(Historically 2310-2350CE, 2900-3250CE, some 6750CE+ maximum)
The Post-Material Era marked the end of the material economy and the beginning of a society free, in most practical ways, from the restrictions of the economics of scarcity. It marked a period where long-lived humans could exist in a society completely operated by machine intelligence, where the costs of a comfortable life approached zero and where interstellar travel and settlement became commonplace.
Macromolecular materials acquired the flexibility previously limited to nano-composites, allowing the creation of living metals, sturdy macromolecular constructs capable of rapid morphing and fabricated self-assembling. Living metal buildings could change shape and move across terrain, allowing for nomadic cities. Living metal assemblies could form the basis of sturdy towers that could act as anchors for world-spanning orbital rings.
Where extreme strength was necessary, compression construction techniques allowed the production of thin films of fully degenerate neutronium material. Neutronium could withstand massive forces and temperatures, making it suitable for starship armor on vessels that where able to fly though the outer portions of the stars themselves.
The first rapid fabrication booths, open fabricators capable of building simple items at a near real-time pace, provided the basis for an on-demand consumer experience, paving the way for post-materialist prosperity by providing universal access to all simple consumer goods.
Vacuum-derived antimatter continued to fuel the Post-Material Era. Vacuum distillers became smaller, more efficient and safer, scaling down to two tons, reaching energy multipliers of fifteen and utilizing strictly controlled positron traps and regulators. Distillers became nearly ubiquitous, appearing even on personal interplanetary vehicles. Highly secure and tamper-proof antimatter batteries scaling down to half a kilogram, provided near infinite power to smaller machinery.
Energy Absorption and Storage (ASP) panels continued to dominate in small autonomous power roles, though they remained essentially unchanged since the Vacuum Era. ASP capabilities permeated nearly all materials but neutronium.
Hyper-string pseudo gravity (HSPG) sleds, fusion powered and often controlled by sentient personalities, dominated personal travel at planetary and transorbital scales. Such vehicles could often travel at four to six gees pseudo-acceleration, allowing comfortable rapid transit to any location.
While personal and cargo HSPG sleds continued to dominate near planetary travel, the introduction of orbital and planetary-scale teleporters, capable of thirty thousand kilometer transfers in a standard gravity well and three hundred thousand kilometers in flat space, began to revolutionize planetary travel, providing safe, instantaneous and fairly inexpensive travel between any two linked teleport booths. Teleporter booths above fifty cubic meters volume remained unstable, and these size limitations and the costs of establishing a network continued to restrict teleportation to mostly passenger and light cargo links between urban centers.
Living metal and neutronium construction techniques allowed populous or ostentatious worlds to build orbital rings - weight-bearing structures below geosynchronous altitude - around their worlds. Vacuum trains sped to and among the residences and industries of the ring cities.
Space vessels continued to employ more efficient HSPG thrusters for unlimited travel at practical pseudo-accelerations of up to twelve gravities. All spacecraft incorporated artificial gravity and acceleration compensation, making transit through space as comfortable as sitting in a home. Interplanetary crossings often took just hours.
Interstellar travel was revolutionized by the development of microjump technology, allowing for billions of small jumps per second, rather than the single drastic transitions required by macrojump travel. Microjump ships were technically slower than their macrojump contemporaries and limited at first to sixty and later ninety meters in diameter, but they quickly supplanted macrojump vessels in all the specialized roles of high-speed communications and planetary destruction. A microjump vessel could travel 3.91 (later 5.86) light-years in a single day, but it could sustain such travel for weeks and it caused significantly less damage to occupants and electronics. Microjump travel proved suitable for artificial sentients, allowing for the first practical fully automated starships.
The minimum size of sentient computing devices continued to decrease after the advent of more advanced, or hyper-quantum (HQ), computing nodes. In the Post-Material Era, sentient computer cores could fit within a fifty gram implantable device, giving rise to sentient implants such as Artificial Companions. On the larger scale, HQ nodes provided the computational power required to cycle microjump drive starships and to provide accurate real-time modeling of population and economic trends.
HQ cores, micro-sentients and rapid fabrication combined to allow the production of realistic simulariums, combining internal VR and externally generated objects to provide fully physical artificial realities within the confines of a room or amphitheatre.
To overcome the limitations of the Human genome itself, Post-Material Era biologists utilized HQ computing techniques and rapidly adaptable nanomed implants to perform the first full genome therapies, effectively rewriting the genetic code of an existing individual. While a similar process had been available for the creation of new organisms as early as the Fabrication or Nano Eras, those techniques were unsuitable for transforming an existing individual and were often restricted by law or custom. Full genome therapy required an induced coma lasting up to a year and considerable expense, but could produce such transformed Variants as Nobilis, Eternals, Futaris, Chameleons, Chloros and Valkyries.
Improved sentient-assisted interfaces between the Human brain and artificial storage allowed for the non-destructive transference of Human memories and full personality - the Mechanist Soul - to artificial storage. The reverse procedure - forcing a personality pattern onto an existing or blank biological mind - proved impossible with Post-Material Era technology, though incremental or trickle personality importation was often effective (as utilized by post-Plague Mechanists), as was hybrid or artificial sentient controlled biological interfaces such as those utilized by the avatars of Heretics.
Forcefield technology advanced in the Post-Material Era with the development of partial or "gray" shields, capable of selective passage of radiation and momentum. Gray forcefields provided much of the same protection as earlier radiant shields, but allowed for greater operational offensive flexibility and better opportunities to shed accumulated energy, often by directing it back at attacking forces. Shield generator sizes also decreased, scaling down to five hundred tons, allowing smaller warships to incorporate the technology.
Disintegrator cannons, from planetbuster-class arrays to hundred ton turret mounts, remained effective long-range weapons against hardened targets. Smaller vehicular disintegrator weapons served tactical roles at ranges of up to one thousand kilometers. The first portable disintegrator rifles, often massing as little as fifty kilos, could create a half-meter Wexler hole, atomizing a five meter target at up to ten kilometers.
The first disruptor weapons, capable of delivering a beamed disintegrator effect, proved useful for drilling or deep penetration applications, but remained bay-sized space-mounted weapons massing at least a hundred tons.
Human infantry, even in powered living metal armor and armed with a disintegrator rifle, had little tactical use in full scale warfare. Except where they remained illegal, sentient warbots, from autonomous starships down to half kilogram tactical units, fought conflicts without Human direction. Humans continued to command starships and large interplanetary craft, though in practice, a single Human could direct an entire fleet and, even then, Humans remained little more than a symbolic presence.
A person's self came to including not only a variety of internal implanted nano-organisms and an effectively permanent protective thinsuit, but also often also an internally implanted Artificial Companion, a sentient helper to provide guidance, support and often companionship. Improved morphing nanomed implants allowed reshaping of skeletal structure at a fairly rapid pace, giving Humans nearly unlimited humanoid morphing capabilities, changing form, color and features at will.
Personal goods were generally composed of three classes. Disposables were objects that could be easily fabricated and that were essentially free, especially in a post-material economy. Intelligent items were persistent objects often with rights and usually with personalities. Luxuries were valued items that remained extremely expensive and available only to the elite, such as starships, large structures, artifacts, original art, or choice real estate. In an Post-Material Era post-material society, most individuals had access to less than a half dozen intelligent goods: Companions, sleds, homes or robots, and usually no access to luxuries, but they could lead happy full lives with more disposables than they could ever require.
Interstellar travel became more routine, less arduous and less expensive during the Post-Material Era, allowing the beginnings of a interstellar tourism market and lowering the hardships of interstellar colonization. Those with the desire and some accumulated excess wealth could embark on interstellar tours, though the market remained rationed and above the baseline post-material level, a cheap luxury.
Most members of society could afford regeneration therapy, allowing life expectancy to approach one thousand years, with a potential lifespan spanning fourteen centuries. Those who undertook gene therapy procedures, which often remained limited by expense or cultural tradition, could expect longer lifespans, over three thousand years in some cases, but life expectancy, limited by a myriad of factors, generally remained at about one thousand years.
The technology Post-Material Era allowed the development of a viable post-materialist society under many circumstances. The prerequisites for such a society to evolve included a social structure that was at least marginally equitable and the development of rapid fabricators. Post-materialism occurred at the point where the production of most routine items (disposables) did not conform to earlier laws of scarcity, and those consumer goods became essentially "free". With the labor required to maintain civilization entirely controlled by abundant machines, the laws of supply and demand proved inadequate, leading to the development of new economic theories and practices. Most individuals could enjoy the quite luxurious "basics" of housing, sustenance, entertainment and transportation at essentially no cost and vast production surpluses could support a stipend for the purchase of discretionary, intelligent or luxury items.
Social and cultural structures often remained rooted in earlier traditions, with many socieities requiring some "pubic service" or limiting the independence of machine intelligences, but such requirements were not technology based. The pressing social issues involved how to keep a long-lived population happy for a thousand years, and cultural activities centered around entertainment, sporting events, artistic endeavors, philosophical or religious movements, journeys of exploration or adventure and other non-essential or "frivolous" activities.
A Post-Material Era culture could expand to encompass a radius of hundreds of light-years and did not require any non-machine labor for direction or operation. Interstellar trade and contact became extensive, though travel and settlement beyond a few thousand light-years remained essentially impractical.
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by Geir Lanesskog, All Right Reserved