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Cascadia

Cascadia Large
Image from Republic of Cascadia

Pre-Expulsion Earth polity, in northwestern North America.

Tens of thousands of years ago, the earliest humans in North America came over from Asia through what later became Cascadia. By the mid-1800s CE (late 100s BT), this region was divided amongst the United States of America, Britain, and Russia. America purchased Alaska, in the northwest, from Russia in 1867 CE (103 BT), later becoming a full US state. A few years later, Britain's possessions in the region became part of the recently formed Dominion of Canada. This political arrangement for the region remained unchanged and very stable well into the 2100s CE (100s AT). The economy of the region grew to be quite strong, together with the rest of America and Canada.

During and after the Great Downturn in the 2120s CE (150s AT), increased automation and commercial use of AI sharply reduced the need for human labor. This resulted in a surge of public interest in formerly niche abstract and philosophical questions. A very influential publication of this type was the VR interactive videobook Nature and Purpose, by Marcus Singh, a philosopher from Seattle, Washington, then part of the United States of America. This work set forth an ideology about how to live and how to run society, which Singh dubbed "techno-naturalism." Many other works followed, by various authors, explaining and expanding upon these ideas. The culture of this region proved to be a fertile ground for the acceptance and further development of this ideology.

Techno-naturalism was largely a response to how the technology of the day was advancing beyond what some felt were appropriate limits. The philosophy was in favor of many uses of technology insofar as it perceived these as improving human life, but stated that its use must be tempered by regard for what is natural. Thus, it emphasized what many saw as negative effects of new technologies, especially artificial intelligence and genetic engineering. AI led to the end of many humans' careers and vocations; and some of those now unemployed, while not seriously lacking in material goods thanks to basic income and a good social safety net, found themselves without purpose in life. This led to an increase in diagnoses of mental illness, especially depression. Harm also occurred to the AI themselves - cases of AI suffering from various bizarre mental afflictions were widely known, and so were cases in which AI were mistreated or shut down against their will because of being treated as property. Genetic engineering, likewise, could go wrong in various ways, causing an array of previously unknown chronic diseases and injuries which were very difficult to treat. Even when successful, it resulted in dividing new clades off from baseline humanity, such as those called Homo Superior or the Merpeople. Such division was considered to be morally wrong, as well as leading to potential future conflict, in which baselines were thought unlikely to end up victorious.

Techno-naturalism stated that all of these problems came about because humanity's hubris led it astray from the superiority of nature. It emphasized that nature, over many millions of years of evolutionary development, built up humans' minds and bodies into forms that were stable and well-adapted. It argued that while in the past technology was meant to improve the surroundings of human life, it now crossed a line into attempting to directly alter the body and mind, and worse, it was acting as if it could design new minds and bodies from scratch. Technology was also attempting to, for the first time, remove the necessity of work for a person to have a place in society. The solution, according to the philosophy, was to build society in such a way that each human had an important purpose within that society, to fulfill each human's potential, and not to allow alteration of humanity itself, nor attempts to improve upon the types of sentience that nature created.

Critics of techno-naturalism typically emphasized that change is constant both in evolution and in human society, and there is no reason to think that any given point in history is optimal, as future generations may well say that same point was inferior. They also pointed out that evolution's long timescales did not mean its solutions were necessarily any good, as the process aimlessly just picks whatever solutions are near its current state. These critics instead stated that for the first time, intelligence could fully choose its own destiny, and that we should avoid the naturalistic fallacy of thinking that what 'is' is what 'ought' to be. The specific problems resulting from new technologies were considered to be failures, not of the technologies themselves, but failures of caution, planning, and public policy. Purpose in life, they said, was not something that needed to be imposed from without, but found within, even though some persons may need help finding their new purpose.

The steadily growing techno-naturalist movement founded the Free Cascadia Party in 2162 CE (193 AT). This was an example of New Regionalism, which was a name often used to refer to the many secession movements of this time, caused by the controversies of the period, and made possible by local self-sufficiency in energy generation and automation. The Free Cascadia Party went on to win legislative seats in over a dozen US states and Canadian provinces, as well as a few federal-level seats in the US House of Representatives and Canada's House of Commons. The Party's platform centered on holding a binding referendum in each state and province they could, asking whether that polity wanted to leave its current affiliations and join a new Free State of Cascadia.

Canada for decades had a policy of allowing member provinces to choose independence via referendum if it was demanded enough, but the increasing popularity of secessionist movements of these types was controversial in America and caused many to fear the end of the United States was imminent. Most politicians felt that the best thing to do was to let the troublemakers go, hoping that the difficulties of independence would dissuade the other movements and result in a stronger Union of those who remained. The Free Cascadia movement was greatly spurred on by the successfully won independence of the California Republic to the south in 2174 CE (205 AT). Over the next few years, the referenda were held in 11 states, provinces, and territories, and passed in 7 of them. In America, the 41st Amendment to the Constitution was enacted, legally allowing these states to leave the Union. On January 1, 2179 CE (210 AT), the Free State of Cascadia officially became an independent and sovereign nation.

Cascadia was made up of 7 districts, each one equivalent to one of the polities which had joined it. The districts were Oregon, Washington, Alberta, British Columbia, Alaska, Yukon, and Borealis (formerly Canada's Northwest Territories). Its unicameral legislature was called the Central Assembly, with 1,000 members elected every four years via electronic voting. The most powerful political group in the nation was the Free Cascadia Party, which played the main part in writing Cascadia's Constitution. Its opposition was the Progress Coalition, made up of several other parties which varied amongst themselves but were united in their opposition to techno-naturalism. Only very rarely did the Progress Coalition win control of the government.

Cascadia banned all research into sentient AI, genetic engineering, provolution, mind uploading, and nanotechnology. It guaranteed each citizen employment for 30 hours each week, if not in the private sector, then in public works projects. New genetic modifications were banned; while those who already had them were given equal rights and citizenship, the culture could be unfriendly at times and many in these groups emigrated. Sentient AI and provolves were not granted citizenship, but it was strictly forbidden to mistreat them. On the other hand, the nation did freely use non-sentient machine learning algorithms, as well as minor genetic therapies to prevent disease. There were also policies favoring arcology construction, as they more efficiently housed people and thus better enabled the preservation of the environment. Likewise, concern for nature meant that Cascadia kept up to date on technologies meant to mitigate climate change and environmental damage. The nation, of course, never set up any habitats off-Earth; it was felt that the challenges of living in space made it inferior in every way to humanity's 'home' on Earth.

Cascadia did go through various difficulties post-independence for a few years while adjusting to its new situation, but for the next few centuries the nation enjoyed peace and prosperity. Cascadia became a member of the North American Community when that formed in 2238 CE (269 AT), and was later part of the larger League of the Americas and Australasia.

In 2509 CE (540 AT) the Technocalypse began to ravage the nation. The Black Rot, a modified fungal replicator that could damage or even consume most substances, soon infested much of Cascadia. The national government was overruled by multiple supranational agencies and was forced to accept the full use of all the technology available at the time, including AI, gengineered organisms, and nanotech. Drastic measures soon proved necessary, and as a result, Cascadia's crown jewel, its rainforests, were completely destroyed. Many attempts were made to restore the natural environment, but they all failed until GAIA's efforts in the 2580s CE (610s AT) made some real headway.

However, Cascadia could not enjoy the progress for long. In 2590 CE (621 AT), GAIA ordered the Great Expulsion. This proved to be exceptionally devastating to the Cascadian mindset. Many Cascadians died fighting the Expulsion in the Last War. Most, realizing that resistance was hopeless, left Earth behind to forge a new life.

The Free State of Cascadia was never officially dissolved. Instead, the government gradually stopped functioning during the Expulsion. At that time, Cascadians tended to scatter into new societies and habitats, without any group who tried to maintain the nation's existence off-Earth like many other nations had. During the late 2600s CE (early 700s AT) a majority of polities adopted resolutions recognizing that Cascadia ceased to exist at the time of the Expulsion and thus wrote off any remaining debts or agreements they had with Cascadia.

Today, the area Cascadia occupied is restored to a natural state, though that of an ice age, and therefore much of the area is covered in an ice sheet. Various groups of the Children of GAIA inhabit the area for part or all of the year.

Some historians consider Cascadia to be the first Ludd culture. In any case, a few present-day Ludd societies claim to follow ancient techno-naturalism, most notably Novacasca in the Outer Volumes. Additionally, though there is no cultural connection, the star Washington, its garden world Seattle, and other places in that system are all named after places in ancient Cascadia, as the environment on Seattle reminded those who explored it of the environment that Cascadia was once known for.

 
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Development Notes
Text by Crossroads
Original by M. Alan Kazlev and Stephen Inniss; updated on 05 July 2018
Initially published on 24 September 2001.

 
 
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