A (Very Rough) Galactic Empire Population Model

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Salmoneus
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A (Very Rough) Galactic Empire Population Model

Post by Salmoneus »

I've been wondering about this for a while, so I finally got around to playing around with a spreadsheet to get some concrete results. What I've done is create, using some blunt assumptions, a model of planetary populations in a SF galaxy of a certain sort, and then theorise a bit about what the results mean.

These assumptions do not actually require there to be a "galactic empire" in the literal sense. They're really about a certain sort of SF setting more broadly: one that combines massively populated worlds with a sizeable "frontier" of sparsely-populated worlds. I've called this scenario a "Galactic Empire" model for two reasons: firstly, because stories in this setting do often involve a Galactic Empire; and secondly, because a tacit assumption here is a certain degree of orderliness - even if there's no literal Emperor on throne somewhere, we need to assume no large-scale interplanetary war, relatively free trade and migration, and a general scarcity of pirates and slavers. So we can assume there's some sort of galactic authority, whether that's an empire or a federation or whatever. Or at least, we need to assume something like this during the period of expansion and settlement - if you want to then have the system break down into civil war and see what happens, that's fine too. Anyway, this model broadly describes settings such as Asimov's Empire/Foundation world, and the world of Star Wars.


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I'll set out my assumptions first, and then describe the world that results...

- I'm assuming a single colonial species starting from a single homeworld. Things will remain more or less the same if you add in minority species; they'll get more complicated if you add major colonial species. However, so long as the number of major colonial species remains relatively small, there shouldn't be too much problem.

- specifically, I've assumed an initial homeworld with 14bn people. [EDIT: wait, what? No, I assumed 10bn!]

- I've assumed that populations always grow. Historically, this has been the case. It probably wouldn't be the case if we hit a 'hard limit' of resources, but I've assumed that that will not happen. In this sort of scenario, we can envisage plentiful energy - presumably from fusion, or some unknown energy source - and no shortage of mineral resources, either from colony worlds or simply from asteroid mining and the like. While poverty will certainly exist, I've assumed that in this scenario the population in general is always able to feed their children. Likewise, I've assumed that this is not a hypercapitalist hellscape in which all life is worthless other than the life of a tiny number of capital-holders - one way or another, wealth is distributed to people, and hence creating more people doesn't condemn a family to starvation.

- however, I've not assumed rapid growth. I've assumed a historically "stable" growth rate, with populations doubling between about 300 and about 500 years. Ignoring a few small booms and busts, this was basically the rate of growth from the invention of agriculture through to around 1800, so it seems plausible to me. I've played around with the details somewhat - I assume that after a period of 'pioneer hardship', there's a good-times baby boom for a bit, and then as populations grow the growth rate falls somewhat - but actually it turns out that the details don't matter that much. All that really matters is that I don't assume a massive "quick, populate the planet!" population explosion after colonisation, and I also don't assume that just because people are living somewhere "overcrowded" they'll simply stop having children. Both these assumptions are debateable, and you could create plausible, if perhaps less likely, worlds by changing one or both of them. But they won't produce the sort of setting we're looking for.

- looking both at modern migration rates within the EU and historical migration rates to the US, I've guessed at some "plausible" rates of migration.

- I've assumed migration is mostly from more populated to less populated places, and I've ignored the migration in the opposite direction. I started by trying to take it into account, but I decided it wasn't worth it. It turns out, "up" migration only really seems to make a difference at either "end" - in the least-populated places, and the most-populated places. In the middle, emigration to more populated places more or less cancels out with immigration from less populated places. ["Down" migration, however, emphatically does not cancel out in this way]. In the most-populated places, however, the total immigration is far too small relative to the total population to matter. And in the least populated places, things get weirder anyway, but since there's so much migration to them (relative to their own population growth), I don't think it's really that huge an effect either.

- a key assumption: I've assumed people primarily migrate to places that are less populated, but not MUCH less populated. This is generally true on Earth: the person living in an overcrowded city moves to a less crowded city; the person living in a city moves to a big town, and so on. Relatively few people move to tiny pioneer settlements in Alaska. My assumption has been that in general for each degree of magnitude separating 'source' and 'target' populations, the number of migrants halves. This obviously produces an overly "stepped" effect when a degree of magnitude threshold is crossed, but I don't think this matters if you don't take all the numbers too literally.

- I've assumed that although there's no difficulty organising small settlements, it's not feasible to organise a mass migration. You can't just move half the homeworld's population to the first colony that arises. Instead, the population of the colony increases organically, with the migration being driven by the desirability of the colony's population level at that time, and not by the desirability of a possible population level that migration could accomplish. That is, I've assumed that if a colony has a thousand people in it, it will only attract colonists who want to live in a colony that size - and that you won't just get a hundred million people moving there overnight because they want to live in a colony with a hundred million people. [i.e., although we're assuming an orderly universe where people can move freely, we aren't assuming a super-ordered universe where the Emperor simply takes a survey and moves populations about willy-nilly to meet everyone's preferences immediately].

- the central simplifying assumption: I've assumed that settlement begins in the middle, and spreads out in concentric spheres. Obviously, this is a simplification and the reality would be less regular. I've calculated total and average populations for each sphere or ring; but the bigger the sphere, the more that individual planets will vary from this average.

- I've assumed that there is no difficulty finding as many FTL craft as are desired, and that FTL costs are not so high as to majorly skew the results. Although in my interpretations I've assumed that FTL travel is still quite slow - you can't just hop from any planet to any other at will - I have assumed that it's not so inconvenient as to prevent long-distance migration. That is, migrants from the homeworld can still move to colonies on the outer worlds, even if it's a bit of a pain.

- I've assumed that we're only talking about one planet per star, and only about planets. If you want, you can treat each 'planet' as a system, with the possibility of lunar bases, space stations and so on - but I've assumed that migration is primarily to planets.

- I've assumed that there's no shortage of habitable planets. I've assumed that the homeworld sends colonists to 8 second-stage worlds, and that from then on, from each planet in one ring, people will move on to four planets in the next ring out.

- I've assumed that colonisation of a ring does not begin until the average population of the potential colony worlds in the immediately 'preceding' (ie inner) ring is at least 1,000 people. This is to account for the fact that the larger rings won't be settled all at one go; if the average population of planets in a ring is under 1,000, I've assumed that some of these planets are actually uninhabited, and that new colonists will still be migrating to them, rather than further out into the next ring. [obviously in reality it will be messier than this]

- similarly, I've assumed that pioneer worlds with a population under 100,000 (and rings where the average planet has a population under 100,000) do not contribute migrants to outer rings. These planets are already low-population, so the desire to go to an even lower-population world is probably lesser, and anyone who does want to do so, I've assumed, will be able to find some such world within the same ring. [fun fact: this assumption is extremely important, because it prevents the entire galaxy from being inhabited far too quickly!]

- I've not worked out the exact variations from the average population, but have impressionistically assumed some.


----------------

So, given all the above rules, what sort of world do we get? Well, perhaps it's time for a new post...
Last edited by Salmoneus on 04 Dec 2020 02:43, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: A (Very Rough) Galactic Empire Population Model

Post by Salmoneus »

So far, I've run the numbers for the first thousand years only, although I may do an update to this thread if I go further at some point.

After a thousand years, humanity comprises around 570 billion people, living on around 1,000,000 planets.

But this is a very non-homogenous world. We can divide these planets into several broad zones


-------------------------------------

1. The Capital
Our capital is not yet an all-encompassing world-city like Trantor or Coruscant. But it's very heavily populated! Specifically, the homeworld is now home to around 47 billion (around 8% of humanity). Most of this population probably lives in very large megacities - although there's actually still plenty of space for nature reserves and the estates of the rich and powerful. The cities are probably sprawling rather than towering: for a long time now (in real life), urban areas have grown faster tha populations, and since we're assuming a world with lots of energy, and hence low transport costs, we can assume this has continued. Nonetheless, towering spires and labirynthine warrens probably do exist in the urban cores (mostly inhabited by the poor, although the highest levels will house a lot of trendy clubs and formal commercial meeting places). Overall, while there are nice places on the Capital, it's a poor and overcrowded world - the messy, dirty, vital pumping heart of the galaxy. It's hugely diverse: it contains a panoply of inherited cultures, plus representatives from most of the rest of the galaxy. Hundreds, if not thousands of languages are spoken, and there are countless religious cults and ideological movements.

To break things down a little: around 3-4% of the planet's land is urban area (compared to Earth's 0.6%). Much of the growth has come from old agricultural land, which is down to around 8-10% of land - most of this is low-density agriculture, a mixture of "aesthetic" farming (more a tourist attraction than a food source) and various forms of heritage and organic food production. The great majority of food instead comes from the cities. Much of it will be from vertical farms - green skyscapers - but given the overcrowding and the number of mouths to feed, a lot of it will instead come from yeast and algae vats.

It is likely that humanity was 'trapped' in its home system for some time before the invention of FTL. If anywhere in the galaxy has bizarre settlements - permanent residents of space stations, asteroids, and sealed habitats on inhospitable planets - it's the Capital System.

-------------------------------------------

2. The Inner Core
The eight planets of the second ring have an average population of around 14 billion, and the 32 planets of the third ring have an average of around 2 billion. In general, the 'Inner Core' planets will each have a population between about 1 billion and, say, 30 billion (a few planets of the 4th ring can probably be included in this category as well).

The Inner Core is almost inseparable from the Capital. Its total population of a little over 175 billion is only one or two hops from the capital, and this cumulative 225-billion-odd population is densely interconnected with constant shuttle journeys. There are billions of immigrants from the Capital to the Inner Core, and probably hundreds of millions of migrants in the opposite direction. While most people stay put on their planet, a sizeable percentage may move between several of these planets over their lifetime. They effectively form a single shared economy.

However, there are some important differences. The Inner Core was settled almost simultaneously, in a great explosion of settlement lasting less than a century. In this time, demand for places on the virgin worlds was greater than supply, and so the settlers were almost all representatives of the aristocracy. Their descendents now comprise only around 0.1% of the population, but form in effect a feudal elite. This elite is both more powerful and a larger percentage of the population than on the Capital. In turn, this elite has welcomed further elite migration from the Capital, and so the Inner Core is the wealthiest part of the galaxy (although the richest people of all generally live (on large, neorural estates) on the Capital itself).

As the settlers spread, they dedicated land to agriculture; today, the entire population of the Inner Core could be fed by extensive, open-field agriculture; instead, the Inner Core, through both open-field and vertical agriculture, supplies much of the more exotic food for the Capital and the Outer Core.

The settlement pattern is similar to, but less extensive than, on the Capital: rapid colonisation meant the development of many urban centres almost simultaneously. The Inner Core worlds are internally only slightly less diverse than the Capital itself: the great majority of habitations have been large-scale settlements direct from the Capital, and as a result it has been possible to transplant many communities into their own domains in the Inner Core. As a result, the Inner Core worlds are chaotic and difficult to manage. They also have little distinction from one another: the combination of rapid settlement, internal diversity, and early overdemand (discouraging sorting) mean that all these planets are fairly similar, with little sense of 'planetary' pride or identity.



More to follow...
Last edited by Salmoneus on 06 Dec 2020 19:32, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: A (Very Rough) Galactic Empire Population Model

Post by Khemehekis »

Oh, this is so enjoyable to read about! I've often wondered about humanity spreading across the galaxy. This model probably won't work for the Lehola Galaxy, though, since I have many planets where sapient life develops, then discovers FTL travel. In Lehola, planets that were formerly without intelligent life do get colonized, but it's usually by immigrants from a variety of planetary origins and species. One planet might have humans from Junsu, Greys from Bt!a, lef from Saros, ilti from Javarti, and homa from Pluos all living together.

It would definitely be useful if you had something like the human species and their Evil Empire in Star Wars, though, as you said!
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Re: A (Very Rough) Galactic Empire Population Model

Post by elemtilas »

Exciting stuff there! Some questions & considerations:

What is the time frame of your question?

In other words,if you're assuming a 16B starting population in "year 1" (I know, I'm sorry: I misread 16 rather than 14, but what' 2B among friends!) and the population doubles approximately every 500 years, then it's going to be a very, very, veeeeeerrrrrrrry long time before you ever attain anything like a proper Galactic Empire.

Just a for example, Star Trek's United Federation of Planets is a rather small entity: 200 systems give or take (polyracial) with 985B people --- that's an average of 5B per system. By the time Captain Kirk and Mr Spock meet, the Federation is only about 200 years old, and humans had only been space faring for a short time before its foundation, and that immediately following some kind of Really Bad History. If I understood your scheme, the human population couldn't even have doubled and probably couldn't have spread very far. Probably only within the Terran System.

The Terran System apparently began its starfaring career with somewhere around 10 billion (the Real World is about on track for that population level, if not on track for a viable FTL drive or a happy first contact with Vulcans...), though there are countless and unknown number of humans elsewhere in the galaxy already due to the activities of the Preservers (people that abduct humans and transplant them to places like Naziworld and Mobworld and Northamericanaboriginalworld and Yangandcommworld) and by the time of the movies we see, the human population has not grown appreciably. Federation population is probably between 12 & 20 billion.

On the other hand Star Wars's Galactic Empire is pretty gargantuan with 100 quadrillion population within 20 million sentient species inhabiting 50 million worlds. I've seen that humans are a "majority", but I can't find a clear population figure.

Crunching some numbers: the Galactic Republic apparently has about 25000 years of history, or fifty of your doubling times. That time frame, beginning with 16 billion, would yield 140 septillion people, yet the human population seems to be about 60 quadrillion or so.

Clearly ST & SW used different criteria to arrive at their much lower population figures.

So what does this mean? Crunching some more numbers, including an assumption that a recent figure for habitable planets in our astral system is correct at around 40 billion, then I think your Galactic Empire, after 25000 years, will be hopelessly overcrowded. 140 septillion people living in 40 billion solar systems amounts to (if I did the maths right) 35,000,000,000,000,000 per solar system.

Scienticians debate what Earth's actual carrying capacity is. None of them seem to want to give an actual number, so much as they want to complain that rich Occidentals waste too many resources. True or false, I did come across one source with a bell curve of studies saying the capacity is somewhere between a blissful 2 or 3 billion right on up to a trillion. The largest number of studies (i.e., wild guestimates) seems to fall between 8 and 32 billion. Your Galactic Empire seems be looking like jam packed planets with a hundred thousand times that number everywhere you look.

I think the kind of world you get is going to be rather bleak. It's one that is ultimately unsustainable so long as humans remain pretty much human. Space is big; but it's also quite limiting. Either there's going to be a population on the verge of genosuicide simply because there's not enough planetary space for everyone (Star Trek did, in fact, address massively overpopulated planets on a couple occasions) or else a Galactic Empire that is bursting at the seams to spread out to neighbouring astral systems.

So I wonder what solutions you'll come up with to prevent such overpopulation within an aging Empire?

In which case other questions of technological progress, planetary structural engineering, Kardashev energy consumption, and resource availability & utilisation will become extremely important for your follow-up considerations! I think, given the high population figures, you might actually want to consider ultra-large scale migration schemes. We tend to think of colony ships with a few thousand people in them. Your Empire might have need of colony ships that can support several billion or even a trillion! That's some pretty large scale engineering!

All in all, a very interesting scenario!
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Re: A (Very Rough) Galactic Empire Population Model

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elemtilas wrote: 04 Dec 2020 01:46 Exciting stuff there! Some questions & considerations:

What is the time frame of your question?

In other words,if you're assuming a 16B starting population in "year 1" (I know, I'm sorry: I misread 16 rather than 14, but what' 2B among friends!) and the population doubles approximately every 500 years, then it's going to be a very, very, veeeeeerrrrrrrry long time before you ever attain anything like a proper Galactic Empire.
Some things...

First, although I said 14bn, I actually went in the end with only 10bn. Not that it makes that much difference.

Second, there's actually kind of an important thing I failed to say: I'm assuming these growth rates more or less per population, not per individual. That is, I'm assuming that the more emigration there is from a place, the more growth there is to make up for it. I started out by trying to guesstimate a fraction of the loss to emigration made up for by the gains, but actually it didn't seem to be worth it, so other than the core planets I just assumed complete replacement. This means that migration provides, as it were, 'free' growth, which is why I end up with nearly 600bn, rather than just 60bn.

Why would this be the case? Well, I'm assuming that, while growth is not directly linked to population per se, it is linked indirectly to the perception of growth. That is, people's propensity to have children depends on their perception of the level of growth relative to an instinctive target growth. [of course, in practice this is primarily mediated through economics!]. Thus, as emigration reduces the visible (economic, psychological, etc) impact of organic growth, fertility increases.

This is kind of a middle ground between two positions: one, where there's an absolute target population and growth stops when it reaches it; and the other, where there's no target of any kind, everyone makes their decisions absolutely independently, and growth is constant, regardless of what's going on. I think that my middle ground is more realistic as a description of human behaviour, though we don't really know. It's also easier to model (in this scenario, there's no reason to set any particular target population).

In this model, the homeworld takes 390 years to double, and 890 years to double twice, which is actually relatively slow, so there's plenty of 'spare capacity', as it were, to generate emigrants.

The population of colony worlds doubles much more quickly - very quickly, in some cases! - because it's assisted by massive migration.

HOWEVER: thinking about it, it's possible that I have made a mistake around people who migrate repeatedly - I may be getting too many free people! I'll have to think about that...


EDIT 1: just for clarity: the human capacity for growth is almost unlimited. Historical doubling times decreased steadily from 1800 through to the middle of the 20th century, reaching a low point of under 40 years. As Asimov observed, if humans kept multiplying at 20th century rates, in under 600 years the entire earth would have the population density of Manhattan, while in under 8000 years, every single atom in the universe would be human flesh.
[Trantor itself theoretically had a population of 45bn, apparently, so actually my Capital IS the size of Trantor. However, Asimov's impressionistic depictions of Trantor are of somewhere far, far more populated]
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Re: A (Very Rough) Galactic Empire Population Model

Post by Khemehekis »

Salmoneus wrote: 04 Dec 2020 02:58 . . . while in under 8000 years, every single atom in the universe would be human flesh.
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Re: A (Very Rough) Galactic Empire Population Model

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So, I've thought about the target growth problem again, and I think I'm content with my model.

There's three potential issues:

a) I've assumed a target growth, with birth rate increasing in response to emigration. I think this seems reasonable - birth rate isn't just biological, but is based on economic, social and psychological factors, and if there's a certain "equilibrium" rate of growth, society will adjust to meet it even if people are leaving. Anecdotally, this seems to be supported by the tendency to have higher birth rates in more violent societies, and for baby booms to follow major wars. Birth rates were historically higher to "match" higher death rates, but in a way that consistently yielded growth. Psychologically, if your ideal family plan is for, say, two kids and four grandkids, then the expectation that one of your kids will leave (with their kids) and one of your remaining kids will also leave, so that you actually only end up, in your old age, with one kid and one grandkid on your planet (and a 50% chance of having no greatgrandchildren on your planet at all), then I think you're more likely to want to have more kids. The alterative option - fertility remains fixed despite emigration - relies on the idea that instead of an ideal family size, people simply have an ideal number of times to give bith, which seems less plausible to me.

If you don't accept this assumption, then it'll take longer to build a galactic empire. It'll also be a lot flatter: looking quickly, it seems as though the homeworld will probably actually shrink, until the worlds around it have grown to match it.


Obviously, without this assumption it takes a lot longer to get a galactic empire!

b) however, I've assumed that birth rate does NOT decrease in response to immigration. This makes less sense in purely macroeconomic terms: if the 'target' growth rate is just based on economic factors, immigrants will 'substitute' for emigrants just as well as babies will. Psychologically, however, it makes sense: if you're trying to make your ideal family, the existence of immigrants doesn't make you have fewer children. It may also make sense economically, if you look a bit deeper. The problem with the emigration-adjusted-fertility model is that while people might want more kids to make up for those who leave, they still have to pay for them. This is a weird issue: historically, in almost all societies except the modern high-industrialisation high-inequality world, the cost of children has been negative: having more children earns you money (the labour value of their future labour is higher than the capital cost of your time and resources in raising them). In our society, weirdly, however, having children actually costs you money. What should we assume about a future world? As little as possible. But if there is a positive cost (or negative profit) of child-having, then immigration (a massive economic boost for the host country) would help to offset it (or at least negate the depressing effect of emigration).

Without this assumption, the galactic empire takes longer, and it's slightly LESS flat - colonies grow slower because the presence of lots of immigrants essentially completely ends all reproduction. [when you put the alternative like that, I'm even happier with my assumption...] In any case, the effect of this is much, much smaller than of the first assumption (growth of colonies is primarily driven by immigration anyway)


c) however, there's a glitch in my spreadsheet. The problem is 'pass-through' migration: someone moves from A to B to C. The assumptions above mean that not only does this boost fertility on A (plausible), but it also boosts fertility on B! Essentially, when women see more people travelling through the airport, they decide to have more children. This... is not plausible. The problem is, in essence, that what I ought to do is distinguish immigrant and native populations, and have birth rate only compensate for the emigration of natives (or at least of people who have settle there for some time), not the emigration of immigrants. In other words, I need to stagger the compensation effect by a generation.

But I'm not going to do this because i) it'd be a right bugger to go through the whole thing doing that, and ii) with a little experimenting it doesn't seem that this issue is actually all that big anyway. And let's face it, there's lots of simplifications and white lies in my 'model', and it's not intended to be sociologically or economically rigorous, but simply to give a general outline of one possible scenario.
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Re: A (Very Rough) Galactic Empire Population Model

Post by Vlürch »

This is really cool! If you call this "very rough", I can't even imagine what a "polished and detailed" version would be. [:O]

Since you mentioned "exotic food" and "sealed habitats on inhospitable planets", I assume you're factoring in that inhabitable planets have different ecosystems? Wouldn't this mean life would have developed on at least some (most? all?) of the habitable planets, some of which would likely have become intelligent? Or life just happened to pop up on one planet? I mean, that might be the case in real life, as unlikely it seems... and as depressing as it would be...

Also, what about terraforming? Would you consider it likely that colonists also go to currently-uninhabitable-but-potentially-habitable planets to begin terraforming them for future generations, or is that completely unnecessary if faster-than-light travel is easy enough?
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Re: A (Very Rough) Galactic Empire Population Model

Post by Salmoneus »

Well, to be clear, this isn't really intended as a specific conworld - more as, as it were, an underpinning for a range of possible conworlds. You could take it in many different directions.

This model assumes only one sentient species, but could be modified to include more.

It assumes that from each inhabited system, people will relatively easily be able to reach (on average) four more easily inhabitable systems, plus the one from which their system was itself settled. This seems, to me, a plausible assumption, at least as the basis for this scenario. But the details can be fudged. Faster FTL or more tolerance for slow journeys can give you those four new systems even if habitable systems are rarer; slower FTL and less tolerance for slow journeys means you need to make more hospitable assumptions. There's no hard science on this - you can absolutely change this assumption, but if you change it TOO much you'll get a very different empire, I think.

Why some systems are habitable is up to you. If you make terraforming easier, then you can make suitable worlds rarer; if you make terraforming harder, you'd need to make suitable candidate worlds more common. Similarly, if humans can leave easily in alien ecosystems, they can be rarer and terraforming used less often; if they can't, then humans will need alternatives. And as you say, FTL is a big issue here: easier FTL and you can be pickier (or the universe more hostile) with planets.

[in real life, I assume that if there is any recognisable, non-micoscopic life, it'll be far, far rarer than colony-suitable planets are]


[in my actual main SF conworld, which doesn't conform to this model (far fewer colonisation events, but far higher population growth on colonies), I generally assume a sort of 'caretaker' period, in which a small crew oversee the oxygenation of a suitable planet by engineered algae for a few decade, before substantial colonial settlement - with only a small number of planets that don't require this. However, this setting is 'harder' than a galactic empire model: there's hostile aliens, and FTL is more difficult, so people don't get to be as picky about where they settle.]
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Re: A (Very Rough) Galactic Empire Population Model

Post by Salmoneus »

elemtilas wrote: 04 Dec 2020 01:46 Just a for example, Star Trek's United Federation of Planets is a rather small entity: 200 systems give or take (polyracial) with 985B people --- that's an average of 5B per system. By the time Captain Kirk and Mr Spock meet, the Federation is only about 200 years old, and humans had only been space faring for a short time before its foundation, and that immediately following some kind of Really Bad History. If I understood your scheme, the human population couldn't even have doubled and probably couldn't have spread very far. Probably only within the Terran System.
So, my scheme is just one scenario. It's very easy to generate trillions of humans in only a few centuries, if growth is at 20th century rates. And in a post-scarcity world, there's no particular reason why growth wouldn't be at a fast rate, until the galaxy is completely saturated. [how fast is fast? Doubling times briefly dipped under 40 for the planet as a whole in the 20th century. This isn't the maximum rate, though (at that point, growth in much of the world was already in steep decline). Doubling times of under 20 years are known from small human populations in favourable conditions. It's currently around 50 years.

Alternatively, you could assume that growth will be at projected 21st century levels - i.e. zero, or close to zero, or even less than zero. This assumes that modern developments - presumably the decreased value of labour - have permanently changed the economic realities of childbirth. In this scenario, growth is very small, and almost entirely due to migration from a homeworld that gradually diminishes. And there's no particularly reason why this couldn't be the future.

But I've instead looked at an intermediate scenario: one in which growth returns to historical tendencies. Where population isn't frozen by resource depletion and carrying capacity (as it effectively was before the invention of agriculture), but also doesn't undergo any explosions due to major demographic or technological shifts (as it did in the 19th and 20th centuries (and during the formation of the Roman and Han empires, for that matter)).

In fact, to bring the previous comments together: what I've done is assume a slow but steady endogenous population growth per planet (disregarding immigrants but compensating for emigrants); this, combined with a rapid rate of colonisation but a historically unexceptional rate of total migration, yields a rapid but entirely believable growth rate for the human species as a whole. It works out to a doubling time for the species as a whole of around 180 years, even though most individual planets have a doubling time between 300 and 350 years (with the most populated planets gradually slowing to a doubling time of around 500 years).

For context, 180 years is much slow than 20th century growth. It's also somewhat slower than 19th century growth (it took about 120 years to double from 1800). But it's faster than most historical growth, which seems to be in the 300-500 area. [I've seen figures showing 700 years to ~1500 and ~600 to 1700... but don't forget that these are thrown off by the death of a quarter of the population in the Black Death!]


Now, this is only one set of assumptions. I think it's a plausible set of assumptions, for conworlding purposes. But there are certainly other assumptions you could make, with very different outcomes.

-----------------

Just in case anyone else wants to run some numbers and wants a starting point: a 300-year doubling time is a growth rate around 0.2%. My specieswide growth rate works out at twice that, at around 0.4%. I've seen figures suggesting today's growth rate is around 1.05% (that's a 65-year doubling). In the mid-20th century it peaked at around 2.2% (doubling time of 30 years).




On the other hand Star Wars's Galactic Empire is pretty gargantuan with 100 quadrillion population within 20 million sentient species inhabiting 50 million worlds. I've seen that humans are a "majority", but I can't find a clear population figure.

Crunching some numbers: the Galactic Republic apparently has about 25000 years of history, or fifty of your doubling times. That time frame, beginning with 16 billion, would yield 140 septillion people, yet the human population seems to be about 60 quadrillion or so.

Clearly ST & SW used different criteria to arrive at their much lower population figures.
I'm not sure SW really makes sense. But if it does, I think it demands that a lot of seriously bad shit must have gone down.
A paltry 60 quadrillion people after 25,000 years of history (and does that 'history' even go all the way back to the first colonisation from the homeworld?) would work out at only 0.0625% growth. Which would be a doubling time of 1,100 years. That's basically pre-agricultural. And yet there's no obvious reason why this would be the case: they've clearly not reached the carrying capacity of the galaxy, since it's full of sparsely-inhabited planets. [it's worth bearing in mind that 'cultural reasons' alone don't cut it: at growth rates so low for so long, you'd only need one small cult of children-havers and your low-growth civilisation would be overwhelmed by cultists in a couple of centuries.]

So I think we'd have to conclude that the SW galaxy has had some cataclysmic, makes-the-black-death-looks-like-a-picnic armageddon in its history - or, more likely, several of them. This would also gel with the feel we get from SW: they may say that it's old, but the world we see feels like it's still in a colonial phase, with a lot of it feeling like a frontier. Maybe what we're seeing is actually the re-colonisation of a galaxy decimated by war (which would also explain the weird sameness of it all - why there are, for instance, Jawas all over the damn place - if there was an earlier, more cosmopolitan era).
Scienticians debate what Earth's actual carrying capacity is. None of them seem to want to give an actual number, so much as they want to complain that rich Occidentals waste too many resources. True or false, I did come across one source with a bell curve of studies saying the capacity is somewhere between a blissful 2 or 3 billion right on up to a trillion. The largest number of studies (i.e., wild guestimates) seems to fall between 8 and 32 billion. Your Galactic Empire seems be looking like jam packed planets with a hundred thousand times that number everywhere you look.
I calculated this a few years back, on the back of an envelope. I assumed that all our energy came from solar panels, and that we all used several times as much energy as we do now. If you cover the earth's land in solar panels, you can sustain a population in the single-digit trillions.

Of course, there's no real answer, because you can always get your resources from off-world. After all, the carrying capacity of Manhattan Island is a tiny fraction of the actual current population of Manhattan!
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Re: A (Very Rough) Galactic Empire Population Model

Post by Salmoneus »

Onward and outward...

3. The Outer Core

The outer core approximately comprises (most of) the 128 fourth ring worlds; these have an average population of 600 million - they are therefore similar in size to major earth nations or regional blocs, ranging from Americas up to Chinas. Collectively, they account for around 76 billion people; when combined with the Inner Core and the Capital, the total "Core" comprises more than 50% of humanity's population (but only a small fraction of its territory). For most people in the Core - even educated people - it may as well be 100%. Precocious children and experienced traders can be expected to name every planet in the Core - but anything beyond the Core, other than a few famously exotic holiday destinations (the equivalent of "Timbuktoo"), is unlikely to show up even in trivia questions.

The Outer Core is therefore best seen as part of the Core. Yet there are significant differences between it and the Inner Core - indeed, the Inner Core may be more similar to the Capital than to the Outer Core.

These differences began at colonisation. While the Inner Core was colonised at a time of overdemand - more would-be colonists than colony planets, this imbalance had largely levelled out by the time the Outer Core came to be settled. As a result, its settlers were less aristocratic - they had a more mixed profile, with a greater emphasis on expertise. They also tended to be more of one mind: while early Inner Core settlement took every kind of settler, from pure pioneers through to those who simply wanted a slightly less crowded megapolis - thus yielding complex patchwork settlements and continuous land usage disagreements - the Outer Core settlers more uniformly craved space. Those who preferred crowded cities tended to settle in those that were already developing in the Inner Core; and soon, the true back-to-nature pioneers would have their own worlds beyond the Core. Outer Core settlers, therefore, tended to attempt to develop garden worlds.

In this, they were aided by politics. Due to their origin as multi-class projects with a common aim, the Outer Core planets tended from the beginning to favour co-operative, republican (in the classical sense) political structures - more egalitarian, and yet substantially more orderly and powerful, than the more chaotic political jungles of the Inner Core and the Capital. Those early republics fought hard, not only to maintain order, but to defend themselves against infiltration by moneyed Inner Core and Capital interests that might seek to take them over, and against immigrants who did not share their values. They tended to pride themselves on their multicultural, yet integrationist, "melting pot" cultures.

Over time, this tendency toward order has fossilised into authoritarianism - but of a generally legalist kind.

The population of these worlds can generally be divided - not necessarily officially, but almost always socially - into classes, based on their time of settlement. There are currently roughly five classes:
- the Pioneers are the ruling class, descended from the first century or so of settlers. These make up only around 0.1%, but hold most power and prestige. Indeed, the great majority of individuals of power or prestige are Pioneers.
- the Old Settlement are around 25% of the population, who settled in the following 400 or so years. These settlers arrived when the colonies were still small and young; they generally accepted the aims of the Pioneers, and developed relationships with them - they generally accepted their precedence, but aspired to live alongside them. The Old Settlement take up the remainder of the positions of power.
- the Upper New Settlement are around 25% of the population; they arrived between 200 and 400 years ago. They were once the lower class; they don't necessarily share the ideological dogmas of the Old Settlement and the Pioneers.
- the Lower New Settlement arrived 100-200 years ago. They have largely integrated into the Upper New Settlement, but still remember when they were treated as immigrants; despite this, they tend to be hostile to newer immigrants.
- Immigrants and the children of immigrants. These make up another 25% of the population. They are largely excluded from much of society; despite this, they are the only citizens who have actively chosen to move to these planets in their current condition, so tend to quickly develop planetary pride.

The Outer Core is dominated by class more than by wealth - Immigrants may be wealthy, and New Settlement may be poor. Politics is often about balancing the interests of the five classes - often by uniting the paternalist Pioneers/Old Settlement with the Immigrants against the presumptions of the New Settlement.

The details, of course, vary considerably with the planet. The other distinguishing feature of the Outer Core planets... is that they have distinguishing features. They were all settled at a similar time, and have similar histories, but their more cohesive governments and smaller populations have yielded more distinct cultures. Also important is the pattern of colonisation across each planet. Whereas Inner Core planets are a quilt of settlements direct from the Capital - due to the huge size of the initial settlements and lack of sorting - Outer Core planets tended to receive only a handful of direct settlements, from which pioneers then spread out to form secondary settlements. These tends to divide Outer Core planets into culturally coherent 'regions', more or less tightly unified at a planetary level.
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Re: A (Very Rough) Galactic Empire Population Model

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4. The Inner Hinterland Worlds

If half the galactic population lives in the core, half (or slightly less) live outside it. But whereas the Core forms, in effect, a single, intensively-connected zone, the worlds beyond the Core do not, and cannot. The Core is only around 200 systems; the Inner Hinterland comprises around 2,500 systems.

These planets have populations similar to Earth countries - the oldest and most populated have an average population around 100 million, while the younger, outer planets have on average only around 30 million inhabitants.

Of all the galaxy's settlements, it is probably these 'Inner Hinterland' planets that are the most independent: they are large enough to perform almost all economic functions themselves, yet their smaller populations and widely distributed locations result in a lower level of interstellar traffic, and hence more costly, and hence fewer, imports and exports. As a result, the Inner Hinterland is more politically and culturally independent than the Outer Core - with which it shares its general political and cultural outlines (a tendency toward class politics and strong, centralised but cooperative leadership).

The trade and travel that do occur are focused less on the Core, and more on links within tens or hundreds of local networks - each network will have one or a few dominant larger (usually older and inner) planets, and a fringe of smaller (usually younger and outer) planets. Each network will also generally have one or two Outer Core planets that form their primary connection to the Core - because the Inner Hinterland, while independent from the Core in many ways, does still look toward it, albeit from a distance. It can never truly ignore the Core - as almost a third of its population are recent Core immigrants. Nonetheless, these immigrants are people who have chosen to leave the Core, and that encapsulates the Inner Hinterland's nature: independent by choice and inclination, yet still linked by birth and heritage.

We should consider, for a moment, language and culture. Inner Core worlds are hugely cosmopolitan; Outer Core planets tend to still be diverse, yet to be more integrated. This continues in the Inner Hinterland; but these planets are even more distinct from one another than those in the Outer Core. Partly, this is because of increased sorting - immigrants have always been able to choose which Inner Hinterland world to migrate to. But partly it is also by the simple fact of distance.

The first settlers of the Inner Core left the homeworld just over a thousand years ago. Over time, the languages spoken then have evolved into modern forms, and that has included the development of many regional and local dialects. In the Core, particularly the Inner Core, many dialects are spoken on each planet - many dialects made that first trip directly from the homeworld, and because these planets tend to be more pluricentric (stemming from multiple settlements) they have nurtured distinctive dialects in different cities and regions. A tourist wandering from a spaceport into the urban underbelly of the Capital, or an Inner Core world, will soon encounter completely unknown forms of speech. But as a result of that multiplicity, there is also a great value seen in commonality, and many Core-wide lingua francas are spoken (which also act as a common yoke between the developing dialects). More abstractly, culture itself operates in this way in the Core: distinctive, hyper-local traditions embedded within a generally-understood, generally-accepted cultural language.

The Inner Hinterland was settled not that long after the Inner Core, in absolute terms. Individual planets here, however, tend to be more politically and culturally unitary. Some of these planets are home to single cities and their hinterlands. Most consist only of one or two small regions of habitation. As the total population of each planet is not large, these regions must work together very closely, more closely even than the confederal governments of Outer Core planets. It is common, therefore, for an Inner Hinterland planet to be home to only one distinctive dialect of each language spoken there - fragments of Core dialects constantly arrive with immigrants, but only a few have enough speakers in any one place to put down a foothold, and most quickly assimilate. While the most educated or most worldwise may be fluent in the argots of the Core, most people are not. Instead, dialect traits tend to develop in each planet-network, but this is not always enough to bring mutual intelligibility - these planets are less concerned with understanding one another, and indeed more likely to have been founded by speakers of entirely different languages. In the same way, culture more generally tends to assimilate on each planet, but remain distinct between planets.
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Re: A (Very Rough) Galactic Empire Population Model

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That's weird - I could have sworn I'd posted the next section. Unless the mods deleted it?
Hoping they didn't, I'll try writing it again:

5. The Outer Hinterland

At this point, a dramatic escalation in scale occurs. The Core in total comprises some 200 systems; the Inner Hinterland, a further 2,500. The Outer Hinterland, on the othe hand, comprises no fewer than 170,000 planets. The oldest of these worlds average a population around 6 million; the youngest, of only around a quarter or a third of a million.

The colonies, in other words, are around the size of Earth cities - and indeed, the majority of these planets bear a single city/spaceport, with a small penumbra of rural settlements (homes for the more independently-minded, tourist facilities, and resource extraction centres). In the Core, or even in the Inner Hinterland - there may be multiple significant cities, and often large regions of connected smaller settlements; but in the Outer Hinterland, population levels are too small to have allowed this. Only where a planet has suffered early political division (which often yields an under-sized population), or where a major resource area has attracted its own settlers, are there likely to be multiple cities on these worlds. Rural settlement is largely clustered around the city: while larger planets have been able to sustain mutually-supporting networks of homesteader settlements, in the Outer Hinterland homesteaders generally remain dependent upon the city. Although, of course, on such worlds - almost entirely uninhabited - there will always be some independent spirits living far out in the wilderness, and small tourist or resource-extraction settlements will be scattered where the economics demand.

The Outer Hinterland also represents two further threshold points.

First, while the Inner Hinterland is largely economically independent of the Core, it is very much not culturally independent: Inner Hinterland worlds do have distinctive cultures of their own, but they are yoked to the culture of the Core by mass migration: recent immigrants make up a huge proportion of their populations, and most immigrants come from the Core. The duality of the Inner Hinterland is that its people are often intentionally escaping the culture of the Core, and yet remain tied to it indelibly by their own origins.

The Outer Hinterland is also dependent upon migration - but the great majority of its migrants are from the Inner Hinterland, and around half of its Core migrants come from the more eccentric Outer Core. Indeed, historically the population of the Outer Hinterland has mostly consisted of cultural refugees pushed out by immigration to their homeworlds: as the Outer Core, and then the Inner Hinterland, developed from small settlements into vast colony worlds, developing a more urban and Core-influenced culture, those who rejected these developments in turn have migrated out, into the Outer Hinterland. These worlds have a more hostile attitude toward the Core, and look outward rather than in.

Related to this, the shear number of these worlds poses a logistical difficulty for emigrants from further in. A migrant to the Outer Core can meaningfully select between five hundred planets - just. Among the two thousand worlds of the Inner Hinterland, this is much more difficult. Among 170,000 Outer Hinterland planets, it is simply impossible. This does not prevent sorting - on the contrary. The Outer Hinterland is much more varied than the Inner Hinterland, both economically (some of these planets have essentially economically collapsed, and become disconnected from the galactic economy, while others are thriving entrepots) and culturally (these smaller populations can be more monolithic, and attract their own kind). But mixing is rarer - rather than a mix of populations from across the Inner Hinterland and Outer Core, the settlers on each Outer Hinterland world are generally drawn from only a small number of Inner Hinterland worlds, and ultimately from perhaps only one or two Outer Core planets. This results in a kind of cultural and linguistic distillation process. It is also worth noting that these planets vary considerably in settlement age: while the oldest of them may have been settled for eight centuries, most are only four to six centuries old.

The second major threshold passed is economic. Planets in the Inner Hinterland are effectively self-sufficient; this is not so in the Outer Hinterland, primarily due to the issue of power supplies. In this galaxy, power is primarily provided by fusion: immensely productive, with low marginal costs, and yet with immense fixed costs. It is not cheap to build or maintain a fusion plant, and it is only economically viable for the most populated Outer Hinterland planets. This, at a stroke, kills off heavy industry in these systems: it is simply more cost-efficient to import heavily-worked goods from the Inner Hinterland, or indeed the Outer Core. The Outer Hinterland instead generally depends upon renewable energy, which provides enough power to sustain a comfortable domestic life. Nor should it be imagined that no industry exists on these planets: energy-lite and small-scale industry is possible, and indeed, thanks to competitive advantage against the energy-rich Inner Hinterland, thrives. This tends to mean consumer goods manufacturing, and also low-energy high-skill craftsmanship. Where conditions are condign, there also tends to be more extensive agriculture on these planets, so that costly energy is not wasted when there is so much land available.
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Re: A (Very Rough) Galactic Empire Population Model

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Salmoneus wrote: 09 Dec 2020 23:20 That's weird - I could have sworn I'd posted the next section. Unless the mods deleted it?
The mods did not. Post away! Could your evil twin have done it?
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Re: A (Very Rough) Galactic Empire Population Model

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I must stress again how much I enjoy reading this. IMHO, this is some original conworlding [:)] It reminds me a lot of cities and towns in Europe (and the US) minus the rivers and the streets.
Edit: Corrected late night typo.
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Re: A (Very Rough) Galactic Empire Population Model

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Same here [:D] I can't speak to the accuracy of the conclusions upon which this world is built (as in, I don't know enough about this sort of thing to comment on that), but they seem to make sense, and, at the very least, they're well thought out, and have been used to create a setting that really appears to work, and I'm really enjoying it.
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Re: A (Very Rough) Galactic Empire Population Model

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Creyeditor wrote: 10 Dec 2020 03:32 I must stress again how much I enjoy reading this. IMHO, this is some original conlanging [:)] It reminds me a lot of cities and towns in Europe (and the US) minus the rivers and the streets.
Sorry, I don't quite follow?
[was this meant to be for another thread?]
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Re: A (Very Rough) Galactic Empire Population Model

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6. The Old Frontier

Out beyond the Outer Hinterlands is a vast expanse of over 500,000 sparsely-populated worlds: the Old Frontier. These planets were in general first set foot upon between 500 and 250 years ago, and now bear average populations of around 50,000 people.

Most of the galaxy was settled from the Core; the Old Frontier was not. Settlers from the Core are not just a minority here, as they are in the Outer Hinterland, but a small and dwindling minority. In the early days of the Frontier, as many as 20% of settlers came from the Core, half of them from the Inner Core; now, only 10% come from the Core, and half of those are from the Outer Core. As a result, the Core is only slightly better known here than the Frontier is to the Core...

Instead, around 75% of settlers come from the Outer Hinterland. As such, the Old Frontier may be regarded as a child of the Outer Hinterland. At first, this may seem strange: why would anybody have to leave the Outer Hinterland, when its own planets have barely begun to be developed? There are a range of answers. Some settlers are intentionally putting themselves outside of the comforting (they would say infantilising) protection of the OH cities - a 'pioneer' in the wilderness is not a true pioneer, the settlers would say, if they have the luxury of a short aeroplane ride to the city hospital. But the biggest push factor has been politics. OH planets, with their solitary (or at least single predominant) cities, have always tended to have limited sympathy for dissent: everybody has to live together, and those who cannot are forced out - whether by personal vendettas among the early OH colonists, or by power struggles during the centralisation process as those colonies turned into unified cities, or by general hostility to dissent from the mature, developed governments of these cities. In a minority of cases, pure ideology or religion is at stake, as cults and sects have sought a place of their own. Often in recent times the driver has simply been the slow aggregation of a minority to a troubling size: as small minorities have grown in the OH through migration, they have reached a sufficient size to sustain themselves as subcultures, while being insufficiently large to defend themselves against the cultural hegemony of the world around them - such groups have often given up on making their world more diverse, and have instead found a planet of their own in the Old Frontier.

As a result, each Old Frontier planet is liable to be distinctive and unwelcoming to outsiders. Continued migration (indeed, almost half the population here are migrants) means that these worlds are not truly closed, and typically have small minorities of their own within them, but newcomers who have not very carefully selected their world for compatability are likely to find the locals unfriendly - and, indeed, incomprehensible. At minimum, the languages spoken here are often not readily intelligible to those from the core; in the case of some of the oldest of these planets, after 500 years of isolated development the local dialect may not be intelligible to anybody not resident on that planet.

Nor is culture the only obstacle for newcomers. Life in the Frontier is markedly more difficult than life in the Hinterlands, due primarily to the small population of each planet (compounded by their young age). Most planets here simply fall below many important thresholds.

For a start, there is little surplus power here. There are no fusion reactors here (well, among half a million planets, it is hard to make any absolutely pronouncements, and there may well be some scientific facility somewhere among these worlds, but such facilities would be incredibly rare). Most planets do not even have any large-scale electricity plants of any kind, as they lack both the necessary demand and the necessary capital. Instead, power generation is small-scale and scaleable - privately-owned solar panels and wind turbines. Smaller worlds may not even have any electric grid system.

As a result, and combined with a general lack of resources, mechanised industry of any kind is limited. Some cottage industries do exist, exploiting local resources (which have had centuries to be developed), and it may be cheaper on some planets to make clothes, furniture, and household items locally, albeit in a crude style, rather than import them from more developed worlds. Most planets also have some facilities geared toward repairing and adapting imported goods. There probably will not be a local metal foundry (unless the planet happens to be extremely ore-rich), but there is likely to be a local blacksmith to restraighten or repurpose metal items, for example. In this regard, it is important to not not only the low population of these worlds, but that their low population, combined with the still quite meagre population of nearby Hinterland worlds, leads to minimal demand for interplanetary transports - this, in turn, leads to high prices for imported goods, with few exports to cover their cost.

Similarly, these planets are generally too small to support an adequate healthcare system - the severely sick may be taken to a hospital or specialist in the Hinterlands, but paying for this may be problematic. Life expectancy is shorter here. Similarly, while basic education can be provided, these planets are not able to support an academic or otherwise intellectual class. Accordingly, sports and art and other idle pastimes are much more participatory than on more populated planets - there are no professional athletes or actors.
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Re: A (Very Rough) Galactic Empire Population Model

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Salmoneus wrote: 10 Dec 2020 21:20
Creyeditor wrote: 10 Dec 2020 03:32 I must stress again how much I enjoy reading this. IMHO, this is some original conlanging [:)] It reminds me a lot of cities and towns in Europe (and the US) minus the rivers and the streets.
Sorry, I don't quite follow?
[was this meant to be for another thread?]
I wrote this late at night. I meant to write conworlding. I fixed it in the original post. The Core vs. Hinterlands (plus its many shades) remind me of urban centers on earth that are often connected to a large area economically. Historically, IINNM, this expansion has been less "spherical" and more "star-shaped" because roads and rivers accelerate transportation and thereby simplify economic expansion. Is that any clearer? It's almost midnight again [:D]
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Re: A (Very Rough) Galactic Empire Population Model

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I concur with the others -- this has been a great pleasure to read through!
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