Thousands of years in the futures space was colonized, planets terraformed, history happening upon those planets and so forth. But it's not quite as was predicted, for in the initial foray of interstellar colonization gravity manipulation was invented, and then made in such as way that the core of a planet could be altered, which on top of being ignited and molten, could alter the gravity of a planet by slowing down or speeding up time on the surface.

For example, with the rate, time was slowed down multiplied by the observed gravity on the surface prior to the alteration and speed up gravity doing the opposite. Eg, Mars, with gravity doubled, has time from the reference frame of those living on would experience time moving half as fast as on earth, with the wavelengths of light received halved, and so forth.

And so humanity spread out to the stars at near light speed, all sorts of worlds blossomed, but the time rate of passing varied greatly from world to world. All sorts of worlds, sometimes in the same solar system, with drastically different time rates passing.

Generally, now that this is set up, what would be the BROAD social effects of living in a world with, A: Resource cheap near light speed interstellar travel, and B: The various worlds settled having time pass at potentially drastically different rates.

To clarify, I'm not asking what specific cultures would emerge, though I'm not going to stop you from adding that, but rather what are the general social structures, cultural effects, that would or might emerge as a result of such a setup.

Extra information People have lifespans of around 300 years

The nearlightspeed ships use warp drive, so no nearlightspeed ramming, the warp bubble would collapse in atmosphere

Assume, barring ftl and with cheaper nearlightspeed travel the level of technology would resemble that of alien, barring the reteofuturistic parts, which would be a more advanced version of modern technology. (So no Star Wars holograms, for example)

TLDR: A Future interstellar cargo ship would be as expensive to field as a modern cargo ship

The technology is understood by humans and has been improved upon by humans, but was initially invented by ai.

All geopolitics on the planets is as a basis, based on the nation's of earth, so United States colonies, china's colonies, eu colonies and so forth. This would change, of course, but I'm not sure how, the story idea is to just transplant modern geopolitics, but it doesn't seem likely that anything will stay that way.

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    $\begingroup$ Too broad and too little information to assess. What is the political / military / economic framework of these settled worlds? How much interplanetary travel is there? What advances in human lifespan have occurred? Obviously, there are huge advantages in developing new technology or building armies if you can get two years of R&D, construction and training done while your competitor or enemy can only get one year of preparation in, but that just says which society is likely to be dominant, now what its characteristics will be. $\endgroup$ Feb 23 at 16:46
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    $\begingroup$ too open-ended, this is very open to opinion-based answering. $\endgroup$
    – alkahest
    Feb 23 at 16:47
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    $\begingroup$ You might be interested to read Dragon's egg by Robert L Forward which describes a story based around an extreme time rate difference. The dates in the story start in human years and then days and suddenly become a minute by minute account. $\endgroup$
    – Slarty
    Feb 23 at 20:06

6 Answers 6


I agree with the others that this question is to broad. You also have a couple of misconceptions i would like to clear up before this is closed.

Gravity, as described by General Relativity, is not a force. "Gravity Manipulation" just means your guys and gals figured out a way to manipulate spacetime.

The consequences of such technology are very broad. It depends a lot on how much control over spacetime you practically have, as well as how much energy the ordeal is going to eat.

To give you a sense of scale, you need the Mass energy equivalent of Earth to generate a apparent force of barely 10 m/s². A kitchen magnet can overpower that with basically no energy expanded. So the pure ability to manipulate spacetime dosnt mean much if you do not have some absurdly abundant energy source. Even so, there will be practical limitations. At some point whatever powers your magic machine will overheat.

So really, your question should examine how almost limitless energy effects a civilization. Time Dilation is an interesting effect that has virtually no presence in your setting. Time dilation only occurs in curved spacetime for specific observers. Take for example the famous Alcubierre metric, which folds spacetime such that a bubble is created and propelled through spacetime at superluminal speeds. A ship inside this Warp bubble would not experience time dilation because the local spacetime is flat and the ship isnt moving. The spacetime is. This concept is known as Coordinate Velocity. Indeed, there is no limit for how fast spacetime itself can move. Regardless, if you can manipulate spacetime to this extend you can also chose to not have time dilation be a problem. There are several solutions to Einstein´s Field Equations which propose entirely geometrical manifolds. I.e. geometries of spacetime where only space is curved. Those structures just flat out do not have any time dilation effects.

Even then, Time Dilation is an incredibly weak effect outside of the strongest gravity wells. Like, time dilation becomes observationally relevant a couple of meters above the event horizon of a black hole (Hyperbolically speaking). And doubling the gravity of any planet would not change time dilation effects to a noticeable extend. You are talking about academic changes, measurable with like an atomic clock over a couple of months, not civilization altering things.

  • $\begingroup$ First of all I did tag this sci-fi, not science based, second there is research indicating that warp drives can only be ftl if they're already ftl, so no ftl warp drives is reasonable, this is meant to be a soft sci fi setting, I am familiar with general relativity, but in this universe general relativity is wrong. You're proposing a frame challenge to a different question. $\endgroup$ Feb 23 at 18:59
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    $\begingroup$ @MegatheriumMegafauna might have been a good idea to include the fact GR is wrong in your setting. $\endgroup$
    – ErikHall
    Feb 23 at 19:03

I think you have a lot of freedom here. I don't think there's one answer.

There's two fundamental forces here. I'm going to refer to the people involved as fast-time and slow-time. For simplicity of thinking, let us define some outside observer, such that fast-time people move quicker, and slow-time people move slower.

  • fast-time people will be more active, able to consume more per unit time (per observer time).
  • fast-time people will age quicker, and die quicker.

These two forces will be in a constant balancing act.

Consider the old Greek adage

A society grows great when old men plant trees in whose shade they shall never sit.

This sort of thing is hard. Growing a great society isn't easy. The fast-time thinkers will constantly be limited by this. Meanwhile, the slow-time thinkers will not even need to consider this for the same timescale. While a fast-time thinking old man may need to plant a tree knowing they'll never sit in its shade, the same tree to a slow-time thinker will grow up and provide shade before they die. The slow-time thinkers get to apply that proverb on a timescale the fast-time thinkers can only imagine.

How you let them play out is really up to you.


This time difference could lead to different levels of technological and scientific advancement on different planets. Those on slower-time planets might have more time to develop new technologies, while those on faster-time planets might move more quickly through technological eras. However, the ability to travel throughout the galaxy near the speed of light would allow for the sharing of knowledge and technology, keeping everyone fairly equal in that regard.

Another social effect of this time difference is the potential for cultural isolation. When you put a group of people on a planet, they will develop their own communities and relationships. I'm not sure how these colonies are enforced, but there are three scenarios I can envision occurring.

scenario one

If these colonies are primarily for resource gathering, there will be people there representing the parent nation. they might collect taxes, resource quotas, etc. there will also likely be a military presence on the planet. this could lead to resentment and revolution.

scenario two

If these colonies are self sufficient and independent, with limited connection to outsiders (maybe your fast travel is difficult or costly) they will develop independently and feel disconnected from the parent nation. this is especially true because of time discrepancies. they'll develop their own culture (whatever that may be) and they'd be ambivalent and uncaring about outside matters.

scenario three

these planets could also function as provinces of a larger nation. in this case, it would very closely mimic current geopolitics, however the time problem would still be an issue, and political factions could form between planets with similar time, because communication is easiest between them. this would obviously break down over time.

  • $\begingroup$ 1+, I'll wait 24 for other responseses before checking, per guidelines $\endgroup$ Feb 23 at 18:54

Solar Systems will be mostly insular

Even traveling at near light speeds, the trek from one solar system to another will be a journey of many years. This is still many times longer than a Mars mission would take using today's technology. That means that these will be monumentally expensive missions that will most likely be one way colonial trips. In general, no government will be able to exert any significant political power in neighboring systems. The relationship with your closest neighboring system would resemble the relationship between Ancient Rome and China. You will know that there is a civilization there, but you would only have very limited interactions with it. Whatever you think you know of thier technology and culture is likely horribly misinformed and biased.

Solar Systems will have a lot of local communications

In contrast, the time it takes to get from Earth to the outer planets in our solar system at near light speeds is far less than the time it took people to travel around many pre-industrial empires. So, there is a good chance that system wide governments (or at least political theaters) will form.

As for resources and technology, at first the smaller planets will have a distinct advantage. A small world running at 6x speed will produce new technologies, manufacturing capabilities, and population growth much faster than a larger world where time passes slower. As populations start to soft cap though, the larger worlds will develop much greater populations. So 6x fewer generations but 6x more people per generation will lead to equivalent GDPs. As planets age out even more, the smaller planets will quickly run out of key resources and be devastated by climate change if applicable. So in a rather old system, it will be the big planets with more untouched resources that will dominate the political spectrum.



What's the difference between what you're describing and the world today? Or, perhaps a bit more obviously, the world of 1908? Within the United States alone you had native First Peoples still using bows and arrows, the U.S. Cavalry still a common component of the military, and yet automobiles abounded and the first tank was only seven years away in Europe. In 1908 great swaths of Africa were still ruled (quite effectively) by native tribes with spears. Most international shipping was done with metal-hull ships sporting paddle wheels.

My point is that you can see the "effects" (or a simulation of them) simply by comparing the local histories of technological innovation. Along with it comes political and economic (aka, sociological) change. In 1911 Mongolia declared its independence from China's Qian dynasty. I could be wrong, the the societal variation between Mongolia and China might be even greater today.

What would be the difference between that and the proverbial colony around Alpha Centauri? Earth's vast economy, nearly endless manufacturing capacity, and the technological innovation based on billions of humans vs. a new colony that starts with what Mother Earth had, but doesn't have the resources or the people to keep up. The time difference is simulated by the difference in capacity.

But it's important to understand that this is incredibly useful to you

I conclude that the imposition of all those different times really would have no societal impact at all. It's just like we have today and have had for millennia. I'm not even convinced it would make things better or worse.

But that's OK. Time in your story becomes a MacGuffin that helps you establish in a greater complexity what people will recognize already in our world today even if they don't understand the socio-political reasons for it. And it'll be so much cooler than "real life."


Life would generally be easier and more exciting on the slow-time planets, provided that the fast-time planets are in regular contact. There would be a constant influx of new technology and entertainment.

However, being on the cutting edge would be militarily and economically advantageous. To maintain that advantage, fast-time worlds will aim to be just slightly faster than others. Competition would likely drive fast-time worlds to increase their speed. This could be a form of brinksmanship, especially if you require that gravity increases with speed.


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