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Fabrication Era

(Historically 2040-2090CE)

Overview

The Fabrication Era was a period that represented a technological transformation of society.  It was a period tin which society and manufacturing became completely data-based.  From the development of a mostly automated economy, to increased life spans, to clean energy, to a burgeoning spacefaring civilization, this period completely supplanted the Industrial Age in most aspects of society.

Materials

Advanced materials and nanofabrication dominated the Fabrication Era.  Cheap, smart and moderately flexible composites such as plastcrete revolutionized structural design, creating durable and morphable buildings.  Effective large-scale carbon nanotube construction allowed for massive structures including multi-kilometer skyscrapers, city-spanning arcologies, sea-spanning bridges and orbital beanstalks.

The first practical nanofabrication plants allowed the cost-effective construction of industrial and consumer goods from constituent molecules under nanomechanical control.  These first nanofabricators required large vacuum chambers for effective operation, limiting their operation to large enterprises.

Improved nanoconstructed superconductors operated at temperatures up to 250K, allowing refrigerated, but practical, operation of highly efficient electronic devices and power distribution grids.

Energy

The first economically viable fusion plants, utilizing helium3/deuterium or pure deuterium reactions, provided a robust non-polluting source to large energy grids.  Experiments in protium fusion aided by CNO enrichment produced net positive results, but these reactors were only economical in extremely large installations.  Experimental efforts to create meta-stabilized metallic hydrogen (MSMH) proved practical only in limited spaceflight applications, where compact storage fuel storage was highly desirable and overshadowed the production and energy costs associated with the process.

Compact and mass-produced energy Absorption and Storage Panels (ASP) provided over 90% efficiency in radiant energy conversion and allowed long-term energy storage at high energy densities.

Efficient energy grids and inexpensive energy stores such as fuel cells and ASP eliminated the few remaining applications for hydrocarbon internal combustion engines, producing a cleaner, quieter environment.

Transportation

Ground transport became nearly fully automated as smart vehicles operating on durable and data-enhanced plastcrete road networks.  Fast subsonic maglev trains remained economic for long-haul travel.  Evacuated tunnel transport became a viable option for subsurface transcontinental travel where surface conditions made transit problematic, such as across regions of extreme terrain or stormy seas.

Sea transports gained efficiency as near zero friction hulls allowed more efficient travel across or underneath sea surfaces and as ships converted from hydrocarbon turbines to fuel cells and stored power fuel sources. 

Highly malleable aircraft capable of vertical take-off and efficient subsonic flight dominated most air transport roles, from single-seat personal flyers to multi-hundred ton cargo transports.  Supersonic and suborbital aircraft utilizing advanced scram engines became viable options for most rapid long-range transport, with some vehicles developing full orbital capability.

Orbital transport was revolutionized by the availability of carbon nanotube composite structures capable of constructing orbital beanstalk elevator towers that reach to geostationary orbit.  Beanstalks greatly reduced the cost of high orbital transport and allowed economical exploitation of interplanetary resources.

Interplanetary travel, including the establishment of full-scale settlements, became possible through the lowered costs of space access and the development of more efficient ion and plasma engines, based on advanced fission or early fusion power plants.  Fusion drives and MSMH fuel storage made long-range interplanetary exploration more affordable, and the development of crew-rated solar and magnetic sail vessels allowed some interplanetary expeditions to exceed the limitations of onboard reaction mass.

Ramscoop interstellar vessels were marginally feasible during the Fabrication Era, though they required considerable investment and acceptance of risk.  Such vessels could travel little more than ten percent the speed of light and required planetary-scale investment to support a successful interstellar journey.

Information

The development of true implantable computers allowed direct access to information and allowed for the first realistic virtual reality networks, providing for a rich sensory interactive experience.  Implanted electronics and sensors also allowed "telepathic" control and communication with smart devices and other individuals.

Quantum computing left the laboratory to become an expensive but effect computational mechanism for controlling complex data networks.  Debates over computer sentience developed, though clear-cut examples of truly independent consciousness remained questionable.

Robotic devices improved in functionality, achieving superficially "human" responses, and capabilities, supplanting human labor in all low and moderately skilled roles.  Vehicle operation became entirely reliant on robotic controllers, and even manual overrides separated the human operator from the actual control surfaces by several layers of software.

Biology

Advanced nanomanipulation allowed for the full assembly of custom genetic structures and the effective design of multi-cellular organisms.  Despite standardize biological fabrication techniques, most multi-cellular customized organism designs required a natural template.  Beings as diverse as customized pets including semi-human Constructs became practical. 

Early nanomeds provided monitoring capabilities and remained permanently implanted in a patient's system, but required periodic replenishment. Custom microbes and nanomachine helpers guided by nanomed monitors could repair genetic and age-related damage to cells, effectively doubling lifespan and providing direct remediation to acute conditions.  Targeted microbes and nanomachines quickly cured the most aggressive cancers with few side-effects.  

Semi-organic smart clothing became commercially available, providing fashionable environmental control, monitoring and protection from trauma, often working in conjunction with monitor nanomeds and specialized nanomed injectors.

Improved cell regeneration techniques allowed for the regrowth of full limbs and organs, though the process required a period of months in a controlled environment.  Full body regeneration remained an experimental and expensive technique, often resulting in death of adverse affects.  Regeneration remained a questionable luxury for the wealthy and was limited to three full body regenerations, each removing decades off effective age.

To treat conditions that could not be immediately remedied or ease long-range deep space travel, early, hazardous nanomed-supplemented cryogenic hibernation became possible, allowing the preserving life in a carefully frozen and monitored state for century-long periods.

Cosmetic surgery utilized nanomed techniques and supplemental electronics, allowing enhanced muscular and skeletal strength and vastly improved sensory perception.  Further enhancements allowed considerable variation in cosmetic appearance, including the addition of semi-organic mechanical limbs.

Armament

Advances in low temperature physics and quantum dynamics allowed the creation of the Wexler Field device, a generator of a spherical disintegration zone that effectively penetrated any armor and created much less residual radiation than a comparably-sized nuclear weapon.  Delivered by aircraft or artillery, these devices could spread considerable damage, both within the disintegration zone and in the three or four diameter larger emergence zone where subatomic particles spontaneously reappeared.  Destructive ranges up to five kilometers in radius quickly became practical.

Conventional weaponry developed countermeasures to previous anti-missile technology, allowing projectiles to use stealth and decoys to penetration many defenses.  Small high- velocity smart bullets continued to elude most point-defense systems.  Magnetically accelerated gauss cannons became practical vehicle-mounted close support weapons.

Beam weaponry, including x-ray laser, charged particle and plasma cannons became more portable, allowing more flexible vehicular use.  Fusion power sources remained limited to large seagoing and spaceborne vessels.  Power cells and rapid discharge batteries were the typical power sources for smaller vehicular and hand-held weapons.

Semi-autonomous vehicles and robots could perform most military missions, but remained susceptible to electronic countermeasures and unsuited to complex environments and close combat near civilian targets.

Infantry weaponry remained focused on slug throwers that fired increasingly sophisticated smart munitions.  Personal electronics allowed enhanced sight and hearing, tightly integrated with a VR network to provide battlefield information.  Muscle and skeletal implants could greatly increase the strength of soldiers.  Body armor evolved to provide protection from small arms and many forms of radiation, to provide near invisible camouflage and to actively heal and sustain the body for days of combat.  Enhanced powered suits remained specialty equipment for extremely hostile environments and heavy weapons support.

Personal

Full access to VR networks and essentially "telepathic" control of appliances and vehicles promoted a sedentary lifestyle for many.  Access to gene therapy and advanced cosmetic treatments compensated for an inactive lifestyle, but often resulted in depression and addiction to mood-alternating substances.  Cosmetic alterations became common enough for the wealthy to change appearances with fashion whims and for the middle class to display a unique or desirable exterior.  Sensory, muscular and skeletal enhancements became an available but expensive option for many individuals.

Personal dwellings became data-rich, customizable environments, often controllable by a sub-vocalization, glance or gesture.  Personal transportation became fully automated, with morphable land and air personal vehicles affordable to most who required individual transport.  Orbital travel became affordable to many, especially after the advent of beanstalks.  Interplanetary travel remained a purview of governments or subsidized one-way colonists. 

Life expectancy for wealthy individuals who chose regeneration therapy could reach three hundred years.  The middle class, who could afford advanced nanomed-supplemented therapies could expect to live nearly two hundred years, while those receiving basic therapies could still expect a lifespan of one hundred fifty years.  The elderly often spent the last few decades of their long lives confined to robotic-assisted strollers and living increasingly VR-dominated existences; with effective VR and pain management, the last few years of life for the middle and upper classes often passed in a dream-like state.

Society

Automation of most manufacturing and simple service jobs created an employment crisis, dividing society into the specialist and managerial middle and upper classes and into the unemployed lower classes, who existed mainly as consumers of entertainment and household goods.  Growth of hobby and craft clubs supplemented this decreased need for employment in a data, bio-medical and entertainment-based economy.  To maintain economic balance, most societies chose to either subsidize the poor or to encourage an economy for crafts, personal services and other functions for which robots and created organisms proved unsuited.  Extreme alternatives to these solutions included inefficient egalitarian work programs or the development of a permanent subjugated underclass.

Specialist and managers often worked for just a few decades of their two or three century lifespans, retiring before the age of sixty to pursue personal interests.  In many societies, the leisure industry became dominant.  Social apathy and VR addiction among the upper classes and agitation among the lower classes were common conflicts.  In some societies, low birthrates among the long-lived wealthy contrasted with high birthrates among the shorter-lived poor, creating economic and social disturbances subject to repression or revolution. 

A Fabrication Age society required a population exceeding ten million to develop and had the potential to maintain itself indefinitely across an interplanetary scale.

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