[ExI] Easter Island again

Bryan Bishop kanzure at gmail.com
Fri Mar 27 15:31:45 UTC 2009

On Fri, Mar 27, 2009 at 10:13 AM, Keith Henson <hkeithhenson at gmail.com> wrote:
> 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.

Interesting, I didn't know Herman Kahn put some thought into this, can
you help me track down some references? I read over the Wikipedia
article (briefly), and I don't see anything in particular about a
scenario where $B country has to reconstruct $A country- which is
something I'd really like to read about. Sounds like some fun game
theory, although maybe it's just from the perspective of whether or
not one should nuclearly destroy the other?

> 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.

Is this the historical experience that Kahn was thinking of? That the
time it takes to bootstrap a machine shop from charcoal and iron ore
is the time that it takes to 'replicate' civilization? Because there's
a lot of other things that aren't really in a typical machine shop
that are important. Also, I'm aware of Gingery's work on
bootstrapping, and Les Filip once off-handedly mentioned that there
was an engineering fellow who published an improved update to
Gingery's work (the name of the author I presently forget), but in the
case of Gingery, he was using aluminum cans found around his city in
Missouri, and a metal bucket, and an electric motor, so I don't know
if you know of another reference than the gingery bootstrapping
community. Are there more enthusiasts or hobbyists that I am unaware

>> 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.

Pulling silicon ingots is a pain in the ass.

[pdf] Historical overview of silicon crystal pulling development

> 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.

In an earlier email, I was trying to make the point that all of these
'grand-scheme' overviews of the way to do these engineering feats, are
probably not the best- some organization with computer-aided design,
even if we have to write the new software, is probably in order. Just
writing about a technical process about lunar regoliths or something,
isn't quite the same thing as handling a large system of equations to
evaluate a proposal, for instance.

> 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.


- Bryan
1 512 203 0507

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