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Quantum Era

(Historically 2150-2200CE, 2460-2540CE, 4800-5000CE maximum)

Overview

The Quantum Era represented the pinnacle of the Technical Age, with maturing nano, bio and data technologies providing the opportunity for a comfortable, robust interplanetary society.  Challenges posed by the development of potentially dominant artificially created sentient beings and blended realities were matched by opportunities arising from inexpensive fabrication and early quantum hyperstring technology that heralded the potential of society to evolve into an Interstellar Age civilization.

Materials

Advanced nanocomposites and hybrid nanomed-enhanced semi-biological materials evolved in the Quantum Era, allowing preprogrammed or self-reproducing structures, devices and vehicles to become available, though such complex "living machines" often had motile or intelligence limitations imposed by cost or legal sanction.

Fabrication boxes scaled down to five cubic meters volume, allowed widespread use of nano construction techniques, replacing nearly all forms of manufacturing, and, in conjunction with living machines, allowing primitive self-replicating non-organic organisms to emerge.

Improved molecular design permitted the development of high temperature superconductors, operating at up to 600K, allowing near universal utilization of superconducting capabilities in industrial applications. 
Note: After the Mech Plague, Mech-resistant superconducting materials were limited to 450K.

Energy

Protium fusion reactors continued to improve during the period, developing better shielding and scaling down ten tons mass and five cubic meters volume.  Meta-stabilized metallic hydrogen (MSMH) became a universal storable fuel for fusion reactors.

Energy Absorption and Storage (ASP) cells remained universal stores of power, reaching nearly 99% efficiency in radiant energy capture, nearly doubling in energy storage density and ranging down to the microgram size for nano applications.

Transportation

Most distinctions between ground and air personal transport vanished in the Quantum Era, with the adoption of increasingly inexpensive and safe morphable ducted air cars capable of sustained near sonic flight.  Remaining rail networks utilized vacuum trains traveling at hypersonic velocities in elevated or subsurface tunnels.

Fusion-powered air transport virtually supplanted surface water transport, even for bulk materials, except in underwater routes that remained serviced by sleek, high speed submersible craft, often capable of triphibian (submersible, water surface and air) travel.

Long distance air and orbital travel effectively merged, with most commercial (and some private) long-range aircraft capable of hypersonic and at least suborbital performance.  Transorbital shuttles became common, lowering the economic viability of low orbit and older beanstalk stations to support interplanetary travel and commerce; however, orbital spaceports still provided an important bridge between transorbital and interplanetary travel.  Viable beanstalks utilized high-speed vacuum tubes to compete with the speed and efficiency of fusion-powered shuttles.

With the development of practical implementations of hyper-string theory, early pseudo gravity repulsors could be manufactured during the Quantum Era, though such devices were rarely cost-effective compared to air-breathing hypersonic craft or to fusion or plasma propelled transorbital shuttles.  Repulsors were incapable of providing effective transport outside the steep gravity well of a planetary body.

Interplanetary craft benefited from smaller, lighter and more powerful fusion plants and a doubling in efficiency of higher thrust fusion and ion drives, resulting in cheaper and faster interplanetary travel that effectively eclipsed magnetic and solar sail vessels in all rolls except bulk transport or sport applications.  Smaller and more efficient ramscoops became viable means of Oort cloud and interstellar travel.  But interstellar expeditions where still decades long journeys of discovery or settlement, restricted to one third light speed.

Where theoretical understanding of composite fundamental forces and hyper-string fields existed, the technologies of the Quantum Era allowed for the construction of early first hyper-string pseudo gravity (HSPG) devices, including pseudo gravity repulsors and gravstar drives.  While pseudo gravity repulsors were often only cost-effective for prolonged operations near or within gas giants, gravstar drive provided a method of interstellar travel that could exceed the speed of light, though they remained limited by the engineering constraints of the period to a maximum velocity of three times light speed.

Information

Clear examples of quantum computer sentience became commonplace during the Quantum Era, though sentience exceeded the capacities of independent humanoid-sized robotic units.  Though buildings and vehicles were capable of full sentience and possessed independent personalities, cultural and practical restrictions often led to more narrow and limited machine consciousness, complete with redundant overrides and safeguards.

More advanced nanomed circuitry allowed for further integration of cybernetics, for "mind-control" of networked devices and for "blended realities" where the VR interface could seamlessly overlay actual inputs and allow individuals to experience and interact with the real world through a personal VR-enhanced interface.

Biology

Improved nanomed implants aided medical monitoring and life extension, slowing the effective aging process to one third of the natural rate, and combating all recognized diseases and injuries at very high efficiencies.  These implants could provide proactive defenses against degenerative conditions caused by excess bed rest or zero gravity environments, aiding both the maintenance of passive VR addicts and the lives of interplanetary residents on planetoid settlements.

Implanted nanomed devices supplemented cybernetic prosthetics, allowing quick implants of artificial muscles and organs.  All medical techniques became based on reprogramming or supplementing mechanical or biological nanomed particles within an organism, allowing repair or modification of cellular structures.  Advanced brain modeling and neural regeneration allowed the effective enhancement or repair of memory and the creation of "implanted experiences", including the learning of skills and languages.

The safety and speed of hibernation techniques dramatically improved, allowing for reliable suspension of interstellar colonists or "future tourists" stored for decades or centuries in monitored cold sleep.

Armament

Lowered energy production costs led to the first cost-effective anti-matter munitions, though regulations and sensibilities usually limited their use, especially against planetary targets.

Direct fire beamed weapons supported by fusion or ASP power remained dominant in offensive warfare, but small, smart, fast and stealthy projectiles continued to survive in niche applications and served well against less sophisticated targets.  Gamma ray lasers and powerful "neutral" particle accelerators dominated long-range weaponry in both planetary and space combat.  Powerful and adaptable electromagnetic fields protected against lower frequency lasers and plasma or charged particle weapons.

Difficulties with cyber warfare and the high electromagnetic noise of shielding fields limited combat use of sophisticated artificial intelligences, so most vehicles required operator intervention at some level.  Robotic troops continued to prove unreliable against cyber warfare and advanced electromagnetic countermeasures.

Powered armor continued to improve for infantry soldiers, with redundant system combating cyber attacks and suits with gaining limited protection against charged particle weapons.  A battlesuit could sustain its soldier for up to two weeks in environments ranging from vacuum to corrosive atmospheres.  Personal weapons included sophisticated gauss rifles and powerful soft gamma laser rifles.  Portable plasma rifles, though available, proved useful only against infantry and unshielded structures and caused considerable collateral damage.


Personal

More advanced VR networks and overlays helped alleviate most of the passive VR addiction common to earlier eras by providing for blended realties, where individuals could merge virtual worlds with real experiences.  Combined with the potential to alter, implant and improve memories and skills, a well-connected participant in a VR network could claim that much of reality was optional, though another observer would perhaps perceive events, environments and consequences completely differently.

Highly stylized and adaptable skin suits gained better abilities to isolate the wearer from internal and external needs, providing up to a week of independent support.  When occasionally connected to maintenance outlets, such suits could became permanent extension of individuals, providing sustenance, waste expulsion and rich VR-supplemented sensory inputs.  Advanced nanomed implants could allowed limited and time-consuming self-morphing of features, making personal appearance even more of a fashion statement, especially for the wealthy.

Improved, apparently "living", nanocomposite-based structures and furnishings provided a quickly-configurable, rich internal environment for most individual dwellings.  Home fabrication chambers became available, though cost precluded use by all but the richest individuals.  Most consumer goods were affordable by nearly all of society and such goods were often disposable or easily replaceable items.

Personal transports with hypersonic or orbital capabilities became affordable during this period.  Interplanetary travel became cheaper and faster, allowing leisure travel between planetary destinations to become a mature industry, with a successful middle-class individual reasonably able to afford annual vacations to transorbital destinations, to experience the occasional planetary outing and to enjoy a once a century grand tour of a solar system.

Nanomed implants pushed life spans beyond two hundred fifty years for most individuals, though regeneration therapies were required to achieve a three or four hundredth birthday; even with the best therapies, no individual could expect to survive for five hundred years.  Cybernetic and VR supplements eased the frailties of the elderly for the last five decades of their extended lives.

Society

Individuals with managerial, entrepreneurial, creative or highly technical skills continued to find employment opportunities in a Quantum Era society, though the need for full-time or extended employment decreased.  Most stable societies could afford to provide basic services and a small stipend to all individuals, leading to a large leisure class dependent on a vast array of entertainment products and services.

Technological challenges posed by truly sentient computing nodes and potentially superior artificially developed organisms did create the potentials for the obsolescence of naturally evolved Humans.  Most societies countered that threat with regulations and safeguards that ranged from the cooperative, leading to societies composed of all sentients, to the preemptive, ensuring the dominance of Human capabilities, to the restrict control of non-Human sentients or to the outright ban on non-Human sentience.  The more restrictive the ban, the more likely a society would remain mired at Quantum Era technological levels or revert to a Nano Era society over time.

The intrusive potential of VR implants, blended reality and mind manipulating therapies provided benefits in criminal remediation, but also provided the opportunity for repressive regimes or unscrupulous organizations to "reprogram" individuals, changing memories, identities and environments to obscure reality to a remarkable extent.

Quantum Era societies could evolve out of any successful Nano Era civilization and maintained the potential to remain viable for indefinite periods, limited only by the lifespan of their sun.  Using early HSPG technology, such societies could even alter the orbits of whole worlds, albeit slowly, to counter the increasing luminosity of aging stars.  Stable, productive interplanetary societies stretching out into the Oort cloud were possible with Quantum Era technology.  Interstellar exploration and settlement remained the work of lifetime expeditions, and though the establishment of colonies up to dozens of light years distant using ramscoop or gravstarship technology was possible, contact between the home system and the colonies remained limited and expensive, leading to an extremely distributed government, at best.

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