Indie Sci Fi with Tobias Cabral and Erasmo Acosta
Joel: Welcome back friends to another very special episode of Seldon Crisis. Today, we have not one, but two guests on to talk about their unique and exciting views of possible human futures. We have intelligent and soulful machines, rotating space habitats, cruel but compelling villains, incredibly long time scales, a city on Mars, Dyson swarms around our sun and many others in our galaxy, exhilarating action scenes, interstellar travel, and much, much more.
Today. We're going to celebrate independent science fiction, featuring a couple of very different, but highly imaginative takes on what may be in store for humanity and centuries and millennia to come. A little bit about our guests today. Tobias Kabral is a clinical psychologist, as well as a lifelong speculative fiction fan, a mythology and aerospace junkie, and perhaps a bit unhealthily preoccupied with chaos, complexity theory. Both alone and in collaboration with other authors he has written a number of science fiction, novels, novellas, and short stories.
Tobias: Thank you kindly Joel, considering how enthusiastically I've listened to your podcast in the past, it is a groove to be here.
Joel: All right. And ErasmoAcosta is an emigre from Venezuela who came to the U S in 1996 and worked for most of his life in software, but is now the author of a fascinating and incredibly audacious novel that spends a billion years – that's with a “B” – into the far distant future.
K3+ is the story of humanity's journey from a single planet to become masters of the entire galaxy. Great to have you on Erasmo!
Erasmo: Thank you, Joel. I'm privileged to be here.
Joel: Okay, well, let's get going. I'm going to start with you, Erasmo. When I first came across one of your essays onMedium –I can't remember which one now, since I've read quite a few of them – I was just blown away by the boldness of your vision. Your book, K3+, is no different. You tell the story of a young man born in the late 20th century and follow his life for a billion years into the future. To do this, you had to imagine the course of humanity from a fractious civilization on a single world, finding a way to grow and thrive beyond the cradle of earth and imagine a possible path to the stars, and you describe each incredible step in detail. Can you give our listeners a brief introduction to this amazing story, what the research for it entailed and tell me how you summon the courage to launch into such a huge project?
Erasmo: Thank you Joel. Well K3+ is a story of how mankind survives our current dystopia to build a postcard city civilization in space. The key elements of the story are rotating habitats; cylindrical mega-structures that emulate Earth’s gravity by spinning. The story begins in the distant future when we have colonized the Milky Way, all the galaxies in the local group, and are in the process of colonizing neighboring galactic clusters.
We no longer settle planets, but build these rotating colonies that I just told you about. When you have enough of them around the star to completely surround it, you capture its entire energy output. And that's what we call a Dyson swarm. Planets become a curiosity because very few people have set foot on one.
We meet the main character, a guy named Fedrix – with an X –celebrating his billion year birthday by space diving into a planet with a bunch of friends. Humans are genetically enhanced, they live forever looking like they're in their early twenties. They have nanobots inside their body ensuring perfect health, and use neural interfaces to communicate. In K3 people no longer speak, but exchange thoughts.
Thought exchange was inspired by the way people from the Second Foundation mentally interact with each other. Combined with faster than light communication technology, people can have all sorts of interactions across millions of light years.
Fedrix and his friends live in a colony ship called the eternity, going from star to star delivering billions of colonists. When they arrive to a new star, they begin building rotating habitats. After they get everything going for the future Dyson swarm, they move on to the next star.
So, after a spectacular week-long party, the storyline jumps to 2016 and the next couple of chapters are devoted to how mankind becomes a spacefaring civilization.
Fedrix was born Federico Tarifa in 1966 in Columbia. He has been interested in space his entire life. In 2016 he realizes that building rotating habitats, instead of trying to colonize the moon or Mars is the way to go and he becomes an advocate for the cause. Years later, a group of scientists, engineers, and ex-NASA astronauts create an organization called the Space Initiative.
They begin mining asteroids and after a few decades manage to build the first rotating habitat, a very tiny colony the size of a stadium and capable of housing a thousand people. They call it Terminus in honor of the great Isaac Asimov. Fedrix becomes one of the first residents of Terminus and later gets promoted to be the colony administrator of Terminus.
They launch an automated mining operation to the planet Mercury. This allows them to build rotating habitats the size of an island and capable of housing tens of millions of people. The influx of raw materials allows the space initiative to pay off all their loans and it becomes extremely wealthy. It also becomes an independent nation with its own seat in the United Nations. Little by little, people start emigrating to space, to escape climate change and economic inequality. The Space Initiative offers free housing and a universal basic income. In the beginning, only a few people leave, but in the 21st century, 17 billion people live in space versus just 3 billion people on Earth.
And nations begin to collapse due to underpopulation. The United States declares immigration an act of treason in an effort to deter people from leaving. But the exodus continues. At the same time, the space initiative is desperate to extract a group of scientists that have just discovered the secret to faster than light communication. Because this technology will allow a unified human civilization throughout the universe, the initiative is willing to do whatever it takes to secretly extract their scientists. Federico is now a space initiative board member, and the chairman puts him in charge of a covert operation to rescue the scientists.
As people continue to flee, the United States launches a first strike attack with space ballistic missiles, destroying two of the habitats. Russia and China are allied with the Space Initiative and launch a massive counter cyber attack that paralyzes most of the US offensive weapons, but the American president launches all the nuclear weapons he has left against the two superpowers, triggering Word War III. A century after the war, humans restore Earth to its pristine glory, but everybody leaves for space and the planet becomes a vacation destination. By the year 2400, a trillion people live in space and new technologies allow the construction of continent size rotating habitats, each capable of housing five billion people. Humans are now ready to send the first interstellar ship to Alpha Centauri.
The ship is accelerated without fuel by bouncing a powerful laser off of its back side. The laser provides a tiny acceleration, so it takes about four years to reach 20% of lightspeed and a total of twenty-five years to reach Proxima. Once the first interstellar voyage is successful, mankind colonizes the Milky Way in under a million years.
But even before our galaxy is fully colonized, they reache for neighboring galaxies. Now, K3+ hinges on the Fermi paradox. But now when the storyline returns to the future, the Eternity is in intergalactic space, outside the M87 galaxy, when they encounter the first extraterrestrial civilization.
Joel: Wow. That's a lot. That's a big story, probably bigger than anybody else has ever written. Beyond the audacious vision of telling this story, I was really impressed by your depth of conviction regarding the most effective path humanity has to take to reach the stars and, you know from our exchanges online, I'm one of those “planetary chauvinists” who loves the idea of humanity settling Mars – I've been a member of the Mars society for 20 years or so – and other worlds in our solar system, along with the kind of space settlements you're describing. In the story, the efforts to settle Mars don't go well, being undermined by the deleterious effects of gravity, coupled with substance addiction and depression.
Why are you so convinced that planetary settlements must be avoided in humanity's future and that only the approach you describe is worth exploring?
Erasmo: One thing Asimov constantly reminds me of is that we all have our biases and that it is very difficult to get past them. I believe he had an epiphany during that conversation with Gerard O'Neill when he coined the term planetary chauvinism. To be honest, I think it's a bit strong, and I actually use the term “deeply ingrained planetary bias.”
I think it's a little bit softer than saying planetary chauvinism. First, planets are fundamentally limited. If I had a magic wand and made Mars and Venus identical to Earth – gravity and all – we’d filll them in a couple of generations. Second, to get access to the amount of raw materials available in space, we'd have to disassemble those planets and we know how well that's going on right now. Personally, I have come to regard Earth mankind's womb. Our ancestors lived in caves. I believe our descendants will live in these rotating oases around the stars. We can house more people inside the rotating habitats around the sun than on all habitable planets in the Milky Way and we still have another 200 billion stars to settle, regardless of whether they have habitable planets or not.
Finally, I want to add that stars are the low hanging fruit for a technologically advanced civilization, such as mankind, to colonize space because they offer unlimited energy. We will start building rotating habitats around the Sun – one by one – and within a thousand years, we'll have built so many of them we’ll completely surround our star. That said, I'm not stopping anybody from going to settle Mars and the clouds of Venus if they want.
Joel: All right, good. Cause I'm heading there. No, I'm curious about one thing and I want to ask you, after we get into Tobias's book a little bit, I'm curious about when exactly that, interview on with Gerald O’Neil was with Asimov. Was it before or after he'd written the sequels and the prequels to Foundation, do you remember?
Joel: Okay. So it was before he wrote all that stuff. Okay. That's interesting.
Erasmo: I guess he had a lot on his plate.
Joel: Yeah, definitely. So let's move on to a completely different take on the future. Tobias, you wrote a really interesting book, a few of them, but the one that I first read was New Eyes. I think it's your most recent published book or one since, I guess.
Tobias: Yeah, one since.
Joel: So, it's set largely on Mars in what feels like just a few decades into the future. Robots feature extensively in your story and the relationships between humanity and the artificial life we create is a big part of it as well.
I was really captivated by the depth of the characters in your story, including the villains who are really quite nasty, but also have compelling backstories and always believe they are doing the right thing. Can you give us an introduction to the story and why you decided to center it so much on the relationship of humanity with artificial life?
Tobias: Yeah. Thanks, Joel. I thank you very much for your words on my book. New Eyes is actually a sequel to a book that I co-wrote with Joseph Catilli. Funny story very briefly, way back in graduate school, sometime during the mid-Taft administration or something, Joe and I were, on a excruciatingly boring 12 hour shift at a psychiatric hospital where we worked and we decided, hey, let's write a story together!
So he and I sketched out some world building and some alternate history and a few characters and we wrote like, you know, roughly the first chapter of the story. And then, as with so many things in life, it sort of fell away and, fast forward some 20 years later we reconnect on Facebook and he said, ‘Hey, do you remember that story’?
We started writing. Yeah, well, you know, we never finished it, but there's like, you know, a bunch of other stories that I wrote in that world. I said, oh, that's groovy. and then we put our heads together and we finished that first story called The Source, a novella as it turned out because brevity is not my strong suit.
Several other stories ensued, and they're all partaking of the same general universe. And one of them his daughter, his brilliant daughter came up with the idea of an android serial killer, and they bounced the idea off of me. And because, you know, in addition to being a huge geek, I'm also like, badly addicted to puns. I thought about alternate spellings for the word serial. This android was horribly abused, ridiculously abused. And as a result came up with this delusional idea of avenging artificial life against humans, who in any way normalized that kind of abuse and started killing people in a very sort of cyber punky way. Somebody who was using androids to test radiation shielding, he designed nanites that would detonate his skin because androids are very sensitive to ionizing radiation. Another, a restaurateur who employed and abused only androids in his restaurant, you know, had his viscera explode.
So, this was a very brutal idea, but at the core, was this being the sentient being who was just trying to do the right thing and had been so distorted by its experience, his experiences that, you know, he turned to this, you know, this awful mode of vengeance. And so that was sort of a detective cyberpunky story. But I came up with the idea for New Eyes, which would be a sequel that would focus on what were ultimately secondary characters in Mechanical Error, which I guess violates rules. You know, you keep your main characters in the sequal, but you know, whatever, you know, I had The Empire Strikes Back, you know, focused on like Boba Fett and the guy with the, you know, cybernetic implants.
And the objective was to, in some way, redeem this poor android, you know, to some way without reprogramming, without a death sentence of consciousness, to bring him into a moral, empathic way of being. And as a result, I created these characters, and fleshed out these characters, you know, one of whom was like, the beautiful woman in the front row who never failed to attend the android's performances, you know?
And she was never given a name because her purpose was to be his, you know, tragically disstantiated, you know, moral center. Then you know, I gave her a name and this one, cybernetic ISIS, who waa inadvertently duped into helping the Android create the nanites that would cause his victims to explode and felt he had to redeem himself, and in order to redeem themselves, they have to go to Mars because Mars has much more lax laws on androids than earth. On Earth, androids are property. On Mars, they work off their manufacturing costs and become full citizens.
Joel: Iindentured servants, I guess. Right?
Tobias: Essentially. Yeah. But in a sense, in an existential sense, you know, I'm working off the cost of my presence in the universe, and after that, it's on me, which, you know, people of good conscience can disagree as to the morality of that. But I mean, you know, it takes a lot of money to build an android, so something, but I mean, one of the main thoughts I had was that if you have a truly sentient AI, uh, network general intelligence that has achieved self reflexive awareness, to the extent that you can call it sentient, then our task as creators of such beings is far less akin to programming than parenting.
That's that's the thing I'm sure we'll get back into, but I mean, you mentioned my villains and I love my villains. I love my villains. one of them in particular, Irene, she is so marvelous. She could have been such a tremendously like fruitful, generative agent in the universe, except that certain things went wrong in her background.
And she became somewhat narcissistic and psychopathic. And so you can see how awesome she is, but you can also see how broken she is. And that's really hard for me to write, you know, these actually there are two villains, two main villains in New Eyes, and they're the first villains I've ever written because I have an unhealthy, inability to distance myself from the empathy for characters, so to make them bad and deserving of bad things is really difficult for me. So that was a bit of growth, you know.
Joel: I have to interrupt you for a second. I didn't even really get that Irene was a villain at first. I was like, drawn into her so much like when you first started writing about her, then I really liked her from the get-go and then gradually she became quite sick, you know,
Tobias: I guess she was that late in my mind, she's got the greatest voice too. She was like a cross between Katherine Hepburn and Wendy Malick. But anyway, that's the thing. I mean, I come from a family of musicians, so I hear voices in my head, which sounds a lot worse when I say it out loud. Okay. Uh, so that's the wrap on that, on your book? That's a quite a bit, sorry, mate. No problem.
Joel: No problem. Uh, it's great. Uh, so in, let's see. Okay. As someone, this is kind of, for both of you. Uh, as someone who's never written a novel, uh, I'm often overwhelmed by the amount of research that a novelist and especially a hard scifi novelist has to do to sound like they know what they're talking about.
So can I get you guys to talk about that process and some of the biggest challenges you face in your world building and creating the details of a story set in a world so unlike what we, as the readers are familiar with. For instance, Erasmo, in K3+, you go into quite a bit of detail on the construction of rotating space habitats and the Kardashev Scale.
Can you talk at all about what that means and your process of researching these concepts? And maybe you could also describe a little bit more about the Fermi paradox and how that plays into the story.
Erasmo: Perhaps I should explain what our rotating habitat is, it’s basically a gigantic cylinder - they're made of a rectangular section bent until it forms a tube. This is what we call the drum and two circular sections to seal the atmosphere inside the cylinder, rotates to create the effect of gravity inside the drum at the center of the regular sections, you have gravity. The concept of rotating habitats was popularized by American physicist, Gerard O’Neil in the seventies and K3+ extends his work to incorporate 21st century technology. For example, we use a Kevlar composite to build them bigger than O'Neill's original design. We grow crops using vertical farming with aeroponic irrigation and animal protein is grown in vitro without sacrificing a living being.
All this is done in the zero gravity area, along the rotating axis, maximizing the use of the drum for human activities. The Fermi paradox is one of the most exciting aspects of K3+. The best metaphor I came up with to explain it is easy. You are waiting for a friend who lives half a mile away and he doesn't arrive within the hour, something out of the ordinary happened. That is the essence of the Fermi Paradox. Given the size and age of the Milky way, there's been more than enough, thousands of times, more than enough time for an alien civilization to colonize it, even without faster than light travel.
With our current technology, we can achieve that task in under a million years. I want to be very cautious, very cautious with my words at this point, the more we learn, the more likely it appears that we are the first civilization in the Milky Way. Stars like the Sun are only 2.5% of the galaxy. And even the Sun appears to be exceptionally tame compared to other yellow dwarves. Then when you look at the very unlikely accidents in the evolution of life on Earth, we are here doing this webcast by a miracle. Finally, yellow dwarves have a very short life. In the next 500 million years, the Sun’s luminosity would increase by 10% and that will spell doom to our biosphere.
Joel: Yep. It'll get a bit hot.
Erasmo: You may say that.
Joel: So yeah, I kind of agree after reading Stephen Webb's book, Why Are We Were? I came to the same conclusion he did. He led me there that we are probably alone. There's just so many crazy steps required for life to become multicellular in the first place.
And then to actually become, you know, the time it takes to get to where we are. Tobias?
Tobias: If I may. I mean, yes, in retrospect, the probability of all the things having happened exactly the way that they did is hilariously low. However, the present is always inevitable. I mean, the fact that we're having this conversation means that all those things have already occurred and that that's, you know, I understand if you're extrapolating on probabilities, you know, you're, you're going to say, yes, how likely is it?
This has happened. But I mean, the probability of things having occurred, the way that they did so that we can be having this conversation is 1, you know, is 100% probable that all of those things could have occurred. So it's, I, I understand that there are, and I know you're probably going to get into this more about the Fermi paradox and I, I, by the way, I freaking love that idea about, you know, the guy down the street here, he hasn't talked to you in more than an hour than something's up.
That is just a really freaking beauteous, uh, way to encapsulate it. But it's a big damn neighborhood gentlemen, and it takes a long time for information to traverse that if, you know, if, if they're limited by flat Einsteinian space. So there there's, uh, you know, this might be the cockeyed optimist in me, but I mean, you know, I, I can't help, but think that, you know, somewhere there's a hello, you know, a few parsecs away waiting to reach our ears. So anyway, that's just my bit.
Joel: Yeah. And as Stephen kind of concluded - Steven Webb, uh, in his book, there's much more likelihood that life is widespread throughout the galaxy than that civilized life is widespread throughout the galaxy. I’m going to go so far as to say, I think that it's extremely unlikely that there are Romulans and Klingons out there.
if they are, they're a very, very, very long way away and we're not going to run into them for a lot more than the 24th century. So anyway, I'm going to get back to, uh, the next question, uh, and this one's going to be for you Tobias, I think. and I want to get back into this computer intelligence stuff.
So you talk about some of the possible downsides in the interactions between flesh and blood human beings and artificial intelligence. Uh, what were some of your inspirations and where did you learn so much about complexity?
Tobias: Well, this is actually a really lovely anecdote about the potential cross-fertilization of radical geekiness and, one’s questing about for a career path.
I learned about chaos theory. my first year of graduate school, you know, I said, well, I'm going to be a psychologist. What kind of psychologist? I don't know. I read Jurassic Park. And, you know, Creighton's one of the few novelists who puts footnotes in his books. And I love that. I love that about him, and I dove deep into Chaos Theory and I read James Glike’s book Chaos, and, you know, uh, unbeknownst to me, I was at the precipice of a life-changing encounter with a domain of thought. I mean, it's, it's once I understood Chaos Theory, you know, to the extent that one can and, you know, added complexity theory in there, nothing ever looked the same.
Again, it was one of those Copernican moments, you know, where you can look at a picture of a rock against the sky. And honestly not know if it's something that could sit on your desk or something you'd need pitons to climb. And that is what impressed the fractal organization of the universe into my head. Things are self-similar. If you ever look up fractals and the fractional dimensions, you know, I know, you know, this, I mean, but, you know, it, it's the dimensions between the zero and one essentially. And it's a degree of irregularity and nature tends to observe that algorithm. So things are self-similar at different scales of observations.
You know, the, the, the trunk looks like the bow. It looks like the branch looks like the twig looks like the leaf, you know, bronchial, you know, uh, passages. So this self similarity is woven into the structure of any aspect of the universe, which is subject to non-equilibrium conditions. I mean, equilibrium’s very predictable and Euclidean, but once you start throwing a flux of energy through the mix, then hope things get interesting.
And that's where, you know, the, the, the irregularities in matter and energy and information give rise to things like self-organization where, you know, the, the product of the, of the chemical reaction is part of the process of the chemical reaction and nature itself, iterates. And once I understood that, then, you know, after, you know, my skull reconstituted from the top of my head being blown off, it, it became endemic to everything.
And as I started to learn about one aspect of complexity, very, which is neural networks, you know, which is information processing, not by linear, you know, sort of pings to a central processing unit, but by networks of really dumb nodes, interacting with each other and incredibly complex ways.
What emerges from that is incredibly sophisticated behaviors and information processing, akin to evolution, which is another whole thing I can get into at some point. But, you know, then you'd never shut me up. I don't know. Does that answer your question?
Joel: Sure, that goes a long way towards answering the question and that's great, very interesting.
So, again for both of you, you both are great writers and, you know, have written amazing stuff that's that I found incredibly entertaining, but there's a problem here. Uh, your independent sci-fi writers and you don't have big budget publishers behind you. so what kind of challenges do you face getting readers to buy and read your books?
Or is that not a problem? Are you just happy with - a couple of readers. Is that good enough? Good enough that I've read it? Uh, so just kind of curious what your, how you faced that challenge and you know, what you've learned from it.
Tobias: Well, before anything else has said, I bloody love that you read it. I'm never going to sell that short. let me just ask you this real quick and then I want to really want hear what your impressions are Erasmo. For me, basically, it has been unending hustling on social media.You know, that's, what I post constantly about, Hey, you've never heard of me, but I have this book, and you know, posting like vignettes and we character studies and occasionally, uh, chapters from the audio book I've mostly recorded.
And what's beautiful about that is it creates opportunities where I've connected with, you know, like people, including you, Joel. and that that's been my method and it has not been as successful as my wildest dreams would have projected, but I mean, it has yielded dividends beyond mere book sales.
Joel: Okay. Well, I know it works because you got me hooked, uh, from, uh, how many different ways that you drummed it into my head, that you had this book out there. And I felt like I had to take a look at it and I had no regrets. Erasmo, any thoughts on that? How'd you get people to read K3+?
Erasmo: You know, I, I focus on writing the story. I didn't even think about the marketing or the directors. I just got it into my head that I had to get the story out. And if you are self publish is like, you cannot get above the noise in, that is, uh, that is a huge, uh, that is a huge, uh, handicap to, uh, start the game with. For me, what has worked the best is writing, articles on Medium scientific articles on Medium.
[much cleanup below]
Uh, based on their scientific topics that are in gateway applause, and that has got a good number of people to read the novel, like my, uh, fairly paradox, addict con, uh, got a lot of readers in it, did sell a number of copies. Hmm. Okay. Well, I'm, I'm hoping that this is another way, uh, podcasting that you can, we can get a few people thinking about it and, uh, maybe some following through, and at the end of this, I want to get some links from you guys to post in the show notes.
So people know exactly where to go, to get more information and hopefully to pull out their wallets credit cards, uh, download something. So. let me know, let me know. what other stories or upcoming projects that you guys want to talk about or is there anything else coming out for you to buy us after new eyes?
Uh, I believe there, you said you have another book. and, uh, well, before you answer that, I just want to tell you that I fell in love with your characters in the story so much. I really wanted to see more of them. And I like, is there a SQL coming out, uh, what happens to Jenna and Naomi and all that? And while I know what happened to Naomi, but there was the new Naomi, uh, I'm spoiling, and arrest Mo you know, a billion years is fine, but yeah.
Surely you've got something in the works for what happens as humanity approaches the heat at the universe and another trillion years or so. Uh, do we escape into another fresh young universe and why keeps the timescale so short here? You know, let's expand things a little bit. Well, the timescale just fell into my lap because in order to reach the lost at us sub Lightspeed, then you have to stop every certain number of lives to colonize other staffs and so on.
It would be about a billion years before you make it to the regarding future projects. the, the story, uh, the way that mankind can go to space and spray it because we already have. A lot of the technologies that are necessary, we have to, some of them need to be, uh, uh, scaled up tested and so on to be effective in space.
So some of them need to be developed, but we already have a lot of the technology necessary to go to space, get a food hall in colonize, the Cuma, the solar system. So my, what's coming up for me is I want to continue spreading the word out. I want to continue fighting those, with deeply ingrained planetary bias.
basically I want to get the word out that that is another option besides try to live on Mars or in the clouds of Venus. Okay, can I just jump in here? I just, I have a quick thought on this whole deeply ingrained planetary bias business because I, I, to, uh, suffer from that particular melody. I suffer, I bounce in my chair at the prospect, so there's very little suffering actually involved for my subjective reality.
one of the things that, uh, that defines me is that I am, uh, as Joel mentioned, I'm also a mythology junkie and I am, I don't know, I don't know. I'm in communion with a shade of old Joseph Campbell about the, the, the, the profound, psychological, and meta psychological significance of a landscape. I think, you know, you, you said the planets are the womb and, you know, and that we moved into caves.
And what's interesting is that we emerged from one room and moved into another room. if you want to look at the imagery of caves, sorry, I got a little Freud in there. But I think that there is a certain painting with the grain in terms of our, for want of a better term archetypical consciousness that planets would satisfy despite their, you know, their disadvantages.
I think that having the ground under foot. Is grounding ha orienting in a way which is not easily dismissed for me. I think space is going to be so strange and is going to be such a collective trauma. Once people find themselves in a space where they look in the sky and there's this teeny tiny blue dot and there's everything else.
I think that's going to mess with us and that's one of the reasons I see planets as a good transitional space. That being said, I think in terms of the available real estate, you know, giant space, born habitats, can't be beat. And as our numbers increase along with our ambitions, let alone our, you know, our travel aspirations.
I mean, that is going to be necessary. I just think that there is, there is a basis for a psychological consideration of the value of a plan. Which is not easily dismissed in my office. I have a picture of a sunset over Gustaf crater on Mars, and it's the most haunting image I've ever seen. And many of my clients will say, Hey, did you take that?
And I'm like, I wish, you know, because, but they look at it and they see a place. They see a place where people live, where they look over the mountains and the sunsets. And I think that it is so at least for, you know, however long evolution takes, it's going to be ingrained in our consciousness. It's such an primordial level that it would, it gives me pause to consider abandoning that level of experience prematurely.
That was a lot of words. Does that make sense? And you know, we are humans and we love land in. Definitely. I understand it because. You know, until six years ago, I thought we would live on planet, but also consider that perhaps in the next two centuries, we will be able to build them the size of the size of a continent and these things that are so big.
You can feed 5 billion people. Would that be, you look up in the sky and you see the clouds, you don't see the other, you see continents on the, on the sky, but you don't even get to see the series because they are 600, 1200 kilometers away in the sky. So you can only detect the series of night because they are so huge.
And again, we don't know exactly how these things will play out, but as you said, uh, Tobias, uh, the real, the planet real estate is limited. Yes. Yeah. I, I want to just throw in my little objection. Which is a little different. I mean, I see Tobias's point, uh, the Joseph Campbell thing really resonates and I'm also thinking like, I, I, for a while I flirted with Taoism and everything is about the drain and, you know, the, the that's that, that, and that, that really strikes me as, uh, uh, pretty compelling.
but, more than just the idea of having ground under foot, I'm thinking of, in terms of one of the things that I love is diversity. And, uh, maybe it's a little bit the ADHD in me. but I can only see, I think, what, what really struck me in my reading, uh, more than anything was, uh, the first book that Kim Stanley Robinson wrote.
and it was actually about the fourth one he published, but it was the very first one he wrote was called the memory of whiteness. And it's a, uh, an amazing book it's, it's set in like 3,800 or something. Uh, and it's, uh, humanity has spread throughout the entire solar system. And it's, uh, it's told from the very distant from Pluto or, uh, inward.
Tour of the music features heavily in it. There's this musical tour that goes from the farthest reaches of the solar system into mercury and hits all the different worlds along the way. And humanity has settled in so many different ways and in so many places with so many different levels of gravity and different kinds of constraints, uh, and it's created these incredibly, uh, vibrant and varying cultures on each world, uh, based on the, all the things that have impacted them.
And that to me, is something that I just absolutely loved and, and thought, okay, Yeah, I want to see that. I want to get to that a reality where there's that much difference around, you know, the, I, and what I would want to do is make the whole tour, I'd want to explore mall and see, see what all these different cultures and all these different worlds are like, and maybe it's a fantasy.
but you know, Kim Stanley Robinson wrote hot, hard science fiction. So he had it pretty well-explained, you know, how it, how it worked. And, uh, w one thing I was going to say about, science fiction in general, and I think is, uh, as a non author, I have to say, but, you know, a lot of times we're, we're very aware of how science fiction predictions are.
So. So much of the time, right? and these are brilliant guys that are writing these stories and they've, you know, they know every, they know a lot about human nature and they know a lot about science and technology and everything, but still they get everything wrong. And I think one of the main reasons why these brilliant people get things wrong is because they're writing from a perspective that's rooted in the present at the time they're writing, you know, in a mindset that's of the present and as humanity develops and surprises, emerge, uh, and different, you know, nobody knew about the internet 50 years ago, and how it would completely dominate our culture.
And so we don't know what's going to completely dominate our car culture in another 50 years. And when the people. 50 years from now, we'll have a mindset that's very different from that of the authors who are writing science fiction about that time now. Right? So to me, that's why it's so wrong. Why everybody, why it's inevitable that you're going to get everything wrong, uh, or a lot of things wrong.
And so, uh, I just look forward to that. I like surprises. I don't want to know how things are going to happen. I want to see, things be different in various ways. Well, it's easy. It's funny what, the, the, the original question before I took us down this, you know, distributary, uh, allegedly Shelley winters was going to write an autobiography entitled all tributaries and no stream, which I really wish she had done because that's the best title ever.
speaking of ADHD, But you mentioned, uh, other things that, you know, that I've written, that I've been involved in future projects. And one of the things that actually just drop, you know, under two weeks ago was an anthology of cyberpunk stories in which I have one story there, like 14 amazing authors and me and, and Joseph, you know, the guy from the hospital.
and I started writing cyber punk, you know, cause that's more his style, but I'm lousiest cyber punk. Cause I don't do dystopia. Well, you know, I, I don't, I I'm, I'm not a utopian. I think that there's always going to be warts and you know, and. Blemishes, and perhaps even the occasional tumor, but ultimately I think that the, the, the life of civilization, is one that evolves.
So, you know, cyberpunk gets called Neo cyberpunk volume two, and there's some amazing storage in there in mind is sort of a cyberpunk vampire crossover. But I just, I wanted to throw it in there that I, I don't do dystopia well as has probably come out in the course of this conversation. You, yeah, new eyes is, uh, new eyes is a hopeful vision of the future.
I mean, it's, you know, earth is in a bad way and heading towards some unpleasant stuff, but Mars is, you know, the, the, the tabula rasa, it's where, you know, people have settled and have elected to leave their baggage behind and create a new branch of civilization, a chance to rewrite the code. And not everybody succeeds, obviously, but I mean, just the notion that that is an idea.
On the, on the, in the Noah's sphere is one that is incredibly causative for me. If I may I'd sink in the next 50 years, we are going to see wars over water wars because of climate. We're going to see a lot more war and a lot more conflict, especially over resources. Uh, that's the only prediction that I'm sure about.
Yeah. Yeah. I hope you're wrong. I, I hope you're wrong. And I think there's, there's some possibility that you are because, there, as we've gotten more connected and that seems to be something that we will only continue to get more kind of connected. there, there becomes the, the cost of war becomes so obvious, uh, that, uh, it's easier to.
And it's more compelling to avoid it than ever. and I think they, the greater connection also has a, uh, uh, an effect on, diminishing nationalism and tribalism. Uh, and that we, we tend to, that's another reason I love diversity. I love to connect with people like, you know, like you were me from, you know, very far away.
and, uh, you know, my wife is from Russia and, that, that it's going to Asia. It was one of the greatest vacations I ever took just to see the different perspective there. Uh there's I have, I have hopes that, uh, we will. Yeah, it will definitely have our disasters or our skirmishes is on our, uh, I'm.
I'm hoping we can continue to avoid, uh, nukes, but who knows that could happen tomorrow. and, I'm, I'm really. Somewhat confident that things will improve in the long haul. Uh, in that regard, I think that there are other things that really concerned me about the future, and that's more about like status and getting, uh, too comfortable.
Uh, and people becoming like too rooted in their comfort. And, Robert Zubrin of the, the Mars society had, has, uh, a phrase that's always stuck with me since I first read the case for Mars, which is feathering our nests. Uh, the fear that we will, you know, use our technological improvements to continually feather our nests, to keep getting more and more comfortable too.
And we'll get into the metaverse, you know, he didn't use that term then, but, uh, you know, the metaverse is all about, you know, just having everything in, in your mind and being able to just. Very relaxed and be comfortable, have three square meals a day and go anywhere you want and do anything you want.
And that, that might be enough for 99% of the population, you know, and I'm not sure that that's a positive thing to happen to humanity. especially after reading the edge, the end of eternity, uh, I, uh, the, the, the main, uh, message I got out of that was, this is the wrong path to take, to, to, uh, settle into a uniformity of, uh, humanity, uh, and to get away from risk and to, uh, the.
We need to push ourselves to confront more challenges, to continue to, you know, spark our evolution and to drive ourselves into more innovation and more, yeah, change is good. And if we start getting into a fear of change, uh, then you know, we're, we become, we will plateau and just kind of, settle out.
And yeah, I worry about that too. I, I, I, I mean, the, the, the sort of involuted solid view of, of civilization that becomes more and more planet bound, you know, we're, you know, the whatever's going on with the Kardashians is more important than, you know, photographing a black hole. You know, there, there, there is a certain. sclerotic, property to that, which I think is very problematic.
I mean, that's, in addition to, you know, having all our eggs in one basket in the event of a calamitous, asteroid impact, et cetera. I think that's one of the greatest dangers of remaining unit planetary is that we just little collapse into our own navels essentially. And you know, something like the metaverse, you know, that's one of the features of, you know, of cyberpunk is that people whose life circumstances are so bloody dreadful, you know, live in this, you know, cyberspace all the time and, you know, they come out and they look like the character from Wally on the ship, you know, just sort of sitting in a chair.
yeah. Uh, the, the interesting, I've never been really big into cyber punk and the and everything that much, but, it strikes me. There's they seem to be mostly about, you know, really difficult life and, and horrible conditions and all that. And what I'm talking about is something like almost 180 from that, you know, it's the idea of life becoming too good and too, too perfect to the point where, uh, we're, we're not driven to, to, uh, to change.
And, and I, I kind of feel like that, uh, you know, danger and risk and, you know, unheard of challenges, like weird gravity levels and, you know, weird atmospheres, uh, our, It's something that would be really a good antidote to that. You know, that at some point you're going to have to get out of the comfort zone.
Well, speaking of Robert Zubrin quotes, I mean, one of my favorite quotes is that the chief export of a Mars colony will be ideas, you know, adapting to these wildly different circumstances, you know, and, and, you know, trying to transcend, you know, adversities that are unprecedented in our evolutionary history will effect, you know, push us to evolve.
uh, in terms of like resource wars and such. I mean, one of the things that I'm really having my eye on is next generation. I mean, fusion of course with us, you know, what's the old joke, 30 years away, it always will be. but next generation vision, you know, which is like passively cooled and, you know, essentially meltdown proof and incredibly energy dense and reprocesses waste.
So it becomes, you know, renewable. and you know, the, the, the, the curing of the concrete of a plant will produce more CO2 than the operation of the plant itself. So there you have things like desalination, you have things like, you know, running grow lights, you know, in the Northern hemisphere is, you know, things that, you know, disaster relief from small modular reactors, which have to be barged in, and, you know, your renewables of course, but I mean, you know, other renewables that is of course, but I think an energy dense future is a thriving future and a future in which the possibility of innovation, uh, remains robust.
I think that if we continue down our current course, God's forbid then, you know, the, the enemy, the enemy, the energy to power innovation is going to be in dwindling supply. And that's where we start getting into the, you know, the, the warlord scenario.
If that's harassment, I think I'm going to have to wrap things up here before too long or a little over an hour. And just to say that, uh, I'll, I'll just close with the some produces in one second, nearly 500,000 times, the total global energy consumption of the human brain. Just try to wrap your mind about those numbers rather than using resources to produce energy here on earth.
For those who wants to stay on air, we can capture that energy in space and be mad down to the ground. low energy radio waves, and that allows you to have energy 24 by seven in with zero emissions and in space, solar panels capture possibly tens of times more energy. Then on the surface of.
No. And I want to make sure that you understand Erasmo that I'm not at Thai space settlements. Like I love the idea of space settlements. And you know, when you go back to, I grew up in the sixties and, uh, I remember seeing those first, uh, visualizations of, uh, the O'Neill space cylinders that just blew my mind.
We had a coffee table book of those who would spend hours looking at and just like that. And there's another way of looking at it too. Uh, what you describe in, in these gigantic worlds, uh, spinning, uh, is that is something so different to our normal conception that that's going to drive things to. It's going to drive humanity to address.
Place then than we are, you know, mentally, emotionally we will have. so that that's not something to, to, you know, to forget about that's, that's going to be a big thing. Big thing. I just wanted it all. Yeah. That's all. I want to have, uh, enormous numbers of, of, uh, incredible space settlements. I don't want them to all be the same.
I want them to be different, so I can go from one to the other and see how things are different. Uh, but I also want to, uh, you know, after a while I get bored with that and I want to go check out some planets.
That was good to me. That's assuming I live for another billion years. Like your protagonist, if he could know why can't, I think you said he was born in 66, right? Or was born in 66. I was born about nine years to her. That is my age. Yeah.
Well, this has been an amazing discussion and I'm really happy to have had you guys on. I really hope that our listeners found this interesting and, I really hope that they check out your books, uh, because, uh, I think it would do them all wonderful service if they did that. So thanks so much for both of you coming on the podcast.
I wish you well, hope you continue to be so audacious and creative and looking forward to more great stuff from both of you. So keep it up. Thank you so much, Joe.
Okay. I'm going to read off the end of our episode here. Uh, so you guys can just stay put, and then we'll have a post episode we'll chat. so that'll do it for this episode and I'm so grateful to our guests for coming on and talking about their books. I'd love to hear from any listeners who are intrigued enough to read for themselves and to share your takes on the novels.
I'd also love it. If you would help spread the word as it's hard for Andes to find notice in the crowded field of science fiction, coming from big bud budget publishers, uh, links to Tobias center ASBOs books, and other info will be in the show notes. On our next episode, we'll be concluding the story of the search by the mule in second time date.
When we left the story, the various threads were converging. Thanks to that mysterious hyper tracer. The mule seems to be hot on the trail of pitcher and Janice and the speakers of the second pond. Dation seem almost ready to confront him. Pritcher seems suspiciously happy for some reason. And what's, Chantis really thinking, I promise to reveal all and in only a couple of weeks.
So I shall come back for the stirring twist filled conclusion of search by the meal in our next episode, here on Seldon crisis.