And tear our pleasures with rough strife
Through the iron gates of life.
The major political features of the galaxy exist against a background of representative democracies, variously parliamentary, congressional, soviet, and so forth. This applies chiefly to Terrans, but many aliens have adapted Terran forms of government, in the human-dominated galaxy, and the myriad alien forms of government are too disparate to form any single trend to rival the human democratic one. There is an unconscious assumption, in many places, that democracy is the natural political form for Terrans, just as, through most of the Iron Age, the assumption was that monarchy was the natural form. But there are still plenty of dictatorships and oligarchies, usually masquerading as democracies, to contradict that assumption.
If you agree to these terms, click Yes. — standard software contract prompt
Cybureaucracy is the practice of using computers systems, including non-sentient AIs, to handle the record-keeping, with a minimum of sapient intervention. This saves a great deal of time and work, but is also a powerful instrument for governments to monitor their citizens and to enforce policies silently.
So, for instance, with a vigorous cybureaucracy, you can apply for a parenting license simply by announcing the intention to your home interface. You may receive the license within seconds. But you also open all your financial, legal, and medical records to the population bureau's admin engine, which you may not realize. And, if the admin engine has been hacked, the license may be granted or refused for illegal reasons – because you are on an enemies or favors list, because the admin engine makes an illegal access to your voting records, because of some economic or eugenic agenda – all without any sapient witnesses, and leaving no data trail, if the hacker knows their job.
So cybureaucracy is very convenient, but needs careful monitoring. The Institutes of Wisdom and Justice both demand total transparency of cybureaucratic systems.
Beware of the engine
Intent on avengin'
Defeat by a rival
Who's bent on survival
— "Starlight Express," Andrew Lloyd Webber, lyrics by Richard Stilgoe
Mechanarchs are not just AIs that are heads of state, nor even AIs who are dictators or near-dictators, though the term "mechanarch" is often used that way. A mechanarch is an AI head of state that uses networking, cybureaucracy, hierarchies of subordinate AIs, and spawned characterizations of itself to pervasively micro-manage its government much more than a non-AI could.
Informally, people distinguish four kinds of mechanarchs:
The types are not pure. Any real mechanarch tends to show features of more than one type.
Mechanarchs come to power in the same various ways as any other heads of state. Most, in fact, are elected. In Rete, elections commonly feature rival mechanarchs, campaigning on the merits of their architectures as well as their policies and track records.
Lead the people by laws and regulate them by penalties, and the people will try to keep out of jail, but will have no sense of shame. Lead the people by virtue and restrain them by the rules of decorum, and the people will have a sense of shame, and moreover will become good.
— Analects II 3, Confucius
In the modern galaxy, "Meritocracy" with a capital M is a political movement. In a Meritocracy, an official seeking a specific office must pass an examination concerning the office and win separate elections by subordinates, peers, and superiors. Different Meritocratic factions put different weightings on these criteria and, of course, use different exams.
That is in a Meritocratic state. In a normal democracy, you can still have Meritocratic parties, in which candidates campaign on their status as assigned by their party, in addition to their policies and track records, competing against candidates from other, non-meritocratic parties.
Each Meritocratic faction runs statecraft schools, in which students are tested for leadership aptitude and educated in all the fields that apply to the faction's ideal of statecraft. This always adds up to a broad and thorough education, over and above the specifically political courses; some large fraction of the students are always there simply for the education, without regard for the politics. The schools also offer majors in the specializations for different areas of politics. No Meritocratic party or government would endorse a candidate without a degree in statecraft from its school system.
The major Meritocratic factions, with galaxy-wide followings, are:
Granny knew exactly where the witches were in Genua now.
They were in charge...
— Witches Abroad, Terry Pratchett
Magarchy is Meritocracy with an added requirement of psychic talent. The main Magarchic factions are:
Ah Love! could thou and I with Fate conspire
To grasp this sorry Scheme of Things entire,
Would not we shatter it to bits – and then
Re-mould it nearer to the Heart's Desire!
— The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, trans. Edward FitzGerald
Terraform empires are left in the wakes of the great terraforming fleets. The theory was that the new-minted colony worlds should support the terraforming fleets in the creation of later colonies by sending money, people, and other resources to the fleets. The fleets had to have tightly knit administration to do their task, and so tended to leave behind tightly knit colony worlds, even though few of them were strictly "empires."
Human politics being what it is, the colonies and groups of colonies usually lost interest in supporting the distant fleets after a time, and the fleets themselves fractured and divided. As time went on, terraforming became easier and faster, but drive technology improved faster still, so that it eventually became more productive to find new colonies rather than make them. The terraforming fleets faded away or struck off for lightly explored regions like the TranSaj, the halo clusters, or the Magellanic Clouds, but the different terraforming movements still left their distinctive marks on the societies they founded.
Prominent terraforming movements, each with its litter of empires, include:
"I'm glad I'm a Beta" — Brave New World, Aldous Huxley
Genarchy is centered on a caste system produced by genetic engineering. The commonest form of genarchy is a planet originally settled by neohumans, who maintain cultural and political superiority over later waves of immigration by eohumans, other neohumans, and people of other species. Often, only neohumans of the original race are considered citizens.
Sometimes, the different neohumans join forces to form a single superior caste over the eohumans. Sometimes, the different races of neohuman form a short hierarchy over the eohumans. Sometimes, eohumans are on top, usually because the neohumans were developed to lack aggression or dominance, as in the case of the service clones.
The most elaborate example of a genarchy is the Alkaid Reach, consisting of several dozen systems originally settled by the Agrian Terraformers. Its castes are:
Each class, even agrioes, is graded into alpha, beta, gamma levels by personal accomplishment.
Regeneration offers a way of moving up in genome; whether this should merit rise in class is a Big Issue.
AIs in the Alkaid Reach are classed according to the genetic pattern that is the basis of their neurodynamics, and so can range from property all the way up to calytero-class. Those based on alien neurodynamics are classed as agrioes.
A simpler and commoner version of this genarchic system recognizes only the classes anaxo, canonico, agrio, and dulo. Many other systems exist, among both Terrans and aliens.
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Copyright © Earl Wajenberg, 2010