Arguments for an ambitious space exploration program, part 2
Why not arrange a competition among at least two international groups of scientists to
erect a civilisation on the Moon?
Without having gone into the literature, I had something of the following nature in mind:
One group would approach the problem by sending a small space probe containing small robots
which would create everything needed to build larger robots etc. The other group would approach
the problem by relying more on human astronauts. These different approaches would lead to many more
spinoffs than if efficiency alone would be the motive, since human travellers and human dwellers in space
require a wide range of scientific problems to be solved which would not need to be considered if only
robots were involved. The idea is to provide worthy challenges, resulting in a lot of creative work and possibly
rapidly improving quality in many areas of human activity, such as education.
The competition should not aim to outcompete either group. Nobody should benefit
from the others failure. A system of reward should be arranged in such a way that destructive competition
In my opinion it would be necessary to aim for a civilisation based partly on human participation in order
to make it interesting for the majority of the people of the world. Efficiency is not the most important
aspect. Instead the most important aspect is to try and create an interesting future.
Consider the following task: To construct a vehicle to be transported to the moon.
It's figure of merit should be dependent on how little energy is needed to take it there.
And secondly, it should be capable of erecting a complete civilisation, ready for us to move in and live there
comfortably. Which is the smallest amount of energy needed?
Is it conceivable that a microscopic, solar-powered object is capable of leaving the earth?
This would seem impossible, but who knows?
Note that the size of such an object, once it has been created, bears no relation to the economic importance
of the industrial system necessary to realize it.
In any case, there are records to break. And the techniques will be tested down here in non-classified projects,
with enormous budgets, taken from the worlds military systems, with the corresponding number of key personnel
leaving their national military and intelligence organisations to join the international cooperation.
With such budgets and challenges, it should be possible to attract the worlds best minds. It is my deliberate
intention to cause a partial brain-drain in the military industrial complex, and to have a corresponding growth
of their civilian counterpart, where it is understood, that science is an essentially open activity, without
I made a search on the internet to find out what year John von Neumann began thinking about selfreproducing
robots for space colonisation, and then I found the following document:
Advanced Automation for Space Missions ...
Edited by Robert A. Freitas, Jr.
I quote from the introduction:
What follows is a portion of the final report of
a NASA summer study, conducted in 1980 by request of newly-
elected President Jimmy Carter at a cost of 11.7 million dollars.
The result of the study was a realistic proposal for a self-
replicating automated lunar factory system, capable of
exponentially increasing productive capacity and, in the
long run, exploration of the entire galaxy within a reasonable
timeframe. Unfortunately, the proposal was quietly declined
with barely a ripple in the press.
What was once concievable with 1980's technology
is now even more practical today. Even if you're just skimming
through this document, the potential of this proposed system
is undeniable. Please enjoy.
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Erecting a civilisation on the moon does not require independently
thinking robots, due to the small time delay for radio signals
travelling from the earth to the moon.
An intermediary case is the colonisation of the other planets.
A time delay of several hours poses a problem, but in principle it is conceivable
to remote-control everything.
Erecting a civilisation in another planetary system, however, one cannot rely on remote control.
Therefore, either humans would have to participate, or we would have to accept that,
some kind of invading armada of robots might later return. Undoubtedly an interesting future,
but not the kind I had in mind.
In the long run artificial intelligence will probably
lead to a transition from our kind of life form to something different, but in the transition period
caution is necessary.
I want to repeat the warning I have stated elsewhere: That we must under no
circumstances accept that the research in artificial intelligence is conducted in classified military
projects. This kind of research must come out in the open.
In David Emory's For the record program FTR-219, he cites a civilian computer expert, Bill Joy,
cofounder of Sun Microsystems, who is worried that we may be exterminated by intelligent computers within two generations.
Bill Joy said I have always beleived that making software more reliable, given its many uses, will
make the world a safer and better place. If I were to come to beleive the opposite, then I would be morally
obligated to stop this work. I can now imagine that such a day may come....He envisages an invasion in the
physical world of selfreplicating analogs to the computer viruses we have seen in action in the virtual world
About David Emory, see References - 1
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I like to comment that, I dont think civilian researchers should leave the game for any such reason,
because the secretive research projects are not likely to be affected anyway. In stead we must demand that there are
no secrets in this field and that there is a keen scrutiny of every step of the development.
There are enormous benefits to be had from these advances and it is undoubtedly risky. The ties between
society at large and the scientific community must be strengthened accordingly.
I dont think there is any road leading back. By being among those, who are basically in favor of the development
of such technologies, we have a chance of controlling it. If we are against it, the research will go underground.
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About space travel. It is interesting to note some numbers. It is in principle possible to travel across the universe
in one human generation, 25 years, (assuming an acceleration of 1 g), if the present physics theory is to be trusted.
The energy needed for that is enormous, something like the entire energy output from the sun during a month. And that
energy has to be stored in the space vehicle somehow. Drawbacks are: There will be knowbody left to come home to,
should the travelers decide to return, since billions of years will have past at the base. Second they wouldn't see
anything on the way since the entire universe would only be seen as an intensively radiating point in the forward direction.
If they decided to stop anywhere on the way, (in that blinded condition), they would have to erect an enormously complex
technological structure in order to be able to refuel their vehicle. Moreover it is likely, that even the minutest objects
hitting the vehicle on the way would smash it to pieces.
I wouldn't volunteer, but I think it is interesting to note these numbers. The fact, (trusting physics), that, in principle,
a human generation matches the size of the universe as we understand it. That the numbers are such that it is very difficult,
but still not entirely impossible to cover the entire universe. Several scientists have noted that the properties of the
universe are such as to make it interesting, there are several seemingly unlikely coincidences, that combine to make life
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