Adaptive economics

Humans : correct in making the leap from wealth as currency to wealth as energy. But logic failure : wealth ultimately is extension of desire, fluctuating with emotions and state of mind. Desires : when all are supported in purely adaptable system, true wealth is achieved.

— Usurper Judaa Marr, “Human : Nature”

The introduction of alien factions in the Alien Crossfire expansion brings with it a host of questions, most of which relate to their modes of social organization. There is, by virtue of them being alien, bound to be quite a few and quite radical differences between how these aliens go about doing things and the more familiar human ways we’ve seen so far. They wouldn’t be alien if they simply conformed to the economic theory of this or that human thinker of centuries past.

This, however, points to an inherent contradiction of science fiction. Science fiction is by necessity written by humans, for humans, from a human point of view. No matter how elaborate, extrapolated or extraordinary the aliens depicted in sci fi writing become, they are still limited in scope to the point of view of a single species on a single planet. When authors seek inspiration for their strange and amazing extraterrestrial entities, this inspiration will by necessity come from somewhere close to home. Alien is as human does.

This is something of a drawback when it comes to empirical correctness and science-based science fiction. It does not, however, invalidate the notion of writing about aliens in the first place. They are not meant to be depictions of actually existing little (or, in the case of the progenitors, quite large) green men, but rather to perturb and upturn our habitual conceptions of what it means to be human. By confronting the Other, we mirror ourselves.

We can see this at play in the quote above. Marr comments on the limitations of human economic thinking, and points out that there is a better, more logical way of going about things. Wealth seen as merely the fulfillment of flimsy and temporary impulses is short-sighted, and tends to lead to the accumulation of ever more useless trinkets as one momentary fad gives way to another; wealth becomes the ability to give in to desire yet one more time, as the mood shifts. Marr’s alternative, then, is to move the ability to satisfy desires from the individual to societal institutions, in such a way that everyone can do it, whilst also contributing to the overall economy. An adaptive economy does not consist of wealthy individuals, but rather of a set of economic institutions which allow for the wealth to be realized where it needs to be, regardless of the size or nature of said need.

It should come as no surprise that Marr has Planned as his preferred societal choice; what has been said so far resonates with the old adage “from each according to his ability, to each according to his need”. Perhaps it is only fitting that Marr’s ambition to become the supreme overmind of the galaxy is built on the backs of well-cared for citizens. Indeed, it might be the only way. If this is how he treats his minions before achieving godhood, the thinking might be, then imagine what manner of wealth he might bestow once the Transcendence is completed. It would, all things considered, be a very human thing to believe.

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