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better today

Eisa, like Nanite Systems, takes place in the Better Today alternate timeline, which is an ad hoc pastiche of real historical events with the addition of significant milestones and inventions posited by previous science fiction writers. Political and cultural developments of significance, such as the collapse of the USSR to the release of Terminator 2, are largely unchanged.

Of course, many other, new things have happened, as colonies in space began in the 1970s and continue to the present day, giving the human race many new venues for creativity and discovery. The Star Atlas page contains some information on important settlements.

Note that many key breakthroughs depend explicitly on technologies that are, in the real world, inadequate to the task. For example, the proposed technology behind the Santei–Voet–Shortliffe network could never realistically produce strong AI. In other cases, theoretical inventions proved to be non-functional (e.g. the Thorne drive) or even hoaxes (e.g. sonofusion.) Our setting is thus truly retrofuturistic, in the same sense as steampunk.

Here are a few changes:

Permanent moonbase (1972)

The purpose of Apollo XVIII CSM-115 was to establish a research station on the lunar surface, suggested by Nixon as a means of ensuring NASA's funding did not continue to wane once American feet stepped on the moon. The placement of this base renewed the space race, with colonization of Mars as its ultimate destination. Investment into advanced technology by both sides increased dramatically after this point. While in reality the last three planned Apollo missions would have been simple surveys of other parts of the moon's surface, the success of this alternative Apollo XVIII is the point of divergence for the Better Today timeline.

The space program is (inevitably) the most drastically altered aspect of our setting. The American Skylab and Soviet Salyut stations were thus used as staging points for subsequent missions, and the Space Transportation System was eventually fully realized in the late 1970s. The equivalent Soviet program, Buran, was also operational by 1979.

Faster-than-light travel (1981)

Built around Einstein–Rosen traversable wormhole technology developed by Kip Thorne and others; achieved almost simultaneously by researchers in Boston and Moscow. This is generally known as the Thorne drive, and is the oldest form of faster-than-light (FTL) travel. It is still commonly used for most applications.

Following successful Thorne drive tests, the Americans cancelled their ambitions for Mars, instead choosing to settle with their control of the moon for the short term, and then to focus on extrasolar planets that would be more habitable. This strategic decision, one of the first made by President Reagan as he looked for means of controlling the budget, was met with widespread disapproval, but would prove highly beneficial in the long term.

Colonization of Mars (1982)

The first Martian colony, Utopia, was administered directly by the Kremlin as a closed city. It was a small facility, supporting only a few hundred researchers, mostly focusing on highly classified military projects.

It would not be until the USSR's collapse in 1992 that other countries would land on Martian soil.

Extrasolar colonies (1984)

By 1984, the first colonization ships from both the USSR and USA were prepared for departure. Eager to stake out territory, and with only limited technology available for exoplanet detection, these ships would often travel much further than necessary to settle worlds.

Dozens of colony ships were sent out over the following decade, including the Vakulinchuk, which would settle a small moon in the Algea system, soon named Eisa (also romanized as 'Aisa'.) Other early extrasolar colonies of note include Tei Tenga, Rax, Arcturus Prime, and Miraline.

Following the collapse of the USSR in 1992, Russian President Boris Yeltsin opened all former USSR space colonies up to the international community, strongly desiring to facilitate the smooth entry into the global economy without a significant risk of war. While Russia itself would eventually recant some of these policies and distance itself from Western influence following the election of Vladimir Putin, many state assets were shed at very cheap prices, and some, such as Eisa, were simply abandoned outright.

Robotic soldiers (1985)

A DARPA-initiated project with the University of Michigan’s Advanced Defense Research Group that was finished after the ADRG was reorganized as the Nanite Systems Corporation with assistance from the US Banking Consortium.

Strong AI (1987)

Credited to Nanite Systems engineers (including Koichi Santei and April Voet) using Edward Shortliffe’s work on expert systems with Paul Smolensky and Geoffrey Hinton’s work on restricted Boltzmann machines and backpropagation networks to mimic the function of the human brain; not all mechanistic details are understood.

The human genome project (1992)

Completed grossly ahead of schedule thanks to aggressive campaigning by Craig Venter about his shotgun sequencing technique. This work sparked a rapidly accelerated biotech field.

The genetic revolution (2001–2006)

In situ DNA editing (2001), stem cell de/redifferentiation (2003) using the CRISPR technique and other methods, ultimately permitting extensive reprogramming of living cells. By 2006, it was possible to fully replace an individual's genome and completely update the phenotype to match, making most plastic surgery obsolete.

Cold fusion (2005)

by Rusi Taleyarkhan et al. using their sonofusion method and mechanical intervention.

Arbitrarily programmable nanomachines (2006)

Appropriately developed by Nanite Systems researchers in New York. (True to the name, NS rapidly found uses for their new nanite technology in a wide range of applications, mostly manufacturing.)

Site-to-site teleportation (2011)

Based on miniaturization of previous FTL technologies.

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