As distances vanish and the people can flow freely from place to place, society will cross a psychological specific heat boundary and enter a new state. No longer a solid or liquid, we have become as a vapor and will expand to fill all available space. And like a gas, we shall not be easily contained.
– Sister Miriam Godwinson, “But for the Grace of God”
Most secret projects are solutions to recurring problems on Chiron. The Planetary transit system solves the problem of how to get from one base to another. Indeed, how to get from any base to any other base. In the early days, taking five steps outside of the perimeter of a base meant a high likelihood of a mind worm having you for breakfast. This is not conducive to planetary-wide commerce or the free exchange of ideas between factions. What it meant was that for most colonists, the base and its immediate surrounding was the entirety of their lifeworld; like an ancient Greek city state, the polis was where it was at.
In the earliest of early days, the impact of this local focus was a function of necessity rather than anything else. When every day is a new all hands on deck situation, there is little time to think of taking a leisurely trip to the next base over. As the colonists settled things down (in all senses of the word), inter-base travel gradually changed from a hazardous anabasis to a routine commute. Ever so slowly, the hardy pioneers were replaced by conference attendees and motivational speakers going to and fro. The grim realities of survival of an alien world were pushed aside for the more intricate problem of how to survive in a highly specialized industrial economy.
We might compare this project to the expansion of railway systems on Earth. The completed construction of a train station meant not only that trains could arrive, but also that the imperatives of places far away could make themselves felt on a very immediate basis. Local goods could be transported and sold to far-off places, which meant that it became profitable to produce more of them, more than the local population could ever use. If prices went up, this meant good times; if prices went down, the company town faced hard times. In both cases, the fate of a local city was determined by factors far away. What arrived on the train was not only goods and people, but a new social order, where the immediate felt experience could not be relied upon to predict how the future would shape up. The arrival of the railway meant an abstraction of reality.
The same goes for the Planetary transit system. The heat boundary that Miriam mentions marks the transition from a precarious colony barely scraping by to a society where everyone can go everywhere. This means that ‘everywhere’ goes from being a set of very particular places (a city), to becoming possible destinations with varying degrees of sameness (a global village). The thing that separates place a from place b is that it takes slightly longer to get to the one than the other, which in the grand scheme of things is not much of a difference at all. Whether this heralds a new golden age of cosmopolitan exchange (as envisioned by Kant) or the nivellation of difference under the indifferent brutality of sameness (as per Kunstler), remains to be seen.