Reprint from March 27, 2009
THE DAILY EVENT FUTURE BEAT
Sparing no expense in its determination to pique the interest of its demanding, easily distracted readership, the Daily Event has sent reporter Dale Arden hurtling at near light speed--and great personal risk-- through a space/time wormhole into the future. This is her first dispatch.
EXOPLANET IN DEFAULT BLAMES "EARTHGREED"
SPACE STATION MAMMON, March 27, 2059...Plagued by non-performing loans, fund redemptions and collateral calls the planet Gliese 581c edged closer to bankruptcy yesterday.
Trading on the Gliesian "Astral" was halted after it plunged to As11,000 to the dollar on the Near Space Currency Exchange.
Rhapsodia, which is what Gliesians called their planet, B.C. (Before Contact) had been trying to negotiate bridge loans and an extension on payments due, said Chief Monetizer Etaoin Shrdlu, but "our terrestrial counter-parties have turned their backs on us." He said that Gliese 581c with a mass 1.5 times the size of earth is "too big to fail," and warned that "unless we receive emergency aid we'll all be consumed in a financial super nova that will reduce our bi-solar system to a shantytown of barren asteroids."
In Beijing, Galactic Reserve Bank Chairman Heng Mao agreed that "we cannot easily overcome the gravity of this situation," but accused Gliese of "gamma ray rhetoric."
"The Gliesians have created an unsustainable consumer economy based on easy credit, baseless speculation and chaotic deregulation," Heng said. "To bail them out now would be to throw more money down a black hole."
The Earth-Gliese Articles of Confederation promise "sempiternal harmony" to the peoples of both planets, but in recent years the union has been shaken by accusations of mismanagement, malfeasance and corruption. This is a tragic development to elderly earth scientists who remember the morning of April 24, 2007 when news came from the La Silla Paranol Observatory in Southern Chile that an exoplanet had been discovered orbiting the red dwarf Gliese about 20.5 light years from earth. To the gleeful astronomers who had been "planet hunting" for years it was a possible kindred spirit in the vast, ever-expanding universe. Orbiting in what they called "the Goldilocks zone," not too hot or too cold, it had atmospheric conditions that could support life forms similar to earth' s. The temperature range was between 32 and 104 degrees Fahrenheit. Some computer models posited a rocky, mountainous surface; others detected a "seaworld" of temperate oceans with a profusion of life forms flourishing beneath the surface.
Radio waves were instantly beamed from observatories and satellites all over the planet. For years there was no response, but the scientists persisted. Then on December 24, 2015, a faint wave was received. Some described it as "tentative, almost reluctant." Later it emerged that the Gliesians, a shy people, had been unnerved by this bombardment of signals, not understanding that there was an intense competition on earth to see who would be the first to communicate with them.
Scientists on both planets worked tirelessly to develop a rudimentary code. A technology was perfected to transmit graphics...then photographs...then videos. Linguistics specialists created a new language and soon the planets were conversing with fluent comprehension.
In those heady days the two planets were exhilarated to learn that they were not alone in the universe. Every bit of information was a revelation. The computer models had been half right. Gliese 581c was half-rock, half-ocean. In grainy images transmitted across 20.5 light years the rock people looked like centaurs, half-being, half-vehicle with bulbous heads and four suction casters for climbing. The sea dwellers were like mermaids, half-being, half-motorized tail. Anthropologists were amazed at how closely they resembled creatures from earthly myths. But some were alarmed. On Fox News Network Bill O'Reilly warned that "these Gliesians obviously visited earth in our prehistory, planted commands in our preconscious minds, and now plan to return to enslave us."
In spite of their physical differences the Gliesians were a united people. They were stressless and amiable, each group supplying the needs of the other. They had achieved voluntary immortality, controlling their moments of what they called "inception" and "cessation." Eager to please their new friends on earth they agreed to change the name of their planet to Gliese.
"They live in tranquil cooperation," Dr. Phil said, and was overheard muttering to an assistant: "if this spreads to earth it will put us all out of business."
But analysts soon found that there was one area in which the Gliesians were deficient: They had no economy.
"They were less sophisticated than the most primitive village in the Amazon," says economist Elliot Gruber-Yonge. "They didn't even understand potlatch."
"We had been humbled by their superior lifestyle," adds psychologist Anne Grosspiske. "Now we realized we had something to teach them."
Economists set to work helping the Gliesians build an economic system. "First, we created a currency, the astral, which would replace barter and capricious generosity as a way of dispensing and acquiring services " says Gruber-Yonge. "Then, we encouraged the Gliesians to value their assets. This was tremendously exciting as they realized that some of them owned property that was more valuable than their neighbors." A flourishing real estate market grew up overnight. Luxurious caves and underwater palaces were built. Earth attorneys helped the Gliesians devise a legal system to enforce contracts and settle disputes.
"The next step was to get the Gliesians to value their own labor," says Gruber-Yonge. "Many were delighted to see that their skills were worth more than their neighbors." Compensation schedules were created. An elite separated itself from the mass. Comparative wealth created rich and poor, upper and lower class..." Gruber-Yonge pauses with a reverent look. "It was alike watching the six days of creation."
The inevitable conflicts of a flourishing economy caused tension and resentment, which the legal system expanded to resolve. Police agencies were created to enforce the laws. Prisons were built.
Meanwhile, bankers on earth created an exchange to trade in Gliesian stocks, property and currency. The Chinese, who had run out of places on earth to invest, were enthusiastic about this new market. Astrals were converted to dollars. Fortunes were made.
"The Gliesians were amazed at how we could create wealth out of thin air," says Gruber-Yonge. "They formed hundreds of corporations for their new stock exchange. They checked the prices every day. Used their astrals to invest in the earth markets."
Earth bankers converted stimulus billions into astrals, which they lent to Gliesian monetizers, who then lent them to their fledgling capitalists and returned the interest to earth in the form of astrals, which were quickly converted into dollars. Earth bankers traded astral futures among themselves and made gigantic bets in the Gliesian markets.
"Gliesians were fascinated by the concept of leverage," Gruber-Yonge says. "To them it was magical. They praised us to the sky."
With the astral pegged at one to two dollars profits were astronomical.
"In a leveraged developing economy there are no losers," Gruber-Yonge says. "A fishtail (we called them rockheads and fishtails) borrowed a milliion astrals to build an underwater yo yo factory and sold it for forty million three months later."
But slowly, imperceptibly a consumer economy took hold.
"Gliesans were purchasing and manufacturing products they didn't really need," says Gruber-Yonge ruefully. "They were caught up in a spending and leveraging frenzy. Then, they woke up one morning and there was nothing left to buy."
With sagging demand factories closed, jobs were lost, loans and mortgages were delinquent. Earth banks began to report losses as Gliesians defaulted. The astral plunged. The dollar was in crisis. The Chinese, enraged that once again their trillion dollar investment had been devalued, called for the creation of "an intergalactic reserve currency that is disconnected from individual planets and remains stable."
Earth governments intervened and nationalized the banks, wiping out the Gliesian shareholders.
Gliese, faced with massive unemployment, plunging property values and social unrest, appealed to earth.
"Your greed has brought us to the brink of this precipice. You will create more credit for your banks and recover your wealth, but we are ruined."
And now the Gliesians learned a new economic concept--the write-off. Earth bankers sent their regrets. There was nothing they could do.
This morning in what was described as an energy-saving move, Earth switched off its communication links with Gliese.
As the signal faded, a Gliesian could be heard lamenting: "We'll never be able to call ourselves Rhapsodia again."
Causes Heywood Gould Supports
Leukemia and Lymphomia Association
American Cancer Society
St. Jude's Children Research Hospital