May 15, 2016

Director of Forestlands

This is another in a series of blog posts in 2016 celebrating science fiction and the fact that Jack Vance was born in 1916.

Punctuated Equilibria
The geological record of Earth contains evidence for long periods lasting millions of years during which gradual evolutionary changes occurred while continents slowly migrated across the surface of our world. Sometimes it is claimed that until humans arrived on the scene, no individual species of life had the power to cause a sudden mass extinction of species on Earth.

Click image to enlarge (source).
However, there may have been some microorganisms that "invented" new biochemical processes such as nitrogen fixation or oxygen production, and in so doing, caused major changes to Earth's ecosystem, resulting in mass extinctions. Possibly we humans are only unique in that we can become aware of our impact on the planet and the diversity of life here on this Garden World.

In the Exode Trilogy, the pek arrived on Earth billions of years ago and inserted zeptites into our planet's ecosystem. Those zeptites were used to mine sedrons and facilitate the development of Earth as a Garden World. Pek zeptites are indifferent to the occurrence of mass extinctions, but the pek will take action to prevent the complete loss of life from a Garden World like Earth.

one of the many Preland subspecies (source)
The pek have a standard protocol that is employed when tool-using species arise on Garden Worlds. In the case of Earth, the Prelands were constructed as a primate variant that could be evolved towards transcendence of hadronic existence. The pek plan was for evolutionary descendants of the Prelands to abandon life in the hadronic domain and ascend to a new phase of life in the Sedronic Domain.

Previously, I've assumed that the pek were the first aliens to visit Earth, but Gohrlay assures me that the bumpha Interventionists reached our world first. The bumpha knew that evolution of organisms able to produce oxygen from water is a major biochemical bottleneck throughout the universe.

In an effort to keep out in front of the pek, the bumpha have always spread outwards as rapidly as possible, seeding planets such as Earth with the genes needed to allow biospheres to convert atmospheres from reducing to oxidizing.

When the pek finally reached Earth, oxygenic bacteria were already thriving here. The pek were, by then, used to bumpha interventions into the development of life on terrestrial planets.

Further, Gohrlay assures me that the pek zeptites are programmed to make alterations to planetary ecosystems so as to preserve and enrich life on Garden Worlds such as Earth. Those zeptites have guided Earth's tectonics and repeatedly taken action so as to regulate the temperature and molecular composition of the atmosphere.

Director of Forestlands
For his Demon Princes saga, Vance imagined a future in which very little changed between the year 2000 and 3500. In the Exodemic Fictional Universe, I imagine that the future depicted in Vance's Oikumene was first written into stories by a Vance analogue the Ekcolir Reality. In the Reality where those stories were set, the Institute was able to function as the instrument of the pek and keep humans from developing hierion-based technologies during the first several thousand years of the Space Age. The few known technological advances of that age seem to have been due to a small Interventionist effort known as Zodiac Control.

During that time, the human population of Earth never exceeded 8 billion and slowly fell from that peak when cheap interstellar travel was made available by the Jarnell Corporation. By the year 1525 (new calendar), the population of Earth was below 4 billion and most of the planet was wild and undisturbed by people. Sherde Venek, Director of Forestlands, was one of the Earth-based conservationists who helped establish Bethune Preserve as an exoplanet that would be preserved for study of its rich and diverse life.

The Halting Problem
The pek "halting problem": extinction curve (source)
Sadly, for us here in the Final Reality, it is not clear that we are protected from using our own technologies to destroy ourselves and the other creatures who live here on this world. According to Gohrlay, the pek long ago proved what they call the "halting problem", a variant of what Bill Lloyd described as the "tragedy of the commons".

the assembly of R. Gohrlay
Tool-using humanoids tend to be unable to control their development and deployment of technologies until after the point where they have assured their own destruction. It appears that R. Gohrlay won for we Earthlings a chance to reach the stars, but it may be up to us to find the wisdom to avoid destroying ourselves and the precious ecosystem of Earth.

Other blog posts in this series
Celebrating 100 years of Vance
May 7 - Scutinary Vitalists
April 9 - Vance +100
March 6 - Mirky Porod
Next: Mission on Sogdian
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