The chief aim of their constitution and government is that, whenever public needs permit, all citizens should be free, so far as possible, to withdraw their time and energy from the service of the body, and devote themselves to the freedom and culture of the mind. For that, they think, is the real happiness of life.
– Sir Thomas More, Utopia, Datalinks
The process of automation outlined in the previous entry is, as noted, not limited to remote industrial settings. It also takes place closer to home. More specifically, it is used to build and maintain said homes. In the early days of the colony, everything had to be built by manual labor, which put an effective upper limit to how big a base could be. The bigger in size the built environment, the more people are required to maintain it. This relationship might be expressed mathematically, giving a rough outline of just how big a base can be before it can not become any bigger; the game shows this mechanically by limiting base sizes to 7 before building this facility.
More, in the quote above, makes reference to a freedom and culture of the mind, in contrast to the service of the body. Under conditions where a healthy base with a functioning life support system is a healthy body, this service takes the form of making sure that all facilities required for future human habitation are kept in working order. When all hands are required to do this, the opportunities to do something else are few and far between. Devoting oneself to the freedom and culture of the mind is a luxurious dream under conditions where the oxygen tanks are springing a leak every fifteen minutes. That is, until a robot can be put to work to fix those leaks automatically.
Having thus freed humans from the service of the body, the hab complex allows both for a larger population in general, and a more diverse division of labor in particular. People are freed up to become artists, librarians, engineers, designers, politicians, authors – all those activities which do not provide immediate benefits to society, but which if performed well become incalculable sources of positive change. Freed from the constraints of immediate survival, humanity is finally allowed the breathing space required to flourish.
The downside to this is, of course, that being freed from necessity has the potential to render people superfluous. Moreover, the large scale thinking inherent in automated base-wide systems tend towards the kind of functional separation lamented by Lefebvre in his description of a newly built residential block. There was only and exactly one thing to do in this new construction, Lefebvre noted, and that was to reside. The buildings were all furnished with the most modern of conveniences and appliances, built to the highest of standards, but walking through the area filled him with a sense of dread. For one, there were ironically no people there – during the day, everyone was at work, elsewhere, and during the evening they were in the leisure parts of town, also elsewhere. The only people at home were those who did not have anywhere to go; they resided, but given the lack of human activity available to participate in, it is questionable whether they actually lived.