Could dwarf star planets shine with life

Malocher in space!

Of Rick Robinson. Original: Working Stiffs in SPAAACE !!!, published on September 7th, 2009 on Rocketpunk Manifesto.

Today is Labor Day in North America. I had vaguely assumed that it was introduced early in the last century to prevent May Day, with its left-wing connotations, from taking hold in America. Good old Wikipedia corrected that for me. "Our" Labor Day [German here; d. Ü.] Was created decades earlier, in Canada, while the call for a workers' holiday first came up in Australia.

If there are large numbers of people in space, most of them will be workers. They will work as researchers and assistants, as engineers and technicians, administrators and support staff. Perhaps there will be belter with one-man ships, but the vast majority of the people in space will likely live in complex habitats that are kept functional and alive by hundreds of specialized trades, professions, and trades. And with a lot of plain hard work.

“Spacer” is essentially a craft occupation. Spacers (or whatever term they refer to) operate heavy machinery, some of it very heavy and a lot of it extraordinarily powerful and dangerous. You handle precision equipment, some of which are extremely fine and delicate. On this blog I occasionally discuss large interplanetary spaceships with electrical plasma propulsion in the gigawatt range, instruments that measure nanometers, and life support systems for hundreds of people. Someone builds and operates these fabulous and complex vehicles, and these somebody are spacers: workers.

Given the high cost and the resulting high levels of automation, there probably won't be full-time potato peelers aboard spacecraft, but someone will eventually peel them. And once things are somewhat established, the necessary dirty work will not be evenly distributed. Universities, the military, and large civil engineering firms offer three different models of how things can be done, and none of them are even the least bit egalitarian. Some sort of work hierarchy is likely to emerge.

Science fiction has long been aware of this, and there have been quite a few stories of labor unrest in space. Given American political culture, such commie stuff could easily be pushed into the background in the rocket punk era. All these rebel colonists must go something rebel, and it's probably not just about abstractions about freedom and independence. At least not in the beginning. More likely, it starts with disputes over pay and working conditions and then spreads to the question of why someone who has never been to Ceres makes decisions instead of the people who live and work there.

Those who plan the human presence on Ceres and those who shell out the money to have it built also have their rightful claim. But after they generally appoint the decision-makers, their claim rarely goes unheard. Work teams are expected to be happy with their paychecks - which isn't entirely unfair, provided that they've volunteered, but isn't the full story. They create value beyond what they are paid for. (If they don't, why were they hired?)

Space workers will have an interest in the work they do, and ultimately the greatest, after they establish the human presence in space. And the human presence in space be become.

The picture of the workers at the space station is from NASA, found on RobiNZ Personal Blog.

Comments on the original article:

Citizen Joe:

Remember, the "boss" is likely in Mission Control, sipping his morning coffee in safety, and in full control of whether or not you survive. And if one day you decide that you have had enough, your lack of work could result in your death and the death of all your crewmates.


if one day you decide that you have had enough, your lack of work could result in your death and the death of all your crewmates.“

Just like any other handicraft job. My friend has more nightmare stories from his time on the railroad than from his time with the fighting force. He knows he could kill a few thousand people simply by derailing a single railroad car.


Even though he was a bit confused and completely unrealistic, Karl Marx ünden ideas are based on a true fact: the guys who make the decisions and the guys who create the infrastructure come from different backgrounds. Not necessarily as a result of childbirth, but as a result of training. In the most liberal environments, this path of education is a self-chosen one, but it still exists.

When I was an aerospace engineering student at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, these differences were clearly marked. The university was divided into three different curricula. On the first page you had the engineers: the guys whose concern it was to put fantastically idealized flying works of art on paper. On the opposite side you had the mechanics, the oil-and-dirt engineers, the guys with the toolbox and the stained overalls. In the middle you had the pilots who had to look at the guy in the white coat looking up into the clouds and the guy in the dirty work smock with a roll of duct tape and then get on the plane these guys had built.

The mechanics complained that the pilots always found ways to break the one indestructible thing stuck in the middle of the engine that required it to be completely disassembled because of the poorly designed construction, the hundred useless things between them and theirs broken parts and provided no easy access.

The pilots complained that the mechanics never fixed their planes properly and that every time they came in for maintenance they came out with a new weird noise. They also wondered whether these seats really had to be so uncomfortable, or whether the controls had to be so tricky.

Of course, the engineers wondered what the pilots and mechanics didn't like about their apparently flawless creations, and referred to the neat paper diagrams to prove they could never break.

The stereotypes were of course:

The stupid pilot: couldn't add 2 + 2 and maybe even write, and who was he to complain about work, it wasn't like his life depended on the work of the other two. Correct?

The frustrated mechanic: He grumbles that the pilots are treating the machines incorrectly and that the engineers cannot design a practical engine that can be repaired without disassembling the aircraft.

The scientist in the ivory tower: without contact with anything that resembles reality, lives in a paper fantasy. And he doesn't have a girlfriend.

Most of it, of course, was good-natured humor, and satirical articles appeared regularly in our school newspaper. In general, everyone knew that the engineers had to come up with dizzying obscure mathematical formulas, that the mechanics obviously knew their way around an engine and would knock you on the head if you did something really stupid, and the pilots? These guys had eggs made of steel.

In broad terms, of course, this is present in every aspect of life. When the different classes recognize the interdependence of their skills and that everyone is better off doing what they have been taught (ideally because they chose to do just that), then society is stable and functional. When anyone in this class begins to feel betrayed, or fails to realize that everyone's job depends on others doing their jobs right, then bad things happen. Where Karl Marx was wrong was the claim that the proletariat (the mechanics) could do without the political leaders (the engineers) and that the latter should be overthrown. Given that the engineers did a terrible job, his frustration is understandable. The mechanics screwed it up hugely, mostly by hiring another school of engineers who talked well but weren't mechanics either, and while arguably better than the previous bunch, their brute approach to design produced some unfortunate results.

The revolution on Ceres will start with dissatisfied mechanics, but it will not get going or be successful unless a cadre of (competent) administrators takes the dissatisfaction to heart and gives it shape.


When engineers, mechanics, and pilots sit down and cooperate in devising a solution to an ongoing problem that is comfortable, practical, and elegant, permanent institutions develop. Most people who have a direct interest in their community tend to have a better view of what needs to be done to deal with any problems that arise; there are people who do not have this intimate connection with a community and yet believe they are more capable of solving problems (even those that have inadvertently caused them) than those who actually know the situation firsthand. Sadly, these know-it-alls will always be around, and the rest of us will rebel against them to a greater or lesser extent.


Citizen Joe - The boss in Mission Control could turn out to be the union shop steward. Which is related to Jeans Punkt.

Ian - Space travel is rail travel at several km / s, with millions of horsepower locomotives in a vacuum.

Jean - "The revolution on Ceres will start with dissatisfied mechanics, but it will not get going or be successful unless a cadre of (competent) administrators takes the dissatisfaction to heart and gives it shape.“

And then make sure that the scientists construct their super weapons.

This blog is about Space Opera, but trimmed up to look Realistic [TM], and poor workforce relationships are great for Space Opera. But they wouldn't be very good for space.

Ferrell - Oddly enough, the outside know-it-alls have something for themselves too. In virtually every area, the opinions of good, honest non-experts tend to be worthless, and there is evidence that the same is true of public administration.

On the other hand, Lord Salisbury said:

No lesson seems to be so impressed upon one by life experience as that one should never trust experts. If you believe doctors, then nothing is healthy; if you believe theologians, nothing is innocent; if you believe the soldiers, nothing is certain. With all of them it is necessary to dilute their strong wine by a very large admixture of common sense.

But thirdly, expertise is what skilled work is about. And actually with all the work that we call unskilled because it doesn't take people years to learn, but which is actually complex and extremely difficult to automate.

There will be no robotic field workers and hotel maids in California for a long time. So it has to make some space for the human ones.


Worker problems are not very good in real life. France has very lax strike laws that basically allow anyone to strike without breaking the law, and the unions are very powerful, and not in a "connected" sense like Jimmy Hoffa. The leaders of the larger unions are as famous and recognized as politicians and have almost as much “electoral power”. They are all more or less affiliated with one political party or the other (and we have at least 3 to 4 major parties given the time, and about six more that can tip the scales in a party alliance), so if they were theirs Unions "propose" to vote in a certain way, then you can be sure that they have a LOT of influence. This power can also be used like a club, and strikes are common in all sectors. Postal workers, nurses, air traffic controllers, railroad workers can and have been going on massive strikes, and they have paralyzed traffic and important institutions. There are few strikes in the US compared to France and the unions are weak and helpless when dealing with corporations. I have never experienced total regional paralysis here due to a strike, while it was not unusual for me to be unable to go to school because the trains were not running. These strikes seldom last very long, and they act as a kind of safety valve, an indication that something is wrong and, if you will, a way to blow off steam.

I have no doubt that it would be realistic [TM] to have employee problems IN SPACE. With the current trend in the US federal government to turn to "security firms," ​​is it difficult to be the rebirth of the Pinkerton Agency, which is being used as a strike breaker against the Ceres malochers? And once we're so well established in space that we have an outpost on Ceres, I doubt we can go back. Sure, there could be an isolationist backlash, but that could just encourage more people to move away. There is a very good reason why people left Europe and migrated to America, even when it was still a wild border area. I strongly doubt that the frontier spirit that guided so much of human history died simply because of the convenience of modern technology.


Keep in mind, however, that at least in the near future, space workers are likely to be better trained, educated, and paid than their bosses.

After all, few are in good physical shape to withstand harsh conditions, willing to risk their lives, and have the technical and scientific knowledge necessary for such work. Many more people can safely conduct operations from the ground.

I suspect they will act more like today's pilots than like yesterday's proletarians: the airline is dependent on you (at least here in Europe), so you can safely milk them and get invulnerable contracts with golden pension plans and lots of days off.

An occasional strike, preferably when you are most needed, may be necessary to remind your boss who is really dependent on whom.

M.D. Van Norman:

There have already been strikes in space:


If you Spacer then I doubt they are any heavy Handle equipment. Solid? Sure, but not difficult.

More seriously, the labor force is not a labor movement in the classical sense, unless the supply of workers exceeds the demand for workers and wages are pushed down to subsistence levels - which has been the case for much of human history, to the industrial revolution led to productivity growth faster than population growth.


I think it depends on what you mean by strike: doing the ordinary, day-to-day work of the colony or outpost (with the exception of delivering what you produce back to Earth) versus stopping all work (including running the life support system) ) versus that only one section goes on strike (like the life support system) to resolve a dispute. The first is colony versus company, the second is a form of mass suicide, and the last is rebel versus colony. Strikes in space are not the same as on Earth ... "breaking" a strike on a Ceres colony could easily be more like a war than the traditional "miners versus Pinkerton" ...


A fascinating article linked by MD van Norman on the mood in space and the Skylab strike. (Which, broadly speaking, sounds like a "real" strike, even when it comes to working conditions and not wages.)

There are a few variations of strikes that space workers could follow. You can still do regular maintenance tasks, but nothing that generates revenue (say, loading outbound cargo).

Or they can “work according to the rules” and literally follow all the rules that are tacitly ignored in normal operation.

Isegoria - Welcome to the comment thread! And LOL because of the "weight". But workers can feel ill at work even when they are highly paid. (Think top league baseball players!)


I think it's those kinds of conditions that cause full blown colonization more likely do as elitist scientific and technical outposts. Not only will these people have to be paid properly, but they will also have to be pampered. That outpost could have a McBurger’s franchise, a cinema that is showing the latest sci-fi blockbuster from Earth and is run by a corporation. You're going to open a bar (probably with strict alcohol rules) and why not a duty-free shop to replace the awful gray linen the company gives out with fancy silk bedsheets. In addition, you will need some tough security measures, perhaps even creating a sufficiently safe place for families to move in. After all, engineers sent on rebuilding programs brought their families to Iraq ... not exactly the safest place. Pretty soon you can build a kind of microeconomy around it that attracts competitors, like when Burger Archduke tries to force its way into McBurger's overpriced monopoly ...

In the twinkling of an eye you have a really functioning micro-society, one that the home office is sloppy with. Appearance of the Pinkertons in SPACE (and their laser stars).

Citizen Joe:

I don't want to get political now, but I believe communism only works in groups that are small enough that everyone knows everyone else. At the point where it all goes to a nameless larger fund to be divided among people you don't know, communism collapses. The anonymity of the situations allows people to behave in non-productive ways. Still, the crew of a ship or space station is small enough that everyone knows each other. Hence, a communist relationship could work within this group.

Products coming in or going out would need a different system because members no longer know the recipients of the work.


Citizen Joe: I'm not contradicting you ... except for the last two sentences ... a spacecraft would need in a hierarchical system ... like those on commercial ocean-going vessels today. Running a ship through a committee would result in death, so you need a well-recognized system of authority in an emergency ... or when ordinary decisions are needed quickly.


I largely agree with all of the last three comments. Regarding Citizen Joe's, I note that the best-known example is the family; the internal distribution in the family has nothing to do with the market.

Ferrell - Note that "democratic" systems on board a ship can actually work as long as authority is clear in an emergency. On medieval ships, the crew often had to consent to sailing, a custom that was later retained by fishermen and pirates.


In fact, most of the pirate ships in the Caribbean during the period most associated with piracy were run very democratically, and much more fairly than any other government in the era. Racism had no place, and in some cases even sexism didn't create inequalities on board. Famous captains like Roche Basilliano and William Kidd were crewed elected. Decisions about travel destinations were also agreed. Looted property was divided fairly evenly, and the captain's share, while larger, was an agreed number of separate pieces of the treasure. If the captain was judged incompetent or cowardly, he could be abandoned while the next most popular man of the crew or officer took his place.

But once in combat, the captain's authority was absolute and no one questioned the chain of command during combat.

It is not impossible to operate a ship in a communal, consensual manner as long as a chain of command is in place for emergency situations. It can actually be very effective: during the time of the Caribbean pirates, the officers on warships were nobles, many with little experience and a lot of arrogance, while the pirates were led by trained, skilled talents who were respected and even chosen by their own men . The fact that this period of piracy stands out is evidence of precisely that success.


Nice point about the skill level of elected pirate commanders versus royal officers chosen for their social rank and how it contributed to the enduring popular image of the "pirates of the Caribbean."

I like it:

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Author GSPosted on Categories Rick RobinsonTags Space, Social, Space Colonization, Economy