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Space

Journal: Space Travel and Technocracy

Journal by Murdoc

In reference to http://science.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=09/08/14/1510258 "NASA's Cashflow Problem Puts Moon Trip In Doubt"

A lot of the comments in this one are regarding the inability of NASA, or government in general, to get the space program working in any meaningful way. I think that this post http://science.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=1336589&cid=29068913 sums it up pretty good:

The government has made it abundantly clear that it understands and cares little for scientific progress. It doesn't matter whether you lean left, right, or upside-down, the fact of the matter is that neither Congress, nor recent Presidents, have serious desires to see progress made in scientific realms for purely progressive reasons. As other slashdotters have pointed out numerous times, there is an enormous list of spin-off benefits that come from manned-exploration of space. Not only that, but direct benefits such as a progression of the human species beyond its own world are a payoff in and of themselves. Politicians don't care. If something won't result directly in votes, money, or power for politicians, then there is little chance that thing, be it a movement, a field, or an ideology, will get any serious backing from the legislative or executive branches.

This can also be seen in the Green movement, for example. Rather than fund or seriously investigate truly sustainable energy sources such as breeder reactors and fusion research, the government wants to hop on a trendy bandwagon (votes) that involves the more inefficient methods of solar and wind energy production and the costly subsidization of corn-based bio-fuels (money).

So what is the solution then? If government can't do it, who else can we turn to? This user gives us an answer:

We can, and should, therefore kiss off serious government spending towards goals like space exploration. True development and innovation will come in this field through privately funded space organizations and governments of other countries.

Ah yes, the private industry. They'll save us, right? I don't think so. First of all, the last time we went to the moon, it took the combined effort of hundreds of companies working for fat government money, and coordinated by that central agency, to pull it off. Now somehow we expect some single company or another (with perhaps a few subcontractors) to pull off this same massive effort? The only reason space companies like the ones this guy mentions are getting anywhere at all is because a) the technology for doing many things is somewhat cheaper now, and b) super-millionaires are throwing lots of cash at the problem in long-term investment style.

To respond to both these points: a) the technology relevant for space travel hasn't progressed very far relative to lowering most of the costs involved. This is primarily because most of the technology that needs to be developed is in fact only done during a space-program, not before. The space program creates spin-off technologies to the other markets, but seldom happens the other way around. And b) No company is going to have the massive amounts of money that a government does to pour into these projects, thus they will not be done in any reasonable amount of time, leading to no profits for a long time, meaning that most of these programs I am predicting will simply die out.

Now let's look at this poster's comment deriding the government for not having the "will" to spend enough for space travel. He is probably right in this regard, as for the most part, any successful politician will only be so because s/he places priority on money, power, and votes. So why then is the private industry so much better? Are they so very humanitarian? No, they want money, and power, just like the politicians do, and that's not going to get us anywhere. Even if it did, can you image what space would look like run by corporations? Billboards on the moon? Space hotels for the rich that the middle class will probably never see?

But that doesn't matter really. The point is that this is most likely to not happen at all, and simply because of the inefficiency of capitalism. That's right. People like to talk about how "efficient" it is because it is so good making sure that all processes are done the "cheapest" way possible. However, since money doesn't actually represent anything physical, the "cheapest" in money cost may still mean high costs in terms of natural resources, human labor, energy costs, or externalities like environmental damage or economic damage to other nations, or even your own (remember that most companies are competing against somebody, and in a scarce system, most of the time one company's gains are another one's losses). And speaking of competing companies, how do we expect 5 million different companies, all after their own self-interest, to somehow match the level of efficiency and coordination that a single, centralized body can?

But wait, I hear people saying: The government isn't efficient at all! Well first of all, of course not. It's run by politicians, what do you expect? Second, it can be, when the politician's don't interfere too much. Look back at the Apollo program. They got it done, didn't they? Not nearly as well as was physically possible, but they met the minimum requirements laid out by Kennedy.

So what do I mean by "physically possible"? Ah, here we are at the crux of the matter. What I mean is that from a purely physical standpoint (including the natural resources, installed technology like factories etc., trained technical experts, etc.), we were, 40 years ago, capable of at least what we did back then, and possibly a great deal more, had we done a better job. Therefor, today, we should be able to do at least that well, most likely far better, due to much greater technology. There is nothing stopping the physical plant of North America from producing a working space program that can take us to the moon, Mars, and beyond in reasonable time without negatively impacting the lives of people on Earth. So why then can't we do it?

It has to do with scarcity. We are using a scarcity-based economic system that severely limits what we can do with our natural resources. 200 years ago, when we had natural scarcity conditions, this was fine, because there was nothing else that could be done about it. However, we have had the capacity to produce an abundance (post-scarcity) of goods and services for nearly a century now, but we are instead throwing it away like setting fire to a huge pile of money. If we were to utilize a post-scarcity economic system that emphasized physical efficiency instead of made-up numbers (like in current economics), then we would find ourselves not only able to live much better lives, but also have a really superb space program. Heck, if we had done it back when this idea was still new 80 years ago, we might have been to Mars already, and had people living on the moon. Who knows? The numbers showing what we are physically capable of (as opposed to what we are currently economically capable of), once you look at them, are truly staggering.

Does this mean that we have to become an evil, centralized state like the USSR to pull this off? Not at all. Technocracy has shown us a way to gain all the benefits of controlling technology in an efficient, centralized way, without having to restrict people's freedoms in the same manner. In fact, it would likely be the freest form of society on Earth. Sound impossible? You won't know unless you give it a serious look now will you?

User Journal

Journal: Copyright vs. Freedom

Journal by Murdoc

This is in reference to this thread.

In particular these comments.

Basically they are saying that you can't have the freedom of abolishing copyright law without abolishing the GPL, which protects "freedom" in terms of software use. How to solve this? Well, in our society, like all such scarcity-based systems, we are forced to compromise, pick something in the middle that most of us can live with, and then bicker about it endlessly.

Isn't it interesting that in a Technocracy, all these issues would be moot, like a lot of the "you can only pick one (if out of two)" or "you can only pick two (if out of three choices)" we encounter. There would be no need for any form of copyright beyond proper attribution to the author or inventor(s). There would be no problem with artists starving or whatever since everyone would be receiving the highest standard of living possible anyway. People could then use whatever media they liked whether for entertainment, education, or to make their own whenever they want, and everyone's happy. As I always say, with Technocracy you can have your cake and eat it too.

Another line that stuck out for me was this (from the last message I posted a link to): ""Copyright is evil" equals "I don't think I should pay for anything", and it always has." Well I guess with Technocracy people can have both, and if this is an accurate reflection of Slashdot readers, then I'll bet they'd love Technocracy! Once they understood it anyway.

If you are wondering what Technocracy is, and how it can do these things without the myriad problems that I'm sure come to mind, be sure to investigate it thoroughly, because anything less will not answer all your questions and fill in the "holes" in your knowledge that may look at first like problems with the idea. Here is a good place to start. Especially try the Beginner's Page!

User Journal

Journal: Making use of what we know to solve society's problems

Journal by Murdoc
From http://tech.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=1224557&cid=27850871:

I agree with a lot of what he says in this post, especially the part about:

"We could have had the future depicted in 2001, we could have an end to world hunger, an end to disease, and if not an end to death then a comfortably long delay in its arrival."

From all the research I have seen, we have had the technology to do all these things and more, at least here in North America, for over 70 years. What I don't agree with is his statement:

"The problem is that we're still very human at heart and humans are not that far removed from the trees. We are selfish, grasping, petty animals and those few acts of sublime virtue from the best of us simply serve to make the rest of us look all the worse."

This part I kind of agree with:

"We've yet to develop a political system adequate to the task of promoting the greatest good for the greatest number without allowing unhealthy power and influence to be amassed by our least deserving fellows."

The rest of that paragraph is quite correct. The reason I say "kind of" however is because while I do think that no existing political system can do what he says, there is an apolitical system that can. I am of course talking about Technocracy.

Now the reason I say that I disagree with his previous statement is because I see human beings as being largely blank-slates when we are born. Sure, we have some basic personality traits that we are born with, such as aggressiveness, sociability, etc., which of course can be modified to some degree by upbringing, but these traits occur in all known cultures, and the sheer diversity of human behaviour across all these cultures, past and present, attest to exactly how modifiable our "software" really is. So this leads me to conclude that is it simply our cultural software, the information and processes in our heads, that needs changing in order to enact such a system as Technocracy.

So the problem then becomes how to do this? If were were to look at the problem memetically, we would need to organize an education campaign whereby people were exposed to the information and thinking processes we need them to have, and encapsulate this in a memetically successful container. How do we do this then? Can we simply say to people: "Look, if you really want an end to war, hunger, poverty, etc. etc., then you are going to have to change the way to you think about things. Here's how." Is that enough? I'm thinking probably not.

Perhaps we can borrow some strategies from successful memes like some social movements, philosophies, or religions. Of course these container memes cannot contradict the content memes, so a lot of those strategies cannot be used without creating self-defeating dichotomies, or worse yet, cognitive dissonance. But still perhaps packaging this idea into the container of a philosophy, like "memeism" or something might work. Without putting more work into it I can't say any more on how to do this, but perhaps if other people are interested in helping out, we can get something going.

The Almighty Buck

Journal: Global Warming

Journal by Murdoc

A bit late but oh well...

Any reason why I can't pick "science" as a category? Weird. Anyway, I settled for "The Almighty Buck" since I guess we'll talk about Technocracy vs. the Price System.

Global Warming Exposes New Islands in the Arctic

So what is Technocracy's stance on Global Warming? Technocracy does not study global climate change per se, but it was one of the first organizations to treat the environment seriously, and long before it became popular in the 1970s. Technocracy demonstrated, among other things, how all Price Systems were destined to harm their environment. The reason for this is simple: one attribute they all share is the need for exponential growth. While on a small scale with a small population, this tends to result in little damage, but as population and standard of living increases (as measured by the amount of extraneous (non-human) energy expended per capita), so does the consumption of resources. These trends occur at exponential rates, and the more mature a Price System is, the greater amount of waste is needed to prop up the system. This can be alleviated somewhat using slave labor, but it is still going to increase.

Thus resource consumption and environmental harm are inevitable byproducts of the Price System, and most notably in mature, technologically advanced ones such as in western societies today. Technocracy has long advocated a "steady-state" economic system, where resource depletion was on par with renewability, and environmental damage is minimized as much as possible. This is not possible in Price Systems, as to do so would be so financially costly as to sacrifice one's competitiveness, and be put out of business by one's competitors. Government regulation may seem to be able to mitigate this, but the cost to the entire economy, even if it were done, would be devastating, resulting in a lower standard of living for all. You won't find this happening today, and indeed haven't seen it for reasons that this user describes.

Theoretically, an environmentally-conscious civilization could early on in its history try to ensure that all future economic and industrial advances have little environmental impact, but likely this would result in slowing such advancement down considerably. They would either never advance far enough to even think of Technocracy, or otherwise naturally lead into it once sufficient technology and resources were acquired that they could install one.

So how does Technocracy do all this wonderful environmental stuff without the corresponding decrease in standard of living? Put most simply, it's efficiency. Not efficiency as in "best results for the dollar", but rather, "best results for any expenditure of resources". This is accomplished by the abolishment of the variable and subjective mechanism of money and replacing it with a solid method of measurement and resource accounting, such as Energy Accounting. The price of a chair can fluctuate from near-nil to priceless collector's item, but the energy it takes to make one will always remain the same, given the same access to resources and same method of manufacture. As technology and manufacturing methods improve, the resource or "energy" cost of the item will only go down, resulting overall in an increase in the standard of living of everyone.

So basically, if North America converted to a Technocracy, then the world's greatest contributor to pollution and climate change would then become the world's least contributor, and likely the most helpful in other ways as well. Remove money and many things become possible.

Another benefit of Technocracy regarding issues such as global warming is the lack of politics making issues such as this moot.

There would be no political careers to make or break given scare tactics, and no financial incentives to squash scientific theories that impede business revenues. So while we may argue today over who is right and wrong and why they might be lying, in a Technocracy this wouldn't be the case. Only objective, provable data would make a scientist's career; lying would only get him fired.

Again I just wish to reiterate that I am not trying to explain all of how Technocracy works here (see first post), but only show its impact and position on these issues. For more information on how these things are actually possible, visit the site associated with my account. :)

Robotics

Journal: IP stops robots from working

Journal by Murdoc

In Hoboken, NJ vs. Giant Parking Robot we read where a dispute about the IP rights of the software of a major robot parking system has shut the system down, trapping the cars inside. This is a classic case of what I call PSIs, or "Price System Interferences". Here we see a dispute over "ownership" interfering with technology that is helping people, something that would not happen in a Technate (Technocratic society). Instead, the very concept of "property" is changed, so that only "personal" property would apply whereas "private" property would not. Anything having to do with the production or distribution of mass-produced goods and services can only be operated, used, performed, and/or consumed, no owned. E.g. the people in a factory would make it work, while the consumer collects the output and consumes it. Neither "own" the factory. This may seem weird, but is one of the fundamental paradigm changes necessary in order to function in a Post Scarcity society such as Technocracy. The quick example is of course, air, which no one really owns, because it is abundant. Air, while absolutely essential to human life, has no "value" in the economic sense because it is not abundant, and thus cannot be sold. Virtually everything in a Technate would be mass-produced (that could be anyway) in such a way as to be also considered "abundant" like air, and thus could not be sold. Thus an entirely new economic model is required, i.e. Technocracy.

Getting back on track, we can see how the outdated scarcity concept of "ownership" is interfering with the operation of a very Technocratic concept, robotic parking. PSIs like this are everywhere, and are constantly keeping us from realizing the very high standard of living that we could all be enjoying thanks to high-energy technology. Isn't it time we realized this and moved on?

In addition, it is interesting to note that the cars are trapped because there is no manual way to get them out. No doubt designing this in would have been expensive in both time and especially money. In the Technate, failures and shutdowns would be anticipated during the design phase, and constraints such as "budget" would not exist, thus allowing proper precautions to have been made in such a case. Money is, after all, the biggest PSI, artificially maintaining a state of scarcity where one need not exist. How many more things could be designed better were money "no object"? I'm sure there are a great many engineers out there that have devised perfect solutions to a problem, only to have them ravaged by the fiscal folks higher up. Come on, engineers, this is your time!

Space

Journal: Can we go to the moon?

Journal by Murdoc

Ah, so finally I get around to it. :P

From http://science.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=192999&cid=15841006:

"Many of the comments above point out an "attitude" of NASA people. This may in fact be true; however, I believe that my "attitude" is one of understanding the difficulties involved. Perhpas I came across too negatively, though: I believe that we can and will go to the Moon...it's just a problem of expense driving us to a long period of time to design and build the spacecraft and develop the technologies needed.

It's important to understand the challenge that NASA is up against: During Apollo, NASA had approximately 2.5% of the national budget. Today, NASA has less than 1%, and they've been asked to do the same job while having to cover the expense of the International Space Station ($4B per year) and the Shuttle (~$2B per year, perhaps more--it depends on whose numbers you believe). That leaves (very approximately) 1/5 the spending power as what was available in Apollo."

Despite the technical problems that this author goes into later, it is here we see the essential reason for not doing better in the US space program: lack of money. The Apollo program had a huge amount of money invested in it thanks to the cold war. Today, we don't really have that, and the War On Terror is unlikely to provide benefits to it. So why not just move more money into it from the military budget? That would be nice, but not going to happen.

First of all, it has to be established that money is scarce. Regardless of whether any particular thing that money is supposed to represent the value of is actually scarce or not, money itself is scarce; it needs to be in order to have value. Given that, there is only so much of it to go around, and everyone (in this case, every hand that's out for government money) is going to want/need more of it. The reason why so much money is going into the military at the moment instead of the space program (or social programs, or whatever), has to do with the decline of the US economy, but that's another topic.

Right now I want to address the question in the subject: Can we go to the moon? I do not have an accurate answer for that, but what I can say is that there are a great many things that we have, or could have, in abundance, meaning "more than we need". This has been so since the 1920s, as Technocracy has shown, and may still be the case today, provided our current system (called the Price System) hasn't destroyed enough of our resources and infrastructure yet to change that. Given that we live in a state (or at least, potential state) of technological abundance, making a space program would be a piece of cake. Remove the constraints of scarcity that hold us back (i.e. politics and money), replace it with something that works (Technocracy), and think of the possibilities! No more "budgets" to worry about; the best and most well educated minds working on the project (and more all the time with superior education); no need to worry about whether things like social programs or defence are "doing without" because of your decisions, etc. That's abundance for you.

So just take a look at what is stopping us whenever there is some problem with society, such as lack of police, lack of teachers or doctors, lack of research in medicine, terrible space program... and ask yourself what the problem really boils down to. Almost every time it will come out to: not enough money. So then, why not get rid of the stuff?

(BTW, it should be taken as a standard disclaimer for probably every post I make here that I am not setting out to prove that Technocracy could indeed solve these problems, because that's impossible. There is simply too much to go into to put in any kind of post like this (textbooks full). All I'm doing is showing how (superficially) Technocracy can help with these things, and thus hope to spark interest in learning more. Basically I'm trying to answer the question: Why should I care? or What's so good about it? After that, actually proving it takes time, but time well spent, I assure you.)

User Journal

Journal: Obligatory First Post

Journal by Murdoc

Wow, I wonder how many thousands of people have started their /. journals like that? No, it's not clever at all, just the power of social momentum, which I suppose would make an interesting topic in itself, but that's not what I'm here to talk about right now. Instead, this message is about justifying this journal's use and existence, and maybe why in the world anyone would want to read it, but don't hold your breath.

I already have two "weblogs" on the net, already seldom used. So why another one? I mean, just like e-mail 10 years ago, now everyone and their dog is offering a "'blog" (a term I hate BTW); heck, even my own website does it! Why? Simple, because I could. It's a Postnuke site, and it was a module, easy to install, so I thought WTH. But I digress. Expect that from time to time.

Too often I find myself wanting to comment on Slashdot articles, but what I've found is that the sheer volume of users means that if you do not comment within the first hour or so, your post will not likely be read by anyone, except perhaps the person you were responding too. That may be a bit of an exaggeration, but come on; if you've commented here before, you know basically what I am talking about. I have no idea how some people do it so consistently, except perhaps simply being on the site a lot, or picking articles indiscriminately. So basically, for the few times I do want to comment on something, by the time I've found it and read enough of it and the other comments, it's too late. I simply don't have that kind of time to spend here.

So thus comes the seemingly elegant solution to these two problems: I simply post my comments here in this journal. Yes, it means that few people will actually see it (I doubt with my few comments already I have many "Fans"), but at least they will be here easy to access long after the fact. I'm a little annoyed by /.'s new policy of hiding older user entries unless you pay them money. Some of my best comments (some even moderated "+5") are back there, and I can't even read them myself! Bah, I hate money, which I suppose brings me to my next point, which would be why my comments might actually be interesting to anybody.

As I said before, I don't have a lot of time for /., even though I read it every day usually. So usually my comments tend to be of the less frivolous variety, something I think is important for people to hear or know. I'm an expert on very few things, I have no PhDs or whatnot. But I what I do know a lot about is something called Technocracy, and I think it is important. And that is not simply my opinion, like many people have in related fields of politics and economics, but AFAICT, good, solid, scientific fact. Thus, I encourage people to check it out for themselves. It's a big topic, so I'd recommend starting with this Beginner's Page (it may not be pretty but it's the best organized page for first-timers I've seen concerning this topic).

So my point is that the purpose of this weblog will most often be to give a Technocratic perspective on some of the articles and other comments that appear here, something unique I can add to the community. How useful or interesting it is will of course be up to you to decide, but I think it should be. I'll of course welcome comments and questions since I know a lot of what I say will be based on stuff most people don't know about, so feel free. Hopefully I'll be posting my first one soon; I've already seen a couple that I'd really like to comment on that have already passed into the twilight "Older Stuff" column - I need to work fast. ;) But if this ends up anything like my other weblogs, then you can expect large gaps of time in between entries. I suppose if I had hoards of adoring fans clamoring for my words, it'd be a bit more often but yeah, I'm not holding my breath either.

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