[ExI] Meat v. Machine

Samantha Atkins sjatkins at mac.com
Fri Dec 31 23:09:31 UTC 2010

On Dec 31, 2010, at 8:10 AM, spike wrote:

>> ... On Behalf Of Samantha Atkins
> ...
>>>> Current access to space is good enough, if your payload has a lot of
> magic.
>>>> The longer you wait, the more magic it gets....--Eugen* Leitl
>>> As a spacecraft controls guy I am reluctant to admit it, but this 
>>> comment is really right on, the conclusion I eventually reached with 
>>> much kicking and screaming over 20 yrs ago...
>> ...Well now we don't have the heavy lifters we had before...
> Ja, tragic is this.
>> ... Are you sure you believe that the current huge cost to orbit is good
> enough?...
> It isn't good enough for lifting power stations and doing a lot of the cool
> stuff we would like to do.  My argument is that we are missing the essential
> technology to make stuff from existing materials in space, and that is now
> the low hanging fruit, as opposed to still more research into launchers.  We
> need to be able to move software into space as opposed to hardware.

Software takes hardware in space to run.  Perfect robot software without means to get sufficient hardware in space economically enough to be generate more value than consumed getting it there loses.    There is a nasty bootstrap problem.

> Until we get replicating assemblers, I can see using lunar materials to make
> most space stuff, since it is so much easier to get out of that gravity
> well.

Not without putting major payloads on the moon and assembling them. 

>  Using asteroid material further reduces the gravity well problem, but
> it takes a lot of patience, and only applies to the kinds of stuff we can
> wait years to get it back down to 1 AU after its manufacture is complete.

I am not so sure about that.  Crack your return fuel for payloads of interesting things out of the asteroids themselves.  It certainly doesn't need to  take years to get back from an Aten or even an Apollo asteroid if caught in the right part if its orbit. 

>> ...  I have rarely been so utterly amazed and had as much trouble believing
> a statement as that one.  Hell, we still don't have much better than 80%
> success putting payloads into orbit.  Why in the hell is this good enough? 
> Just as a working liquid rocket was the missing technology in 1910, some
> kind of autonomous assembler is the missing space tech in 2010.  Without
> that, we are just thrashing about, trying to maintain what we have.

Do you mean a replicating nanotech assembler or something like a giant RepRap?  If you mean the former I am ever 90% certain we cannot afford to wait for that before we exploit near earth resources.    Now we may get a miracle than brings it online much sooner than the gloomy over three decades projection.  But one should never engineer based on  miracles.   The only plausible miracle I see is having real AGI a decade or so hence.  But most of the AGI folks don't think that likely in a shorter timeframe either.    

>> Again, we are three decades from machine phase.  Are you sure we have that
> much time?  - samantha
> Not sure at all we have that much time, nor am I sure we will have working
> replicators in 30 years.  We have some huge problems here, and they aren't
> all (or even mostly) related to environmental degradation.

None of the really serious (H+ dream blocking or destroying) problems are environmental currently. 

>  I see a much
> bigger threat from rapidly increasing populations of what SF writers would
> call feral humans opposed to technology, while the population in advanced
> civilization remains constant or declines, while struggling to defend the
> progress already made.

Shortages of energy and resources combined with global communications leads all populations to expect/demand to be as well off as what they see no the Net with no way to make it so.   The entitlement mentality is well established in most Western developed nations and is spreading rapidly.    Some H+ folks are making it worse by effectively telling everyone they have the positive right (to be mandatory supplied by others) to indefinitely long lives, no suffering or serious unhappiness, and limitless milk and honey of any kind desired.    Folks get the idea that the fact they don't have these things means that some very disgusting powerful others are depriving them of their natural "fair share".    This will only get worse under serious economic troubles - which haven't really cleared their throat yet.  

- samantha

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