10 October 2012

Hope Above, Deep Concerns Below

The SpaceX Dragon capsule arrived at the International Space Station (ISS), full of ice cream and supplies. The Dragon was promptly captured by the ISS crew, who were already salivating for the treats, and eager to complete the docking procedure.

Carrying over 800 pounds of supplies for the ISS crew — including ice cream for a desert treat — SpaceX Dragon successfully docked at almost 4 AM PST this morning when Japanese astronaut Akihidko Hoshide secured the spacecraft with the station’s robotic arm.

...Dragon’s flight was not uneventful: one of the spacecraft’s nine rocket engines failed during the launch. However, the craft, which is designed to be able to launch with only seven operational engines, recalculated a new ascent profile, relieved pressure in the blocked rocket, and successfully inserted into orbit.

Building a space launch vehicle that can successfully complete missions even when things go wrong is impressive design, and SpaceX says that no other currently operational rockets have the same ability.

In addition, it’s worth noting that, while spaceflight may never be cheap, the cost for SpaceX to deliver supplies and groceries to low-earth orbit are approximately half NASA’s now-shuttered Space Shuttle. Lifting a kilogram of cargo to low earth orbit costs Spacex about $5000; the shuttle burned about $10,000 to accomplish the same feat.

The Dragon will stay at the ISS for an expected two and half weeks, and then return to earth with a cargo from the space station. _VB

Meanwhile, back on Earth, the nations of the planet are making a hash of their world. Things appear to be developing toward A Coming Anarchy -- or A Coming Global Disorder at the very least. The global economy appears to be slumping further into the swamp. The BRICS are crumbling without fanfare, and it seems that the planet may be approaching "a geopolitical phase change" similar in magnitude to that portrayed in Neil Stephenson's 1996 novel, The Diamond Age.

Of course, to achieve the level of global change that Stephenson describes, would require nanotechnological assemblers, capable of providing the basic needs of individuals -- without the need for large governments or nation states (see Eric Drexler's "Engines of Creation")

Unfortunately, we are not close to achieving the molecular assembler "age of plenty," but some of the mechanisms of global economic collapse portrayed in The Diamond Age are apt to come into play over the next decade or three. The difference will be that ordinary people are not likely to have their basic needs met so readily after the likely coming phase change.

Fortunately we do not foresee collapse from resource scarcity or climate catastrophe. What is more likely to occur is a series of local and regional collapses due to warfare, government spurred economic crises, and deadly ethnic clashes as increasing multiculturalism comes face to face with a growing economic hardship. As long as the larger powers do not allow themselves to be pulled into a global nuclear - biological - or chemical confrontation, we do not anticipate a global scale conflagration.

If advanced nations put the lion's share of their investment into the generative technologies of the future, their peoples are likely to emerge from the coming age of disruption in reasonably good condition, into a relatively abundant future.

But if they continue to waste their resources on false promises (intermittent unreliable energy sources) and false threats (carbon hysteria climate catastrophism), as well as on maintaining the status quo (a welfare state mentality), they are likely to be caught flat footed when the feces hits the high speed blower.

It is very hard to predict anything, but particularly the future.

Everything you think you know, just ain't so.

It is never too late to have a dangerous childhood.

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Blogger Matt M said...

I predict that within 10 years it will be against the law to own an unregistered 3D printer.

Wednesday, 10 October, 2012  
Blogger al fin said...

That is possible, although not likely, Matt M. Of course, if molecular assemblers are perfected, they will certainly be outlawed in several countries -- as a prelude to those countries' economic collapse.

3D printers have revolutionary potential, but for the near to intermediate future, they will lack the total disruptive impact that molecular assemblers would have.

Thursday, 11 October, 2012  

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“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act” _George Orwell

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