July 7, 2013

(A VERY Long) Slice of PIE: The Niña, the Pinta and the Grand Duchess Dinner Cruiser

On a Friday, not-quite a week after the arrival of my daughter’s visitor/classmate from Auckland, New Zealand; we heard that full-scale replicas of Columbus’ ships, the Niña, the Pinta would be docked and open for public viewing at a port on a nearby river.

Me, my wife, my daughter, her friend, joined at the last possible moment by my foster-daughter went to see this unusual display.

Now let me say right off that I harbor neither unrealistic images of Columbus’ grand voyage; nor do I seek to hold a 15th Century, visionary (or delusional) businessman to a 21st Century morality. What I DO is marvel that anyone could have taken to the oceans, not knowing where they were going in ships as small as the Niña and the Pinta!

The irony in this adventure was to see that replicas of two ships that supposedly introduced Spanish Europeans to the western continent they named The Americas are collectively SMALLER and can hold fewer people than the dinner cruise ship whose sole purpose is to feed people while moving on water for the entertainment of its passengers. The Grand Duchess was docked VERY nearby the two replicas of ships that were considered the absolute pinnacle of maritime engineering – and had actually made the 6000 or so mile trip in a month.

Two questions: What does this say about the values of early 21st Century Americans (I do NOT exclude myself!)? I’m NOT going to tackle this one. I’ll leave it as a personal philosophical exercise.)

The second questions interests me MORE.

If we equate the Niña, Pinta, and the Santa Maria of Christopher Columbus’ voyage from Spain to the Americas in 1492 –to the International Space Station in 2013…what might we be able to say about our view of space in 2534?

If we postulate that there is little to no change in how Humans will think in half a millennia (and the differences between how Columbus and your average entrepreneur today think seem to be more or less identical – Bill Gates would have more in common with Columbus than he would with me), then we might be able to make some predictions. This assumes that The Singularity – predicted and prepared for by a small number of technophillic writers and scientists – doesn’t happen in 2045. That might indicate that space will be become an entrepreneurial business venture more than a scientific, for-the-love-of fulfilled dream.

So let me just noodle around in that future a bit.

Using the Apollo spacecraft, the Space Shuttle, the Russian “Roskosmos…expedition crew launches by Soyuz-TMA spacecraft and resupplies the space station with Progress space transporters…” as a baseline equal to Columbus’ use of the Niña, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria, we might expect the following in the year 2534:

1) Lunch aboard a nice, trendy restaurant where we can look out the window at the historically accurate ISS floating nearby. We took a tour of the thing and can’t believe that Humans actually lived aboard it! We’d have loved to see the “real” crew quarters, but that’s where the volunteers who work on the ISS stay when they’re up here.

2) The ISS, the Space Shuttle and the other standard ships of the early days of space exploration have been replaced by a mode of transportation hinted at by so 21st Century Leonardo da Vinci (who drew some of the first flying machines) – artist/inventor. Maybe like the computer illustration of Chris Badilley or even more radically using the “springer” imaginary technology of SF writer John Barnes (and others with other kinds of FTL technology), make the travel in boats like Columbus’ look ridiculous.

3) People will be BIGGER than they were then a long time ago. While there have always been giants, the males in the 15th Century were about half-a-head shorter than males today. So probably the average male of the 24th Century will be half-a-head taller than me – so six feet five inches (1.9 m) will be average, ten feet (3 m) tall will be a giant…

4) Columbus didn’t have GPS – in fact, Columbus didn’t even have a sextant yet, navigating with the “instruments of the day such as the mariner's astrolabe, the quadrant and the cross-staff.” Our future diners will likely be able to mention a destination, their communication device will connect with a skipgate and once they pat their mouths after a delicious repast, they will vanish (at least they will appear to vanish) and arrive instantaneously at their casually mentioned destination. Possibly somewhere on the opposite side of the Milky Way Galaxy.

5) If people continue as they have, in 2534, one of the activities they will perform is the “shopping spree”. Perhaps there will be a Mall of Andromeda to visit.

6) Like today, there will be “primitive peoples”; there will likely be “the poor” – certainly Jesus the Messiah mentioned the poor to his disciples around 2000 years ago (“For you always have the poor with you...” Matthew 26:11) – but as I padded around the replicas after paying my $8 for the privilege of doing so, I didn’t think of the poor. Perhaps our skipgating jaunters will consider visiting the poor; maybe serving meals at an interstellar soup kitchen...

7) Humans have been snoozing since the dawn of time, so I assume our 24th Century folks will do the same, perhaps skipgating home to Earth to take a nap before a night on the town.

8) Standard transportation in the 15th Century was by horseback, walking and some sort of boat. Standard transportation in the 21st Century is by car, jet, train, boat (from kayak (1 passenger and crew) to the MS Allure of the Seas (8700 passengers and crew)). Standard transportation in the 24th Century? Skipgate, single-multiple passenger vehicles NOT powered by fossil fuels; public forms of air, ground and water travel – possibly based on antigravity but NOT generally used. Skipgate technology allows passengers and freight to traverse short or intergalactic distances and is used for all practical transportation with people noticing it as much as we notice cars, planes, ships, trains, and semitrailers. The limiter will be power (as always) and the distance limited by resources.
9) Beings we would consider “not Human” – whether they are aliens or artificially altered Humans – will be as noticeable as individuals who deal with some sort of physical or mental handicap are noticed today. We see them, but don’t remark on them publically.

10) Columbus’ crew communicated via cannon, shooting off rounds to let each other know what to do; possibly shouting from ship-to-ship when they were close enough. When they reached what they called the New World, they captured enough natives so at least a couple of them would survive the return trip, and brought them back to Spain to teach them Spanish. 21st Century Humans take out their cell phones to chat with virtually anyone, anywhere on Earth in real time with little or no delay – though differences in language present a sometimes insurmountable barrier. 24th Century Humans will not have to “take out” anything. The technology will be integrated into their bodies, they will not only be able to communicate with anyone, language will no longer be a barrier. In fact it will like be unnoticeable as their devices will instantly translate from one native language to another – whether they are Human or alien. They will be able to place an order for Klingon qagh and pick it up hot/cold/live shortly thereafter.

References: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christopher_Columbus,
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bill_Gates, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Technological_singularity, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russian_Federal_Space_Agency, http://www.baddileysuniverse.net/Universe4D.aspx, http://www.voxeu.org/article/reaching-new-heights-how-have-europeans-grown-so-tall, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Faster-than-light
Image: http://www.baddileysuniverse.net/Images/Space-Travel.jpg

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