49 thoughts on “Human Extinction

  1. Random Reader

    That Bostrom guy seems like one of those really smart English dudes that used to be all over the place before Britain went down the tubes after the war.

    1. sss

      That Bostrom guy seems like one of those really smart English dudes that used to be all over the place before Britain went down the tubes after the war.

      That might be because he is Swedish.

  2. Roga

    You’re right about underestimating asteroid risk in particular, but the linked article is a bunch of luddite technological Cassandra-ism. The guy has an agenda, and it is no saving humanity from extinction.

    1. roystgnr

      Did you miss the part where “the guy” was specifically asked about whether we should slow down technologial progress, and he spent two paragraphs explaining why that would not only be impossible but would qualify as an existential disaster in and of itself?

      1. Roga

        “I think the biggest existential risks relate to certain future technological capabilities that we might develop, perhaps later this century.

        Seems pretty clear. I re-read the paragraph you referred to, and it is an excellent example of saying nothing with a lot of words. Either technology or lack of technology will be our demise. Wow.

        Each time we make one of these new discoveries we are putting our hand into a big urn of balls and pulling up a new ball—so far we’ve pulled up white balls and grey balls, but maybe next time we will pull out a black ball, a discovery that spells disaster.

        Well, when you’ve pulled out 10,000 years+ of white or grey balls in a row, one of two things stands to reason:
        1) There are no black balls (ie, no technologies that inevitably or overwhelmingly lead to destruction). The closest he or anyone seems to be able to cite are grey goo, bio-engineering, AI, and nukes. Nukes are bad, but I doubt that the combined stockpile of all nations at the height of the cold war would have completely wiped out intelligent life on Earth. At worst, it’s a several-millenium bump in the road, and it likely will be until well after we have colonized off-planet, and that sequence is not arbitrary. For the other 3, 1 million years of history + pre-history suggests that the technological level required to deploy and sustain a threat is closely coupled to the technological level required to mitigate it (or at least the depravity required to go bankrupt and lose the capability in short order). So it’s basically down to self-sustaining threats. Remember, you have to wipe out every single group of human beings larger than, say, a couple hundred. For a virus or even nanotech to do that before evolution or thermodynamics sets in is totally speculative. Much more so if we colonize off-planet.
        2) We’re good at looking into the bucket before we grab. Human institutions have a fair amount of conservatism built-in. And then there’s that whole scientific method thing.

        By the time we can do that I suspect we’ll be able to engage in large-scale space colonization, to spread into the galaxy and then beyond, so I don’t think harnessing the single star is a relevant step on the ladder.

        This is just dumb. He clearly lacks any understanding of physical reality beyond the latest disaster film or modern philosophy lecture.

        Then the arguments for argument’s sake are pretty blatant. Like his “self-sampling” assumption which pits the 100B who have lived against the 200T who have not. But of course, you can also look at it from the perspective of the 100 millionth human being too, and then you would have to say that there is a 99.9% chance that we’re doing something systematically right to get where we are now. He’s basing our extinction chances on the assertion that the strong anthropic principle is completely false. Better theories have died for less.

        1. roystgnr

          Miscomprehension, even after multiple readings, wouldn’t be so sad… if it wasn’t for the combined arrogance which jumps straight past [I must have misunderstood something] to [all those words must not have any inherent meaning, so he must be pretty dumb!]

          I’m not sure it’s a reading comprehension problem, though; I suspect that calling a transhumanist a Luddite is just so embarrassingly 100% backwards that you flinch away from admitting the mistake even to yourself.

          Ironically, some of your criticisms would be compliments if you only completed the syllogisms correctly. “[We're alive because of] looking into the bucket before we grab” does not imply [therefore people looking into the bucket are Luddites]!

          1. Roga

            Whoa, whoa. Chill. I’m not trolling. I was wrong to accuse the guy of an agenda, I think what I read as an agenda was the editor’s spin. What I got from the article was a bunch of empty statements with very little in terms of quantitative or even anecdotal information. This guy may be a great thinker who happened to run into a bad interviewer, but I don’t see anything profound or novel here. You seem to have some a priori knowledge that did not make it under the byline.

    2. George Turner

      The biggest threat might be from our technological mastery, or it might come trying to irrigate crops with Brawndo. But heh, it’s got want plants crave. It’s the thirst mutilator. It has electrolytes.

  3. John Schilling

    Silly of me to have expected an article claiming we are underestimating the risk of human extinction, to have had something resembling quantitative analysis of the risk of human extinction. “It’s scary, and I don’t understand it, so it must be like, what, ten percent or something?”

  4. Thomas Matula

    Space Settlement is the answer. It has always been the answer. The challenge is building a credible business model for it.

    1. ken anthony

      I almost missed this response. Mars isn’t AZ because making one sq. km. claims aren’t available here. If they were I’d be first in line.

      The settlement initiative has their own business model which is to give Alaska sized claims to corporations. That is a viable plan. The problem I have with it is the long term result. But hey, do both theirs and mine and see what happens in a few hundred years.

      1. ken anthony

        One more thing about why my model works. 10,000 people are not going to show up on mars at one time. They will show up in ever increasing waves over time. Some have described my scheme as a Ponzi scheme; which it is in some respects but not in others.

        Ponzi schemes do work until they crash. Which is why they keep popping up even though illegal.

        What prevents the crash in my scheme? Because it’s not a Ponzi scheme. Developed land has value. People will be born on mars. It’s a dynamic growth open situation. Not the closed situation imagined by many. It won’t stop at 10,000 colonists. It will speed up as that 10,000 is reached.

        As society grows, each individual uses more power than the previous generation. The power people will use in the future will make what the number one user today uses seem to be nothing. Yes, we may run out in a few billion years but I’m betting we figure that one out too.

  5. Jim Davis

    Space Settlement is the answer. It has always been the answer. The challenge is building a credible business model for it.

    This seems to be contradictory. It’s like claiming that space solar power is the answer to cheap and plentiful energy except for the minor detail that no one has come up with a credible business model.

    How can space settlement be the answer to human extinction without a credible business model?

    1. ken anthony

      How can space settlement be the answer to human extinction without a credible business model?

      Excellent question Jim. I will repeat my answer. We have a credible business model. It’s called ownership. Elon is serious about putting tens of thousands of people on mars. Do you imagine those thousands will all be researchers with no ownership at all?

      No, they will be settlers. The cost of getting to mars will be part of a mortgage package. The banks will get ten times their investment in return.

      Because developed land has value. Mars has a whole world of land that can be developed. Once started it will go a lot faster than anyone, including Elon, can imagine.

      Then when most on earth are dead from a radiation burst from a nova less than a hundred light years from us, martians will wake up to find they are the only ones left.

      Or we can stay in the cradle until the cradle is rocked… literally.

      1. Tom D

        I too would like to see the solar system (and beyond) settled, but I don’t see this as being ultra-urgent. I really doubt that hyping a need to back up the earth is going to speed up the settlement of space one bit– unless another Tunguska event happens in the near future.

      2. Jim Davis

        Elon is serious about putting tens of thousands of people on mars.

        Oh, I don’t question his seriousness. O’Neill was serious about building space colonies at L-5 back in the day.

        Do you imagine those thousands will all be researchers with no ownership at all?

        My guess is that Musk’s plans haven’t preceded to that level of detail as yet. If you’ve heard differently, please enlighten me.

        I will repeat my answer. We have a credible business model. It’s called ownership.

        Yes, I remember your scheme from some months ago. Frankly, it didn’t make much sense to me. If I recall the details correctly, each settler was to get title to a square kilometer of land and banks were supposed to lend the settlers $60 million to develop that land with the land as collateral.

        I tried to see if it could work in a strictly terrestrial context. Let’s say the Canadian government offered a square kilometer of the Canadian Arctic to anyone willing to settle and develop that piece of land. Would a bank give someone a $60 million loan for that purpose? I can’t persuade myself that a bank would loan that kind of money. It seems an awfully risky loan since no one has ever successfully developed the Arctic. If a bank won’t lend money to develop the Arctic why it take on a much riskier loan?

        1. ken anthony

          O’Neill was serious

          Not serious enough to build a multibillion dollar company and staff it with over 1600 employees for a specific purpose. Elon is serious. O’Neill was fantasizing.

          Musk’s plans have been making slow steady progress all toward the goal of putting thousands on the surface of mars and other destinations. Can you seriously believe thousands would go without any ownership potential?

          [your scheme] didn’t make much sense to me

          It doesn’t have to make sense to you. I say $60m per person, Elon says half a million per person. As time passes it will cost less until it makes sense to everyone. I expect the land rush to be on once it gets below about $5m. This isn’t some mystery deal; it’s simple amortization.

          Say the package deal is $5m over 30 years at 25% which is $1.25m per year. Are you suggesting no bank would go for that return? Other banks will compete to charge much less than 25% once they see the money rolling in.

          A single sq. km. at 75% utilization gives you about 300 quarter hectare parcels (all having easements to a perimeter road) each with life support for 3+ (one Zubrin hobby farm.) On earth most people don’t have life support for even one. They buy stuff to live from their community (or they would soon die.) It works the same on mars as people will specialize.

          With an average of 10 parcels a year to sell the land owner should have plenty of income to cover a $1.25m payment each year. If the owner defaults or dies the bank can have the plots developed themselves (by local contractors) to insure their investment.

          See my comment to Thomas for why the Arctic (or anywhere on earth) is not applicable.

          1. Jim Davis

            Not serious enough to build a multibillion dollar company and staff it with over 1600 employees for a specific purpose.

            You and me and O’Neill have that much in common. But surely you’re not suggesting that people like Jeff Greason or John Powell or John Carmack or David Masten are fantasizing because they haven’t (yet) built multibillion dollar companies and staffed it with over 1600 employees for a specific purpose? Or if Musk abandoned his Mars plans that would make them fantasy?

            Elon is serious. O’Neill was fantasizing.

            Which one are you? You suggest that Musk’s success is why we should take him seriously. Okay, fine. But why then should we take you seriously?

            Say the package deal is $5m over 30 years at 25% which is $1.25m per year. Are you suggesting no bank would go for that return?

            I’m suggesting that no bank believes such returns are in prospect. But don’t let me stop you from asking for a loan. I’d be interested to hear how the loan officer reacts to “that return”.

            …and I damned guarantee you that if the financing and transportation were available today thousands would sign up on the spot.

            The fact that the financing and transportation aren’t available today suggests that thousands wouldn’t sign up on the spot.

            Because there are people that see life on mars as a vision of the future.

            But not as a vision of their future. When Musk says he wants to retire on Mars he means that literally – retire. He doesn’t envision living in a house trailer buried underground while working 16 hour days 7 days a week trying to eke out a living in perpetuity.

            Musk is serious about settling thousands of people on Mars because he views that as about the minimum society he would ever want to be a part of and that could support him in a manner approaching that which he has become accustomed to. Most with space settlement fantasies see it much the same way, a different planet but much the same lifestyle and standard of living.

            That vision of the future you refer to is a vision where all the heavy lifting, all the sacrifice of life and limb and purse has already been done.

          2. ken anthony

            I’m suggesting that no bank believes such returns are in prospect.

            The market makes that determination but I had to pick some number as an example. You have to work with the numbers until you find something that does work for everybody. Then somebody else will come along and offer something better. That’s the beauty of competition.

            The fact that the financing and transportation aren’t available today suggests that thousands wouldn’t sign up on the spot.

            The problem today is the giggle factor. That goes away after a few dozen spend a few years living on mars which shows others you really can live there. Your not wrong Jim, you’re just not right either. Things are going to change. In the next few decades private individuals are going to settle mars once people begin to see it as an option. That also means banks are going to want a piece of the action. Don’t you know there are companies that live for the chance to have something new to insure?

            That vision of the future you refer to is a vision where all the heavy lifting, all the sacrifice of life and limb and purse has already been done.

            Since the vision I laid out says a dozen researchers followed by 3 dz. more to resolve ISRU issues before any colonist go; I’d have to say you’re diverging from my vision. My vision is that settlers follow and banks see an opportunity to finance those colonists. I see people supporting that effort with enough people and machinery that many hands make light work. I see cheap power, no red tape BEO and people living in style because they don’t need to eack out an existence.

            Give each martian boot enough land (400 plots) that most will not develop it all in their own lifetime and you have a solid financial base that insures the long term health of the colony. I’m sure they’ll figure out what to do after the first 144 million settlers arrive.

          3. Jim Davis

            The problem today is the giggle factor.

            No, the problem is the factors that make people giggle, factors such as the incredibly high costs and the incredibly low returns.

            That goes away after a few dozen spend a few years living on mars which shows others you really can live there.

            Which is not even remotely in prospect.

          4. ken anthony

            Which is not even remotely in prospect

            Your definition of remote and mine seems to be different. FH will fly soon. Superdracos, already tested, will be integrated into the Dragon for a lander suitable for mars. I can’t give you a timeline on that, but expect is will be ready to go in a couple of years. The funding to put the first dozen on mars could be within 10% of NASAs annual funding, so that doesn’t fit your definition of remote. Total resupply (No ISRU required) for a few dozen could cost as little as $100m per year.

            That doesn’t seem remote to me.

            We’ve never done it (giving cover to naysayers) but we’ve done everything needed to do it for the last fifty years. We shall see.

          5. Jim Davis

            Your definition of remote and mine seems to be different. FH will fly soon. Superdracos, already tested, will be integrated into the Dragon for a lander suitable for mars. I can’t give you a timeline on that, but expect is will be ready to go in a couple of years. The funding to put the first dozen on mars could be within 10% of NASAs annual funding, so that doesn’t fit your definition of remote. Total resupply (No ISRU required) for a few dozen could cost as little as $100m per year.

            I’ll have some of what he’s having.

            We’ve never done it (giving cover to naysayers) but we’ve done everything needed to do it for the last fifty years.

            I don’t think you’ve quite grasped the inherent contradiction in that statement.

            We shall see.

            If in five or ten years there are a dozen permanent settlers on Mars I’ll happily admit I was wrong and you were right.

            What would make you reconsider?

          6. ken anthony

            What would make you reconsider?

            Obama nationalizes SpaceX in the governments interest.

            I’ll have some of what he’s having

            You’re a closet optimist? I really wish I could share, but I’m a bit too unique.

      3. Thomas Matula

        Ken,

        Land is only of value if someone wants it. But I would like to suggest a test for your business model. There is lots of cheap land in Arizona, cheap because there is no water or utilities available for it. Use your model to develop it, pulling water from the air and recycling it and using solar panels for power. Add in the facilities for the owners to produce their own food and then see if anyone will buy it. If it works in Arizona then you have a much better case for making it work on Mars.

        1. ken anthony

          [Everything] is only of value if someone wants it.

          Which is exactly what makes this work.

          You can not compare any place on earth with mars; exactly because value is in the eye of the beholder and I damned guarantee you that if the financing and transportation were available today thousands would sign up on the spot.

          Why mars and not earth? Because there are people that see life on mars as a vision of the future. Not mole people, mall people. Pournelle pointed it out the 70′s that living in style just requires cheap energy where ever you go (“A Step Farther Out”.) At some point the numbers will work and people will go. I wasn’t thinking about the lower delta V to orbit. You as well are not thinking of countless other reason that would make it a value to some. There is no government on mars. None. Compare that to the weight of rules carried by every person on earth (some more than others of course.)

          Now have a settlement charter enforced by it’s members that makes property rights absolute… this means entitlements can never exist. That alone would get the ball rolling. No eminent domain. No property taxes. All services are by contract. No leaders, just individuals. Yeah, I’d go for that.

          On earth a daily supply of water can be had using a $200 dehumidifier so the real question is cost of power. $10k will get you enough solar power (panels, charger, batteries and inverter) for a house. Here in Springerville an acre lot of a neighbor is asking $30k (too much in my opinion.) At 247 acres per sq. km. that would be about $7.5m for undeveloped land or many times more if you put a houses on it.

          We really don’t know how that would work out on mars but the laws of economics will be followed. Local resources could even be cheaper than here on earth (such as power which will not require the ridiculous jumping of hoops required here.)

      4. John Schilling

        “The banks will get ten times their investment in return. Because developed land has value.”

        I’d like to introduce you to California City, California. It is not invariably the case that developing land results in a tenfold ROI over a reasonable timeframe – or ever. That only happens when the development is of a kind and in a place where other people can make massively profitable use of it. If not, well, sometimes you build it and they don’t come.

        I suspect profitable uses can be found for a city on Mars. I’d rather not have to take that on faith. Same goes for the investors who will be putting up the money – they may want to cash out early by selling to someone else, but they will want to know going in what the end user – the guy who is *not* going to resell the land at a higher price – will see as a profitable use of the developed land. You need more than property rights and title deeds to make this happen – and depending on what the profitable end use is, you may not even need them.

        “Then when most on earth are dead from a radiation burst from a nova less than a hundred light years from us, martians will wake up to find they are the only ones left.”

        If Earthlings experience a nova at 100 light-years, the Martians will have experienced a nova at no more than 100.00004 light-years. How is it that every single one of the Earthlings is dead, even the ones in e.g. SSBNs on deterrence patrol, but the Martians are still alive?

        That’s another thing space advocates take on faith, that there is this vast range of actually plausible catastrophies that will be 99.999999% effective at killing Earthlings but leave Mars unscathed. Because if all you do is kill 99.99999% of the Earthlings, it doesn’t really matter if there are Mars colonies.

        1. gbaikie

          California City, California, land in Arizona, and Canadian Arctic, don’t have a lower escape velocity. A small chunk of land which only needed, less then 6 km/sec delta-v to get into orbit would be a valuable piece of land on earth.

          Since the Moon is about 2 km/sec and Mars is about 3-4 Km/sec these are important features regarding their land values.

          But a problem with land values is there are adding a future cost. Year 0 the land [acre or sq km] cost no money, and year 10 it costs more money.
          Which is fine to have this added cost in the future, if one is adding value in the years 0 to 10. There should be some kind of work done, the work could confidence, or removing doubt or risk [work isn't limited to digging a ditch with ones bare hands].
          In other words, “giving Mars” to some entity, if the entity does does some kind of work of making somehow easier for people to live on Mars. The work could lending enough capitial. So giving Mars to large bank, which will provide capital could fit what I mean by “work”.

          Which lends to a business model. One could allow/give/permit/charter a large chuck of the Moon or Mars or a space rock to some entity which has
          lots of capital it’s willing to invest [which results in the banker making money]. Or the entity could the IMF or UN- assuming that they will increase the land value by making loans/investment possible.

          Of course no authority can give anyone any territory in space- it could viewed violating a international treaty.
          One doesn’t need some sovereign granting anything, private interest could simply take- if this taking is politically acceptable [political opposition could work against your interest].
          A sole billionaire could do what I am talking about but a association of dozen billionaires, and millionaires, and various industry, and space associations, rotaries associations, etc provides more political support.

          So, the business model is start with forming a space government- comprised of “Expat” or “prepat” earthlings. And pick huge territory, such as the Lunar South pole as the country. And/or you could start two countries- North and South pole.

          1. John Schilling

            You are still not identifying the end users or existing markets for this chain of extraterrestrial speculation. In order for the investors to all make a profit, there has to be a population of end users who are going to buy, e.g., lunar real estate and *not* resell it at a profit. Who are these people? How much money are they going to bring to the table? What are they going to do with the extraterrestrial real estate to justify the money they are sinking into it, given that they will not sell it at a profit? And, if these people exist, why do we need the middlemen – why not just have them directly go out and settle the Moon or whatever?

            I think reasonable answers can be found to these questions. But until you address them, you are just selling a speculative bubble based on the “bigger idiot” theory. And you are doing so in such an obvious manner that even the marginal idiots will see right through it from the start. I do not know how to make this any more clear to you.

          2. gbaikie

            “You are still not identifying the end users or existing markets for this chain of extraterrestrial speculation. In order for the investors to all make a profit, there has to be a population of end users who are going to buy, e.g., lunar real estate and *not* resell it at a profit.”

            I said that land of the Moon has value as compared some wasteland in Canada due to unique aspect of having lower escape velocity [orbital speed].So end users are people you want land on the Moon [or Mars], and the means is by making a government And has to have capital which going to invest on some lunar enterprise. [such lunar water mining or whatever].

            So two things: because lunar land could have future value and one can gain ownership of land by doing stuff with the land [investing money related to a chunk of land] one could add value in investment- selling or make your company public which includes real estate and mineral rights of land, would have more value than it these were unknown/potentially challenged “assets”.
            Second you can king or president or foreign minister or office of the lunar government. As in people who begin a town generally up in some political position [like mayor]. So a product is an independent country.

            In other words, if we actually had competent UN. They could put in charge making governments in space. But UN is filled with morons.
            Instead people can organize and do this- and be more profitable. The members would include potential future investors, but there is no value in limiting membership. Nor is there any value in limiting activity on the territory of nation before someone actually goes to there. Once people go and establish property claims, then you be concerned about limit non owner involvement with a particular area of land [land ownership is the right to exclude others regarding some chunk of property].
            So being a member of this nation doesn’t give one anything- other than perhaps a right to be involve in the politics or policy making of nation. If you on Moon then it might give you something in terms rights or whatever.
            Members are signatories of a nation- and there is no reason to limit signatories. Nor do you restrict members by forbidding them of being members of other nations.
            And one would not do something like prevent any exploration by any one or any nation- instead you want to encourage any and all of it- if you can.

            Point I making is by having government of a territory you are enhancing the potential value of land. And some point in future, this government may limit people from claiming any land in territory [At that point this government would actually have government land [it owns any unclaimed land because it making a law that it's no longer free to have it, if land on it and claim it].
            And again at some point the government may decide to have taxes, and/or print money, etc. Such decision are political.

            But first [before hundreds or more people are living in the territory] the purpose is help establish definable land rights for those going to territory. And have this particular territory explored so as to encourage this kind of interest. [land rights could perhaps given for some kinds of exploration- private enities. If one land something there is clear land rights involved, but perhaps without landing but one doing some kind of exploration one could get some kind of property claim
            Earthling might tend to believe landing gives some rights, but Space government may grant things [within it's power] to grant- meaning when property boundaries are granted/agreed to [that is where space government has some power- it guidelines/rules regarding how. And I am saying what these are- that the stuff one would establish as a group.]

            But to be clear, it’s not my opinion the what is need is business plan to start water mining [or something on the Moon or Mars], instead I regard NASA exploration of the Moon as required before one can do business plans.
            And before NASA actually lands humans on the Moon, perhaps before any kind lunar exploration as a lunar program, I think NASA should develop a system refueling in space using depots. And should focus developing in a rocket fuel market in space. So before one have business plan for fuel depot, one needs NASA have a policy of using space re-fueling for it’s exploration.

          3. gbaikie

            “You are still not identifying the end users or existing markets for this chain of extraterrestrial speculation. In order for the investors to all make a profit, there has to be a population of end users who are going to buy, e.g., lunar real estate and *not* resell it at a profit.”

            Take two.
            Yeah, but it’s wasn’t my point.
            Say this way, a space government would seen as prerequisite.

            But you want to know where the customers are- you want details of a market.
            First, I believe starting *more* markets IN space should be US government priority.
            The satellite business is the existing market in space.
            I believe to have other markets in space, you need a market for rocket fuel in space.
            One way for government to start a rocket market is offer to buy rocket fuel on the Lunar surface. So, something like NASA figures out how much it would spend for a certain quantity of rocket fuel on the Moon. If NASA was going to put 10 or 100 tons of rocket fuel on the Moon, how much tax payer dollars would be required? Then, once studied in great detail, then NASA offers to pay 1/2 that amount- NASA offers to buy it from anyone who will make available for this amount.

            A different idea [not "new" as I have been talking about for decade or so] is govt or NASA buys water payloads. It pays 500 per lb of water delivered to LEO. And/or it pays $1000 per lb of water delivered to high orbit.
            A significant aspect of doing this would be to buy many payloads of water.
            And another aspect is to limit the cost of program- so it offers to buy fixed quantity. So NASA offers to buy say 100 tons of water payloads LEO for 500 per lb. Total cost 100 million plus minimal needed administration cost over say 5 years- 5 million dollars?
            Requirement is payload must delivered, and payload must have reasonable chance to remain in orbit for longer than 5 years, with reasonable chance of not leaking/losing the water for the 5 year period. Reasonable could be tortured- avoid that.

            So NASA is will pay once delivered, and will continue buy until it’s bought 100 tons, or 5 years has past. So this means a rocket maker could choose where and when the water payload is delivered.
            Oh, it’s called a water test payload.
            The purpose is to deliver water into space, and the purpose is to pay a set rate for test payloads.

            What would also be nice, is if the was a lot water payloads delivered in similar orbital location. This because, if enough water payloads are in one location, NASA could provide offer which might be attractive. And offer is it will give the water payload to any party that “mines” the water and make LH&LOX [rocket fuel].

            As I said one purpose is to provide some money to rocket maker if the launch is successful. And rocket launcher only has value if it regarded as likely to provide a successful launch. Since satellite have more value than the rocket, a launch given for free for $100 million satellite and launcher is considered to have a 50% chance of not successful delivering the payload costs could be “too expensive”.
            So this is good for new rockets and for rocket with successful launch rate, but the last launch was a failure.
            It’s better for the nation if satellites fly only on rockets which have high success rate.

            One could alter this, to have only 50 ton limit, or one could have 1000 ton limit. But I think 100 ton of water payload in similar orbit would be incentive to a satellite maker to design and built and launch a gas station in orbit which extracts the water and makes rocket fuel. If one has such a gas station, the government would no longer need to pay for water test payloads- the gas station could become a buyer.

          4. ken anthony

            A settlement charter is a form of government establishing terms and conditions for it’s members.

            Each person gets a single sq. km. and has total ownership that can not be voted away from them or any other form of theft by the “public.”

            They as a group become a legal entity which by their numbers makes it difficult for anyone to dispute their claim. They can just ignore outside governments that may try to impose laws illegally on them. No government has jurisdiction over mars colonists regardless of any treaty those governments may have signed. “WE ARE NOT SERFS” will be a common statement made by martians (another reason the harsh mistress is a mistake… way too close to those control freaks on earth.)

          5. gbaikie

            “A settlement charter is a form of government establishing terms and conditions for it’s members.

            Each person gets a single sq. km. and has total ownership that can not be voted away from them or any other form of theft by the “public.” ”

            Why does there need to be such an incentive to gain membership. Or why not give a sq foot instead of km? Or why don’t members pay for the land.

            One could provide land at cheap price, but that money isn’t spent on running the organization, instead it’s pooled into there enough to use the money to enable the members access to their land. So like a trust fund.

            A way they could spend the money could be building infrastructure on the Moon. Which could many different things. One example could be to finance the construction of a nuclear reactor and charging a rate that encouraged economic mining of lunar water.
            One could have a goal of organization the legal founding of lunar colony- being say having 100 members [from total] membership of million] be the first lunar natives, and that point ratify the group framework of governing.

            “They as a group become a legal entity which by their numbers makes it difficult for anyone to dispute their claim. ”

            A group of people without some members actually on the ground in the Territory, may be taken seriously, but we have that already:
            http://www.lunarregistry.com/
            http://www.lunarlandowner.com/
            They might do something, that one could call useful, but I think it could be “more serious”.

          6. ken anthony

            why not give a sq foot instead of km?

            A Zubrin hobby farm is 50m. round and feeds 3 to 4 and fits in a quarter hectare square leaving room for habitat access underneath. A sq. km. provides 400 parcels for resale yet keeps other claims close for safety. I’m not saying I’ve picked the exact right size. It just seems right to me.

            …why don’t members pay for the land.

            Because it doesn’t belong to anyone and we shouldn’t start a new society based on a lie that it does. History is on the side of making reasonable claims and going forward from there. Of course some government would love to be paid for something that doesn’t belong to them and we’ve let them do it right here in our own country. Doesn’t make it right.

            The point is how you start something has profound implications down the road. We screwed up by allowing the government power grab of the last century. By making small claims by each individual with absolute property rights in a settlement charter we’ve got a chance at a fresh start with a much better outcome.

            Everybody can choose to do their own thing. I’m hoping one group chooses such a settlement charter and provides the proof of it’s superiority as a form of government. Contract and property are the only rights you need and they are superior to the example of ‘rights’ FDR and others promote.

      5. Gregg

        ken anthony write:

        “Excellent question Jim. I will repeat my answer. We have a credible business model. It’s called ownership.”

        But I think the point is that there is no business model that makes ownership of a dreamy plot on Mars desirable.

        As Matula points out, there is plenty of land out West where no one lives. But there is a reason no one lives there.

        To go through the risk (to purse and life) and expense of trying to own a piece of Mars, there has to be a reason.

        A business model.

        So for example, if someone found out there was gold on Mars then people would do the arithmetic and see if a biz model could be made.

        “Ownership” by itself means nothing. The thing to be owned has to be of value.

        1. ken anthony

          to own a piece of Mars, there has to be a reason.

          Yes, but gold isn’t it. While I’ve focused on distributing a single property claim to every single person that puts boots on mars, that’s just to get things started. It provides enough wealth that martians can all build a great life for themselves. Underground mansions with power that costs almost nothing. A Tesla dealership that has batteries that actually provide some decent range. No welfare state. Each person responsible for their own life with no nanny state telling them otherwise. You live or die on your own wits and resources.

          Pournelle said it best, “Living in style.” (low gravity is great for arthritis.)

          1. Thomas Matula

            Ken,

            The laws of physics are the same on Mars as on Earth. If you have the technology to do it on Mars you will be able to do it on Earth without the huge transportation cost. The payoff? Millions of kilometers of “worthless” land in the American West, the Antarctic and the Arctic would be made “valuable” since folks could live there without the burden of flying supplies in. And you would get rich today instead of having to wait until SpaceX develops a Mars transportation system. Like I stated above, your first step should be proving your concept on a kilometer or so of Arizona. Think of it as a beta test if you would. Something to show the bankers when you ask them to invest in your Mars venture.

          2. ken anthony

            Thomas,

            You know that’s exactly what some contracters do, do; all of the time, right here on earth. Apparently it’s been hidden from you in plain sight.

            The difference of course is that most developments are near enough to utilities that it makes more sense to run new lines than develop onsite utilities. But even that may change as some are floating the idea of safe community nuclear power (pebble reactors, etc.)

            Solar power makes a lot of sense when you are not near enough to utilities that the cost passes break even. People drill their own water wells as well. People do what makes economic sense where ever they are. That doesn’t change on mars any more than physics does. It’s also why I think most colonists are mars will not need to produce their own water and power except as a backup. Others will specialize and provide those services just like they do on earth, except privately rather than as a city service.

            I wish I had to money to take up your challenge. I do hope to have a 500 watt system up (for a couple of grand) before next summer.

    2. Thomas Matula

      Jim,

      Space Settlement will only be economically practical when the only up mass needed are humans, their personal belongings, bio and tech “seed” stock.

      Advances like artificial meat, 3D Printing, robotic mining and biofuels are being the day closer making it more feasible to live off the land which has always been the key to space settlement, not CATS.

      Its a sad commentary on the space movement, and ironic, that the work that groups like PETA are funding is doing contributes far more to advancing the day when the business model for space settlement closes then space advocates who have been writing about it as a space goal for decades while chasing CATS…

      1. Karl Hallowell

        then space advocates who have been writing about it as a space goal for decades while chasing CATS…

        A goal which they’ve made steady progress on. It’s worth noting that it is cheaper to get into space now, even ignoring inflation, than it was in the 80s when the first commercial providers were created.

        Advances like artificial meat, 3D Printing, robotic mining and biofuels are being the day closer making it more feasible to live off the land which has always been the key to space settlement, not CATS.

        Ok, let’s look over that list. What item on that list doesn’t already have a powerful Earth-side interest backing it? Artificial meat, of course, but we already have natural meat (which I might add works really well, check out tilapia fish farming for example). Nothing else counts.

        So why concentrate on things that already have powerful interests developing them when we can focus on issues that obstruct all space activities? Hence, the consideration of lowering the cost of putting things in space from Earth.

        1. ken anthony

          A nice zero g Thorium reactor would go a long way in bringing costs down.

          (Getting fuel to orbit is THE COST of getting BEO.)

        2. Thomas Matula

          Karl,

          And its even cheaper to get to Antarctica, far cheaper than any projects for spacelift, but you have no private settlements there, only government one because only governments are able to afford the cost of supplying facilities there. And skip the argument its because of the Antarctic Treaty System. Nations with land claims there only agreed to the Treaty System because there was nothing of economic value. If something was found you would find nations like Chile and Argentina quickly withdrawing from it. But there is nothing worth the cost of settlement, so all you have 25,000-30,000 tourists visiting a year.

          Yes, if will be interesting to see if these advances changes that.

          Once you develop the ability for space settlements to live off the local resources CATS ceases to be relevant as the only mass you will have to lift would be the settlers and their personal goods. That is where the focus needs to be for space settlement, on ISRU, not on CATS.

          1. ken anthony

            Thomas, you keep missing the point that value is subjective and people want to go to mars today, more when it’s shown to be practical when people do start to live there. Those born there will wonder what you are talking about.

            You get it right when you say ISRU is the key. I’m absolutely right when I say land claims will pay for the entire cost. It’s just a matter of figuring out what the right numbers are. Anyone suggesting the value doesn’t or won’t exist has a faulty reason mechanism. [hint: work backwards from solar economics vs. one planet economics.]

            You are still not identifying the end users or existing markets for this chain of extraterrestrial speculation.

            Here is an example of that faulty reasoning; trying to apply a static test to a dynamic situation. There are no end users. People exist as a continuum. The last candy bar will never be sold. Somebody will always have another for sale. Life is not a zero sum game.

          2. Thomas Matula

            Ken,

            And there are folks on Earth that want to live “off the grid” and on “local food”, which is what your system applied to land in Arizona would allow. So you would be creating value for them. The big weakest in your model is that it requires you to go to Mars to get started. First try your business model on Earth where the costs are orders of magnitude less, then use the revenue, and lessons learned to improve your Martian business model. I know its not as much fun as doing view graphs and debating about how great it will work on Mars, but it will move you much closer to that goal.

          3. ken anthony

            Thomas,

            YOU CAN NOT DO MARS ON EARTH.

            I know people try but no analogy is perfect. By saying try it on earth first, you are showing that no amount of reasoning will ever allow you to get it.

            Those that colonize mars will do it BECAUSE IT IS NOT EARTH.

          4. Thomas Matula

            Ken,

            [[[YOU CAN NOT DO MARS ON EARTH.]]]

            I see, you are not able to recycle water on Earth like on Mars. You are not able to produce 100% of the food you need on your kilometer of Earth as on Mars. You won’t have the access to the energy you need on Earth like you will on Mars. Earth is just so much harder for humans to live on then Mars….

            And folks wonder why the giggle factor for space settlement is so high…

  6. MfK

    On the amateur virus front, I have to say it sounds a bit like the BS the anti-nuclear movement spouted many years ago. They managed to convince people that a “talented amateur” with access to fissionable material could easily build a nuclear weapon. Of course, that was the political left just trying to achieve a goal (killing a clean, cheap, limitless source of energy). They didn’t care how many lies they had to tell to achieve their “noble” end.

    The same left today is dismissing the idea that an entire country, massively equipped to produce fissile material, could produce a nuclear weapon without our knowing about it. “Talented amateur” terrorist CAN surprise us with a home-built nuke, Iran can’t. It’s all the same to them, as long as they get what they want…

  7. Fletcher Christian

    MfK – I seem to remember a story from a few years ago about someone who chose to do his PhD thesis on the subject of designing a fission bomb using only unclassified information. He succeeded. He must have, because (a) he got his PhD and (b) the thesis is now classified.

    1. ken anthony

      What’s hard about making a nuke? Separate the isotopes. When you have enough smash them together. Ok, there are details… :-)

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