Support the GITP forums on Patreon
Help support GITP's forums (and ongoing server maintenance) via Patreon
Page 1 of 4 1234 LastLast
Results 1 to 30 of 98
  1. - Top - End - #1
    Ogre in the Playground
     
    Telok's Avatar

    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    PRAK

    Default What loss rate of starships would prevent interstellar shipping?

    I'm trying to figure out what loss rate of starships would stop interstellar shipping. I figure that the closest information would be real world shipping in the latter half of the age of sail, but I'm having a bit of difficulty tracking down information and getting useful stuff out of it. That's probably because I'm not quite sure how to look for this stuff beyond general internet searches, the local library is effectively shut down, and the local university is basically off limits to non-students at this point.

    TLDR: I've worked up a system where novice crews can make a several weeks long trip (approximately 1 LY per day) on well mapped routes 99% of the time and regular crews can make months long trips on mapped trade routes 95% of the time. The traders basically won't ever do trips that take years. Exploration to open new markets is something that basically isn't done unless you have a significantly above average crew, and even shorter trips to places that aren't completely settled are practically a death sentence for novices.

    Is this somewhat, kind of, realistic and/or at least believable for a setting to support wide spread interstellar trading?

    Spoiler: Details
    Show
    I could, of course, completely hand wave everything and not use rules at all. Or hand wave everything for NPCs and make the PCs the only people who randomly fail at anything. That would make the NPCs pure plot mechanics, except that I usually run sandbox games that don't have predetermined plot outcomes for NPCs. So I'm using rules and applying them to PC ships, NPC ships, and NPC ships that the PCs are aboard.

    This is, obviously, for a game. Pretty much I'm just doing a partial re-write of some rule bits that weren't play tested. In the setting as presented there is interstellar shipping of bulk cargo. This includes things like bulk veg & grain, processed fish protein, rare ores, tourists, slaves, and machine parts. Modest piracy, smuggling, and shipping prisoners off to space-Australia also happens with some frequency. FTL happens by way of a hostile alternate dimension with much shorter distances, approximately a LY/day. It's a really hostile dimensions, like modest fluctuations in the protective forcefield leading to mutation, radiation sickness, mass insanity, and hostile 4-dimensional intruders. Forcefield failure is, naturally, complete destruction. There are warp gates that allow for easier access to the dimension, some cross-dimension navigational beacons, and a few mapped trade routes, all of which are the result of lost Ancients-Civilization tech that can no longer be reproduced.

    The game uses a roll-keep-sum system using up to ten d10s that reroll and add on 10s. The ships are roughly 300m to 3km in length with crews numbering from about 30 to 3000. They have a crew quality (1 to 5), speed (6 to 12), then acceleration, manoeuvrability, and sensor ratings (-5 to +10 in increments of 5). There are several rolls involved in the whole thing but only two matter for this, plotting a course and flying that course (the others may modify times & conditions but can't result in the loss of the ship). I'm only concerned about crew qualities of 1 to 3 which are effectively 'green/half-trained', "regular', and 'experienced/above average'. PC run ships are going to have results the same or higher than the crew quality 3 results. Those crew levels equate to roll 4 & keep 1, roll 6 & keep 2, and roll 8 & keep 3 (probabilities in spoiler).
    Spoiler
    Show
    4k1 = 5+ @ 97%, 10+ @ 34%, 15+ @ 22%, 20+ @ 4%, 25+ @ 2%, 30+ @ 1%
    6k2 = 5+ @ 99.9%, 10+ @ 99%, 15+ @ 82%, 20+ @ 43%, 25+ @ 25%, 30+ @ 11%, 35+ @ 5%, 40+ @ 2%
    8k3 = 5+ @ 99.99%, 10+ @ 99.9%, 15+ @ 99%, 20+ @ 93%, 25+ @ 67%, 30+ @ 44%, 35+ @ 25%, 40+ @ 13%


    By default the course plotting target number is 20. Fail and take a -10 on the flying roll, for every 10 over (30, 40, 50, etc.) get a stacking +5 on the flying roll. The default flying roll target number is based on time/distance which is independent of the ship's speed. Those numbers are days = 10, weeks = 15, months = 20, years = 25. I don't expect NPC traders to use the years option. Still by the default rules failing the flying check doubles the time taken and causes two rolls on a 'problems' chart which, still default, cannot directly cause the loss of the ship. Fail by 10 or more and the ship also arrives somewhere off course. Success on the flying check calls for one roll on the problems chart and for every 10 above the time taken is halved. The flying roll gets a bonus for ship sensors, the course plotting roll gets a bonus for ship manoeuvrability.

    I'm not quite using the defaults. There are issues including the ability for even the worst ships and worst NPC crews to throw 10k3 or more at the flying check allowing them to get a result of 30+ half the time (and PC ships could end up making a six year trip take one month). My main changes are that instead of doubling/halving trip times it moves one category up or down to the days/years limits, the rolls will end up using the 4k1/6k2/8k3 rolls for NPCs, and failure on the flying check calls for an additional 'problems' roll at cumulative +1s (thus possibly getting high enough on the chart to actually risk destroying the ship) and another flying check at a cumulative -5 penalty. I have, of course, a spreadsheet that implements this (up to 20 over the piloting check and up to 4 attempts at the flying check) with possible bonuses/penalties to the rolls for different ships and any extra circumstances that could apply (by default there are none).

    By the default target numbers the success rates for trips are pretty bad. The 4k1 crews can only succeed on a 'days' length trip about 11% of the time, they fail the course plotting check 96% of the time. Even the average 6k2 crews only get the course check 43% of the time which puts the flying check around a 82% success rate for the shortest trips. Going up to the 'months' trips the 4k1 crews ultimately succeed 5% of the time and the 6k2 crews 62% of the time. Then the 8k3 crews succeed on the 'years' target 25 trips something like 96% of the time. Since my changes mean that ships can be lost rather than just ending up with horrible extra-dimensional people eating monsters 1/5 of the time that's terribly harsh.

    What I'm currently contemplating is a bunch of +5 bonuses to the course plotting roll for using a warp gate, having a map, there's a beacon at the other end, etc., that make the settled trade routes basically known to even a 97% success for the 4k1 crews. Then two +5 bonuses to the flying roll for having a map and being in a convoy. Then altering the base target numbers to be days=5, weeks=10, months=20, and years=40. The result therefore is that the safe and travelled routes with piled up bonuses are... 4k1 makes weeks trips 99% and months 28%, 6k2 makes months trips 95% and years trips 10%, 8k3 makes years 58%. Those are mapped and civilized routes. Off the beaten track with zero bonuses are... 4k1 makes days trips at 52% and weeks 23%, 6k2 makes weeks trips 99% and months 69%, 8k3 makes months trips 99% and years 38%.
    Niven's Laws, #5
    If you've nothing to say, say it any way you like. Stylistic innovations, contorted story lines or none, exotic or genderless pronouns, internal inconsistencies, the recipe for preparing your lover as a cannibal banquet: feel free. If what you have to say is important and/or difficult to follow, use the simplest language possible. If the reader doesn't get it then, let it not be your fault.

  2. - Top - End - #2
    Troll in the Playground
    Join Date
    Jun 2011

    Default Re: What loss rate of starships would prevent interstellar shipping?

    It depends on what's being shipped, and the profit margin for doing so.

    The short version is, the cost to operate your ship, plus insurance to cover the likelihood of loss, is greater than the expected profit, shipping will stop.

    Ironically, this means the most valuable carges be the last ones still going, paying for armed escorts because it makes the insurance cheaper.

  3. - Top - End - #3
    Colossus in the Playground
     
    BlackDragon

    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Location
    Manchester, UK
    Gender
    Male

    Default Re: What loss rate of starships would prevent interstellar shipping?

    Quote Originally Posted by Rakaydos View Post
    It depends on what's being shipped, and the profit margin for doing so.
    Profit wouldn't necessarily be a factor depending how important the things being shipped are. Goods were still sent across the Atlantic during WW2 despite the huge numbers of merchant vessels being sunk, because the goods in question were vital for the war effort in Europe. Similar things might well apply to goods being shipped across interstellar distances--it's a bit of a problem if you decide to stop shipping spare parts for the terraforming machinery at that new colony, for instance!

  4. - Top - End - #4
    Pixie in the Playground
     
    Kobold

    Join Date
    Aug 2020

    Default Re: What loss rate of starships would prevent interstellar shipping?

    Quote Originally Posted by factotum View Post
    Profit wouldn't necessarily be a factor depending how important the things being shipped are. Goods were still sent across the Atlantic during WW2 despite the huge numbers of merchant vessels being sunk, because the goods in question were vital for the war effort in Europe. Similar things might well apply to goods being shipped across interstellar distances--it's a bit of a problem if you decide to stop shipping spare parts for the terraforming machinery at that new colony, for instance!
    Good point, I would say that much here depends on social environment. For example if starships are afordable and most of people are poor and neglected by goverment they may not mind risk that much as more egalitarian sociaty.

    Other issue is what are the risk factors, is it 1% that you will hit some asteroids and die or are there piracy involved? First risk factor is as I understand mostly beyond control but the other one can be managable.

    The other issue is that people suck on assesing the risk :) So as long the reward will seem worth it someone will make a voyage. Oh and the question is whetver robots could do it? Becouse then its only matter of price, and if it was worth to start a colony it is most probably worth having some Trade with them.

    As for presented percentage I would say that our current space missions probably have similar 1% of risk that it will end tragicly, yet we are still doing it

  5. - Top - End - #5
    Titan in the Playground
     
    Brother Oni's Avatar

    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Location
    Cippa's River Meadow
    Gender
    Male

    Default Re: What loss rate of starships would prevent interstellar shipping?

    Quote Originally Posted by asda fasda View Post
    As for presented percentage I would say that our current space missions probably have similar 1% of risk that it will end tragicly, yet we are still doing it
    1% is not a bad guess actually on overall mission success, although NASA classifies LOM and LOC risk separately (loss of mission and loss of crew respectively): Risk and Reliability (NASA).

  6. - Top - End - #6
    Firbolg in the Playground
    Join Date
    Feb 2013

    Default Re: What loss rate of starships would prevent interstellar shipping?

    Generally speaking, 1 in 7 ships were lost during the Age of Sail. Warships were much lower, since they could afford to copper the bottoms to keep shipworms out. Pirates were far worse; one crew during Morgan's run of Port Royal lost five vessels in one voyage (pirates suck at navigation, keeping watch and several other basic sailorly traits, apparently).

  7. - Top - End - #7
    Titan in the Playground
     
    Grey_Wolf_c's Avatar

    Join Date
    Aug 2007

    Default Re: What loss rate of starships would prevent interstellar shipping?

    Quote Originally Posted by Rogar Demonblud View Post
    (pirates suck at navigation, keeping watch and several other basic sailorly traits, apparently).
    All I know about pirates comes from CGP Grey's videos on the subject, so take this with a pinch of salt, but I suspect what they really sucked at was hierarchical organisation - i.e. the pirate captain lacked sufficient authority to order the pirate sailors to perform those duties (keeping watch especially, I'd imagine, since that is a terribly boring job that 99% of the time probably you can get away half-assing (or quarter-assing, even)). Navigation inadequacy was probably due to not having easy access to the most accurate maps, having to rely on whatever they themselves cobbled together - good cartographers don't grow on trees, and don't sign up to be sailors, I'd imagine.

    GW
    Last edited by Grey_Wolf_c; 2020-10-12 at 04:03 PM.
    Interested in MitD? Join us in MitD's thread.
    There is a world of imagination
    Deep in the corners of your mind
    Where reality is an intruder
    And myth and legend thrive
    Quote Originally Posted by The Giant View Post
    But really, the important lesson here is this: Rather than making assumptions that don't fit with the text and then complaining about the text being wrong, why not just choose different assumptions that DO fit with the text?
    Ceterum autem censeo Hilgya malefica est

  8. - Top - End - #8
    Pixie in the Playground
     
    Kobold

    Join Date
    Aug 2020

    Default Re: What loss rate of starships would prevent interstellar shipping?

    Quote Originally Posted by Brother Oni View Post
    1% is not a bad guess actually on overall mission success, although NASA classifies LOM and LOC risk separately (loss of mission and loss of crew respectively): Risk and Reliability (NASA).
    Wow, great link thanks!

  9. - Top - End - #9
    Titan in the Playground
     
    Yora's Avatar

    Join Date
    Apr 2009
    Location
    Germany

    Default Re: What loss rate of starships would prevent interstellar shipping?

    Commercial shipping comes down to a balance between costs and profits. And loss of ships and cargo is statistically calculated into costs, generally in the form of insurance.

    How much cargo and ships you can lose while still staying profitable depends on the costs of buying ships and operating ships, and the profit margin of the cargo that is being transported.
    And I think that's just something where you have to make up numbers out of thin air. By our current understanding of space transportation, costs would be virtually infinite. And at the same time, the value of interstellar resources would be negligible. There isn't really anything in other systems that can't be found in our own, where it is much easier to access and transport costs go down to a tiny fraction.
    We are not standing on the shoulders of giants, but on very tall tower of other dwarves.

    Beneath the Leaves of Kaendor - Writing Sword & Sorcery
    Spriggan's Den Heroic Fantasy Roleplaying

  10. - Top - End - #10
    Titan in the Playground
     
    Lizardfolk

    Join Date
    Oct 2010
    Gender
    Male

    Default Re: What loss rate of starships would prevent interstellar shipping?

    I suppose you would need to find out what they are trading or mining up there and then work from there. Polonium-209 was so expensive in 2004 that 1kg was worth $49.210^12, so while prices would drop fast a small asteroid or comet heavy in it would presumably be worth billions.
    Quote Originally Posted by The Glyphstone View Post
    Vibranium: If it was on the periodic table, its chemical symbol would be "Bs".

  11. - Top - End - #11
    Ogre in the Playground
     
    RedWizardGuy

    Join Date
    Mar 2009

    Default Re: What loss rate of starships would prevent interstellar shipping?

    Yeah, others have summed it up pretty well. The determining factors:

    1) How essential is the cargo being shipped?
    2) How much profit can be made?
    (Note: 1 and 2 might be strongly correlated, have no correlation at all, or be anywhere in-between).
    3) How severe are the risks?
    3a) Can they be mitigated and to what extent?
    4) Assuming manned ships, do we have crew available/willing to go?
    (Depending on the heirachy, the people making the decisions about 1 and 2 may not be the actual crews, who are certainly worried about 3).
    "That's a horrible idea! What time?"

  12. - Top - End - #12
    Titan in the Playground
    Join Date
    Feb 2014
    Location
    Denmark
    Gender
    Male

    Default Re: What loss rate of starships would prevent interstellar shipping?

    Quote Originally Posted by Yora View Post
    There isn't really anything in other systems that can't be found in our own, where it is much easier to access and transport costs go down to a tiny fraction.
    This would be the very thing. It's hard to imagine a valid reason to import steel from Andromeda, when there's steel to be had right here on Earth. Unless of course space folding turns out to be possible, and dirt cheap - then, arguably, there's no valid reason not to.

    Other things may be unique, though. Life forms, for instance. Livestock or slaves. Or .. I dunno, some sort of handwavium, mined from neutron stars or whatever =D

  13. - Top - End - #13
    Colossus in the Playground
     
    BlackDragon

    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Location
    Manchester, UK
    Gender
    Male

    Default Re: What loss rate of starships would prevent interstellar shipping?

    Quote Originally Posted by Yora View Post
    There isn't really anything in other systems that can't be found in our own, where it is much easier to access and transport costs go down to a tiny fraction.
    Actually, I'd argue there *is* something that could potentially be found in other systems which is in limited supply in our own--habitable land. If we find a habitable planet somewhere out there then sky's the limit as far as sending goods out there to start a colony and keep it going through the early years.

  14. - Top - End - #14
    Firbolg in the Playground
     
    Planetar

    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Location
    Raleigh NC
    Gender
    Male

    Default Re: What loss rate of starships would prevent interstellar shipping?

    Just wanted to add some discussion from the WWII battle of the Atlantic; in that war the concern was not so much the profitability, as it was the raw capability to replace the merchant ships lost. Reading here , the UK lost about 54% of their starting merchant marine in WWII, but they still didn't lose because shipyards in the UK, Canada, and the US were replacing them more quickly than they could be destroyed. The Numbers bandied around look to be about 300K tons/month before December 1941, and 700K/month afterward.
    Even in the wealthy US, this resulted in material shortages and the hiring of women for the workforce to meet the quotas, but they still did it.

    I'm not ready to look up the total merchant marine or what percentage is being eliminated, but it looks to me like you need to eliminate approximately 1% of capacity over and above replacement capacity to strangle a nation that is totally dependent on trade. That's just an eyeball guess, though.

    And of course there's another side of the occasion as well: If these losses are inflicted by warships, you have to see if their loss rate is above THEIR replacement rate. If the target nation is building ships faster than they can be replaced, while the raiders are losing so many ships that they can't sustain a killing loss rate even if they can reach it in the first place, the target nation will win.

    Respectfully,

    Brian P.
    "Every lie we tell incurs a debt to the truth. Sooner or later, that debt is paid."

    -Valery Legasov in Chernobyl

  15. - Top - End - #15
    Firbolg in the Playground
    Join Date
    Feb 2013

    Default Re: What loss rate of starships would prevent interstellar shipping?

    Heck, the respective merchant marines were better off. The ships being sunk were old and often worn out after the depression years. The new ships were faster, had far fewer breakdowns and were better designed for the sea conditions of the North Atlantic (that is to say, horrible).

  16. - Top - End - #16
    Bugbear in the Playground
    Join Date
    Sep 2013

    Default Re: What loss rate of starships would prevent interstellar shipping?

    I'd like to throw another couple of variables in - the capacity of the vessels you're using, and how many you're starting with.

    Taking maritime freighters, there's a whole range of sizes, going from vessels capable of carrying no more than hundreds to a few thousand tonnes all the way up to vessels capable of taking a couple of hundred thousand tonnes and which are too big to navigate through the Suez or Panama Canals. And that's before you get into tankers and container carriers.

    Loss of the largest ones would do a lot of damage to industry (they tend to be used to carry bulk raw materials like coal and iron ore), would take a long time to replace and significant numbers of smaller ships to take their place in the meantime. But equally, they'd be the first ones to be put into convoys, while the smaller vessels may potentially try their luck by heading off on their own.

    But a much more effective tactic (all be it harder to achieve) would be to render port facilities unusable.

  17. - Top - End - #17
    Firbolg in the Playground
     
    Planetar

    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Location
    Raleigh NC
    Gender
    Male

    Default Re: What loss rate of starships would prevent interstellar shipping?

    The problem with rendering ports unuseable is that it is extremely hard to do for any length of time ; the human ingenuity when it comes to repair is pretty incredible. Machines can be replaced , holes can be repaired with concrete. If anything, sometimes bombing is counterproductive because it eliminates old, wasteful processes and makes new for better, more efficient systems. The Strategic Bombing Survey found that Axis production during WWII increased during the war in many industries for precisely this reason.

    By contrast, a sunken ship is gone forever; most of the ocean is at least several kilometers deep, making salvage unfeasible. In space, the same calculus applies. A ship wrecked in space will probably not be worth retrieving, while attacks on a civilization would inflict only temporary damage unless the attack is so powerful as to constitute an extinction-level event.

    Respectfully,

    Brian P.
    "Every lie we tell incurs a debt to the truth. Sooner or later, that debt is paid."

    -Valery Legasov in Chernobyl

  18. - Top - End - #18
    Firbolg in the Playground
    Join Date
    Feb 2013

    Default Re: What loss rate of starships would prevent interstellar shipping?

    Depends on what the port is. For instance, ULCCs/VLCCs today can only use a handful of ports because of their size. Shut one of those down (and most countries only have one) and you have effectively sunk all those ships. Similarly, if your space freighters can't handle atmospheric stresses and needs to dock at a station, if you kill the station you effectively eliminate the cargo fleet.

    edit: Put another way, target the points of weakness. Which is generally not the ships.
    Last edited by Rogar Demonblud; 2020-10-13 at 03:56 PM.

  19. - Top - End - #19
    Ogre in the Playground
     
    Telok's Avatar

    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    PRAK

    Default Re: What loss rate of starships would prevent interstellar shipping?

    So basically all the long and complicated details in the spoilers matter.

    Under the original rule set pretty nearly 20% of all interstellar trips by novice crews involved some Cthuloid entity running around the ship during warp travel on even the shortest possible trips. Even the normal, average experience, crews got that result more than 10% of average trips. On the other hand while the rules had a "the ship probably blows up" result, you couldn't actually roll it no matter how badly the piloting & navigating went. The whole fridge-logic of that started my rewrite of this bit of rules.

    It looks like luxury ocean cruises started about 1830s. That might be a good base line for the setting since there is tourism in it.
    Niven's Laws, #5
    If you've nothing to say, say it any way you like. Stylistic innovations, contorted story lines or none, exotic or genderless pronouns, internal inconsistencies, the recipe for preparing your lover as a cannibal banquet: feel free. If what you have to say is important and/or difficult to follow, use the simplest language possible. If the reader doesn't get it then, let it not be your fault.

  20. - Top - End - #20
    Titan in the Playground
     
    Lizardfolk

    Join Date
    Oct 2010
    Gender
    Male

    Default Re: What loss rate of starships would prevent interstellar shipping?

    Quote Originally Posted by Telok View Post
    So basically all the long and complicated details in the spoilers matter.

    Under the original rule set pretty nearly 20% of all interstellar trips by novice crews involved some Cthuloid entity running around the ship during warp travel on even the shortest possible trips. Even the normal, average experience, crews got that result more than 10% of average trips. On the other hand while the rules had a "the ship probably blows up" result, you couldn't actually roll it no matter how badly the piloting & navigating went. The whole fridge-logic of that started my rewrite of this bit of rules.

    It looks like luxury ocean cruises started about 1830s. That might be a good base line for the setting since there is tourism in it.
    No idea how I missed that spoiler, mea culpa.

    Bulk foods implies a Nineteenth Century kind of trade, so profit margins are way down but dependability is way up. This jives with your tourist example, the end of the age of sail or the age of steam seem like the best ways to figure. Napoleanic shipping made it through both sides essentially pirating up for a decade, so I would imagine 1/10 as a loss and shipping is relatively cheap and affordable.
    Quote Originally Posted by The Glyphstone View Post
    Vibranium: If it was on the periodic table, its chemical symbol would be "Bs".

  21. - Top - End - #21
    Ogre in the Playground
    Join Date
    Jul 2011

    Default Re: What loss rate of starships would prevent interstellar shipping?

    Short answer: Whatever loss rate you want. Starship-flavored age-of-sail space opera is already nonsense that requires a huge suspension of disbelief on the part of the audience to accept. Just go with whatever makes the game the most interesting to play: A historical-ish rate of 1/7 to 1/4 is what I'd go for.



    Longer answer: It's difficult to imagine an interstellar civilization that engages in interstellar shipping at all, actually. Consider.

    The energy output released by a star is *massive* and capturing it for use is trivial, compared to the problem of interstellar flight.

    The energy required for manufacturing is *miniscule*, compared to the problem of interstellar flight. Moreover, the advanced technology of interstellar flight strongly implies the civilization will have the much easier tech of nanoassemblers, and having FTL in your setting makes this problem *worse*.

    About 98% of the mass of our solar system is in the sun: Starlifting can give you all the raw matter you could possibly ever want, save for some absolutely ludicrous gigastructure projects like a Birch World. Other stars have similar hyperabundances of metals, except for the very first red dwarfs that are still around from the very start of the stelliferous era. Even barring that, the energy requirements of nuclear fusion to create the elements you want, even using extremely wasteful particle accelerators, pale in comparison to the costs of boosting matter to interstellar flight speeds and then slowing it back down.

    The law of comparative advantage only works if the cost of specializing and trading is zero. Otherwise, if the comparative advantage of specializing is less than the cost of doing trade, then it makes more sense to just produce locally.

    With all of this in mind it seems like there's only three commodities worth moving between stars:

    1. Culture. But you don't need a ship carrying hard drives to transmit information, beamcasting arrays work way better. You *could* justify the ship-full-of-hard-drives approach with FTL, though, if you have FTL transport but no FTL communication. But you'd only need a "ship" literally the size of a shoebox (or however small you can make the FTL drive) to do that.

    2. Passengers. But if you're in a data-based civilization where all of your citizens are simulations on planet-sized servers, then they can also just be beamcast. And this is much more plausible, imho, than any imagined far future where we're still living in meat sacks, but that's a topic of discussion for another day.

    3. Magic. If there's some ridiculously useful unobtainium that's only found around certain star systems (or deep in interstellar/intergalactic voids) and cannot be manufactured locally, then yes, you can justify an interstellar shipping empire. It does not seem plausible however that such exotic unobtainium actually exists. And it makes no sense for these vessels to be crewed: Even if we allow the hypothetical that an interstellar civilization bans sophisticated AI out of fear of it going hostile (something I also find extremely unlikely but that's a topic for another day), such a vessel doesn't need to be much smarter than an ant. Indeed, we can easily produce such levels of automation with 60's-era tech, much less today. The complex calculations of orbital maneuvers are hard for humans to grokk but trivial for computers.


    There are two ways around this. First, you can have an FTL system that lowers your transport costs to practically zero. This introduces all sorts of its own problems. It still doesn't make any sense to have such vessels be crewed, though, unless your FTL system relies on psionic powers that only a biological human can use or something.

    Second, things change a bit when we're dealing with a proper K2-3 civilization rather than a classical space opera empire. The enormous waste of interstellar shipping for bulk goods is mind-boggling, but the massive wealth of such civilizations is even moreso. It's entirely conceivable that you could support such a network merely so that alcohol lovers can have Authentic French Champagne, even though it's atom-for-atom indistinguishable from what their replicators spit out, just because they have nothing better to blow their ridiculous energy budgets on.

  22. - Top - End - #22
    Troll in the Playground
    Join Date
    Jun 2011

    Default Re: What loss rate of starships would prevent interstellar shipping?

    Quote Originally Posted by Craft (Cheese) View Post

    3. Magic. If there's some ridiculously useful unobtainium that's only found around certain star systems (or deep in interstellar/intergalactic voids) and cannot be manufactured locally, then yes, you can justify an interstellar shipping empire. It does not seem plausible however that such exotic unobtainium actually exists. And it makes no sense for these vessels to be crewed: Even if we allow the hypothetical that an interstellar civilization bans sophisticated AI out of fear of it going hostile (something I also find extremely unlikely but that's a topic for another day), such a vessel doesn't need to be much smarter than an ant. Indeed, we can easily produce such levels of automation with 60's-era tech, much less today. The complex calculations of orbital maneuvers are hard for humans to grokk but trivial for computers.
    While that's true on an interstellar basis, in a single system there will still be shipping between locations of high energy (say, an antimatter plant in low solar orbit, turning solar fusion power into storable antimatter power) and locations of plentiful resources, and also regions with stable habitable enviroments.

  23. - Top - End - #23
    Firbolg in the Playground
    Join Date
    Feb 2013

    Default Re: What loss rate of starships would prevent interstellar shipping?

    Yes, but it would be a complete waste to use starships in that situation instead of low end systemships. And that only matters until you set up a power plant closer to the customers so as to get rid of the inefficient transmission lag.

  24. - Top - End - #24
    Firbolg in the Playground
     
    Planetar

    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Location
    Raleigh NC
    Gender
    Male

    Default Re: What loss rate of starships would prevent interstellar shipping?

    I'm not convinced; by that same logic we shouldn't need to ship food from South America to Europe and North America, but in fact this happens so frequently there are whole countries that are utterly dependent on imported food. It is literally cheaper to grow the food and ship it thousands of kilometers across an ocean than it is to grow it locally -- at least, at the scale which industrial societies, supporting so many software engineers and accountants and journalism majors and other non-farm people, require.

    Heck , back in 1849 Laundry was shipped from San Francisco across the Pacific and back . It was a better deal, for a short time, because this was during a gold rush and people were far too busy chasing the mother lode to set up a laundry business.

    So, for there to be an interstellar trading empire, all your need is for shipping costs to be lower than it is to ship domestically.

    One way to do this might be if we ever discover Jump-gate technology, or Niven/Pournelle's Alderson points, wherein transit from one point to another is instantaneous , but travel in regular space is extremely slow. In such a case, it might be easier and shorter to transit from one jump point to another in a star system than it would be to travel across the entire star system in regular space. Or again, depending on the geometry, it might be cheaper to travel through a jump network through several star systems to get back to another point in the original solar system than it would be to travel across the system via normal means.

    This would also allow for navigational choke points, similar to the Bosphorus Straits or the Panama Canal, which could be blockaded and fought over by competing factions.

    Respectfully,

    Brian P.
    "Every lie we tell incurs a debt to the truth. Sooner or later, that debt is paid."

    -Valery Legasov in Chernobyl

  25. - Top - End - #25
    Ogre in the Playground
    Join Date
    Jul 2011

    Default Re: What loss rate of starships would prevent interstellar shipping?

    Quote Originally Posted by pendell View Post
    I'm not convinced; by that same logic we shouldn't need to ship food from South America to Europe and North America, but in fact this happens so frequently there are whole countries that are utterly dependent on imported food. It is literally cheaper to grow the food and ship it thousands of kilometers across an ocean than it is to grow it locally -- at least, at the scale which industrial societies, supporting so many software engineers and accountants and journalism majors and other non-farm people, require.

    Heck , back in 1849 Laundry was shipped from San Francisco across the Pacific and back . It was a better deal, for a short time, because this was during a gold rush and people were far too busy chasing the mother lode to set up a laundry business.
    I acknowledge this: Shipping in modern times is extremely cheap so long as you don't care about it being too fast, which you generally don't for bulk goods. If you have an FTL system that's similarly ridiculously cheap, then you can justify such movements. Now, FTL is magic and you can make it work however you want, but keep in mind that for the most realistic FTL possibility we currently know of, the Alcubierre Drive, each FTL trip requires literal tons of energy (in the E=mc^2 sense). Any FTL system that's much better than that is simply unacceptable in any sci-fi setting that's trying to be scientifically plausible and logically coherent, imho.


    Something I didn't acknowledge in my post is that my analysis assumes that this is an economically rational, mutually beneficial and consensual arrangement. Things change if your colonies around other stars are also colonies in the historical sense and not just the sci-fi sense: The colonists are there to extract wealth from their star system and ship it back to the home system, at the colonists' expense, and this unequal arrangement is maintained by the home system having all the guns.

    (I still find this a tad implausible: Not because I think that humanity in the future will be more enlightened or whatever, but because you can accomplish the same thing with automated probes without the risk of your colonies secretly arming themselves and pulling a 1776 on you. And these probes don't need to be given an AI smart enough to be able to decide to rebel and threaten your home system.)

  26. - Top - End - #26
    Bugbear in the Playground
    Join Date
    Sep 2013

    Default Re: What loss rate of starships would prevent interstellar shipping?

    Quote Originally Posted by pendell View Post
    One way to do this might be if we ever discover Jump-gate technology, or Niven/Pournelle's Alderson points, wherein transit from one point to another is instantaneous , but travel in regular space is extremely slow. In such a case, it might be easier and shorter to transit from one jump point to another in a star system than it would be to travel across the entire star system in regular space. Or again, depending on the geometry, it might be cheaper to travel through a jump network through several star systems to get back to another point in the original solar system than it would be to travel across the system via normal means.

    This would also allow for navigational choke points, similar to the Bosphorus Straits or the Panama Canal, which could be blockaded and fought over by competing factions.

    Respectfully,

    Brian P.
    To support that, the English channel is the most heavily transited body of water on the planet, and if you ever get chance to see large numbers of freighter movements, you can literally see roads in the oceans, so a half-way decent commerce raider could easily sit near to those areas and intercept anything they wanted until convoys came into being.

    For example, one of the reasons Somalia became a haven for pirates is it's effectively on the routes into Suez, the Middle East and especially the oil ports.

  27. - Top - End - #27
    Titan in the Playground
    Join Date
    Oct 2010
    Location
    Dallas, TX
    Gender
    Male

    Default Re: What loss rate of starships would prevent interstellar shipping?

    Shipping stops when risks outweigh rewards. So you need to measure both risk and reward.

    If 98% of all ships return, but each one makes only a 1% profit, then it's overall a net loss.

    By contrast, if only 5% of all ships return, but each one that returns makes a profit that will build 21 more ships, then it's a net gain.


    Similarly, roughly 90% of all tech start-ups fail. But since the remaining 10% make more than ten times the investment costs, venture capitalists keep funding them.

    If they fund 30 startups, they expect to have around 27 bankruptcies -- and three Yahoos, MicroSofts, or the equivalent.

  28. - Top - End - #28
    Pixie in the Playground
     
    HalfOrcPirate

    Join Date
    Jul 2013

    Default Re: What loss rate of starships would prevent interstellar shipping?

    Quote Originally Posted by Kaptin Keen View Post
    This would be the very thing. It's hard to imagine a valid reason to import steel from Andromeda, when there's steel to be had right here on Earth. Unless of course space folding turns out to be possible, and dirt cheap - then, arguably, there's no valid reason not to.

    Other things may be unique, though. Life forms, for instance. Livestock or slaves. Or .. I dunno, some sort of handwavium, mined from neutron stars or whatever =D
    Right, shipping raw resources is probably out. It probably makes sense to ship some forms of finished goods, though, particularly in cases where the good is relatively cheap to produce yet capital-intensive (with modern computer processors being a good example of this). It might still be orders of magnitude less expensive to ship space processors to Alpha Centauri at a 99% cargo loss rate than to build a new space chip-fab there, and ditto for any other goods that fall into this category (space pharmaceuticals?).

    It also makes sense to ship information, since the information density of storage media has been increasing much more rapidly than transmission speeds (notably causing "IP over Avian Carriers" to consistently beat out network transmission pretty substantially whenever tested, even though it was intended as a joke) and information is expensive to produce and simple to replicate (so, again, it's completely viable to send out a hundred ships and have one get through with your goods).

    One of the other posters mentioned that cultural media could be transported in this way, but information transfer certainly wouldn't be limited to cultural media. Technical data in particular would be huge; even if the destination has replicators that can make anything of consequence, they still need to be told how to do this. Each organization is also going to have their own information that they might not necessarily want to share over an open channel, depending on how encryption/FTL communication works in the setting. (Shipping CBI, state secrets, and the like via courier is likely to be more secure so long as the hazards to the ships are natural -- if half the losses are due to pirates this may not apply, unless there's a way to guarantee that the ships self-destruct in these cases.)

  29. - Top - End - #29
    Dwarf in the Playground
     
    Imp

    Join Date
    Jan 2019

    Default Re: What loss rate of starships would prevent interstellar shipping?

    We don't currently produce anything that could not be relatively easily be created in any star system, so it is hard to consider what you would ship. We are also changing very fast at the moment. Constructions that take 200 years are not worthwhile at the moment. They have been in the past though, and when tech slows down they may be in the future.

    The other major consideration is that there are places in the universe where conditions exist that we could not replicate. A factory that uses a magnetar's fields would be entirely dependent on material imports and may be able to export something unavailable otherwise. Loss rate and travel time would affect the price of the exports and the viability of the factory, but if the export is valuable enough any loss rate would be conceivable.

  30. - Top - End - #30
    Bugbear in the Playground
    Join Date
    Sep 2013

    Default Re: What loss rate of starships would prevent interstellar shipping?

    Quote Originally Posted by Fat Rooster View Post
    We don't currently produce anything that could not be relatively easily be created in any star system, so it is hard to consider what you would ship. We are also changing very fast at the moment. Constructions that take 200 years are not worthwhile at the moment. They have been in the past though, and when tech slows down they may be in the future.

    The other major consideration is that there are places in the universe where conditions exist that we could not replicate. A factory that uses a magnetar's fields would be entirely dependent on material imports and may be able to export something unavailable otherwise. Loss rate and travel time would affect the price of the exports and the viability of the factory, but if the export is valuable enough any loss rate would be conceivable.
    If you've got a colony world (maybe you've done a land grab and now need to defend it against other powers/corporations), you may need to transport in food, new colonists, equipment, troops. More developed worlds might, as you say, be exporting exotic items produced by local environmental conditions (which could potentially include things like pharmaceuticals produced on a single world due to the local star's output), and at an extreme, you may have a factory world (like a hive world in 40k) that's got a lot of industrial capacity, but all their own resources are exhausted, and it still makes sense to import food and water to support the workers and raw materials to that world for processing rather than relocate those industries and workers closer to the mines.

    Politics and policies may also have an effect - people may not want polluting industries on their nice clean worlds, certain animals and plants may be environmentally destructive if introduced on other worlds for farming, or may not survive if transplanted from their native world, but can be imported as food or secondary products like leather or bonemeal fertiliser if properly processed, corporations could keep their facilities at a distance so as not to pay certain taxes and so on.

    And depending on your particular universe, you may have similar requirements and issues with intra-system shipping as well as, or possibly instead of, interstellar travel.

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •