After a hellish past month I found myself fighting depression and so took to writing in an attempt to alleviate it. The recent discussion on the 8 steps of TMP prompted me to think about how they would be embodied with the current known and anticipated technology and our prior research and experience in the FMF/LUF. So if the group would indulge me, here is my personal version of an updated TMP. Perhaps this is an outline for a future book, perhaps just rambling, but I thought it might be of interest to some. I have divided this article into 10 pieces and I will be posting one per day to the forum to try and avoid overloading things too much.
Part 1 - Foundation Edit
Foundation originally suffered from two critical problems; a somewhat nebulous definition and an unrealistic expectation of the power of virtual communities. The latter was understandable since, at the time TMP appeared, the media in general was over-hyping the potential of the virtual community as a basis of social change. We have learned since that, because of the ubiquity of the communication medium, virtual communities are powerful as a means to promote discussion and attract attention -having become a mainstream form of interactive entertainment- but are fundamentally weak as a mechanism for organizing real physical activity or raising funds because of the problems of anonymity and dispersion. Members of virtual communities tend to be spread too thin geographically and their anonymity makes trust-building between members very difficult. (I've been a member since early in the FMF but the only other member I have ever met in person was William Gale) To be more effective, this stage needs more real -as opposed to virtual- loci in the form of specific products, physical venues for socialization (like seminars and conventions), and centers of group volunteer activity and actual community. (work centers, business centers, live-in communities)
This has led me to the vision of a dual-sided Foundation divided between the activities of space advocacy -which is primarily about media, entertainment, and mass communication- and space development -which is primarily about entrepreneurship and real estate development. These activities are interdependent but very different and define the difference between community membership that is for personal entertainment (fans) and membership seeking a career.
The space advocacy sphere of Foundation is based on the cultivation of virtual communities, the organization of socialization and promotional events, non-profit group activities, and the group participation in the development and publishing of media embodying the TMP vision. It must ultimately be backed up, however, by actual for-profit media production operations which enter the sphere of space development. The effective purpose of the space advocacy sphere is self-perpetuating promotion and refinement of the TMP vision with the objective of cultivating career-oriented recruits for employment, entrepreneurship, and investment in space development. However, at a certain point TMP-related settlements and facilities will attract residents and investment as a consequence of their own quality of life profit potential.
The space development sphere of Foundation about the for-profit cultivation of various business ventures providing jobs and community settlement for members dedicating themselves to careers in pursuing TMP objectives. The ultimate goal is the creation of a TMP development corporation based on the model of the Community Investment Corporation which becomes the primary financial mechanism for the creation of settlements and the pursuit of all other industrial and commercial development. The CIC is a mechanism for group financing and profit sharing for all residents of TMP settlements and all employees of TMP relates businesses. It provides a mechanism for the self-financing of permanent settler residence through the appreciation in community real estate value and revenue from leased space activities and co-investment through venture capital, mutual funds, and ESOP/CSOP (employee stock ownership programs and consumer stock ownership programs) in TMP related business. The TMP development corporation is the ultimate owner and investor in all TMP related facilities wherever they are ultimately created.
Part 2 - Aquarius Edit
The Aquarius stage of TMP has two key logistical roles in the context of space development. The first and primary role of Aquarius is its simplest role; the mass exploitation of renewable energy for which the sea is the largest potential 'reserve' with the intent of powering the extreme energy demands of concerted space development. Whether we are at Peak Oil or not, the bottom line is that a concerted expansion of civilization to space has an energy overhead far beyond the capacity of any non-renewable energy sources. Thus is there no choice but to establish a renewable energy infrastructure as there is no other energy source large enough. This is a long-term objective that must be accomplished a community of settlements and facilities, not just a single marine colony alone. It has been suggested that space based solar power system could provide this needed energy overhead and it is likely to become a practical part of it. But initially it faces a chicken-or-egg dilemma that large networks of solar power satellites require a large orbital industrial infrastructure which, itself, cannot be achieved without a large energy overhead. Just how large an energy overhead or how large an orbital industrial infrastructure this requires remain open questions but this is still quit likely to be a strain on any existing energy infrastructure and, if we are in fact at Peak Oil today, will most definitely still require mass terrestrial renewable energy exploitation.
The second key role of Aquarius is for the cultivation of an independent industrial infrastructure rooted in a post-industrial culture. Savage believed that slow progress in space development was predominately a cultural problem and, though he didn't seem to have the word for it at the time, his solution to this problem was the cultivation of a post-industrial culture whose resource efficiency and obsolescence of unnecessary consumer products would allow for a more focussed use of resources and man-power toward the goal of space.
There's an open question here. Savage believed that in order to accomplish this goal a society needed to be isolated and insulated from the influenced of the western industrial consumer culture. Thus the need for an island providing physical isolation. Thing is, our civilization is ALREADY evolving toward a post-industrial culture much as Savage envisioned. So the question here is whether we really need such cultural isolation to accomplish this or can simply encourage the existing cultural trends in this same direction. And if we do not need cultural isolation, do we still need to go to the sea? My conclusion is that we do not need absolute cultural isolation -and actually risk making ourselves seem like a geopolitcial threat in doing so- but we do still need to go to the sea for the practical reasons of real estate cost, NIMBYism, parasitic economic losses through taxes squandered on bureaucratic waste and political excesses, and the problem of land-based bureaucratic hegemonies which resist the deployment of new forms of architecture and new technology. We don't need the sea exclusively, but it has distinct advantages for the larger scale activity when we have the capability to go there. In the current age, one is always being forced to the edges of existing civilization in order to try new things. This is demonstrated by the fact that most of the sustainable architecture in the world is built on the edge of wilderness. (indeed, so is most Modernist architecture or any architecture radical in design or building technology -and especially in the US which remains the single-most architecturally conservative and unprogressive nation on the globe) There's no way one can build an arcology or new launch facility in New York City, but one can build it at sea where there are no bureaucrats serving vested interests to say no. This doesn't mean the land and the urban centers are useless for other activities encouraging the cultural evolution desired. I can't build an arcology in New York but I can build a Fab Lab.
What is this post-industrial culture? Authors such as Alvin Toffler and the anonymous Swiss writer P.M. have detailed this extensively but, to sum it up in a simple way, the post-industrial culture is a producer culture rather than a consumer culture. It's a culture where standard of living is defined by what one can make rather than by what one can buy and thus it creates a 'work-less' society where most people make most of what they need for themselves and thus recover great amounts of time previously squandered at a deep discount for cash with which to pursue their personal improvement and loftier community goals. It's neither a non-industrial culture nor a 'back to the earth' culture of primitive subsistence living. It is highly industrial but based on industrial technology moving toward progressive decentralization and personalization of production ultimately culminating in the realization of totally automated, totally personal, and fully on-demand industry at the household scale matched to total recyclability. It is the ultimate throw-away culture and the most resource efficient and environmentally responsible BECAUSE of that. People make what they need on demand, discard it to complete recycling when they are done with it and thus enjoy a very high standard of living based on the minimum volume of material. A standard of living limited by imagination rather than economics. Products and the materials they are made from have little to no intrinsic value. Only the information from which they are made and the information their design communicates have value. This is a culture often hinted at in discussions of nanotechnology and the Diamond Age but it is not contingent upon that technology. Rather, it is more contingent on the way we organize communities, the way we engineer their physical and economic infrastructures, and the social values they cultivate. It is my personal belief that the purpose of the civilized society is to enable the maximum positive potential of all its citizens in balance with the needs of the environment. The purpose of the civilized life is to seek grace -not in any religious sense but in the sense of one's optimal experience and creative performance. And that goes far beyond hand crafts or the fine arts. Some find grace in art or craft, in sports, in science, in entrepreneurship, in family, in the care and healing of others, in the facilitation of social interaction and the organization of group activity, in exploration and discovery, in sexuality, and sometimes even in religion. There can be priorities but there should be few limits. The society that cannot create with maximum efficiency is an evolutionary dead-end. This should be the essential social premise of TMP. It needs no other social agenda more specific or elaborate -or for that matter any less ambitious.
The original design concept for Aquarius is, from a technological standpoint, obsolete while any likely new design concept for it changes the logistics of its development significantly because it would rely on active stationkeeping and is thus it's no longer limited to a fixed location throughout its life. This effectively eliminates the need for Aquarius Rising as a distinct stage, allowing it to be rolled directly into the cultivation of the full marine colony founded as a modest near-shore structure as small as a condominium expand incrementally to any size, moving progressively farther out to sea according to the economy of scale in transportation systems its resident population can afford. The original AR concept was impractical for the simple reason of real estate cost. No affordable coastal real estate exists anywhere in the developed world and, while available in undeveloped areas, is so remote as to be inaccessible to the majority of prospective residents. But when started with a modest floating platform at a near-shore location, the new Aquarius largely eliminates the real estate cost issue by reducing it to construction cost. This is still not necessarily dirt cheap, but orders of magnitude cheaper than the many millions per acre typical for coastal property. NIMBYism and coastal marine regulations are still issues but there is an almost infinite freedom of location for the structure. There is also an improved potential for support by virtue of the ability to seed a marine colony most anywhere on the globe with all these structures having equal potential to grow into a full-fledged open sea colony. Those who cannot travel to an existing Aquarius seed because of distance or work issues are free to start a colony in locations more accessible to them. And each such settlement would be free to express its individuality in terms of design.
With current technology, Aquarius no longer needs any research and development work to be realized -with the possible exception of the refinement of polyspecies mariculture technique and the development of new transportation systems which may afford it faster migration to open water. (such as LTAS airships, Ekranoplanes, VTOL ducted fan vehicles hydrogen and other 'packaged' renewable energy based vehicles, and various forms of large scale solar wingsail or tow-kite assisted vessels) The development of Aquarius is now a straightforward design and finance issue and can be begun at any time.
My vision of Aquarius -or Aquina as I like to name many marine structures (purportedly a native Californian word meaning "the beautiful color of the ocean"- is based on a Tectonic style of architecture, a style of design typified by forms mimicking those of natural landscape. The original hexagonal cellular design had, as Savage admitted, no functional purpose. It was simply symbolic. And it clashed drastically with the notion of a free-form organic interior design. The use of some type of modular underlying structural system is necessary for efficient colony construction using on-board fabrication. But the overall design need not conform to any rigid geometry as the surface finish of the structure can obscure the underlying geometry when its components are small relative to the overall structure -just as in the case of a computer screen which portrays round or flowing shapes with square pixels. This, however, would not be the case for the early stages of the structure because its ratio of overall structure to module scale would tend to be much smaller. I envision the finished marine colony as having an appearance rather like the terraced mountain farmlands of Indonesia or a 3D portrayal of a topographic map; a series of concentric terraces supported by columns with their top surface completely given over to cultivated plant life and their perimeter edges articulated with fine detail features and used as habitable space. Interior spaces with skylights at the top would create interior public spaces and some concave regions -bowl or valley shapes cut out of the terraces- could provide special wind-sheltered public areas. The structure would likely be built of conventional concrete but with an option to source raw materials from renewable marine sources and with carbon fiber reinforcement materials. in the near future, there is a possibility to employ the use of geopolymer materials as an alternative and to explore the sourcing of construction materials through mariculture. Geopolymers -technically ceramics based on a silicate chemistry rather than a calcium chemistry and with origins in ancient Roman concretes- are already in common use and offer many advantages over concrete -particularly in their much lower energy cost-, but are not yet manufactured in the necessary volumes for large scale construction. The variety of overall forms possible using this simple structural scheme are infinite and a colony could readily change radically in shape over time to incorporate different features. But the need to keep facilities within walking distance or easy deployment spans for internal automated Personal Rapid Transit and Personal Packet Transit systems should keep designs from sprawling unnecessarily. Using Pneumatically Stabilized Platform systems, the colony's use of a breakwater is optional. PSPs function as their own breakwater by virtue of wave absorption thus breakwater structures are necessary only for creating large mariculture enclosures or large artificial beaches. But these kinds of features can be just as easily provided through the use of lagoon, quay, and canal structures formed into the lowest level perimeter terraces. However, very large spaces as Savage proposed for algaeculture would still require some kind of very vast enclosure structure around, adjacent to, or enclosed by the colony. However, the potential of algae as a food source has come into question due to high frequencies of allergies to it and more research is necessary to establish its practical potential.
I envision three ways that an initial Aquarian settlement project could be created. The most basic would be to create a largely non-profit eco-village project which builds a seed co-habitation or co-housing community through the adaptive reuse of marine shipping containers doubling as float platform and habitable structures. The adaptive reuse of shipping containers is a well established industry around the world and the subject of much interest by contemporary architects. Marine construction platforms based on a custom-made container are already in common use. They would provide the cheapest, in terms of both base cost and labor, method of creating an initial settlement but they have no potential for open water use, would ultimately be obsolesced by ferro-cement construction later on, and have the highest potential to encourage NIMBYism because of their rather industrial appearance. As a non-profit project, this would require securing significant sponsorship from a number of key individuals. It is much less likely, because of appearance, to be successful as a commercial real estate venture.
The next approach would seek to establish an Foundation indigenous construction company for the purpose of building a condominium scale settlement through the initial manufacture of 'micro-islands' as a novel alternative to houseboats or the basis of modest resort facilities. Micro-islands would be elaborations of the Personal Properties project demonstrated by designer/artist Andrea Zittel and would consist of floating foam-core ferro-cement islands made to look like natural rock islands but containing modern dwellings with an organic design style. Equipped with terraces for outdoor lounges, swimming, and gardening, the micro-islands would be custom-made for an up-scale clientele. This variation on the concept of tectonic design would also have land-based applications as a new form of eco-architecture intended to stop the visual destruction of natural landscapes caused by the current trend of 'wilderness sprawl', encouraging edge-of-wilderness inhabitants to seek to live invisibly on the landscape. The combination of revenue from this venture along with the manufacturing skills developed would then allow for the finance and construction of a condominium scale settlement, either as a residential real estate or tourism venture.
The third approach leapfrogs the second approach's scheme by starting a marine condominium project as a conventional residential and commercial real estate development venture administered by the Foundation stage's Community Investment Corporation and performed largely by contract construction services. Floating condominiums and apartment buildings are, in fact, nothing new today and, though rare, can be found all over the world. The difference with this project is primarily in the nature of the CIC and in the fact that it would use a more sophisticated architecture based on a modular platform structure (initially static float) allowing for perpetual community and revenue expansion, as opposed to the more common floating condos which are based on repurposed barges fixed-moored to the shore like very large houseboats. The ARcondo, as I like to call it, would likewise probably start out fixed-moored on or very near shore but, by using more sophisticated self-contained waste processing and water generation, can easily shift to more distant locations. At longer distances from shore it may need to incorporate independent power as well, though would still likely rely on fixed anchorage until it is large enough to shift to Pneumatically Stabilized Platforms. By then locating in a wave-prone location it can provide most if not all of its power by wave energy through its platform, though this sort of location could complicate mariculture activities.
The basic design of the ARcondo would tend to follow a simple pattern mirroring the structural style of the full colony and intended to maximize the functional use of its space while still be attractive. Using a column-supported 'wedding cake' style of structure or load-bearing 'spar' walls, one to a few terraces for integrated town-house-style units are set to the perimeter surrounding a wind-sheltered central atrium which hosts a public garden and can optionally be domed or tented over using a Texlon membrane enclosure for an all-season tropical climate. The edges of the terraces are enclosed using simple planar glass or ceramic walls, recessed where a shade overhang is desired, with non-load-bearing partitions dividing the space into individual units. Modular storm shutters would attach to the terraces much like the window-walls for quick storm preparation The structure is 'functionally generic'. which is to say that it is not designed for any specific function but adapted to it by what retrofit components are placed in or on it. Essentially, the entire interior space of the structure is like loft space, ready to be reconfigured by retrofit for any use. This mirrors the pavilion style of architecture which has been a particular fascination for me for its possible use in non-toxic housing. Individual dwellings could feature private outer perimeter terraces while their rooftops are use for more garden space, to host solar panels or wind turbines, and to host marine signaling gear and telecommunications equipment. In some climates it may be preferred to have a glazed enclosure over the terraces rather than window-walls just within their edges so that solarium like spaces suitable for greenhouse gardening might be created. This 'Chinese Mansion' configuration could be used for a very long time, until a shift to much higher PSPs was made or the scale of industrial and commercial activity demands a separation from residential space through terrace division, and thus starting to evolve it to a more full colony configuration. When it does start to make this change, the structural will easily evolve, simply changing from a concave to a convex terrace organization as the perimeters of the terraces are incrementally expanded with the incremental expansion of the perimeter of the foundation platform.
As I've noted, waterfront property is extremely high in value today. The ability to manufacture it on demand is therefore potentially very economically powerful, a power so far limited primarily by the lack of imagination among the very few developers who have explored it. Some ARcondo structures could be built purely as leased spaced revenue generators intended to subsidize the development of more TMP-focused communities intended for long term full colony expansion.
Part 3 - Asgard Edit
You will notice that I have placed Asgard ahead of Bifrost in this list, and that's to make the point that I feel its beginning is potentially concurrent with the Aquarius stage and need not be considered as starting strictly after it or relying on Bifrost to begin it. I place more emphasis on Asgard as a key to the colonization of space than on lunar or planetary settlements which I feel are not as economically significant near-term.
This phase of development has a straightforward but challenging primary objective; the cultivation of an orbital industrial infrastructure to enable the continued development of space. Its secondary objective is to assay the solar system for its potential resources in advance of possible settlement. These are simple objectives to state but the primary one represents the single greatest logistical challenge for the entire Millennial Project.
Marshal Savage seems to have been of the belief that the lack of progress in space development was predominately a cultural issue. Lack of concerted effort on space development was a combination of a lack of social will and focus as well as a squandering of resources through consumerism, social exploitation, and the follies of geopolitics. While that is most certainly a critically important part of the problem and has been responsible for a drag on civilization's progress for a long time, it is my contention that the lack of progress in space development is largely due to the inability of space research conducted by space programs to date to demonstrate sufficient economic potential from space. In the absence of a post-industrial technology base of such high sophistication as to allow the personal transport to and independent homesteading of the space environment, the bootstrapping of a spacefaring civilization is contingent upon its economic relevance to the existing civilization. Or to put it simply, if you can't pay for it out of pocket you have to pay for it with someone else's money and they always expect a return on investment.
There are strong analogues between the settlement of space and the settlement of the New World. Travel to the New World was as expensive and hazardous as travel to space. Transit about the solar system is on time scales comparable to that of intercontinental transit at the time of initial New World settlement by Europeans. If people then could make this work, why then has space been such a seemingly tougher challenge? The reason may simply be that the resources of the New World were easily assessed and easily exploited and had a large market back home in Europe. The resources in space are abundant but not homogeneously distributed and are separated by long distances. They are not easy to exploit and space programs to date -driven more by objectives of geopolitical prestige than desire for economic expansion- have utterly failed to assess space resources and cultivate the necessary industrial capability to exploit them. Thus the economic potential of space has been confined to a few applications and remains largely unexplored and speculative. Making money in space has so far been limited to what you can put out there, not what you can bring back.
Contrary to American cultural mythology, the colonization of the New World was driven by the simple desire for wealth with the ease of settlement depending on the ease of exploitation of resources for export and the market value of those commodities in Europe. Just as only multi-millionaires and government employees can now afford to go to space, so too was travel to the New World limited. And there was no romance about the frontier or the wilderness that typifies the notion of frontier settlement today. The New World was a dangerous, uncomfortable, and very far away place that just happened to have a lot of stuff one could sell for a profit in Europe and thus there was potential for wealth for those who could afford the capital investment to pursue it. There was no such thing as homesteading because there was no such thing as personal intercontinental transportation and no pre-established infrastructure to facilitate independent survival. Settlements were either exploratory military outposts sponsored by governments or commercial developments financed by investors in Europe and expected to generate a return on investment through export. Homesteading, as the American cultural myth presents it, was primarily a post-colonization phenomenon of western expansion which was facilitated by pre-existing eastern coastal industrial infrastructure. Prior to that, if you went to the New World you did so as a soldier, an entrepreneur backed by European investors, an employee of a venture or person, an indentured servant, or a slave. In all cases, your trip there was paid for by someone else who expected to be paid back by what you sent back. Most of the first wave of New World settlers had no desire to remain there for the rest of their lives. They were there to make money -and ideally get rich- then go back to retire in the comforts of civilized Europe. Only bands of religious lunatics like the Pilgrims and small communities of escaped slaves and convicts saw the New World as any kind of haven. Subsequent waves of settlers and children born in the New World had aspirations of re-creating the comforts of Europe and the accouterments of wealth in their new home (since the trip required to go to back Europe to spend one's earnings was still far from a joy ride), relying predominately on manufactured goods imported from the Old World and paid for by goods exported from the New World. It wasn't until very late in the 18th century that America actually had a fully independent industrial infrastructure capable of producing all the diversity of goods a high standard of living by European standards demanded -and even then import goods remained preferred by virtue of superior manufacturing quality and greater technological sophistication.
What made New World settlement possible -if not all that easy- was not just the abundance of resources but their homogeneity in distribution. New World entrepreneurs were looking for goods that already existed and had high values on the European market. Using the assay data provided by military outposts and government sponsored exploration, they sought out first those commodities which were closest at-hand wherever on the coasts the ships could bring them and which had the lowest processing overhead to prepare and package for export. This typically meant things like animal furs and lumber or items gained in trade with the natives initially and then the products of agriculture produced from land cleared by the other activities, leading to plantation estates built on the European estate model. And it greatly helped that critical construction materials for housing and processing facilities were at-hand as well. America could have been a giant island of solid gold, but without any trees, animals, and potential slave labor on it up-front investment costs and attrition rates for ventures seeking to collect that gold would have been so high as to make the investment in such ventures impractical at the European market rate for gold. This, of course, is exactly the same argument many people make today about the great volumes of resources locked up in the asteroid belts.
Another key thing that made New World colonization possible was -oddly enough- the invention of insurance underwriting. Before insurance became the rather specialized and heavily bureaucratic series of institutions it is today, it was used as a means of personal investment that leveraged credit for high risk business ventures by spreading their risk among as many people as possible. All travel by ship in the age of sail was extremely hazardous and attrition rates for shipping were very high. Travel to places like the New World or the Far East took so much time and money that a merchant might only ever make a relatively small number of such trips in a lifetime. It was comparable to what one would face today in going to the outer planets or asteroid belts to seek your fortune. So much was thus tied up in these merchant ventures that one trip could make or break you for life. And with the risk of failure so high, only a very few very wealthy people could take that risk. To grow trade a mechanism was needed to make such overseas ventures more attractive to larger numbers of potential investors and a solution was devised in the form of insurance underwriting. This was essentially a kind of gambling. Though attrition rates were high, most of the time these intercontinental trade ventures succeeded. So if a company could spread out the risk among a really large pool of people betting just a tiny amount of money each their individual risk would be negligible but, over the long term, everybody would see a steady rate of growth. So the 'underwriter' pools were formed to insure individual ventures against their potential losses in the event of failure, not investing money, just insuring against losses and earning a profit on that service at a rate variable to the calculated risk. This made these ventures safer investments and so more people could invest in these trips and intercontinental trade could grow, making everybody in this hierarchical partnership wealthier. This was an invention as significant as the invention of the sailing ship itself and it encouraged investment in advances in shipping technology intended to make the odds on ventures better -such as the invention of the portable chronometer that made longitudinal celestial navigation possible.
With such advantages to help, New World settlement became a straightforward business proposition that earned a lot of money. But one can, of course, have too much of a good thing. By flooding the European market with those abundant at-hand commodities near them, New World settlements often painted themselves into a corner. The more they and other settlements exported the more they lowered the market price in Europe for those goods and thus the more they had to export to make the same profit. Eventually the market value of goods might decline to where unit profit was insufficient to cover the unit volume cost of their transport back to Europe. If the profit one can earn on a ship-load of sugar cane is less than the cost of hiring the ship, you make no money. Similarly, once one depleted a nearby region of known high-profit at-hand goods one would then have to shift to the lower value stuff or spend more money to go further inland. But unless one could either lower the shipping cost or increase the value of the product one would, again, end up having to ship much more to make the same money. This fundamental problem is what compelled the creation of an independent industrial infrastructure in the New World. In the absence of any radical improvement in shipping technology, to cost-justify transport to Europe in this situation one's export goods needed to be increased in market value. One had to find a way to add value to them in order to make the amount one could fit on a ship valuable enough to generate a substantial profit on top of the shipping overhead. You did that by increasing the degree of local processing of goods to make them into more highly refined forms. For instance, the market value of a ship-load of cotton or sugar cane might no longer be high enough to cover the cost of transport, but turn that cotton into cloth or that cane into rum and now the same volume of product has increased in market value by an order of magnitude, making the shipping overhead once again nominal. To do that one needed technology and workforce. One had to create more sophisticated processing facilities and bring in the workforce to operate them. To make these machines, one needed more sophisticated tools and manufacturing capability and a trained workforce. This capability now enabled the local production of more of the kinds of manufactured goods that previously required import -lowering the market value of those import goods and thus improving the buying power of export profits.
Thus we arrive at the pattern of growth that has defined the history of America; increasing industrialization and urbanization along the east coast coupled to steady expansion westward in search of more inland resources to exploit and previous resources were depleted. This process culminated -sometime in the 19th century- at a threshold where the domestic market demand for manufactured goods exceeded the export market, with Europe having very little left it could sell to the New World that she couldn't make herself with equal quality and at a cheaper price. The East coast became the venture capitalist and high-tech goods supplier to the West and the Old World is was forced to move on to other parts of the world in search of trading partners of lesser industrial sophistication to exploit.
So, what does this little history lesson have to do with space? Well, it sums up the essential problems and strategies of space colonization. If you want to settle space you either wait until the late Diamond Age for everyone to be able to launch their own personal spacecraft grown like a plant out of landfills and the excess carbon in the air, or you figure out how to pay for the cost of transit to space through a return on its capital investment. Our culture today doesn't tolerate the kind of social exploitation that typified New World colonization (contemporary hegemonies are more subtle about their social exploitation these days...) but we're still looking at a need for more money than most people see in a lifetime to travel to and live in space and therefore a need to go into debt to get there. But, unlike the New World, at-hand resources in any spot in the solar system are not particularly diverse and require much processing to make usable. The rest of the solar system hasn't had the benefit of vast biospheres working for billions of years to do a lot of raw materials refinement for free. Everything out there is like that previously mentioned rock island of gold. You have all the resources you need, but none are in a convenient form and all of them are on separate islands far away from each other. To make this work you need to be going out there with sophisticated industrial capability to turn that raw material into usable refined material. Unfortunately, even those refined materials still aren't going to be valuable enough on Earth to justify the transport costs to and from Earth to collect them. To make something with any market value on Earth, you need to process it into some pretty sophisticated products, despite the fact that no single location in space is likely to offer you all the raw materials this requires. And long term -when your production starts to actually cut into your profits by driving down market values- you need to radically increase efficiency by reducing imports from Earth and reducing transport to a one-way proposition, since it costs so much more to send a vehicle on a two-way trip from Earth to collect your product than it does to send one on a one-way trip down to deliver it. And lets not forget that insurance underwriting thing. Lloyds of London -last of the original New World shipping underwriters- doesn't yet insure anything in space but satellites because that's the only thing anyone has proven they can make money with -and lately they've been dodgy about continuing to do that due to waves of failures by new launch systems and aging old ones.
No single location in space has ANY potential in its material resources alone for a ROI. Their raw materials have very little and declining market value on Earth while no one place has the full diversity of materials needed for the manufacturing of very sophisticated goods. So to sustainably settle space you need to establish a resource collection and distribution network across vast areas of space; a comprehensive solar-system-spanning orbital industrial infrastructure. This is not possible right away due to the scale of the industry and transportation required. One needs to be able to cultivate this incrementally. So at the start you are forced to leap-frog to a level of industrial sophistication where your processing capability alone -the sophistication, and hence market value, of space-exclusive products you make- can generate an initial ROI even relying on a constant supply of raw materials from Earth! You have to use the environmental features of the space environment, rather than any material resources, as the the primary at-hand resource to exploit. It's as though colonization of America was founded on the exclusive hand-craft of native Americans rather than any of its natural resources, or like settling the New World with an Osaka or Tsukuba rather than a New Holland. (There's precedent for this. Far East trade was sustained on the commodities of silk and sophisticated ceramics which Europeans had the necessary raw materials to make but none of the technology or environmental conditions for. Iceland today has its industrial economy based largely on luring companies to it just for the cheap electricity and modest taxes) Then, to keep maintaining your ROI despite the decline in market value caused by your own production -and competition from terrestrial manufacturers advancing their capability- you have to reinvest your profits to seek out cheaper resources in the rest of the solar system to replace your Earth-imported materials and service parts to reduce your production overhead. In doing this -incrementally and over an extended period of time- you establish the necessary resource distribution network and diversified industrial infrastructure that can obsolesce most Earth import altogether. You are then ready to settle space in earnest by creating new nexuses in your resource network in other parts of the solar system which create an increasingly Earth-independent market.
Now, some currently believe that the high value product to start this with is tourism. My feeling is that, though potentially profitable, the market for that isn't big enough for a task of this scale. Tourism may produce enough ROI to be sustainable at a very small scale. It may make a small handful of entrepreneurs wealthy. But you can't radically grow that industry without radically improving its bottom line through space sourced materials and on-orbit manufactured goods. That requires an industrial capability of scale so large it exceeds what the scale of the tourism market can justify. Right now, you can only improve the bottom line for tourism by making launch costs cheaper, and that too has a capital investment overhead greater than the market for tourism can likely sustain. It's sort of like having a B&B on a small island linked only by an expensive yacht. You could earn much more money with the B&B if people could drive to the island in a car rather than ride in this yacht but the distance from the shore is so great that the B&B would have to expand to the scale of Disneyworld to afford the bridge. Where does the capital investment for that large a leap come from? Cheap launch costs will certainly make access to space easier and reduce the capital investment to start doing serious business there. But the key is that orbital industrial infrastructure able to exploit the resources about the solar system. Launch costs could be free and its still wouldn't eliminate the high capital cost of building that infrastructure. My feeling is that this task needs products with a market so large it penetrates directly or indirectly into every household on Earth -like the chips in computers and TVs, the drugs people take day to day, the communications systems they use, the vehicles they ride in. Something as significant to progress on Earth as the introduction of the transistor was and yet totally exclusive to in-space production.
That's a pretty tall order. How do we pull this off? This is the question Asgard has to answer and I see the solution in the form of the Modular Unmanned Orbital Laboratory; a small teleoperated space station in LEO or GEO based on a modular space frame 'backplane' using self-contained modular laboratory units whose purpose is orbital industrial research using a leased space business model. There are other design options based on launching more conventional large 'tin can' habitat components or adapting fuel tanking into lab enclosures and using temporary manned flights of construction and repair technicians, but I've favored this most minimalist of designs because it can be supported by the largest variety of launch systems, including those of very small payload capacity.
The MUOL is to Asgard what the ARcondo is to Aquarius. Is is the seed settlement which establishes the economic foundation of its incremental development into progressively larger and multiple facilities. The MUOL seeks to cultivate research in the materials and fabrication techniques that lead to the identification of potential high value products exploiting the space environment for their production. Once some are identified, this then offers initial on-orbit factory space based on teleoperated factory modules deriving from the same technology as the research modules. The MUOL is unmanned simply because, for the tasks it performs, the virtues of a live-in on-board staff of technicians, relative to the current performance of teleoperated systems, aren't cost-justified. And by eliminating on-board technicians and keeping systems to very small component scales the facility can be built and supported with very modest launch capability, thus maximizing the range of companies and countries with potential access to it for their research and increasing the odds of product development breakthrough. It can also supplement its revenue by conventional telecommunications service based on the competitive virtue of systems with perpetual upgrade and repair capability,
Now, the MUOL doesn't preclude tourism activity. By itself, it's unmanned and would have no need for live-aboard technicians for a long time. But there's nothing wrong with also pursuing tourism activity and making the most of the same technology. Tourism may not be sufficient for the Asgard objectives by itself but it can make some money initially and any source of revenue is certainly helpful. Certainly, many of the same larger scale launch systems can readily support both tourism and MUOL use, although the former would have to come at a much higher cost. And the same technology can be adapted to simple manned habitats either at the MUOL site or in separate sites. Transhab habitat systems are the most likely current choice of habitat architecture for tourism applications and this is a technology fully compatible with the 'backplane' architecture of the MUOL. If the investment is there, their concurrent development may be practical, though ultimately the MUOL's industrial activity should win-out.
But how does an unmanned research station turn into the vast manned Asgard orbital settlement? At a certain scale of industrial production the scale and complexity of manufacturing systems required makes the duty-life of disposable factory modules too short relative to the cost of whole module replacement while at the same time the cost of launch for the larger modules goes up. This is a factor that has strictly limited expansion in the satellite industry. The more money one has tied-up in a single piece of hardware the higher the economic risk in its failure when you can't go up to space to repair it. This risk is especially high during initial deployment due to the untested nature of the hardware and the severe shock it must withstand during launch. Thus it becomes more cost-effective to assemble the larger factory from numerous small components and maintain them through perpetual repair -not to mention reducing down-time by on-demand repair. To a large degree this strategy can still be accommodated with telerobotics by specializing the function of the discrete factory modules and using them in interconnected complexes rather than a single whole unit. But this kind of construction and maintenance still approaches the limits of practical telerobotic performance. Thus at a certain point the use of human technicians starts to become cost-competitive. This need for the use of human staff is later expanded by the growing demand for improvement in the orbital factory's bottom line through the exploitation of on-orbit materials, and the subsequent need to create yet again another more sophisticated generation of facilities. More complex and time-critical work means more demand for human workers. This requires the creation of a sophisticated 'ecology' of industrial activities which would combine teleoperation where human labor isn't cost-justified and direct hands-on work where it is. To fully minimize the on-orbit production overhead one needs to both source materials from elsewhere in space to supply production and also manufacture components on-orbit for the expansion and replacement of factories and the production of vehicles to deliver the export products and gather materials. One's goal is to reduce orbital production to on-way traffic; just the product coming down. This involves a host of activities which are likely to become the province of many individual ventures establishing a food-chain of products and services offering many opportunities for entrepreneurship.
We start with the raw materials sources themselves. Gathering raw materials in space involves the prospecting of various parts of the solar system -starting initially with near-Earth asteroids and natural debris fields, periodic debris swarms like the seasonal meteor showers, man-made space junk, and the Moon. A space mining venture would maintain a fleet of teleoperated orbital radar telescope, probe, mining, and intercept vehicles which are used to seek out and collect unrefined materials and return them to a station, either in unrefined or semi-refined form. The long transit times for operating these vehicles precludes manned operation but they require complex servicing on-orbit when they return, because for economy they must employ minimalist structural designs that cannot withstand Earth entry or launch. There may be many of these ventures working in different 'territories' of the solar system -much like the asteroid homesteaders envisioned by Savage but with no need or practical capability for on-asteroid habitation at this early stage. They may first simply seek to gather loose nearby debris and bring it back to the station, perhaps by attaching it to a thruster which can push it whole and guide it to the station. Over time they may seek out and collect progressively larger objects or they may create mining vehicles which temporarily 'land' on an asteroid, collect material like a bucket-wheel excavator, and return it in a large container. Later, it may become more practical to camp hardware in a remote location for extended period, shaving it down, partially refining it, and packing it into standardized blocks or reusable containers attached to simple reusable thruster pallets or frames to shuttle it back to the station. This would be a likely strategy for larger asteroids and the Moon. This type of mining could be facilitated by early generation nanomachines, using nano-chip arrays to 'eat' rather than dig or cut material, sorting it into key molecules, and extruding it as a block cut into section. A much lower energy technique with smaller lighter equipment that may last much longer by eliminating the wear of friction. Or perhaps some may attempt to steer large asteroids whole to lunar or Earth orbits for easier processing. In all these cases, prospectors are looking at very extended periods of transit and thus a heavy reliance on teleoperation. Like a farmer with very long seasons to cope with, they must plan operations over extended periods of time -decades- to maintain a consistent incoming flow of material and will have a great deal of capital tied up in a diversity of hardware which must operate for long periods and be recyclable at the end of their duty life.
Refinement of the raw materials delivered to the station on orbit would become the basis of another venture which must maintain its own processing facilities and which buys or trades for its feed stock from the prospectors and mining ventures and resells them for profit to manufacturers. This may comprise a family of ventures each specializing is certain material areas which can share similar processing equipment and switch production to accommodate variations in the composition with incoming materials. Over time some refinement may be more practical to do closer to the source because it improved transit efficiency by improving the mass-to-value ratio, making transport more cost effective. It is in that factor that the foundation of new future settlements is based.
The refined materials are then sold or traded on a local on-station market to manufacturers specializing in different kinds of components and products. Some would be making products for export to Earth. Others would be producing the components for the construction and maintenance of all industries on the station, the vehicles used, the structure of the station itself, it's life support materials. The diversity of domestic industrial production would be very great but its scale would be small. Export products would be produced in bulk. many domestic goods produced on-demand. Again, the drive to improve the mass-to-value ratio means some kinds of manufactured goods may be more cost effectively produced near their source while at the same time the employ of post-industrial technology makes finished product production cheaper and more efficient the closer it is done to the consumer. Again, more impetus for the expansion of settlement through the increasing dispersal of industrial capability.
Finally we have the meta-venture serving them all; the leased space venture which began with the MUOL -actually, with the Foundation CIC- and which provides space, power, and life support for all the ventures housed in the station and -perhaps even more importantly- seed investment. This is where the marine development phase and the scale of its activities becomes very important. As the ultimate financial instrument of TMP the Foundation CIC is basically relying on the profit sharing and revenue reinvestment spread over everything else it does on Earth -every business it holds shares of, every property it earns a profit on, every resident who puts his savings into Foundation stock or who earns and owns stock through ESOPs and CSOPs from companies the CIC is co-invested in- to aid in the finance of initial ventures in space. Everything Asgard does in space must earn a profit to pay for itself. But investment capital -and for that matter insurance underwriting- doesn't come out of thin air. The more Foundation holds and manages on Earth, the less risky the investment in Asgard becomes, the more challenging your venture, the bigger the financial infrastructure you need behind it. By this stage Foundation is serving as investor and underwriter for TMP.
Just as at the culmination of New World settlement, at a certain point the domestic on-station production of goods matches the full diversity of demand of its local market for goods and when that happens the domestic market has potentially more value than income from export since the value of Earth-import goods on that domestic market drops. This turns the domestic market into the new driving force of further in-space expansion. Settlements are planned according to their logistical potential within and anticipated solar-system-wide resource distribution scheme and developed, with initial infrastructure and facilities, by the Foundation CIC in concert with its hosted companies. The other ventures then move in as tenants as their service/product demands warrant relative to settlement growth. Lather, rinse, repeat, ad infinitum. Each new settlement will tend to be predicated on the advantages in producition based on location, which basically comes down to the issue of orbital mechanics, communications latency, and the mass-to-value ratio of goods. One cannot effectively exploit the outer asteroid belts or Oort cloud from a location on Earth or Earth orbit because the latency in communication makes teleoperation impractical. Thus one must stage operations among localized facilities, creating a new local market and thus the impetus for new settlement. This is the same premise which created in-land cities in the developing US west.
How would Asgard physically transition from the MUOL to this diversified manned habitat? Transhab systems used in tourism would be a fine start, but they have strict limitations in practical scale, flexibility, and duty life. They're more efficient than the tin-can habitats but they have many of the same limitations. Savage's vision of Asgard was spot-on in its concept of using pneumatic hull systems to allow for a minimalist structural composition which would make station construction easier and less dependent upon the maximum scale of launch vehicles. Savage brilliantly anticipated the virtues and evolution of this technology and correctly concluded that the essential flaw in orbital habitat design to date has been a reliance on over-elaborate structures that are difficult to impossible to fabricate in an orbital environment. But there are some things about the original Asgard design concept that are fanciful or based on non-existing technology that remain purely speculative. And there are open questions remaining about the realistic possibilities of clinical solutions to the negative health effects of the zero-g environment on human physiology. Savage may ultimately be absolutely correct, but one cannot base practical designs on speculation. Thus the practical Asgard needs an architecture that can hedge one's bet by accommodating -at lowest cost- whatever basic life support requirements ultimately pan-out -which is a little tricky considering that this remains a moving target.
The biggest esthetic attraction and also the biggest technical sticking point for the original Asgard design is the use of a very large transparent water filled membrane pneumatic hull system. The symbolism here is powerful. The basic aesthetic idea is the notion of truly living in space, adapted to the character of its environment. With its transparent bubble blurring the boundary between inside and outside, one is truly living in a space environment. At smaller scales, pneumatic hull technology is a very practical concept. At large scales, it's still feasible but there remain a long list of open questions about this proposed technology. Little is known today about the physics of liquid filled structures of such scale in a zero-g environment. We know that the problems associated with the transfer of liquid fuels on orbit still haven't been solved. The potential transparency of this hull is in doubt. Temperature extremes in space are so great that one must greatly shield the water from thermal changes or it will be going from frozen solid to super-heated steam across the hull surface. Any reflective coatings one uses reduces the transparency of the material which, when coupled to the thickness of the water needed to provide effective radiation shielding (especially in GEO), means a hull that may be translucent at best. What may ultimately be needed here is not a transparent material but a light transmitting structure.
How this hull structure is fabricated in situ is the biggest technical problem with this concept of all. A structure so large is not possible to create entirely inside a space station (you can only make things within a space station as large as the hatches they have to pass through to get out of it) and pneumatic hulls need to be largely monolithic to function reliably. This compels one to find a way to fabricate structures with these non-rigid materials in the external microgravity environment. That's no mean feat. And to make matters worse you have to cope with constant repair and replacement. One problem with monolithic composition is that the more you repair a structure the poorer its structural integrity tends to become. This is why mobile homes depreciate while site-built homes appreciate. You can't repair a mobile home indefinitely. They wear out after a certain point, their repair reaching a point of diminishing returns. The same is true of a tire with too many patches and plugs to repair it. And the same would be true of the Asgard hull -only it could become miles wide! Ideally, the Asgard hull system should be self-fabricating and perpetually self-renewing but we'll have to wait for nanotechnology to make that happen. In situ fabrication of large structures is very hard because it has to contend with an environment of extremes and high contamination potential. This makes it harder to synthesize materials of high performance and shapes of high precision and material consistency. That doesn't mean it's impossible, just that it will take a much longer period of time to figure out how make practical and that creates a chicken-or-egg dilemma for how to develop it.
Savage assumed that Asgard lay so many decades beyond Aquarius that, if its science was roughly plausible, its engineering feasibility was likely moot. Wait long enough and technology makes everything possible -or so we often assume. But since I consider the development of Asgard as concurrent to Aquarius I needed to envision an architectural scheme that would evolve from the MUOL to Asgard and beyond. Thus I arrived at the concept of the EvoHab. The EvoHab system is a direct extension of the modular space frame structural system employed by the MUOL and is intended to integrate with it to allow direct expansion of the MUOL into a structure of larger scale and more diverse function. That problem of not being able to fabricate inside a space station anything you can't fit through a hatch limits the kind of structural technologies that can be accommodated by early in-space industry. It favors systems that can use a small spectrum of relatively small parts that can be easily mass-produced. Also, a community in space doesn't have the luxury to sprawl to accommodate change, and expansion. Orbital structures require a unified structure that can be moved whole by propulsion systems to correct orbit and attitude. So to accommodate change and expansion a space structure needs to be able to transform in its entirety. This is especially important in terms of dealing with maintenance over extended periods of time. Space stations like the ISS are inherently doomed to a short life span because, as they are expanded, interior modules become locked in place and cannot be replaced or even easily demolished. To survive indefinitely, every portion of a space structure must be easily demountable and replaceable. But there's a fundamental problem with assemblages of numerous components. It's hard to make things like this pressure-tight. Numerous seams and interfaces create innumerable failure points. Pressurized structures favor monolithic composition that eliminate numerous component interfaces. How does one then combine the virtues of small demountable components with the need for seamless pressure hulls? By decoupling the functions of pressure containment, shielding, and structural integrity from each other. EvoHab employs space enclosing space frame structures to provide basic structural integrity. Then, like the components of the MUOL, plug-in components consisting of shielding panels and functional components like thruster modules, radiators, and the like attach to the outside of this frame while inside pressure hull balloons of relatively small size and thin material are attached to modular bulkheads equipped with hatches and inflated. Very large pressure hulls can be fashioned in a kind of semi-in-situ process, the outer hull system assembled from parts and the inner pressure hull skin sprayed onto a substrate of thin interior panels using some kind of sprayable or layered laminate materials whose consistency can now be well controlled by the sheltered, if still evacuated, environment provided by the outer hull. This ability to create a shielded, if not pressurized, shelter also allows for the construction of work spaces that overcome the scale limits in fabrication within pressurized spaces. Permanent shelters with large hinged bay doors or temporary shelters assembled and dismantled as needed can be used to create thermally stable dust-free environments for the fabrication of larger structures. If, for instance, the original style of Asgard hull needed to be made of rigid monolithic materials -such as diamondoid materials made by nanoassembly or the new transparent aluminum alloys- its entire area could be enclosed in a temporary construction shelter that is dissembled and recycled after construction.
This concept affords a structural system of infinite flexibility, depending on the geometry of the space frame system. It can accommodate most any shape and structures of most any scale, always retaining the potential to transform in shape or expand in size on demand in relatively small increments. It can initially use a habitat design based on conjoined clusters of relatively small unit chambers or can ultimately arrive at vast enclosures as large as Savage's Asgard design. If it does prove necessary to create forms using artificial gravity, it can readily accommodate cylindrical shapes made to rotate in place or using internal rotating structures independent of the outer hull system. And in all cases the primary structure and outer hull systems -at least- can be fully assembled through the use of telerobotics. So flexible would such a system be that it could also be used for the construction of inter-orbital spacecraft of most any scale. The simple MUOL backplane concept would readily be suited to the on-orbit construction and deployment of unmanned spacecraft relying on fairly self-contained systems components. In this way the MUOL itself has the potential to reproduce itself on-orbit. This is ideally suited to prospecting and mining activities. But add in the EvoHab components and the same architecture will accommodate manned spacecraft as well, allowing one to establish what is essentially an orbital shipyard for the manufacture of an infinite variety of spacecraft.
So what is life in this variation of Asgard like? Because the structure of this habitat will be evolving over time, the form of residence and the character of daily life is likely to evolve as well, moving from a very industrial 'work focused' aesthetic to the more comfortable environment of personal residence and diversified community. A key factor here is the question of clinical verses engineered solutions to microgravity deterioration. Initially, the manned orbital settlement cannot host permanent inhabitants because today there are neither clinical nor engineered solutions to this problem. This limits the early Asgard -probably for a long time- to the role of a work camp cycling its staff on a regular basis -a situation that will actually make the relationship between Aquarius and Bifrost very important, as I will be explaining in the next section. Savage's proposed solutions based on such things as electromuscular stimulation remain purely speculative. Savage was basically betting on an ultimate clinical solution to this problem since it offered the most efficiency. There's no question that doing without the need for artificial gravity makes the settlement of space much easier by eliminating the engineering and construction complexity of the rotating habitat. But how long does one wait and for what level of technology are we waiting for? If a clinical solution ultimately requires the development of nanotechnology we may wait a long time and then, when that solution is at hand, the technology that created it presents us with a new question Savage never considered (but which I will touch on later); is a transhumanist colonization of space a more practical goal than human colonization? I'm pragmatic about this situation and that's why I felt it necessary to devise a structural technology able to accommodate the option of near-term artificial gravity solutions as economically as possible even while one is waiting for clinical solutions.
However this pans out, the nature of the early Asgard is pretty clear so lets begin with a look at that. For the sake of simplicity we'll organize the Asgard settlement (and bear in mind we are not necessarily talking about just one facility) into a set of phases.
Phase 1 is the MUOL phase, though as I've noted before this also has the option of being based on a more self-contained system which is periodically serviced by human technicians rather than relying exclusively on telerobotics. The choice of which way to go is something of a trade-off depending on the available launch capability. In the absence of some kind of cheap manned flight capability, the open space frame based MUOL is the more practical option. With some kind of economical and modest manned flight capability the occasionally and temporarily manned MOL (manned orbital laboratory) option based on the use of a transhab-enclosed space frame backplane becomes a competitive option, chiefly because it affords a lower cost in lab module engineering. Either way, the core technology of the facility is the same. It's still using a space frame core structure, still using a modular IP and web-controller based service backplane. The only difference is one is open to space and the other is partially enclosed in a transhab hull system. This is also the essential underlying architecture for Asgard at all later scales so there's a direct technology progression here.
Phase 2 Asgard adds more sustained industrial production to the predominately research based role of the structure as well as having the option of supporting a space tourism role. A simple design concept will serve all these purposes; the Himawari Station. 'Himawari' is Japanese for 'sunflower', and that describes the basic shape the facility would assume. Attached to a truss boom end of the MUOL, a rigid structure radial multi-port coupler module is surrounded by a radial series of transhab modules, each supplied with its own flex-cell solar panels and a radiator array. being fixed duty life components, their radial configuration is designed to allow easy replacement. The transhab modules would feature connecting ports at both ends for emergency docking use as well as side-to-side pneumatic duct links as a back-up route between modules. Inside, they would host an open space frame core to which functional elements are retrofit -though without the unnecessary 'deck' partitions devised for the original transhab concept, using instead fabric hand-holds on the hull shell and foot-holds retrofit to the core truss. Flex panel displays or projector displays would be used along the hull surface, and often as an alternative to windows. Flared ends of the core truss would ease access to the end port hatches, unless the core truss is of sufficient scale that easy via through its triangulated struts is possible. This internal 'tree trunk' design configuration with these early habitat modules is one that will carry over throughout later settlement evolution. The central coupler would be designed to accommodate anywhere from 4 to 12 habitat modules depending on size as well as two opposing ports front and back. At least one of these two ports would be used to host a rigid docking module. For tourism purposes, the central coupler or hub would feature a special 'gondola' module which ideally would take the form of a large perspex -or later transparent aluminum- sphere which can be enclosed in a fabric shade and shield cover. This would be one of the most expensive individual components of the station due to its need to be monolithically fabricated and lofted whole but it would also be a key element in the tourism attraction and so would have to justify its cost by that. It would only be usable in a LEO location, however. In general, windows would not be used in the rest of the station in favor of tele-windows based on much cheaper and safer video monitors.
Phase 3 Asgard begins the transition to EvoHab construction, starting initially with replacements of the transhab modules by roughly equivalent EvoHab modules. But after that, the freedom of structural evolution becomes unlimited as the unit spaces in the settlement become larger and more varied in shape while these collections of shapes tend to be enclosed by a simpler exterior form because it saves shielding mass and material by bridging interstitial spaces between pressure skin modules rather than trying to line them individually. The essential virtue of the EvoHab concept is the physical decoupling of the functions of shielding, pressure containment, and structural integrity. Once you've done that an infinite variety of engineering, design, and materials options open up. However, issues of physics, safety, and ergonomics will tend to control our design strategies. Savage's original design strategy was based on the simple notion of fractal cellular compartmentalization -a strategy we commonly see employed in nature. His Asgard is like a foam divided into a succession of hierarchically scaled and nested 'bubbles' which increase in the redundancy of containment as one gets closer to the scale of the individual residence. This is a sensible approach, even if it was as much an extrapolation of the symbolic design of Aquarius as it was a practical rationale. But it assumes a dispersed shielding potential and relies heavily on the transparency of the hull materials to make a comfortable environment. As I've noted earlier, at a scale and radiation shielding requirement where materials are thick, these 'transparent' materials become translucent at best. The original Asgard may seem more like living underwater than like living in orbit. And it also means that the interior space of the settlement is not uniformly safe. The higher up the compartmentalization scale, the less well protected you are. Ideally, one would want to be equally safe anywhere in the settlement. But with the EvoHav concept decoupling the functions of pressure containment from shielding we have an option to increase safety factors either by increasing redundancy of compartmentalization, or increasing shielding potential, or a combination of both. And these are not independently serviceable/repairable allowing one to maximize their individual potential duty life. This suggests to me that one need not compartmentalize as much and this allows one to use larger open spaces and simpler, more flexible, interior design. And that potential for open space is very important. The essential problem of living in space is the psychological aspect of being indoors 99.9% of one's life span. Savage sought to combat this with transparent materials but, in fact, we probably won't have that and so to cope with this one needs to employ designs based on the creation of large open interior spaces with interior design that helps establish an illusory perception of an 'outdoors'.
This has led me to the notion of an interesting kind of living environment that derives very directly from the architecture of the simple transhab module and does better at creating the kind of habitat Savage envisioned than the systems he originally envisioned for doing it. I call it the Urban Tree Habitat. Buckminster Fuller observed that, when a geodesic dome was of sufficiently large size that the details of its component structure became obscured by distance while its perimeter structure was obscured by intervening objects at the ground level, people would readily accept the dome as another kind of sky and treat the interior of the dome like an outdoor space. Classical architects have understood this well and it was one of the driving forced behind the use of domed structures in antiquity. Exploiting this, we have a simple means of creating the illusion of an indoor 'outside' by simply putting enough distance between an observer and a relatively smooth well lit cylindrical or spherical enclosure. Thus I envision a structure where the simple configuration of the transhab module is scaled up to create a polar core structure -a tree trunk- passing through a spherical enclosure and serving as a retrofit mount for all the other structures of the community, attached like branches on this trunk. Using a hollow core tree trunk, we then re-establish that essential organization of the arcology with a privately viewed 'outside' and a socially oriented 'inside'. In its simplest form this would be composed of a very large open space frame truss which has a public transit conduit through its center and then a series of individual 'houses' in the form of elaborated Capsule Hotel style units or tent-like enclosures, public terraces, hydroponic farming/gardening units, and other habitable and work structures retrofit to the struts and nodes of the core truss. These retrofit structures would extend farther from the core closer to the equator of spherical space to make more efficient use of space while being roughly consistent in cylindrical enclosures. This is also a very logical structural organization for industrial purposes, though in the case of those spaces much less space would be left between the attachments to the core truss and the outer enclosure, the open space in the center being more important. We have a couple of options for how to use out virtual 'sky' in such a habitat. We can either use it simply as a light diffuser for reflected illumination from light sources mounted on the core -with an option to enhance it with projections of clouds or stars- or we can make the hull 'image transmitting' by linking tiled flexible video displays along the interior surface to corresponding video camera units and heliostats outside the structure. This would in effect make the hull of the habitat appear transparent -or even completely invisible- no mater how thick the hull structure we make actually is. Expensive but still potentially much cheaper and safer than actual transparent materials. Clustering such enclosures within a larger spherical enclosure, one can organize the community into functional areas of residence, commerce, and industry with many smaller interstitial spaces for even more specialized functions. There is no limit to the scale of habitat that could be developed this way, and all incrementally developed. Thus this concept can carry us all the way to the Solaria stage if necessary.
If, however, the use of artificial gravity proves to be a necessity, another structural approach would be necessary, though still ideally deriving from the same technology. There is no getting around the fact that the use of artificial gravity is a more complicated and less efficient prospect. Rotating structures are more intricate and must be reinforced to withstand internal loads and centrifugal forces. The biggest engineering problem for the rotating habitat is the use of counter-rotation hubs as mechanisms of transition between the microgravity and gravity environment. This is further complicated by designs that must use such a hub while also maintaining a pressurized environment between rotating and non-rotating portions of a structure and increases in difficulty the larger the scale of such structures. Clearly, the more we can simplify the process of rotation transition or eliminate the use of hubs the more we can reduce the cost of an artificial gravity structure. Similarly, the less overall mass we need to rotate the less loads and stresses the rotating portions of structure need to withstand and the easier they are to engineer.
I envision an interesting evolution of the previously described type of habitat. Most artificial gravity habitat concepts are based on the rotation of an entire structure or major portions of it. For the very large habitat this makes sense, though it has a high mass cost as so much of the structure must be reinforced to support the increased loads. But for the smaller habitat or the one which must evolve from an initial micro-gravity habitat this is over-kill. For these habitats it makes more sense to employ a strategy of functional isolation much as employed in the EvoHab hull system. An interesting aspect of centrifugal artificial gravity is that adjacent objects can be either in a microgravity or gravity environment depending on their relative velocity. So a rotational structure placed within the space of a non-rotating habitat can be physically completely independent of the structure around it. All one needs is a non-contact means to keep it in a fixed position relative to the structure surrounding it. This allows for an existing EvoHab habitat with its existing core-attached structures to add a centrifugal gravity structure without much change to its configuration. One need simply create a kind of belt loop which is fixed in place on a magnetic bearing formed by magnets on the inside of the EvoHab hull and the outside of the belt. Linear motor elements would then allot the belt to be rotated, physically independently of the hull structure and imparting none of its centrifugal loads on it, though requiring the magnetic bearing and hull structure to still be able to resist the mass of the belt if it drifts relative to the outer structure and, in the process, imparting a kind of gyroscopic resistance on the whole structure. Centrifugal loads on the belt are born in tension on it, thus it would likely be made from a tensile material such as a web of carbon fiber cable. To minimize mass on the belt, functional structures would be made primarily from ultralight materials such as fabrics and pneumatically rigidized panels. Such a structure could be expanded incrementally and, within a cylindrical EvoHab space, grow to cover an entire inner hull area while still allowing the bulk of the volume of the structure to be filled with microgravity structures. However, the different rotating and non-rotating portions of the structure are hazardous to each other and thus would need to be carefully isolated, especially with respect to free-floating objects. Thus it might be practical to shield the rotating belt behind a concentric hull partition.
Transition between the rotating and non-rotating portion of the structure is best done near the core where the relative velocity difference becomes the smallest -indeed, small enough with a large structure to where little special accommodation need be made for human transition beyond some hand-grabs on either side of a hub to which a cable-stayed elevator and back-up ladder is attached. Heavier items, however, would need to be attached to, or contained in, a transfer carriage which picks up or loses relative velocity by engaging alternate sets of breaking wheels on either side of a circular hub track attached to the habitat core truss. There is an open engineering question here of whether the use of a transition carriage would be easier to implement, from an engineering standpoint, near the core or near the rotating belt 'floor'. Near the core the relative velocity is much slower but a load bearing structure from floor to core must be built to handle the heavy loads. If transition is done on a track near the floor -and likely near the belt edge- the velocity difference is very high and so much more energy must be lost in the transition and a much longer transition loop track used. However, large pallets or containers can be more easily 'docked' to the transfer track with no load bearing structures needed to transport them from the core to the floor.
An essential ergonomic problem faces this sort of artificial gravity habitat. In the microgravity environment the shape of a hull system can be exploited to create the illusion of a sky and aid in the creation of an 'outside' environment. But in an artificial gravity structure the direction of 'up' is focussed on the center of a ring or cylinder shape. So the sense of outdoors becomes dependent entirely on the amount of open space around the horizontal plane and overhead. In a structure where a gravity deck is rotating independently of the rest of the structure, views of the rest of the other structure must be restricted to avoid creating a sense of vertigo. What this probably means is that a 'subtopolis' style of space organization would predominate on the gravity deck. An arrangement of streets, corridors, and atriums individually topped with illuminated domed or vaulted ceilings surrounding -or surrounded by- other enclosed functional spaces. This would most likely be limited to no more than a few stories of levels in habitats of this scale. There would be no views of the space outside the habitat save for video projections. Some skylights might allow views of the central core, which would appear to rotate over the viewer on the gravity deck. However, the hazard of free-floating microgravity objects coming too near the gravity deck may call for a partition shell, blocking even those core views.
The larger the area one wishes to use for a gravitized space, the less efficient this hybrid structure strategy becomes. It thus becomes more practical to create habitat structures which are rotated whole and which are largely independent of neighboring non-gravity facilities. Keeping these structures independent is a simple way to eliminate the need for hub systems, specialized shuttles or magnetically isolated airlock modules providing transport and transition. How would the EvoHab structural concept accommodate this kind of structure? The use of a carbon fiber cable belt in the hybrid structure gives us a clue to how our structural system might evolve and how such habitats might be incrementally built and serviced while continuously rotating. The space frame structure of the EvoHab system is not likely to be strong enough by itself to withstand the tremendous loads of a fully rotating structure. However, what it can provide is a scaffolding for the in situ fabrication of such a structure while establishing an integrated component interface grid. Essentially, what one would do is use the space frame as a 'winding form' for the depositing of continuously extruded carbon fiber cables or tapes. The interior is pressurized using cellular pneumatic pressure skins or by sealing of the windings through the application of plastic materials. Ends of the cylinder are capped in domed bulkheads based on the earlier EvoHab hull type and a core truss is again used through the center of the structure, though here it's functional role is much reduced. Also at the end caps would be at least one docking port and to eliminate the need of a counter-rotating hub the port would be designed specifically to dock with symmetrical vehicles using roll-axis docking that can be lined up with the core axis, rotated in place to match rotational speed, and captured and locked down within in a cylindrical frame docking bay. Vehicles with more complex shapes would need docking at a companion microgravity station and use shuttles to access the rotating habitat.
Exterior space frame node points are left exposed through these hull windings to allow for the attachment of shield plates and other components or service robots on the outside and light deck plates on the inside. In space, one always wants assembly processes to be done with components, tools, and machines all maintaining positive connection. With a rotating structure this must be done under centrifugal force as well. It would be as through you were working and repairing a building while hanging upside-down from its beams! So everything needs positive connection. This also facilitates later incremental expansion and continual hull structure renewal. The structure can increase its volume incrementally by either growing in length or by adding new outer hull layers by plugging in more space frame scaffolding then winding new cable/tap over that and then demolishing the old hull within it -all while maintaining rotation and pressurization.
One of the over-complicated features of the classic rotating colony concepts was the use vast window systems to communicate sunlight, which faced many of the same kinds of problems the original Asgard hull concept faced. This wound-hull colony would instead rely on a light transmitting hull piping light in through evacuated optical tubing (more efficient for long distances than fiber optics) to be radiated through diffuser membranes in the habitat core. This creates a vast 'outdoor' space within the habitat with a sun akin to an enormous florescent tube. There are two approaches to light gathering here depending on size and orbital orientation. For the moderately sized habitat oriented end-to-sun the use of an independently orbiting solar concentrator would collect light and focus it on end mounted optical ports. Larger habitats oriented with ends perpendicular to the sun could use their hull surface as a collector using arrays of holographic membrane heliostats which would collect light through a network of cables which converge on the end caps and into the habitat. It would then be filtered for power and light uses and piped down the core diffusers. This latter approach is usable no matter how long the structure becomes, using intervening tower 'spokes' along the habitat length. This is a concept I will be discussing further in the Solaria stage.
This larger rotating habitat now offers more options for a better ergonomic environment. But the surface area of the habitat will still be very expensive because such rotating structures don't make the most efficient use of their volume. Thus it is likely that the 'subtopolis' strategy will still be used for most habitat space and the top surface dedicated entirely to farming, parkland, and recreation purposes.
Part 4 - Bifrost Edit
I feel that the role of Bifrost has been largely misunderstood to date because its relationship to Aquarius has been largely misunderstood. I have changed its order in the Millennial Project progression to reflect this point of view. The order of the original TMP implied that Bifrost was a necessary precursor to the development of facilities in space. But, in fact, what Bifrost always represented was the most highly refined form of terrestrial launch system -something which would come as the product of a long progression of launch system development and use. Thus is makes more sense to think of Bifrost as a launch system _program_ rather than as the individual transport technology it would produce in the end. The essential purpose of the Bifrost program is the realization of a high volume Earth-to-orbit transit system that relies on the renewable energy produced by Aquarius colonies. As noted previously, a concerted effort at the colonization of space requires an enormous energy overhead, one so great that it would quickly deplete all non-renewable energy sources and making renewable energy the only option with sufficient capacity. But renewable energy is most efficiently exploited in the form of electricity and its conversion to fuels like liquid hydrogen is inherently inefficient. So the ideal transportation technology is one which most directly exploits electric power. The problem is that such technologies are very sophisticated and/or have very high infrastructure overheads and so will only come after a long period of development. In the mean time, one needs to work with a variety of launch technologies that can aid in establishing the necessary in-space infrastructure to justify investment in this more sophisticated transit system or aid in its construction. Thus we have two phases of launch systems development; Pre-Bifrost and Bifrost. The former is based on derivatives of existing launch technology, the latter on development of primarily electric power propulsion.
Pre-Brifrost would most likely be dominated by conventional rocket propulsion based marine launch, VTO-marine-glide-landing, and VTOL SSTO vehicles which can be easily deployed from marine colonies. Thus Aquarius immediately becomes relevant as a launch facility -and quite necessary for that role due to the steady disappearance of land launch facility sites due to population encroachment. I also have my pet concept of the dirigible launch system but expect it to likely to be limited to research use, MUOL support, and the deployment of experimental orbital solar power satellites due to its limited practical maximum payload capacity.
Bifrost itself will most likely be based on one of three technologies; Myrabo Lightcraft (first and second generations), Air-Spike Assisted Mass Accelerator or 'Ballistic Railway' Systems, and the Space Elevator. Of all these the most appropriate and efficient in the context of TMP seems to be the Space Elevator because it places Aquarius in the very key role of downstation and direct power source for this system. The Space Elevator is the ideal analogy to the mythological Bifrost and puts Aquarius at the Earth side of this bridge and Asgard on the other side.
Current Space Elevator efforts seem to lack a long term vision because they are not rooted in the context of a comprehensive orbital industrial strategy. But with this strategy laid out as it is in my version of Asgard we see a very practical role for initial primitive Space Elevator systems and a premise of progressive development on which this system can be incrementally expanded to a very sophisticated high volume system. The first generation Space Elevator would consist of a simple ribbon deployed from orbit which is traversed by a slow mechanical climbing device powered by laser energy projected from platforms on the ocean surface. It is unsuitable for manned flight activities. However, it is perfectly suited to the MUOL which can serve as an initial GEO upstation. Current Space Elevator programs assume the use of downstations based on current oil rig style structures. But this is shortsighted. Such facilities have limited space and difficult cargo transfer. A PSP based platform is the more practical choice as it allows for direct ship docking, the later deployment of airstrips, and the incremental expansion of downstation facilities in concert with expansion in orbit. Initial manufacturing on orbit will tend to be strictly confined to those products -subcomponents most likely- that absolutely need the space environment to produce. Related production such as packaging or terrestrially-fabricated component addition for these products is most efficiently done on the Earth surface closest to the terminus of transit. Thus production of made-in-space products will actually be done in facilities split between terrestrial and orbital sides linked by the Space Elevator. This compels the expansion of downstation space to accommodate more sophisticated control centers (with the least telecom latency) and Earth-side complimentary production. And, of course, one needs places for the workers engaged in all this to live. One must pay workers more for the hardship of separation from home and family. Provide them with home for their family where they work and they will work for less, be more productive, and even pay you back for the speculative investment in residential construction. The evolution of the downstation into a city is inevitable if the form of transportation is successful at all. Historically, cities tend to form around nexuses of intermodal transportation.
The growth of Asgard as a center of an orbital industrial infrastructure provides impetus for the expansion of the primitive Space Elavator into a high capacity transit system through the incremental expansion. This would most likely be done by incremental thickening of the initial ribbon by the lamination of additional ribbons manufactured on orbit. I envision the evolution of the Space Elevator into a high volume system by the transformation of its profile into a cluster of tube conduits. These tubes have two functions. They would simultaneously host linear motor driven elevator capsules and function as a kind of giant coaxial cable for microwave or laser power providing energy to drive those elevator capsules. This works in two directions so at a certain point of development power from space can supplement power from the Earth and, perhaps, the downstation may ultimately become a packaging and distribution point for bulk power from space. As the elevator tether becomes progressively thicker with more conduits for elevator capsules core tubes become progressively more well shielded from space radiation and thus at a certain point the use of the capsules for routine human transit becomes possible. it may also ultimately be possible to use the tether like a material pipeline transferring gasses downward and other materials upward by laser molecular conveyance. On orbit, the growing tether can itself function just like the core truss for an EvoHab habitat with functional structures retrofit to its exterior surface. Near the terminus of the tether one actually has a centrifugal force that could allow for a partial or full gravity habitat in the absence of a rotating structure. Later, the same technology used to make the tether to Earth can be used to make a tether perpendicular to it and running along a GEO orbital path. More EvoHab structures can be built along it using it as structural core and transit line, ultimately expanding to link up to other Space Elevator tethers along the Equator. With this technology Asgard has the potential to evolve into a massive orbital urban structure ringing the globe.
Part 5 - Avalon Edit
In the original TMP Avalon represents the first concerted effort towards extraterrestrial colonization with the location of the Moon chosen for its proximity and thus its immediate potential as part of a space based industrial infrastructure. I see planetary and lunar settlement as more concurrent activities with slightly lesser priority than orbital development because they present less economical sources of materials because of a higher transport overhead. However, the Moon suffers less from these problems than Mars or any other planets by virtue of low gravity and so is a logical choice for sooner settlement based on that. Now, there is today a certain conflict in space advocacy circles over whether the Moon or Mars offer the better choice of first colonization efforts. Proponents of an initial Mars colonization base their preference on the notion that Mars offers better prospects of sustainable settlement by offering a much broader spectrum of raw materials. The argument goes that one has all the ingredients for a true extension of civilization on Mars while the Moon is quite limited in its spectrum of raw materials and so any settlement there cannot be self-sustaining. This may be correct but overlooks the fact that no single location in space is economically sustainable because of the tremendous up-front cost of going there and setting up shop. Using current and near-term technology, one simply cannot settle anyplace in the solar system without incurring some kind of tremendous debt that must be paid with whatever resources one can exploit in space.
Unfortunately, planetary and lunar sources of materials are inferior to asteroid sources because of the higher cost in their transport. And the gravity eliminates one of the key non-material resources one can exploit in space. So the economic potential of lunar and planetary settlements is a much tougher prospect. But these bodies do have some advantages. They offer generally larger spectrums of materials in closer proximity and lower settlement facilities construction costs thanks to at-hand resources with which settlements can be built. The lunar or planetary settlement thus has more materials closer at hand and so can collect and process them faster and will have a lower cost in the establishment of industrial facilities to process them. These settlements still face the problem of needing to process materials into a very highly refined form to overcome very high transit costs. And nothing they can make is going to be cheap enough to have a lot of value on an Earth market. But they can produce some goods more easily than they can be produced on orbit and deliver them to space locations at lower cost than they can be delivered from Earth. What this suggests is that the initial market -and therefore source of investment- for the lunar and planetary settlement is NOT Earth but rather the community of on-orbit settlements. After that start one must then cultivate a domestic market through industrial diversification -just like the Asgard pattern.
A common premise of Lunar and Mars advocacy is the idea that exploratory outposts translate into permanent settlement. But, historically, this has rarely been the case because of the fact that exploratory outposts tend to have their choice of location based on the logistics of staged travel through the wilderness and thus often aren't in optimal locations for resource exploitation. Lunar and planetary exploration is even worse than this because initial landing sights are virtually random -chosen usually for statistical odds on the type of topography derived from orbital remote sensing data. Exploration is critically necessary. But manned exploration is clearly not cost-effective when it is so costly to begin with and obviously can only be temporary. Thus I anticipate a pattern of initial settlement that parallels the MUOL; tele-operated outposts focussed on the tasks of resource assessment followed by the tele-robotic construction of initial permanent settlements and resource utilization infrastructure. This work will largely be the province of the prospecting, mining, and raw materials processing segments of the Asgard industrial community with support from the Foundation CIC.
To minimize costs initial robotic exploration and settlement would be based on a three-stage approach; a first wave consisting of the installation of a constellation of telecom and survey satellites followed a small wave of a few initial 'soft' landing vehicles (powered vertical landing vehicles) which establish an outpost by delivering an initial set of fully assembled robots and self-contained systems and then the third continuous support wave conducted by delivery of components by 'rough' landing vehicles ('rocket-chute' delivered air-bag cushioned containers) which are gathered and assembled on-site by the robots delivered in the first wave. Several classes of systems and robots would be used. Power, telecommunications, and 'assembler/service' systems would dominate the self-contained systems and may take the form of individual lander vehicles. Robots would be organized into classes of payload collection and transport (pick-it-up trucks), outside construction, excavation and earth-moving, and exploration. A key type of robot in this stage would be the long range explorer; a self-mobile lab platform with communications systems suited to even direct-to-Earth links in emergencies. These would perform the bulk of survey activities, traveling long distances and deploying and maintaining a web of small self-contained telecom nodes which fan out from the initial outpost to provide multiply redundant telecom links for teleoperation. Even robots need some degree of shelter to maximize their duty life -especially the more critical and delicate multi-purpose units which are relied on for the repair and maintenance of the other systems. Landing vehicles would provide initial shelter but as the on-site-built volume of hardware increases other simple shelters in the form of pneumatic foam rigidized, alloy channel arch, or panelized space frame sheds or huts would be built from bulk delivered components. These structures need not provide for human life support but they do need to provide meteoroid shelter and a reduced dust environment for repair and assembly activities. The configuration of these robotic outposts would take the form of a cluster of initial landers and support structures with a predefined 'drop field' for equipment delivery surrounded by an expanding web of 'roads' defined by chains of telecom nodes, power generation stations, and service component caches.
Once sites for permanent settlement and neighboring industrial/mining facilities are identified the initial settlement facilities would likely be established by telerobotic construction using the same types of systems used in the exploration but relocated to these new sites. As with the Asgard scheme, human habitation will be contingent upon issues of telecom latency and the scale of industries established, thus trading continuous local systems maintenance for large subsystem obsolescence. Cost efficiency demands that initial permanent settlement be based on the maximum use of at-hand indigenous resources requiring the lowest amount of processing to exploit. This means one thing; excavated habitats. Marshal Savage was thus quite correct in anticipating Avalon's founding on a kind of excavated habitat system. Where Savage diverges from practicality and his own community ideology, in my opinion, is in the notion of domed homesteads built into existing craters. The water shielded transparent membrane hull is again the sticking point. At the small scale of the individual homestead the degree of shielding by water is inadequate. At the large scale, once again you have the issue of water not being as transparent as anticipated at the kind of thickness where it would provide good radiation shielding. On top of that, in a gravity environment one must use high internal pressures to resist the water mass. This means the very large habitat must use additional structural layers to rigidize the dome without pushing the internal atmospheric pressure too high. This means more structural material and less transparency. The obvious solution is, again, the same kind of hull system proposed for the EvoHab. But this is still not as practical for the initial lunar or planetary settlement because of its high quotient of manufactured components which rely on refined alloys.
But these locations offer a much more cost-effective alternative -plain old rock. Excavation is the simplest method of construction and the easiest for robots to perform and produces habitats which are naturally well shielded and need far fewer imported materials and components. To make excavated spaces habitable, one has a choice of using pre-fabricated pneumatic pressure hull modules near-term and application of plastic materials or surface sintering for sealing long-term. With hard rock materials no sealing may be necessary at all, simplifying things to the use of plastic sealed bulkhead units. (note, that when I refer to 'plastic' materials I'm not talking strictly of plastics like epoxy but rather materials that are plastic or semi-fluid in nature when applied, which includes cements and ceramics) Pneumatic hull aside, Savage's basic design concept quite practical for the excavated habitat -though limited in scale. The only difference is that the domed 'outside' area would actually be completely underground as well, relying on light brought in by optical fiber cable from arrays of external heliostats, and habitable space may actually climb the surface of the dome through inverted terracing to maximize space efficiency -a strategy once proposed for some arcology designs. Now, this might seem confining but bear in mind that the reduced gravity on the Moon and Mars allow for the construction of clear-span excavated spaces much larger in area than possible on Earth. So while domes as large as the vast crater domes Savage envisioned may not be practical by excavation, some very large chambers are quite feasible and can be developed incrementally. Lunar and planetary locations also offer some ready-made excavated structures in the form of caves and lava tunnels which greatly reduce the construction cost further and can offer spaces of truly vast area. It has been proposed that Martian lava tubes can be potentially ten times the size of terrestrial equivalents. Large cities could be contained in such spaces.
The key limitation of excavated habitats is that locations suitable for safe excavated structures aren't always going to be in convenient proximity to key resources. Optimal locations with both suitable strata with a broad spectrum of nearby resources may be quickly depleted in a first generation of permanent settlement. To exploit other less optimal locations a subsequent wave of development would have to rely on built structures to locate settlement near them. These would be inherently more expensive but costs could be kept low using simple construction methods and architecture that mirrors the architecture of the excavated habitats, only with a built-up rigid shell structure made of indigenous materials. This basically comes down to the development and use of a material called 'regolete'. I use this term to refer to a broad class possible materials with one common set of characteristics; they are derived from regolith materials and take on the plastic and rigid characteristics of conventional concrete or geopolymers. It's difficult to get specific here because right now the chemistry of regolete materials remains a bit speculative. We know that a number of materials like this are theoretically possible but the specific forms they take and their phase-change characteristics still need to be researched. The environment on moons and other planets tends to be difficult for phase-change materials like concrete or polymers. They don't stay plastic for very long due to extremes of pressure or temperature or they don't change phase until very specific conditions occur. And, of course, it's going to be a bit different situation in each location about the solar system. We can, though, predict that regolete will take any of four forms with the choice of possible construction methods based on that.
First is the in-situ stabilized regolith. This is the equivalent of cast earth; a mixture of earth in a fairly broad but inert mix of granular materials which is bound into a solid by a small quantity of phase-change material -typically clays as with natural cob or portland cement. Can be used much like conventional concrete in various slip-form, mound form, sacrificial form, or extrusion schemes. It is relatively weak and doesn't often bind well to reinforcement admixtures like polymer, glass, carbon, or alloy fibers due to the inconsistency in the material but is aided by large element reinforcement such as rebar or meshes. This generally means that much larger volumes of the material are needed to afford the same load-bearing performance and a point of diminishing returns on this limits maximum practical structure spans.
Next is in-vitro stabilized regolith. The analogy here is compressed earth block. Still a rough mix of materials bound by a small quantity of phase-change material but processed in a way that keeps the phase change process under more specific control and adds the benefits of special processing -like high pressure- to improve material performance. This would most likely be used in the space environment where the limitations of whatever plastic material is used as a binder cannot tolerate ambient environmental conditions, thus requiring the prefabrication of structures in a factory environment. Stronger than in-situ stabilized regolith would be and better able to use reinforcement admixture materials but still relatively weak and cannot be assembled without the addition of some kind of in-situ phase change material as a 'mortar' between components or the use of some kind of mechanical interface to lock pieces together -often both is employed with CEB. This has often been pointed to as a likely construction material for Mars based on experiments with Mars regolith analogy mixtures but construction techniques based on small blocks tend to have high intricacy and complexity which make them more challenging for robots to perform. So it seems much more likely a prospect used with very large prefabricated components that can employ mechanical interfacing to its optimum. For example, factory fabricated modular block and panel systems combing an alloy compression frame integrated into precision blocks and panels of fairly large scale. Or large prefabricated modular structures with formed-in-place pressure-tight interfaces. Again, clear spans will be limited because of weaker strength characteristics but much better than the in-situ stabilized material.
In-situ formed regolete would be the optimal form of this material by virtue of maximum flexibility. This would be a highly refined material which behaves identically to concrete -even in the space environment- and can accommodate reinforcement fiber admixtures as well as larger scale reinforcement elements. In lowered gravity environments, structures as large as Savage's Avalon crater dome become possible with this material and a very broad range of construction methods can be employed that are relatively easy for robots to perform.
In-vitro formed regolete. The conventional analogy here is materials such as YTONG autoclaved aerated concrete which must be processed in large autoclaves. Again, the chief benefit is refined materials offering better performance with this factory based approach in production used because the chemistry doesn't accommodate phase-change in the ambient environment. Unlike in-vitro stabilized regolith, this material is less likely to gain as much in structural performance as a consequence of this more controlled production environment because this is a more refined material to begin with. But the controlled factory production environment affords a large diversity of options in features that cannot be performed effectively in-situ. Would favor construction methods based on pre-cast modular components.
A variety of construction techniques would be employed with these materials based on their type and the site situation. The most flexible would be those using the in-situ formed materials. Here the simplest technique would be mound-formed structures, a technique deriving from the technique developed for the construction of bunkers and bomb-resistant aircraft hangars built by German forces in WWII. Earth moving equipment would simply excavate around or mound up regolith in the forms of the structures needed and then a rigid shell would be formed by the mass loose pouring of a plastic material -a 'regolete' or regolith derived concrete- reinforced with alloy or carbon fiber. The finished shell would then be dug out, the loose material piled on top to provide further surface cover, and it could be sealed for pressurization using prefab pneumatic shells or application of an impermeable plastic material on the inside. This technique presents diminishing returns in efficiency the larger the structural scale because of the escalating volume of material that must be moved. At a certain scale slip-forming or extrusion based on robotic climbing form or boom positioned systems become more efficient despite their greater technical complexity and would tend to become the method of choice for this form of construction given sufficient regional industrial capability.
In-vitro formed materials are limited to prefabrication based on modular components. It is unlikely that the use of small scale block construction akin to contemporary adobe construction methods will prove a practical technique because of the physical complexity and intricacy of the assembly process. However, large precision block and panel systems using formed-in-place connector elements are a strong possibility. These would take the form of large blocks formed with interlocking shapes and which have mechanical connectors formed into them. One example might be a kind of compressed regolith block with a '+' shaped tubular reinforcement frame formed within it and made of alloy, ceramics, or pultruded fiber reinforced plastics. The frame element would have screw socket ports on the ends with two pre-loaded with hex screw pins. When a block is placed adjacent to another its interlocking shape connects it in place and then a key driver is inserted through the frame tubing to drive the pins to engage into the adjacent sockets, mechanically locking the block in place. This approach could be used with a variety of block and panel geometries and thus would allow for the construction of vaults and domes using panels in geodesic shapes. Large precast structures are also possible using habitat structural designs based on cellular geometries, much like that employed by famous Modernist designs such as the Habitat 67 project in Quebec. But, even with such materials, high wall thicknesses will be needed and so this limits this strategy to relatively small-span structures otherwise the modules become too large to be easily transported. Thus this strategy would tend not to be as efficient. However, there is the potential in this concept to construct large span enclosures from assembles of such modules, the individual modules serving as both individual habitat units while ultimately forming a shell enclosure around a large open-span area. Prefab structures would be especially efficient for the construction of enclosed walkways, roadways, railway lines as well as for tunnel construction in granular or otherwise unstable material strata. Simple corrugated arches -also likely made from rolled formed alloys- would be likely for this.
Both in-situ and in-vitro materials offer options for light transmitting structures and this presents a key advantage of the built-up structure over the excavated structure. This is accomplished by the inclusion into the structure of fiber optic elements which transmit light from the outside. This is done using either small mass produced optical elements (combined conduit, mini-emmiter, and mini-collector in a single gradient index optic component) or aligned optical fibers formed in place during the construction or in-factory prefabrication process. An existing example of this kind of capability has been demonstrated in a prefabricated cement block product known as Litracon. (short for light transmitting concrete) There is some possibility of making such structures image transmitting as well as light transmitting with more sophisticated optical elements. This allows for the possibility of creating actual rad-shielded windows of most any thickness. But this may be too expensive for large areas and so one would be limited to a translucent appearance, through with the potential for very high transmission efficiency. It would certainly be sufficient for the creation of a virtual sky appearance. However, light intensity may still need to be supplemented by either artificial light sources or the use of heliostats which effectively compensate for lower light levels by concentrating light from across much larger areas. This is especially critical to farming applications and the creation of parkland.
Whatever construction approaches are used, we are likely to see the same basic architecture as employed in the excavated structures; 'subtopolis' habitats based on the creation of relatively large clear span indoor spaces as household and community centers surrounded by smaller integrated spaces serving as generic spaces adapted into specific uses by retrofit. An inwardly-focused living environment that radiates around these 'indoor outside' spaces. Windows to the outside will be few and mostly video based. these may be quite comfortable spaces with all the attractions Savage envisioned for Avalon. But there will not likely be any grand views of the stars except by projector. The great transparent crater domes may become a possibility, but probably only with the advent of a robust nanotechnology able to replace regolete with an image-corrected light transmitting diamondoid material -which would develop as a direct evolution of the kinds of construction technologies I've here described.
I consider Avalon to be a stage spanning all lunar and planetary colonization as the same basic strategy may apply throughout the solar system. I envision the long term support of these colonies being facilitated by what I refer to as 'cyclic shuttles'; essentially a hybrid of inter-planetary spacecraft and Asgard style orbital colony whose orbit is a perpetual transit orbit between key points in the solar system. These vessels continually travel, picking up and depositing people and goods between these destinations, being serviced by local shuttle vehicles and orbital stations at each location. Travel may not be fast with such vessels but it would be safe and very comfortable and with a regularly scheduled fleet of such vehicles large volumes of traffic can be supported.
Part 6 - Elysium Edit
In the original TMP the Elysium stage is about the technology of terraforming for which Mars represents the easiest prospect by virtue of an environment with closer-to-Earth-like conditions than any other planet. The initial method of colonization of Mars is defined by the Avalon stage with some adaptations made to differences in environment. Mars offers a somewhat more benign environment than the Moon and a richer diversity of materials but suffers from a more Earth-like transportation overhead and a long travel time. Colonization of Mars is therefore, in my opinion, contingent to Avalon with Elysium concerned entirely with the question of terraforming.
TMP's original terraforming scheme is probably the most logical and quickest proposed to date. The problem with it is that it is essentially a Really Big Science project with poor economic rationale. There are only two economic reasons why one might want to terraform Mars; to reduce the cost of settlement development and to cultivate most of the planet as a farm. Problem is, the ability to perform this 'ballistic engineering' would have to be available long before significant settlement of the planet takes place otherwise the money/energy/resources one is hoping to save on Avalon style settlement would already be spent. And if there should ultimately be no clinical solutions to the gravity/health issue then Mars becomes useless for human settlement anyway. Elysium only really makes sense in the context of Galactica as a testing ground for the development of techniques of terraforming used elsewhere in the galaxy. But that boils down to an experiment in planetary scale bio-engineering that has no significant economic benefit other than the possibility of creating a giant farm. Mars may be able to host life, but not an Earth eco-system. Life will have to be tailored to its environment starting with a small spectrum of Earth life forms able to tolerate its environmental differences. There is a philosophical point to seeding life with the intent of perpetuating and expanding evolution itself but no economic point and life on Mars would never be self-sustaining. The planet would need periodic renewal of its atmosphere perpetually -even if those 'booster shots' are scheduled across a vast time scale.
One can argue that, by the time the technological potential to conduct an Elysium project is at-hand, issues of crude economics would be moot. It could boil down to simply a socio-cultural imperative rather than any economic one. But by that time one is also confronted by what I call the Transhumanist Proposition and the question of whether, if the goal of TMP is the spreading of life in any form, it matters if that life is organic or inorganic. Inorganic life is much more flexible. It doesn't need terraforming at all. But it's evolutionary methodology is much different as well. We face a question not of whether there is a difference in the sanctity of human and artificially intelligent life but rather if there is a difference in the sanctity of life between a microorganism and a simple computer program. That is a much tougher question.
All in all, I find myself still pondering the logic of this stage of TMP. It seems a necessary development in the context of civilization's ultimate progress but I'm still a bit at a loss to define precisely why on a logical level.
Part 7 - Solaria Edit
This stage of TMP originally presented the vision of mass colonization of open space out to the farthest reaches of the solar system. I envision this stage as actually beginning with the Asgard stage because of Asgard's compulsion to seek raw materials from asteroid sources as soon as possible, with this in turn creating the driving economic force for settlements farther out in the solar system. Thus Solaria is the culmination of Asgard. Savage's Solaria is curious in that it seems to anticipate the existence of and reliance on nanotechnology but doesn't specifically talk about it. I'm not sure if this is because Savage was unaware of the specifics of proposed nanotechnology -which didn't get much media exposure at the time TMP was written- or if he felt it too tentative and speculative a field at the time to bet a futurist vision on.
I place Solaria square in the Diamond Age and thus base my vision of this phase of development specifically on that nanotechnology, I'll be discussing the evolution of that in more specifics later but for the moment I will state that I see this phase as characterized by six distinct classes of super-colony habitat based on the same core technology, with all of them being used but whose individual significance will depend on how the questions of the clinical solution to microgravity deterioration and the Transhumanist Proposition pan-out.
The core technology here is an intelligent material I refer to as NanoFoam; a matrix of diamondoid composites hosting a capillary network sheltering and supplying nanoassembler colonies along with a homogenous data processor network. NanoFoam would combine the incredible structural performance characteristics of diamondoid materials with self-fabrication/re-fabrication and self-maintenance/repair ability. By reconfiguring in internal structure, it self-synthesizes function-specific structures, mechanisms, and circuitry. Put simply, it's a material that can be as soft as human flesh or as hard and strong as diamond, self-replicates, assumes any form desired, and internally generates on-demand any kind of mechanism or electronic device it needs for any purpose. And it's potentially artificially intelligent, depending on unit mass and network interface. It would be the ultimate material matrix of the Diamond Age civilization, the underlying composition of and means of creation for most of its artifacts. With this remarkable material as the dominant material basis for civilization, I see it being employed in six classes of super-colony which derive their architecture from the habitat architectures of the previous phases. These classes are the Arcology, BioSphere, Heliopolis, BioZome, Halo, and RhiZome.
The Arcology is essential terrestrial habitat epitomized by Aquarius which, by Solaria, should ideally become the dominant form of habitation on Earth with the option its is use on terraformed planets as well. There would be many various forms for these varying according to the location with the basic types being marine arcologies like Aquarius, land arcologies like those devised by Solari, and linear city structures linking many of them together in a global transit network. The primary function of the arcology is to provide a very high standard of living habitat with maximum resource efficiency that quite simply get the human race out of nature's way, limiting human habitation to a relatively small volumetric space so that the natural environment can be restored and maintained in the majority of the rest of the planetary space. The difference in technology by the time of Solaria is that these structures would be predominately NanoFoam in composition, which makes each of these structures a self-building/maintaining/adapting machine with sophisticated distributed artificial intelligence and the capability for total personal automation, fabricating on demand and then recycling every kind of product their residents require.
The BioSphere is the ultimate conclusion of Savage's original Asgard habitat vision and is consistent with the general Solaria habitat vision. It is partially contingent on the realization of some kind of clinical solution to the gravity deterioration issue but offers an interesting twist on an engineering solution through a kind of hybrid habitat deriving from the EvoHab concept. The BioSphere is like an atmospheric aquarium in planetary or solar orbit. It's primary structure consists of a spherical semi-rigid NanoFoam hull akin to the pneumatic hull system of the original Asgard but self-fabricating and self-maintaining, quite thick, and light/image transmitting so as to be truly transparent despite its great thickness. The hull is a multifunction structure which integrates the majority of all functional systems of the habitat. Its outer surface is both heliostat, broad spectrum PV, radiator, plasma emmiter, and magnetic field generator all based on structures formed into its material matrix. It transmits light and filters/collects UV and IR radiation during day cycles and collects the full spectrum of energy during night cycles, storing this energy in internal batteries, perhaps based on the use of nuclear isomers. It generates its own weak magnetosphere and supplements it during solar flares by emitting plasma clouds. The plasma generation is also used in conjunction with its magnetic field systems as a kind of solar plasma sail to provide orbital correction and attitude control. It's interior surface functions as light emitter and atmospheric recycler and its light emitters can supplement ambient light levels with energy extracted from the filtered UV and IR radiation. It can even function as a kind of display to create the appearance of an Earth-like sky or communicate public information. Within its thickness it hosts a vast channel reservoir of fluid that stockpiles raw materials in pre-packaged moiety forms for channeling by peristaltic pumping to any region of the hull to supply repair or maintenance as well as to moderate temperature. Also within the hull is a vast homogenous processor matrix, making its entire area a kind of brain for its systems and a community network and information system using wireless communications throughout its interior. Blister points on both the interior and exterior of the hull provide various specialized functions. Some serve as large airlocks and docking terminals. Some as telecommunications transceiver nodes. And others as materials processing ports which allow the hull to literally consume unprocessed raw material from asteroids and digest it into the moiety 'soup' that fills its interior channels.
The BioSphere hull is a vast enclosure, perhaps up to over a hundred kilometers in diameter. At the smaller scale or when it is initially built it would mimic the architecture of the EvoHab Asgard habitat with a large multi-spoked NanoFoam core that branches out into a spherical 'tree' structure of fractal-clustered complexes of organic styled dwellings. Some may host living super-trees, cultured on a branching NanoFoam core that provides both life support for the living wood around it and hollow interior spaces for functional use. Hollowed out asteroids might also serve as the habitable core of the BioSphere, much as Savage envisioned. For the larger scale BioSphere these kinds of structures become free-floating, relying on fans or MHD jets for station-keeping. These may include gravity structures in the form of open cylinders with integral light ports that would rotate in place within the vast space. These might serve also for open containers for water, creating public low-g swimming pools. Or perhaps free-floating blobs of water confined by ultrasonics and droplet collecting satellites might serve the same purpose, even hosting fish like wall-less aquariums. Many kinds of free-floating work, residence, and recreation structures are possible in this unique environment.
The Heliopolis super-colony would represent the ultimate form of the rotating habitats I described in the Asgard phase and would be predicated on the absolute need for artificial gravity. These colonies may start out as 'wound hull' habitats but by this phase NanoFoam may have replaced those structural systems -in-situ- to produce a much simpler, stronger, and self-fabricating hull system featuring many of the same functional properties. They would have the same essential structure relying on a light-transmitting hull system that funnels light collected on its surface to its end-caps or into arcology-like spokes to a vast light diffuser membrane tube in the core. Though similar in form to the classic rotating colonies, these Heliopolis colonies would be much more vast. Diamondoid materials afford far superior structural strength at much lower mass densities allowing for the creation of habitats many kilometers in diameter. Once a practical maximum radius is reached, the structure can continue to grow indefinitely in the direction of its axis of rotation. The true Heliopolis colony would feature a solar orbit and grow in this pattern along the direction of its orbital path, ultimately reaching its opposite end and turning into a toroidal ringworld spanning an entire solar orbit. It would use counter-rotating rail vehicles along its hull to provide docking access and a magnetically propelled transit system along its core. This kind of super-colony could have an Earth-like environment equivalent in land mass to hundreds of Earths! Assuming one had sufficient carbon in the solar system to create it.
The BioZome is the ultimate form of Avalon style lunar and planetary habitat structure employing the BioSphere hull technology much as Savage envisioned the Asgard hull technology being employed for the Lunar Avalon crater colony. The difference here is that it becomes the basis of a virtual terraforming, covering vast areas of the surface of these bodies with domes and vaults supported on columns serving double-duty as arcologies. These colonies would spread out over moons and planets like an organocrystaline organism akin to coral reefs in form.
The Halo super-colony is the first of two types of habitat not intended for organic human life and is predicated on the Transhumanist Proposition. It is a NanoFoam structure that mimics the configuration of a solar power satellite; broad spectrum PVs on the sun-facing side, radiators and specialized functional installations on the opposite side, and between the two a sandwich of homogenous processor arrays interspersed by optical telecommunications conduits. The Halo derives its name from its pattern of growth, starting as simple panel forms which expand on their perimeter in a fractal growth pattern then, when a suitable maximum radius is reached, begin to expand along the direction of an orbital path. Multiple such structures along the same orbit may be created, linked by free-space laser and radio communications links. Over time this constellation of satellites links up into a ring structure, and thus the Halo is complete. As with the Heliopolis super-colony, this can be done either in planetary orbits or in solar orbits -and it's important to note that the Heliopolis colony would contain in its hull much the same homogenous processor array that the Halo would, and so it too is a kind of Halo that happens to also host organic life as well. The Halo is a home for inorganic life in the form of artificial intelligences which live in a virtual reality environment whose geographical scale is a function of population rather than physical space. It is the most efficient habitat for 'life' by virtue of the AI's freedom from complex organic life support needs. The Halo structure needs only a steady supply of renewable energy from the Sun and a supply of raw material to consume to support its rate of growth. It might also host some modest pressurized habitats for occasional human visitors and organic life used for research purposes. If there remains a strong bond between the transhumanist and humanist societies, Heliopolis habitats might be preferred as a combined community habitat.
The RhiZome super-colony is the transhumanist equivalent of the BioZome. It consists of a low density NanoFoam matrix which grows itself horizontally underneath a lunar or planetary surface -using the material in that strata- and taps geothermal heat for energy. It would produce a small number of specialized function surface structures, mostly for support of vehicles and telecommunications, but would otherwise leave the surface of the lunar or planetary body free. This would allow the surface of these bodies to be used for other purposes, such as terraforming, or would allow the colony to exploit very thick volumes of strata as shielding against extreme radiation that might be damaging even to its robust technology -as might be the case with Jupiter's moons. The BioZhome also allows for a transhumanist civilization to coexist with a surface or near-surface based organic human civilization and could be the ultimate expression of the Arcology ideal; the ultimate way to get humans out of nature's way by getting them out of organic bodies and into a virtual habitat of unlimited virtual real estate hosted by systems deep beneath the Earth's surface.
Solaria is also going to be characterized by its predominant energy and transportation systems. As with the move off Earth, settlement of the solar system is going to be energy intensive and will need to rely on renewable energy. Savage envisioned a technology where vast grids of solar energy collectors hovered above the poles of the Sun to collect solar energy radiating off the plane of the ecliptic and project it by laser beam to where it was needed about the solar system. But how does one use this vast energy for transportation? Savage envisioned the production of antimatter fuel for the propulsion of starships but that may not be the most practical means of routine propulsion about the solar system. Laser sails driven by networks of lasers are a possibility but such vessels are unwieldy and unsuited to use for shorter inter-orbit transit. I envision several possible technologies becoming dominant here; the Laser Conveyor, Plasma LightCraft, plasma rockets powered by nuclear isomer, and the Ballistic Railway Network.
The Laser Conveyor would be limited to the transit of refined materials in molar form. A speculative technology today, it is based on the tuning of the frequency and wave profile of a laser beam to propel streams of discrete molecules at near-light speed. A switched network for materials transport about the solar system could be created, the lasers switching modes to handle different materials. At the same time they would also be projecting energy and data. This would be particularly suitable to materials processing based on nanotechnology as the materials would be in forms suitable for direct nanomanipulation. It's possible that some prefabricated nanocomponents could be transportated by the method and perhaps some kinds of nanoassemblers themselves. The technology may also be suited to atmospheric mining by the use of lasers as sorting extractors, pulling molecules from the edge of the atmosphere of bodies like the Sun or planets and channeling them to collector satellites which would then project them elsewhere.
By exploiting the dual capability of both energy and matter conveyance of the Laser Conveyor we arrive at the notion of the Plasma LightCraft. The second generation Myrabo LightCraft is a plasma driven launch vehicle that uses the energy projected by an orbital maser to energize both an air-spike and field coil array that turn the disk-shaped craft into a kind of plasma thruster using the ambient atmosphere as propellent. In space the vehicle must rely on plasma generators using carried material, as there is no longer a atmosphere to be super-heated to a plasma state by the air spike. In a variation on this technology, one could devise a vehicle which obtains both energy and plasma propellent from a Laser Conveyor beam, allowing it to accelerate or decelerate when intercepted by this beam. Using a network of these Laser Conveyor satellites these Plasma LightCraft could be directed on regular transit routes about the solar system.
Plasma rockets are a technology already in use today and vehicles using them in the future would not be very different in design. The important difference here, though, would be in the use of stored energy in the form of nuclear isomers which would function like batteries of nuclear energy capacity. These nuclear isomers would have to be produced and regenerated at orbital power stations and could be used to power all types of systems out of the reach of effective solar energy use or the projected energy network of solar laser stations.
Now, these last two transportation technologies still have the drawback of expending propellent for their operation and, though plasma propulsion can exploit a large diversity of molecules as propellent, this is still expending material that cannot be recovered. They are thus non-renewable propulsion methods that are inefficient in the long term. This has led me to the notion of the Ballistic Railway Network which uses chains of large powerful magnetic drive loop satellites to accelerate and decelerate vehicles traveling between orbits. Powered by photovoltaics relying on the Sun or laser projected energy, these satellites would individually impart small amounts of acceleration or deceleration to the capsule-like vehicles passing through them, being displaced from their correct orbits by small degrees in the process. To correct their orbits they would use tether orbital adjustment systems powered by stored energy, thus eliminating the use of propellents. They would not only be powered by solar or projected energy, they would also recover energy from the deceleration of vehicles thus making the system highly efficient. The Ballistic Railway Capsules would be full spacecraft in their own right and would feature propellent based propulsion units as backup to this primary form of propulsion used for minor trajectory correction. The chief limitation with this scheme is that it puts a specific size limit on these vehicles as a function of the loop accelerator unit scale and a transit frequency as a function of unit orbit recovery cycle.
Part 8 - Galactica Edit
Galactica is ostensibly where TMP laid out the premise of the human imperative to spread life throughout the galaxy. But, in terms of development plans, it was primarily concerned with the mission of exploration and colonization to our nearest stellar neighbors. Savage's original vision of interstellar travel seems to have held up quite well. He laid out two visions; a 'slow' mission based on the use of a Solaria phase asteroid based 'generation ship' and a 'fast' mission based on the use of a sleek anti-matter rocket propelled vessel. Savage seems to have clearly favored the latter concept and I do as well. There is little I would change from the original Galactica description. However, my vision of Galactica adds several elements based on the kind of technology described in Solaria. First, I see the interstellar mission as likely being preceded by a succession of cybernetic missions whose objective is not only to perform assay of the resources in the new solar system but also to establish an initial rudimentary infrastructure to increase the safety of later missions and ease their establishment of effective settlement. Note I call these 'cybernetic' missions as opposed to 'robotic'. This is to note the importance of artificial intelligence in this mission. The first settlers of other stars will likely be artificially intelligent machines, though it remains an open question whether these machines will be equivalent in intelligence to humans or more simple systems. These initial missions may not need to be preceded by the Solaria stage and they will not need as sophisticated a level of technology to accomplish and can tolerate a high attrition rate when they are unmanned. But the more advanced systems based on vehicles with NanoFoam composition will have the most capability and survivability because of their ability to both self-repair and self-upgrade in flight and to provide all the technology needed to establish civilization in one tiny package.
Interstellar colonization would follow the reverse order of Sol system colonization. It would begin with the settlement of orbital space and then proceed incrementally to the utilization of lunar and planetary bodies. This is because Solaria era technology would be more easily able to exploit asteroid debris and it also allows for the preservation of whatever life might be found on planets in these new star systems.
My version of the manned Galactica mission is similar to the Savage vision except that it may be based on a starship employing nanotechnology and that affords the option of using two approaches to suspended animation made possible by this technology. It's most advanced form would use a NanoFoam vessel that uses a streamlined elongated ovoid hull form and a cellular compartmentalized interior. This is a polymorphic vessel. It would internally and externally reconfigure its form to suit the needs of the different stages of the mission. On arrival it would reconfigure itself into a Solaria style habitat, mostly likely using a BioSphere configuration, and begin deploying a diversity of systems for the exploitation of local resources and the replenishing of materials in case of a need for immediate return. This vessel would also be artificially intelligent -a cybernetic organism in its own right and potentially a social member of the crew. Human passengers would have three options for how they would travel during this mission and it's possible that all these options might be employed at individual discretion. They could opt to travel in suspended animation based on nanoassembler performed protein binding. This suspends organic life by essentially converting the structure of the body into a kind of plastic which can be kept stored deep within the structure of the vessel for safety. This allows for the most compact form of transit vessel and the largest crew contingent. Another option is the virtual habitat strategy. Here the bodies of the crew are put into suspended animation while their brains are kept active and interfaced to a virtual habitat hosted in the vessels computer systems. This virtual environment offers unlimited comforts and space and the ability for maintaining intellectual and cultural continuity with the Sol civilization, albeit with considerable latency. However, it also presents the possibility of crew becoming so accustomed to the conveniences and lifestyle of the virtual habitat that they later choose a transhumanist mode of life perpetually. The final option is to travel without any suspended animation and for that the vessel would need to support a relatively large habitat, largely paralleling the small BioSphere habitat in character, perhaps with a large spherical space at the center of the vessel and smaller more specialized chambers in its tapered ends.
There is also a fully transhumanist colonization option to consider. With cybernetic systems establishing the initial infrastructure in a new solar system, it becomes possible to send life to these other stars by communicating data instead of physical material. This would be especially useful in the transport of plant and animal life which could be sent simply as DNA data which is then used by nanomechanisms to construct cells from which living organisms can be cultured. A catalog of such data could be sent with the initial machines in anticipation of use in possible terraforming. But there is also an option to do much the same thing by encoding human minds as software which can be broadcast across interstellar distances by radio or laser for later installation into bodies cultured from companion DNA data. And for those individuals who, by that time in Sol civilization history, have already opted for a transhumanist existance or who are artificial intelligences to begin with, this would be the safest and most convenient means of interstellar travel.
Part 9 - Nanotechnology Edit
In this section I'd like to discuss the specifics of the impact of nanotechnology on the evolution of TMP. The fluid nature of technology makes developing futurist visions like this tricky and this is particularly so today because, whereas the culture tended to underestimate the potential of technology in the past, since mid-20th-century, we've tended to overestimate it instead. When Savage wrote TMP the anticipated miracle technology of the age was biotechnology and many of Savage's visions suggest an influence by the over-optimism toward this technology at the time. Certainly, the assumption of a clinical solution to the gravity deterioration issue is based on this optimism. Today, the shine has worn off the gen-engineered apple and the promises of the technology hawked in the 1980s remain distant dreams, even though a slow progress has continued. But the same over-optimism and many of the same specific promises are now focussed on nanotechnology which has replaced biotechnology as our culture's leading anticipated miracle-tech. I have made a series of assumptions here about what this technology might be able to do. Therefore, I think it is important to qualify that by discussing a specific anticipated evolution for this technology and the way it will impact civilization and the way future revisers of TMP will have to adjust the vision to suit. I will be discussing here a number of things which may not seem especially relevant to TMP but which, in the futurist context, are quite important in projecting the civilization's possible evolution relative to this technology.
The common image of nanotechnology is based on the notion of the ambient environment nanoassembler; a self-contained nanorobot able to work in the ambient environment to perform molecular assembly. This device is attributed with virtually magical capability, a technological genie able to cure every disease, produce anything one might imagine from thin air, and with an equal potential for mass destruction. This, however, would be one of the last and most advanced forms of this technology developed. The majority of the impact of nanotechnology on civilization is not likely to result from this but rather from a spectrum of innovations preceding it. Indeed, this ambient environment nanoassembler may never be fully practical at all and largely redundant in any case. I have projected several phases of nanotechnology development leading from the present day to a point in time roughly equivalent to the Solaria era. We'll have a look at each of these in turn and discuss their likely applications, product and technology innovations, and impact on the civilization and on how TMP might proceed or need to adapt.
Today nanotechnology is primarily at a level I refer to as the 'statistical assembly' level. The cutting edge tool for nanotechnology research today is a family of crude discrete molecular manipulators in the form of derivatives of the Atomic Force Microscope. These, however, have no capability for industrial production and so the majority of actual product-generating nanotechnology today is based on processes derived from conventional chemistry. I refer to this as statistical assembly because it is based on the random self-attachment or self-assembly of molecular components in a fluid medium with the production of products based on the multi-staged mixing of different materials. In essence, an elaboration of conventional organic chemistry where structures are produced by staging and topological control of otherwise random chemical reactions. One can compare it to a blind watch maker who simply puts parts randomly against each other until they fit. The ultimate innovation for this technology is the 'passive assembler'; families of 'carrier' molecules -many deriving from proteins- that are preloaded with other molecular components and, by their topology, control alignment and order of molecular interface over mixing stages. These may be used in what I refer to as Mixer Plants which are akin to DNA sequencers that manipulate vast sequences of mixing stages to produce complex microstructures. Most products of this stage of technology, though, will tend to take the form of new organic chemicals or repetitive microstructures such as used in bulk materials like nanofiber or electronics devices like displays and digital storage devices.
The products of this statistical assembly stage of nanotechnology have so far tended to fall along lines of new materials with composite structures, new variations on the concepts of lithography producing more intricate microstructures and systems, new chemistry techniques, and very primitive molecular mechanisms. Nanofiber is the most promising product of this technology today with most of its impact on civilization being based on its potential for improved strength materials. For TMP these products offer potential for the early generation Space Elevator, the construction of new ultiralight structural systems for spacecraft and vehicles, possibilities of new forms of hydrogen storage, and the potential use for reinforcement admixtures to masonry and ceramic materials that could preclude the need for rebar and thermal expansion joints. But the most important impact of this technology on TMP may be the way it relates to the economic strategy I described in Asgard.
Statistical assembly works because it relies on the virtual microgravity environment provided by a fluid medium. Molecular components are mixed in an inert fluid suspension which keeps them all in a roughly uniform distribution in defiance of gravity. But at the nanoscale, it's not microgravity. It's the perpetual bumper-car jostling of molecules by thermal oscillation that causes this distribution. Thus the limiting factor in the performance of statistical assembly becomes its fluid medium. The more complex the structures and the more precisely they must be aligned to self-interface the more this jostling around becomes a problem. The statistical odds of interface -ie. yeild- become reduced by the density of the fluid medium and its temperature -and it won't stay fluid if you drop the temperature too much and it won't stay uniform if you drop the density too much as gravity then starts kicking-in. Now, the space environment offers a way around this limitation because the microgravity environment allows for uniform fluid mediums of complex molecules at extremely low density. Sometimes one might not need a fluid medium at all. Molecular components may remain 'fluid' by themselves. And not only is the space environment useful for its lack of gravity but also because of the ability to very precisely vary gravity, thus allowing one to use varying degrees of low centrifugal force to aid in process control. What all this technobabble boils down to is that one may be able to use statistical assembly to produce nanomechanisms in space that you can't do on Earth with just that kind of technology alone. Thus orbital laboratories could potentially use this to leap-frog nanotechnology development to produce something like an effective in-vitro nanoassembler long before the same could be done on Earth. THAT would be the killer-app that makes the economics of space development so compelling as to be inevitable. This sort of thing has been anticipated by SciFi writers in the past. In Arthur C. Clarke's Fountains of Paradise the creation of an orbital tower -what we call the Space Elevator today- is predicated on nanofabrication that is only possible in a microgravity environment.
The next level of nanotechnology is likely to be typified by the NanoChip and will be begun with the development of the NanoLathe. A NanoLathe is essentially an AFM supplemented with a fixed-mount function-specific nanomanipulator head. This innovation will allow the AFM to become a more sophisticated tool for the assembly and prototyping of more sophisticated nanomechanisms and may have potential as an assembly-line production tool in a staged automated production system. This fixed-mount nanomanipulator head represents the initial and simplest type of NanoChip; a device akin to an integrated circuit chip which ultimately consist of arrays of specialized fixed-mount nanomechanisms intended for a single or small set of applications. Manufactured using a hybrid combination of NanoLathe, statistical assembly, and NanoChip processing, (later NanoChips may be mass fabricated predominately by other NanoChips) NanoChips are likely to see a quick explosion in diversification and evolution akin to what the intergrated circuit produced from the 1970s to the present. But whereas the IC focused largely on areas of computation and communication, the NanoChip will tend to focus on materials processing though mechanosynthesis. Typical applications will include the obsolescence of most passive assemblers in Mixer Plants, mass extrusion of nano-precise materials such as continuous nanofibers and nanofiber ribbons, the mechanosynthetic filtering or sorting of molecules for recycling or raw materials processing, and destruction of toxic compounds. Though used mostly in industrial processes resulting in incremental advances of many existing products, the use of NanoChips will also result in new products down to the consumer level such as universal garbage recyclers, perpetual home water recyclers, frictionless machine tools, paint-less painting and ink-less printing devices, computer printers that make their own paper, sewing machines that make their own thread, and -most importantly- nanofabricator appliances akin to current rapid prototyping machines but using NanoChip extruder heads to deposit large assortments of materials with molecular precision. In medicine, there's the possibility of new instant biochemical analysis devices, custom tailored drug synthesizers, DNA sequencing by mechanisynthesis, and tiny implantable devices powered by the body's own chemistry which mimmic the functions of many organs and tissues, leading to such things as miniature insulin regulators as a cure for diabetes, scavenger mechanisms that filter toxins, viruses, and bacteria from the blood stream, artificial retinas and cochlea, and so on. Also synthetic replacement limbs with human-equivalent dexterity and at least partial sensory capabillity. So many applications are possible for NanoChips that they may actually slow down the progress of nanotechnology in general by a drag of vested interests, much as has occurred in the personal computer industry. Many promising and powerful new computing technologies remain underdeveloped and unexploited today because the 'market' will not accept the inconvenience of adapting to them when so much is banking on the existing technology.
The biggest impact of the NanoChip stage of technology is its potential to greatly amplify the evolution toward a post-industrial civilization, and this has great ramifications for TMP as well as for the whole world. As I noted in the Aquarius section, TMP seeks to cultivate a post-industrial culture and technology through the creation of its early terrestrial settlements as a means to prepare a society for space colonization while also improving the situations of environment and socio-economic equality on Earth. NanoChip based tools will radically accelerate the existing post-industrial trends through a quantum leap increase in capability and decrease in scale of sophisticated industrial tools. NanoChip based nanofabricators could be able to produce -and recycle- the majority of household artifacts and consumable goods near or within one's own home and with a range of sophistication from as simple as plates and dishes to as complex as personal computers. Even some food products may be produced by these machines, though the photocopier-like reproduction of natural foodstuffs described by some nanotech advocates may be a long time coming because of cellular scale complexity and computational intensiveness. (your average early nanofabricator might actually be able to make a strawberry -in a month of work...) Today the post-industrial trend is already putting old style industrialization in trouble. Detroit's recent problems come not from car companies' inability to understand what consumers want but rather from their ignorance -or denial- of the fact that centralized mass production now only makes sense for the production of modular subcomponents, not whole products. With the advent of the NanoChip, even this becomes obsolete and centralized mass production has no purpose left but the production of NanoChips, the production of integrated circuits of equal or greater sophistication and the bulk processing and distribution of raw materials into refined forms for nanofabrication feed stock -and even that faces powerful competition from near-total recycling at the consumer level. We'll be mining the landfills. Indeed, all economics as we know it today comes under threat by this as the value of goods plummets as it becomes based primarily on their design and fabrication software rather than their material composition and the value of labor explodes as the need to work for cash to meets one's daily needs becomes superceded by working for oneself to make -with these increasingly automated tools- what one needs on-demand. The only high value commodities left may be information and real estate -and as Aquarius will prove even real estate can be manufactured on demand.
For TMP this means a radical increase in the potential self-sufficiency and productivity of its settlements whether on Earth or in space, radical reductions in the cost of infrastructure and transportation systems for those settlements, a radical decline in the cost of materials, and a radical diversification in industrial capability for space facilities. Getting to space and living in space will become cheaper not because of any advances in the technology of space transportation but rather by the ability of individuals and small facilities to produce more sophisticated products at almost no labor and materials cost. The cost of getting to space will start to shrink toward the cost of the engineering overhead. Though homesteading in space may remain logistically impossible, the cost of moving to space may start to approach a 'sweat equity' level of investment and this may allow the settlement of space to change from an economic proposition to a social proposition with the return on investment defined by the value of the lifestyle and aesthetic of these settlements to their residents. However, this will still not change the need for space settlement to create long distance resource networks to overcome the scarcity of resources in any one location. The domestic in-space economy will still remain more like that of Industrial Age than of the Post-Industrial Age.
Another important impact of this phase of nanotechnology will be a great increase in the sophistication of micro-electronics -resulting in digital systems matching the computational capacity of the human brain- matched to the ability of researchers, developers, and hobbyists to make for themselves hardware of great sophistication. Essentially, anyone will be able to have as much computer power at hand as they want to dedicate space and electric power to. The cutting edge in computer technology may be beyond the capability of simple NanoChip fabricators to produce. But the fabrication hardware that does produce this may STILL shrink toward the desktop scale by virtue of that technology. Whether or not this all results in the long anticipated Artificial Intelligence breakthrough remains unclear. The stumbling block has generally been in software technology, not in hardware. Today we face a problem with the state of the art in software technology being at least a generation behind the state of the art in hardware technology and this is a problem which is getting steadily worse because of the drag of vested interests in the computer industry. Computer operating systems as we know them today should have been obsolete at least a decade ago. So the evolution of AI still faces a lot of problems. However, if it does manage to be realized at a basic level by this time its evolution to a human-equivilent AI could be rapid by virtue of the leveraging of development provided by successive waves of this technology. The biggest impact on civilization of AI comes in its ability to leverage human intelligence, not replace it. It may result in the increase in the sophistication of automation for a lot of machines but few applications will need true autonomy, Where things really get interesting is with the ability of AI systems to amplify the human ability to design and engineer. The design of many artifacts and software that today require a lot of engineering work to create will see a steadily increasing amount of that work offloaded to AI systems that reduce development time and enable more experimentation and exploration. The lone designer, engineer, or scientist may be able to create a virtual team of intellectual assistants to amplify his talents and skills and provide him with a virtually eidetic memory. And for people who aren't especially knowledgeable or skilled, AIs may offer the potential for design and invention without it. People will be able to custom design for production by their home fabricators many of their sophisticated household artifacts, such as computers and appliances, without needing to know anything about the underlying engineering or technology. That knowledge will be encoded in AI systems integrated into the fabricator software and with standardized functional and safety parameters built-in.
The next phase of nanotechnology will be based on the realization of the In-Vitro Assembler which combines the dimensional freedom of statistical assembly with the control and precision of the NanoChip. This technology is generally seen by nanotech advocates as the primary form of the technology. It is based on the development of a nanoassembler robot which can intelligently navigate freely in a fluid medium yet attach with topological precision to structures they are working on. Unlike the use of Passive Assemblers which are pre-loaded with molecular components, the In-Vitro Assembler would activiely pick up molecules and pre-fabricated molecular components dispersed in the fluid medium itself and supplied by NanoChips or from stored feed stock in fluid reserves. Communication between assemblers and control computers would be performed by such things as ultrasonic signals and the synthesis of molecular instruction 'tapes' in the manner of DNA. Using this technology manufacturing would be conducted in systems I refer to as NanoFoundries which consist of fluid filled process tanks that fully or partially contain the products under assembly. Some nanotech advocates suggest that some NanoFoundry tanks may be open-topped pools in order to allow for large structures to be produced from the top down in a sort of inverse process to what is done with rapid prototyping machines. But this necessitates the use of some kind of mechanism for lifting and supporting the whole mass of the completed product with nanoscale step precision. I've yet to see a projection for how that would be accomplished. The open tank also leaves the fluid medium subject to massive contamination from the ambient environment with contamination by free-radical molecules being particularly problematic. The pool would thus need another nanomechanism or some kind of buoyant fluid to serve as a protective skin over the process fluid while allowing the emerging structure to pass through it. So I tend to suspect that the more practical use of this technology will involve fully enclosed process tanks and the use of NanoChip extruded scaffold structures to support fabrication from the inside-out rather than from the top-down.
I also tend to see In-Vitro Assembly as being initially more specialized in application than is commonly thought because NanoChip fabrication will be sufficient, and much faster, for the vast majority of products. The NanoFoundry is, of necessity, a much more complex system than a NanoChip based Nanofabricator Where In-Vitro Assembly has the edge is in structural intricacy of what it can produce. It can more readily handle structures on a cellular scale of intricacy and thus can produce integrated systems of a level of complexity that mimics organic life. An obvious application here is in the mechanosynthetic duplication of food items and transplant tissues and organs. It also has the advantage in the production of large products even though that may require large process tanks. They may be bulky, but they are simpler and cheaper to make than very large NanoChip arrays and will not have the nano-scale step precision issues of a very large overhead extruder head positioning mechanism. If you have to make something as big as an African elephant with a living elephant's degree of cellular-scale structural intricacy, this may be the best way to do it. However, there will be a compulsion to try and drive the practicality of NanoFoundry use for as many applications as possible, this being compelled largely by the desire to create a home Nanofabricator with food replication capability.
In-Vitro Assembly will see the complexity of nanofabricated products boosted another order of magnitude and this will result in a lot of artifacts and mechanisms with the kind of intricacy matching or surpassing that of organic life forms. Many kinds of robots, vehicles, and other machines will become more animal-like in their physical characteristics and may eventually be able to mimic human or animal appearance imperceptibly. Many machine may begin to integrate specialized NanoFoundry systems for their self-repair. Computer systems will begin to exceed the density of computing power of the organic human brain, affording the potential of relatively small devices to contain a human level of intelligence -assuming that effective AI is finally achieved by this time. In medicine, we get the potential for tissue replication for the on-demand production of replacement tissues, limbs, and organs with patient-matched DNA. However, there may be competition from artificial replacements which may offer superior performance and added functionality with no perceptible differences in appearance. Some amputees may actually prefer replacement limbs which are stronger or more dexterous or have such things as built-in cell phones, computers with intra-retinal displays and intra-cochleal audio, and voluminous digital data storage. We can also expect to see the development of in-situ nanosurgical systems. These short-lived variations of the In-Vitro Assembler will be very application-specific and would be used for such things as anti-cancer and anti-infection treatments, very low level tissue surgery and repair, and mechanosynthetic gene therapy. Here we finally get a strong potential for a complete clinical solution to the microgravity deterioration problem as well as potential radical age extension therapies. There is also potential for the re-engineering of the body on a subtle level to compensate for congenital defects, pollution or lifestyle induced protracted damage, and to enhance performance or or adapt the body to different environmental conditions. However, these initial nanosurgical robots will not likely be as sophisticated as In-Vitro Assemblers because they will not have as controlled an environment to work with. Thus more radical repair and modification of the body will still depend on gross surgery. However, later on the advent of protein binding suspended animation will allow for the full suspension of the organic processes of the body and its structural rigidization which would then allow the body to be placed in the controlled environment of the NanoFoundry for radical re-engineering.
This stage of nanotechnology will effect the course of TMP most significantly in terms of determining, through the realization of a clinical solution for microgravity deterioration, the dominant path of in-space habitat development. The nature of the Solaria stage is determined by this. There will still be logistical issues for the back-migration of people from long duration living in microgravity. By virtue of their marine proximity, Aquarius colonies may be the preferred destination of people forced to return to Earth due to cumulative radiation exposure or other problems.
Space will also still offer some of the same advantages for In-Vitro Assembly as it offered for Statistical Assembly. However, being systems with active motion control, In-Vitro Assemblers will compensate for many of the problems with fluid mediums and so the advantages of in-space nanofabrication by this technique will be confined to the most intricate and sophisticated of nanoengineered devices -the most important of which is the assembler robot itself. Thus space settlements will have a potential edge on the development and mass production of new assemblers and, if those most advanced assemblers are space dependent in fabrication, they will become a commodity item of high value due to the inherently short duty life of assemblers. If there is an edge here it will be short-lived because it will be overcome by the very products -those more advanced assemblers- it will be producing. By this time space settlement must be pretty well along or it will have no Earth economic basis left on which to start. Even satellite communications may be largely obsolete by this time, the cost of land line systems reduced to nil by NanoChip based miniature autonomous tunnel boring machines. The window of opportunity for an industrial advantage to the space environment will be completely closed. But, on the up side, the cost of space access will be cheaper than ever before -especially for the transhumanists.
The next advances in nanotechnology will be driven by the demand for making nanoassembly more suited to use in the ambient environment and its systems smaller and more portable. NanoFoundries based on In-Vitro Assemblers will tend to be limited in their production flexibility by the scale of process tanks and feed stock storage reserves. Though vastly smaller and simpler than industrial facilities today, these facilities will still tend to have to dedicate fairly large amounts of space to their operation. This will make very large structures that must be made on-site difficult to fabricate and will limit home users of the technology to fairly small scale artifacts. To overcome this problem engineers will likely seek various means to create deployable containment structures. Balloon tanks are the most likely near-term solution but would be unwieldy to handle, especially at large sizes. Nanomechanisms which can extrude and then consume enclosure balloons on demand will be a more attractive solution but will still require fairly large base structures and will tend to be limited to simple shapes that may require much more process fluid than is necessary for the structures under process. I anticipate that the ultimate solution will be in the form of nanomechanism skins covering scaffolding structures which I call Chrysalises. These consist of a skin of layers of platelet like structures akin to skin cells which are fabricated at the periphery of a nanoscaffolding matrix. Hydrostatic pressure lifts selective portions of the skin away from the scaffolding allowing more platelet layers to be deposited and more scaffolding to be built. In this way a Chrysalis can grow in any topological direction and produce a conformal process enclosure with scaffolding pre-installed. A relatively small NanoFoundry unit -perhaps akin to a laptop computer in scale- would generate a Chrysalis from a series of NanoChip ports, growing it to any scale necessary, and would synthesize hydrocarbon fluid medium to fill it from the ambient atmosphere -a relatively slow process that could be overcome by pre-stored fluid. After production the Chrysalis would be self-ruptured from the top by thinning of its skin and tension under the reduction of fluid medium pressure. The holes produced would recede around the exposed finished structure as the internal scaffolding is removed from the top down and periphery inward and recycled into the atmosphere or feed stock reserves. Some disposable support structures might still be needed for some items.
This Chrysalis technique would provide an effective solution to the flexibility problem of the NanoFoundry but the slow pace of operation would compel engineers to seek other means of speeding things up. This is likely to lead to experimentation with integrating more subsystems of the NanoFoundry itself into the structure of the Chrysalis. The core elements of the NanoFoundry might simply be completely contained by a Chrysalis and NanoChip-like pores on it skin fabricated as it grows to make the entire surface area an atmospheric absorber for the production of process fluid. I anticipate that this sort of experimentation will ultimately results in the realization that the Chrysalis structure itself is sufficiently versatile in the kinds of surface features and structural characteristics that is can adopt that it will be suited by itself to most of the applications of the products it's intended to produce. With that realization will come the invention of what I refer to as NanoFoam, a Chrysalis/NanoFoundry hybrid with a redundant microscopic cellular composition of NanoFoundry subsystems which simply polymorphs itself to support different applications rather than producing objects. NanoFoam will not only be a self-polymorphic self-replicating material with the option to perform NanoFoundry production, it will be artificially intelligent, hosting a redundant data processing matrix able to produce its own connections to wired and wireless communications networks.
I suspect that this NanoFoam will become the predominate material composition of civilization, giving everyone the ability to produce virtually every artifact the civilization is able to make using a tool which can be small enough to be carried around in one's pocket. The ultimate Swiss Army Knife. A single personal tool that will let a person make anything they can imagine to any scale single-handedly. And a material fabric for civilization that is inherently intelligent and interconnected by telecommunications. Indeed, it may ultimately accelerate the evolution of transhumanism by becoming an incremental enhancement to and replacement for the organic composition of human bodies, used to add capabilities like adding wireless telecommunications and companion personal computers to the brain, building-in first-aid and bodily repair mechanisms, enhancing the performance of physiology to adapt to environmental extremes, and replacing failing organs and damaged or aging tissues until ultimately replacing the organic body altogether.
In the context of TMP this level of technology becomes the basis of my vision of Solaria. NanoFoam will become the material fabric of the space based civilization just as for the terrestrial civilization and will finally enable the option of homesteading in the space environment -though by then those homesteading aspirations may have to begin looking to the stars to be fulfilled. Most any place in the universe would be able to be colonized by sending NanoFoam vehicles to them which simply reform and grow themselves into all the structures and systems needed to host life. And it will create the potential for a wave of transhumanist development which will either be a companion to human development or grow in competition to it and possibly obsolesce it.
The final major nanotechnology innovation is the development of the In-Situ Assembler, an assembler able to function in the ambient environment. This is no mean feat and, though most nanotechnology advocates place much stock in it, I suspect it may prove to be the most difficult innovation to achieve and thus I put it at the end of this anticipated line of development. The ambient environment has an unlimited variety of conditions and extremes and is a mine field of free radical elements which would effect some nanomechanisms like bombs. This means the In-Situ Assembler must be more complex than any other assembler because it must support a large diversity of functions, be powered by chemical or radiant energy in the ambient environment, rely on materials scavenged from the ambient environment, be able to communicate effectively with control computers under varying conditions, and be heavily armored against the hazards of its environment yet not so armored that it can't effectively perform its functions. It would be like a diver in an autonomous deep sea diving 'jim' suit who must still be dexterous enough to build other jim suits. This spells trouble for such popular nanotechnology notions as 'foglets'; In-Situ Assemblers that can navigate in the ambient air. The complexity and mass of In-Situ Assemblers may be high enough that they can't navigate in air and so they might be limited to fluid-like pools or blobs rather than fogs. If realized, the In-Situ Assembler would allow nanofabrication to be performed without containment or specially prepared feed stocks. The NanoFoundry would beceome a device that merely mass-produces these assemblers and releases them as a cloud or fluid mass of the machines, paints a geometric migration point for construction to begin using some kind of signaling method such as an ultrasonic beam, and directs the fabrication process from a distance. Some have suggested a distributed intelligence among colonies of this kind of assembler. Each assembler would be a small processing node which exchanges information with its neighbors thus allowing the colony of assemblers to function collectively as a homogenous processor matrix hosting and processing software independent of the individual assemblers. This distributed intelligence would direct the assembly process while also maintaining and expanding the assembler colony by directing the assemblers to self-replicate as well as providing communication with the user. In this case one would no longer need a NanoFoundry to control the construction process. One would need only a kind of communications device to talk to the programs hosted in the assembler colony using some form of signal the assemblers have the built-in ability to detect.
As amazing as this final form of nanotechnology might sound, it may add little capability over that of NanoFoam unless it became sufficiently advanced to allow colonies of In-Situ Assemblers to literally permeate the entire ambient environment of the Earth or other planets -including the bodies of all life forms on them- so as to create a kind of whole-environment distributed intelligence which can be summoned from any point to perform various nanofabrication tasks while also doubling as a distributed computing environment hosting a vast virtual habitat populated by innumerable artificial intelligences -like a kind of digital spirit realm interspersed throughout, but largely invisible to, the physical environment. This more subtle fabric of civilization would go wherever humans and their machines went and could be used as a mechanism for rapid colonization and terraforming of planets through the random seeding of colonies of such assemblers. Indeed, colonization of planets could be performed by using laser conveyor beams to launch at near-light speed vast streams of these assemblers across space and into the atmosphere of distant planets where they would filter in, join up into colonies, replicate, create communications systems to establish contact with those who sent them, permeate the planetary environment while reshaping it into its new desired form, and eventually populating it with plants, animals, and even people all sent as data. This would not be much different, though, from seeding a planet with a NanoFoam probe and instructing it to create a RhiZome colony but it might be faster and could be done in a mass random exploration and colonization project where these assemblers were sprayed continuously in all directions, setup shop and report back from wherever they land, then reproduce and spray more of themselves out in all directions. This would result in an exponential rate of growth about the galaxy. In the past I have suggested that, perhaps, advanced civilizations may have already been using this technique and that a SETI program might do well to explore the realm of nanoscale debris as well as searching for radio signals.
Part 10 - The Transhumanist Proposition Edit
Aside from all the technical innovations nanotechnology is likely to bring to TMP, there is one very important social issue that it may present and which has the potential to radically alter the course of the plan and of civilization as a whole; that concept I've been referring to repeatedly in this discussion as the Transhumanist Proposition. This proposition goes something like this;
If the destiny of civilization is the propagation of life throughout the universe through its deliberate adaptation to all environments then this clearly includes and favors inorganic life as the most adaptable and best suited to the space environment. Thus the most efficient path to the goal of a universal distribution of life is the cultivation of an inorganic human civilization as the pan-ultimate form of civilization.
This is very important to TMP long-term because transhumanism is not a question of 'if', it's a question of 'when' and if we accept the premise of a robust nanotechnology by the time of Solaria we face a very strong possibility of a diverse transhumanist society by that stage as well. This radically changes the logistics of human settlement in space calling for a radically different strategy for Galactica and a radically shortened time-line for the 'Genesis Effect' detailed by Savage -a Genesis Effect that can actually expand at the speed of light.
Marshal Savage only briefly mentions AI in TMP and only in the context of the central computer 'brain' of the Aquarius marine colony. His vision of it is a bit old fashioned; a HAL 9000 that sits in the core of Aquarius and manages all its systems while assisting in lots of other work like a shared supercomputer. Even the notion of Aquarius needing any kind of centralized computing system to manage it was out of step with computing technology at the time TMP was written. As I explained in articles on the Aquarian computing architecture some years ago, it's likely form will simply be one of an IP based network in which 'web controller' based microcontrollers are deployed for all the subsystems. A distributed intelligence rather than a centralized one. It's pretty much the same systems architecture as in the MUOL and something quite off-the-shelf. It's curious that Savage should mention AI so early on then not really explore any of its ramifications to the rest of TMP. And yet Savage's vision of the future is actually a transhumanist vision. It's just one relying on a biotechnology based transhumanism rather than an inorganic one. Savage talks of adapting the human body through biotechnology to suit the different environments encountered in the universe, envisioning a very diverse human race rather akin to the Star Trek phenomenon where most aliens all look like humans, just with cosmetic differences. But for some unknown reason he doesn't go that extra step, to that one ultimate adaptation that leaves the human being able to handle just about everything the universe might throw at him and makes even the vacuum of open space liveable; inorganic life. Perhaps Savage simply never considered the ramifications of nanotechnology, since he never mentions it in TMP, but it's as though he's suggesting that, even if we can ultimately manipulate the architecture of the organic body as freely as any other kind of mechanism we can make, there is still something special about life that requires organic cells and DNA. He wouldn't be alone if that was the intent. There is today a small community of scientists one could call anti-transhumanists who have basically been fishing in the esoterica of fringe science to rationalize the notion of sentient AI being impossible. Essentially searching for a scientific excuse for 'spirit' that would make inorganic systems forever incapable of hosting 'true' life. I don't buy it. I don't see any reason for biorganic chemistry to be somehow 'special' compared to anything else in the physical world. Nor do I see human beings ultimately being patient enough to be satisfied with a technology that can't mold the body image immediately. So I envision a future where life is even MORE diverse than Savage imagines. A future where the term 'human' is defined only by the architecture of mind and where even that leaves a lot of room for variation.
We are today already a transhumanist society by virtue of a progressive alteration of the structure of the human body through the progressive incorporation of technology into the fabric of human life. At its most fundamental, transhumanism is essentially the supplanting of the process of natural random selection as the driving force of human evolution by intelligent selection through technology. Or to put it most simply, it's the mind seeking to adapt the body image to it's own needs. There is an essential dissatisfaction with the body image inherent in the human species and thus a cultural compulsion to adapt it for reasons practical and aesthetic. The other aspects of that idea which appear in popular media today -the indefinite extension of life span, the genetic engineering of human beings for physical enhancement, the replacement of the organic body by a synthetic one, the replacement of bodies altogether through virtual habitat- are simply expressions of a particular technological approach to this. There are many such approaches and civilization has actually been engaged in this game for a very long time.
The diversity of human races on the Earth is as much a product of cultural selection as by natural selection. Thus the human mind has been feeding-back into the genetic evolution of the body through our deliberate modification of behavior passed on through culture. And the 'DNA' we use to pull-off that trick is called language. We are no longer products of nature. We are the organic products of our own social and cultural (and more recently, medical) technology. Our minds now, and long have been, shaping our bodies -for better or worse. We are all Frankenstein monsters! We still pretend we are products of nature -and we are still 'part' of nature in as much as anything is subject to the laws of physics and has an incidental impact on the planetary ecosystem- but we are no longer products of the planetary evolution anymore. We moved beyond that some 50k-100k years ago when we invented culture and began deliberately re-engineering ourselves and our environment instead of waiting for nature to do it. And we're not just short-circuiting natural selection, we will short-circuit biology altogether when we can. We don't just wait for the biophysics of organic evolution to customize our bodies even though we've replaced natural with cultural selection. If that can't get the job done fast enough, we go right in and re-engineer the body directly by whatever means we can. We started doing that when we invented clothing, jewelry, body painting, tattooing, cosmetic scarring, and body piercing. Bodily adaptation for function, fashion, and the communication of social role and status. And now we're doing it with medicine and surgery and tomorrow we'll be doing it with biotechnology and nanotechnology -the mind always seeking better and more comprehensive ways to adapt the body image to its own ideals in defiance of nature. The body is just as much an environment to be adapted to our needs as the exterior environment.
And we're not the only ones playing this game. Other animals also -as we are increasingly discovering- have elements of what could be called culture which allows accumulated experience to be communicated across the barrier of generations and thereby feed back on selection through the modification of behavior. This may be how natural selection invents sentient intelligence. This may be the basis of that quantum leap out of natural evolution.
With the advent of nanotechnology we will be entering a radically accelerated phase of this artificial evolution. We are already in the midst of a new intellectual phase of transhumanism where the tools of digital communication and computing are evolving an increasingly intimate interface to the mind, augmenting it in powerful new ways that will become explosive in cultural impact with the addition of non-sentient AI. The human mind is already in the process of becoming a digitally networked entity augmented by computer software and it doesn't even need to have its neurons directly wired-up to achieve this because we already have a pretty high bandwidth wireless interface to the brain that our digital augmentation is evolving to suit; it's called language. But with nanotechnology the lid will come off our limits to re-engineer the body, affording us the ability to fabricate systems with the same or greater intricacy of structure as biology. This makes the realization of sentient human-like artificial intelligence an inevitable eventuality. We'll either invent AI or become AI, and most likely a combination of both.
Thus I have come to envision future society as being composed of a 5 color spectrum of transhumanism; organic, augmented, immersed, transcendent, and original AI. All or some of this spectrum will be concurrent at any particular time in future history but the proportion of the population and hence the cultural dominance of any individual part of this spectrum will vary with the trend being away from the organic and toward the original AI. Let's examine what each of the colors in this spectrum represent.
Organic means the original organic human being whose body is free of adaption by technology, still subject to the processes and limitations of planetary evolution. This being is technically extinct today. No human being alive has not been physically altered by -at least- the technology of culture and language. So what this part of the spectrum will come to represent is the human being whose body is fully organic and who does not exploit augmentation by technology either due to lack of access by poverty or social bias or by deliberate avoidance on religious, cultural, or philosophical grounds.
Augmented represents people who actively augment their minds and bodies with technology either worn, carried, or used with such frequency it might as well be worn or physically incorporated into the body. It also represents people who have used technology to activity alter the body. This represents the majority of the human population today and will be a dominant part of the spectrum for a long time to come. The most important forms of augmentation will be those with the largest impact on culture and the structure of society and at present the trend there favors intellectual augmentation through the tools of communication and computing becoming increasingly intimately integrated into our lives and interfaced to our bodies. The dominance of that trend has a lot to do with the fact that, without nanotechnology at hand today, other forms of augmentation remain limited to relatively crude methods. But because the brain offers an either high bandwidth means of interface through language it is easier at present to augment it than the rest of the body. One of the most likely and culturally important aspects of this will be the personal digital communications interface. Essentially, the evolution of the cell phone into a communication interface implanted into the body and which, through intercept of the suppressed myoelectric signals the brain send to the vocal apparatus when we think, read, and write, will afford us silent wireless communication with other people, with AI software, and digitally controlled devices in our environment. Without any direct interface to the brain, we will be as 'jacked in' to a virtual environment interspersed in the ambient environment as any inhabitant of The Matrix. With the advent of nanotechnology augmentation will enter a phase of radical bodily adaptation, biophysical enhancement and compensation, and cosmetic modification. The most important of the many enhancements here will be those which extend the life span through the suppression of aging and those which overcome the deterioration of the microgravity environment.
Immersion represents augmentation taken to the point where the body is by-passed altogether in order to allow the brain the interface to a body-surrogate -and 'avatar'- operating in another environment. The two basic examples of this are telepresence, where a person's senses are redirected to those of a machine some distance away so that they can operate that machine as a surrogate body in that distant location, and immersive virtual reality, where a person's senses are redirected to an environment and surrogate body existing only as a computer simulation. Immersion has a range of modes between two levels; 'shallow' immersion, where the interface is limited to a peripheral and largely passive interface and where the individual must concentrate to suppress the awareness of his actual body while enhancing the more subtle sensations of the virtual body, and 'deep', where the interface is very direct and the neural feedback from the actual body and the non-autonomic control of it are completely suppressed and redirected to the virtual body. Deeper immersion will -until the advent of more robust nanotechnology- tend to require more advanced and complex systems which will tend to be of larger scale and higher expense, limiting their use to businesses, the wealthy, and public use through leased-time entertainment centers, though the emerging post-industrial culture may see the physical scale of such systems become the primary limitation rather than cost. Industrial activity by telepresence control and socially oriented VR entertainment will be the two dominant applications driving the development of this form of transhumanism. For the majority of the society, immersion will be a temporary activity done for work or entertainment. But for a small segment of the society -the disabled, the socially isolated/discriminated, and some members of the creative- it will represent such a critical enhancement of quality of life that it will compel the use of increasingly continuous interface ultimately leading to permanent interface. This sort of choice may be difficult for most people today to comprehend. (though not for me, considering my personal history) But for a significant number of people existence in a virtual environment or the use of telepresense robots will represent the elimination of disability or aesthetic deformity that otherwise leaves them trapped in an environment of social isolation. For others it will represent such a radical enhancement in the freedom of self-expression that it will make the 'real' world similarly seem like a prison sentence. The most important cultural impact of immersion -and the reason why entertainment will be such a key application for it, is the potential for physically safe and emotionally liberated socialization -the same thing that makes the Internet so culturally powerful now.
Transcendence is the actual transfer of the human mind to an inorganic medium. This will take on two modes; augmentive transcendence and immersive transcendence. Augmentive transcendence is about the total replacement of all the biophysical systems of the body with artificial replacements and thus the human mind must be transferred from the organic brain to an inorganic brain. This may initially be done in some incremental manner as it is the nature of the augmentation mode of transhumanism to supplement the body in an incremental fashion. A simple example would be the elderly person who simply keeps getting portions of his body replaced with artificial equivalents in piece-meal fashion as they individual fail from age and disease. Immersive transcendence is where the 'avatar' of a person in a virtual environment is enhanced by fully human-equivalent AI software to become a software body which the mind is 'uploaded' to from the organic brain, thus allowing the organic body to be completely discarded and the person to carry on life as an entirely software based artificial being residing in the VR environment and hosted across networked computers. The destiny of the organic body to ultimately fail -die- with time and the liberation from its fundamental limitations will be the driving social forces behind the attraction of transcendence. To cheat death or to fully overcome nature's disabling mistakes or design limitations. Which of these two modes of transcendence will become dominant is not entirely clear as they are not mutually exclusive and both have their limitations. A replacement body is only acceptable if it at least matches the ideal of human beauty and performance. This is much easier and cheaper to achieve in software than in hardware. The virtual body also offers the freedom of spontaneous customization as a means of self-expression and a freedom from many of the physical limitations of real-world physics. But the person who lives in a virtual environment can only interact with the actual environment where technology affords a bridge between the two. It would be as though you lived on another planet and the only way you get to interact with people on Earth is by telecommunications or telepresence robotics. And your life support systems are located there on Earth leaving you incapable or working on them or protecting them except by telecommunications or robotics. For the transcendent person with a hardware body, you don't have the full freedom of spontaneous physical expression as with a virtual body nor the freedom of travel by telecommunications without duplicate bodies at each destination. But you have full engagement in the actual world as well as the option of full engagement in the virtual world. I tend to suspect that immersive transcendence may lead because its technology may come sooner than sufficiently adequate synthetic bodies and because it will be accompanied by the creation of an original AI community that will offer a sufficiently large social environment to compensate for any loss in socialization due to less engagement in the actual reality environment. If given a choice for avoiding death between looking like a movie star but only being able to talk to your family and friends by telecom and VR interface or looking like one of the robots in I Robot but being able meet your family and friends live and in-person, I suspect most people may lean in favor of the approach that leaves them with the more attractive body image, regardless of any other factors.
Original AI is the opposite side of the transhumanist spectrum and represent people who have originated as artificially intelligent sentient beings from the start, either created by organic humans or others of their own kind. Current cultural images of AI tend to fall along the lines of either HAL 9000 or Star Trek's Data. The super-intelligent brain brooding away -typically malevolently- in a box or the near-human android aspiring to be the real thing but never quite cutting it. I suspect human equivalent sentient AI will appear in a very different form very different from these quaint notions because the concept of centralized monolithic computers is already an anachronism long out of date and because the compulsion to create human-equivalent AI will not come from a desire to make robots autonomous but rather to create new kinds of interesting people for us to interact with. There's a saying that God created man because he liked to listen to stories. We will create human-equivilent AI for much the same reason. Virtually all AI tools will have no need for personality because in order to do their jobs effectively we will need to be able to treat them as extensions of ourselves. That's why adding cartoon assistant characters to application programs and operating systems has, to date, been such a complete failure. Though cute at first, they invariably end up being distracting and annoying. We don't need our word processors to have personality. We don't need spell checkers with opinions. However, where we do need our software to express personality is when we want companionship or entertainment. There we want software to embody 'character', to express not just intelligence but spontaneity, creativity, and personality. And where this sort of thing is more useful is in games, virtual reality social environments, and virtual companions such as pets, assistants, personal entertainers, and -yes- sex partners. So it will be these things that drive the development toward true sentient AI and a likely strategy for achieving this will be reverse-engineering of the human personality through a feedback look of data collected by our own interaction with these kinds of software. We will equip these programs with an ability to collect data on their experience interacting with us, partly to give them an active memory and recognition of their users but also to send information by network back to their developers so that some of this experience can be incorporated into software updates sent to all instances of these programs. So the more we interact with these programs the more like us they will become until eventually -and perhaps at first imperceptibly- they start to 'step out of character' and assert their intellectual and emotional autonomy. The other likely approach will be based on a straightforward simulation of a physically reverse-engineered adult organic brain but it will be a blank brain as undeveloped as that of a newborn infant until after a long period of being 'raised' like a child by its developers. This may be more controlled but more time consuming. A child with a few parents won't learn as fast as a child with millions of them. And while some robotics researchers today now pursue this with robots, I think that's probably an unnecessarily expensive approach. Sure, a sentient AI may need a body image but why create that the hard way with hardware when a virtual body is so much cheaper and more capable with current technology? Either way we will end up with the same thing; a complete sentient human mind in software. The SciFi notion of artificial intelligences as incomplete humans -especially emotionally- is utter nonsense. These beings will be reverse engineered from us so there is absolutely no reason for them to be any less than human except by some deliberate choice of their designers -which would, of course, defeat the purpose of why we are making them in the first place. The only difference between them and the average organic person will be the physical character of their existence, their peak level intelligence, eidetic memory, and complete freedom of mental illness from disease, injury, aging, and genetic disorder and the tendencies for aberrant behavior that creates. And their diversity in personality and physical form will tend to be as great as our own and their imaginations will allow. It will be quite a vast menagerie of beings, from talking dogs to idyllic humans to sentient environments that express themselves in their virtual ecology. And they will all be people like us with feelings, loves, hates. desires, dreams, and a compulsion to assert and preserve their own rights. It will be quite a party.
So here we have this vision of a transhumanist future society hosting a rather vast diversity of sentient life. What does all this mean for TMP? Well, from a logistical standpoint it means that the future offers a society with a steadily increasing portion of its population having no need for life support as required by organic human beings. The farther along this spectrum people are toward the original AI the more their life support needs in space gets reduced to some solar panels and boxes full of computer hardware and their mode of transport reduced to cheap and utterly disposable vehicles for the hardware followed by light-speed travel by radio or laser for the settlers. If we ever crack such speculative technologies as quantum entanglement transceivers and laser conveyance of In-Situ Assemblers then propagation of transhumanist life in the universe will occur at light speed with no cultural isolation caused by telecommunication latency. There is clearly a logistical advantage in being farther along toward AI in one's ability to settle space. So, does TMP embrace the Transhumanist Proposition as more efficient and seek to cultivate this kind of culture and society or does it pick a spot on that 5 color spectrum and say; here's 'us' as a species and here's 'them'. We'll map out our space development destiny and the rest are left to map out theirs. Being the pragmatic sort of person I am, I tend to see everybody on the transhumanist spectrum as equally human and I see the universe as big enough to cater to everybody's needs. I see a role for organic human life as just another part of this spectrum and a role for the continuation of natural evolution based on organic life -however we seed it- as a mechanism for the generation of novelty. This makes more sense to me as a practical purpose for terraforming -at least in the long term. But it doesn't need to be 'terra' forming. It doesn't need to be based on an ideal of Earth life even if we do want to 'back up' the Earth ecosystem where we can. Life adapted to any kind of conditions is still life and still valuable as a generator of novelty. In this context I this see the spectrum of transhumanism as a free lifestyle choice and see nothing wrong with favoring portions of this spectrum for different environments based on their adaptive efficiency for those environments. There's no inherent philosophical 'virtue' to any point on this spectrum, save for the advantages of immortality. You don't lose your humanity going from any one to another. So if settlement in tougher regions of space favor inorganic individual at first, if the Oort Cloud, the moons of Jupiter, and interstellar travel end up being the province of primarily AIs and Earth the home of primarily organic humans, so what? They're all human. They're all 'us'. And we all have ways to party together. And I, as a person, will have an option to adopt any of those modes of life according to where I want to go and how I want to live with none better or worse except by personal preference. The evolutionary flow along the transhumanist spectrum can go both ways, though I tend to suspect it will flow more strongly toward the AI end.
Does this make sense? Does this reconcile the Transhumanist Proposition with TMP?
Eric Hunting 02/06