Concomitant with this is the argument that the nature of life in space – that vulnerability, as mentioned above – would mean that while ships and habitats might more easily become independent from each other and from their legally progenitative hegemonies, their crew – or inhabitants – would always be aware of their reliance on each other, and on the technology which allowed them to live in space. The theory here is that the property and social relations of long-term space-dwelling (especially over generations) would be of a fundamentally different type compared to the norm on a planet; the mutuality of dependence involved in an environment which is inherently hostile would necessitate an internal social coherence which would contrast with the external casualness typifying the relations between such ships/habitats. Succinctly; socialism within, anarchy without. This broad result is – in the long run – independent of the initial social and economic conditions which give rise to it.
Let me state here a personal conviction that appears, right now, to be profoundly unfashionable; which is that a planned economy can be more productive – and more morally desirable – than one left to market forces . . .
Intelligence, which is capable of looking farther ahead than the next aggressive mutation, can set up long-term aims and work towards them; the same amount of raw invention that bursts in all directions from the market can be – to some degree – channelled and directed, so that while the market merely shines (and the feudal gutters), the planned lases, reaching out coherently and efficiently towards agreed-on goals. What is vital for such a scheme, however, and what was always missing in the planned economies of our world’s experience, is the continual, intimate and decisive participation of the mass of the citizenry in determining these goals, and designing as well as implementing the plans which should lead towards them.
Of course, there is a place for serendipity and chance in any sensibly envisaged plan, and the degree to which this would affect the higher functions of a democratically designed economy would be one of the most important parameters to be set… but just as the information we have stored in our libraries and institutions has undeniably outgrown (if not outweighed) that resident in our genes, and just as we may, within a century of the invention of electronics, duplicate – through machine sentience – a process which evolution took billions of years to achieve, so we shall one day abandon the grossly targeted vagaries of the market for the precision creation of the planned economy.
And here’s Banks on space travel and anarchy:
The Culture, in its history and its on-going form, is an expression of the idea that the nature of space itself determines the type of civilisations which will thrive there.
The thought processes of a tribe, a clan, a country or a nation-state are essentially two-dimensional, and the nature of their power depends on the same flatness. Territory is all-important; resources, living-space, lines of communication; all are determined by the nature of the plane (that the plane is in fact a sphere is irrelevant here); that surface, and the fact the species concerned are bound to it during their evolution, determines the mind-set of a ground-living species. The mind-set of an aquatic or avian species is, of course, rather different.
Essentially, the contention is that our currently dominant power systems cannot long survive in space; beyond a certain technological level a degree of anarchy is arguably inevitable and anyway preferable.
To survive in space, ships/habitats must be self-sufficient, or very nearly so; the hold of the state (or the corporation) over them therefore becomes tenuous if the desires of the inhabitants conflict significantly with the requirements of the controlling body. On a planet, enclaves can be surrounded, besieged, attacked; the superior forces of a state or corporation – hereafter referred to as hegemonies – will tend to prevail. In space, a break-away movement will be far more difficult to control, especially if significant parts of it are based on ships or mobile habitats. The hostile nature of the vacuum and the technological complexity of life support mechanisms will make such systems vulnerable to outright attack, but that, of course, would risk the total destruction of the ship/habitat, so denying its future economic contribution to whatever entity was attempting to control it.
I’m down with the latter prediction (space subsidiarity, anyone?). Happy commenting.