Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Economics in the Black Desert: Emplyment Opportunities...

It means something different, in space...

          It's another lovely day here at Blue Max Studios, RocketFans!  By burning some midnight oil, I managed to get the Paladin uploaded before bed last night.  It should reach the publishers in 3-7 days, meaning it will be available for purchase by the 15th.  That's the good news.  The not-as-good news is that I will not be able to order a test proof of the product before the 15th, so it will be the 20th at the earliest before I can review the proof and determine that it lacks any major flaws.  I'm 90% sure that everything will turn out fine, but I can't be 100% sure until the 20th.

         Caveat emptor.

           So, anyway...when last we met, we had established a monetary system, exchange rate, and minimum wage for those who would be working in space.  Today, we will discuss what kind of work people will do to earn that money.
           First of all, we need to discuss three things:  Location, location, location.  where in space are the jobs?  For normal Humans and other species that would actually use money, the places in space one can work are in Terran orbit, on the Asteroid cyclers, Martian orbit, and Mars itself.  Let's look at each category separately, to begin with.

           If the buzz is any indication, Terran orbital space will be home to the oldest and most highly developed space infrastructure in the solar system.  Stations, habitats, research facilities, and hotels/vacation spots will abound in LEO and there will be a constant stream of people going to and fro for both business and pleasure.  There will be constant resupply from Earth, Terran money will be the standard...and jobs will be scarce.  The easy access to labor from the surface and the comparatively short time of contracts to work in space will combine to make orbital employment highly sought after and with the entire population of Terra available (or, at least, a high enough percentage of the population), It will be an employer's market in terms of who has the advantage in negotiating contracts.  Pay will be the lowest in space and the contracts will be short.  They will also be terminated at the drop of a hat as the workers can be easily replaced.  What can I say?  I'm trying for realism here, and benevolent labor relations are rarely realistic...
          Available jobs will include pilots, aerospace engineering, construction and materials experts, scientists, and military professionals.  Like I said above, pay will be the lowest in space.  Contracts will last for only a week or month, for many individuals, as cheap access to the surface and competition allows for a high turn around.

           Asteroid cyclers are a different animal all together.  The minimum turn around time from and to Terra will be two and a half years.  Conditions will be analogous to camping or serving on a submarine for that long- and the max tour of duty for a submariner is currently 180 days.  The jobs available are as numerous and diverse as in Terran orbit, with the exception of tourism being impractical.  Think about it; at 150 USD a day, a 30 month round trip to Mars and back would cost a minimum of 145,000 USD.  Even if you have that kind of cash, who has the time?
          Pay will be better, to reflect the working conditions and the extreme length of contracts.  This will only be slightly ameliorated by the use of transient colonists going to Mars.  Call it one- to two hundred grand a year, USD; a profit for the worker of a quarter-million at the end of the tour.
          This is also assuming the worker keeps their job the whole time.  Suppose they get fired?  It's a hundred and forty-five thousand just to keep them alive.  I would assume, since they cannot walk home, that they would owe a lot of free, nasty labor to the company once they are back on Terra.  Even better, the Plasma Sail expresses can take bad workers back, and exchange them for better ones for, lemme see... for less than a fifth of that!  Hey, we've justified the use of IPVs to visit the cyclers! It will only cost a couple month's worth of docked pay from a disgruntled worker home!
           This may beg the question, if IPVs are that much cheaper, why use the cyclers at all.  Because the asteriod cyclers are literally made of gold.  And platinum, cobalt, helium-3, water, cardon and everything else that Mars needs to terraform and Terra needs to support it's massive tech industries.  The cyclers pay their own way in resources; that and cheap radiation shielding are why asteroids are used instead of space stations to cycle between the planets in the first place.

          Once the cyclers of the Black Desert make their way to Mars, you have a similar set up in orbit as the one around Terra, only on a much smaller scale and without the nearness of a fully habitable planet.  Therefore, turn-around time on the job is much longer than in Terran orbit, and the pay is higher.  Not as high as the cyclers; there's less profit in the Martian stations even though the majority of them will also be asteroids donating much needed matériel to the terraforming effort.  Call it a hundred grand for a 30 month tour, on top of the fifty-five thousand needed for life-support.  But, a worker in Martian orbit need not be from Mars, so they can work a tour on the cyclers to get to the Red Planet and back and pocket 345,000 USD when they make it home.

           On Mars itself, there are more different types of jobs available than anywhere else.  In addition to needing every type of job one would need done on Terra (it is a planet, after all) there are also the additional jobs related to full-scale terraforming and the study of an alien ecology.  For those that aren't already aware, Mars in The Black Desert was already inhabited prior to human exploration with a full, if small ecology complete with intelligent life.  Scientific study of said life is another huge business on the blue shores of Mars.
           Pay-for-play on Mars is a little different.  In the technical and industrial sectors, the money would be good, as without such skills Terran life cannot exist on the Red Planet.  The study of Mars, especially it's native life, is something that many biologists and ecologists would sell their souls to participate in.  Needless to say, Mars will have a substantial population of "starving academics" who have given everything just for the opportunity to study there.  On top of that, there is a large expatriate artists population on Mars as well, and they make anywhere from nothing to a mint, depending on how popular their work is.

           You know, I forgot about the freaking Moon!  I also haven't covered the military presence in space and it's effect on the economy.  But that can wait until tomorrow.  In the mean time, enjoy RocketFans, and I'll see you tomorrow!


  1. No suspended animation?

    With that, the cost for moving someone out to Mars goes down a lot. Much lower (or none depending on which version you go with) life support costs. Much smaller infrastructure footprint as well.

    What about folks willing to travel as uploads (and thus accepting they will be at least 2 different people by the time they hit Mars)?

    All they need is a server farm and they have a luxury cruise.

    Last but not least, the analogy to the submarine fails because if I was the ship owner, I'd have a darn good VW set up there to keep the crew and passengers sane. Another expense, but it would be worth it.

    Related, if you haven't go check out Iron Sunrise by Charles Stross and Golden Globe by John Varley. Both have some very cynical thoughts on why cruise ships would want to keep people awake ...

  2. What? No feedback from the author?

  3. Did I mention my thumb? :)
    Sorry, no suspended animation in The Black Desert. While it would make certain aspects of space travel much, much easier, the science involved is shaky at best, and the risks involved for a mere month-long cruise is unlikely to justify the costs in tech (and medical insurance!).
    Uploaded people in AI processors sounds cheaper, except for the costs involved in producing QOOR processor. They can't be reused, either; you can give the processor access to more than one person's memory easily enough, but the functioning of the QOOR will be influenced by all the personalities and perspectives that it had been exposed to before. Trans-Humans will, of course, travel this way; all IPVs will have “cyber morgues” in their radiation shelters where AI and Trans-Humans will travel at a reduced rate.
    Vitual Worlds will be used for recreation to alleviate the boredom of space travel. They won't be interconnected; speed of light lag and signal degradation from the magnetic fields will make networking IPVs under sail impractical. As for tourism, I imagine many people will choose to visit Virtual Mars from home rather than spend the money to go there in person. People will travel to Mars, but it may be more likely for business, schooling military assignments, and to get the hell away from Terra without eating the Virtual lotus blossom. Most PCs will fall into that latter category, I imagine. While 23rd century Terra has less people than we do now, the war has rendered a third of the surface un inhabitable, so overpopulation is critical. Think about it; if you bombed out of collage in UACS in 2210, you may end up Transitioned.
    But that's another post...


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