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Where is everybody?

How many humans are there, alive and reachable by us?

Let me throw some numbers at you...

The Yards of Gadani station, my current home, has 15 areas. On average, I see between one and five, sometimes maybe ten people per area. I assume 4 as athe average here. Let's say I only see about 0.1% of all the people living there. Then there would be

15 areas * 4 people/area / 0.1% = 60,000 people

living in Yards of Gadani.

There are 14 stations known to be inhabited, and connected to us. Extrapolating the same population number to those 14 stations, we can assume about 840,000 peeple living on those stations, or for the sake of brevity, one million.

This estimation itself is not remarkable, until you combine it with another one. As some of my readers might know, I work as a Port Technician, and one of my regular tasks is to replace the hull of a space craft. On good days, I manage to do that on maybe 20 or 30 vessels, and together with my colleagues, I'm sure we serve at least 100 vessels per day. Yards of Gadani is a hot spot for such activities, due the low gravity and the ship breaking yard. But, other stations still do hull replacements, so let's assume 1000 space ship hulls replaced per day.

Now, things get interesting. A hull isn't something that you replace just for fun. It's expensive, it's a dangerous business (both for the ship and the technicians working on it), and it takes its time. You only do that when absolutely necessary (did I mention I also do hull integrity tests?). A given space craft needs a new hull every, say, 5000 days, from which we can deduce a total number of about 5 Million ships.

If you compare those two numbers -- 1 Mio people living on stations, 5 Mio ships -- you know what caught my interest. Even if the numbers are off by a factor of 10, maybe, that'd still be one active ship per two people living on a station.

Space travel is expensive, resource-intensive and dangerous. Space ships need fuel, spare parts and repairs, and their crews need oxygen, water, food, training, medical care, and don't forget the administration, security, taxes etc. I'd expect maybe 200 to 2000 people living on station per space ship.

What do we make of this factor 1000 or so, give or take, between expected and projected numbers?

Your guess is as good as mine, but here are some ideas:

  • My numbers might be totally bogus. That explanation is boring, and so easily dismissed.
  • Stations are vastly more populated than it seems. But then, where is everybody, and why are they hiding?
  • There might be huge network of mostly self-sustaining space ships that occasionally travel to stations for their hull replacements. What are they doing all the time, and how do they manage to get by so independently?
  • It's all a big conspiracy. I don't know why, or how, though.

Whatever is hiding in the shadows, I'm determined to find out, through patient observation and occasional exploration.


  1. We shouldn't assume that our current limited event horizon as space travelers is the measure of all things. In my former career as a port technician I've serviced many a ship from far-off origins and distant star systems. Even my fellow senior agents occasionally tell stories about clandestine missions on obscure stations.

    I've done some extensive research using my CORETECHS and came up with a total of 83 star systems, 47 of which seem to be actually reachable. So far I've only managed to expl;ore two of them.

    Don't forget the different affiliations. Not every society is as well-organized as the Consortium or Gaule. Pirate ships often operate with a skeleton crew, at least that's what my former crew boss in the port led me to believe. And we know next to nothing about the Independents.

  2. The reachability is my point, kinda. We only know how to reach Sol through Wormhole, and any kind of interstellar travel without a wormhole is prohibitively slow. Who would want to spend several decades (or possibly even several centuries) traveling to another star?

    And yet, people do? Or are there faster ways we don't know about? If so, I'm very eager to find out!

  3. Warp Drives :-> NASA figured out how to use more convenient materials than Dark or Anti-Matter for the drive. It's possible but expensive. But probably less so than erecting a giant wormhole.

  4. What is NASA? Is that a pre-cat name?

  5. While it's easy enough to assume that plenty of people simply stay in their Residences or--for those less well off--deep in the Ruins, and plenty more "live" out in the Black on their ships rather than on any particular station, I've noticed something else that seemed disturbing at first but might ultimately explain everything.

    I can't tell you how many times I've walked into a crowded Lounge or bustling Bar, checked my CORETECHS, and been told the place was empty. Or I'll be standing right in the middle of a Market, surrounded by dozens of vendors hawking their wares and jostled by dozens more customers haggling with them... and my CORETECHS will pick up maybe two people. It happens in numerous other areas, too, and I'm guessing this has happened to you as well.

    At first I found this decidedly creepy--remember when you asked about seeing ghosts?--but on reflection I have a new working theory: Despite the best efforts of Benevolent Dynamics, the notion of a CORETECHS implant just makes some people nervous. The Catastrophe set back our technology so much, and half of what we still have we don't really understand. So I guess it isn't too surprising that a lot of folks are reluctant to stick random bits of electronics and metal inside their brains. (Hmm, now that I put it that way, what was I thinking?)

    So I enter a room, my CORETECHS looks around, scans one person it can identify and 119 it can't, and reports only the one name to me. The other people are still there; they're just ignoring me and my scary-looking implant.

    This might also, by the way, explain why so many of those vendors I mentioned earlier seem to ignore me. I suspect a deep-rooted prejudice against visible technological implants. Perhaps it reminds them too much of the Catastrophe, and how our high dependence on technology only made it that much worse.

  6. I think you've made a few errors with your math:

    1. You've assumed a representative sample.
    2. You've underestimated the number of areas.
    3. You've ignored the time sensitivity.

    On Tau, I did a quick run through the 16 areas, and noted that many have sub areas. The Inn also has a Bar, Lounge, and Guest Room lobby area. Etc. The total number of people I counted on a quick run through the place was 282. Not an order of magnitude different, but more than a factor of 3. If I did this 100 times a day at 1 segment intervals, I would find that it varies up and down, but more importantly: it would not always be the same people.

    I know that I personally spend most of my time in my hotel room resting or reading. Maybe after more time in the Gym, I'll spend most of my time out and about, but that is not currently the case.

    My last room rented was #863 (or something like that) implying close to a thousand visitors on the station. I would expect there to be far more residents than visitors.

    Maybe your 60k figure was accurate for 1 station, but it might be very low compared to some others. The factor of 1,000 you used seems somewhat arbitrary, and my gut says it is probably low for Tau station, but might not be a bad overall average.

    Similarly: You've guessed that hull replacements are done evenly across all stations. I'm guessing that is not the case. Most of the people I've seen around here couldn't do a hull replacement without the shipyard paying to have the work redone. (Probably by someone brought in from another station.)

    You have, I believe, underestimated the "hot spot" effect. Frankly: word on the street is that you are where to go for the work to be done, and may well see half of all replacements go through your shipyard.

    Thus, on one end we have population perhaps 10x or more of your estimates and on the other: maybe 1/5 as many hull replacement.

    Then we have the question of "how often do the hull replacements happen, on average?" You have figured about 5k days for a given ship as an average. I think that is the "standard" time, but I think in practice: it is far more common than that for a number of reasons:

    1. Craftsmanship. Frankly: few are up to your level of quality. (One of the reasons so much work comes your way.)
    2. Accidents. Both while flying, and while in port. 1 day working at the port is enough to tell me that. 2nd day confirmed my 1st day was not a fluke, but typical. You might have things running smoothly out there, but I've had to help a few captains pass inspection so that they could take their ships out of here before a hull replacement got done. You want to see the blood drain out of a captain's face? Tell him he needs a hull replacement done at Tau Station...

    While I've been working at the port, I think 1 ship had a hull replaced 5 times. I know the port has paid for at least 4 of them ... and the ship isn't ready to depart yet. That's just 2 days of 1 ship.

    There are roughly 100 shuttles flying in and out on schedules. Figuring similar schedules at other stations, and the fact that each shuttle flies to 2, we have 14 stations x 100 shuttles / 2 = 700 ships. Unlike most ships: these ships do a lot of departures and dockings: the most hazardous parts of a ship's career. I estimate about 8 times per day, per ship, per station. 16 launches per ship per day, and you know that not all of the crews are seasoned. Wonder more tourists are not killed.

    Math aside:

    Your question is fundamentally valid, even if I can reduce the problem by 1 or 2 orders of magnitude by using different estimates.

    I think that there are a lot of people "at work" and "at home". I've not been to many homes in the residences, but I get the impression that it is far larger than the Inn. I also noticed that there wasn't any food served at the Inn, including at the bar and at the lounge. People are eating in their rooms at the Inn, so probably also at their homes.

    As to "at work", it seems that there is a steady need for help at the Bank, Brig, Cloning center, Clothier, etc. And yet, when I go there: it always seems that there is someone free to help me when I arrive, no matter how many others are in the area. I never have to wait in lines. Amazing.

    I also get the sense that, when I go to one of these areas, I'm only seeing a tiny part if it. I once got lost in the Government Center, and have spent a lot of time wandering the ruins also. It would not surprise me at all to find more than a million people registered here, should I ever do work for the government.

  7. Many of your points are valid, and I've learned a lot since I wrote the initial post. In particular, back then, private ship ownership wasn't a thing, which is why my perception of Hull Replacements was a bit skewed.

    Still, I want to push back on two points:

    1. Craftsmanship. Frankly: few are up to your level of quality.

    That is very flattering of you to say, but evidently false. I've seen several young, enthusiastic Port Technicians take less than two cycles from being an inexperienced Ship Wipe to be able to do hull replacements with consistent, high quality.

    And being a Ship Captain myself, I've received excellent service throughout all station son Sol and on Alpha Centauri.

    Finally. don't take Tau Station as your sample -- it's unusually crowded, and not representative of the other 13 stations I've visited so far.

  8. I didn't want to imply that none could compare, but it seems like the guys at Tau are all Ship Wipes, or were recently. Myself included.

    I had several reasons for responding, including:

    1. Letting you know someone is "out there" and reading your stuff.
    2. Adding some data to the pool.
    3. Making the place a bit more lively for the next reader.
      (I know I read all the comments as I go.)