Friday, March 11, 2011

More on the Missile Craft, and some Q&A

          I got an email today from long-time fan Trey Palmer, AKA "Pilgrim" that asked a lot of very good questions.  Rather than fill up the comments section with my lengthy response, I decided to use today's post.  Besides, I didn't have a good topic to blog about today...

         Here is the comment, reprinted for your convenience:

         "I can see the medical types reporting to the LSO, but I'm not sure the LSO would be a medical type. From my (admittedly limited) understanding, life support is a mix of biology and engineering to keep the larger system alive and inhabitable. The doctors and any support team would be invaluable in helping diagnose life support problems and fix the crew from their impacts, but I think the training would be in different directions.
         "Occupying colonies - yes, I get that the espatier unit woud have a large number of force multipliers in the form of robots in the cargo hold, plus new ones fabbed up on site, plus whatever they could suborn and be useful in occupying the site. However, you're going to need human judgement behind those bots and surveillance feeds and with no to minimal light speed lag. The ideal goal is to keep the locals from wanting to sabotage your efforts to rebuild their colony into a FOB for whatever power. So, I think the human touch would be very useful.
           "Now some questions - you've provided an illustration of the general purpose 'bot. But what are some of the broad types in the BD setting? Bush bots? Human imitators? 
           "What is medical treatment like in the BD? Is tissue engineering common for replacing organs and limbs? Or is it cybernetics all the way? Or some mix? I'll bet telemedicine is taken to a level that would boggle us. Doctors and nurses making house calls through teleoperated robots, or being on call at a hospital 200 miles away while staying in your living room are two that immediately come to mind.
           "The medical question brought up some demographic questions for me. IIRC, the three major PC types are human, AI and nu ape. So, what are their typical ages? Lifespans? Causes of death?"
          Whew!  Where to begin... First off, combining life support maintenance with direct medical intervention in the job of LSO is, admittedly, a matter of convenience.  I justify it as an analog of how old Destroyer Escorts had corpsman as the ship's chief medical officer (or Pharmacist's Mate, in those days) and maybe one actual doctor per squadron.  Of course, the IPV is itself a squadron-level (or rather, wing-level in Air Force parlance) asset, so it should have at least one dedicated medical doctor.  We'll make that two, doubling up as usual, giving us a nice round eighty for our Missile Craft's compliment.

          As for the warm-body to robot ratio of Espatiers, I am deliberately making it as low as possible to save Life-support.  Robots are easy; just rack 'em up Episode I style and do maintenance checks, assisted by the IPV's Payload Load Officers.  This gives us a full Espatier battalion, three companies, between 220 and 440 robots they can deploy at one time, and expect the command staff of 20 humans to maintain total tactical control.  This is a ratio of  1:10 to 1:20, which sounds high, but is really not when you consider the ratio of officers to enlisted in real life.  Of course, robots are not as intelligent as the enlisted marines of the present day, so there may be some conflict.  Robots do have the virture of staying on-task, not requiring sleep (just one hour to charge), and of course, they use no life-support and can be stationed in vacuum for extended periods.  You take the good with the bad either way.
           As for the question about the different types of robots available in The Black Desert we will be releasing a Core Book free-source excerpt that covers the robot rules in April.  As always, there will be fluff to give everyone a feel of how robots work.
           Medical treatment is a huge topic that I haven't fully fleshed out (ahem) just yet.  Replacement organs can be grown much more effectively than they are now, and it is possible to clone an individual.  The process used to download people's memories into a QOOR processor can be used in reverse, but its something of a crap shoot as to how much the clone is like the original.  

           One thing that BD has that I'm excited about is nano-biotics. These replace antibiotics with nanotech; the benefit being that bacteria cannot build up an immunity.  There will also be nano-virals, that do the same for viruses.  While these two wonder drugs would seem to cover the bases as far as disease goes, the fact that bacteria and viruses are at least twice as virulent in space makes it a little less effective.  In game terms, we really don't have to worry about infections in game terms.  It's a work in progress.
           All of this adds up, however; Humans live about 150-200 years without trying very hard, and they do not cosmetically or physiologically age much until they're into their hundreds.  The social ramification of this are significant, not the least of which being that scientific advancement has slowed to a crawl.  The old fuddy-duddies that will not accept any theory that is not the traditional one (the major brake on scientific advancement for...ever) simple will not die; they live twice as long as they used to.  This is why BD tech is not very much more advanced than what we could be seeing in the next thirty years or so; that generation of scientist are still alive.

           AI, and by extention Transhumans, don't have life-spans; their consciousness is not biological.  Theoretically, they could a dozen millennia or more before the carbon micro-tubules in their processors break down.  Transhumans, who don't care if they are an original or a recording, can last forever.

          NuApes don't have it so good; they live shorter lives than mainline apes did before they went extinct.  NuApes are not an actual species;  they are cloned apes that are surgically altered and have proto-QOOR processors implanted where their enormous jaw muscles used to be.  As a consequence, NuApes have to eat essentially baby-food, as they barely have the strength to hold their massive jaws shut, much less chew.  This leads to digestive problems, poor nutrition, and other chronic health issues that make them die young.  Being so close to human, they could live longer, but their creators aren't concerned with longevity for disposable troops and laborers.  Free NuApes will be strongly motivated to extend their life-spans, modify their jaws, and other things like that.


  1. Ah, home and away from the no post bits.

    Thanks for the answers Ray!

    They raise some additional questions, but nothing urgent. Lets look at the neat bits...

    OK, it makes sense about the espatiers and the ratio of warm bodies to robots. I think there will be some interesting skill sets among the officers there. And the Martians may be kind of scary if any of their AI citizens volunteer for military service in either the espatiers or the vessels. What makes that scary? No need for life support - just a good steady power supply and routine maintenance. Plus socialization of course.

    Nano-biotics and nano-virals. Those make sense, tiny little hunter killers that attack the bacteria and virii that make people ill. These are blue goo made manifest there, because they're effectively fighting rogue biological replicator infections. They also raise the specter of nanotech weaponry and how scary it can be.

    Another thing is, you need things like this in high radiation environments like space to help protect people from mutant symbiotic bacteria, fungi and virii.

    Related to nano-biotics and nano-virals, assuming you have controls for the nano-biotics and nano-virals it seems scaling them up to insect size opens up some neat possibilities. Transhuman Space had the concept of swarm bots, or synsects on Orion's Arm. These have some neat applications from pest control, to toys to agriculture.

    Human lifespan. That is neat. And about what I'd expect from increasing lifespans. I like the idea of humans that look mature and vital up until their second century. Stack it with advanced medicine and plastic surgery, I'll bet you can have folks that look very good well into their second century.

    It also raises the question about how old most of the population is. Are the numbers you posit for a developed portion of the world? Or are they universal?

    Crying shame about the NuApes though. I can see that being a cause among those that have the time.

    Gotta go. Thanks for BD and the ideas.

    And I'm looking forward to the robot material.

  2. You're welcome!

    You're right; the Martians still having widespread AI in their defensive forces is the major balance that allows a world with such a low population to make Terra's billions play nice.

    The saving grace of the nano medicine is that it isn't self-replicating; that being said, nanos designed to control immune reactions for surgery and what-not are a nightmare in the wrong hands.

    Most of the population hovers at the extremes of the age; after about age 30 there's a gap until one reach their 70 or 80s. It's the "lost generation" effect, compounded by the need to transition so many people after the nuclear attacks. At this point, thanks to fabricators, the rise of super-states, and the wide-spread ecological devastation, what's left of Terra is fairly well developed. Those nations with more tech in one area either have less in another, forcing trade, or a low population, like UACS and Pacifica. The Treaty of Mars was designed to leave Terra's political units as balanced as possible, in hopes of forestalling another war.

    I agree about the NuApes; I wish I didn't have to be so mean. Treating them that way is not only logical, however, it makes for great game conflicts. I still feel bad, though :)


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