18.3 - 9.4 2016
It was a good winter. He learned about areobotany and bioengineering, and in many of the evenings, after dinner, he would ask the Archeon people both individually and severally what they thought the eventual Martian society should be like, and how it should be run. At Archeon this usually led directly to considerations of ecology, and its deformed offshoot economics; these to them were much more critical than politics, or what Marina called „the supposed decision-making apparatus.” Marina and Vlad were particularly interesting on this topic, as they had worked out a system of equations for what they called „eco-economics”, which always sounded to John like „echo economics”. He liked listening to them explain the equations, and he asked them a lot of questions, learning about concepts like carrying capacity, coexistence, counter adaptation, legitimacy mechanisms, and ecologic efficiency. „That’s the only real measure of our contribution to the system,” Vlad would say. „If you burn our bodies in a microbomb calorimeter you’ll find we contain about sir or seven kilocalories per gram of weight, and of course we take in a lot of calories to sustain that through our lives. Our output is harder to measure, because it’s not a matter of predators feeding on us, as in the classic efficiency equations – it’s more a matter of how many calories we create by our efforts, or send on to future generations, something like that. And most of that is very indirect, naturally, and it involves a lot of speculations and subjective judgement. If you don’t go ahead and assign values to a number of non-physical things, then electricians and plumbers and reactor builders and other infrastructural workers would always rate as the most productive members of society, while artists and the like would be seen as contributing nothing at all”.
Extract from Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson