De Nieuwe Batavia: Watchfulness & Distraction

I’m walking the perimeter, checking for an air leak. I know it’s here, I just don’t know where it is. We use a very old-fashioned way to locate leaks. Whenever we get a flag that the air mixture is off somewhere in Jerusalem Ridge, I come out here and prowl around with a candle, using the flicker of the flame to find the leak.
China Mountain Zhang, Maureen F. McHugh

I was originally going to title this article just “Watchfulness”. I wanted to talk about how Dutch culture includes constant attention to the defenses that keep our feet dry. It’s something I’ve noticed since I moved here in 2007. It’s understated but omnipresent, like the watchful care that I would expect from the population of a space station or a generation ship, forever checking the bulkheads and locks that keep the vacuum at bay.

Leaking lock gate in Edam

The explanation for this watchfulness, I thought, was the Watersnoodramp, the great flood of 1953. That’s when the dikes in the south burst and flooded parts of three provinces, killing over 1,800 people and turning thousands more into refugees. It still looms large in the public memory: children learn about it in school, and footage of it has an intense emotional impact.

But then I started looking into the history of the flood. Why did it happen? The common explanation is one that undercuts my whole thesis: they dikes failed because they weren’t maintained. They weren’t a priority. And that turns out to be the case.

In 1934, the service studied the consequences of impoldering the ‘Biesbosch’. Research showed that the consequences for Dordrecht would be disastrous – almost all the dikes appeared to be too low. A report from 1928 had already stated that the dikes in West-Brabant did not meet the safety requirements, but nobody felt like spending a vast amount of money on raising the dikes. Both surveys showed that something definitely had to be done about the condition of the dikes along the rivers.

Despite the article’s tone, the Dutch were not being lazy or feckless. The last serious sea-flood in the south happened in 1820. Since then, water disasters had been inland, like the hurricane-driven floods of the Harlemmermeer in 1836. Or they’d been in the north of the country, like the one in the Zuiderzee in 1916. And the Dutch addressed both of those problems with enormous and expensive efforts. It was a 15-year effort to drain the Haarlemmermeer; it’s now the site of Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport. And the mouth of the Zuiderzee was closed off by the Afsluitdijk, turning a sea-mouth into a vast freshwater lake. Some of that lake, the IJsselmeer, was then drained to create the new province of Flevoland.

And the Dutch had other priorities in 1953, ones not directly related to flood protection. Seven years before, the country endured the Hunger Winter, which killed an estimated 18,000 people. War damage had slowed the effort to create new farmland in Flevoland, and lost some recent additions to Noord-Holland back to the IJsselmeer. Meanwhile, the groundwater in the southwest had become increasingly brackish, damaging crops. With the memory of the famine still fresh, preserving the country’s agriculture was a higher priority than fixing the sea-dikes.

Then, on the night of January 31, 1953, gale-force winds drove the sea against the Dutch coast. There was no ebb tide that night; the wind kept the water from retreating. The subsequent spring tide brought the water to 4.55 meters over normal levels. Water broke over the dikes and hollowed them out from the unreinforced land side, then burst through entirely. A second flood at high tide the next day did yet more damage. In all, 9% of Dutch farmland—150,000 hectares—was covered in seawater. 1,836 people and 200,000 animals drowned. Another 72,000 people were evacuated from their homes. Many of them lost everything they owned.

The disaster was nearly much worse. The last dike between the floods and 3,000,000 people in Noord- and Zuid-Holland was breached. Water began spilling into the low-lying farmland beyond. The mayor of the nearby town of Nieuwerkerk aan den IJsel commandeered a river ship, De Twee Gebroeders, and ordered the captain to use it to plug the hole. It worked.

Dock under repair, Twiske

Immediately after the flood, there was an enormous volunteer effort to repair the damaged dikes. And shortly afterward, the Dutch government instituted the Delta Works to completely re-engineer the mouths of the three great rivers of the area: the Rijn (Rhine), the Maas (Meuse) and the Schelde (Escaut). The goal was to create a shorter, more defensible coastline and move the fresh water/salt water division west. At the same time, work continued on the Ijsselmeer and Flevoland.

And then interest in water defenses ebbed, despite several small floods in the 1990’s. Had I moved here in 2004, I would not have been struck by this quiet, constant focus on the safety of the dikes and plans for the future. But in 2005, watching the Katrina disaster unfold in the US, the Dutch woke up again. They’ve revived the Delta Commission and started planning how to deal with the sea- and river-level changes that global warming is expected to bring.

All of this story is relevant to De Nieuwe Batavia.

First of all, I think the history of life in space will have much the same cycle of watchfulness and distraction, particularly about air. A long-running station, or a generation ship, will have a pattern of blowouts, each followed by a long period of watchful care. But then something else will happen—a persistent infestation of mold in hydroponics, one too many meteorites through the solar panel array, water-borne diseases from inadequate waste treatment—and the crew’s attention will shift. Fewer and fewer people will walk the hull perimeter with candles, take the time to pressure-test the locks, and do external structural reviews. Everything will be fine for a while. And then the next blowout will happen.

Ship designers will have to plan for blowouts, with multiple bulkheads to confine breaches, automatically closing doors (plenty of room for drama and tragedy there), and redundant safety systems. Whoever chooses the crew of a generation ship should allow for the loss of genetic variety and specialist knowledge that several serious disasters en route will produce. Space stations, still in contact with planetary populations, can take more people on board, but traveling ships may not be able to.

And techniques for air management will change from generation to generation. They’ll try lower-pressure spaces near the hull and higher-pressure ones in the core of the ship, and equalizing the pressure throughout it. Doctrines and dogmas will form about whether to have a periodic pressure-balancing exercise, or just let the differences build up and evolve. People will experiment, argue, form hypotheses, and draw conclusions, both in the command sectors and over dinner tables.

Sagging canal edge

Another important part of ship culture is that these things will leave their mark on both the infrastructure and the people. Some disasters will be serious enough to leave permanent damage: sectors that leak chronically or are never reclaimed from the vacuum. If vessels are traveling or orbiting in company, chances are that over the centuries at least one will be completely gutted by a blowout. These disasters will be the basis ship traditions and family stories: how great-grandma, then fourteen, was the only survivor of the Great Split when her mother thrust her in the airlock and cycled it; she saw everyone die through the porthole. There will be customs, superstitions, special days, school trips to the site of the disaster.

There will also be heroic myths and folktales. Kids will tell ghost stories and sing little songs whose meanings will be slowly lost in time. In the immediate aftermath of a disaster, conspiracy theories will spring up, particularly where one group suffered disproportionate losses. Too many mishaps at once and people will suspect sabotage. They may even lynch suspects.

Had just reached easement lock thirteen when I heard and felt a sound that scares a Loonie more than anything else—a chuff! in the distance followed by a draft. Was into lock almost without undogging, then balanced pressures and was through, dogged it behind me and ran into our home lock—through it and shouting:

“P-suit, everybody! Get boys in from tunnels and close all airtight doors!”
The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, Robert A. Heinlein

Expect conditioned responses to blowouts or potential blowouts in crew members. Individuals on the ship will vary in sensitivity and anxiety, but everyone will be a little tense about drafts and breezes. If someone leaves a station for planetside life, in addition to galloping agoraphobia, they’ll find windy days stressful and exhausting.

The crew won’t notice any of this, of course. This is their normal. But visitors will note that the handles of airlocks are always shiny, because everyone who passes an open one gives the wheel a little spin, just to be sure the mechanism is moving freely. Or they’ll see how crew members always glance round a room when they enter, noting where the locks and bulkheads are. Or they’ll see one kid severely punished for fanning air at his sister, more so than if he’d hit her.

- o0o -

Photo credits: Abi Sutherland

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29 Responses to De Nieuwe Batavia: Watchfulness & Distraction

  1. RogerBW says:

    I think it’s worth considering another factor that is generally opposed to safety in daily life: convenience. I’ve seen this quite a bit in banks’ internal computer systems: there’s a breach, followed by a panic, and lots of new measures get introduced. This slows down work, and the staff gradually develop ways of working round them so that they can get their jobs done. Then there’s another breach…

    So the bulkhead door that Must Always Be Kept Closed? Somebody’s going to wedge it open, because dammit I’ve got fifty crates to shift from here to there and if I keep opening it and closing it every time I go through I’m going to be here all night. And if there’s an alarm on it, it’s going to get bypassed – or, nearly as bad, someone will say “if the alarm on door 57 goes off, ignore it”.

  2. Roger @1:

    Good point. The passage before the one I quoted in The Moon is a Harsh Mistress is about how people stopped wearing pressure suits because the taprooms banned them.

    One area closely related to convenience, which I considered getting into (before I glanced at the word count!) was fashion. Will safety become passé? Will it become cool among young people to ignore precautions? Will damaging equipment and leaving locks open (Extra fun if they’re alarmed! Hide and see the engineering staff come running!) be adolescent traditions?

    Not all societies let their teenagers descend into complete savagery, of course. I suspect that whoever is in charge of the ship will have the tools, legally and culturally, to discourage casual barbarity.

  3. OtterB says:

    Abi @2, the point about young people and what’s cool is an interesting one. It’s not hard to imagine stories around this one, although perhaps a bit harder to imagine ones that aren’t excessively preachy.

    I wonder what makes the cultural distinction between prohibitions that very few people actually think about violating (e.g. incest) and prohibitions that seem to provide a handy hook to hang a rebellion on (e.g. underage drinking, although I know the cultural context there is much different in Europe than it is in the US).

  4. Joaquin Murrieta says:

    This is a rich field for writing, one that has hardly been touched. I think you should definitely write the book.

    Will your hypothetical ship have A Mission? If so, remember the old Star Trek episode, in which the great-great-grandchildren of the original generation ship voyagers decide to ignore the mission, and take a new direction. Or will it have no Mission? That would be like the Netherlands today, or the US for that matter. We’re just living, right? From day to day.

    The existence of A Mission would direct the energies of the society, I would think (until someone decides to ignore it!) and might make maintenance of the airlocks a more urgent matter, one tied to the success of the voyage rather than “just” to everyone’s continued existence.

  5. Kyndra says:

    One thing that would effect adolescent behavior is how necessary their work is to the survival of the whole..there is simply less time for those kind of destructive “rite of passage” actions when you are struggling to exist. If the crew is aware of the danger but the colonists are not, then the colonists’ children will be insulated from understanding the harm of their actions (and this will matter when they actually set about the task of colonizing (it’s one of the annoying things about a lot of colonizing fiction btw, everyone is so willing to do whatever to make the colony succeed- which any of the historical accounts we have about colonizing (Jamestown, Plymouth etc.) make clear is not the case when working in real conditions with real humans…)

  6. There are lots more examples of this kind of distraction-watchfulness cycle here on Earth, of course. They range from relatively small issues (“hm– maybe we should recheck those 737 hulls that haven’t always been inspected on time”) to large ones (“gee– we should really review the safety of our nuclear reactors in natural disaster scenarios”) to potentially globally catastrophic ones (“we’d better make sure we have good fail-safes on our nuclear-missile response/financial system regulation/climate and energy policies”).

    The bigger the potential catastrophe, the more important it is to maintain an appropriate level of watchfulness. A big question, then, is: how do we get from distraction to watchfulness *without* needing to first have a correspondingly large blowout? It’s particularly a challenge when, in the case of the some of the “globally catastrophic” examples above, we haven’t yet formed an initial consensus on adequate watchfulness.

  7. RogerBW says:

    Abi @2: passing generations can, I think, be modelled as just another term in the time-decay of a particular meme. Usually, anyway – if a space colony has a huge gap between the people in their twenties and thirties who have signed up for it, and the first people who are born on board, that may outweigh everything else!

    OtterB @3: the risk/reward balance is certainly a factor, but not the only one. I think that the knowledge to answer your question fully would enable the possessor to end antisocial behaviour completely…

    Joaquin @4: if the Mission involves going and living on a planet, the crew will be pretty much entirely unsuited for it. The classical sleeper-ship might well offer advantages over the generation ship approach here: at least under that model the people waking up will be ones who don’t have a panic-reflex every time their hair moves in the breeze.

    Unless, of course, you set up a dual population model – the “crew” and the “future colonists” – and made the ship big enough (a Cole habitat or similar) that the future colonists could stay in Earth-like conditions.

    John @6: Watchfulness is intrinsically boring. This is why it’s impossible to recruit competent airport screeners: when you’re looking for a one-in-several-million unusual behaviour pattern, humans aren’t up to the job.

  8. RogerBW says:

    …which suggests (I thought of this as I posted) that one way to keep people watchful would be to have a high rate of exercises, with bonuses for compliance. Say: if you find a leak and report it up the chain of command, you get a bit of money (on the “have a few beers on us” level). Set up enough fake leaks that people get into the habit of doing this, maybe even competing with each other to find them. Then when they find a real leak they’ll still be prone to do the right thing.

  9. David Harmon says:

    It may become necessary to provide a way for “the kids” to have dangerous challenges, without endangering the ship while they’re at it.

  10. RogerBW says:

    David @9: I think this is a good thing for societies in general. It certainly seems to me (caution, not a formal study) that the more children are prevented from doing acceptable dangerous things (e.g. the way scouting in the UK has been nerfed over the years to the point where it now rarely involves even sleeping under canvas), the more they will look for ways to do unacceptable dangerous things.

    (And yes, again, this isn’t the only factor governing children’s behaviour; local culture is a huge part of it, and that’s slow and painful to change.)

  11. Joaquin @4:
    I’m not sure I’m in a fiction-writing place in my life right now. The Worldbuilding sections of this blog are certainly intended as a kind of idea farm, but I’m not particularly wedded to being the one to harvest them.

    More generally:
    The classic generation-ship storyline is pretty much as the OldTrek story tells it: en route, the population discovers a new raison d’être. Then, at the destination, they have to make a choice between the culture they formed in transit and the future their ancestors chose for them.

    Equally interesting might be the story set after they’ve decided to become nomads, going system to system forever, like the characters at the end of Love In The Time of Cholera.

    One solution is certainly to split colonists (asleep) from crew (awake). The major problem is that at planetfall, the crew are already in a position of power, being ambulatory and all. There’s a significant risk of them appointing themselves the new aristocracy. (Niven did a reasonable job of describing a revolution in this kind of society in A Gift from Earth.)

  12. RogerBW @7:
    Watchfulness is intrinsically boring. This is why it’s impossible to recruit competent airport screeners: when you’re looking for a one-in-several-million unusual behaviour pattern, humans aren’t up to the job.

    It’s amazing how much more interested people get with decent pay, job security, respect, and training. I’ve been through enhanced security at Schiphol twice, and felt that the airport screeners were neither bored nor inattentive.

    (It also helps that decent pay, job security, respect, and training widens the pool of recruits from the terminally dumb and the dominance-obsessed to, you know, intelligent and competent folks.)

  13. RogerBW says:

    Abi @11: yes, A Gift from Earth, but if the crew get edgy and nervous every time they step out of doors they have a much better reason for dropping off their colonists and leaving again. That’s assuming that the ship isn’t needed to build the colony, of course.

    Abi @12: true up to a point, but even the good ones usually miss the test-bombs that get sent through from time to time. It’s much more about making people feel safe than about safety. (Schneier has talked about security theatre at some length, and is recommended in the unlikely event you don’t already read him.)

  14. Roger @13:

    The security screening I got was of the sort that Schneier approves of, actually: screening for terrorists rather than for devices.

    What I had was a conversation where the screener did not try to make me feel threatened or anxious, but rather chatted with me on a variety of subjects (where I was going, why I lived in the Netherlands, my impressions of the culture, what child-friendly means in that context) while he read me quite closely. I know he was looking for inappropriate nervousness. My carry-on, after being X-rayed, was also opened and hand-searched while the searcher talked to me and read me closely again. I was then body-scanned (not backscatter) and patted down with professionalism and skill.

    They were doing this to every passenger. It took time. But they scanners spent their energy on reading us, figuring out who we were and whether we were hinky, rather than herding us and shouting at us like the US security I had on the way back to Amsterdam.

    My Google searches, by the way, show that the last reported fake bomb smuggling through Amsterdam was in 2008. I don’t know if anyone’s tried since then, or succeeded and been quiet about it, or whether that’s the latest time they’ve failed. But I feel a lot more confident flying than, say, Wil Wheaton.

  15. On the subject of adolescent rebellion:

    I have not yet raised an adolescent*, though I’ve helped a couple of times. But my impression is that much of teenaged rebellion is an expression of frustrated potency. Educating the young takes a long time, particularly to the levels needed for an intellectual career such as running a ship. They’re keen to start doing before they’re able to do everything we need them to do.

    So perhaps they’d do better with physical workshifts while they continue their education. Some of it could be dangerous: EVAs, engine work, construction. Perhaps the bright line between “education” and “work” that our society maintains could be blurred by serving an apprenticeship (or several, in different areas all related to one’s final career).

    Would that stop the rebels, the antisocial, the people who find breaking easier than making? No, but it would at least tire them out, and isolate them from their less committed but no less bored cohorts.

    —–
    * My eldest turns 10 in a couple of days. Ask me again about all this in ten years.

  16. Lila says:

    Thanks for the Wil Wheaton link. He explains very clearly why I will never fly again.

  17. OtterB says:

    Abi @15 Re adolescent rebellion as frustrated potency – I think there’s a lot of truth in this. They want to be respected. Don’t we all? I’m a big believer in building self-confidence by encouraging actual achievement to be confident about. Since she’s now 18 and finishing her first year in college, I’m probably not jinxing things if I say that my elder daughter had a remarkably smooth adolescence. (We had a rocky year or two age ages 11 and 12 … maybe the trouble just came early for us.) I think one of the things that contributed to this was experience with things that let her work with adults other than her parents to accomplish things. In her case, it was some Girl Scouts but mainly a volunteer activity she did for all 4 years of high school, with gradually increasing levels of responsibility. Others get similar results from part-time jobs or sports. I think apprenticeship has the potential to work well, although the teacher – or someone at hand – needs to be as savvy about the process of raising kids as about the technical field.

    I used to think that fostering kids out at 14 or thereabouts, as in the Pern Dragonsinger books, was a good idea. It let kids go through the rebellious stage with people who were not their parents, which meant they were less likely to push each others’ hot buttons all the time. Looking back on adolescence as a parent from the other side, though, I’m much less in favor. I wouldn’t have missed watching the growing competence and responsibility for anything.

  18. Rikibeth says:

    Abi, your one-sentence story about great-grandma, aged 14, made me cry. I just wanted you to know that.

  19. Serge Broom says:

    Aside from “For I Have Touched The Sky And The World Is Hollow”, have generation ships been used much on TV or in movies? There was the embarassing “Starlost”, which had one story where Keir Dullea and his girlfriend wander into a sector where John Colicos ruled over men wearing tights who had never seen a woman.

  20. albatross says:

    Space colonists on a generation ship or Mars colony will be susceptible to the same flaws in reasoning, individually and collectively, as we are here on Earth. So I’d expect the same sort of patterns. Memories are short, and most peoples’ mental model of a disaster is shaped more by the most spectacular recent disaster, or the disasters portrayed in the most gripping films/plays/books, than by realistic assessment of risks. Politicians or other leaders play up some risks to scare the people into uniting behind them or overlooking the leaders’ flaws, and play down other risks when addressing them would be painful or limit the leaders’ power. Bureaucracies evolve toward protecting the bureaucracy’s turf and increasing its size and budget, and may or may not remain very functional. Markets do a good job of connecting buyers and sellers, but blissfully ignore externalities. In-groups tend to protect their own, even at the expense of their stated ideals. Etc.

    So I’d expect that the disasters that had captured the public mind (the great blowout of Journey Year 94, when nearly 5,000 people drowned in vacuum) would keep some level of preparation, though a lot would be more safety theater than reality. Some grumpy old people will complain that in a real blowout, the pressure suits kept in the entrance hallway to the chamber would be impossible to get to in time, but they’ll be ignored, since carrying p-suits everywhere would be inconvenient, and thinking about the risks of this stuff just makes everyone nervous.) Disasters that have never happened but which are serious risks will probably be under-prepared-for, as will disasters that happened but somehow haven’t captured the public imagination.

    There’s often an assumption of military government of some kind in these stories. But I don’t think that’s long-term sustainable or sensible. A big problem for a space colony or generation ship founded by a government will be how to transition smoothly from the system of government where the captain issues orders and everyone obeys, to one where most people are civilians not under anyone’s chain of command, but instead living in freedom under defined laws, perhaps with emergency rules for re-establishing a strong chain of command.

  21. Rikibeth @18:

    That was an amalgam of my great-several-times grandfather’s history (at 14, the lone survivor of his family, come to America from Ireland during the Famine) and Elliott Mason’s story about a camper-van fire on Making Light the other month. With, perhaps, a layer of my best friend from college’s stories about his mother during the Blitz.

    Glad it did what I intended it to do: show the power of the stories you can get from this sort of design work.

  22. Serge @19:

    Although there aren’t a lot of generation ship stories out there, there are some “traveling ships” stories that fit in the same space in my head. I’m thinking of CJ Cherryh’s Merchanter books, and the Sisu from Heinlein’s Citizen of the Galaxy. Both examples are of ships doing sub-lifetime trips, but they have the kind of genealogical and cultural stability that you’d also see on a generation ship.

    Any more, anyone?

  23. albatross @20:

    There’s often an assumption of military government of some kind in these stories. But I don’t think that’s long-term sustainable or sensible. A big problem for a space colony or generation ship founded by a government will be how to transition smoothly from the system of government where the captain issues orders and everyone obeys, to one where most people are civilians not under anyone’s chain of command, but instead living in freedom under defined laws, perhaps with emergency rules for re-establishing a strong chain of command.

    Well, I’d certainly prefer to live in (and write about) a non-militaristic system of governance on a ship like De Nieuwe Batavia. So perhaps I’m looking for reasons to be able to. It strikes me that a military system would require some pretty good rules of succession*. If the captaincy is purely hereditary, you eventually end up with a Commodus, or an Uday Hussein. If it’s not, then you get the possibility of the captain’s son wanting to make it so.

    Mutiny and rebellion. States of emergency drawn out beyond the immediate danger. Popular uprising against the military cadres. There’s a risk that one ends up with a roman à clef rather than an original plot.
    —–
    * That’s one of the things about Wall-E that interested me: how did the captain end up being the captain?

  24. Serge Broom says:

    Abi @ 22… Oh, there ARE plenty of written SF about generation ships, but the theme hasn’t made many appearances in filmed SF. I think. Maybe “Galactica”, up to a point.

  25. albatross says:

    A plausible progression would be that the initial military command structure would evolve into the executive branch of the government, with an elected city council type operation having the authority to write/change laws, hire/fire the folks at the top, and deal with budgeting and taxes and such. Whatever legal system came with the initial command structure could be split off and made into a more independent system of courts and (perhaps) prosecutors.

    Another would be that the initial groups who were in charge of different parts of the colony or ship would evolve into independent power centers, each with their own rules and power structure, and with some central system to tie them loosely together. That is, the miners’ guild, the greenhouse cooperative, the small private companies that build and operate the pressurized spaces and rent out space in them, the military medical corps inherited from the original crew, the university that grew up topsy-turvy as it became obvious new doctors and engineers and accountants needed to be trained, each send a representative to the Mars Colony Council meetings, but each collects its own revenue somehow, polices its own. Incompetent or dangerous doctors get reassigned to boring clerical or lab work; mining guild members who behave dangerously seem to inevitably die in mysterious accidents; slacking off or doing shoddy work carries an unbearable social stigma among greenhouse workers and so is very rare despite a lack of formal punishments.)

    Or a thousand other choices. But much like with religion, government in a space colony needs to be consistent with human nature as we understand it. If there’s an undisputed rigid hierarchy running things for fifty years, it’s worth asking why people keep taking orders, what the underclass looks like, etc.

  26. David Harmon says:

    Albatross: I’d expect any functional system would include close social control, because that’s what tends to happen when a small community is overcrowded and/or short on resources, and a generation ship would be both. The privilege of reproducing will be strictly constrained and harshly enforced, because too many people at least means “not enough food”, and quite possibly not enough oxygen.

    The problem with “each group polices its own” is that there are way too many groups whose malfeasance can kill off the whole ship. There needs to be some authority that crosses all tribal lines.

  27. SteveG says:

    RogerBW @8:

    The danger being that the tests and training exercises maintain alertness only for those threats which the managers anticipate. Isolating a material danger not anticipated by project scope document requires education more so than training, a calibre of watcher not generally available at wholesale prices, and more actual authority than the populace wants to give to those who are available at wholesale prices.

    As long as generation ships are unusual and rare, their sponsoring states will be able to draw against substantially the whole of the population in selecting crews, and will be able to put the very best suited people in the watcher positions. When such projects become as common as, say, airports are in the States, and the position of “watcher” devolves from a glamour gig of space exploration to just another boring job filled at wholesale prices, watching will itself devolve into the caricature of situational awareness that is airport security in the States.

  28. Jacque says:

    abi @15: I haven’t been able to chase down a cite, but I’ve heard it reported that one of the insights to come out of Teach for America is that if you give kids actual jobs with actual, like, responsibility, you not only get better educated kids but better behaved ones as well.

  29. Jacque says:

    abi @22: Heinlein’s Orphans of the Sky wherein they forget they’re in a generation ship and anybody who thinks the Universe conains anything outside of the ship is a dangerous heretic.

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