By Wayne Clayton
We are of course given clues to the task with some of the technology breakthroughs, such as Transmats, Drones, Suspensors and Compactors, plus we can’t forget the IMTel. As it is this very machine that has shaped the whole of PanHuman Concord society. But what does that actually look like, away from the battlefield?
In a Facebook post someone asked the question ‘…are there any roads in GOA?’ Given the use of suspensors on vehicles it is indeed a question to be asked. Should we imagine a Fifth Element, or Blade Runner vision of flying cars and aerial traffic jams? I think not. The reason being as Rick Priestley himself put it: the Concord is akin to a near perfect ‘Socialist Utopia’. In such a socialist utopia, the notion of individuals owning their own means of transport doesn’t ring true. Indeed, it seems even more unlikely when the vehicles themselves are intelligent enough to operate without the need of a human at the wheel.
It certainly easy to imagine drone vehicles inheriting the skies, going about their business with IMTel precision, but one would expect the cities of this PanHuman society to be connected by more communal modes of transport, perhaps the monorails, bullet trains and travelators of classic science fiction. Transmats may well be firmly integrated within the homes and workplaces of its citizens, allowing for more free form styles of architecture, banishing the need for stairs, but they seem limited when faced with movements of large groups of people. Just where the citizens of such cities would travel to en masse is another question? In a machine run society what work is left for the human to do?
Indeed in such a world what past times would a machine intelligence think suitable to occupy idle hands? Let us not forget that IMTel is not like other machines. Its programmed purpose is to protect and serve its citizens. Although, it is true part of that programming is geared to assimilate other worlds and bring order to their chaos, however, it is not the Borg, nor does it wish to create an army of Cybermen: it wants its citizens to be content and happy (the impossible dream of any society).
Therefore, one must imagine that the cities of the Concord worlds would shy away from the grey brutalistic concrete visions of a totalitarian state. One would tend rather to envision the blueprints of the garden cities of the 1920’s planners, each city laid out into separate zones of activity. Industrial zones at the heart of the city and its citizens commuting into it from the suburban fringes, rows of identical tower blocks, or 50’s model homes with perfect Stepford lawns with easy access to the centre via the communal transport systems through green belts of public parks, open plazas, no waste and no litter, past the building set aside for its citizens entertainments & sporting pastimes. Beyond that is the countryside, factory farms ripe with the fruits of IMTel’s labours to feed its people.
A socialist utopia indeed, but what of its cultural concepts? What kind of design aesthetic could IMTel possess? In an equal society they would be no need for monuments to fallen heroes, or imperial rulers. Buildings designed by machines would be unlikely to follow the baroque, or gothic flourishes of more barbarian worlds. Form and function would be key. Even the colour pallet would be calculated to the nth degree in order to ‘please’ the citizens. The food too would be tailored to provide the correct nutrition and taste requirements, no more, no less. Every citizen’s diet would be standardized too, with no excess fat. Perhaps public displays of group exercise would be a common sight from the windows of the monorails.
Of course in an equal society people often ponder on what happens to human ambition and aspiration. Here IMTel decides all, the algorithms of the individual citizen never lie, and IMTel will pick you from the masses and provide you with the new home and luxury items to match your new status. And what about relationships? IMTel will be the ultimate matchmaker no doubt as it never makes mistakes. Plus the new citizens produced (when required, to fill in skill gaps and recent vacancies in cities population) will have the finest education and prospects. Although, whether the citizens would be aware of any of these events taking place might be debatable.
But as much as its citizens would be influenced by the machines concept of what it believed was good for the people, one must not forget that when integrating new worlds the process may well be reversed. The cultural past of those societies would not be swept aside if it was deemed useful as the need to explore and assimilate new technologies is at the heart of the IMTel programming. Once IMTel takes root on a new world it’s people may well forget their attachments to any local deities, or pre-shard notions of nationhood, but the architecture and traditions of building with locally found materials would remain intact, albeit adapted through the filter of the new Concord IMTel. Any new cities built may well mirror that of the original Concord homeworld, but it will be blended with elements of the old pre-Concord culture, thus retaining that worlds individuality in the early stages of the new Concord Shard contact, the old butting against the new. Over time the constantly changing fusion of information, from not only that world but others too would all feed back into the Concord and result in constantly updated instruction for city building, in the same way computer updates and patches operate today.
The adaptability of PanHumans to survive in environments outside the confines of their original home worlds is matched by the IMTel’s need to expand its zone of influence. Planets, moons and asteroids will also be called home by the Concord citizens and such homes will be shaped by those hostile environments. One imagines sealed domes, underground complexes, cities floating on alien seas, or even set adrift in the skies of vast gas giants with the aid of supersized suspensor engines. Even open space will have its man made islands in the void under the IMTel’s watchful eyes.
In conclusion one must acknowledge that in such an ordered society, the city will be equally ordered, roads will indeed still exist and flat, even surfaces will still be required for ease of transport, whether on foot or suspensored above it. The same cannot be said for those other inhabitants of Antarian space, who for some reason seem resistant to the IMTel’s universal vision of harmonious urban living.
By Wayne Clayton