[ExI] Easter Island again

Keith Henson hkeithhenson at gmail.com
Fri Mar 27 15:13:06 UTC 2009

On Thu, Mar 26, 2009 at 10:52 PM, Bryan Bishop <kanzure at gmail.com> wrote:
> On Thu, Mar 26, 2009 at 11:30 PM, Keith Henson <hkeithhenson at gmail.com> wrote:
>> We know the industrial base does replicate itself on earth as well as
>> the human population that is part of it.  I am not saying it could not
>> be done on the moon or Easter Island, but I don't know how.
> Given that we know (do we?) that it can replicate itself on earth,

It does.  I don't know what the current doubling time is, but back in
the 60s it was about 20 years.  Herman Kahn
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herman_Kahn (who I met at a limits to
growth conference in 1975) analyzed this in figuring out how long it
would take "B" country to reconstruct "A" country.  "A" country was
the heavy industry presumed destroyed in a thermonuclear attack, "B"
country was the machine shops outside those areas.  Kahn made the case
that we knew roughly how long it would take since we had the
historical experience.

There is a hobby of bootstrapping up a machine shop from charcoal and
iron ore.  People have done it, but it is a daunting task.  There is
also the history of the industrial revolution to look back on.

> then we know that we should simply copy all of the designs for all of
> the machines, all of the processes and skills that go into making each
> of the components, and go from there, and then start making
> modifications for a resource-constrained environment and i.e., not
> assuming bountiful oil supplies or otherwise including some constraint
> that on the moon or otherwise off earth is ridiculous but when on
> earth isn't too particularly ridiculous for the time being barring
> superdisaster. But, because of the nature of the technical information
> as it currently exists- or perhaps it doesn't exist- questions like
> these can't easily be asked. How would you preliminarily go about
> answering these questions? Maybe you have some better ideas than I've
> put forward, I'd like to hear :-).

The moon is a particularly hard place to build up industry.  People
who talk about making solar cells there typically have no idea of what
it takes to reduce and purify silicon to the point it can be used to
make PV cells.  The plants are on a par with a small oil refinery.
There might be electrochemical routes,
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/FFC_Cambridge_Process but they have not
been shown to work yet and they require reasonably pure SiO2.

Then you have the problem of your plant being shut down for lack of
energy at least two weeks out of the month unless you put in nuclear
reactors or some really big storage systems.  And if you do put in
reactors, how do you get rid of the waste heat?  Dr. O'Neill
understood this back in the late 60s, which is why his space colony
proposals had the chemical processing of lunar dirt being done off the
moon where you had full time sun.

I am not saying it can't be done, it probably can.  I am saying it's a
really hard problem and that in spite of thinking about it for more
than 30 years,  *I* don't know how to do it.


More information about the extropy-chat mailing list