The Universe as of 2255

Humanity has colonised a sphere of space roughly 80 light years in radius around Sol, Earth’s star. With the exception of a handful of failed colonies, every inhabitable planet within this radius has at least a token human settlement on it.

The population of a single planet tends to level off around five hundred million, and memories of an Earth that supported almost ten billion human souls are all but forgotten. New colonies tend to grow until they can support themselves without support from their neighbours, and then send off colony ships of their own. For most humans, interstellar transport is of comparable cost and duration to an ocean voyage in the mid 20th century.

Most planets fall under a single government, it’s much easier for dissenters to find a new planet than deal with coexisting with the existing government, but two or three nation planets are not uncommon. Truly independent planets are almost non-existent, with governments aligning themselves with either the UNM or IP3 for protection and support. Planets changing allegiances is not unheard of but not particularly common either.

As a rule, somewhere between a quarter and a third of all humans in a solar system live in space. Most planets have a well developed ring of satellites and space habitats to support them, and most systems have a significant population of “belters”, who live out in the asteroid belts common to so many solar systems. As on 21st century Earth, humans will expand to fill all available space and see almost any environment as a challenge.

Life in the 23rd century for the average human would be quite familiar to a 21st century time traveller. Most people live in cities or small towns on the surface of planets that tend not to stray too far from earth-like. Terraforming is still science fiction, but there are those who choose to live in sealed settlements on otherwise inhospitable planets much as there are those who live on oil rigs or in the Antarctic. For those that live in space, smaller spin stations more closely resemble large ocean going vessels, whilst larger habitats can provide large green open spaces if you can stomach the fact that the horizon curves the wrong way (roughly 5% of people can’t and have to stay indoors).

Computers might be more powerful, but still vaguely resemble the same slabs and slates of the late 2010s. Most people have access to the outernet, a network much like the modern internet although generally specific to a given planet. Interplanetary and interstellar communication is within reach of most people, but can take days depending on distance especially in UNM space where information can only travel as fast as the ship carrying it. Cars still exist, but generally drive themselves and are powered by fuel cells. Public transport is often still very spotty, especially on newer colonies.

Life expectancy continues to rise as medical technology improves. Even the poorest in society typically have access to high quality restorative healthcare, but for the rich death is all but eliminated. Even the middle classes routinely live to over a hundred, and people stay active well into their eighties as a matter of course. Prosthetics are of high quality and function at levels close to their organic counterparts in almost all ways, vat grown replacements for limbs or organs are expensive but they exist for the rich.

Interplanetary travel is comparable to mid-20th century sea travel. Travel between planets takes days, and travel between the stars can take weeks. Less than half of humans leave the planet they were born on and less than a third leave the solar system they were born in. For all the advances in technology, space travel is still a luxury.

Food varies wildly from planet to planet. Vat grown meat is common, but many planets still rear animals for meat. Vegetarianism and veganism are common as is entomophagy, the eating of insects. Food culture itself tends to be based on the initial cultural make-up of the settlers, with earlier colonies having cultural practices more closely resembling those of old Earth, and each successive generation of colonies becoming more mixed.

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