Twenty thousand years of human history. Those of us living today, under the sway of the Federal system, are largely familiar with the three millennia of the Federation’s own history from our school lessons, and this is the first part of the presentation below, as a retrospective looking back from the present day. Most people are aware that our civilization is not the first, and that it was therefore built on the ruins of earlier social structures. However, there is a tendency to think of the Federation as being the summit of human achievement (yes, I am aware that suggesting otherwise is a risky business, but there is no denying that some of the ancient worlds were at least technologically superior). Similarly, modern orthodoxy is inclined to lump all the Ancients together as a single unit, and see them as a brief interlude that was little more than a precursor to the glory of the Federation. Whereas the truth is that our Federation represents barely fifteen to twenty percent of mankind’s history.
Those twenty thousand years were often lived in peace for long periods, but the many interruptions and marginal notes provide a sad chronicle of wars and politics, rising and falling civilizations, enlightened societies and uncharted interregnums, billions of lives and billions of deaths. An overview is therefore given as the second part of this presentation, in chronological order to give the reader some feel for the way our species developed. All in all, a serious analyst can scarcely look at this chronicle of disasters without wondering how humanity managed not to wipe itself out, or even take the planet with it.
A Retrospective of Federal History
We are currently in the year 3112 of the Federal Era. The system has proved stable, being constantly honed and tweaked by the artificial intelligences that monitor and manage many aspects of life. This results in numerous rules and restrictions, but humanity is nevertheless largely content. A small number are required for managing the massive automated ocean farms that provide the food for somewhere near sixty billion people. A significant proportion of the populace is involved in construction work. And many of the rest, whether they belong to the one third who are full Federal Citizens or the unranked and twice as numerous Greys, are employed looking after or serving others. This is seen as the ideal role for humans, who are social animals by nature. There are vast armies of child-minders, artists, psychologists, teachers, musicians, waiters and waitresses, dancers, athletes and sportsmen, cleaners and shop assistants. And of course there are two important additional power blocks: FedSec, the black-uniformed security services who are responsible for law and order, and the Priesthood, the representatives of Gaia and the main religious authority.
The population remains constant because of the strictly enforced code of behaviour that the controlling intelligences or cliques have laid down and surreptitiously embodied in the heart of Gaianism; even the Greys have a right to one child, the lowest rank of Citizens are entitled to two, the next rank may have three, and so forth. Little has changed for many centuries.
The last significant revolt against the Federal structure, ultimately leading to the introduction of the tattoos for monitoring and social control purposes. A booming worldwide population recovery had rapidly led to sustainable limits being approached and a number of hardliners, in particular the remaining few with non-Gaian beliefs, had refused to accept early attempts to implement caste-linked rules for family planning. The crackdown after the Quatercentenary Rebellion was also the time during which the rules of Etiquette became formalized.
The rise of Gaianism
from 63 FE
There are no references to belief in Gaia or the lifestyle or communal worship known as Gaianism until shortly after the death of Lincoln Ward, who is now accepted as being the first person to have transcended his own death and whose personality continued to exist.
The Federation was founded, not by people but after intercession by the Priesthood. Although they have always maintained that theirs is primarily a watching brief, the artificial intelligences that had been omnipresent throughout the datasphere since long before this date did intervene and help some of the numerous small city states merge. As the Cold Interregnum failed and major cities were coming into being again and warring with each other, the Priesthood feared that the spark of humanity was now too fragile and could easily be extinguished: the one thing they would never permit. Elements were distilled from the social structures of the eight largest cities and merged into a rigidly controlled and mathematically based caste structure.
The date that the leaders finally signed this agreement and accepted Lincoln Ward as the first president traditionally marks the start of the Federal Era and is designated as the Year 0 FE. This was in fact only after prolonged negotiations, and the basic Federal structure is first referred to in documents dating back to approximately 7 FE.
The Year 0 FE is therefore some eleven thousand years after the first evidence of global technological civilizations, which are in turn perhaps seven thousand years after the first large-scale societies in the Nile Valley.
An Overview of Pre-Federal History
The black unknown of prehistory. We are completely reliant on later records for what little information we have about these times, when during which the Neolithic peoples slowly came to dominate their natural world. Modern anthropologists are quite certain that we are talking true humans here, not the various other defunct branches of genus Homo. Indistinguishable from you or me, with language and complex social structures and rituals, capable of loving or grieving, able to make music and produce stylized art. Yet it was not merely a question of them having no technology, no monetary system, no infrastructure, no healthcare… it was far below that: they had no metals, no writing, no science. Nevertheless, they survived and flourished, which is far more than many of their descendants managed to do.
There is of course little or nothing left of them now, but this is believed to be the approximate period when human society first produced substantial towns and cities, perhaps itself a couple of millennia after the first permanent settlements arose and the hunter-gatherer nomadic lifestyles waned. These civilisations were based around the Fertile Crescent to the east of the Mediterranean, and then in Egypt. The Third Gileadean Republic still had a small number of antiquities supposedly dating to this period, in particular the Great Pyramid, but virtually nothing survived the great KE weapon strike of 386 FE.
References to earliest major military empires and large, long-lasting civilizations go back to this period. Datasphere records suggest that later primitive societies such as the Renaissance, the Victorians and the United States had a considerable degree of respect for these early, militaristic, slave-based civilisations centred on the Mediterranean: first Athens and then Rome. These include some of the oldest surviving bodies of written language, although there are no originals. This is also roughly the period when the great monotheistic religions arose in Europe and came to dominate for the next two millennia.
Globe fully colonized, simple fossil fuel resources rapidly becoming used up, networks of communications satellites present for the first time, technologically advanced if grossly inefficient, huge inequalities of health and wealth, extinction of many native species, first major climatic impacts.
The first truly global and technological civilization arose. However, it remained dichotomous, with what had originally been two geopolitical superpowers in the East and West fading and merging into two theocratic superpowers. With the exception of the Jewish Middle East, the word became two camps: Islamic and Christian. The major population centres in Asia joined with much of Africa and eastern Europe in opposing the radical Christian fundamentalist dominance in the Americas, southern Africa, western Europe and Australasia.
-10476 FE (traditional date)
The three great monotheistic religions finally clashed at a nuclear and sub-nuclear level. All knew that there could be no winner to such a war, yet it came. The world’s population was devastated more by disease and starvation and slaughter by the marauding armies than it was by the terrifying weaponry. Most of the technological fighting was over in less than a year, but the death toll continued to rise. This seems likely to have been exacerbated by racist groups (on both sides) attempting to use viruses to commit genocide on the basis of skin colour in particular, but in practice humans were of course too interbred for these atrocities to succeed fully. The peak rate was over a billion people a year; it is possible that there were less than three hundred million souls left on the entire planet for the next century.
The date quoted should in fact be regarded more as a traditional figure than a definite one. It is customary to quote dates earlier than this to an approximation “BP” – before the present – rather than as exact years, and I shall also bow to the conventions of the Galak language and shift here from the past tense into the praesens historicum.
(Also known as the Silent Millennium)
Little is known about this period, other than how it ends. There is very little in the way of historical records about the times as successive generations slowly build up on what little knowledge they have retained from the past. It is clear that there were long periods of small-scale internecine wars, feudal territories, and falling populations as well as rises.
Religious crusading enforced a broad spectrum of rules with some sort of Biblical basis. In particular, it takes drastic steps to encourage and indeed enforce population growth, with the few fertile women being treated as little more than breeding stock. It is a harsh and Spartan approach that has the requisite ruthlessness to bring the world slowly together under a single banner. The first to use colour ranks, and woe betide anyone who wore clothing inappropriate to their role. Blue rank was the aristocracy, with power and rights. The servants wear red, the medics and scientists green and the administrators yellow.
Often seen as humanity’s peak: a well-controlled, stable and tolerant society with substantial amounts of centralized control to keep environmental excesses and risks in check. The hard-line religious society retains global power for a surprising length of time – long after population losses have been made good and the colour schemes of ranking everyone as blue, red, green and yellow had become nothing more than honorifics. There is no point at which the Scientocracy takes over from the Priests; indeed, contrary to popular belief, there is never any kind of high council or leadership that ever even takes the name “scientocracy”. The date given here is commonly quoted as the end of the republic, but it is in fact no more than the year in which the priesthood dissolves its already long-redundant Military Commissariat. Technology simply reached what was widely seen as a benign plateau: artificial intelligences began running things, producing seemingly inexhaustible power from the Earth itself and from colossal bioenergy algae farms, leaving people to live a life of luxury with no worries. Satellite networks were built, low orbit space-based nanotechnology began creating new materials, skyhooks were constructed.
This state lasted for over seven thousand years, far and away the longest and most stable civilization we have ever seen. And in the end, it was discontent over that very stability and lack of ambition that led to its downfall: at what point does stability become stagnation?
A series of massive tectonic shifts produce earthquakes and tsunamis that devastate almost every coastline on the globe. These are widely thought to have been triggered by failure of the magma power systems, with a strong likelihood that sabotage by some disenchanted grouping was the direct cause. However, this is a period during which the datasphere is having great difficulty keeping itself repaired, let alone accumulate more information, and so there is a great deal of missing data.
Originally just a political counterweight to the Scientocracy, taking their name from the already almost mythological leading caste of warriors whose battle-cries had shattered the Silent Millennium, the Canaanite Brotherhood soon become active agents against technological excesses. After the Flood, they rapidly come into the ascendancy and within a generation, much scientific knowledge becomes demonized: “unnatural” and “ungodly” applications are banned and destroyed. Nanotechnology is outlawed, artificial minds and sentient AI machines are uncompromisingly terminated, genemods and gelfs hunted down. But as a result, communications collapse further, healthcare fails, the economy shrinks to a local agrarian level.
With poor communications and no centralized control, the short-lived Second Canaanite Republic shakes itself to pieces within a couple of decades. Hundreds if not thousands of small fiefdoms arise, with local lordlings in absolute control and ready to fight to the death to retain that control. A period of in-fighting ensues, with so much propaganda that it is all but impossible to distinguish truth from fiction. Much of the infrastructure collapses to almost pre-industrial levels, although a few of the self-repairing sentients and the datasphere survived unused.
Dark because so little is known about it and so little light was cast by its primitive technologies. The datasphere never completely disappeared, of course – there were sufficient elements of it backed up on communications satellites and self-repairing biomimetic units that had escaped the Luddite attentions of even the most zealous of the Canaanite Brotherhood. But there were no sensors, no inputs – just a black hole of two hundred and fifty years. The human race goes into it as untrusting, xenophobic self-sufficient communities of farmers, and comes out of it little changed.
A power group centred on a set of intolerant monotheistic religious beliefs proclaims itself independent. Over the course of no more than the next hundred and twenty years, primarily by being the first to succeed in resurrecting some of the weapons of mass destruction from the Elder Times, it comes to hold sway over almost the entire globe. Nevertheless, despite the totalitarian control it exercises, this society invests heavily in knowledge about communications and medical science in particular, while assiduously eschewing some of the mainstays of the Elder Times such as most of the notorious nanotechnologies and the now deeply distrusted deep geothermals. Modern analysts credit them with the regeneration of the basic infrastructure for our modern datasphere and some would say it was the most artistically developed single world culture ever. If you were a man, that is: one of the hallmarks of the Canaanite cultures has always been the strict division of roles between the sexes and economic domination by the men, leaving the women principally with the task of child-rearing.
Nevertheless, for its arts, this period is also known as the New Enlightenment.
Although it rules the entire globe, the Third Canaanite Republic is far from popular, particularly among younger radical elements wanting to introduce technological solutions. And presumably unpopular among females, although that information is not particularly recorded explicitly. The Ultras, the most radical of the Techno groups in the war, were experimenting with weaponising technology from the Elder Times, aiming for insurrection. The Canaanite Brotherhood comes down hard on the Techno movement, issuing draconian decrees, more against their beliefs than their science. The Republic meets its final cataclysmic end when a space-borne KE weapon – a small asteroid – strikes its Northern African heartland. The ten-year freeze due to dust in the atmosphere destroys much plant and animal life. The human population crashes once again to maybe well under half a billion. Realizing just how easily this could have spelled the end for humanity, or indeed all life on the entire planet, the Priesthood resolves never to allow such a state of affairs to occur again.
A period of approximately four centuries that could best be described as an Ice Age. Global average temperatures were substantially lower than now and vast ice-caps covered large parts of the north of the globe in particular, although these were a mere veil compared with the massive glaciers of a genuine climatic ice age and there was relatively little effect on mean sea levels. Nevertheless, the ice accumulated substantially over a period of a couple of hundred years during which little land outside the tropics was genuinely habitable, and then took about equally long to fade.
The start of the Federal Era, Year Zero or 0 FE or 3112 BP (before the present).