The Red Rush

How a digital currency transformed Mars

The Jewel of the solar system (credit)

When it was formed, few people had any idea how massive the MCP would become, let alone that it eventually would hold the mantle for the largest corporation in the world. In any world.

It turns out that on a planet where the land is entirely inhospitable, the value is in the improvements. This may seem obvious but it had massive implications for how the corporation evolved.

At the time of first landfall, Mars belonged to no one. By international treaty no land on the Red Planet could be owned — the nations of Earth had believed such a rule would save everyone the headache of another imperial war. Nevertheless as colonists began to arrive it quickly became clear that some kind of ownership of property was unavoidable.

At this point SpaceX hadn’t yet been split up, because the monopoly they had established wasn’t yet seen as a problem. On the surface they were nothing but a transport entity, however since they bankrolled early colonization efforts almost entirely by themselves, most of the infrastructure that was erected belonged to them.

Early Mars was almost entirely SpaceX-owned facilities

Musk had apparently considered this reality long before his death, for his will specified in iron-clad detail how all SpaceX property on the planet should be donated to a newly formed LLC, the membership of which should correlate to the inhabitants of Mars at the time of incorporation.

Every Martian citizen became a partner in the LLC, and for a while that was the end of it. For nearly 100 years the Martian Colonist Partnership evolved with little fanfare, its membership changing and evolving as new colonists arrived (or were born) and old ones died. Some natural complexity evolved within the organization, including the creation of a representative council of managing partners, as well as the introduction of a sol, a digital currency awarded to partners for each day they spent (and worked) as part of the colony.

There was very little to do with sols, but they did correlate to votes as shares might in a more traditional corporation. This meant a sol offered the ability to influence decisions of all kinds, from the most nuanced and local (like what greenery to grow in a common atrium, for instance), to who would sit on the managing partners council.

Three changes, all of which happened nearly concurrently, ended the quiet era of Martian development and transformed the MCP into the solar system’s most powerful entity: one technical, one political, and one procedural.

The invention of the planetary electro-magnetosphere (PEM) transformed perception of life on Mars

The technical innovation was impressive. In 2135 the MCP successfully activated the first-ever instance of a planetary electro-magnetosphere, or “PEM” as it came to be known. Almost overnight the prospects for terraforming, as well as popular opinion about the quality of life on Mars, were dramatically changed. For the first time there was a viable (and working) answer to the radiation problem, as well as the ability to retain substantially higher portions of generated atmosphere. Heating the planet, melting the ice, and turning the Red Planet to a blue/green one suddenly seemed much more possible.

At nearly the same time (and likely for related reasons) the MCP declared itself sovereign over the the planet of Mars. This was a significant political move that caused all sorts of rancor back on Earth, but seemed inevitable to most Martians. There was talk of inner-planetary war but it soon became clear that the cost and complexity of fighting would be entirely prohibitive.

But the outcries and threats of war were quickly overshadowed by the “Red Rush” which soon followed. In what now seems to be a stroke of systemic genius, the MCP annouced one procedural shift to their governing policy just a week after declaring soverignty over Mars: for the first time sols became entirely transferrable.

Technically this shift was trivial. Sols were, like the cryptocurrency fad of the early 21st century, tracked on a blockchain, but for voting purposes any sol that was not voted by its original recipient was ignored in tallying. This meant the trade of sols, while possible, was almost completely pointless.

Sol trading on Earth drove the price up, leading to the Red Rush

But overnight this changed. As soon as the announcement was made, sol trading was set up on all major Earth security exchanges and demand poured, pushing the price for a sol up exponentially.

Almost immediately two things happened: first, Martian citizens became incredibly wealthy, at least on paper. Even new arrivals found themselves in the upper economic eschelons when compared to most Earth citizens. And some of the planet’s oldest colonizers became some of the wealthiest people in the solar system.

While such economic windfall had little practical value on Mars, the families and friends of citizens could easily profit from sols “wired home”, and many did. “Sol mining” became a kind of profession, as millions of entrepreneurial (and/or sheistery) earthlings thought up every imaginable way to get Martians to part with sols.

Colonization advertisement, 21st century

And second, a massive influx of migration began almost overnight. In what has since been considered the start of SpaceX’s decline, the decision was made by the MCP to only distribute sols to those persons who came to Mars through formal immigration on a “validated” transport (which at the time consisted almost entirely of SpaceX ships). Presumably this was to ensure that no meaningful opposition to MCP’s claim on the planet could be formed, and it worked as designed: within a month the waiting list for validated passage to Mars was millions of people and tens of years long, yet no competitors to SpaceX could persuade anyone but the most ardent of adventurers to travel with them instead.

Most of these new immigrants were “Stinters”, indentured workers planning to spend the 4 year minimum required by the MCP for immigration before returning to earth. Their passage was prepaid by any of a number of institutions that agreed to cover costs of travel and pay a healthy sum upon return in exchange for the rights to all sols earned on Mars. Higher-end establishments worked with the MCP to guarantee more desirable quarters, quality-of-life stipends, and meaningful work during the Stint, but of course these were also quite competitive.

In the end it was this immigration program that led to the transformation of Mars. By the end of the third millennium Mars was already being referred to as the jewel of the solar system, and had established most of the natural beauty, flora, fauna, and many of the integrated architectural masterpieces for which it is known today.

Of course this is all just pretend, right?