Sunday, September 21, 2008

Why we won't have Mars or Moon colonies for a LONG time.

A thought while driving.

I've long loved the science fiction / futurist dream of establishing extraterrestrial colonies. But I've realized why it won't happen any time in the next century or so.

A colony requires a technology of production that will (in combination with trade) allow self-sufficiency and growth.

If we look at past successful colonizations, we can spot the technologies. Europeans brought technologies for dominance and agriculture, and were able to adapt technologies of the native peoples. Polynesians brought marine and agricultural technologies.

Now, some polyannas might claim we have the technologies for the Moon or Mars, and start listing solar power and other Heinlein/Clarke stuff, but it's obvious to me that's wrong. Yes we have those technologies, but they are not right or sufficient. We have a very simple demonstration why, right at our doorsteps.


It would be far easier to colonize Antartica than anywhere in space, and yet we haven't in roughly 100 years. We have some stations there, but NOTHING IS BEING PRODUCED for local consumption or for trade. (Yes, you could argue that scientific information is being produced, but face it: a real colony has a COMMERCIAL life that supports its own population.) Other excuses are easily made (for example international treaties), but if there was commercial opportunity due to technology in Antartica, we'd exploit it as fast as we exploited offshore oil: the treaties would change.

We haven't even colonized tropical shallow waters, let alone under water. Offshore oil fields are not colonized. Vast commercial opportunities await in those locations, but no colonies. Because it isn't enough to have a technology for commercial exploitation only: you must have an array of technologies for daily living of a community before you really have a colony. Otherwise you're just an outpost. It can be argued that Chilean's have a permanently occupied Antartic colony, and that satisfies the daily living technology requirement. But I'd point out that it is not a commercial success: it is a highly subsidized investment in geopolitical claims staking.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Paying for the bailout.

I know I've got maybe 3 readers but I want to be on the record with this one.

All the wailing and gnashing of teeth over the general public having to pay for the bailout seems to be missing three little words.

Capital. Gains. Tax.

Nice populist ring to them: but you won't hear them from somebody like McCain.

Now, I don't know if that makes any economic sense as an idea, and I'm not proposing it as a serious solution because I'm not knowledgeable enough to think it through. But I'm shocked that nobody's using the words yet. Populists could use the bailout as a justification for continuing or increasing the CGT. Plutocrats could use the CGT as justification for the bailout -- what have they been paying for all this time? Spin could go either way.

A further source of joy for me is to hear all the howls of "communism" coming from the usual capitalism-uber-alles lunatics. Here they have the most compliant right-wing presidential lapdog they could ever have asked for. But when faced with the possibility of being branded the second Herbert Hoover for bringing on a second world-wide great depression, he scurries to nationalize. Maybe that sounds as if he's working against his patron capitalists, but chances are it will boil down to government handouts to the corporations and the rich.