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The culture of the Nivenian Empire is not uniform at all. A citizen from Nivenia Prime or B3 will behave very differently than one from the system secondary's ringworlds or A11.2. However, there are some general cultural trends that can be discussed.
- 1 Major Empire-wide trends
- 2 Regional Culture
Major Empire-wide trends
The Nivenian Empire, while very diverse, has some major empire-wide cultural trends that must be acknowledged. While these may be stronger or weaker in some places, there are empire-wide laws that prohibit going against most of them.
The Societal Divides
Nivenian Society is in general, stratified based on intelligence and persistence. Those at the top of the ladder, the researchers, business owners, reasonably high government officials, and corporate executives are viewed as "more important" than the average Nivenian. This is because although the average intelligence for a Nivenian is slightly lower than a human, they have a larger standard deviation, so although most of them are not as smart as the average human, their socioeconomic elite and geniuses are smarter than their human equivalents.
This has the interesting side effect of creating multiple different cultures for places on the socioeconomic hierarchy, namely, the socioeconomic elite, the management, the specialists, the workers, and the indentured servants. As current and previous governments have usually restricted the right to vote through either intelligence and educational qualifications only one in tens of thousands could pass, or tied politics to money in such a way that only corporations were able to influence the government, the socioeconomic elite have controlled the governance and by extension the culture of the country for the majority of its history. An example of this is the popular response "get good" to Nivenians who complain about their life.
The Power of Nuclear Technology
Given as how the discovery of nuclear fission as an energy source was the whole reason for founding what would become the Nivenian Empire and what led the precursor to the Nivenian Empire to planetary domination twice, it comes as no surprise that nuclear technologies are still trusted today. In fact, other fields such as computing and biotechnology are behind even 21st century earth, while the Nivenian Empire has demonstrated partial control over the strong nuclear force with its QCD shields.
Another contributing factor is the fact that Nivenians have inadvertently been selectively bred to resist radiation. Not only is the system that they evolved in abnormally radioactive to begin with, but the nuclear wars have bred out any traces of radiation sensitivity, and the lenient radiation regulations afterwards for hundreds of years meant that those with less radiation tolerance were not able to have children, and were replaced with the children of individuals with higher tolerances. These factors contribute to the Nivenian attitude toward nuclear technology as well.
Research and Profit
A trend in the Nivenian Empire is to view research as the most noble goal that one can strive for, followed closely by profit. As such, patents are fiercely guarded, and take until the end of the inventor's lifetime to expire. Being an entrepreneur and donating your money to research initiative, or better still setting up your own research initiatives, is considered very respectful toward the society and population as a whole.
Utilitarianism is the ethical theory that most Nivenians use when making decisions as it is used by the government. Utilitarianism states that an action is ethical if that action brings about the best possible benefit to everyone, when its effects are summed together. The theory is very popular in Nivenian culture and most decisions made use cost-benefit analysis to determine the best course of action. This is the reason why the population of the Nivenian Empire has been growing almost constantly from its beginning to today: The more Nivenians, the greater the total happiness.
While most utilitarian empires subscribe, in whole or in part, to some form of egalitarianism, the Nivenian Empire has determined through sociological studies that having a hierarchy of socioeconomic classes is the most efficient system for their society. Trying to regulate the system to be more egalitarian would put strain on a free-market economy, lowering the influence of Adam Smith's invisible hand (the Nivenians have their own word for it), and altering the production and flow of goods. This makes almost completely unregulated capitalism the norm in the Nivenian Empire.
Another aspect of Nivenian Utilitarianism is their near-total disregard for nature, except where it is useful to them. As no other lifeforms evolved on Nivenia Prime are sentient, their needs are considered irrelevant by most, except where they are beneficial to the Nivenia Empire. An example of this is the slow loss of biodiversity throughout the Empire, with exactly 157 non-sentient multicellular species being deemed more beneficial than detrimental, and therefore allowed to remain and in some circumstances prosper. Most of these species have names like "Lawn," "Companion Type III," or "Agriculture VIII." There are, however, about 300 "temporary species," plants originating from other empires being grown on Nivenian soil for food exports.
Cybernetics as a Status Symbol
One of the most interesting societal trends in the Nivenian Empire is the use of cybernetic enhancement (something that is quite expensive with relatively slow computers) as a status symbol. The wealthier an individual is, the more likely that that individual will want extra appendages or senses and turn to cybernetics. Common improvements are extra robotic arms, infrared vision, and health-monitoring equipment. This trend is ubiquitous in most of the Nivenian Empire.
The Nivenian Empire has many different religions inside it, but none control more than 20% of the population. As such, the Nivenian Empire is not a particularly religious place, with important decisions being decided mainly on the basis of pragmaticity and Utilitarianism. Utilitarianism is not a religion, but an ethical viewpoint, so even though it is pervasive, it is only an ethical theory. However, subversive cults and outright wackos are strongly discouraged, as they "interrupt the smooth functioning of the public order." Religion is in some places uniform, and is sometimes incorporated into local governments, but the Nivenian Empire as a whole does not embrace any particular religion.
However, random cults sometimes amass trillions of followers and go on "righteous crusades" to unify the Nivenian Empire under their religion, which always results in a lot of stuff exploding, followed by a Nivenian Empire victory.
The Brute Force Method
A staple of Nivenian technology and culture is the brute force method: "If brute force does not work, you are not using enough of it."
Most of the Nivenian Empire is quite keen on privacy considerations, except for cramped areas like Nivenia Prime and orbital habitats, but even these value privacy, even if to a lesser degree. Privacy is maintained as well as possible, and computer networks larger than a certain size (about 400 GHz total) are taxed quite heavily, making them too expensive for most users. As a result, information is usually exchanged via book and memory storage device, and nothing remotely similar to the terran internet has ever existed. Security cameras are sparse, and applications that require storage of personal data must be explicitly consented to by all users of the application in question.
An interesting trend found in Nivenian clothing is that fashionability is largely determined by how protective and how redundant the article of clothing in question is. For example, a space suit is better than bulletproof armor, which is better than a full-body kevlar fabric, which is better than a full-body polyethylene fabric, which is better than a T-shirt. The three major "trends" in mainstream Nivenian fashion are vacuum/heat protection, radiation protection, and projectile protection. Engineers and businessmen tend towards vacuum/heat protection, scientists and government officials tend towards radiation protection, and military officers and shipbuilders tend towards projectile protection in their clothing. Basically, your clothing protects against what those in dangerous jobs most closely connected with you economically have to deal with.
Disagreements on what "Family Values" means
It is a known fact that almost 79% of Nivenians strongly believe in the enforcement of "family values." However, the entire nation can be classified by most as quite a socially progressive place, with almost any family structure allowed by law. The reason for this is that while 84% of Nivenians believe in "family values," there are seventeen major groups and more than five hundred minor groups which all have different opinions on what "family values" means. All of these groups, stemming from ethnic groups before the first major thermonuclear war that formed a unified nivenian government in the first place, are more or less evenly distributed by now, even becoming detached from racial identity - while nivenians from different races interbred, their philosophies on the ideal family were so incompatible they stayed separate, much like immiscible fluids. This has lead to a situation in which almost any nivenian can be of almost any group, leading many to just swap groups until they found one they liked the most. For the convenience of the reader, the various groups are shown below:
- 21.1% of Nivenians do not place a strong emphasis on the concept of "family values," and instead are quite tolerant of all family structures. They represent the largest minority.
- 13.4% of Nivenians believe in "family values," but are part of minorities smaller than 0.5% of the population. Thousands of these minorities exist with more than a trillion members, and millions exist with more than a billion members.
- 16.3% of Nivenians believe in a system of monogamous permanent marriage between a male and female, which would live together with their children until the children reach adulthood. In this system, the female is expected to take a slightly more active role in the partner selection process (at least most of the time), but both partners are expected to work roughly equal amounts to provide for the family. While this system is the most common, less than one in eight Nivenians practice it, so it is not widely accepted either. Still, several other "mainstream" systems are derived from this system with one or two major differences. This system is common due to its adaptability in different situations, but is cohesive enough to maintain continuity as a value system. The main reason why females are expected to take a slightly more active role in the partner selection process (this is a slight stereotyping, though) is the marginally larger average size of nivenian females compared to nivenian males.
- 8.4% of Nivenians also believe in a system of monogamous permanent marriage between a male and female, which would live together with their children until the children reach adulthood, but are notably different than the first group in that they believe that the male should take a more active role in the partner selection process, and that the male should work mainly outside the home, while the female would work mainly inside it. This system is less popular than the first because of of its obvious limits to the productivity of a family unit due to factors that they would not be able to control, such as the respective genders and skills of the parents, but still simple enough that it occupies a decently large portion of the population.
- 5.2% of Nivenians believe in a system of polygamous semi-permanent marriage between an individual of one gender and many other individuals in subordinate positions, which would live together with their children until the children reach adulthood. In this system, especially accomplished members of any gender would take many spouses of the other gender (or of the same gender, if the accomplished individual was not strictly heterosexual), but be expected to provide for all of them, and all children that could be had in this way (This only works due to the extremely pronounced income inequality in the Nivenian Empire.). As Nivenians are egg-laying (and thus do not have extended pregnancies), the gender of the accomplished individual in question is not of particular concern. As can be imagined, this system is especially popular among the very wealthy and very poor, for obvious reasons. It should also be noted that if the accomplished individual were to fall from power without a golden parachute or backup plan (which therefore becomes quite important), their spouses would typically divorce them in this system.
- 4.3% of Nivenians believe in a system of tetragamous permanent marriage between two individuals of one gender with two individuals of the other. This relationship is supposed to resemble a square, with each individual being purely heterosexual, and those in the relationship of the same gender having a friendly, but aromatic relationship. Three members of the family created are tasked with working to support the family at any given time, while one stays home to take care of the children - these roles rotate between members, with one cycle taking between one month and two years, depending on the family. This system has the advantage of utilizing economies of scale to make raising a family less time-intensive, as taking care of 2*n children is rarely twice as hard as taking care of n children. However, in some areas, fewer or more people will work at any given time, depending on the relative cost of labour in the area to the price of commodities, the skill of the family, and the number of supporting children.
- 4.1% of Nivenians believe in a system of permanent open marriage between two individuals of any genders, where the partners commit fully to each other, but are allowed to have loose relationships with nivenians outside the arrangement. For homosexual couples in this system these outside sources are the only way that they can conceive children. This system has both parents leave the children semi-permanently in the care of an institution similar to a boarding school, which they would then raise the children, charging the couple for the service.
- 3.5% of Nivenians
- 3.0% of Nivenians
- 2.3% of Nivenians
- 2.2% of Nivenians
- 2.0% of Nivenians
- 1.8% of Nivenians
- 1.7% of Nivenians
- 1.5% of Nivenians
- 1.5% of Nivenians
- 1.4% of Nivenians
- 1.3% of Nivenians
- 1.3% of Nivenians
The Nivenian Empire is by no means culturally unified, and Nivenians in different parts of the empire have very different customs.
Nivenia Prime has a unique culture, as it is both the capital of the Nivenian Empire and the Nivenian homeworld. On Nivenia Prime, there is a higher tolerance for bureaucracy, and for cramped living conditions. Research is seen as even more important than everywhere else, since the planet is covered in over ten kilometers of technology. As the atmosphere randomly becomes ruined every so often due to stupidity/revenge/preventing something worse, government surveillance is accepted on Nivenia Prime much more than anywhere else. While most other places are very strongly anti-surveillance, citizens from Nivenia Prime consider that there is likely to be someone within 8 meters of them most of the time, and someone who escaped from the loony bin only a few months ago within 400 meters, and re-evaluate accordingly.
Nivenia A12.1, a recently produced ecumenopolis, has a much more regimented society than Nivenia Prime, as pretty much the entire planet is run by the Megastructural Construction Corporation, with the regional government taking a backseat role in its legislature. This has lead to massive mining operations under the megacity, massive smelting operations within the megacity, and buildings that all have exactly the same 80-meter-by-80-meter land profile, and are constructed out of pre-fabricated rectangular-prismatic rooms bolted together.
The Megastructural Construction Corporation controls every aspect of life on A12.1, with social status being measured in how the size of your apartment - 0.5U is the smallest, with barely 25 m^2 of surface area, while some high-level managers have 50U penthouse apartments. Similarly indicative of status are which grade of transit ticket is affordable to an individual, whether they have a personal bathroom, whether they can hire contract staff from - you guessed it - the Megastructural Construction Corporation and its subsidiaries for domestic work, and so on.
A12.1 is notable for having the lowest crime rate in Nivenian Space by a factor of ten due to its strictly regimented nature, with only one in four million having reported any sort of crime occurring to them in the last year as of 30 NE.
A12, B4, and A11 have a culture that is different than most other places in the Nivenian Empire because they live on the ground (not in a rotating habitat or on top of a metal surface) and so do not have mass limitations for their buildings. In these places, architecture and popular tastes tend to flaunt this, and most luxurious buildings are built out of polished stone with thick walls as a result. As the surfaces are covered in a large number of independent domes, most tend to view those from outside their own "home-dome" as outsiders, sometimes even more so than those from off-world. This creates dome-dome tensions, which usually stay under control but sometimes flare up as riots. This is why many of the laws in these places seem to make no sense to outsiders; most find "you cannot marry outside your own dome, unless the potential partner is from off-world" to be an absurd law, but this law has prevented hundreds of thousands of riots over the years (Anyone who falls in love with someone not from their home-dome can just use the obvious loop-hole anyway: Move off-world.).
The numerous objects in the Nivenia System that are only habitable because of numerous distorted O'Neill cylinders have cultures primarily focused on resource extraction and processing. Mining is seen as a noble occupation, and the automation methods that seem likely to come into effect in the next few decades are seen as socially damaging. As such, most of the inhabitants of these areas are strongly distrustful of technology, and highly traditionalist. In addition, similar phenomena cause a similar stance toward individual habitat modules to the stance on domes that A12, A12.1, B4, and A11 possess. In general, inhabitants of these areas treat manual labor as an activity that makes one more "wholesome" and that those who have white-collar occupations should spend a lot of time exercising to make up for their occupation. This can even be taken to the extreme of spinning the habitat up to 10 or 11 meters per second squared of acceleration, much higher than the typical Nivenia 8 meters per second squared, to make sure that everyone gets their required exercise.
Due to the precarious nature of the gas giant aerostat colonies on Nivenia Secondus and B3, most of the Nivenians living in these places are abnormally cooperative, and lead a spartan lifestyle. In the early days of these colonies, resources were stretched very thinly, leading to a culture that emphasized minimizing resource expenditure and cooperating to maximize efficiency. Even as economic condition improved afterwards, the inhabitants of these places have kept minimizing resource expenditure and maximizing profits. Due to this, intelligent individuals from Nivenia Secondus or B3 tend to have an entrepreneurial disposition, claiming every investment opportunity that they can. This has lead to an upper class forming in these places, and the rise of several multi-petacredit conglomerates based in these places. Interestingly enough, this trend seems to be slowly dissipating, as the incredibly rich tend to leave to places like Nivenia Prime in order to wield more political power, and to escape the possibility of being ousted. These factors make Nivenia Secondus and B3 places of socioeconomic flux, where a smart person can work their way up the socioeconomic ladder from poverty to extreme wealth in less than a decade. For very similar reasons, there is usually rapid turnover at all levels, leading to a particularly unstable political climate.