Berliner (captward) Mon 12 Jan 04 07:24
It's the kind espoused by a once-handsome ex-pop star from Philadelphia.
Coleman K. Ridge (ckridge) Mon 12 Jan 04 07:29
Silly. It is the notion that socialism is so clearly the best way out of this mess that one need only explain it properly for rational people to embrace it. True so far as it goes, but there turned out to be a shortage of rational people. Shaw was a Fabian socialist, and a lot of his prefaces point out that his plays are both socialist propaganda and great art.
Bruce Sterling (bruces) Mon 12 Jan 04 08:14
Well, it's always hard to out-guess the Bush Administration, as heaven only knows what wacky crank has got their ear, but let's just, for the fun of it, assume that I'm Karl Rove. What's the deal with the Moon and Mars pitch? 1. We wanted to say something cool during the Wright Brothers re-enactment, but the plane fell into the mud. If Beagle was chirping on the surface of Mars while Spirit had crashed into a crater at Mach 5, we wouldn't have said one word about Mars or the Moon. What we really want out of all this is a chance to look great on TV. And we got one. It's not a serious investment of our political capital. We're blowing smoke about stuff that could only happen twenty years from now. In other words, from our point of view, never. 2. Just as a general principle, Dad had prudence but no vision, while Son has vision but no prudence. Forget the prudence thing. It's a proven vote-loser. It doesn't hurt to throw loose cash at Big Science during a massive deficit. Reagan blew tons of money "throwing deep" on the Superconducting Super Collider, got absolutely nothing out of it, and nobody cares or remembers. Hell, he's going to replace Roosevelt on the dime. 3. The International Space Station is leaky. It's stupid, expensive and useless, not just because it's a white elephant with no real scientific or commercial uses, but because it's "International." We don't do International. We only do Unilateral. Declare a unilateral Mars Mission. Then we can mothball the international Station and also get rid of that colossal PR disaster, the Shuttle. We get rid of those relics by claiming we're doing something much grander and greater, and then some other Administration shuts down the silly Mars thing and it's not our fault. Genius! 4. It doesn't matter what happens to big-brain computer geeks, but if the aerospace biz gets offshored, we won't be able to bomb anybody. We need to sink some taxpayer bucks into the aerospace biz because Airbus is eating Boeing's lunch. If we just give them cash, though, we'll have to have another embarrassing trade-war climb-down like we did over the steel tariffs. So let's announce that we're going to Mars. Then our aerospace corporate welfare gets camouflaged with some sci-fi spin. We also get to have an industrial policy even though free-marketeers always hate that. It's great to have an industrial policy, you can buy votes with it. Lotta aerospace in Arnie's California, let's buy them! 5. The Space Race won us the Cold War. Why not the War on Terror? We've got a serious dream gap with this bin Laden guy. His mean-spirited, heavily armed world of resentful fundie oil sheiks looks way too much like our own Administration. If we declare that the Official American Future involves trips to Mars, he's got no PR counter to that. What's he gonna do, cite the verses on Mars in the Koran? Bin Laden's got no feel-good thing. Astronauts on Mars, that's a feel-good thing. We've got everybody plenty scared now, they know our military threats have credibility. We need a kinder-gentler angle. Not a mushy, kiss-the-babies one, though. We need one with big macho rockets. Kinder, gentler, interplanetary space missiles. Man, I am digging this. 6. India and China are launching Moon probes and taikonauts. They got some headlines for that. We'll throw 'em a little of the old Fear Uncertainty and Doubt here. They're trying to upstage the Microsoft of Space Flight. The Chinese and Indians should stick to what they do best, making cheap shoes and running call-centers. We're the ones with the copyrighted stars on the flag, and let's make sure that everybody's still got that straight. 7. It's news above the fold in the Post and Times that doesn't smell like napalm in the morning. We need some of that, it's a relaxing change of pace. If Spirit and Opportunity are really popping wheelies and busting rocks all over Mars for three months, it's gonna be a fun spring season! Get in front of the parade and wave the flag! What can it hurt?
Paul Terry Walhus (terry) Mon 12 Jan 04 09:56
So it boils down to, we're not going to have a space program. This amounts to the dismantling of the space program as we know it? Whatever happened to radio astronomy and the kind of feel good vibes espoused in "Contact" with bongo boy and Jodi Foster?
Coleman K. Ridge (ckridge) Mon 12 Jan 04 10:29
We have to have enough of a space program to keep communication, navigation, and surveillance satellites running. We can't do without those anymore, and we are are going to need them even more if the weather goes funny. We don't need the moon or Mars for that, though, and we don't need people up there either. Robots and space chickens will do. It was very exciting when the Mir kept breaking down and the old experienced cosmonauts would smack it a few times and make it go again. I would love to see cheap space stations made to be repaired many times up there for the long haul, inhabited by experienced space-dwellers. But I really only want it to happen because it would be so cool and would make such good stories. That does not seem like adequate justification for spending billions of dollars of public funds.
Ron Sipherd (ronks) Mon 12 Jan 04 12:44
> It was very exciting when the Mir kept breaking down It reminded me of the space jalopies in Alfred Bester's "The Stars My Destination".
virtual community or butter? (bumbaugh) Mon 12 Jan 04 18:31
Vinay, from off-Well, writes: Let's talk about money for a moment. Bernard Lietaer, one of the coauthors of the Euro, is now pushing a world currency designed to cure - well, the common cold, but specifically the urge to turn ecological assets into hard cash, and global trade imbalances. http://www.google.com/search?q=bernard+lietaer+terra&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8 Do you think this matters? Does it have legs? On another front, is there any chance whatsoever of making money in space? Or is commercial exploitation of space basically a distant dream?
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Mon 12 Jan 04 20:45
I'm waiting for the private space missions, myself, and remembering those commercial shuttle flights in 2001. Let the entrepreneurs handle it. Wouldn't that be more interesting than a space program run by bureaucrats?
Coleman K. Ridge (ckridge) Tue 13 Jan 04 07:00
Drifting some, well considerable, how do you think Iraq will play out? There's an article in this week's NYT Magazine about a Ph.D. in counter-insurgency who is getting a chance to test his theories in Iraq. His theory is that if you use too much force, you make more insurgents, and if you use too little, you get beaten. His book is called "How to Eat Soup with a Knife." In practice, he finds, it is more difficult than that. Perhaps the government will decide that we need to have locals enforce order for us, a local, a ruthless, dictatorial, non-religious, heavily armed local. That would be entertaining.
Bruce Sterling (bruces) Tue 13 Jan 04 10:50
Vinay, from off-Well, writes: Let's talk about money for a moment. Bernard Lietaer, one of the coauthors of the Euro, is now pushing a world currency designed to cure - well, the common cold, but specifically the urge to turn ecological assets into hard cash, and global trade imbalances. http://www.google.com/search?q=bernard+lietaer+terra&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8 Do you think this matters? Does it have legs? *Well, you've got to be quite the optimist to engage in major currency reforms. A lot of people have some claim to success in the Euro; victory has a hundred fathers while defeat is an orphan. *If the Euro's got an "author" it was Pierre Werner, a politician from Luxembourg who had a great French-German name, and a long life, and a whole lot of wiles and patience. http://www.optimists.cc/optimists/pwobituary.htm *Werner also used to handwave about a single world currency. This would have obvious benefits, but I also have to wonder what would happen if such a thing were mismanaged and hyperinflated. What if the whole world was so hopelessly indebted to itself and went broke? Who would bail us out then, Mars? *This isn't the first time I've heard of Bernard Lietaer, who has some interestingly weird ideas but, like the Pope, not a lot of battalions. On another front, is there any chance whatsoever of making money in space? Or is commercial exploitation of space basically a distant dream? *I think there is honest, modest money to be made in sending satellites into low earth orbit. The planet needs those for ships, navigation, earth sensing, weather forecasting. Satellite TV has set down a lot of roots. It's a real business, if you leave out the bank-busting astronaut pageantry. *Even 450 million or so isn't a bad price for Mars pics in my opinion. That's what, less than two bucks a head for the US population? We're really enjoying this Mars thing. It's genuinely entertaining. Nothing wrong with that. Drifting some, well considerable, how do you think Iraq will play out? *They're a basket-case. You can liberate a lot of popular energy when you have a national insurgency to drive the hated invaders from the national soil, but you need some guy of the caliber of Kemal Ataturk or Ho Chi Minh to pull that off. He needs a clear cause, and fame, and a realistic game plan, and a victory condition so that people know when to stop killing, and the ability to impose order in liberated areas. Detonating ambulances and killing collaborators and foreigners more or less at random just cannot do those things. A national liberation front isn't a frenzied slave rebellion. There's an article in this week's NYT Magazine about a Ph.D. in counter-insurgency who is getting a chance to test his theories in Iraq. His theory is that if you use too much force, you make more insurgents, and if you use too little, you get beaten. His book is called "How to Eat Soup with a Knife." In practice, he finds, it is more difficult than that. *I tend to think that the ur-text of this struggle is "Lawrence of Arabia." It's pretty much all there, really: spies, bribes, attacks on convoys, suicidal sacrifice, war crimes, cynical embedded journalists, torture in the police station, capturing Damascus and having it catch fire because nobody can run the fire trucks or the electrical generators, Arabs ignoring the overlords for the wild pleasure they take in cutting each other's throats, bemused white-guy imperialists who would sort of like to help them out Rudyard-Kipling style, but are reduced to just kinda emptily staring.... That may have been a long time ago, but it's pretty much fresh as yesterday's news. Perhaps the government will decide that we need to have locals enforce order for us, a local, a ruthless, dictatorial, non-religious, heavily armed local. That would be entertaining. *Kemal Ataturk. I do find it hard to believe that any coalition of aliens can stitch the Moslem world together with bayonets. They are going to have to find authentic political talent who can give them a convincing reason to live. And they're never going to find that in Al Qaeda. Those guys are nihilists who kill everybody they can get their hands on, including their own.
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Tue 13 Jan 04 17:30
Can you bring us up to date on the Viridian Design project? Is it what you hoped it would be when you created it?
Bruce Sterling (bruces) Tue 13 Jan 04 18:19
A friend of mine in GBN just found some AIDS demographics for me. They're UN population projections, and they may be more than a little rubbery, but at least they are back-of-the-envelope scenarios by people who know what they're doing. Forgive me for deluging the readership with numbers and charts here, but proper futurists live on this stuff. First, the estimated situation NOW. As background, the median age for dying of AIDS after infection is ten years. Look at the percentages in some of these southern African countries. We're looking at situations where a *large majority* of today's teenagers in those countries will get AIDS at some time in their lifespan. Country Estimated number of HIV positive persons aged 15-49 in 2001 HIV prevalence among persons aged 15-49 (percentage) Africa 1 Angola 320 000 5.5 2 Benin 110 000 3.6 3 Botswana 300 000 38.8 <-------- 4 Burkina Faso 380 000 6.5 5 Burundi 330 000 8.3 6 Cameroon 860 000 11.8 7 Central African Republic 220 000 12.9 8 Chad 130 000 3.6 9 Congo 99 000 7.2 10 Côte d'Ivoire 690 000 9.7 11 Democratic Republic of the Congo 1 100 000 4.9 12 Djibouti 1 30 000 7.1 13 Equatorial Guinea 5 500 3.4 14 Eritrea 49 000 2.8 15 Ethiopia 1 900 000 6.4 16 Gabon 1 27 000 3.6 17 Gambia 7 900 1.6 18 Ghana 330 000 3.0 19 Guinea 1 78 000 1.8 20 Guinea-Bissau 16 000 2.8 21 Kenya 2 300 000 15.0 22 Lesotho 330 000 31.0 23 Liberia 1 114 000 6.5 24 Malawi 780 000 15.0 25 Mali 100 000 1.7 26 Mozambique 1 000 000 13.0 27 Namibia 200 000 22.5 <------ 28 Nigeria 3 200 000 5.8 29 Rwanda 430 000 8.9 30 Sierra Leone 150 000 7.0 31 South Africa 4 700 000 20.1 <-------- 32 Sudan 410 000 2.6 33 Swaziland 150 000 33.4 34 Togo 130 000 6.0 35 Uganda 510 000 5.0 36 United Republic of Tanzania 1 300 000 7.8 37 Zambia 1 000 000 21.5 38 Zimbabwe 2 000 000 33.7 <-------- And by contrast: 1 Russian Federation 700 000 0.9 2 United States of America 890 000 0.6
Bruce Sterling (bruces) Tue 13 Jan 04 18:21
*As they explain here, the methodology is a little shaky. Lots of unknowable variables. http://www.un.org/esa/population/publications/adultmort/Adultmortality.htm In considering this assessment of the demographic impact of HIV/AIDS, the reader should bear in mind that there is much uncertainty surrounding both the estimated prevalence of the disease in different populations and the path that the epidemic will follow in the future. Furthermore, more needs to be known about the dynamics of the epidemic itself. For example, it is not certain that the progression from HIV infection to AIDS and from AIDS to death will occur according to the same model schedule in all populations or even in most populations in a geographical region. The introduction of therapies that increase the survivorship of infected persons would require the use of different models. Similarly, estimates of the chances of transmission of the disease from mother to child also need to be validated in a variety of settings, and will need modification if concerted action is taken to prevent mother-to-child transmission by the use of appropriate drug therapy. Changes in the assumptions made regarding any of these modelling inputs could result in sizeable changes in the projection results. Consequently, the data presented here should at best be considered as indicative of the possible toll that the epidemic might take under the specific assumptions made.
Bruce Sterling (bruces) Tue 13 Jan 04 18:26
*Then the brass tacks. In the seven most affected countries, whose adult HIV prevalence in 2001 was above 20 per cent, AIDS is projected to bring population growth almost to a halt. Thus, the population of those seven countries is projected to increase by just 4 million people between 2000 and 2050 or less than 1 per cent. In the absence of AIDS, their overall population would have nearly doubled. While the average annual growth rate in this group of countries remains above zero during 2000-2050, in fact their overall population declines over the 20202030 decade (data not shown). Because of increased mortality, population growth in Botswana has already been significantly reduced and population decline is projected to begin in 2005-2010. The average annual growth rate of Botswanas population dropped from 3.3 per cent per year in 1980-1985 to 2.1 per cent in 1995-2000 and is expected to decline further to 0.4 per cent per year in 2005-2010 (figure 8). By 2050, Botswanas population is expected to be 1.4 million, 20 per cent smaller than its population in 2000 and 63 per cent lower than the population projected for 2050 in the absence of AIDS. In South Africa, the epidemic started later than in Eastern and Middle Africa. Yet, by 2001, one out of every five adults in the country was infected by the disease. While HIV prevalence is lower than in neighbouring Botswana and Zimbabwe, because of its larger population South Africa has more than double the number of persons infected of the two other countries combined. According to projected levels of future HIV incidence, 48 out of every 100 persons aged 15 in South Africa in 2000 will likely become infected by age 50. <---- *Kind of staggers the imagination, doesn't it? "Welcome to South Africa, 2035! Half of us have AIDS!" Although the full impact of the epidemic is yet to be felt, projections over the next decade or two reveal a dire situation. Life expectancy, which was barely affected in 1990-1995, is projected to drop to 41.5 years by 2010-2015, 26.8 years below the level it would have had in the absence of AIDS. When the higher mortality induced by HIV infection is coupled with the low fertility levels prevalent in South Africa, the country is expected to begin experiencing population decline in 2005-2010 <---- *That's a year away! (figure 10) and continued population reductions are projected to persist until 2050. By then, South Africas population is expected to be 9 per cent lower than the countrys population in 2000 and 44 per cent lower than the 2050 population projected in the absence of AIDS. *The global summary: By 2050, world population is expected to be 479 million lower than it would have been in the absence of AIDS. Africa alone is expected to have 320 million fewer inhabitants in 2050 than it would have had without AIDS.
Dennis Wilen (the-voidmstr) Tue 13 Jan 04 18:38
Dan Flanery (sunspot) Tue 13 Jan 04 20:03
How on Earth is AIDS going to infect half the population of South Africa? Is anal intercourse outside of marriage that common? Because the transmission rates for vaginal intercourse are very low. Or is their blood supply compromised? And how are the men getting infected in the first place? I can see how the women might get it if they're engaging in anal sex, but the men? Is IV drug use rampant in South Africa?
Dan Flanery (sunspot) Tue 13 Jan 04 20:16
On a completely different subject, Slashdot today carried a story about a new kind of nuclear rocket. Well, I guess it's not all that new, but I hadn't heard about it here in my cave: http://science.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=04/01/13/1816227&mode=thread&tid=12 6&tid=134&tid=160 As a lot of people have pointed out in the thread, are rockets like this even going to be necessary? It looks like the technology might be coming into place to take the space elevator from fantasy to reality, perhaps within the next decade: http://www.spaceelevator.com/docs/521Edwards.pdf http://www.isr.us/SEhome.asp?m=1 Given what you know, do you think the space elevator will be coming to a space near you anytime soon? (Sorry, couldn't resist!) And what do you think the implications would be? Orbital power sats beaming essentially free juice back to Earth? Asteroid mining? Orbital and offworld colonies? Those are all the usual suspects, but I'm wondering if there might be some unusual suspects.
Paul Terry Walhus (terry) Wed 14 Jan 04 05:30
What would you like to see in a sci fi movie?
Bruce Sterling (bruces) Wed 14 Jan 04 07:53
I am digging that space elevator, actually. The devil is in the details, but I think it's less farfetched than it sounds. The best-laid plan for one that I've seen is actually a very flimsy, delicate, feminine thing, kind of like a long black typewriter ribbon into low orbit. It has an elegance. If you had one, you could gently and almost soundlessly distribute a lot of hardware into low orbit without massive explosions, cartwheeling space junk, stratospheric chemical pollution and the other hassles that come with chemical rockets. When it comes to interplanetary travel, you have two realistic choices. You can either send small unmanned packages that take years and years and don't mind frying in radiation, or else you go for fusion and fission power that is capable of moving humans and their life support systems quickly. Chemical rockets just don't have the muscle. You've got to waste so much overhead lugging chemicals that the project becomes ungainly. Fission is filthy. Fusion is always "fifty years away." Otherwise we'd have done it already. Launching nukes up through the atmosphere is not that pleasing an idea, but quietly reeling little pieces of nuke up a typewriter ribbon and assembling them far away, that's not too bad a notion. I'm not quite sure what people are supposed to do out there -- I never saw how solar and asteroid mining were supposed to pay off, practicallty speaking -- but there might be some people with a few dozen billion bucks in resources who just plain want to go look around. They could make some speeches, knock some golf balls around, pick up some souvenirs -- hey, it happened once. Why not again?
turing testy (cascio) Wed 14 Jan 04 10:44
One argument for asteroid mining is that the environmental costs of Earthside mining are pretty severe, so when those are included, the cost of mining in space (given the existence of elevators) may be competitive. Also: if/when we finally get working fusion reactors, Helium-3 is far more abundant on the Moon and asteroids than on Earth, and 3He allows a cleaner and much more efficient fusion reaction than the more common Helium-2 isotope. Regarding space elevators: bear in mind that completing the first one makes subsequent elevators all the cheaper to build. With the ribbon version (as opposed to the KSR-Mars Trilogy Giant Tower version) it's relatively easy to put the Earthside base off the equator, making them even more economically feasible. Also, since you need the other end of the elevator to be at or beyond geosynchronous orbit, you have a helluva lot of momentum at the top of the spike -- it's an ideal location for launching out of the Earth's gravity well at a good clip.
Dan Flanery (sunspot) Wed 14 Jan 04 10:52
Yeah, an elevator out to 91,000 miles or km or whatever (I didn't work on that Mars probe, I'll have you know) can shoot payloads straight to Jupiter. And small, fast-rotating bodies (like asteroids, or the moons of Jupiter) can make due with very short elevators. Are the orbital solar panels not worth it? Because I thought the 24 hrs of daylight and no atmospheric interference (clouds, etc.) made space-based solar almost twice as efficient as ground-based solutions. If you could get stuff up there for $100 a pound instead of $2,000 a pound . . .
Bruce Sterling (bruces) Thu 15 Jan 04 08:48
On the subject of Viridian Movement, I have to plug "Worldchanging." http://www.worldchanging.com Email, which was the substrate of Viridian List, is almost broken now by the deadly combination of spammers and Microsoft. Given that I have a daily weblog and a monthly magazine column, I don't have enough hours in the day to agitate as much as I would like. I'm not going to abandon the list, though. I derived a personal education in design from running that thing. Nowadays I do quite a lot of design writing. Running the list keeps me up to speed on the issues. These Worldchanging guys, however, have much more of a "movement" thing going on. They are a genuine cadre. They met through Viridian List, they whipped this weblog together in an impressive spasm of competence, and they are just blogging that thing till the world looks level. I am really pleased with that website. Most everything they talk about or link to is of direct relevance to my interests, and it has just the cultural sensibility that I want to see widely promulgated. I don't contribute much to "Worldchanging" myself, but I feel a real sense of accomplishment at becoming an eminence grise there, somewhere in the link-list. One throws one's bread on the waters and lo it returns ten-fold.
an impressive spasm of competence (tinymonster) Thu 15 Jan 04 09:57
^-- Hmm... I just may keep this one. Thanks, Bruce!
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Thu 15 Jan 04 21:06
I was happy as a clam to join the Worldchanging team - it's the closest thing we have to CoEvolution Quarterly aka Whole Earth Review, now more or less defunct (with the last issue, edited by Worldchanging's Alex Steffen, sadly unpublished). I think CQ/WER (actually called Whole Earth Magazine in its final incarnation) was the single biggest influence on my life and thought. Bruce, you edited an issue and I know you read it for a while, did it get under your skin, too? (Note to all: we end this tomorrow, so post 'em if you've got 'em.)
Bruce Sterling (bruces) Fri 16 Jan 04 07:42
I wish I could have edited Whole Earth as a regular gig. But my opportunity costs were too high. I've never seen a magazine, even plump, glossy, commercial ones, where the staff and editors weren't busier than a family with newborn twins. I just don't have it in me to focus that hard. I would have to settle down on one enterprise and shoot off my thundering herd of hobbyhorses, and, well, I don't have the heart. The "single biggest influence in my life and thought" has always been science fiction. I veer away from it sometimes, because I like to dabble and I don't much care to concentrate, but that was my formative milieu. It's a nice, loose, scatterbrained one. It really suits my proclivities. The last three books I've written were an experimental fantasy novel, a nonfiction futurist book and a technothriller. Now, though, I'm at work on an SF book set in the 2060s. And man, that's like a holy cause. It's really got me gritting my teeth and hyperventilating. It's quite a taxing effort, but, well, it's what I'm best at. "The ever-popular tortured artist effect" -- it's kinda tedious, but, y'know, one takes pride in it. This Mars cartoon is top o' the blog charts today. Man that guy is funny. http://www.mnftiu.cc/mnftiu.cc/war30.html
Members: Enter the conference to participate