Tag Archives: space settlers

Too cheap to meter?

Lewis Strauss coined in reference to the prospect of fusion power, the phrase too cheap to meter. Mr. Strauss argued that once fusion power would become available, the costs to produce electricity would be so low, that wouldn’t be worthwhile to charge the consumer in respect to their actual energy consumption.

The principal source of energy in Space Settlements is, of course, solar power. Our natural fusion reactor produces such amounts of power, that only a tiny fraction is needed for use by Space Settlers. Hence the question arises whether Space Settlers should be charged for their actual energy consumption?

Though the Sun does deliver its energy for free, it does not mean that the energy consumed by Space Settlers should be free. In order to make use of Solar energy, Space Settlers should convert it into useful forms of energy, such as electricity. This requires the construction of Solar Power Plants (SPPs).

And though a SPP has no fuel costs, it needs money for its construction and maintenance. Further the SPP has to be protected against meteorites and terrorists. It is obvious to someone has to pay for these services. And then we are only talking about the power plants, what to think about the construction and maintenance of the grid? But the good news is that even if we take these cost into consideration, space settlers will receive a considerably lesser energy bill than their terrestrial fellows.

The backside of SPPs is that the initial investment to build them, is quite high (though this would be compensated by the extreme long service life of the plants) and hence vulnerable to emerge of monopolists. After all once a space energy company has built a SPP, it can offer energy at relatively low prices, while the threshold of building a new plant will deter potential competitors.

Since such a monopoly is likely inevitable, it would be best if the governments of space settlements will take care of the production and maintenance of SPPs. This had two benefits: first all profits will flow to public treasury, and secondly price setting by the energy company is subject to democratic supervision.

Space colonization and Open Source software

On August 25th, 1991 a Finnish guy with the name Linus Torvald made notice for the first time of what would be known as first version of the Linux kernel, which was released a few weeks later. Though Torvald claimed that it was just a hobby, Linux would become a popular alternative operating system (OS).

In contrast to many other operating systems, Linux is open source. This means that everyone is free to use it, to change it if one desires so and to distribute it to others. However open source software (OSS) shouldn’t be confused with free software, though much OSS is also free.

The primary advantage of OSS is that because the source code is free, bugs are easier to detect and if one has found (s)he is allowed to repair the bug, and to distribute this improved version. The result is that OSS, and open source operating systems in particular, are often more reliable and less vulnerable for attacks than proprietary software.

A second advantage of OSS is that the licenses to use it are much cheaper than proprietary licenses. This is of particular interest for space settlers. Space colonization is expensive, and we should do anything to keep the start-up costs as low as possible. And since space colonization heavily depends on computer systems, and all computers need an operating system, using an open source OS such as Linux will significantly to reduce to costs of colonizing space.

During the last two decades OSS has proven to be a good alternative for its proprietary competitors. More than 95% of the worlds largest supercomputers are running on Linux, and these computers are expensive investments.

Critiques of open source software often argue that the high prices of proprietary software licenses are justified by its development costs. Well, this holds true only to a certain extent. Once a piece of code has been written, it can be reproduced at virtually zero costs. Of course the writers of software codes should be paid a decent price for their work.

But you pay your lawyer only for the hours (s)he has used for your case. Similarly we can pay programmers for the time they have put in writing their code. And the price-per-hour should take into account the relative complexity of the job.

See also

Smartphones in space

Space settlements and foreign policy

Introduction

When space settlements are reality, they will have to interact with other human communities, whether these are other space settlements or terrestrial communities. Especially in the early days of human space colonization, almost every space based community will be dependent on both the Earth and other space settlements, since it will be highly unlikely that one (small) space colony can be entirely autarkic. Therefore space based communities are required to maintain international relations and so they are in need of a foreign policy. In this post I will, for the sake of the argument, assume that space settlements will be sovereign entities, which are free to manage their own affairs.

Relations with terrestrial nations

Basically we have to distinguish between international relations with terrestrial nations on one hand and with other space settlements. This reason for this distinction is simple, for the next few decades, and probably for the next century, Earth will be the most populous entity in our Solar System and for obvious reasons it will also serves as man’s center of culture and civilization.

The first space settlements will depend on trading, especially mineral resources, with Earth for their economic survival. Additionally, the early settlements will have to rely on the importation of many specialized goods from Earth, at least until the moment these can produced in outer space. This means that the Earth as a whole has huge potential of power on space settlements.

It is easy to imagine that Earth will demand low prices for the resources they buy from Space Settlers, while asking for high prices on the goods they sell to Space communities. If terrestrial parties are able to play out space communities against each other, the Earth will probably be able to achieve its aims. One way to counter this is for Space Settlements to develop their economies as fast and as diverse as possible, in order to weaken their dependency on importing goods from Earth.

Another way is for Space Settlements to organize themselves and to act as a unity in their relations with terrestrial nations, much like how organizations as OPEC operate. This strategy is especially advantageous if space settlements are able to play into the differences and conflicts among terrestrial nations and to exploit them to their own advantage.

Relations between space settlements

Inter-settlement relations differ fundamentally from terrestrial-space relations in certain aspects. Trade between settlements will, at least during the early years, be limited. The abundance of mineral resources in outer space (recall that we believe in colonizing the near earth asteroids instead of, for example, the Moon), means that most Space Settlements will be self-sufficient regarding these. The most likely goods to be traded among Space Settlements are agricultural products (because this will be much less expensive than importing these from Earth), and when Space economy became more developed there will be a shift to more specialized goods, which will replace importing from Earth.

A complicating factor in inter-settlement relations are the great distances between space settlements. This will reduce the chance of escalating conflicts, but also hinders cooperation between Space Settlements. The abundance of resources reduces potential for conflicts, therefore war between (coalition of) Space Settlements is quite unlikely during the early decades. Most Space Settlements will probably tend to avoid interference with the domestic affairs of other Settlements.

Suggestions for foreign policy

How should Space Settlements shape their foreign policy? Our advise is basically: avoid meddling with the internal affairs of other communities, both terrestrial and space-borne. As we have argued earlier, Space Settlements shouldn’t join the UN, a statement we want to repeat here. A policy of strict neutrality regarding conflicts between terrestrial powers, will improve the reputation of Space Settlements as peaceful and non-threatening political entities.

Also should Space Settlements abstain from purely terrestrial questions, such as global climate change. There is absolutely no reason for Space Settlements to join, for instance, the Kyoto-protocol or similar treaties. By avoiding getting involved with purely terrestrial affairs, Space Settlements will avoid irritation by terrestrial governments and this will subsequently reduce the emerging of hostile sentiments among some terrestrial groups.

Further we of Lagrangian Republican Association, believe that Space Settlements should also refuse to act as mediators in conflicts between terrestrial nations/parties. If Space Settlement are able to get known as peaceful and neutral communities, some will be tempted to ask them to mediate in purely terrestrial conflicts. However this would be a violation of a strict non-interventionist foreign policy.

Also by acting as a mediator, Space Settlements risk to lose their reputation as neutral states, especially if negotiations are without result or if one of the conflicting parties believe that the results are not fair in some way or another. Since it is almost impossible to determine whether such party is right or not, this risk is in our opinion to great.