Sunday, June 12, 2011

Risk and space travel

Looking at some air safety stats, it seems to me that travel has to be pretty risk-free for people to consider it safe.  To have a functioning interstellar economy, especially given the length of voyages and the fact that all the time is spent in in-system travel apart from the FTL risk, and jumps are going to have to be very safe indeed - of the less than 10^-7 deadly failures per jump.  Indeed, I am inclined to think of the FTL drive is a fail-safe device.

However, there is something that has been bugging me about the FTL-drive concert  I have now.  Once you reach a range limit for the technology (you note we have not nailed that down yet) the borders become very certain and solvable.  Two technology levels might offer very different graphs of the transit routes, but in the end it is a very certain graph.  However, if we let risk enter the transition equation then the borders become uncertain.

Insured private ships will only operate at low-risk ranges (say one failure in 100,000 with one in 1000 of those "fatal").  So will military ships in normal operations.  But if I can push an extra parsec out of the fleet by taking a one-in-10,000 risk and so effect surprise would it be worth it?  Is it worth taking a series of one-in-1000 risks will get word of the alien invasion to the nearest base 3 months earlier, is it worth the risk?  If bypassing three border system and transiting right to a friendly location is all that will save your battle damaged butt, is it worth a 1-in-10 risk?

The price has to be sharply exponential, or we might end up with no frontier regions at all; but a fuzzy frontier is worth a bit of work - IMHO, YMMV.

No comments:

Post a Comment