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I'm building a science fiction setting. The present is just like ours.

Some time in the middle of the 21st century, humanity invents technology that allows travel to nearby stars within months. By the year 3000 AD, it is possible even for private individuals to routinely travel to Earth's neighboring star systems. The only drawback is that it takes the better part of a century to build an interstellar "pathway" from one star system to another, so easy travel is limited exclusively to already "visited" stars.

Eventually, in this setting, humanity will start constructing Dyson rings, spheres, shells, and other megastructures. My estimates would be that:

  • The first Dyson ring would be feasible around 4000-6000 AD with construction taking a few decades or a century.
  • The first Dyson sphere/swarm would be feasible not long afterwards, with construction taking a couple of centuries, expedited a bit by the fact that it can be operational even before completion.
  • The first Dyson shell would be feasible near the year 10000 AD (assuming discovery of exotic materials in the meantime), with construction taking several centuries, possibly more than 1000 years.

I would like to know whether my estimates sound reasonable/believable, from a science-based perspective -- and, if not, what would more reasonable estimates look like,

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    $\begingroup$ Apart from asking two different questions (what are our estimates and if yours make sense), how can we make a sensible forecast considering that you are giving no information on the setting and that forecasts are always written on water? $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch
    Oct 26 '20 at 10:53
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If people can "it is possible even for private individuals to travel to Earth's neighboring star systems", then you need to extend the timing for your megastructures by 10 000, 100 000 or even 10 000 000 years.

Because if interstellar travel is easy, then there is no incentive to build Dyson anythings.

The various Dyson architectures are a means to squeeze every last possible bit out of your one solar system, BECAUSE it is impossible or highly impractical to go to a nice, uncrowded solar system out there.

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    $\begingroup$ While i dont fully agree that Interstellar Travel = No Dyson stuff i do think that there is some truth to that. In general, i would say going Interstellar is better than to go all Dyson. Not to mention that if it is so easy to go Interstellar, there really is no lack of Energy. $\endgroup$
    – Erik Hall
    Oct 26 '20 at 11:34
  • $\begingroup$ If it's "easy" to build Dyson structures, perhaps that is the way this civilization has enough energy to make interstellar travel cheap? $\endgroup$
    – Matthew
    Oct 26 '20 at 14:06
  • $\begingroup$ maybe the neighbouring stars don't have any nice planets? $\endgroup$
    – ths
    Oct 27 '20 at 13:45
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Actually, the Dyson swarm is the easiest to construct and thus the most reasonable, so it would be the first to be up - all you need is to know how to construct space stations, and a way to produce them in sufficient qualities. So mine Mercury for example and take advantage of bootstrapping - with half of the resources you built going into making Dyson swarm pieces and another half in making more mining and constructing machines - the entire planet should be gone in well under a century, thanks to the exponential rates at which you'll be mining the planet. (src: https://www.realclearscience.com/blog/2017/08/23/how_to_build_a_dyson_swarm.html )

For the Ring and the actual Shell you'd need some applied phlebotinum superstrong materials and some active stabilizing systems, so it's much harder to estimate how long those would take to complete, but they're vastly inferior to the Dyson Swarm in terms of both efficiency and stability, with the only bonus being the size of singular pieces of living space.

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    $\begingroup$ Dyson Ring is a single orbital slice of a Dyson Swarm, this much easier to build. Think layout like Earth's GPS orbit, not a structure like Niven's Ringworld. $\endgroup$
    – user79911
    Oct 26 '20 at 11:34

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