Spotlight on:

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The Republic of Sunset

“Not Thickness of Chains but Strength of Ideals” Erika Silaco

Category: Civil Rights Lovefest
Civil Rights:
Superb
Economy:
Frightening
Political Freedoms:
Superb

Regional Influence: Eminence Grise

Location: The Vast

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5

Art and Giant Robots.

The Many Species of Sunset


With forty-five different sentient species and
sub-species in the Republic, one of the
questions often asked by visitors is 'Where
are all the different cultures?'

The answer to that is that they are all around
but that in some cases they are hard to spot
or even differentiate from the broader culture
of the Republic. While Sunset culture tries to
present itself as open and inclusive, this is
also somewhat self-selecting. Cultures and
civilizations that differ wildly from that of the
Republic will often have very little
representation and this only by those who are
adventurous, inquisitive, or curious. Since
these are some of the defining aspects of
civilization in the Republic, those species that
hail from cultures that either do not include
these aspects or outright scorn them often
wholly exclude themselves and do not seek to
maintain company with it.

This also means that a lot - the majority - of
species that can be found in Sunset originate
from civilizations that have some or all of
these as key virtues. Thus they are often
quick to adapt and adopt to the culture and
technology of those around them; The Melting
Pot of Sunset Culture and Society.


Welcome to the World of Tomorrow!
Sunset's culture is very much based in the old American West Coast. Innovation is valued as is education and a willingness to experiment. Trying something new, even if it fails, is seen as better than holding to a stagnant tradition. Creating a new product, seeing it through to launch, and then turning around and designing better is seen as an artform. Creating a whole new industry, even at the cost of an old one, is acceptable and encouraged.

This has its upsides and downsides. The average Sunset citizen is on the cutting edge of technology and innovation. If it is new and interesting they have it or they know about it. Give them a packet of seeds and tell them to grow their own food? They'll be lost. Except that they'll immediately look it up, learn all about it, and start to specialize as one group has a great idea how to grow food faster and another how to grow food where it couldn't be grown before. It's a very can-do culture without a lot of room for 'no'.

A big portion of why Sunset is the way it is is because of information. The Internet is everywhere. Mesh networking, the Internet of Things; It is all a reality in Sunset. Coupled with ubiquitous and cheap real-time communications across galactic distances and you have the potential for amazing interactions that just wouldn't be possible even in the modern era.

You can meet someone in a bar, fall in love with them, move in together, have a child together, go to a bunch of PTA meetings, get a divorce, and get back together all without having ever physically met the other person.

The cute guy at the end of the bar? A hologram; He's there to have a night out with his friends who are off-world on a business trip. The first kiss? Happens at sunset in a virtual world that feels nearly as real as this one. The person in the bed next to you? A virtually inhabited drone that looks and feels exactly like he does. Half the time it's just a robot that does the dishes but the other half it's great in bed and loves to cuddle on the couch while you watch TV.

Genetic material sampled in his home on far-away Monolith Station is re-created, added and mixed with your own by the artificial womb in the closet. Your child is born nine months later with the same blue eyes as her father but her mother's nose and he's there, in the room, to watch her first steps. When she starts school it's in a virtual classroom that she accesses from her own neural interface.

After a few years you meet someone new; a cute girl who's not even the same species but gives you that kick you've been looking for. A year later there's an angry breakup and he's waiting for you again at the end of the bar. Life in Sunset is like that. For many people who come from a traditional background it is as alien as stepping off the shuttle to hold negotiations with the Klingon Ambassador.

And it is not as far away as you think.


Cultural Exports
Much of what Sunset exports culturally is based on what it imports. If a new civilization is encountered, their fashions might be examined, interpreted, deconstructed, and re-interpreted in a hundred different ways. Then those new designs will be exported throughout Sunset's economic sphere by hundreds of different companies who are looking to create a new fashion trend that they will ride straight to the top.

The same applies with nearly anything. A new plant species might be found on a far-away world, prepared for cultivation on Anuke, and then grown on a dozen different worlds. Introduced into new recipes or added to old, it could turn into a major phenomenon or a flash-in-the-pan flop. Small animals could be the latest purse-pet or dropped into the sewers in their hundreds.

That said, Sunset does have its own cultural phenomenons. Many of these are based in the Republic's liberal social attitudes, multi-species population base, and high-tech nature. Below are just a few examples of popular culture elements, in the form of media and entertainment icons, that have found their way into the wider galaxy.


Celebrity, Paparazzi, and the Media
For those who are used to the flash of cameras, the press of photographers, and the annoying called of 'Hey Kate! Over here!', Sunset might look like a delight for celebrities, politicians, and others who attract more than their share of interest and are looking to get away from the media buzz. It is rare to see a camera and even more rare to see a crowd of fans following a celebrity around and studying their every move.

Because it's still happening; You just can't see it.

For the Kardashians of the day, for those who are famous because they are famous, there is the option to stream every single thing they do, see, touch, or talk about out to their legions of fans every second of every day. And when they are asleep and the cameras go black? We can either see their dreams or we can see the highlights from the past day. If a celebrity doesn't want us inside their own head? They can have one of their entourage record it and an expert system curate, sending out the best moments in the life of another one-hit wonder before the inevitable collapse.

That doesn't mean there aren't still the casual snaps of people in private moments though. Almost everyone has a camera in their head now. That couple who just walked by Tanya Zaldano, celebrity host of SNN Nightly News? They took a picture of her with her butt hanging out of those short-shorts. But you can bet that she wanted people to see that butt and those shorts - especially that designer label - as well. With a population of twenty seven billion people to draw on the next celebrity is often just around the corner and fame is very much fleeting.


Sexism and Getting Ahead
The question has come up as to whether Sunset society is sexist.

It should be obvious that no one should be afraid to use whatever tools they have to accomplish their objectives as long as they do not directly harm others. If a woman - or a man - is physically attractive then they can and may use that. To insist that they not would be the same as telling someone who is smart to not use their intellect, or someone that is strong to not use that strength. Do they have to? No - As long as the individual is making the choice as to what tools they are willing to use and they understand that they might be discarding a more effective tool it is then their choice and their responsibility.

Does that mean that there are not individuals in the Republic who are sexist? No, of course not. But is it a crime? No, but it is dumb.

Not unrelated, it should be pointed out that there are a lot of different species in the Republic. A Human female who flashes a lot of skin isn't going to be automatically appealing to an individual of a different species. Their cultural norms might associate a lack of clothing with temperature control or a period of mourning or any number of different possible meanings. That should also serve to remind those who do find her attractive that projecting their own values onto her is futile; She could be indicating sexual availability, showing off the tattoo that indicates she has reached a new level of spiritual enlightenment, or simply keeping cool on a hot day.

Furthermore, it should be absolutely noted that in a liberal and open society, women and men will use sex as a tool and it's your own damn fault if you fall for it. Sex sells after all, and buying a product, engaging a new client, or promising a raise because of a perceived offer of sexual availability is on the buyer's head just as if the salesman had been careful to lead you to the blue car because of the color of your shirt. If that transaction works out for you, great. But don't be surprised if that really cute guy pulls out an Augmented business card noting his services if you try to make an advance.


...and?
Sunset society and culture is extremely tolerant of variances in sexual orientation. The typical reaction on learning that someone is gay, lesbian, andro-sexual, robo-sexual, or nearly any other personal proclivity is 'And?'

We just don't care.

The only exceptions are sexual exploitation of children and non-consensual activity; Child pornography, child prostitution, rape, sexual slavery, and similar. Other than that it's your deal.

With that out of the way, Sunset is often considered highly sexual by visitors and outside observers while conveniently forgetting that their own populations are increasing year-over-year as well. The difference is that, in the Republic, individuals who are reaching sexual maturity and will then likely be having sex are going into it with their eyes open. They know how things work, what to expect, and what to do. Part of this is education and part of it is culture; The pseudo-morality based shunning of sexual activity that occurs in many other cultures simply does not occur.

That isn't to say that one will walk down the street and find themselves confronted by a couple or even an individual engaged in obvious sexual activity. There are places, such as organized 'Red Light Districts' where this can be true, but it's also a matter of not forcing the rest of society to watch. Plus there are questions of jealousy, local ordinances, health codes, and the chance that you might be mocked for poor technique, and any number of other scenarios that make it simply better to be done in a reasonably private space.

Once again, it must be emphasized that there are a lot of different species and cultures inside of Sunset which means that, at least on a national level, there are no laws about things like statutory rape. Part of the point about educating young people about sex and sexual activity is to reduce predation. By encouraging them to be open about their sexuality and their needs, it allows parents and other guardians to more easily observe when a child is being exploited or is under that risk.


But What About My Religious Sensitivities?!
Multiply the large number of sentient species times the number of discrete cultures within those species times the number of religions partially or completely present within those cultures. If any attempt were made to satisfy even some of those religious sensitivities everything anyone does would be illegal. Thus the government's position on the subject of religion, and especially as it pertains to consensual activity of any kind between individuals who understand the risks and rewards of that activity, is to take no position. Whenever a statement begins with 'I am offended by...' is used, it is always considered an invalid argument unless followed by a concrete example of physical harm being done directly by one individual to another.


Gambling and Gaming
The people of Sunset love both games of skill and games of chance. While lotteries are largely seen as a tax on stupid people, they still exist and they exist on a scale that makes the lotteries of the Twenty-First Century look like small potatoes. The foremost of these is the Billion Balls; A daily lottery with one billion tickets and a prize of One Billion DiCoins. The drawing is held every day at midnight Mars-local time and the next round of tickets are then immediately sold, often selling out within minutes.

There are also any number of casinos and other similar places where one can enjoy games of chance and these often have secondary themes to their games. A notable example would be the WyldSyde Casino suspended over the waters that pour out of the Vallis Marineris reservoir into the Vadus Chryse. A combination of casino and theme park, people can bet on various events such as which roller coaster might return to the station first, a wet t-shirt contest, how much the biggest daily winner might win, or any number of other frivolities.

Far more common, however, is gambling based on skill. From eSport events with winner-take-all entrance fees to live boxing matches, martial arts contests, vehicle races, and similar, there is no shortage of possible ways for someone to make a buck or lose it. Most, if not all, games of skill in Sunset have something of a gambling aspect to them even if the contestants are limited to two individuals competing for the most points in an online real-time strategy game. Often this is how developers fund their creations; To play, one must place some kind of bet against an outcome with the odds usually favoring the game. Skilled players may be able to make money, but the developer wins in the end as tales of these winners only serve to bring in more players.


The Rat Race

With continued advances in technology and automation has also come tremendous changes in individual productivity and the work day. This change has also been necessitated by the lack of jobs; Large sectors of the economy are now fully automated and there are simply no longer enough jobs for each worker to have a full-time, eight-hour-a-day, job and this is a good thing. On the average most workers now put in a four hour day four days a week and this provides enough income to satisfy their basic needs plus significant extra. Rarely does an individual put in more than a six-hour day in any profession and even this is discouraged; Numerous studies have shown that worker productivity peaks and then drops after four hours and after six some of that work can even be negated.

This doesn't mean that people don't have anything to do for the rest of the day. Nearly everyone now has a second job, of sorts, in the form of education. Taking or teaching a class applicable to your chosen profession before or after work is the new normal and workers are expected to keep their skills sharp through re-training and furthering education. As with most levels of education in the Republic class sizes are small - typically three to four people - and this also requires a lot of teachers. Thus most people also teach or have taught, sharing their skills with those who are interested in acquiring them.

But once work is done and school has let out? It's exactly what one might hope for. People do things because they want to, not because they have to. Plenty of people hold second jobs in areas they want to work in or just enjoy doing. And there is always that long three-day weekend to look forward to.


A Culture of Technology

The following are either commonplace technologies in Sunset or are interesting things that one might encounter both rarely and commonly. Technology and culture are very tightly meshed; New developments or applications can inspire large changes in the culture while the culture can, in turn, inspire new technologies that make a particular cultural phenomenon that much more persistent.

Some of these synergies are not immediately obvious and can surprise even seasoned cultural observers. As is often the case, the young are frequently the source or the most immediate beneficiaries of these new elements. Given the overall liberal nature of the national culture, even the more extreme cultural elements are at least superficially accepted.


The Internet
Did You Know?
Sunset is a member of the IPv8 Consortium.

Block Range: 205.XXX.XXX.XXX.XXX.XXX

Is everywhere. Most schools have at least some if not all virtual components, people walking down the streets stream porn to their augmented reality, carry on a dozen different conversations with people all over the world and possibly in other star systems. Information spreads at the speed of wildfire and it lives forever.

While there are major service providers and network providers, much of the Internet is really an Internet of Things. Nearly everything that has a potential use for outside information or control is linked together via mesh networking nodes into a giant ad-hoc network that covers all of Sunset. Most nodes only have a range of a few dozen meters but larger nodes can cover kilometers and satellites boost this to planetary and ultimately interstellar ranges.

An important note: If it's important, don't put it on the Internet. This is one of the first lessons that every child is taught. While a power plant's monitoring system might be connected in order to allow the staff to access it remotely the control systems are not. This isn't to say that there are not hackers or system crackers in Sunset but while hacking attempts are possible, they are almost always accompanied by some kind of social engineering that gives the intruder physical access to the target system. Those that haven't learned this lesson are usually out of business the next day.


Cybernetics

Power Armor

Another common form of cybernetic
augmentation; power armor or even
more commonly power suits are
ubiquitous enough that one might see
a dozen or more every day. Police
officers typically wear full power armor
with integrated law enforcement
technologies; Laborers might wear a
power suit that augments their strength
and some commuters own a suit that
has flight capability so they can always
be on time to work.
From cybernetic implants that augment the user's reality to full prosthetic limbs and up to full body replacement, cybernetics are extremely common in Sunset. Most children receive their first implant when they are four to six years old or are attending school for the first time.

The average person on the street has a wireless data jack, mesh networking node, a combination entertainment / communications implant, and a data storage / retrieval implant. Also common are sensor suites (camera, microphone, etc) and holographic projectors. Less common are wired data jacks and these usually indicate that the wearer is either in the military or works in a high security environment.

Among the civilian population weapon systems and physical augmentation are not very common. Depending on your locality, weapon systems may or may not be allowed with a permit. Physical augmentation is a little more murky. Many common health conditions are treatable via implant and some of these implants can provide additional augmentation. The question of just who might be hiding what under their skin is why police officers in Sunset wear power armor.

Cybernetic limbs, especially arms and hands, are reasonably common. While flesh replacements are easily available, metal is often just a little cheaper. Unless a military model, they are usually as good as their flesh counter-part and there are very cheap versions that don't have as many touch receptors, manipulation speed, and similar. The baseline model is of average quality and is induction charged so you don't need to plug it in.

While not common, full cyborgs are not rare either. These often result from the use of the Decap-a-donut, listed later, and can be of any imaginable shape and function. Military cyborgs are typically either hulking monsters or nimble dancers but civilian models have had everything from tentacles to sexual apparatus to passenger compartments. It comes down to 'what you can afford'.


Augmented Reality
Tying into the widespread use of cybernetics, nearly everyone in Sunset utilizes some kind of augmented reality. This is like having your cell phone in your head except better. You can carry on real-time fully three-dimensional conversations with someone else, gather real-time information about your environment using your own senses, and many other possible activities. Importantly no one can see what you are doing. Want to watch some porn on your way to work? Manage your calendar? Have a conversation with your kids? Check in with their teacher? Pay your rent?

You can do all of it through your augmented reality, and more.

There are other uses as well. Especially powerful systems can do things like active environment overlays. Don't like how your apartment is always a mess? It's never messy in your reality. It could also be a Roman Villa, a beach on Sslaa VI, or an otherworldly alien environment. Don't like how your neighbor looks? He's now a small dog. Or, if your system is really powerful, you don't even know he's there. Even if he's talking to you your system filters him and only him out. You see a potted plant and hear... Nothing.

Augmented reality also interfaces well with drones. Simple control is, well, simple. A good system can also directly inhabit a drone, directly interpreting your actions as its own.


Artificial Intelligence

There are three forms of AI in Sunset: Expert Systems, Instinctive Intelligences, and Crafted Intelligences.

Expert and Instinctive Intelligences are linked, so we'll do those first. An Expert System is a computer system that is focused on one particular topic, area of study, or function. For example most starships are run by an expert system that knows, in extreme detail, how to run a starship. While gross functions are handled by the crew - go here, do this - the fine details are handled by the ship itself. 'Put the ship in a geo-syncronous orbit' is translated to 'Use these systems in this way to achieve that goal.'

Most Expert Systems in Sunset use something called an II Core (Instinctive Intelligence Core) to manage that system. The II Core is capable of learning, especially based on patterns of use, additional information, and intent as well as instruction. Depending on a non-complex formula that boils down to Mass x Input x Time, an II Core can become sentient. Since mass is the determining factor, a Core that is used for something very easy, like a robotic pet, will likely never become sentient. A human-brain sized unit likely will, and a very large unit will. Often within days.

A Crafted Intelligence is a system specifically built to be sentient. They are expensive and somewhat rare, mostly because their functions can generally be handled by an Expert System instead. That and because Artificial Intelligences (Crafted and Instinctive) are sentient, they are then subject to the same rules governing all other sentients. Why built a sentient robot if you're going to have to pay it and it might just find a new job?


Drones, Robots, and Androids
SKYNET is real! Protect your children! Seek shelter in the deep places of the earth! Stock up on canned food and shotgun shells!

Drones, and robots of all shapes and sizes, are extremely common in Sunset. From artificial pets that look and act just like cats and dogs to artificial pets that are also your child's first teacher and can instruct them in everything from reading and writing to ballet and piano, robots are everywhere. A flesh-and-blood conductor might walk the aisle of the maglev train that takes you to work in the morning, but the train itself is a robot. A robot sweeps the terrace at night. A robot assists in the operating room or even performs the surgery itself.

The widespread availability and low cost of automated systems has also eliminated most of the service sector and manufacturing jobs that exist in more low-tech economies. There are still some flesh-and-blood people in areas such as convenience food but they are usually there to monitor the equipment and to put a sentient face on your order. Automated systems have also increased everyday safety with driver-less vehicles essentially eliminating road accidents.


Inter-Stellar Travel and Communications
While not cheap, interstellar travel is both everyday and reasonably affordable in Sunset. One can board a maglev train on Mars, ride that up one of the various orbital elevators, transfer to a local shuttle, move through the Aurora Transit Gate to the mirror station above Ares, and then ride a nearly identical elevator back down to the surface. Depending on where you start and where you want to go, going anywhere in Sunset can take only a few hours and cost about as much as a modern international flight.

All of the Major Worlds in Sunset are linked via a network of SDF Aurora-Class Transit Gates. These transit gates are also linked to other gate networks. If another network uses any kind of wormhole system, it can potentially be linked to the Sunset network. Potentially being key. These are military stations and will not allow unrecognized traffic through.

These are more than just physical transport though; They also use their systems to transmit an unbelievably vast amount of information between all of the major worlds. Placing a phone call to your cousin who lives on Notch from Mars is as simple as pulling up their contact and hitting 'send'. Unless you are trying to virtually inhabit an entire starship, this traffic is essentially free. When combined with ubiquitous mesh networking essentially anywhere is reachable from anywhere with few exceptions.

Bandwidth is not the same as communication, however. For those living on or close to a Major World the amount of bandwidth is unlimited. An individual could be streaming several fully immersive shows or movies, hundreds of conversations, and be participating in a senses-complete massive multi-player online game all at the same time. For those living on a Minor Colony, such as Casablanca, that might drop to one or the other. Finally a Frontier World might have just enough bandwidth for back and forth messages at reasonable speeds; Web traffic or playing the 2170 equivalent of 'World of Warcraft'.


Free Energy!

Behind a lot of these technologies is an awful lot of infrastructure and a huge amount of industry and both of these rely on a lot of electricity. One of the most overlooked elements of Sunset's success is just how cheap and available energy is. Every community has access to one, or more, or dozens, of large industrial-scale fusion power plants. Most of these units are built deep underground where they are connected to an integrated utilities network that can handle the massive amount of electricity most people consume on a daily basis. And, importantly, it is nearly free. Given the scales of energy needed by industrial concerns, the average consumer is small potatoes and even the large industries pay very little for their power needs as a measure of total investment.

Given that electricity is cheap, most goods that require some kind of power will then get it from an induction-charged power pack (battery) that will only need to be left near a charging station when not in use in order to refill. Most of these now last for weeks at a time and charge very rapidly, so a few minutes will give your new toy several days of enjoyment.

More recently, it has become not just free energy but also free matter - or nearly free. As noted elsewhere, the Republic has instituted a Universal Basic Resources scheme that is in theory redeemable for a specific amount of matter - 1 DiCoin from an individual's UBR can be redeemed for 1 kilogram of matter. In order to affect this, all small communities and larger have an office where an individual can put in their order for whatever might be required. This same office also serves the needs of local manufacturers with shipments of raw materials arriving as-needed. These offices can produce either specific goods according to provided instructions or raw materials in bulk transport formats.


Decap-a-Donut

It's a donut that cuts your head off. Commonly found in the glove compartment of personal vehicles, emergency medical kits, and other places where traumatic bodily injury can possibly occur, the decap-a-donut is a metal or plastic ring that contains a powerful wire saw, surgical micrites, and a basic life support system. And sedatives. Lots of sedatives. When fastened around a neck and activated, the saw cuts the head off, clamps the arteries and veins, and hooks them up to the life support system. This will keep the head and brain alive as long as the power lasts.

The average DaD is a plastic tube about 1.5cm in diameter and about 50cm in length. They come in designer colors and often have a self-deploying 'bag' that will cover the whole head and the neck stump and features a convenient carrying handle. Advanced versions, such as those found in military or police vehicles, are thicker and have an advanced life support system that can allow the head to be conscious and even motile with either tiny spider-like legs or a small propulsion unit. Military versions also have an emergency beacon that is activated when the unit is activated. Someone who is critically injured can activate the unit, chop their own head off and it will then fly off.

It's as creepy and weird as it sounds.


Baby In A Box

It's an artificial womb. Commonly used by the infertile, the vain, and the busy, these toaster oven-sized units contain everything needed to create a new life. Insert a finger into the hole labelled 'A' and insert another into the hole labelled 'B'. Sometimes C and D as well. The unit takes care of the rest, as long as the DNA is comparable. Cheap units require the same species (and are often species specific), advanced units do not (and are usually not).

It is a lot less fun than making a baby the old fashioned way. But it does allow couples that might otherwise not have children to do so, such as homosexual couples or cross-species couples. Yes, you can have a baby with your dog. Yes, it's weird and will get you funny looks, even from Kitsune.

Especially from Kitsune.

For those who are interested, most of the many species that inhabit Sunset either are genetically compatible or their DNA-analog has been broken down and translated into a matching form that will allow it to be used in these systems. Typically only high-end units can perform this kind of cross-species mixing and they will usually have predictive units that will show what the results will be so that a couple doesn't end up with some kind of slug. Unless they happen to be slug people.


Cloning and Body Modification
If you're gonna cut off someone's head in an emergency, you better be able to give them a new body! In most cases, using fast cloning, it's possible to grow someone a new body for their free-range head in a few days. A day for most limbs, hours for organs. This also means that those with the cash can have new body parts grown to order. Yes, those parts. Various forms of personal enhancement are popular as is replacing a fat and unhealthy body with a skinny and svelte one.

Cloning a person is not illegal. But if you clone someone you've just created another sentient being which is then free to do what it wants to do. There's no cloning of popular celebrities just to keep them around for a conversation piece, you sad sack.

On occasion a body modification trend will sweep through and those on the cutting edge will do something extreme like replacing their skin with a latex catsuit, or sculpting their heads into bizarre shapes. Usually these trends are just that and fade away in a few months. In the end, most people stick to modifications that make their everyday lives easier, like implanted cybernetics, or those that make their lives more interesting such as sexual modifications.


What's in a Month?

A word about dates. As referenced in the Quick Takes, the Republic uses a decimal date system; YYY.MWD.HMS. By and large these segments are referred to as Years, Months & Weeks & Days, and Hours & Minutes & Seconds. For example 175.998.977 would be the Year 175 of the 9th Month, 9th Week, 8th Day, 9th Hour, 7th Minute, 7th Second. If a particular decimal happens to be '0' this is either not referenced - usually in casual conversation - or listed out as 'zero'. This can be tricky for those used to systems where there is no 'zero' month, day, etc, but most clocks and calendars will display both the official Republic Date & Time as well as their local equivalent. It is important to note that when official documents - including these Factbooks - reference date and time they are referencing the official format.


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The Republic of Sunset

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