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IST Colonies Sociology

  • The socio-economic forces at work in a space colony will be many and complex and depend on a number of important parameters. The physical size of the space colony, its population, the layout of the terrain and cities, its location in space, and the general political and economic circumstances of that region of space and of human civilisation in general at a given point in time.

    Some colonies may have a specialised internal layout for recreation, or education or scientific research, but most will cater to a number of different groups of inhabitants with varied needs. Space tourists, space migrants acclimatising to life in space before going further afield or even space immigrants arriving from afar, even from other stars eventually, tax exiles, administrators, engineers, farmers, astronauts, artists, and those who are just able to live in space one way or another - space playboys and perhaps a few space vagrants too.

    The point is that there will need to be a bit of social engineering that lets it all fit together alongside the physical engineering that keeps the space colony machinery working.

    In the case of smaller colonies numbering less than 10,000 persons a few simple house rules, similar to those for persons at sea in a vessel on Earth will suffice. However, for larger colonies numbering a million or more persons it gets a bit more complex. And for very large colonies numbering hundreds of millions of inhabitants, they will become as complex as individual countries on Earth. Will these colonies become democracies, and if so who will be entitled to vote? How much autonomy will they really have, will they still essentially be the property of a space corporation, with all inhabitants either employees or customers of that corporation? What legal and constitutional rights will inhabitants have?

    It is likely that a space based civilisation in the Solar System and beyond will have governmental structures analogous to those on Earth and in Near Earth space at the moment. At the highest level there will be charters on basic human rights and safety and rescue responsibilities for all persons in space and all operators of space vessels, space stations and space colonies. These will be decided by a joint interplanetary and colony organisation - the "United Federation of Planets and Colonies"? Below that colonies will in the first instance honour the laws of the country of ownership of the colony, although there may be significant need for amendments to such a legal system to allow for the significantly different context in which that legal system must work. Such amendments may be worked out in consultation with the legal authorities of the country whose laws are to be used, however there is no implication that the courts or government of that country have any jurisdiction over the colonies who use their laws. Cases may even be decided in the courts of the country concerned, without that country itself having any right to enforce any decisions on the colonies themselves. It is possible also that colonies could employ police officers from these countries with some additional space training. The point is that colonies will be quite remote locations physically and will have a high degree of effective autonomy whether they wish to or not. They will effectively be under the control of the company or companies that own them and the space infrastructure that supplies them and connects them to the rest of civilisation. IST believes that all companies involved in space exploration should work to achieve consensus on common issues of responsibility and dispute resolution. For example, colonies should have control over the region of space near them out to some agreed limit. Any craft wishing to approach the colony should be on an agreed flight plan, although in an emergency all colonies will have the responsibility to allow a craft to approach and dock with the colony if so able and all colonies will have the responsibility to respond to distress calls from spacecraft in their general vicinity, particularly if they are then nearest colony or planet. In space outside any agreed local limit, jurisdiction over access and decisions over any disputes between different craft will be handled by a Federal legislation. Just how much attention will be paid to Federal judgements in such cases in remote areas of space, depends on the Federal authorities ability to enforce their decisions, either directly or by imposing fines or sanctions on the guilty parties. Even this may be ineffective as the companies successfully operating space infrastructure may be important to Earth or planet bound organisations, i.e. any sanctions would hurt the planetary organisations much more than it would the space company concerned.

    In that case space companies may well have to settle conflicts among themselves, and it may not be always done peacefully. Space development will involve exploitation of resources of enormous financial value. If history has shown anything, it is that serious conflict develops in such cases. Both major wars among developed nations in the 20th century were essentially fought between countries that had access to oil and those that did not.History also has a tendency to repeat itself. IST is not fatalistic about the inevitably of turf wars being fought between rival space firms, however, it seems that it may be prudent to develop strategies and procedures to avoid conflict and resolve any disputes that arise. Even on the Earth alone, global technologies have a lot of power that is largely outside the control of governments and of the customer or user base for their products. It is all too likely that a similar situation may arise in the development of an extensive space economy. IST assures everyone that they will never engage in aggressive or illegal methods when acquiring resources or dealing with staff and customers. We will also go every possible mile to avoid conflict and to maintain peace and law and order. We hope that space will be developed on the whole by intelligent, positive and pragmatic people, who will be motivated by the long-term potential of space development and who will be similarly determined to avoid wasting time and effort on unnecessary short-term disputes.

    IST will maintain at all times means for staff and customers alike to voice concerns, make complaints if necessary and to vote on certain issues regarding the governance of colonies and general company policy. It is likely however that the company will retain overall control until colony populations run into the hundreds of millions and take on the form of independent democratic states. Even in this pre-democratic phase where the final decisions on company policy are made by various committees, and entry to that committee process will probably follow a rather oligarchic model, ordinary employees will be encouraged to participate in the decision making process by voicing concerns and to apply for positions of senior responsibility once they have suitable experience.

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