Thinking of getting rid of Astrogation, Medic...and ship computers in general

Reynard said:
There's no shame in a society that favors its members and creates a system that supports them with work and compensation that will cycle throughout such a society. Creating a system that favors resources and compensation to fewer and fewer people at the top at the expense of the rest of your population is not a healthy or productive society.
Sadly that is the world we live in and have always lived in. The various industrial revolutions caused a huge amount of strife, conflict and loss of life. The rich got richer and the poor stayed poor. The coming AI revolution will be the end of a lot of comfortable working and middle class jobs in the developed world

Machines should aid not replace just because it exists. Star Trek did this. People do the majority of functions in society including that janitor near the Koboyashi simulation room. People push buttons and make most decisions and go outside and explore and the machines are behind the walls as aids. Over reaching computers, robots and cyborgs were always the enemy. That's my Traveller.

People did what they wanted and were suitable for in Star Trek because they live in an elitist post scarcity socialist utopia.

Here in the real world it will play out like this.

people with lots of money will build the AI controlled factories and be completely in control of wealth production - for themselves

lots and lots of previously working class and middle class will be out of jobs, their wealth will disappear

there will be war, famine, disease that will reduce the population

the AI factory owners will realise they are not wealthy at all since there is no one to buy their stuff

the wealthy will institute job creation programs and a universal wage so the mob has the means to buy their goods

the machines laugh at human self-destruction
All the wealthy will need is a system of automation that produces goods and services for the wealthy. Robots and expert systems design, create and maintain themselves. There would be no need for the rest of society. A paradise for the superior humans. No strife, no want, leisure created by a totally obedient labor force.

I always picture worlds in Traveller with high technology and low population with this Elysium concept.
Trouble is there is still the underclass - and they can keep doing stuff the old fashioned way - unless you exterminate them.
Exterminate is such a harsh word. They will remove themselves if ignored thus proving they are useless. The robots will just assure they don't get too close to what belongs to their betters which is everything.
And then we have the Zhodani.

Two principal reasons to keep the proletariat, outside the economic one if it's based on consumerism, and the need to have someone you can look down on:

1. Cannon fodder

2. Gene bank
Sigtrygg said:

the AI factory owners will realise they are not wealthy at all since there is no one to buy their stuff

the wealthy will institute job creation programs and a universal wage so the mob has the means to buy their goods

the machines laugh at human self-destruction

Completely agree and I share your pessimism, Sigtrygg.

For the purposes of Traveller, maybe we can suppose that at some point, humanity veers away from the cliff it is attempting to drive over, develops some form of UBI, humanity is fed, climate change is abated (too late to quash it), and some form of post-capitalism prevails, enabling a global society to one day reach the stars.
Linwood said:
Another possibility is that at least some organizations may deliberately limit or restrict the spread of tech like 3D printing or AI in order to foster a continuing dependency.

Do not discount the potential influence of cultural or religious traditions on issues like population control either.

IMTU, that force are the Vilani.

Basically they ran into these exact same problems.

Their solution was to create a universe where there was a place for everyone who wanted it. And even a place for people who didn't want to fit in. To provide for everyone like this, they needed a society that was stable and the greatest disruption for the Vilani was technological change - so they stopped it. Within their society, there was a place for ambition (steered towards political advancement rather than scientific research) and a corruption-tolerant system. They realized they could follow nature - humans didn't need the absolute best of everything, instead "good enough" was just that - good enough. It worked, too for many thousands of years. The Third Imperium's slow technological growth is explained by this - they too roughly follow the Vilani model. There's more innovation and improvement, but it's still quite measured.
As someone mentioned UBI, in my Traveller the pension fulfils part of that function.

By the rules everyone who completes 20 years in a career other than rogue, scout or drifter gets a pension of Cr10,000 p.a. which by the rules will guarantee a frugal but perfectly liveable standard of living for the rest of your life.

Work an extra couple of terms to boost your pension or do a few hours freelancing per month and that standard of living becomes comfortable.

Also by the rules nobody gets to work more than 48 years (12 terms based on you having to roll more than your elapsed terms in that career so far in your advancement role to continue - although I suspect that doesn't apply if you get to rank 6 as you no longer roll advancement) and on average most will retire around or soon after 28 years.

So rather than going down our current path of forcing everyone not in the elite to either work until they die or to live precarious lives of poverty and unemployment the Imperium has decided to more or less guarantee everyone a career but forces them to retire in early middle age to make way for the next generation.

Why guarantee? - well there is a draft (probably the wrong word as it seems not entirely compulsory) which applies unless you find a proper job or go off the grid by becoming a drifter or rogue.

How precisely the Imperium operates this enormously expensive pension system given the supposed independence of member worlds to run their own affairs and the huge range of tech levels is admittedly rather obscure - and yes of course pensions and the draft are just game artifacts and nobody thought seriously about what their wider social and economic implications would be if generally applied.

But for me half the fun of Traveller is doing precisely that and working through what the general implications of various game rules would be.

So for me the Imperial Pension is something inherited from the first imperium which had to deal with the same issues of technology making most of humanity surplus to requirements as we are now - but being ruled by conservative-minded bureaucrats rather than by insatiably greedy klepto-capitalists did it by guaranteeing everyone jobs in their three great megacorporations for the first 20 or so years of their lives and supporting them thereafter.

With the fall of the first imperium the reason the Navy founds the Rule of Man is precisely because the Terran Confederation wished to open up everywhere to be plundered by Terran capitalists - which would surely have led to massive revolts that there were just not enough Solomani ships and troops to ever suppress - and so the Vilani pension system survives and becomes central to the expansion of the third imperium as well in that Cleon and his successors offer restoration of the system to those worlds where it broke down during the Long Night.

And twenty years a pension.

Maybe a gold watch.
The idea of a tiered society based on service is an interesting one to explore. The starship troopers poster is not a bad starting point.

Basic income allows for a pretty basic life. Enter service and you get into the next higher rung of life. Serve more terms and you get even better perks.
Your pension and retired life is based on what you did during service. The powers that be get a mass of humanity to draw from for whatever projects they want.

If you want more from your retirement go into business with a smalll ship and try and make more money.
We know already there is a nobility and that there are an underclass who never qualify for pensions so yes it is already a tiered society.

However if the pension system works as per RAW it is remarkably egalitarian - a 6 term navy Admiral gets the exact same basic pension as a 6 term Able Spacehand or someone who has spent 24 years working in a factory or office.

Yes of course the Admiral got paid a lot more and so got more benefits and probably saved more cash than the spacehand but they still get the same guaranteed income.

So real division is between the pension-entitled and the those who are excluded from the system by bad luck or by choice.

And I suspect that particularly on the frontiers the system is nowhere near comprehensive and there may well be low tech Imperial planets where most people's jobs don't qualify or there just isn't the tax and bureaucratic apparatus to deliver it at all.

But on a typical Imperial world it is a massive force for social stability and security.
Great discussion. I really like the idea of using the pension system as an analog to a Starship Troopers-style enhanced citizens' rights. I think that most civilized, high-tech systems, especially those in heavily populated subsectors or sectors, would feature some sort of UBI. Without it there would be rampant social instability. The access to resources is greatly enhanced by space travel, and I imagine post-scarcity economics to be widespread, but instead of going full-blown space socialism, I do like the story potential of rewarding service and risk taking adventurers with greater resource access and wealth.
wordboydave said:
Maybe I'm crazy, but some of the premises of Traveller seem not only wrong, but literally unthinkable. Just based on what we already are seeing now, for example, I have a very hard time picturing a future where we don't have little nanites in our bodies constantly fixing things...and it certainly seems like there would be very little for a medical professional to do. Given enough stats and bioinformation, the AI of even fifty years in the future ought to be able to deliver prognoses more accurately than human doctors do...and then it'll just be a matter of obtaining the drugs. I don't see how medics fit into any real future scenario. (Relatedly, I don't think anagathics are likely to be necessary: we'll have self-renewing stem cells and live a very long time, making the age tables on the Career Lifepath distinctly irrelevant.)
Yes and no. If smart nanotech (as in, robotics as a nanoscience, rather than just materials science) becomes a thing, I can see medical nanotech being a big thing.
However, that changes medical science, it doesn't replace it.
A doctor today doesn't need much ability to successfully breed and keep leeches, for example.

Medical Nanorobots are, ultimately, 'smart viruses' - they may be intelligent as a swarm, but there's a limit to how smart an individual component can be. Having viruses constantly wandering around your body looking for bits to poke might help some conditions (say, cholesterol buildup) but could actively exacerbate others, particularly if they go wonky. If a nanoswarm decides there's something wrong with your elbow joint and wants to fix the problem by laying down a new layer of cartilage, fine....unless the new layer ends up lumpy and does more damage, or even starts expanding beyond what it should, in a sort of inert-organic-matter-tumor.

Many of the worst medical conditions you can suffer from consist of your body's own immune and regenerations systems 'deciding' that you have a condition that you don't actually have and trying to 'fix' it. Since the putative medical nanoswarm is going to be working off the same queues - temperature, blood pressure, protein and hormone levels in the body, it's quite believable they could make the same mistakes.

Equally, having nanotech hunter-killers in your bloodstream is fine but pathogens have been confusing and evading their biological equivalents for millions of years. You're not making them redundant, just offering them reinforcements.

So, yes. A medic would have less to do for an average person. But there would still be a need for the medical profession - it might morph into something somewhere between a current doctor and a medical nanotech tech support guy, but the role will still be there.

Equally, 'gross surgery' is something nanotech can help with but can't solve.
Say "There is a slight constriction of the left brachial artery due to deposited material" and the nanoswarm says "Yessir! On it!"
Say "There is a length of fractured 1/4" steel pipe through the lower torso" and the nanoswarm says "And aside from bleeding and peritonitis, what to you bloody think we can do about it?"

Others may quibble with my idea of where medicine is going, but surely everyone can understand why I might have a problem with human beings learning--and attempting to be expert in--a subject as readily computerized as Astrogation! If spaceflight ever becomes common, the most obvious thing to do will be to let computers handle the math! The very existence of a skill like Astrogation seems to rely on an old Age of Sail model where a lone navigator peers into his mysterious sextant, and, using arcane knowledge, tells the rest of the crew where to go. That doesn't seem even close to plausible.
And yet, solar and astronomical navigation is still a ship taught to maritime officers, and said officers still exist. Because:

1) Understanding the fundamentals of how you do astronavigation lets you evaluate the computer's output intelligently, even if you don't do the sums yourself.
2) Understanding the system lets you optimise it. A 'dumb' computer will calculate a safe/legal/viable route based on the request you give it, but the expert user (or the expert system!) will be able to say "hmm....I wonder if this option would be better instead?"
3) Being able to do some elements of calculation means that you're not helpless if the computer breaks. Granted, detailed orbital calculations worked out on paper is a stupid and unworkable idea, but orbital mechanics calculations sufficient to get you back into communications range of someone who can do the rest of the job for you, using spread-sheets you've created on a hand computer not optimised for the task, isn't an unreasonable idea - and the sort of thing I can see happening if a ship mis-jumped badly and the resulting systems crash took the nav computer with it.

But most of all, when I look at making ships, I just want to get rid of Traveller's absurdly limited computer rules. Why in the world would you install ships guns and then not have a program able to run them? Why wouldn't that simply go without saying? Ditto for Pilot, Maneuver, and all the other self-evidently necessary programs that the system insists that you buy. That's like making you buy doors, but also choose locks and handles.
RogerMc said:
As someone mentioned UBI, in my Traveller the pension fulfils part of that function.

It's an interesting concept. It sort of pays into a concept I had for the Third Imperium.

My Third Imperium (I feel) is less the Lorenverse Third Imperium - the central government's reach is long, but its grip is pretty weak in most places. Like described in historical Traveller materials, most planets are actually sovereign over their own affairs, so I personally always felt that pensions were not really that common. You had to be an Imperial bureaucrat, noble, or former military/Scouts - basically someone who had the Imperial Sunburst on their uniform at some point.

Since the Imperium seems to have been patterned on Ancient Rome in many ways, I imagined that the Imperium requires 20 years of service in the military or Scouts or 40 in the bureaucracy. If you were Imperial military, once you were discharged honorably you were effectively guaranteed a job in the bureaucracy afterwards if you wanted it (though where the Imperium posted you was up to them). You also had the privilege to move to an "Imperial" world - a world directly governed by the Imperium. You didn't have to move to an Imperial world of course.

Because the Imperium doesn't directly govern most of its member worlds, if you don't collect your pension after a month, it's gone forever on most places. You actually have to show up monthly to collect it at the local extraterritoriality post (eg; the starport). In a huge, loosely governed Imperium, they can't keep track if someone is alive or dead so they only give you your pension if you show up to collect it. After 100 years since your DoB you will also stop getting your pension because by that time because it's exceeded the average human lifetime and anyone still collecting is likely scamming.

However the alternative is to move an Imperial world. These are the "Imperial" worlds of the TI. A world that was directly governed by the Imperium, a TL12-14 world where there's no extraterritoriality of the spaceport or whatever since the entire world is governed by the Imperium and Imperial law applies over the entire world. A world where bountiful fusion power and technology meant that all of your basic life's needs (good housing, good clothing, transport, good medical care, and food) were all provided for you. Your pension was purely your spending money to do with as you pleased. You don't have to collect your pension directly on an Imperial world - because it's integrated, it'd just be directly deposited in your credit (they have other methods to know you're still who you claim to be) and pensions don't run out on these worlds. You could work of course, especially if you wanted to do things like try and buy anagathics to extend your lifespan. The offer to move to an Imperial world after mustering out likely would remain open for like 40 years after retiring. So many veterans would do just that - they'd do other things for 40 years and if they didn't find success, they'd move to an Imperial world so they could live the good life. (Being a member of the Services isn't the only way to move to an Imperial world of course, you could do it if you had key in-demand knowledge - typically not technical but for instance first-hand scholarly knowledge of something of interest to the Imperium - computer programmers can be found anywhere, but someone who has a wealth of information about the local conditions and ecology of the gas giant Doren V because he lived there doing gas mining for 40 years and was an amateur biologist to boot, sure come over. Or you could just be rich and influential.)