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Traveller, anyone?

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2 hours ago, zslane said:

The impracticality of quantum entanglement is somewhat irrelevant. The rubber science of space opera isn't governed by 20th/21st century technology, it is merely informed by it. We take the essential trajectory of the scientific and technological advancements that we have experienced as a species and extrapolate it, using our imaginations to fill in the gaps where real physics stops and leaves us with nowhere to go (given our current understanding of the universe).

 

Therefore, if the jump drive can exploit an imaginary phenomenon in space-time to yield FTL travel, then the ansible can certainly exploit an imaginary phenomenon in space-time to yield near-instantaneous communication. I say "near" instantaneous because, in order to appease those whose willingness to adopt rubber science doesn't extend to perfect simultaneity, it would be no big deal to say that the ansible suffers from a ~3 nanosecond delay between sending and receiving, regardless of distance. You still have a delay in order to preserve causality, but it becomes inconsequential in practice.

 

Traveller doesn't have to have the ansible, as I've said before. Eliminating it is a valid (if somewhat dubious) campaign setting choice made to impose a particular feel on the game, and that's fine. But attempts to justify its absence on "realism" grounds is kinda pointless. I feel there is a better, more plausible case to be made for using realism to open up exotic, far-future possibilities rather than to shut them down.

 

I beg to differ. If, say, the "warp" drive theory proposed recently (the ship that uses the circular rings as part of the drive) were to pan out...that would allow FTL travel, but it wouldn't do *anything* for FTL communication. You can't wrap a warpfield around a radio wave. And that's just one approach.

 

If you posit "jump points" of the kind used by Niven & Pournelle in The Mote In God's Eye, or in David Weber's Honor Harrington series, again--you can move ships instantaneously between systems. But you can't send any kind of messages that way, short of sending a ship (which could then radio someone in that system).

 

So, yes, it's plausible that a breakthru in FTL travel doesn't *necessarily* mean you'll have the ansible as well. Your insistence that the two go hand in hand is just as arbitrary as any other set-up, and not grounded in realism any more than the other approaches.

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6 hours ago, zslane said:

The idea that computers in 4500AD would look and operate just like the ones from the 1970s, with the only difference being the names of the programs running, is very pulpy and anachronistic, which definitely reinforces the backwards-looking, Age of Sail orientation.

 

Because of course the computers in the age of sail resembled those of the seventies.

 

Lucius Alexander

 

In the Age of Palindromedaries

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I guess what I should have said was that the anachronistic view of computers reinforces the anachronistic nature of Traveller as a whole (which is exemplified by its Age of Sail aesthetic).

 

Somehow I suspect everyone understood what I was trying to say just the same. Snarky misinterpretations are beneath you, Lucius.

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1 hour ago, zslane said:

I guess what I should have said was that the anachronistic view of computers reinforces the anachronistic nature of Traveller as a whole (which is exemplified by its Age of Sail aesthetic).

 

Somehow I suspect everyone understood what I was trying to say just the same. Snarky misinterpretations are beneath you, Lucius.

 

But large computers to do heavy calculations, or to control certain processes certainly weren't anachronistic in the 1970s, or even in the 1980s. Mainframes and minicomputers did most of the heavy lifting for business and science, and certainly were a requirement if the computer had to do any sort of multitasking. Most microcomputers of the 1970s were hobbyist toys, and tended to be underpowered and expensive.

 

It's a model that was quite prevalent in science fiction of the day. The computer systems shown in Star Trek tended to be room-sized, and the Enterprise-D's computer core took up a large volume across multiple levels of the saucer section. Heinlein's The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress envisions a large computer that oversees everything on the lunar colony. 2001: A Space Odyssey had the logic memory center of the HAL 9000 taking up its own room on the Discovery. Cyberpunk stories of the time were littered with huge mainframes for the protagonists to hack*. Heck, even the book Jurassic Park (1990) assumed that the park operations needed to be controlled by a Cray X-MP supercomputer (three were sent to the island in the book for operations and DNA sequencing).

 

 

 

*The cyberpunk genre is particularly hard to watch/read nowadays. For example, 1995's movie Johnny Mnemonic quotes storage sizes for the year 2021 that would have been huge in 1995, but are now easily carried about on a few large microSD cards. The plot revolves around Johnny being an information courier able to load data into an implant in his brain. He accepts a mission to carry 320 GB, but his internal capacity is only 80GB (or double that with compression), which forces the extra data to be jammed into his brain. A friendly AI housed in a mainframe lends support to him at a key point.

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As a point about Jurassic Park, it wasn't set in the future. The action takes place in 1989, the year before the book's publication. They WOULD have needed multiple Crays at the time. So I'd probably drop that one as an example.

 

Interesting point I discovered fact checking that one - Universal bought the film rights before Crichton had even published the book, and the film and book versions (and Spielberg) were pretty much always connected.

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2 hours ago, zslane said:

I guess what I should have said was that the anachronistic view of computers reinforces the anachronistic nature of Traveller as a whole (which is exemplified by its Age of Sail aesthetic).

 

Somehow I suspect everyone understood what I was trying to say just the same. Snarky misinterpretations are beneath you, Lucius.

 

You're right. I shouldn't be taking potshots like that.

 

Lucius Alexander

 

I should let a palindromedary do it.

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21 minutes ago, Ternaugh said:

 

But large computers to do heavy calculations, or to control certain processes certainly weren't anachronistic in the 1970s, or even in the 1980s. Mainframes and minicomputers did most of the heavy lifting for business and science, and certainly were a requirement if the computer had to do any sort of multitasking. Most microcomputers of the 1970s were hobbyist toys, and tended to be underpowered and expensive.

 

 

The anachronism is using a 1970s view of computers as the model for computers thousands of years in the future. Traveller does not take place in the 1970s (hence the anachronism). It was merely designed then. And the designer(s) clearly had no interest in (or ability to) imagine where the trajectory of computing technology (which took us from UNIVAC to the Cray-1 in only 30 years) would take us 2500+ years later. It was just easier to inject yet another anachronism into the setting than rethink the nature (and role) of computers in the far future.

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50 minutes ago, zslane said:

 

The anachronism is using a 1970s view of computers as the model for computers thousands of years in the future. Traveller does not take place in the 1970s (hence the anachronism). It was merely designed then. And the designer(s) clearly had no interest in (or ability to) imagine where the trajectory of computing technology (which took us from UNIVAC to the Cray-1 in only 30 years) would take us 2500+ years later. It was just easier to inject yet another anachronism into the setting than rethink the nature (and role) of computers in the far future.

 

It wasn't anachronistic to assume mainframes and minicomputers were the future in 1977.

 

(Lord knows, I spent enough time on them getting my Computer Science degree).

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Dare I say that it's just as anachronistic to assume that modern planetary travel and communications is a good model for interstellar travel and communications?

 

Science Fiction (especially adventure Science Fiction) is notoriously bad at prediction, which is not its function anyway. It's there to entertain, but should be true to its assumptions and fictions.

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On 11/12/2017 at 7:33 PM, zslane said:

And subspace communications are nearly instantaneous; 

Communication in Startrek is a little murky. They have face to face communication but sometimes it seems to take a while for that to be established. Which is an interesting game mechanic. 

 

They also drop bouys when in danger, which kind of suggests their instantaneous communication is dependent on their relay infrastructure. So might not be available when out in the wilds. Which again might be a good game mechanic. 

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In Babylon 5 StellarCom was run through the jump gates and relayed along the beacon markers in hyperspace. It also relied on ships in normal space to act as relays. Real time f2f also required the use of gold channel. Otherwise you got a popup telling you "you got mail".

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18 hours ago, Ternaugh said:

 

It wasn't anachronistic to assume mainframes and minicomputers were the future in 1977.

 

 

It is by definition anachronistic to assume that the far future will be the same as the present, especially when it comes to science and technology.

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17 hours ago, mrinku said:

Dare I say that it's just as anachronistic to assume that modern planetary travel and communications is a good model for interstellar travel and communications?

 

Science Fiction (especially adventure Science Fiction) is notoriously bad at prediction, which is not its function anyway. It's there to entertain, but should be true to its assumptions and fictions.

 

That's why I said that you start with present day and then extrapolate forward, using the historical trajectory of science and technology to guide you as best it can. But you don't look backwards--or plant a flag in the ground of the present and assume no significant forward progress at all--unless you are trying to inject anachronisms on purpose. Communication that is faster than physical travel is merely where you start; to make a setting feel like the far future you have to push forward even further and, for instance, make physical travel as fast, or nearly as fast, as communications (e.g., transporters). That's what it means to project science and technology forward into the future (as part of worldbuilding).

 

Star Trek has an interesting track record at predicting our technological future. In part because those responsible for building that future were heavily inspired/influenced by Star Trek, but also because many of the writers of TOS were lauded sci-fi novelists who had a knack for imagining plausible future technologies based on what they knew of their present circumstances.

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In the beginning of the computer industry the computer was a big massive computer.  If you needed to do something on it you would often use a terminal and do what you needed.  The terminals had almost no power themselves and all they did was allow access to the mainframe. 

 

When the PC came around all that changed.  Now you had a computer on your desk and it was able to do everything that the mainframe did.  This led to the mainframe computer being less important.  Sure it was still used for things that were too complex for the PC, but most of the work was done on the PC. 

 

The only problem was that you could not share your data with other users.  The solution to this was to develop networks.  Now you could share your data with other users.  The first networks where peer to peer without any real control over the data.  This led to the idea of the server that controls the network and handles the data sharing and security for the network. 

 

As the servers grew more powerful they started taking back some of the function from the PC.  Now more of the programs where running on the server instead of the PC.  Client servers program became the norm for most business. 

 

Even today the computer systems that run things still take up rooms.  The only difference is that instead of a single computer they now use multiple servers.  Even a small technology company of say a hundred employees will probably have a server room.  Now when an employee needs to access the data it is all on the network.  If they are remoting in they use a VPN or virtualization. 

 

Virtualization has now become the dominant networking strategy.  Now you can setup a virtual machine for a user and load it with all the programs he needs and he can simply remote into the server and log into the virtual machine.  So when an engineer needs a new system all the IT department has to do is to create a virtual machine for him and assign him however much resources he needs. 

 

The point is that in the computer industry we started with a centrally controlled system handling everything.  From there we developed individual machines that made the central system obsolete.  Now we are pretty much back where we originally started.  Sure we have more sophisticated ways to do things, but we are essentially doing the same things we did years ago.  Anyone who thinks that technology never goes back to the old ways really does not understand technology. 

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2 hours ago, zslane said:

 

That's why I said that you start with present day and then extrapolate forward, using the historical trajectory of science and technology to guide you as best it can. But you don't look backwards--or plant a flag in the ground of the present and assume no significant forward progress at all--unless you are trying to inject anachronisms on purpose. Communication that is faster than physical travel is merely where you start; to make a setting feel like the far future you have to push forward even further and, for instance, make physical travel as fast, or nearly as fast, as communications (e.g., transporters). That's what it means to project science and technology forward into the future (as part of worldbuilding).

 

 

So... you basically *do* agree with Traveller having physical travel almost as fast as communications? Because, that's precisely what I pointed out above.

 

Speed of travel = Jump Drive.

 

Speed of Communications = Jump Drive plus in-system speed-of-light message.

 

The message still gets to the planet faster than the ship.

 

It actually seems to me that the tweak you probably want isn't in adding FTL radio, but removing the time that a Jump takes.

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2 hours ago, zslane said:

 

Communication that is faster than physical travel is merely where you start; to make a setting feel like the far future you have to push forward even further and, for instance, make physical travel as fast, or nearly as fast, as communications (e.g., transporters).

 

[sarcasm on]

But not faster!. That's in inviolable rule. Travel can't be faster than communication. That doesn't feel like the future, that's lazy and unimaginative. So never have Travel that outpaces communication.

[/sarcasm off]

 

Lucius Alexander

 

The palindromedary says, yes, Lucius is taking a potshot again. zslane is just so potshootable it's hard to resist.

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56 minutes ago, mrinku said:

It actually seems to me that the tweak you probably want isn't in adding FTL radio, but removing the time that a Jump takes.

 

What I should have said was: communication that is not only faster than physical travel, but effectively instantaneous (i.e., with an unnoticeably short delay) is merely where you start because that's where we are in the relatively primitive 21st century; to make a setting feel like the far future you have to push forward even further and, for instance, make physical travel as fast (i.e., nearly instantaneous) as communications. Traveller does not meet this criterion because neither element is nearly instantaneous. However, as mrinku points out, this can be "solved" by removing any significant delay in travel time over vast distances. I just don't think 4500AD feels (to me) like 4500AD otherwise. Instead, it feels like the 19th century merely transplanted into space.

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1 hour ago, LoneWolf said:

Now we are pretty much back where we originally started.  Sure we have more sophisticated ways to do things, but we are essentially doing the same things we did years ago.  Anyone who thinks that technology never goes back to the old ways really does not understand technology. 

 

When you say "doing the same things," are you talking about what we ask computers to do for us? Or are you talking about how we design and build computer systems?

 

In terms of the latter, we do far more with far less energy and far less space consumed than ever before. If you extrapolate this another couple thousand years, we should easily imagine a massive "network" of super-nodes, each the size of a pea, scattered about the galaxy, communicating with each other in a massive network over nearly instantaneous data "channels". Like a brain expanded to the size of a galaxy. A starship might carry one such pea-sized super-node to do any and all calculations that are necessary for ordinary operations, but when something truly demanding is required, it gets other super-nodes involved, like a massive version of cloud computing (galaxy computing?). It doesn't make sense to me to imagine 46th century starships with old 1970s-style "big iron" devices taking up entire rooms, doing Von Neumann-like computing tasks.

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1 hour ago, zslane said:

 

What I should have said was: communication that is not only faster than physical travel, but effectively instantaneous (i.e., with an unnoticeably short delay) is merely where you start because that's where we are in the relatively primitive 21st century; to make a setting feel like the far future you have to push forward even further and, for instance, make physical travel as fast (i.e., nearly instantaneous) as communications. Traveller does not meet this criterion because neither element is nearly instantaneous. However, as mrinku points out, this can be "solved" by removing any significant delay in travel time over vast distances. I just don't think 4500AD feels (to me) like 4500AD otherwise. Instead, it feels like the 19th century merely transplanted into space.

 

And you're doing *exactly* what you accuse the creator of Traveller of doing--assuming that how things are today (effectively instantaneous communication, much slower physical travel) is how it MUST be in the future. I already posted about two possible methods of FTL travel, neither of which would be useful for FTL communication. Lightspeed communication works great for effectively instantaneous communication on a single planet. Pulling even the moon into that web would involve perceptible lags. Communication between planets takes even longer. Realtime conversations are no longer possible. They're even less possible across interstellar distances.

 

Your assumption that if/when FTL travel is invented it will *necessarily* also include even faster (effectively instantaneous) communication is just that. An assumption. "Communication today is faster than travel, therefore, any increase in travel speed in the future MUST also be accompanied by an EVEN GREATER increase in communication speed." You're free to make whatever assumptions you like, as are we all, but to claim that yours is the only correct (or even plausible) one is foolish.

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The problem with all that, zslane, is that the resulting scenario isn't likely to suit the type of adventuring that Traveller was designed around.

 

What you're more or less describing is Iain Banks' Culture books. Hyperintelligent "Minds" basically enable peaceful paradise and everyone lives in a technological utopia of post-scarcity indulgence. Tellingly, Banks actually tells his stories outside The Culture, in much lower tech systems that have not joined it, where conflict can actually happen.

 

That's pretty much what Traveller assumes, too - adventures on the frontier, away from the civilised core. Even the official Third Imperium setting does so. 

 

Here is where I'm coming from; I grew up reading Heinlein, Asimov, Clarke, Niven, Harrison, Smith and Anderson. I'm a child of the Moon Landings. Star Wars was on my horizon before Traveller (or, for that matter Star Trek). Space Merchants and Space Navies and discovering weird stuff on new planets and the thundering of rocket tubes and Galactic Empires as well as proper astronaut stuff.

 

The real extrapolation is that 4500AD might be long enough to get something out to nearby stars and that communication will take years or decades between systems. Most likely we'll be in a post-human post-scarcity, Culture-like scenario, or dead with the AI getting on with being our legacy. In practical terms, a whole solar system with four terrestrial planets and dozens of dwarf planets and large moons holds as much territory for adventure as a system hopping one. Space habitats of various size expand the possibilities. Sky cities on Venus that use breathable air as a lifting gas.

 

But if you want the Space Opera thing, be prepared to NOT extrapolate reasonably. The Scenario dictates the ground rules, not logic. Realistically a group of common adventurers would no more get their hands on a starship than their modern day equivalents would be able to buy a working space shuttle. But we want that to happen, so we reduce the price of such a vehicle from billions to millions and arrange very generous finance. We further rig the economic tables so that making those finance payments is always going to be a struggle, and the encounter charts so that armed encounters are common.

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What I am talking about is that when computers first started being used you had a big powerful computer that you accessed through a terminal by modem.  You logged into the system and all the processing took place on the distant computer.  Today instead of dialing in with a modem we use the internet.  We still login to the system even if the actual login is automated.  The processing is still taking place on the server hosting the website, or on one linked to it. 

 

Today we have better interfaces and more user friendly programs.  But essentially it really is not that much different than how we did things in the 1970’s.  We went from a centrally located system, to one of individual computers, to a network of computers, back to a centrally located system.  You sate you can’t see technology reverting back to an earlier model.  I used the evolution of computers as an example of technology reverting back to an earlier model.

 

As to your single node approach that is unlikely to happen for several reasons.  A single point of failure is asking for trouble.  Where is your redundancy, and backup?  If the single node goes down everything is down.  Also what about load bearing?  A single node will have trouble handling all the communication.  Having multiple nodes allows the workload to be distributed and increase performance.  What about maintaining and repairing of the system?  Something that small will need specialized equipment that may not be available on a ship. 

 

The other thing you are overlooking is that the actual computer is only one part of the system.  You also have things like routers, switches, backup generator, backup devices, climate control and firewalls.  If you have ever been inside a server room, or data center you will know that the computers are only a one part of the info structure.  In the future there will probably be other devices we have not even thought of that are part of the info structure.

 

My point was really to show that the more things change, the more they stay the same.  Technology often goes in cycles that often revert back to earlier models to take advantage of newer technology.  I used the computer as an example because I am familiar with it and it is something that everyone can relate to. 

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19 hours ago, sinanju said:

And you're doing *exactly* what you accuse the creator of Traveller of doing--assuming that how things are today (effectively instantaneous communication, much slower physical travel) is how it MUST be in the future.

 

I'm not assuming anything of the sort. I am saying that the average RPGer will be confused if your far future feels less advanced than today. Today is merely the baseline. How is this so hard to grasp?

 

19 hours ago, mrinku said:

The problem with all that, zslane, is that the resulting scenario isn't likely to suit the type of adventuring that Traveller was designed around.

 

Yes, I am aware of this. I am merely pointing out why the "type of adventuring" that Traveller was designed around feels so anachronistic, and not very futuristic in many ways.

 

4 hours ago, LoneWolf said:

In the future there will probably be other devices we have not even thought of that are part of the info structure.

 

I agree. However, I don't feel that computers (and "other devices") 2500 years from now will even remotely resemble current technology. Traveller assumes that they will resemble computer systems of the 1970s.

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The most common type of networked computer around these days is probably the smartphone. Traveller accidentally got that one right in the Hand Computer, though they basically took it from the Star Trek communicator :) 

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On ‎1‎/‎1‎/‎2018 at 6:21 PM, sinanju said:

 

And you're doing *exactly* what you accuse the creator of Traveller of doing--assuming that how things are today (effectively instantaneous communication, much slower physical travel) is how it MUST be in the future.

 

5 hours ago, zslane said:

 

I'm not assuming anything of the sort.

 

Could have fooled me. That seems like exactly what you've been saying.

 

5 hours ago, zslane said:

 

. I am saying that the average RPGer will be confused if your far future feels less advanced than today. Today is merely the baseline. How is this so hard to grasp?

.

I can't speak for anyone else, but for me, what's hard to grasp is how faster than light travel could somehow "feel less advanced than today."

 

Lucius Alexander

 

Traveling at the speed of palindromedary

 

 

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2 hours ago, Lucius said:

I can't speak for anyone else, but for me, what's hard to grasp is how faster than light travel could somehow "feel less advanced than today."

 

Let me try to clarify through a bit of abstraction:

 

19th Century Life: Physical travel between two distant points in the campaign setting can take weeks or months, and communications takes the same amount of time as physical travel.

 

21st Century Life: Communication is nearly instantaneous regardless of distance between two points in the campaign setting, whereas travel takes significantly longer.

 

46th Century Life: Physical travel between two distant points in the campaign setting can take weeks or months, and communications takes the same amount of time as physical travel.

 

You can see how that "far future" setting resembles the 19th century setting. The pace of common activities like communication and travel has regressed compared to today, and that is what will shape the anachronistic feel of the game. It doesn't matter whether the travel technology is horses or FTL drives, if travel takes weeks then it feels less advanced than today. The scale of travel has to keep up with the scope and size of the setting or else it starts to feel old-fashioned rather than futuristic. Similarly, communications can't be as slow as physical travel without feeling anachronistic, regardless of the actual technologies involved. Yes, FTL travel is technically more advanced compared to today's transportation technologies, but it won't feel that way if it doesn't somehow allow you to go from one end of the galaxy to the other in less than a day.

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