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Venus: a planet divided between heaven and hell

Despite its proximity to earth and its clear similarity with our planet in several aspects (such as mass, for example), Venus is typically depicted in science-fiction as one of the hardests worlds to colonize.
The reason for that is simply the fact that the surface temperature of the planet is so high that metal melts down. It would be very difficult to colonize Venus by constructing domed cities on the surface, like we intend to do on Mars.

Nevertheless, scientists have recently pointed out that colonizing our “sister planet” may be a lot easier than most people think. The only thing we need to do is abandon the notion that a planetary colony has to be located on the surface of the planet.

These scientists, in one of the most imaginative approaches to the issue of space colonization that I have ever seen, envisage a civilization made of giant floating cities, suspended in Venus’ dense atmosphere.

In the words of NASA’s Geoffrey A. Landis, "At cloud-top level, Venus is the paradise planet.”. And that’s true, in Venus’ upper atmosphere temperature’s are very close to the one registered on Earth’s surface and the atmospheric pressure is also earth-like.

I think we can use this idea for the Fractal Future Project.

Venus could start being colonized by organic humans (maybe members of a p faction) around the 2040s.
A few decades later, most of the planet’s floating cities would unite to form a highly successful quasi-utopian (although not totally) civilization.
Than, around the end of the century, thanks to the invention of super-resistent materials, uploaded human in robot bodies finally succeed in colonizing the surface. Those robots, forced to survive in an extremely harsh environment, establish a spartan culture despises the hedonistic life style of the floating cities’ people.
This divergence would be a source of constant conflict and would make Venus one of the most divided planets in the whole solar system.

What do you think of this idea?

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I totally love this idea. Have nothing to criticize about it.

Now I am thinking about the dynamics of colonizing another planet. We need to think about this properly, because there are different important factors:

  • Other planets are extremely harsh environments and once something goes really bad (hull breach of a colony habitat for example) it threatens the survival of everyone. On Earth there seems to be a tendency that people living in colder climates behave more rationally, because they are forced to plan thoroughly in order to survive the harsh winter conditions. Maybe that’s an important factor why the Nordic countries have such progressive policies.
  • Those who colonized other continents were often outsiders who were quite oppressed and didn’t have much to lose. Leaving home for an uncertain future in a far away land was more often an act of desperation than a principled decision. Anyway, colonizing other continents is still relatively cheap compared to leaving Earth and settling down in a high-tech habitat somewhere else.
  • People with principles may have strong ideals, but often lack the dedication to go to extreme lengths to make their ideals a reality. How often do you hear libertarians or anarcho-capitalists plan to create a new society in Somalia (not much government there) for example?
  • Colonizing space is hugely expensive. Who is willing to pay for that expense and why? Staying on Earth is still a much better option in almost all respects than trying to establish a habitat somewhere else.
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Good points.

I think that this issue is largely dependent on the success of the Mars One project. If they actually manage to set up the first human colony on Mars that may inspire other similar “idealist” projects that aim to colonize space simply for the advancement of mankind.

It would be aweasome if they were successful, but I don’t really think they will be. Space, at least in an early phase, will probably be colonized by governments and big corporations with mainly economic interests. After all, they are the ones who have the money.

But that doesn’t mean other planets won’t be proper places for socio-political experimentation. A few years after initial stettlement, when the colonies are completely self-sufficient, they may revolt against theirs patrons/soveraigns and establish independent nations based on radical ideals.

And there is also still hope for ideologically motivated colonization, since the costs of settling on another planet will probably decrease signifficantly as technology progresses.

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Yes, I think Mars One is overly optimistic and idealistic. I would take it seriously though, if they made any realistic assessments.

That said, how can you actually make money from space colonization? Let’s first think about how one can make money from space itself:

  • Space tourism
  • Research
  • Asteroid mining!
  • Space based solar power
  • Perhaps some industry that works better in microgravity

Note that none of these things requires any colony on any big celestial body. In fact, doing that would mostly be counter-productive to the actual economic driver. There’s much less money to be made from colonies on planets than from asteroid mines, space based power plants, space factories, and space hotels.

So, what factor will actually push humanity towards colonizing outer space? Especially since that adventure is even more expensive than making seasteading colonies or colonizing antarctica. Going to another planet seems to be an extremely adventurous or desperate thing to do when there are so many easier options.

One of the few things that actually make sense would be to have colonies in outer space as lifeboats for humanity in the case that all hell breaks loose on Earth.

And the other planets would be good places for extremely dangerous refugees like AGIs or uploads to hide. On the other hand, mankind would try very hard to keep potential threats under control and keep them away from resources that would enable them to flee Earth. It’s an interesting question how successful they could be about doing that.

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Yes, it’s true that the Big Money is in the asteroids and in space itself, but there are still many reasons to colonize big celestial bodies:

  • Helium-3 mining from the moon could be quite profitable.
  • Establishing manned scientific outposts in Europa could be beneficial for mankind, especially since we know that there’s an ocean there.
  • Planetary colonies can become lifeboats for humanity, as you said.
  • Idealistic projects like Mars One may be a lot more successful once technology evolves.
  • As you said, other planets can be good places for refugees to hide. Of course some people on Earth might try to stop them, but I think that many of them will succeed if they can gather the resources.
  • If we have another cold war, that may lead superpowers to make relatively useless things just to impress the rest of the world. The moonlanding brought nothing to mankind but americans did it anyway.
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True, you’ve got a few valid points there.

What I still don’t really understand is the motivation behind all the people signing up for Mars One. What makes them want to live on Mars?

  • It’s perhaps just a huge big adventure thing
  • Or they are totally fed up with all the nonsense going on on Earth
  • Colonizing Mars could give their otherwise more or less boring and meaningless lives a deeper meaning
  • Maybe they just secretly harbour a death wish and think dying on Mars would be the best way to die
  • Oh, or they could do it just for the lulz. Whatver.
  • I’m sure it’s not because they prefer the weather or climate on Mars to that on Earth :smiley:

The thing about another cold war. Yeah, something like that might happen again with different ideological factions using different modes of economics wanting to prove their superiority by sponsoring projects with very low practical use like colonies on other planets.

Some possible conflicts:

  • Nations without universal basic income versus those that have one (the first will probably be authoritarian shitholes by the time the latter rise to significant power – oops, wait, they already are :wink: But probably the effort to finance a Mars colony will completely drive them into ruin. Well, so that’s how they will finally crash and burn, I guess :wink:)
  • Resource based economy versus reputation based economy.
  • Direct democracies vs party despotism like in China
  • Nation states vs virtual states
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I’ve started another topic so we can give more thought to the idea of a second cold war.

Now, we need to develop my idea of a divided Venus. The main question we must answer is: how will these two antagonical societies be like?

I think the people who live in the upper atmosphere should be called cloud-lords. As for the ones who live in the surface, we can call them hell-dwellers. Are these names fine for everyone?

Cloud-Lords

  • They start as a group of refugees and p-faction idealists who set out to colonize Venus.
  • They are led by an extremely wealthy american p-faction leader.
  • They raise funds through a more realistic Mars One-like campaign.
  • Like all p-factions, they base their lifestyle on principles of responsability and ecstasy.
  • They are masters of advanced medicine and biotechnology.
  • They are mainly organic although they do not comdemn the use of mechanical implants and other cybernetic technologies.
  • They improve themselves through genetic engineering and have achieved imortality through a SENS-like approach.
  • They practice a reputation economy and have a radical political system based on direct democracy.

Hell-Dwellers

  • They are mainly uploads is highly resistant robot bodies.
  • They have have tribal society.
  • Each tribe is lead by an authoritarian patriarch.
  • They live in temporary mining settlements and move frequently.
  • They have a spartan society that values bravery, sacrifice, masculinity and traditional family values.
  • They dedicate their lives to the thrieving of their tribes, rejcting any form of hedonistic philosophy.
    -They practice a resource based economy.

I think it would interesting if we made the two faction dependent on each other. The cloud-lords would need the materials that the hell-dwellers mined and hell-dwellers would need some expensive commodities from the cloud-lords to make their lives easier.

Nice start. But I think we may need to partially postpone this Venus scenario planning until we get a clear picture of what happens on Earth first. Then, we have a more robust basis to talk about what will happen on Venus.

Anyway, I have some ideas for the two different societies. Let me focus on the ground dwellers first.

Solid Collectives AKA Hell Creepers

  • They are hive minds which are despised and feared in most parts of the solar system. The surface of Venus is a place that outsiders don’t really like to visit, so they are relatively secure from outside harassment.
  • The Solid Collectives are different radical hive mind factions which have fled to the surface of Venus, because they face strong political opposition and persecution in most parts of the solar system (other places such radical hive minds they hide in are the atmospheres of gas giants and the Kuiper belt)
  • They are politically and ideologically diverse, but what they have in common is that they are hive minds who are in strong opposition to popular politics and ideologies outside in the solar system.
  • The different Collectives are in competition with each other. Often they trade with each other, but sometimes conflicts get quite violent
  • The Solid Collectives have very low respect for conventional ideas of Sentient Rights. Individuals count close to nothing for them.
  • Individuality is anathema for them. The Collective is the only thing that counts.
  • They aren’t interested in the cultures on the outside. They have their own cultures which they are quite proud of.
  • Sometimes they trade resources for information or technology with the cloud-heads as they call the cloud dwellers.
  • The morphology of their robot bodies is optimized for hard work and survival on the surface of Venus. They are not anthropomorphic in any sense. If anything, they look more like insects or spiders.
  • Some Collectives are imperialist extremists who want to expand their reach to all of Venus and even the solar system. They are often in violent conflict with other Collectives and the cloud-heads.
  • Other Collectives just want to be left in peace and want to live out their own culture (which may be totally alien to everyone else).
  • Some Collectives are authoritarian with central control (with some kind of “AI queen”), others are radically decentralized
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Those are aweasome ideas. The Hell Creepers look terrifying and fascinating at the same time.

Different collectives should have different morphologies and some of them should be subdivided in “casts”. Each cast should have a different morphology which would be specific for its function in society.

Do you also have any ideas for the cloud-lord (I still prefer that name, but cloud-heads could also be used as an offensive term) society?

Yeah, sounds good and fitting to me :smile:

I think we need to base the cloud-loads on two considerations

  1. How will Terran societies transform until colonization of Venus is technically and economically feasible?
  2. How will the colonists differ from the Terran societies? The motivations why people would want to move to Venus probably play a huge role for this question.

Both are difficult questions and I think it’s hard to answer question 2 before we have a good answer for question 1. So, my preference is to postpone the discussion of the cloud-lords until we have a clear idea what has been going on on Earth before the colonization of Venus.

So, now that we already have an idea of what will happen on Earth, we can make a few speculations about his Venus scenario.

Here are a few ideas for the cloud-lord civilization:

  • They call themselves The Children of the Second Exaltation (if you are OK with us using your Exaltation concept), after a p-faction that appeard on earth in the mid 21st century.
  • Their culture is a mixture of Brazillian and Chinese culture, since these two nations were the main colonizers of Venus.
  • Their lifestyle is based on the principles of responsability and ecstasy.
  • They value (organic) life as the most precious thing in the universe.
  • They are masters of advanced medicine and biotechnology and they preffer organic forms of human enhancement.
  • Most children are born with extensive genetic modifications including enhancements in all physicall and mental skills, telpahty and biological imortality.
  • Cybernetic augmentation is not forbidden by their society, but it is consideres distasteful and nearly imoral, being only practiced by people from the lower classes, who don’t have access to much genetic engineering.
  • Uploading is stricly forbidden and people who opt for doing it are immediately exiled, many time for the surface of the planet.
  • Despite being a generally open minded society they give almost no rights to robots and AIs
  • They are ruled by ORSI (Organic Super-Intelligence), which is a gigantic genectically engineered and chemically boosted brain that libes in one of the biggest habbitats in the the planet.
  • ORSI’s rule is theorectically absolute, but it never makes a decision withouth telepathically consulting the population.
  • They are an extremly wealthy and successful society but still have some social inequality.

Nice that you realized we have a sufficient basis in the events that happened on Earth. But it feels like you aren’t taking full advantage of what we have created so far. More specifically: There are Venus colonies both by the X bloc and the centralist bloc (or let’s call it C bloc for brevity and style, C could also mean “capitalism” :)).

So, how would X and C colonies look like? What values would they be based on? Would they unite eventually? or will both types of colonies differentiate even more and become a fractal plethora of living styles? Would the colonies rebel against their original countries / bloc / or even against Earth culture and politics in total?

There’s also the question whether the X or C blocs focus on one of the planets Mars and Venus respectively. Would one of those planets be for some reason a better “fit” for one of those blocs? I’m really not sure about that, and would actually prefer that it’s quite balanced.

The lifestyle in the colonies would probably be quite different from the normal lifestyles in any of the two blocs on Earth, since life in a new colony on a foreign planet is rather harsh. Some colonies could adopt a rather “Spartan” way of life that would contradict the excessive lifestyles you have had in mind for the probably more advanced colonies.

Also, genetic enhancement and cybernetic augmentation would probably be embraced by both sides, since surviving in a harsh world is difficult enough even without those. And both factions wouldn’t want to be disadvantaged simply because they didn’t use the best available technologies out of ideological reasons (heck, even Amish use mobile phones by now, and IS uses social media).

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I think both blocs will have some influence on both planets, but the C Bloc will be stronger on Mars and the X bloc will be stronger on Venus. That’s because Mars is people’s favourite destiny for space colonization and the C Bloc will have some advantage in the beginning of the space race (since the US, Russia and China already have pretty advanced space agencies).

So, I think the C Bloc would go straight to Mars and than the X Bloc would react by turning to Venus. But both blocs would eventually get to both planets.

Anyway, I think that many colonies of both blocs would eventually turn against their terrestrial nations and than unite to form the cloud lord civilization. Of course there would still be some “loyalist” colonies which would opt to continue under the influence of their colonizers and some dissident colonies which would to choose to be independent without joining the CSE (Children of the Second Exaltation). We definitly need to give some thought to those factions. I was thinking of adding a Japanese ethnic colony wich would be ruled by an AI shogun.

Yeah, there will probably be some spartan colonies in the cloud tops, but I wouldn’t like them to be many, since having a spartan lifestyle is one of the hell-creeper’s defining characteristics and I really want to keep our dichotomy intact.

True, but I really want the cloud-lords to priviledge organic enhancement because I want to give them some character. Of course they would still use cybernetic augmentation, but only when its really necessary because it wouldn’t be very well seen by society.

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I really like that line of reasoning. So, let’s make it so. :smiley:

So, this means that the Brazilians would probably be the key player for the first colonization of Venus.

Ok, I can accept that. But what exactly would make them want to turn against the terrestrial nations? Would they rebel against having to pay taxes that are transferred to Earth while having the feeling of not getting enough in return? Or rather some emergent cultural difference that would make the Venusians feel bad about associating with Earth?

I think it’s a bit too early to put the Exaltation into play. And anyway, what would the “First Exaltation” be in that case?

lol. Funny, but I think we shouldn’t just introduce concepts because they would be cool or funny. They should at least make somewhat sense. But hey, the Japanese like robots, so they might also like robot overlords, so why not? :smiley:

I think the most important factor is time: The Spartan lifestyle would be predominant in the early colonization phase, while towards the end of the 21st century there would be great abundance which would totally marginalize the “Spartan” factions.

Sure, they should have some character. But that character could also be expressed in the kind of organic and cybernetic enhancements. They might go more for cool, eccentric, and opulent looks rather than for functionality (in total contrast to the Hell Creepers).

Yeah, Brazilians would totaly lead the way, but I think Scandinavians would also play an important part, especially because they are used to survive in harsh environment and that would make them the ideal colonists. The temprature in the cloud tops of Venus is about 70 ºC, which the closest we get to earth´s temperature in the solar system but still extremely hot. Paradoxically what’s necessary to survive in a high-temperature environment is moslty the same that is necessary to survive in a low-temperature enviornment: stay indoors and ignore unpleasant sensasions.

That’s a very good question. The “Venusian Revolution” would probabily be motivated by several factors, not just one. Those factors could be:

  • Dissatisfaction with the high taxes that terrestrial nations force them to pay in order to recover from the economic difficulties brought by the colonization efforts.
  • Unwillingness of the Venusians to participate in the second cold war. They would probably feel very unconfortable with being used as pawns in the struggle between the X Bloc and the C Bloc and many of them would probably like to extablish a relationship of cooperation with the opposite bloc’s venusian colonies.
  • Rise of a powerfull p-faction.
  • Transformations in venusian culture created by lack of contact with earth, which make the colonies’ culturally incompatible with their parent nations.
  • Rise of a sentiment of Venusian self-determination and nationalism.
  • Maybe they would also like to persue some more radical augmentations (usefull to survive in Venus) that their terrestrial nations condemn.

The first Exaltation would be the p-faction that would appear on earth some decades earlier and second one would be Venusian exaltation.

I don’t know what role you had in mind for the Exaltation in Fractal Cosmos, but I think it would be the perfect philosophy for the cloud-lord civilization that I imagine.

Anyway, I was mostly trying to come up with a cool name. Do you have any ideas?
I thought of calling them the Venusian Confederacy or something like that, but I was looking for something a little more original

Yeah, that sounds very good. But they could still priviledge organic enhancement, is it that strange that a society chooses to focus more on a certain technology? I don’t think that all factions in the Fractal Cosmos universe should be in the same state of development in all technologies, it would be far more interesting to assume that certain factions would be better on certain areas.

I totally agree, Venus would certainly go through a spartan pioneering phase, than transitions to a consolidation pahse and finally, in the end of the 21st century, probably late 2090s, the divided Venus that I pictured would finally emerge.

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What you said sounds really good so far. I have some thoughts that seem to be relevant for the timing: Colonizing other planets is really hard. After your first colony modules, you need to expand somehow if you don’t want to be dependent on imports from Earth. Recycling technology needs to be top notch, but I think this is realistic by the 2040s. For construction, 3d printers and robots would be used.

On Mars you would probably settle under the surface for protection against radiation. And there you also have lots of materials.

Colonizing the atmosphere of Venus sounds a bit more daunting. You’ll have to deal with a rather corrosive atmosphere and also the problem that you can’t mine the surface, so you need to get raw materials from somewhere else. You might collect some materials from the atmosphere directly, but that would be a slow and difficult process. And where do you get your metals from? You’ll best get them from space, from some nearby asteroids. For that purpose, it would probably be the best idea to move an asteroid into an orbit around Venus. Such asteroids might be colonized, too. And that would probably be done prior to establishing a permanent colony on Venus.

For this reason, I think that the space race would first focus on Mars during the 2040s, and then shift to Venus during the 2050s, during which the first asteroids would be moved into place, mined, and colonized. In the 2060s the first colonies would be finished and in relatively good shape. In 2070 the Second Cold War would be over, so the Venusian colonies would unite relatively quickly. First successful efforts to colonize the surface might happen in the 2070s or 2080s. In the 2090 trade with the surface would make building things in the atmosphere cheaper and easier, so that it would be a rather golden age for the Venusians.

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So, I’ve been thinking about this stuff and I agree with you in most things. However, I’m not sure about moving asteroids to Venus’ orbit.
Such a venture sounds incredibily expensive and complicated. Couldn’t the colonies depend on regular shipments of metals from Earth for a while? And, if we think about it, it’s not impossible for an advanced civilization to survive without metals. Scientists are already developing materials that are far more resistant and maleable than conventional metals, and this reseach will certainly boom after the develpment of advanced nanotechnology. Maybe Venusians could create viable metal-alternatives from materials they extract from the clouds.

Yes, it would be extremely expensive. You would need to boostrap a space infrastructure for such an endeavour first. For example, you could mine propellants and fuels from some asteroids to move other asteroids. Such projects definitely will take years and decades to achieve. But in principle, they would be quite possible. Especially if better technologies will be available in the future and the Second Cold War mobilizes lots of resources for those projects.

That is a very good point. Humans are a prime example for beings who don’t need many metals. We rely on metals in trace amounts, but most of our mass is CHONP: Carbon, Hydrogen, Oxygen, Nitrogen, Phosphorus. These elements should indeed be available in the atmosphere of Venus. With very advanced technology you can even do a lot of things with carbon alone. Still, it takes a huge effort to develop metal-free or metal-scarce technologies that survive space and the atmosphere of Venus.

So, you could argue that it won’t be necessary to move asteroids to colonize Venus. Still, having some metals available would probably be seen as rather beneficial. Moving a metal rich asteroid into an orbit around Venus is probably still easier than mining metals from (below) the surface of Venus. I guess, this means that the first stages of Venus colonization may be established without a dedicated metal asteroid. For the second stage, such asteroids may be available 1-2 decades later. Finally, the third stage will use the metals from the surface.

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Yes, I like this 3-stages approach. It seems plausible.

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