Quote notes (#55)

A comment by Stirner, responding to this spirited Aurini post, speculates insightfully about the media environment ahead:

… the insights of the DE are clear and obvious, so targeting and spotlighting is only going to bring the DE to new eyeballs. It’s one thing for them to say “racist” or “sexist”, but it is quite another thing for the DE to answer: “I believe that competitive selection worked on humans over the last 50,000 years – isn’t that what you believe too? Aren’t the only people who disagree with that the Creationist types?” To attack the DE is only to publicize it further.

Second point. They are not going to be able to resist attacking. God help us, but Buzzfeed is the future, not Newspapers. People want their controversy of the day, and websites need their clicks and traffic. For internet media, the DE is a giant source of potential click bait. Even if they would be smart to ignore the DE, they are not going to resist the temptation.

Third point. The mainstream media is withering on the vine, and turning into the vanity press operations of plutocrats. Academia is about to be disintermediated by MOOCs, online learning, and low-cost alternatives to credentials. Major organs of the Cathedral will be growing weaker, and weaker, while the DE adapts to the new environment seamlessly. The DE was birthed on the internet and in the blogosphere: you can’t starve it of money, or attack it’s institutions, and the control of media channels for outreach and influence is becoming increasingly irrelevant.

As confirmation, note this story, or this oxyacetalene-torch-to-the-eyeballs media site.

January 9, 2014admin 25 Comments »
FILED UNDER :Neoreaction

TAGGED WITH :

25 Responses to this entry

  • Igitur Says:

    Who is this surprisingly smart person again?

    The whole pretentious emo poetry I keep coming up with about the virus and the infection and how they are going to find themselves sick and horrified at their very own pores opening up and erupting tentacles? Look at how sensible he makes it sound.

    I love “competitive adaptation” as a composite slogan; it takes the things I like/believe about HBD, the things I believe about catallaxy/emergent economic order, the things about futurism/singularitarianism that I like as a political project and quite a few not-apparently-DE ideas that I’ve cultivated separately, if nonsystematically (through my offline soicial networks).

    Somehow, it also makes very apparent the sickness of Progressivism. Progressivism is the belief that a rising tide lifts all boats. I know this has been recently associated with the “trickle-down economics” of differential taxation in the USA, but this is an actual, concrete problem with Human Rights as a concept, for example. Or with the whole idea that there’s a fair price for labor in the third world.

    Where do you find all this material, professor?

    [Reply]

    admin Reply:

    Stirner has been a delightful guest here, quite often. It is therefore verging on gluttony to be hunting him down on other blogs, but I found this comment so perfectly adapted to our historical moment that I had to loot it.

    [Reply]

    Stirner Reply:

    I’m a longtime lurker of the DE. And by longtime, I mean that I had UR coming through my RSS reader after his second blog post (after finding out about Moldbug from his comments at 2Blowhards). Needless to say, I am a bit shocked that Moldbug managed to launch a new ideological and intellectual movement, but I am certainly delightfully surprised.

    For the completist, there is also another recent comment I posted at the end of this threat on Handle’s site, on the topic of responding to the progressive purging of reactionaries from employment and other institutions:
    http://handleshaus.wordpress.com/2013/12/26/sound-and-fury-but-no-reaction/#comments

    Thanks for the positive feedback Nick. It is likely to spur more commentary on my part.

    [Reply]

    admin Reply:

    Thanks for the link — further enrichment. Maybe even over-rich — there are enough ideas for three strong blog posts in that one comment.

    Posted on January 9th, 2014 at 11:44 am Reply | Quote
  • VXXC Says:

    OTOH….

    Sailer….

    “In a lot of ways, that sums up much of the history of the last half century: the upstarts of the Sixties are still in charge. Back then, they liked Controversy, so everybody liked it. Now they don’t like Controversy, so nobody likes it.”

    http://isteve.blogspot.com/2014/01/new-york-review-of-books-never-trust.html

    [Reply]

    admin Reply:

    Sailer tends to be quite reverential towards elite establishment media — I’m more inclined to a ‘let them burn’ response. In the end, the click wars will decide.

    [Reply]

    Posted on January 9th, 2014 at 12:25 pm Reply | Quote
  • Mark Warburton Says:

    Digressing (a lot) – I was surprised nothing has been said about the coverage of the Duggan shooting during the London riots. You going to write anything about it, Nick? I was quite surprised the Guardian led with a story using one of Duggan’s more thuggish photos. A lot of angry leftists here – reminds me of the Zimmerman political split. The jury were 8-to-2. He had – on his person at some point – a gun.

    [Reply]

    Posted on January 9th, 2014 at 6:07 pm Reply | Quote
  • Stirner Says:

    @ Here is another morsel that touches on Buzzfeed clickbait, and the un-reconstructed reactionary impulses of today’s “Youths”. If it pleases the court, I give you…..Travyoning.

    [Reply]

    Posted on January 10th, 2014 at 2:11 am Reply | Quote
  • Kevin C. Says:

    I’m sorry, but the idea that MOOCs and “low-cost alternatives to credentials” are going to overthrow one of the core elements of the Cathedral is patently absurd. The Cathedral holds a monopoly on “legitimate” degrees. The Department of Education is the sole decider of which college accreditation bodies are legitimate and which are “accreditation mills”, thus enforcing doctrinal uniformity on these bodies. These, in turn, are the sole arbiters of what constitute valid degree-granting institutions versus “diploma mills”, again enforcing the firm adherence to Cathedral doctrine. Nothing outside this system will ever be granted legitimacy, and will remain a “worthless piece of paper” no employer will dare consider in hiring decisions for fear of lawsuit or EEC action. The Cathedral is not so easily defeated.

    Let me also quote here from an essay by “libertarian political scientist” Benjamin Ginsberg:

    What is to be done? Faculty must make a stand against the abuse of MOOCs. Let me suggest three possible tactics. The first is shame and censure. Professors who lend their names and reputations to MOOCs should not be allowed to simply ignore how their lectures are used. Those willing to allow their lectures to replace real classes should be named, shamed and censured by their colleagues. The second is accreditation. Professional associations can and should challenge the accreditation of schools whose curricula are essentially MOOCified. The law generally permits “third party comment” on accreditation issues and I would suggest loud comment. Finally, there is the matter of college credit. Credit should be refused for classes taken away from the campus that are adjudged to be all-MOOC and lacking in other elements of pedagogy. When students begin to wonder whether their MOOCified credits are transferrable, the foundations of MOOCery may crumble.

    Or how about this open letter by the Philosophy Department at San Jose State U., which decries a MOOC in “social justice” as “a serious compromise of quality of education and, ironically for a social justice course, a case of social injustice.” They further ask, rhetorically, “what kind of message are we sending our students them that they should best learn what justice is by listening to the reflections of the largely white student population from a privileged institution like Harvard?”

    Or here:

    If higher ed is a seashore, then MOOCs aren’t the tsunami threatening to wreck the infrastructure and transfigure the shoreline. They’re a ripple—a sizeable ripple—that supplements rather than replaces higher ed’s basic model. They’ll rattle a few shaky institutions, forcing them to either reinforce or give way, but for the most part they offer complementary additions to the various higher ed options (public, private, secular, parochial, for-profit, not-for-profit, online, brick-and-mortar, blended, etc.).

    The MOOC-user demographic reveals why MOOCs won’t drown traditional colleges. Preliminary data on MOOC enrollees indicate that not too many of them desire credit for their courses. Most already have degrees. They’re largely recent graduates looking to fine-tune their skills, mid-career professionals boning up for a promotion or a career change, or lifelong learners keen on a good mental challenge.

    Or from Lynn Swayze Wilson:

    The problem is that MOOCs, as they are now, cannot replace accredited education. Why is that? Well, in the United States of America at least, you  must have a degree. Apprenticeship/mentorship just doesn’t really exist. Why should it, when it’s easier for employers to step out of the training process altogether? In my experience, companies want the piece of paper. Some wont’ even hire you without you first having gone through some personality test, which tests Gd knows what but is apparently indicative of employability.
    I’ve worked with people who have more certifications than I have fingers, but who cannot think their way through a basic IT problem. But hey – they have the certifications, right? Or the degree? Yeah. Employers in most fields want the paper; in some fields, it’s required. There is no way to “prove” that you have the requisite knowledge. There are even fields within IT (information security, my love, is one of them) that require a bachelor’s degree at the bare minimum in order to obtain positions. It’s just the way it is.

    Or Dominique Boullier’s condemnation of MOOCs as a “fad and bubble“, analyzing them as little more than a marketing/branding strategy, in our “opinion economy”, for major American universities, like Harvard, to maintain their competitive edge:

    Who is in the field? The world famous universities, American ones first, and any other university that would try to replicate their model will have to think it twice because their reputation status will not challenge the big ones. Which means a business model and an attractiveness that will remain limited to the leaders, the ones who will monetize their reputation worldwide. Universities are supposed to act as brands, and this recent move is a major strategic one to consolidate this mood.

    Free. This is one of the main features of what economists call two-sided markets and we are just at the first phase of this strategy. Delivering this supposedly high standard courses for free seems weird if one does not point out that all free offers tend to prepare a second phase (or sometimes in the same moment) where the public will be monetized (through advertising) or will have to pay (through premium services that will devaluate the quality of the basic offer). This is almost what we see now, because coaching and other added value services require a fee. This is the typical drug dealer method for addicts and this is obviously not a charity business offer but a very well designed strategy to capture the audience before others do it.

    When described in these terms, any other sector of our financialized capitalism would almost fit the model. Education brands are investing in digital platforms for maintaining the traditional way of learning for the benefit of the same big ones, this.

    To sum up this point, let’s say that all MOOCs model is more about predation than cooperation, more about reproduction than innovation, more about standardization than diversification.

    Or how about this person (who, based on other posts, is Deeply Concerned about the “lack” of women in computer science, with much hand-wringing over What is to be Done to Close the Gap™) speculating that since those who successfuly complete them clearly skew white and male, MOOCS, as presently constituted, may already be illegal, with reference to that classic decision Griggs v. Duke Power.

    Or this:

    To survive, Coursera has to cater to people who are willing to pay for the privilege of watching superprofessors on videos. In effect, they have to convince the general public to make taking MOOCs their job. For that to happen, Coursera has to be able to turn that experience into some kind of actual degree. You can’t displace college with certificates or badges. You have to give grades so that employers can distinguish between average candidates and great ones. You have to convince both students and employers alike that your MOOC is just as good as an actual college degree.

    None of this is ever going to happen.

    In addition:
    All Hail MOOCs! Just Don’t Ask if They Actually Work
    MOOCs are Toast or at Least Should Be
    Rabett Run: Why MOOCs Fail
    And consider Udacity founder Sebastian Thrun’s backpedalling.

    Thus, to the (tiny) extent that MOOCs pose any threat to the Establishment, they will be either co-opted or crushed by the Cathedral.

    And as for “low-cost alternatives to credentials”, I recall Arnold Kling’s A Means A proposal back in 2011, which he also seems to have not mentioned since later that year, when he was finally persuaded that, as commenters had been pointing out all along, the afore-mentioned Griggs likely proves an insurmountable legal barrier. And good luck getting it overturned in the Age of Obama.

    And furthermore, I find this whole notion part of a disturbing trend. Like Moldbug attempting to shore up the fatal failings of his “neocameralism” with nonsense about “cryptographic weapon locks”, or suggestions that cheap biowarfare will allow seasteads and secessionist polities to deter Cathedral agression (rather than the far more likely alternatives of providing the Cathedral the exuse to switch from “convert the heathen” mode to “burn the heretic” mode, or unleashing a nigh-unstoppable superplague that, if it doesn’t outright render our species extinct, will so devastate the population that the survivors will be too few to maintain the complex and delicate systems that make up industrial society, leading irreversably to a pre-industrial order), or the belief that while past civilizations lost technology during social and political declines and upheavals, we Moderns have Progressed beyond the possiblity of that failing of the less Enlightened past. All of these evince a faith in the power and omnibenevolence of technological Progress that is very problematic.

    While I do not agree with them entirely, there are valid points in Mark Tully’s and Scott Alexander’s criticisms. The Enlightenment view of uplifting, salvation-providing Technological Progress is kin to, and not easily separated from, the similar view of Social “Progress”. And some (but by no means all) that reaction rightly condemns about our present world is the inevitable product of our current technology and economy. And the idea that the solution to the negative effects of technological Progress is more and better technology is of the same species of madness as the belief that the solution to the problems of Social “Progress” is more “Progress”.

    In fact, I would classify such faith in quick technological “fixes” to deep social problems as a fundamentally Progressive view, and have reservations as to whether anyone who truly holds such views can truly be considered reactionary.

    [Reply]

    Lesser Bull Reply:

    My guess is that MOOCs will allow the most prestigious Cathedral organs like Yale and Harvard to extend their power. Instead of a degree from a second tier institution, with professors who may have slipped through the cracks in their anonymity, one gets a second-tier Harvard degree.

    [Reply]

    anonymous Reply:

    I predict many employers (USG, local/state govs, ‘nonprofits’ and megacorps) will adopt a two-tiered system regarding MOOCs.

    Credentials earned from MOOCs will be valid when held by some, and worthless paper when held by others.

    For example a literal third world peasant who studied finance with one of bill gates’ free laptops in between wiping his shit off his ass with his bare left hand, can get an H1B visa and an entry level analyst job (at a significantly discounted salary, lol) for say

    Or a transgender woman of color (TM) who studied human resources via MOOC at the DC public library in between her shifts at the Columbia Heights Target might get a management-track position at the HRC.

    Or Southern California governments giving cushy white collar city jobs to mexicans with MOOCs.

    But for regular white people (men especially) – forget about it. A MOOC credential will be a joke. No way they are going to let us just skip around the student loan debt slavery racket.

    [Reply]

    Mark Tully Reply:

    I realize this discussion is somewhat dated, but I’d be curious to know which parts of my criticism you disagree with. It would give me more to think about.

    (And thanks for the read, by the way.)

    [Reply]

    Posted on January 10th, 2014 at 5:03 am Reply | Quote
  • Bill Says:

    We are the first hard right to be trained to think by the hard left. The NR DE has juice. They tried to convert us, and we rejected their ideas on principle. But we still know all their ideas.

    Also, in regard to Massive Online Courses, or whatever they are called. Has it not dawned on anyone that the most prominent professors have always offered their courses at reasonable fees to anyone with a work ethic? Those courses are called books.

    [Reply]

    Posted on January 10th, 2014 at 6:03 am Reply | Quote
  • DEPhysicist Says:

    @Kevin C.

    I largely agree on both points and I’d like to add my sentiments on the latter point regarding technology. Technology certainly does progress, in the sense of allowing the wielder ever more power and control over physical reality, but there is no guarantee that the interaction of technological development and human nature won’t damage the viability of large-scale human civilization. Sometimes we’ve been lucky, and one technology balances the damaging effects of others. Nuclear weapons for instance, offset the tendencies towards larger and larger conventional conflicts enabled by agricultural, communications, and weapons technologies that let leaders insulate themselves from the battlefield by making those leaders once again subject to the violence of war.

    We can’t depend on luck, though, especially as that very technological development reduces effective distance and knits the globe into an entity whose size, when measured by the rate of information and goods transfer, may approximate a single early 20th century nation state yet whose social and human dimensions grow ever larger. The shear forces generated by such discontinuities could tear us apart. There seem to be two possible answers: fall back to a pre-industrial state with ever-diminishing waves of re-technologization occasionally bursting forth like aftershocks, or expand the geographic range of the species to allow for the return of real separation.

    Since we occupy the entire Earth, the only real range expansion possible is VXXC’s oft-mentioned “Up,” and since our communications proceed at the speed of light the only ranges that matter to allow joyous disunity (and thus survival) are light-speed ranges. Light-seconds and light-minutes between human habitations, and a thousand civilizational and technological flowers blooming. And occasionally wilting, but never the whole bunch.

    [Reply]

    Kevin C. Reply:

    “…the only ranges that matter to allow joyous disunity (and thus survival) are light-speed ranges. Light-seconds and light-minutes between human habitations, and a thousand civilizational and technological flowers blooming. And occasionally wilting, but never the whole bunch.”

    Yes. As Heinlein said, “the Earth is just too small and fragile a basket for the human race to keep all its eggs in.” However, I was a big space enthusiast growing up; while getting my BS from Caltech, I did a summer internship at NASA JPL. I became rather familiar with the topic… and that’s why I’ve concluded escape into space can never happen. Earth’s gravity well is too deep, space too vast and inhospitable, resources too sparse. Creating long-term human habitation is sufficiently hard and expensive that only the largest, wealthiest governments could even have a chance at attempting it with any hope of success, and Cathedralist projects eat up too many resources for them to afford such a massive undertakin (plus, why would they help people escape their reach?).

    Thus, there is no expanding “the geographic range of the species”, no “real separation”, no escape, No Exit.

    [Reply]

    DEPhysicist Reply:

    @DEPhysicist

    “I became rather familiar with the topic… and that’s why I’ve concluded escape into space can never happen. Earth’s gravity well is too deep, space too vast and inhospitable, resources too sparse.”

    I was largely of the same opinion a few years ago, but my recent work and studies have convinced me that this need not be the case, and that those limitations can be overcome. Did you perchance read my comment of several weeks ago on the “correct” model for human space colonization/industrialization?

    “Cathedralist projects eat up too many resources for them to afford such a massive undertaking (plus, why would they help people escape their reach?)”

    I judge this to be a far greater concern. My hope is that the increasing weakness of the arms the Cathedral relies on to secure its dominance (namely the US military) will allow relatively potent peer competitors (Russia? China? Someone unexpected?) to persist, and that the competition between them coupled with the decreasing cost of space industrialization will lure them on in an attempt to gain primacy.

    We’ll see, I think the coming century will have some surprises in store for us all.

    [Reply]

    admin Reply:

    Agreed. There’s no easier way to look ridiculous from the perspective of the future than to dogmatize on what (techno-scientifically) “cannot ever happen”.

    R7 Rocket Reply:

    And it doesn’t help the Cathedral’s future chances of continued dominance when it keeps prioritizing the payment of sinecures over its arms.

    Kevin C. Reply:

    @DEPhysicist

    “Did you perchance read my comment of several weeks ago on the “correct” model for human space colonization/industrialization?”

    I don’t really recall, but I think I read it, recognized it as just another unworkable and unaffordable idea I’ve seen before. Have you run the economics? What’s the price tag? Can it scale?

    “…the increasing weakness of the arms the Cathedral relies on…”

    What increasing weakness? Do you mean the shift from labor-intensive “mass armies” to capital-intensive high-tech warfare?

    “…relatively potent peer competitors (Russia? China? Someone unexpected?)…”

    Russia? Really? Putin may be doing what he can, but outside the major cities, what is there but despair, drugs, drunkenness, and demographic decline? The land of Krokodil.

    With China, you’ve got the economic issues, the dependence on maintaining the status quo for trade. Not to mention the signs of an increasing propaganda/pressure/proselytization campaign by the Cathedral targeting the Chinese movers and shakers for conversion. Expect any Sino-Japanese blowup to be leveraged by USG to induce some Leftward “reforms” in Zhōnghuá.

    In short, there are no “potent peer competitors”, nor are any likely to emerge.

    “…decreasing cost of space industrialization…”

    Even if the cost is decreasing (cite, please), they still outmass the benefits by far.

    R7 Rocket Reply:

    Exit worked for San Marino and the Republic of Venice when Ancient Rome had trouble paying for its arms.

    [Reply]

    Posted on January 10th, 2014 at 6:45 am Reply | Quote
  • DEPhysicist Says:

    “What’s the price tag?”

    Best guess for the initial mining/energy generation loop on which everything else builds is 70-100 billion dollars over a 7-10 year development program. That covers R&D through deployment, most likely on the lunar surface. It’s about 100 tons worth of equipment (all automated or tele-operation assisted) that needs to be planted, though that includes quite a bit of redundancy. This stage is designed to do only brute, heavy-metal work; electronics packages have to be sent from Earth. Even then it’s quite a challenge from an engineering perspective, but within our capabilities.

    “Can it scale?”

    The entire point of this method is unlimited scalability. Drop a few hundred tons on the lunar surface, have megatons of industrial infrastructure in place within a decade.

    “Have you run the economics?”

    When the US federal government is quantitative easing to the tune of 85 billion dollars a month, is this even a meaningful question anymore?

    “What increasing weakness? Do you mean the shift from labor-intensive “mass armies” to capital-intensive high-tech warfare?”

    Not at all, I mean the growing inability to properly maintain and develop our high-tech low-manpower military. In pretty much every measure of actual combat power, the US is set to decline precipitously in the coming decades. Our warships are aging, and their replacements (LCS, DDG-1000) are technological jokes (or horrors, depending on where you’re sitting). Same for the air force and to a lesser extent the army. Our acquisitions programs have reached the intersection of cultish techno-fetishism by the military, who want to cram every new/speculative piece of hardware onto a platform and just hope it all works out, and complete corruption by the corporate and political organs using each program to respectively line pockets and win votes. Even if they did work as intended, the utterly insane unit costs combined with Cathedral hatred of the military and obsession with social spending means that we won’t be buying very many.

    “Russia? Really? Putin may be doing what he can, but outside the major cities, what is there but despair, drugs, drunkenness, and demographic decline? The land of Krokodil.”

    I don’t find much to disagree with, but I’m inclined to remember how many times in history people have counted Russia out of the game only for them to come roaring back when least expected. We’ll see. In terms of concrete factors: technological advances are making it easier for them to exploit their arctic oil reserves, their military spending is up significantly, and their hardware is improving.

    “With China, you’ve got the economic issues, the dependence on maintaining the status quo for trade.”

    I also tend to be pessimistic on China, but I’ll point out that maintaining the status quo hasn’t stopped them from engaging in a massive arms buildup already, and a relatively peaceful but increasingly tense standoff is much more ideal for my purposes than an actual war.

    “In short, there are no “potent peer competitors”, nor are any likely to emerge.”

    If you told someone in 1922 that within 20 years Germany would have conquered Europe from the Pyrenees to the Volga, they’d probably laugh at you. If you told someone in 1885 that within 20 years Japan would shatter a major European power on land and at sea, they likewise would probably laugh at you. You may indeed be correct, but I don’t think things are nearly so certain as you suggest, especially in light of some of the disruptive technological innovations we’re going to see in the next 50 years. Besides, parity can come from either a weak power gaining strength, a great power losing it, or both. Both is most likely in this case, and a much-impoverished US or a moderately improved Russian/China/Someone would still be capable of the undertaking I suggest.

    “Even if the cost is decreasing (cite, please), they still outmass the benefits by far.”

    10 years ago, there were no reusable launch vehicles in active development. Now there are two major and several minor ones, with one of the major ones into the “metal in the air” stages of development and the other having just passed one of its most critical technical milestones. The technologies of of robotics, solid-state lasers, metallic additive manufacturing, high-strength/low-weight materials, and industrial automation have all seen tremendous increases in capability, reductions in cost, or both. In light of this, how could space industrialization have become more expensive over that period?

    [Reply]

    Kevin C. Reply:

    “initial mining/energy generation loop”

    Mining what?

    “70-100 billion dollars over a 7-10 year development program.”

    That seems too small/optimistic (see: Planning fallacy).

    “…within our capabilities.”

    Really? If so, then why aren’t such things seen in use already here on Earth?

    “…industrial infrastructure in place…”

    How about where and when human beings actually come in? Air, water, food, etc.? How long will they depend on massive supplies from Earth? How do you pay for those supplies? Keep them from being cut off.

    And what about the Outer Space Treaty? The property rights and legal jurisdiction issues?

    “…is this even a meaningful question anymore?”

    By “economics”, I should have perhaps said “accounting”, or “cost-benefit analysis”? How will this project ever become financially viable, rather than requiring endless influxes of more money? (And from where will it come? You can at best only convince a foolish billionaires to throw money down a hole for no returns for so long.)

    “Russia”

    See also Candide III’s post on “Putinophilia”.

    “I don’t find much to disagree with, but… I also tend to be pessimistic on China, but… If you told someone in 1922… You may indeed be correct, but…” etc.

    So, even though it seems improbable, we should just have faith that some surprise bit of luck will somehow go massively our way and reverse all the momentum and trends? I’m sorry, but as a godless heathen, I don’t believe in Divine Providence, and that’s what this is (that, or the Gambler’s Fallacy).

    And so the costs have gone down; they still far exceed the benefits, which remain practically nil; what resource is there in space that you cannot get cheaper here on Earth, let alone in accessable quantities sufficient to pay for the air, water, food, etc.?

    “… the disruptive technological innovations we’re going to see…”

    And here is the big one. “Disruptive technological innovations” do far more to fuel the Cathedral than weaken it (see, for example, oral contraceptives; or these comments on MOOCs and Bitcoin). Again, this irrational faith in technological salvation is fundamentally Progressive, a Cathedral meme, and I would say that anyone who holds it is not a reactionary, but an enemy of true Reaction, as they are snake-oil charlatans peddling false hope to the desperate.

    [Reply]

    DEPhysicist Reply:

    “Mining what?”

    On a nickel-iron asteroid: various precious and industrial metals in quantities that dwarf what is available via terrestrial mining, and with minimal environmental impact (comparatively). The practically-nil gravity makes developing the industrial processes somewhat more complicated vis-a-vis earthbound testing but the small size of these bodies makes getting the material home easier.

    On the lunar surface: regolith to start with. More specifically the industrial metals in regolith (google “chemical composition of regolith” if you want to go deeper). These are used to diversify and expand the industrial cycle until it becomes possible to build either mass drivers (preferred) or solid-rocket (aluminum oxide) launch vehicles allow material return to earth. Titanium would be the likely return from lunar mining, but the moon is better suited to building the infrastructure for human habitation than anything. It’s therefore a likely second destination.

    “That seems too small/optimistic”

    On the basis of? Apollo cost around $100 billion in adjusted dollars to put a similar amount (in aggregate) on a celestial body, and that was no more of a technological challenge for the US of the 1960’s than this would be for the US today. You may have a point in the sense that large-scale programs are run far less efficiently today. Double it then, and say 20 billion a year for 10 years. That’s about NASA’s current budget.

    “Really? If so, then why aren’t such things seen in use already here on Earth?”

    They are. We have heavy-lift vehicles and cheaper commercial ones are in the late stages of development. You can get the material to its destination via ion or plasma propulsion, the former very well developed. Automated manufacturing and tele-operated mining are both widespread (and there is therefore plenty of incentive for them to continue developing). In 10 years we’ve gone from no automated vehicles to automated vehicles that can navigate anything from rough desert to urban terrain. Also, I’m not suggesting that this will all be done by 2025, but more like 2055.

    “How about where and when human beings actually come in? Air, water, food, etc.? How long will they depend on massive supplies from Earth? How do you pay for those supplies? Keep them from being cut off.”

    Humans come in very, very late. As late as possible, in fact, when supporting them is a marginal expenditure for the existing self-supporting/expanding industrial infrastructure. At the current rate of advance, fully reusable and SSTO launch vehicles should be available to get them into space in the first place. Once there, water is available from the lunar surface, oxygen is the chief component of regolith and there will be plenty of energy infrastructure in place to liberate it. Food can be grown in place via several methods. Nitrogen is actually the biggest issue, at least till a self-sustaining nitrogen cycle can be established, and concentrated nitrates may need to be supplied by Earth.

    “And what about the Outer Space Treaty? The property rights and legal jurisdiction issues?”

    I imagine the Outer Space Treaty will prove about as respected and enforceable as similar bits of international law have when they get in the way of their most powerful signatories. Property rights and legal jurisdiction will have to be hashed out between the relevant parties just like they are for maritime territorial rights.

    “How will this project ever become financially viable, rather than requiring endless influxes of more money?”

    When the profit due to inflow of materials matches the outlay of costs due to tele-operation, electronics shipments, and other costs.

    “Putinophilia”

    I have read it and thought it quite good. I am not a Putinophile, and I don’t hope for some miraculous turnaround in the short term. However, I also think that a lot can change in several decades.

    “So, even though it seems improbable, we should just have faith that some surprise bit of luck will somehow go massively our way and reverse all the momentum and trends? I’m sorry, but as a godless heathen, I don’t believe in Divine Providence, and that’s what this is (that, or the Gambler’s Fallacy).”

    Historically speaking, trends change and are not as easy to predict as we would like. An average global civilizational decline doesn’t imply that there will be no local increases in order and competency. The history of civilizational failure seems to indicate that there will be. Besides, as I’m not a collapsist I don’t see the decline catching up with the currently observed rate of advance in the relevant technologies for a while.

    “And so the costs have gone down; they still far exceed the benefits, which remain practically nil; what resource is there in space that you cannot get cheaper here on Earth, let alone in accessible quantities sufficient to pay for the air, water, food, etc.?”

    Human presence is a late-stage luxury in this model, as is everything that supports it. What resources? In the short term: stupendous quantities of industrial and precious metals; so much that the possessor will have de facto control of the global metals markets and thus most industries. Also a very high place from which to drop things on people you don’t like and the industry to make a lot of things to drop on them. In the long term: an (effectively) unlimitedly scalable industrial base and energy generation capability, securing the future survival of technological civilization and the human species (especially the possessor’s favored segment of it).

    “’Disruptive technological innovations’ do far more to fuel the Cathedral than weaken it … irrational faith in technological salvation…”

    I think you’re reading much more into my statement than I intended. I never said that technological innovations would necessarily help out the plucky underdog, nor (per my earlier comment) did I place a positive moral valence on technological change. I fully expect that this century will see at least as many megadeaths (proportional to total population) as the 20th did. I also think that such upheavals will spur some nations, peoples, and organizations to consider vital questions of long-term survival and dominance that our current peace and comfort insulate us from.

    Also, while the Cathedral is in a place of power to leverage technological change in its favor, there are no guarantees of any specific technological change being inherently helpful to it. To argue so is to work from a partly tautological definition of the Cathedral as some kind of omniscient demiurge. If that were the case we would never observe them trying to suppress technologies (3D printing, genetic testing/engineering, etc.) rather than daemonically weaving them together for ever increased dominance. If it squeals it can bleed. If it bleeds it can die.

    [Reply]

    Peter A. Taylor Reply:

    “’Have you run the economics?’”

    “When the US federal government is quantitative easing to the tune of 85 billion dollars a month, is this even a meaningful question anymore?”

    A permanent development requires that people are getting satisfactory value for their continuing time and trouble. This isn’t about counting little pieces of green paper and printing more of them whenever you feel like it. It’s about a reciprocal exchange of value. Something of proportionate, continuing value has to come out of your continuing project. Otherwise, you’re just jacking off. Novelty isn’t enough.

    What can you do on the Moon that you can’t do cheaper in Antarctica? I expect that we will eventually come up with a good answer to that question, but so far, I’m seeing a lot of attempts to delegitimize the question, and not very many attempts to answer it. David Criswell is still pushing his lunar surface solar power scheme, but I don’t believe it can compete with terrestrial nuclear power.

    [Reply]

    DEPhysicist Reply:

    I apologize. You’re right that my response was too flippant.

    “A permanent development requires that people are getting satisfactory value for their continuing time and trouble. This isn’t about counting little pieces of green paper and printing more of them whenever you feel like it. It’s about a reciprocal exchange of value. Something of proportionate, continuing value has to come out of your continuing project. Otherwise, you’re just jacking off. Novelty isn’t enough.”

    Quite so. See my above response to Kevin.

    What can you do on the Moon that you can’t do cheaper in Antarctica?

    I fully expect that many of the technologies and processes I’m talking about will be used to harvest materials from Antarctica and other extreme terrestrial environments. I’d also point out that, odd as it sounds, space is on the whole a more robot-friendly place than Antarctica is. The extremes are wider but they’re largely predictable, there’s no atmosphere or moisture (and therefore no weather in the traditional sense). The physical environments to be exploited are far more static as well. Additionally, Antarctica doesn’t offer the prospect for expansion or continuation that space does, nor does it possess a source of unlimited and nearly universally accessible energy (the Sun).

    “David Criswell is still pushing his lunar surface solar power scheme, but I don’t believe it can compete with terrestrial nuclear power.”

    You’re absolutely correct. Building the solar arrays in high Earth orbit using materials from a harvested asteroid might be competitive in the long run, but only after the industrial infrastructure already exists. There was quite a bit of analysis of the associated practicalities and economics in the 70s to 80s. For a good popular (but decently rigorous) treatment that aggregates much of that diverse research I suggest T.A. Heppenheimer’s “Towards Distant Suns.”

    [Reply]

    Posted on January 11th, 2014 at 7:50 pm Reply | Quote

Leave a comment