All posts by Mordanicus

Space advocate, author, classical republican, classical liberal, religious humanist, religious naturalist.

The colonization of Antarctica

On the “very active” (ironically) blog Free Antarctic Republic [this site is functionally dead!] I  attempted to post the following comment a few weeks ago:

A few points in favour of colonising Antarctica:

1. Anarctica is the windiest continent on Earth, so windpower might be a suitable power supply for a (small) colony.
2. An Antarctic colony can be fund though crowdfunding and can consist of at least a few dozen inhabitants.
3. 3D printers can produce guns, so Antarctic citizens can easily arm themselves and form a citizen’s militia to protect their republic.
4. Marie Byrdland is a large piece of unclaimed land, seizing it for a free republic would not conflict with other territorial claims.

FAR has only one post (posted on April 14, 2013) and one page, and no approved comments. Another “very active” blog dedicated to establishment of an Antarctic colony is Colonize Antarctica. It’s last post is from January 27, 2008! More than five years ago.

It seems that proposals to colonize Antarctica is a recurrent theme, although there is not much enthusiasm for it. Plans for establishing colonies on the southern continent are dating back to at least the 1950s. Until now no serious attempt has been made to create a permanent settlement there. Only 70 scientific outposts have been established, but they do not have any permanent population and they are nearly all scientists.

Although man can survive on Antarctica, no major nation has ever pursued to create a permanent settlement on Antarctica, whilst many countries has pursued colonial empires through the ages. The main reason why Antarctica has not yet been colonized, is the challenges placed by the geographical conditions over there. Not only the low temperature by itself is a challenge, but this is the cause of a lot of other challenges. A large part of the continent is covered by ice (approximately 2% of all fresh water on Earth lies on Antarctica) and soil is frozen, which hinders digging and so constructing in general.

The climate of Antarctica does not allow for “traditional” agricultural, and the frozen underground also prevent mining activities. Therefore there is a substantial lack of economic incentives to colonize Antarctica, which implies low interest from potential investors. However, FAR argues that tourism is a prime motivation for establishing an Antarctic colony. Unlike space tourism, this idea makes some sense. First of all, a trip to Antarctica takes a few days to a few weeks while a trip to Mars will take at least two years. Further a trip to Antarctica is much cheaper, a few thousands of dollar instead of 200,000 USD for a flight with Virgin Galactic (and then you get only up to 100 km above the Earth for a few minutes), this means there would be a much larger market for Antarctic tourism than for space tourism.

Tourism as the backbone of the economy of an Antarctic colony will also lead to the emerging of other activities. Comparative advantages will prevent the export of agricultural products, but technologies such as grow light might enable local production of food. By choosing the right frequencies we can optimizing the efficiency of the cultivation of crops. Of course this leads us to the question how Antarctic settlements are provided with power. Due to the location of the continent solar power is almost of the table, and nuclear power is too expensive. As pointed out by “Colonize Antarctica” Antarctica is the windiest continent on Earth, therefore wind power is the logical choice. In particular they advocate the use of Horizontal Axis Turbines. Although this kind of wind turbine is less efficient than Vertical Axis Turbines, they are easier to construct.

There is one reason why Antarctica might be an interesting place for a settlement. Because the continent has virtually no population, makes it an ideal place for launching rockets. Though it’s possible to launch rockets from sea, such maritime launch platforms are small which limits the seize of your rockets. Further such platforms are less stable. The vastness of Antarctica will eliminate all these issues.

One of the methods that can be used to settle Antarctica is by creating domed cities, this article describes how such structure could look like. In these structures people would live in an isolated and heated environment.

See also:

Several arguments against seasteading

Solar Islands and Seasteading

Fascinating Future (stories about colonizing Antarctica)

A Little Bit of History, Part Two

Recently I did a post about the history of Republic of Lagrangia, today I will discuss the etymology of the name Mordanicus. The form is derived from the word <Mordan> in the manner of Roman victory titles such as Germanicus or AfricanusThe point is now, where does the name <Mordan> came from?

Mordan is derived from a science fiction book called De Heerser van Mordan (The Ruler of Mordan) by Dutch science fiction author Tais Teng, which I read at age ten. In this book two children get into trouble with a strange new comer in town, who introduces himself as the ruler of Mordan. The “ruler” is trying to take over control of their town and is able to even control the police. Soon the children discover that this man is from the future, the year 2117. In order to defeat him, they sneak into his new build palace and through a list they convince the ruler’s assistant, a genetically modified monkey, to bring them to the future in order to get assistance.

The monkey operates the time machine, called a zaduk, and in 2117 they run into the hands of a man called Ven, who mistakes them for Haldo, the fled ruler. Ven explains that in the Republic of Mordan that no one desires to rule the country and that the job of Ruler of Mordan is simply given to the first applicant. However, Haldo enjoyed to be the ruler and therefore his citizens were forced to fire him after a few days.

Of course we get a few shots of how the future would like, but soon after their arrival the children are told by Ven that it is against the law that people from the past can see anything from the future. But the most intriguing feature we get from the year 2117 is that we see many people flying in the sky on their own. This is intriguing because the founder of modern Space colonization, Gerard O’Neill, has written a lengthy part of The High Frontier about flying. In the center of a rotating space habitat, the centrifugal force is small and therefore objects placed there are floating weightless.

The ability to fly on your own is the ultimate symbol of freedom, the idea that the Mordans were able to fly on their own is not just a nice featured futuristic technology. No it means that Mordan is a land of the free, people who will never tolerate a dictator.

When I read De Heerser of Mordan for the first time, I was already interested in space colonization and some time later I decided that Mordan would be the name of the space colony I wanted to establish. Further I realised that if I would succeed to do so, I would be one of the first person to create a new country without resorting to violence. Such act would be, in my eyes, much more glorious than any military victory. From there the name Mordanicus.

Arcology: an alternative for space colonization?

Introduction

World population is expected to rise to nine or ten billion halfway this century, and all these people need somewhere to live. Some people believe that space colonization will be the solution, for others arcology is the answer, but the question is, of course, whether arcology is nothing but a megalomaniac fantasy?

What is arcology?

On the English Wikipedia we can read the following:

Arcology, combining “architecture” and “ecology”,[1] is a set of architectural design principles aimed toward the design of enormous habitats (hyperstructures) of extremely high human population density. These largely hypothetical structures would contain a variety of residential, commercial, and agricultural facilities and minimize individual human environmental impact. They are often portrayed as self-contained or economically self-sufficient.

In other words, we can explain an arcology as a city contained in a single, enormous building. Different arcological proposal have varying estimates for their intended population number, from as low as a few ten thousands to as high as slightly more than one million residents. Because of their scale, inhabitants of arcologies are supposed to leave their city very rarely, if ever.

I am not quite sure whether I would classify so called domed cities as arcologies, they have certainly some characteristics of arcologies but for the purpose of this post I will leave them out (I will discuss them in a separate post). To some degree, also vertical farming can be considered as a kind of arcology. And many proposals about arcologies, indeed include vertical farming into their plans.

The main purpose of arcology is to enable large concentrations of humans. This idea is based on the assumption that there is too less land available on our planet for humans to live on. But if you look on the map of the Earth, especially one which shows the local population densities, you will see that human are unequally spread around the globe. Not land scarcity is the problem, but population distribution.

Problems

There are several problems with arcology. The first is the vulnerability for catastrophic events such as earthquakes, which can destroy arcologies and kill their inhabitants. Since many proposed arcologies foresee population in the order of hundred thousands or millions, evacuation of all inhabitants might be impossible in some cases. Therefore arcologies should be build such that they survive several catastrophes.

The problem of evacuation is part of the second problem with arcologies. The entrances of such structures are a kind of bottlenecks, only a few percent of the residents can pass through the entrance during a certain period of time. Traffic jams will be frequent, if substantial numbers are leaving or entering the arcology all the time.

The construction of arcologies does not face only technical challenges, but also it also requires a lot of natural resources. If great numbers of arcologies will be build, we might ask whether will be enough resources to build them. However, this problem can be solved by space mining, which is also good new for space colonists.

Another problem is energy consumption. People living in arcology will use more energy than the same number of people who life on a “flat” surface. This because a certain amount of energy is required, just to keep the arcology running. We believe that fusion reactors might be the most likely methods of generating power for these structures. Because these reactors are relatively small (compared to coal-fired power plants).

Alternatives

One alternative for arcology is using solar desalination of seawater in order to settle large desert areas such as the Sahara or Western-Australia. This approach would solve most, if not all, of the problems we mentioned in the previous sections. Problems might, however, arise from the governments of those areas. They might oppose the immigration of large numbers of people to their countries.

Another possible alternative is seasteading. This concept has problems on its own, although it shares the problem of resources for construction. However, seasteading might be cheaper and can start at a much smaller scale.

Space colonization is in the long run a far better alternative. In space there more than enough resources, no earthquakes, megavolcanoes. Further space governments might be much more willing to accept new immigrants than their terrestrial counterparts. And if space governments would not be willing to accept new immigrants, people can start their own colonies. However, space colonies has some other issues such as radiation, in an upcoming post we will discuss the danger of space radiation and how to deal with it.

We believe that arcology is most suited for small countries with high population densities such as Singapore.

References

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arcology

A review of “God’s Debris” by Scott Adams

A while ago we did a post on pandeism, in that post we discussed the feasibility of pandeism as core of a future religion in a highly scientific society. We introduced the ideas of Bernard Haisch, a NASA PhD astrophysicist, we wrote the book The God Theory in which he explains the creation of the universe as the transformation of god into the universe. However Haisch is not only one to pursue pandeistic ideas. American writer Scott Adams has written an excellent book God’s Debris.

What kind of book is God’s Debris? Although the books start as a novel, it is definitely not a novel, at least not in the usual sense. The book contains only two character, the I-figure, a package deliverer, and an elderly man who reveals himself at the end as “Avatar”. The “story” starts when the I-figure has to deliver a package at a certain address. The postman has the habitat of checking whether doors are locked or not, and when he cannot deliver the package and if he can open the door, he would leave the package indoors. This routine is followed by the main character at the beginning of the book, however in this case the resident is in fact at home. But instead of complaining, the other man, Avatar, invites the deliverer for a conversation. This talk starts with an odd question from Avatar: “Did you deliver the package, or did the package deliver you?” The postman answer that he delivered the package, but Avatar asks then whether he would have delivered the package if it did not contain an address. The I-figure denies he would, Avatar subsequently concludes that a certain cooperation from the package is required to deliver it. This first question is typical for the rest of the book, and therefore I would place “God’s Debris” in the genre of a Socratic dialogue.

Then the man starts to talk about whether we have a free will or not. The package deliverer says we have, but after a few more critical questions from Avatar he admits we cannot be sure. Then Avatar switch to discussing whether god has a free will, and after a short exchange, the I-figure exclaims that the old man is an atheist. Slowly Avatar explains his theory about god and the universe. According to his theory, god has decided at a certain moment to cease to exist. When god ceased to exist his “body” became the dust we and the universe are made, hence the title God’s Debris.

According to Avatar this debris from god, consist of two things: matter and probability. In essence Avatar’s worldview can be described as dualistic, since the world is made up from two different things. However Avatar’s dualism is different from “classic” dualism, because probability is a process rather than a substance. According his theory, probability is the driving force of the universe and is it the left over of god’s mind.

But why did god decide to cease to exist? According to Avatar an omnipotent and omniscient being cannot be motivated by the same motivations as humans, for example an omnipotent god does not require food and hence is not driven by hunger as we do. In fact, Avatar argues, that such omnipotent and omniscient being can only be motivated by one thing: the desire to experience his non-existence. One might wonder if god has really ceased to exist, how can he experience his own non-existence? Here is interesting twist, and also a distinction between Haisch’s pandeism and God’s Debris, the non-existence of god is temporary. According to Avatar we are part of the reconstruction of god. Since our universe is made from the same components as god, these components can rearranged such that god will exist once more. However, we might wonder what god would do after his reconstruction, but on this Avatar remains silent.

There is a striking resemblance between Avatar’s theory and Hinduism. Some schools of Hinduism believe that our soul is actually a piece of god’s soul, Brahman, which had become separated from it. According to this view the purpose of spirituality is the recombination of our soul with Brahman. (For the Harry Potter fans among us, this has nothing to the with the production of horcruxes).

Avatar sees the invention of the Internet as a sign of the upcoming reconstruction of god. He clearly believes that god cannot be reconstructed without human help, in essence the purpose of our existence is to possible the reconstruction of god. Consequently Avatar is worried about the continued existence of humanity, as long as man exists god can be reconstructed. However, when humanity will become extinct god’s reconstruction is jeopardized. Especially is Avatar concerned about the numerous conflicts in the world combined with the existence of weapons of mass destruction. All these might lead to a new world war with the great risk of human extinction.

Interestingly this theory might provide a strong motive for space colonization. Space colonization might ensure the continued existence of the human race, even if terrestrial nations would destroy each other. By further expansion of humanity about the universe, the probability that the human race will be destroyed before the reconstruction of god will decrease rapidly.

At a certain point the I-figure ask whether people has to do anything special in order to “satisfy” god. Avatar responds to this question:

“Every economic activity helps. Whether you are pro-
gramming computers, or growing food, or raising children,
or cleaning garbage from the side of the road, you are con-
tributing to the realization of God’s consciousness. None of
those activities is more important than another.”

In other words simply living your life is a good thing to do because everything is helping the reconstruction of god. As an ethical theory this is a pleasant idea, do whatever you do for a living and you are a good person. No worry about difficult dilemma’s or strange rules written in long forgotten books. However, when we are speaking about ethics, we are talking about good and evil. This is what Avatar has to say about it:

“Evil is any action that might damage people. Probabil-ity generally punishes evildoers. Since most criminals arecaptured and jailed, overall the people who hurt others tendto pay. So evil does exist and, on average, it is punished.

This comes quite clause to the Buddhist idea of causality. The comparison with karma does not escape the attention of the package deliverer. Naturally the conversation shifts to the topic of the afterlife. Avatar explains as follows:

“Over time, everything that is possible happens. That is
a fundamental quality of probability. If you flip a coin often
enough, eventually it will come up heads a thousand times
in a row. And everything possible will happen over and over
as long as God’s debris exists. The clump of debris that
comprises your body and mind will break down and disin-
tegrate someday, but a version of you will reappear in the
future, by chance.”
“Are you saying I’ll reincarnate?”
“Not exactly. I’m saying a replica of your mind and
body will exist in the distant future, by chance. And the
things you do now can either make life more pleasant or
more difficult for your replica.”
“Why would I care about a replica of me? That’s a dif-
ferent guy.”

Avatar goes further and explains that there will be many more replicas of ourselves in the future, but he also states that some future people will have some of our memories, not necessarily all.This is also a further similarity with the Buddhist idea of rebirth, which is distinct from reincarnation. The latter is the movement of the soul from one body to another, however, Buddhism denies to existence of the soul. The Buddhist idea of rebirth means that to lives are related, but not identical.

We might now wonder if the theory as presented in God’s Debris is true, what about different religious views. Are those wrong? Avatar denies that religion does not matter, even if there are false:

“The best any human can do is to pick a delusion thathelps him get through the day. This is why people of differ-ent religions can generally live in peace. At some level, weall suspect that other people don’t believe their own religionany more than we believe ours.”

I want the end this post with the following quote:

“Four billion people say they believe in God, but fewgenuinely believe. If people believed in God, they wouldlive every minute of their lives in support of that belief. Richpeople would give their wealth to the needy. Everyonewould be frantic to determine which religion was the trueone. No one could be comfortable in the thought that theymight have picked the wrong religion and blundered into eternal damnation, or bad reincarnation, or some otherunthinkable consequence. People would dedicate their livesto converting others to their religions.

A little bit of history

Yesterday I was congratulated by WordPress for the fact that it had been a year ago that I registered by WordPress. At the time my blog Republic of Lagrangia was run on blogger, and I had no strong intentions to move to WordPress. Why did I register in the first place? A year ago, I had encountered several blogs, which were hosted on WordPress and I was curious about that WordPress thing.

For several months my WordPress blog was “sleeping”, and I continued blogging on blogger. However, November last year, I really got fed up with google and I decided to move Republic of Lagrangia to WordPress. Which is a decision I will never regret.

I started the Republic of Lagrangia blog in the early summer of 2011. Because of my experience with blogging on blogger, it was a logical decision to create a new blog on that platform. At the time, I had never heard of WordPress. During the first one and half year, Republic of Lagrangia received only a dozen visitors a month, by November 2012 the count stood at 400+. After I had moved to WordPress, I saw that this blog got ten to twenty visitors every week. Curiously, the blogger version of this blog saw a rapid increase in visitors. Only two months ago, the WordPress version passed the overall count of the blogger edition.

On the blogger version, no one has ever commented. But around christmas we got our first comment. And now we have a few regular commenters. Therefore I decided to no longer update the blogger version, but for practical reasons I wanted to keep the blogger version. But last Monday I decided to pull the plug of the blogger version of this blog, and also of its sister blog Future Comments. This decision was executed at Tuesday, first I moved several posts from Future Comments to this blog (one post had already been published, two other are drafts and will be published later on) and thereafter I deleted Future Comments. A few hours later I deleted also Republic of Lagrangia at blogger.

The reason for this decision is simple: I did not see any benefit in continuing these two blogs on blogger, I did not update them any longer. And more than six months after moving to WordPress, I felt that any serious visitor to the blogger version could have known we had moved, I have made several announcements over there that we had moved.

In general I would advise any new blogger to use WordPress instead of Blogger.

The year 2100: a review of Rosenfelder’s predictions

This post has been previously posted on blogspot.com.

On the web page of Mark Rosenfelder I found the following article. In which he is reflecting on the 20th century, but the last section he makes a list of predictions of what will happen this century. I want to share my comments about his predictions. First of all I have to note that Rosenfelder writes from an American perspective, however, I think most of his predictions are also of value for the Western world in general.

The Republicans will find that they like governing; as a result their anti-government rhetoric will fade away, to be revived only on ceremonial occasions (in much the same way that you only hear “these United States” at political conventions).

The GOP just do not like that other parties than themselves are in charge. It is questionable whether the GOP will actually still exists in the year 2100, if we take their current increasingly extremist ideological position and their destructive political practices into account. Personally I also question whether the USA as such will survive this century, given the fact that todays US politics is extremely polarized. But I will discuss my thoughts about the future of the USA in another post.

Religion is here to stay; but the fundies, frustrated with their inability to impose theocracy, will lose interest for a generation.  The next time they pop up, they’ll be as likely to ally with the left as with the right (especially because abortion will, I suspect, be largely eliminated by improved methods of contraception).

Religiosity is a characteristic  with to some degree genetically determined. The abolition of religion is utopian fantasy and also undesirable. Many people have a need for some religion and as long as religious life doesn’t harm society, it should be allowed. The strong alliance of the religious with the political right is a particular US phenomenon, while in Europe religious motivated politician are spread over both left- and rightwing people (in Europe politics are dominated by multiple party systems, so it quite easy for a culturally rightwing, economically leftwing party to gain some seats in parliament). In order to eliminate abortions better use of contraception is needed much more than better contraception per se. Even if there is better contraception, people have to be aware of them, to accept them and to make use of it. One of the biggest, if not the biggest, reason why abortion rates in the USA are the highest in the Western world, is the poor quality or total absence of adequate sex education (which primarily blocked by religious zealots), better sex education will decrease the number abortions.

Liberalism will disappear— at least in its incarnations as described above; the new movements and causes that replace it may keep the name.  The political fights of 2100 will center largely around ideas that are considered impossibly idealistic or perverse today.

Of course, Rosenfelder is here speaking from an US perspective, “Liberalism” has in Europe a (slightly) different meaning (and as I believe also “truer”) than on the other side of the Atlantic. However I almost fully agree with his second sentence; nowadays we have political discussions about, for instance, Internet privacy, something which did not exist a hundred years ago.

Conservativism will remain, of course; though it will end up implicitly accepting everything that 20C liberalism stood for.

Conservatism is not an ideology, it’s an attitude. In every society there are people who prefer the current status quo. The people who in China support the there present system, would be conservative GOP supporters if they were born and raised in the USA. Too many people confuse conservatism with reactionary thought. Basically there are two types of conservatism: the first one, and I believe also the most common, stems from an attachment to a comfortable present situation and a fear for the unknown. The second type of conservatism is the result of a certain scepticism about the ability of man to change society deliberately. For these reasons we can see that if society changes conservatism also change, conservatives will defend the new status quo. Conclusion: Rosenfelder is basically right, I think. 

Acceptance of gays and lesbians will be mainstream in a generation, and will spread to the conservative churches by the end of the century.

I hope that Rosenfelder is right, and this will not only limited to the Western world. But I a little bit pessimistic in regard of this prediction, in my own country [1] there is increase of anti-gay sentiments in some parts of the population. Remember that homosexuality was accepted in classic antiquity, but became unaccepted when Christianity took over Europe. What I mean to say is that social attitudes towards gays and lesbians can change quite rapidly in a century.

Collectivism will come back in a big way… but not for another generation, and Americans won’t be the ones to develop it.

Since human has evolved as social animals, human civilization has always been characterized by some sort of collectivism. This simple and plain fact is usually ignored by “libertarians”, and the social nature of humans is also the fundamental reason why “libertarianism” will never succeed, anywhere on this planet. Due to the “individualistic” nature of American society, “collectivism” is a filthy word in the USA, while the rest of the world is more the less collectivist. The emergence of new forms of collectivism is inevitable [2], but I do agree with Rosenfelder that Americans will not take the lead in these developments. See for instance the discussion about “Obamacare”, which is according the West-European standards actually quite moderate. The most likely places where these new brands of collectivism will be developed are Europe, Asia and South-America. Personally I think there will be a collectivist revival in a post-aging Europe.

New forms of democratic government will be devised (again, not here; probably in Europe) that prevent the tyranny of the majority.

One possible alternative for a new form of democracy is the random selection of legislators. This would eliminate the need for elections, and also make electoral campaigns obsolete. In which case the problem of the influence of campaign donors on policy making would disappear. In order to reduce the risk of the tyranny of the majority, we can demand that these new legislatures can only make laws by super-majorities. If more votes are needed for a law to get passes, it would more difficult make oppressing legislation.  A further addition would be the requirement that legislator should always vote by secret ballot, this would reduce the possibility of legislators being bribed by so-called lobbyists.

The important units of society will be, increasingly, not geographical units but what we might call tribes: diffuse collections of like-minded individuals who want to live life in a certain way and have broad rights and powers to do so.

I have serious doubts about this one. For example, most people live quite close to their jobs. Secondly many things have to organized geographically, think about sewages, water pipes, garbage collection. Even if you spent most time with your “friends” of your tribe, you still need to go shopping, bringing your kids to school, typically services you want to have in your neighborhood. At the national or super-local level, there are things like infrastructure, dikes and so on, which are fundamentally geographical.

When the oil runs out, mid-century, we’ll finally make some progress on sustainable development.

Since oil reserves are finite, sustainable development is a necessity, not a luxury. Problem with people is that they only act to solve problems, at the very last moment or even is already way to late. Ostrich policy is one of the fundamental flaws of the human species, that we are running out of oil has been clear since the 1950s and yet relatively little action has been undertaken in order to arrange a smooth transition from a petroleum-based economy to a sustainable economy. Note that sustainability and economic growth are not necessarily mutually exclusive. See also this and this post about alternative energy.

Corporations will be run quite differently, though if I knew exactly how I’d be a business consultant, not a writer.  I suspect that by present standards they’ll be much more efficient, much less autonomous, and more democratically run.

Since more and more economic activity will be automated, the will be increasingly fewer jobs (see also my upcoming post about “The Lights in the Tunnel” by Martin Ford). Consequence of the process will be that corporations will have less and fewer employees, and those who will remain will have coordinating positions. Probably these corporate coordinators will make their decision by voting, which will make corporation more democratic in one sense, but this is the traditional idea of work place democracy.

Half the economy will be bit production and consumption— an amalgam of entertainment, news and business analysis, science, education, religion, and the increasingly abstract support industries that these require.  Manufacturing will be like agriculture is today: a tiny though essential sector of the economy.

This particular trend is quite obvious to almost everyone, in many development countries there are more people with access to Internet than to clean and save drinking water.

The scientific study of government will make present-day political fights seem like pure foolishness.  Once we actually know how to grow an economy, 20C moralisms of all political flavors will sound like leeches and electroshock therapy do today.

Personally I am a little bit more pessimistic about this one. Further is it quite possible that we have a steady state economy in 2100, in which there is no economic growth. If we assume that in 2100 most people are able to meet their basic material needs and that according to the previous prediction most of the economy is just bit production/consumption, we can ask ourselves what purpose is served by economic growth.

English won’t take over the world; localism will lead to a resurgence of local languages, whose inconvenience will be mitigated by technology.

I agree with the first statement, I am not sure of the second one. It is questionable whether there will be a widespread localism, not that I believe that there will be a homogeneous global culture (the other extreme). 

Artificial intelligence will be a significant factor, past midcentury.  I suspect that human-level intelligences won’t turn out to be useful– or politically viable.  Rather, we’ll see lots of low-level AI in appliances, software, mechanical translators, etc.; as well as massive systems that can contemplate the affairs of an entire corporation or government.

Artificial intelligence is already increasingly more important, and it will affect our economy and society in very severe ways. However there are basically two types of artificial intelligence: soft and strong AI. The latter is what most people would see as “pure” or “true” AI, computers with the same (or even higher) intelligence as humans, while the former is what most computer scientists understand as AI: using (complicated) algorithms to solve problems with computers. Weak AI is almost everywhere these days, and it would only become more and more prominent. No one is sure whether strong AI is actually possible (personally I believe it is, but until someone manages to build such a system we can’t know for sure), but most optimistic “experts” believes that is at least “fifty years from now” (this was so in the 1960s as it is in the 2010s).

Still no flying cars.  Dammit.

Actually flying cars do already exist

A few hundred thousand people will live in space… the largest space industry being tourism.  But Alpha Centauri will have to wait for the next century, at least.

For some one who writes on a blog devoted to space colonization, I have to comment on this. His first state, I think Rosenfelder is at the right end. Assuming that rockets can only bring a few dozen people in space during each launch, only hundreds to a few thousand people can move to space each year. Therefore a few hundred thousand space colonists in 2100 is a likely event, however if space populations have above replace fertility, their numbers could easily be a few million in 2100 (and a few billion in 2200, even without further immigrants from Earth). I disagree with his second statement, the largest space industry will not be space tourism but asteroid mining. His third statement, I think Alpha Centauri has to wait until the 2500s or something like that, but interstellar space colonization is both unlikely and undesirable, our Solar System contains enough resources for many million times the current number of humans. Colonization of other star systems is a fantasy based on the misguiding ideas of planetary chauvinism, with dreams of colonizing Earth like planets while ignoring the work of people like O’Neill.

Notes:

[1] Which is the Netherlands.

[2] With “inevitable” I don NOT mean that such a development is desirable, that is a completely different matter and depends largely on personal preferences.

Freedom of speech and the denial of historical facts

Recently Cambodia has passed a law which outlaws the denial of crimes committed by the Khmer Rouge. People can receive up to two years of imprisonment. Many Western countries has passed similar laws for denial of the holocaust. Classical liberals are against any of such laws, because they are a violation of the right to free speech.

Some people will argue that crimes against humanity are facts not opinions and therefore they are not covered by the freedom of speech. Classical liberals reject this argument. After all who is to determine what constitutes a fact and what an opinion? Often there is no clear-cut distinction between facts and opinion. For instance, when scientists are discussing different hypotheses. Are these opinions? When a hypothesis has been confirmed by evidence, it’s considered a fact. Science is about establishing facts regarding the world we live in. However, science is also about questioning the things we consider to be facts.

A more important question, is why we should give facts any legal protection? As far as I am aware of, there no laws in any country outlawing the denial of gravity. Any such bill would be dismissed as ridiculous. Generally, it is accepted that facts should speak for themselves.

According to classical liberalism the litmus test for determining whether an action should be prohibited (or regulated) is the harm principle. Only if an action results, or might result, in (physical) harm to third parties then the government is entitled to prohibit said action. Therefore the question becomes: Does the denial of historical facts constitute harm? Although people might be offended by such denial, for understandable reasons, no one is actually harmed by such denial.

John Stuart Mill, the philosopher who has formulated the harm principle in his On Liberty, has also given the most profound defense of practically unlimited freedom of speech. He presents several reasons for allowing broad freedom of speech: An opinion which some seek to suppress, might be true; further by being forced to refute obviously false opinions we are able to know why certain facts are indeed true.

But Mill made a few exceptions to the freedom of speech. In his famous example of a rioting crowd, he argued we should not give a speech to such crowd which might incite them to commit violence, even if such speech could be published in a news paper. Thus, incitement to violence is not covered by freedom of speech.

Further, Mill has also argued that though the government is not permitted to prohibit the denial of historical facts, people might censure the fellow citizens for their opinions. We are not obliged to provide people the means to promote their views, nor are we obliged to associate with such persons.

Our conclusion is that governments should not be in the business of outlawing denialism.

Solar Islands and Seasteading

Some time ago we wrote about the feasibility of Space based Solar power (SBSP) for terrestrial use, in that post we argued that SBSP is an unlikely candidate for meeting terrestrial energy needs both because of expected negative reactions from the public and the presence of suitable alternatives. One of those alternatives we mentioned were so-called solar islands.

A few years ago we wrote a sceptical article about seasteading. One of our arguments against seasteading was about their economic suitability. We argued that seasteads had poor economic prospects, with the consequence of a lack of interest from potential investors. However, solar islands might change this.

As we have argued in an earlier post, the ocean might be a good place for producing synthetic fuels. According to this site seawater contains 15.1% CO2 against 0.03% in air, thus CO2 can easily be extracted from seawater. Energy provided either by solar islands or ocean thermal conversion, can be used to produce hydrogen gas. From CO2 we can produce CO, and from CO and hydrogen we can make synthetic fuels. These fuels can be exported to other places.

The off-shore production of synthetic fuels might be a raison d’être of seasteads. However, it’s doubtful whether the political ideals associated with seasteading can be realised if seasteaders would specialize them in synthetic fuel production. It will depend on who is providing the funding for these projects, if corporations or governments are the primary investors in seasteads then the pursuit of liberty might be jeopardized.

Soon we will discuss the colonization of Antarctica.