• A message from the Captain

    by  • March 10, 2012 • Everything Else • 0 Comments

    I have now spent ten years as an unpaid employee of an invisible global government: the government-in-exile of the well-intentioned survivors of the Crew of Spaceship Earth.

    The crew of Spaceship Earth are largely holed up in Engineering and down to the last rations, occasionally losing members to bloody, fruitless combat with passengers who believe that any interruption to their Vacation Cruise because of minor contingencies like hitting an asteroid or breaking the lifesupport system should be treated as a grave mortal threat and met with violence.

    I’d like you ask you to consider rerouting some of your productive capacity to taking the actions necessary for the continuation of the human species, and the continued existence of all life on this planet. The social structures we used to use to organize these goals have always basically sucked, but it did not matter very much until we invented atomic bombs and started to scour the earth and pollute the skies. Now we are in urgent need of an immediate cessation of destructive activites, and as many as a third of the passengers are in urgent need of medical assistance or resupply and that number is expected to rise sharply if fighting breaks out about forthcoming problems in ration supplies and energy availability.

    There are several plausible strategies for an immediate cessation of hostilities between passengers and crew, and indeed between passengers and passengers. You could implement realistic pricing within the market economy, using government action to make what is irreplaceable simply unaffordable. You could implement a green planned economy in socialist states. But the surging mass of humanity believes itself to be in a position that it is not: a position where the future will be better than the past, and where one’s children or one’s children’s children will live in a substantially better manner to than we do now.

    The reverse is likely true. Structural damage to lifesupport and teeming population mean the yield of natural resources supporting our species is dropping sharply as our population rises. What can be scavenged from the surface or by digging up areas of the ship has been made use of, and is a steadily less productive activity. In short, things may well be largely worse rather than better without action.

    The so-called Deck Courts are small local jurisdictions on many decks, claimed by bands of passengers attempting to keep order, enforcing laws which protect only the interests of inhabitants of that deck.

    However, these Deck Courts are making many areas inaccessible to engineering, and inter-deck rivalries are squandering yet more of our precious capacity, talent and resources on action which not only will not protect the ship, but reduces all of our chances of survival. Worse still, armed Ship Security personnel have become embroiled in these fruitless conflicts, which presents a danger to all passengers and crew. Heavy weapons intended for ship defence are unsuitable for settling political issues between passengers.

    Please attempt to support the action of Engineering to restore adequate life support to all passengers, raise the shields, restore navigation and ensure our flightpath is safe.

    A word of advice to our younger passengers. This is a generation ship. You were born on it, and most of you or all of you will die on it, eventually. For us to lose life support and become a meaningless husk without navigation, crewed only by a few passengers in isolated pockets of air is an unworthy end for emissaries of life.

    Do not allow the old to bury the young.

    The time has come to start working backwards from the future we choose, rather than simply managing our day-to-day affairs in fits of expediency. There is simply no point in being the most popular passenger on a morgue ship. It is necessary to clearly envisage a future in which life support has been restored to all passengers, and we are safely on our way into the future, together.

    It is clear that with these goals in mind, practically all of our pre-existing expedient political structures are irrelevant. They simply do not have the necessary mandates to undertake the work at hand: a 4 year popularity contest cycle for leadership of a Deck Court is in no way a substitute for an efficient, functional ship’s crew.

    Furthermore, an attempt to restore ship security by an assembly of deck courts has clearly failed to provide adequate support to Engineering and the remaining crew. A ship cannot be managed by consortia of feuding decks.

    Were the spell broken, which blinds people to the fact we are standing on a ball of rock flying through space and time, covered in a precious sheen of green moss and transparent water, perhaps we could get our acts together and sort things out.

    The reports from Engineering are excellent: they can fix this, given resources. However, the persistent mythology that the ship is a component in an alternate reality game where “good” and “evil” war for non-existent tokens called “souls” is making it extremely difficult to get solid attention and cooperation from passengers with the Crew and Engineering to stabilize life support, never mind navigation. If any of you are unsure about the actual operating conditions please look up during the hours of darkness into the infinite void in which we shine.

    Our home is the stars, and if we survive, we will be there soon.

    Acting Captain Gupta over and out.


    Vinay Gupta is a consultant on disaster relief and risk management.


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