The Millennial Project 2.0

There is a common rule of thumb for aspiring novelists which suggests that one should never tell one’s audience what is happening in a story. You show them. This would be the basic premise of TMP 2.0.

Defining the Project[]

Publishing a revised edition of TMP is crucial to reviving public interest in the project and for revising and elaborating on its vision to suit contemporary technology and global logistics. But with Marshall Savage retired from his futurist writing career, it is likely this project will require a collaborative effort. This coupled to the need to better communicate an impression of lifestyles and habitat in the future as a consequence of TMP would seem to favor a design approach rather similar to contemporary science textbooks, architectural books, or other works which have benefited from contemporary trends in visual representation, as so effectively described in such works as Edward R. Tufte’s series on visual/graphic communication.

The original TMP was richly illustrated but, owing to the nature of the work as a one-man project by someone who was not himself a graphic artist, its illustrations were not as detailed and comprehensive as the subject really demanded. It collection of feature color plates were professionally produced and responsible for much of the staying power of the TMP vision despite its divergence over time from contemporary technology. But these images were far too few and did not offer a very good impression of the character of the communities TMP would create, being focused on wide angle exterior views. Indeed, as exceptionally well detailed as it was given the amazing amount of information Marshall Savage packed into the modest sized book, TMP really lacked any clear impression of the lifestyles on-offer by its planned communities. This is a problem common to most space advocacy books. They focus on the science, the mission, and the technology of space development but often overlook the very environments they are intending to create. Space development is fundamentally real estate development. One is crafting new places for people to live. Those places need to be well portrayed in order for people to clearly visualize themselves living there. One needs to communicate an impression of lifestyle.

With the benefit of computer modeling, we now have the ability to leverage a modest amount of good design talent to the production of a vast number of graphic visualizations and even animation. This offers the prospect of a much more richly illustrated and detailed vision for TMP 2.0. But even a modest amount of graphic arts talent can be hard to come by these days due to the general disinterest in the subject of the realistic future among contemporary artists and their general reluctance to relinquish the necessary portion of artistic freedom to collaborate with engineers on designs that are truly technically plausible. If one looks at the full range of books in print today on the subject of space development you will see the same handful of artists – and often the same images! – used over and over again. This is a tiny community of artists who go all the way back to the early days of the Western space program and who have been working with this subject ever since. Alas, few newcomers have appeared to step into their places as these artists age and few of them have mastered the new digital graphics tools, making their style of rendering very labor intensive and costly. Government space agencies are frustrating places to pursue a career. A common recent pattern among NASA visualization artists has been short stints with the agency for the sake of resume status and then a leap to Hollywood or the computer game industry. And as the small community of space art die-hards ages, they production wanes.

But there is a potentially large pool of talent that remains untapped. There has long been a strong interest in space among architects and industrial designers, particularly those of a Modernist bent. Space themed designs appear very frequently in their more experimental and personal work. Indeed, even people like Frank Lloyd Wright speculated on the design of advanced aircraft and his student, Arcology visionary Paulo Soleri, was designing space colonies before there was even a concerted space program! But for reasons unclear there has remained something of a cultural barrier preventing designers in these fields from significantly participating in space advocacy and professional space visualization. Their cross-over, oddly enough, comes mostly through Hollywood’s SciFi visions. The aerospace industry does not use design in the same way as other areas of industry do because, for it, function is critical and supersedes appearance. Engineers lead in design efforts and they treat their supporting artists as ‘visualizers’. Elsewhere, appearance supersedes function and so creative design leads engineering. Often the engineers of a new cell phone are charged with the task of making a product design work without much communication with the designers and executives who have imposed a specific form factor on them! This may be the root of the cultural barrier. But if an effective strategy for true collaboration can be worked out, this community of artists may prove very effective and very prolific for a project like TMP 2.0. Perhaps the only thing this needs is finding people to talk to in these fields and learning – on both sides – to reign in the usual professional egos.

The format of TMP 2.0 would likely be somewhat different from the original TMP. Since it would elaborate greatly the details of habitat and lifestyle as well as specific – albeit speculative – systems/vehicle/architectural designs, it is likely to need more volume than the original TMP did. Thus a likely scenario would be the creation of a series of modest sized books, one serving as a very graphic-oriented overview of TMP in a large coffee-table format while other works focus more on the key phases of TMP and their technical and logistical details and use more of a compact textbook format akin to the original TMP and other futurist texts. In addition there could be large page format graphic oriented “Visions of…” Aquarius, Asgard, et. al. books which reprint some graphic material of the small format text while allowing designers the option to visually explore these themes further and more elaborately. In this way TMP 2.0 could produce a valuable publishing franchise of books which could individually be revised in iterative editions as with college textbooks, thus creating a way for this core element of the TMP vision to be periodically updated indefinitely.

Parent Topic[]

Peer Topics[]


Phases Foundation Aquarius Bifrost Asgard Avalon Elysium Solaria Galactia
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