greatly to our advanced degree of low consumption to resource ratio and population control. In Energian culture you would be very hard pressed to find anyone with enough ego or vanity to consider themselves worthy of the lifetime arrangements we see between individuals on Earth. For someone on Energia to conclude themselves worthy of the rest of someone’s life via marriage would be taken as an indicator of, shall we say, extreme over-confidence. Moreover, such passionately driven relationships are not considered entirely realistic. We have a very well known saying among us: You don’t need someone to be happy. You need someone to be unhappy. This does not mean Energians spurn long term relationships or that one can’t be happy with another but simply recognizes the mathematical fact that it is always easier to please oneself versus someone else in addition to yourself. It’s a happiness equation. The more variables you add to the equation, the harder it becomes to solve. Similarly, the more individuals one attempts to comfortably include in one’s life, the higher the potential for relational strife and incompatibility. Still, as we are a species that has mastered group interrelations, an impressive degree of healthy coupling and social interaction occurs. But it is, by no means, the given ideal among us. If one is alone in Energian culture there is no cultural shame or feeling of incompleteness associated with it. It is quite natural. It is merely a personal preference. One can just as easily choose to socialize as not on Energia. Energians simply do not fall into fits of passion and romantic worship of each other as we see on Earth. There is no primal fear of permanent social alienation simply because we have mastered getting along with each other so completely we know that option is always available when desired and needed. We have consciously overcome those ancient evolutionary reflex behaviors and fears long ago. We see such passions as very artificial and exaggerated, almost fake, although in the case of humans, such fears and anxieties may be all too real due to your ingrained competitive natures. Energians do not need to be reassured with the kind of flattery and exaggerated worship we often have observed in human relationships to feel comfortable admitting attraction. Arrangements among us are initiated much more practically and passionless but are not devoid of feeling once underway and if those engaged are compatible. We do love but we don’t love blindly, hysterically or, above all, narcissistically.”
Sheffield: “Thank you, Official VaporLight.”
Official VaporLight8081|0002: “Of course.”
Interview Narration Overdub: Official VaporLight leaned back in her seat. Her comments finished, the remainder of our interview continued with Ambassador AngleSphere.
Sheffield: “Switching back to you, Ambassador, we started to get into Energian Cosmology earlier in the interview. Obviously, a discussion of the physics involved would be beyond the comprehension of a great many in our audience, including myself. So, if you could, please provide us with a brief rundown of the basics of Energian Cosmology and your conception and interpretation of the Universe.”
Ambassador: "In Energian Cosmology the Universe is a spectrum of dual forms of nothingness on a continuum of voids and non-vacancies relative to any particular degree within the continuum. In other words, the Universe contains everything that could possibly exist between two extremes or versions of nothingness, one being a void, the other being a lack of a void. And in between these two extremes, because the Universe contains everything, it allows for a self-contained range of density and physics all within itself but with isolated areas from the perspective of the existents and any observers that exist or arise within a slice of the continuum. Additionally, the definition of void and lack of void fluctuates dependent upon the interactive nature of an existent or the limits of an observers perceptions. Thus, the Universe is both a Universe of separation and non-separation at the same time. A Universe of existents and no existents at the same time. A Universe of motion and no motion at the same time. A Universe of Time and no Time at the same time. A Universe that, at its most basic foundation is static but evolving. A continuum that encompasses and contains all the forces, all the existents, all the motions, all the degrees of consciousness that can arise between two extremes-- from the indivisibly large to the indivisibly small and everything in between. And all of it-- existence, motion, time, energy, biology-- is happening and not happening, existing and not existing, depending on where and what you are in this continuum. And so nothing has to be explained and there is no ultimate cause. Everything in this room both exists and does not exist right now at the same time. There is no absolute existence or non-existence. Existence itself is relative to the range of interaction between different degrees of Nothingness within the continuum and its observation dependent on the limited powers of perception within equally relative degrees of consciousness. We are conscious when it comes to this slice of the continuum but we are completely unconscious when it comes to all the rest and, as Earthlings say, vice versa. In fact, for the rest of the Universe, we don't even exist. And both conclusions, on the scale of the Universe, are objectively correct at the same time. Our physics and predictions have shown this to be true time and time again. The minute your technology reveals some previously invisible aspect of the continuum it becomes subsumed and absorbed into your own description of the Universe. So the act of discovery and revealing more of the Universe that was previously unknown and undetectable is evidence of these other areas of the Universe beyond our detection. To prove them you have to detect them. And if you detect them, can you still say they exist on a completely different layer or plane of existence? The more likely explanation is to conclude our range of interaction and contact with the Universe is somewhat malleable. It can expand and contract to a small degree but is mostly fixed by our nature and can never directly encompass the Universe in its entirety. But we know of other existents-- such as elementary particles, neutrinos, for instance-- whose contact with the Universe overlaps a larger range of existence than we can. These particles can cross layers and so we can manipulate these elementary particles to produce return signals or echoes back from these invisible parts of the continuum that tell us a little about what it looks like on those layers of existence. Certain experiments produce certain return effects. In some cases, we don't know why or precisely what is reacting on those other layers of existence but they do and one of our experiments led to the production of the particle drive that does everything from propel our ships to protecting our crews from interstellar radiation. So we know there are layers to the Universe we can't directly perceive because we harness some of the energy out of those layers to power our technology. It is very similar to your harnessing the power of the atom just on a scale far more removed from our local reality."
Sheffield: “So in regards to these other layers of existence, it sounds similar to the other dimensions advanced by our String Theory.”
Ambassador: “In some ways it is a confirmation of this, yes, but of a more organized nature. It is less a chaotic sea of bubbling branes rising and falling in and out of existence, as described by your physicists, than it is a band of graduating colors within the color spectrum or a selection of radio station transmitters within range of a receiver. Indeed, that is why we use the Energian word for spectrum to describe it because it suggests a similar mapping sequence as seen in other observer variability dependent phenomenon like the color spectrum. Some phenomenon will naturally be out of range of our detectors. And there are parallel examples of this in the macro world. Imagine a very lightweight insect that is so lightweight it can’t penetrate the surface of a pool of water. It’s so buoyant it can walk on the water surface without sinking into the pool. From the perspective of the insect, there is no space for it to exist under the surface of the water and so nothing exists or can exist below the water surface from its limited perspective. Due to its biological nature its reality would be confined to just what is above the waters surface. But the fish living below the waters surface would have a very different view of reality and perhaps any existence above the water’s surface would be just as questionable to them.”
Sheffield: “How did your scientists confirm the existence of other layers of existence?”
Ambassador: "We created completely automated detectors using quantum particles with parameters completely distinct from any observational parameters we thought we would need to detect and observe anything. In other words, we removed our consciousness and its particular parameters from the experiments and observations but left the detectors the ability to transmit a signal back to us of one of two states-- that they were detecting a reaction, according to their parameters, or they weren't. It was by such incremental experiments, to increasing degrees of complexity, we were able to formulate a picture of the unseen dimension from which we uncovered and harnessed the energy that powers much of our current technology."
Sheffield: “Consciousness. Explaining how it arose is a deep puzzle on Earth. Have your scientists made any headway in understanding how consciousness evolved?”
Ambassador: "Our scientists are in agreement that we have gained a major foothold on the ledge leading to the summit of its understanding. It's certainly easier to explain than the origins of life itself-- although we've made progress in that area as well. And that's because once you have life that can grow, reproduce, mutate and evolve, it's fairly easy to go from single cell organisms, to bacteria, to mold, to plants, to on up the line. We don't think there is that much of a leap between a tree and a conscious being as it may at first appear. Living cells are common to both a tree and a conscious brain and we know different cells evolve to perform different processes and tasks. So we are fairly certain it's just a matter of increasing complexity of life's existing cellular framework and not this grand gap dividing the two. In other words, there is indirect evidence our awareness is just part of a ramping up-- or down, depending on your perspective-- along a spectrum of consciousness. That, of course, is observable in all the different levels of awareness different life forms exhibit. A mobile life form is going to need and benefit from having a certain level of awareness of its surroundings than a non-mobile life form, otherwise it might not survive. Life forms need to perform different things to continue and different life forms survive in different ways. And if the cells of other life forms are doing different things our own cells cannot, maybe our consciousness is not as special as it appears. If a tree could take our conscious perspective about itself, it might ask itself how did photosynthesis ever evolve? It seems just as improbable that something could develop the ability to absorb and process the energy of starlight as would a life form develop conscious awareness of its surroundings. So maybe the leap is not so remarkable. What is remarkable is how all these cellular processes, directly or indirectly, link back to and are powered by starlight and a few other sources of energy. Starlight is ultimately the charging station of consciousness and animated life itself. Once an evolving biological entity can store energy it opens the door to doing some very unusual things with that energy. You take away starlight and eventually all forms of consciousness and life will shutdown. So explaining both consciousness and life inevitably takes you to a non-living source for both, in our cases, and that of a great many other species, starlight. And this leads to the question are we as alive as we think we are? Maybe as there is not that much of a leap between a tree and conscious life forms such as ourselves, maybe there’s not that much of a leap between animate and inanimate matter? Again, perhaps there is a grading along a spectrum, as used to explain consciousness, from the simple to increasing complexity and variety. Perhaps the first proto-life forms could not store the energy of starlight for later use and therefore were only, in our sense, alive during the day, when light was striking them, and dead before the light returned the next day. Then one day one of these proto-life forms survived through two sunrises and the race was on. One can imagine life and consciousness arising out of complex matter in such small incremental steps. In this hypotheses, Matter has a much more fluid relationship to life and consciousness and can flow smoothly through these states as a normal occurrence of natural processes. And once a collection of Matter finds itself in one of these states of consciousness, by definition, it would have to be limited in awareness because to perceive everything at once is the same as perceiving nothing. But if the only way to be conscious is to have limits put on our awareness and perceptions to mentally contain and interact with the whole Universe at once, is that really full consciousness? And finally, this ties directly back into how the Universe appears to us. If our perceptions are limited, the image being reflected back to us is not the full and true image of the Universe. In this sense a rock, in being limited in its inability to be aware of more separate parts of the Universe than us, would be more connected to the complete Universe than we can be. This points to subtractive and paradoxical characteristics to consciousness itself. To have consciousness is to observe, and as a corollary, interact with less of the Universe than if an existent had no consciousness, while simultaneously giving the opposite impression or reality to the observer. But that may all be an appearance and experience specific to our level of consciousness.”
Sheffield: “You are not suggesting our consciousness creates the Universe, are you?”
Ambassador: "Not at all. And here we, again, run into a paradox. In one sense, the continuum of the Universe encompasses all states of existence-- from the smallest indivisible state, to the largest indivisible state and all states in between. You can imagine it like a long band flowing smoothly through a hierarchal chain of small to large granular scale. Taken in slices, these clusters of Universe exist independent of the rest of the Universe and any form of consciousness. They are contained within a continuum of Universe so massive it encompasses all the possible physical and spatial relationships between the smallest indivisible state to the largest indivisible state. As the degree of consciousness varies, so does the image reflected back from the slice of Universe it can observe. But consciousness doesn't create the Universe. Consciousness merely perceives a filtered image or part of the Universe due to the limits of our perceptions. The paradox is the Universe both exists and does not exist at the same time. Since all states exist within the Universe, some states will not be able to interact or observe other states, which will effectively not exist. And this corresponds to both our measurements of Dark Matter and energy as the slices of the Universe to which we do not have direct access. If you can't exist in or observe another layer or slice of the Universe, that effectively meets your definition of non-existence. So existence and non-existence is relative to what part of the Universe can or cannot interact with itself. We postulate the Universe is so massive and the degrees between the smallest indivisible states and the largest indivisible states are so wide and contain both the absolute unity of Nothingness, where separate existents cannot exist, and a gradient scale of separation, where existents evolve and change and are limited by their physical nature to what parts of the Universe they can interact with, that the Universe itself effectively cannot interact with parts of itself."
Sheffield: “How do Energian scientists define consciousness?”
Ambassador: “Consciousness is the biological reproduction or mapping of the environment, created from the channeling of energy, working in combination with other biological processes and abilities. Fundamentally, it is no more remarkable or different than any other biological process for which energy has been channeled. No more remarkable than self-propulsion or photosynthesis or respiration or camouflage or cell reproduction. None of those processes would occur or continue without a source and supply of energy. Consciousness is just one of the emergent biological processes into which the energy contained in starlight is ultimately channeled to power. It cannot exist independent of a source of energy or biological medium with which to absorb and transfer that energy. As such, its existence is no more remarkable or problematic than the stars that power it. The various processes that give rise to consciousness still need to be mapped out precisely in detail but our scientists agree this is the position in which to approach a final understanding.”
Sheffield: “Is there religion in Energian culture? Although Energians have exceedingly long lives you are not immortal and do eventually die from statistically related accidents and a few genetic conditions that have stubbornly resisted the efforts of your geneticists. How do Energians approach their mortality?”
Ambassador: “There are no religions in the sense of a belief in the existence of a god or gods that brought the Universe into existence, no. According to the dominant metaphysical and cosmological understanding in Energian culture, to exist is to exist somewhere and a somewhere to exist is a quality of a universe. A god or gods that created the Universe would have had to exist before there was anywhere in which to exist, a physical impossibility. You can, of course, posit lesser intelligent creators to explain the existence of the certain aspects within the greater Universe, such as life, but none of that really carries much validity in Energian culture. As such notions of conscious creators have no validity in Energian culture in terms of explaining our existence, it follows they also have no monopoly as a reference for explaining or understanding our post existence. In other words, if the Universe naturally brought us into existence from inanimate matter without supernatural assistance once, it should, conceivably, be able to do so again and again. Specific portions of matter, through accident, get used and reused by the Universe to support and feed the system of existents, much in the same way an ecological environment supports itself. In this way, the system is perpetuated by an analogous biological feedback relationship with matter. Inanimate matter transforms into an animated life form, that animated life form dies, its constituent chemicals and elements return into inanimate matter that again gets reused in the next accidental formation of life and so on in a cyclical relationship. Our bodies come from this eco-system and our consciousness arises from this matter that gets reused in this eco-system. Thus most Energians subscribe to the notion that consciousness, in combination with its host matter, follows a similar cyclical process. Now, we have no direct evidence for this process. In certain respects, it is as much a leap of faith as positing an intelligent creator. However, it does eliminate that extra step of additional faith by just dispensing with a conscious creator, which carries with it a host of additional problems. So it is very much a belief on Energia but it represents our idea of the most realistic option for explaining our existence and making peace with our post and future existence, which we believe is always temporary. As such, we do not fear death and, unlike humans, don’t bear too much of a personal or metaphysical grudge over its occurrence. Of course, such a process of death and reanimation in a vast and chaotic universe will take an equally vast duration of time, something the Universe has in large quantities. But as we will not be conscious beings for a vast portion of this cyclical process, there is no sense of the elapsed time, nor indeed memory of our past existence, for us between our separate animated lives. As science shows the elements and compounds that sustain our physical bodies have been reused throughout the history on each of our planet’s to sustain the bodies of those before us, so too, Energians believe, matter is reused by the Universe for the production of an ever changing continuum of inanimate and animated existents. And so your religion does not have a monopoly on the concept of an afterlife in the Universe. Energians are very comfortable in their concept of post existence and there is, perhaps, even less fear of death among our culture than we see with the use of religion among humans.”
Sheffield: “Ambassador, what can the people of Earth do differently to reach your species’ political, social and technological level? Can your species help get us there?”
Ambassador: “We can show your citizens and leaders what to do but they are going to have to want and win it for themselves. Nothing we give your species will make you override your competitive instincts. You must reach the point collectively where you’ve had enough of fighting and competing with each other. A fully evolved civilization doesn’t begin at some technological plateau. If we gave you all of our technology today, still as you are, it would make little difference toward getting you to the stars, solving your conflicts or interacting with my species. A fully evolved civilization starts from the moment you are truly willing to cooperate and share every success, every discovery, every breakthrough and every resource as if it was the achievement and property of all. You must come to the understanding that your star’s light and every resource on your planet came without the price tags you put on them. And you must realize the difference between a group species and a solitary one. Only then will there be no more ego standing in the way of progress and all you will need to do then to show you are finally ready to cooperate with each other is to raise the symbol we have shared with you…this flag, proudly and at last recognizing both the unity and reality of all the citizens of Earth.”
Sheffield: “And finally, Ambassador, is there any message you’d like to address directly to the people of Earth?”
Ambassador: “All Energians realize some of the things we’ve discussed here tonight may seem new, strange, even threatening. But please remember that millions of years of peaceful Energian evolution shows that they age very, very well. This is not and never will be a forceful invasion, despite the dramatic projections of some of your fictions. That is not in Energian nature nor, we maintain, of any advanced civilizations that might exist. We thrive on sharing and cooperation, as all civilizations must. And all Energians hope to continue to develop a productive relationship between our two species. Do not despair of our differences. They are only differences of time. Someday your species will understand our ways. On a personal note, I always welcome new chances to engage in dialogue and cooperative interaction between our societies and will continue to do so through the same channels I have been doing so. I encourage more of your citizens to continue to engage me online with their questions, concerns and comments. As a lot of people already know, we have many enjoyable and productive exchanges and look to continue such positive and, for me, personally illuminating interactions.”
Sheffield: “There are still a great many topics I wanted to cover, including the Energian judicial system but I’m afraid that will have to wait as we are out of time. Ambassador, thank you for joining us.”
Ambassador: “Many tranquil orbits to you, Brian.”
As the Ambassador stood, his female assistant handed the correspondent an iPod on which a selection of Energian music had been transferred during the interview. The exchange took half a second but there was a complete lack of tension in her face at being placed at the service of an Earthling. The Energians knew nothing of the kind of indignity humans often attached to being directed by others of any gender. Every move an Energian made was entirely their choice.
“The music, Mr. Sheffield.”
“Ah, thank you. I’m looking forward to listening.”
“And we are looking forward to your assessment.”
“May I ask you a question?
“Certainly, Mr. Sheffield.”
“From the presence of your atmospheric mask, you’re obviously not artificial. However, I thought Energians did not work and yet you obeyed a request from the Ambassador to retrieve this music for me. Why? Couldn’t he have passed that duty on to one of the androids in your party?”
“Energians work when we choose to work. I am here because I have an interest in diplomacy. If we relegated everything to our artificial citizens life would be quite boring for us. Besides, that was hardly work. I did the Ambassador a favor at little expense to myself. Did you think automation would make us so stingy with our energies?”
“No. Of course not. I’m sorry. “
“No need to apologize. Now, if you like, I can introduce you to some of the artificial replicas in our landing party and show you some of the tasks to which we employ them.”
“Thank you. I think I would find that most interesting.”
“You’re quite welcome, Mr. Sheffield. If you would follow me…Incidentally, the term robots are referred to on Energia translates to the English word “browsers”, after their original purpose of allowing our citizens to browse supply depots remotely for items without ever leaving home. Over time, more functions were incorporated, eventually creating the thoroughly autonomous and artificial workforce Energia enjoys today.”
“I have another question.”
“What’s your name?”
As all the world now knows, a few months after the interview, a ten year long global conflict erupted on Earth. The multiple long-standing grievances of its various factions and conflicts had finally and irrevocably proven too much, engulfing the planet in the most barbarous warfare to the dismay of the appalled Energians. After a useless year of advice, pleas for sanity and imploring of all sides to sit down and resolve the conflict, the Energians recalled all their ambassadors and citizens to their fleet. Soon after, communications with Energian command went ominously silent. All attempts to hail them via official channels went unanswered. Their official web presence, provided for the Energians free, at energiancentral.org was taken down and a placeholder page put up with this message in several languages: “We are mining your neighboring planets until such time as we have acquired enough resources to move on to the next star. There are no planets in your system with environments habitable to Energians. The sole reason left for remaining was our discovery of your species, which is now locked in bitter conflict with itself. We wish we could have cooperated with you. This will be our last message. A trillion good orbits to you.” There was nothing to be done. Just as the people of Earth had made an unfathomable and miraculous connection from across the void that erased their fears of perpetual solitude in an unforgiving Universe, the obsessive compulsion for conflict and war had thrown them right back into the abyss.
Earth was alone again. Alone with themselves, their fighting, their petty hatreds born from centuries of vanity and bruised egos. It was during a break in the fighting that the news of the Energian departure spread. The entire globe was thrown into a deep funk. The human race never imagined the collective self-esteem of a planet could plummet all at once but there they were. No group or faction was spared from the insult. As embroiled in conflict as they were with each other, they all shared in responsibility for their abandonment. The Energians didn’t want to interact with such a stubbornly violent and competitive species anymore. The Energians had just chose to unfriend the only contact they had in the Universe. The earthlings began to collectively ponder over what it took to try the patience of an extraterrestrial civilization badly enough for them to resort to such an action. The pitiful objects of such a cosmic rebuff, the people of earth were exhausted and disgusted with themselves and questioning what the hell they were. They were ashamed of their violence and yet seemed like an addict unable to give it up. For the first time they saw their own primitiveness through the eyes of and compared to the Energians. Were Earthlings an intelligent species or just a bunch of animals? It appeared they were so sick, the desperate Energians had scorned their company and the life-sustaining rays of their star to take their chances alone again in the vast expanse of the Universe.
(Author’s Note: The reader of a suitably similar cynical philosophical view of humanity may stop here and consider this the conclusion of this novella. Those readers who visualize a more hopeful fate for humanity, are welcome to read on for an alternate conclusion.)
The anger the Earthlings directed at each other for “spooking the Energians” and losing such a rare opportunity knew no bounds and only intensified their blame and violence toward each other. The fighting raged on. But not three months later, still consumed in their hatreds and despair, a communication came that the Energian fleet was turning around. The inhabitants of Earth only would learn afterward that a large faction among the Energian fleet’s population had formed in favor of returning. It seems there had been strong debate on the wisdom of abandoning their connection to the only known and nearby alien species in exchange for the mere hope of finding a better level of intelligence around another star. An agreement was struck that the fleet would return and, as long as the Energians opposed to the idea were shielded from the consequences and any obligations to participate, an attempt would be allowed, by those advocating to return, to try and reach the Earthlings one last time. It was their choice and what they wanted. They would be allowed their experiment by Energian Command. “It won’t work. They’re not ready”, the spokesperson on the side opposed to returning had said at proceedings considering the return. “It will. They just need a little push”, a representative of the faction advocating a return had responded. “If we don’t return they will never figure this out. They are as clumsy in our eyes as their lower animals are to themselves. They will destroy themselves.”
“That is their choice,” another representative opposing the experimental intervention shot back.
“And this is ours”, came the final reply. “We understand your concern but we will bear the burden and the consequences. Now please ready our acoustic ships. If I am going to become a martyr I shall want to hear my planet’s music when I die, not the alien wind of this alien world. They know how to die for war. We will show them how to die for peace.”
Although Energian belief allowed for a natural law of reincarnation, it was no small undertaking to which the faction leader and her followers had resigned themselves. According to Energian belief, it would be an incalculable number of years before the Universe reanimated her as another intelligent species. A massive robotic contingent of browsers were suggested as a substitute for actual Energian participants in the bold scheme but quickly ruled out due to the danger of humans hacking their programs and using them for still more warlike and nefarious purposes. The experiment had to be performed by a voluntary selection of Energians themselves. If the experiment failed, the Energian fleet would depart, never to return. The Energians were going to attempt to stay but if they remained they were not going to put up with humans the way they were. They would have to change.
As soon as the Energian fleet reached near earth orbit, they put their plan into action with a fire and conviction that would leave a mark on those who would witness it. They mapped out the major conflict zones of Earth – Iraq, Syria, the West Bank, Afghanistan, Crimea, Chechnya, Libya, Yemen, – and then down they came in thousands upon thousands. Walking unarmed in every possible configuration – alone and in long processions – their solemn, expressionless faces peering through their elegant black spacesuits emblazoned with the Energian flag. They marched to the heart of the fighting, straight toward the stunned and sometimes unwelcoming arms and guns of the combatants of all sides. There was much confusion among the Earthlings at first over what the Energians were trying to accomplish. They weren’t surrendering but seemed to be pushing the Earth factions to either shoot them or surrender themselves. Some started to catch on, however, and many dropped their weapons immediately, never to pick them up again, so mesmerized and shaken they were by such silent and dramatic appeals for the cessation of violence. And many of these joined the Energian crusade. The more hard of heart responded with more violence. The Energian men and women, now accompanied by their human allies, died in droves, faces revealing nothing but a calm focus of purpose, slowly approaching and reaching out to their killers as if trying to teach them something, they knew not what. What could be the message? On and on the Energians marched toward the last stubborn holdouts, converting hundreds then thousands, sacrificing their preciously long lives only to be replaced by another marcher. Music of unfathomable alien inspiration and melody cascaded down from their ships from the lower atmosphere, encouraging their tattered lines to press on, until something finally clicked in us all. Then, with all the advantage and all the firepower, the aliens and their allies posing no military challenge, these last armies of Earth abandoned their weapons, raised the blue lined flag and falling to their knees, surrendered in tears to the unarmed Energian lines. Complete collapse of moral came sometime in the dead of night. A line of holdouts, arms raised above their heads, shuffled along a burning dirt road leading out of their last stronghold to surrender to the Energians. The head officer of a particularly blood-thirsty patrol was brought to the front of the procession, while the leader of the presiding Energian contingent, her suit oddly pristine and civilized for a war zone, stepped forward to address him. She spoke something in Energian and the nano-fabric of her suit responded with a burst of light, illuminating the charred and cratered ground around her as she walked toward him. She stopped.
“I have a message for you from beyond the grave. From those you’ve killed.”, she said.
Sweating under the fires of the ravaged world around them, the officer slumped to the ground, awaiting some kind of verdict.
The Energian official crouched down to examine the broken fighter’s face more closely. As if soothing a frightened and bewildered animal she knew could not yet fully understand, she tried to reassure and console him, “Don’t worry now…It will be alright…You are forgiven”.
Thanks to the following online communities for keeping me sane:
The online progressive community, the resource based economy community, the tiny house community, the off-grid community, the science community, the hydroponic agriculture community, the 3D printing community, the open source community, the get-advertisers-out-of-my-face community,
DuckDuckGo, StartPage, ProtonMail, RiseUp.net (thanks for accepting my registration so quickly!), the self-publishing community (especially Shakespir) and cooperative Left leaning life forms everywhere!
Michael Centra was born in 1967 and raised on the East Coast of the United States.
He maintains an active twitter account at
An advanced alien fleet from a nearby star makes a temporary home around Earth's Sun and builds a friendly but mostly aloof social network with humans. The aliens attempt to put differences in perspective using a high profile interview with their popular diplomat but still encounter serious incompatibilities with the competitive and warlike humans.