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In the year 21XX, Earth sends several slower-than-light ships to colonize Earth-like planets. The atmosphere, topsoil mineral composition, and the frequency profile and intensity of light on these planets are similar to those of Earth. The ships carry colonists and terraforming biosphere kits that would explosively populate a region of a new planet with Earth flora and fauna (destroying native flora and fauna, if any) and make it fit to support a late 20th century human civilization.

Centuries later, the Earth is a Future Earth as seen in Golden Age sci-fi, relatively peaceful after another world war, with no virtual reality or transhumanism. Earth humans discover faster-than-light travel and establish limited contact with one such colony world.

The colonial civilization there fell to a pre-Industrial level soon after landfall for various catastrophic (non-systemic) reasons but is stable and developing at a "normal" historical-Earth rate. There's also native flora and fauna in the non-terraformed part of the planet, but no non-human sapient life (as far as anyone can tell). Native life and Earth life can't interbreed.

What might Earth humans want from this society, economically?

The Earth project team has split into several factions along ideological lines. Collectively, they've agreed to respect the human rights of the colonists, their political organization, and their sovereignty over the terraformed part of the planet. Nothing impedes Earth humans from landing in an unoccupied, non-terraformed area and mining the planet for mineral resources if they feel so inclined.

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    $\begingroup$ I'm having a hard time seeing how this isn't primarily opinion based, honestly... $\endgroup$ – Morris The Cat Aug 30 at 16:25
  • $\begingroup$ Depends on what they have and how low are the transportation costs. So, what do they have? And how much does it cost to transport a TEU container to and from that colony? $\endgroup$ – AlexP Aug 30 at 16:42
  • $\begingroup$ @AlexP good point. A more appropriate question would be "Given specified transportation costs, what resources would be WORTH exchanging from a colonial civilization." As written, I don't think this is answerable. $\endgroup$ – Morris The Cat Aug 30 at 16:45
  • $\begingroup$ Apart from being opinion based (and you're the author so it's your opinion that should be operating here), it seems to me to be too story based, as you are asking us to provide a key plot point and story element for you, which WB SE does not do. $\endgroup$ – StephenG Aug 30 at 16:54
  • $\begingroup$ It's not specifically about interstellar distances, but about post scarcity. Could be a colony on Mars or an L5 colony coming back to Earth. $\endgroup$ – puppetsock Aug 30 at 19:27
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Resources

Same thing every colonizer wants, resources. This may be in iron, wood, slaves/employees....just resources of any kind. Maybe just clean air and water. Tourism is a possibility too. Earth's people/corporations will have some scarcity that they don't or can't get from Earth (or the solar system). To satisfy that demand, they will naturally go exploring in the colony.

Unless Earth of 21XX is significantly different than 202X, capitalism will still exist. All those capitalists back on Earth will have lots of money to spend and a burning desire for returns. A brand new unexploited land will be soon be swarming with prospectors of all types.

The bargaining position of the colony is weak. Their force of arms will be limited to pre-industrial weapons which will do exactly zero against orbital bombardments. They will take whatever terms the Earth based forces are willing to give them. For resources, the strong will always prey on the weak and they will rationalize however they can to make it okay.

We see this pattern of exploitation over and over and over again. The English, Spanish and French when colonizing the Americas. What Japan did to China in WW2. What the US continues to do to the Third World. So, unless there's some kind of enlightment that clamps way way down on capitalism as we know it now, that newly discovered colony is going to be really unhappy.

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Aren't most Golden Age Sci-Fi worlds post-scarcity?

With asteroid-mining, robotic-manufacturing and first-world-everywhere-population-control, won't we have outlived the need for economics? If so, then all that the mother world would want is the art, music and poetry of the child world, shared freely in exchange for their own art, music and poetry.

Centuries of isolation provides a wonderful opportunity for cultural exchange to mutual benefit.

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As Henry Taylor said, post scarcity cultures have different needs.

Two approaches: What they will clamor for vs. what they should be getting if they knew what was good for them.

They will clamor for, and be willing to pay for, novelty. Possibly based on reconstituted samples, computer-regenerated-via-DNA-files, or holograms digitally beamed across space.

All kinds of art from folklore, to dance, to music and poetry, to carvings, to sand painting, to grass skirts and wicker baskets, to religious rituals. If the STL culture is doing literature, that too, from their histories to their science fiction to their equivalent of Crome Yellow by Huxley.

New musical instruments.

New styles of clothing and hair. New styles of makeup and jewelry. New styles of body piercing.

New taste and methods of cooking. New spices. New animals and plants to cook. New textures of food.

New creatures for the zoo. New animals for the circus, even if only as holograms. New circus acts.

New entries in the various hologram entertainment programs. From new modules for Classic Dungeon Crawler (the very distant descendant of Dungeons and Dragons) to new skins for the characters in Duke Nukem version 3087. An entire new set of historical tales to tell and re-tell and re-interpret.

They should be trying to get, if they knew what was good for them, parallax on their own lives. That is, a view of their own culture from the outside, based on a widely divergent but still recognizably connected culture. This would give them hints about where they were blind to their own idiocies, or not paying attention to their own great achievements.

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    $\begingroup$ +1 Absolutely Right on the Parallax Insights! $\endgroup$ – Henry Taylor Aug 30 at 21:22
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To be frank, for a civilization that has established routine space travel, I don't see that the colonies can really offer anything that Earth would want, apart from tourism and rare luxuries like exotic foods.

For an industrial civilization, you need three things to create wealth: Raw materials, energy, and human effort. For a civilization that has established faster-than-light travel, finding resource-rich asteroids is trivial. Asteroids and dwarf planets are easy to mine, and shipping the materials elsewhere in the system is easy, if time-consuming. As for energy, solar power in space is abundant, cheaper than it is on earth, and reliable. That leaves human effort, and for advanced civilizations you need high education to be a really effective worker. An influx of low-education workers from the colonies to Earth might benefit some people, but it'll be a mixed bag instead of an unmitigated plus.

EDIT: I take it back, partially. I was assuming some sort of trade agreement between Earth and the colony, in which case the colony just can't compete in any meaningful way. If Earth just wants profit at any cost, and space travel is cheap enough to make shipping raw resources across interstellar distances economically viable, Earth could simply extort raw materials under threat of orbital bombardment. Even then, I can't imagine the profit margin is terribly high.

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A Trade in Antiques and Trinkets

The now advanced earthlings want relics of the stone ages. But they destroyed the ones on their planets long ago. These are just regular items of use for the people colonizing the backward planet, who have fashioned much of their wares from the spares of the terraform kits and the ships etc that carried them.

So, rich Earthlings pay a fortune for a piece of their history. Some capitalists have come to control this "supply" of antiques, so that overexploitation doesn't cause a price crash.

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