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Technology’s Effect on the 30th Century Family

This article originally appeared in the May 2013 issue.

By the 30th century, technology and societal evolution have created a whole host of family types. These cover a bewildering array of options almost as numerous as the human population. What all have in common, though, is that technology has affected them in some way or another.

By definition, the family is a group that consists of parents and children. Its prime anthropological purpose is to create a stable environment for the creation and raising of children. And, not coincidentally, it is child bearing that technology has impacted the most. The invention of the exo-womb ranks above even birth control as the single most significant technological innovation in human reproduction. With the creation of the first external wombs in 2487, human population saw a significant spike. The freeing of women from the physical burdens of pregnancy and childbirth, combined with the burgeoning technology of genetic manipulation, enabled the human population to soar and sociologists therefore cite the exo-womb’s creation as a significant factor in the subsequent waves of human exploration that have occurred.

When the exo-womb was first conceived, one of its key advantages was believed to be an increase in female productivity, since they’d be relieved of the physical burdens of the creation of children. However, the technology’s development overlapped with that of Artificial Intelligence, which made the need for increased human productivity moot as AI productivity quickly outpaced any possible human productivity gains.

In fact, the development of Artificial Intelligence was another technology that greatly affected families. Another key function of the family is to provide economic support for its members. With the leaps in productivity provided by technologies like Artificial Intelligence, the need for families to provide economic support has been diminished. Especially for those on the dole, economic factors are no longer a prime motivator bringing people together in family groups. For those who cannot or will not provide for themselves, society or the state steps in and provides them with a generous level of economic support. Those who are members of economically successful family units do have access to far more economic resources than those who rely solely on the state. Studies have shown that children from economically successful families are far more likely to themselves have successful careers and are more likely to rise to decision making positions in the public or private sectors.

Other technologies have greatly affected 30th century families. Genetic manipulation or gene-fixing has revolutionized humanity some saying it has ushered in an age of Transhumanism. A child born in 2991 has significant advantages over one born in 1991. This genetic optimization is aimed at eliminating birth defects and potential mental instability and enhancing physical appearance. Within certain socially-accepted parameters, these genetic alterations and ‘tidying up’ are not considered mutations, but only acts of responsible parenting.

Transhumanism refers to a process of evolution. It is the interim stage of humanity as it transitions from human to whatever humanity may evolve into. An example in the Twilight Sector Setting would be mutants. Ghosts could be advanced as one example of Post Humans. They represent something that humanity might evolve into.

On the other hand, genetic blueprints that create Scientifically Induced Mutations (SIMs) are considered mutations in polite galactic society. Despite this, many families choose to create their children utilizing one or more genetic blueprints, for a number of reasons ranging from environmental adaptation to providing a perceived genetic advantage to their progeny.

Education is another area where technology has affected the family. A subsequent “Slice of Life” article will examine in detail 30th century education. It is sufficient in this article to note that such technologies as EdSoft programs, which are education software making use of Agent or Intellect programs to create adaptive and customizable teaching tools, exist. Combined with an instructor which can take the form of anything from a robot or BioCon to a stuffed bunny, these programs can take a child from infancy to an advanced degree.

One of the primary consequences of this technology is that it has made obsolete the traditional school setting except as an education and/or socialization choice. Needless to say this has been welcomed as a brilliant breakthrough in some Stellar Nations like the Orion Confederation and the UUP and as a threat to social stability in others like the APR.

In the realm of the law of unintended consequences, technology’s effect on life spans greatly affects the 30th Century family. For example, longer life spans means there are often more family members and more family generations in each family group. Since family members often support each other this has had a positive effect both economically and socially. Surveys have shown that families with more generations participating are generally happier and more socially responsible.

One effect that might be considered negative is that with longer life spans, opportunities for advancement in the workplace are fewer, as centenarians hold onto their positions leaving fewer high level jobs available for younger people. This often affects families who are in their prime reproduction years. One result of this is that potential parents are putting off reproduction till later in life. This will undoubtedly spawn its own set of consequences in the centuries ahead.

Increased longevity has also played havoc on family trees; combined with exo-wombs you can now be younger than your brother or sister’s grandchildren. In instances like this traditional family titles like niece or nephew (or great niece or nephew) don’t really tell the short hand story of familial relationships anymore.

Further clouding the whole family thing are cases of interspecies marriage and marriage to Artificial Intelligences. Exo-wombs make children possible in these types of pairings. Science has been working on genetic blending so close biological relatives like homo sapiens, chimpanzees and gorillas can produce blended offspring but there are likely legal impediments to this type of reproduction in many jurisdictions based on religious or societal concerns. In physical appearance a child of such a union will strongly favor one species but will have biological contributions from all parents. (Genetic blending has also made it possible to have more than two biological parents.) Artificial Intelligences can purchase fully functional BioCons of any species they desire if they wish to mate with another sentient. If they were to choose another Artificial Intelligence and opt to create a biological offspring instead of merely programming one (biological would definitely be cheaper than creating an A.I. offspring), a situation where a biological entity had a digital entity as a sibling could exist.

How does this affect my game?

This article goes mainly to setting background but beyond that it can go a long way to help you create character background. It can also be invaluable in informing you on PC or NPC motivations. There might even be adventure hooks hiding somewhere in here as well. Here are a few EdSoft specific hooks suggested to me by one of our insiders (Andrew Welty).