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3 Reasons Why We Haven’t Conquered Space Yet, #3: Show Me the Money!

Thursday, April 16th, 2015 - by Karina Fabian

An excursion to the New World cost a proverbial handful of jewels, but a trip to the Strange New World of space could cost as much as the GNP of a small nation. That’s more than most people or investors are willing to risk – and Kickstarters can only go so far. Space is an industry for the already rich.

Oh, but the potential for enormous profits! You’ll hear articles and magazines talk about how one platinum-rich asteroid or moon mine can bring in riches galore, but they can be misleading.

 

To 3He or Not to 3He: Helium-3 and Nuclear Power

Helium-3 is a light, non-radioactive isotope of helium with two protons and one neutron. It’s potentially valuable for nuclear fusion, because you can combine it with Deuterium to create nuclear fusion. Nuclear fusion, as opposed to nuclear fission, would be a clean and efficient form of energy – if we can make it work. (More on that later.) While deuterium is abundant enough in Earth’s oceans, helium-3 (or 3He) is nearly non-existent, and we don’t have an especially viable substitute. However, 3He is prevalent on the moon. Visionaries claim that the moon could provide clean energy and further mankind’s technological progress.

Unfortunately, with every great vision comes hard reality. The promises of 3He mining are challenged by the economic realities of extracting it and finding a market.

First, the abundance and effectiveness of helium-3 mining is questionable. As a standard, let’s use the Artemis project estimate that 25 tonnes of 3He (25,000 kilograms) could theoretically power the US for a single year. A recent paper by Ian A. Crawford of the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at the University of London looked over the studies done on the concentration of 3He on the moon, and found it’s concentration in the lunar regolith to be between 4 and 20 parts per billion, depending on where you mine. That means you need to mine 1000 kilograms of regolith to get a single gram of helium-3. Then, in order to harvest the 3He along with other solar-impacted isotopes, you need to heat the regolith to 600 degrees Celsius. This calls for a huge initial investment in infrastructure.

An additional challenge is the attitude about what form Earth energy industries should take. Politically and popularly, renewable energies are the favored direction. Nuclear energy, even the potentially clean and efficient nuclear fusion, is not renewable. Crawford himself describes helium-3 as a “fossil fuel” despite the fact that the sun continually generates it naturally. The astronomer-turned-planetary-scientist told Space News that the investment required and infrastructure needed is enormous and might better be used to develop “genuinely renewable energy sources on Earth.” This attitude could make it hard for space entrepreneurs to find investors, particularly if there’s no established market yet.

 

Nuclear fusion generators have been the holy grail of nuclear science since the 1960s. The idea of nuclear energy is that when certain atoms break apart (fission) or band together (fusion), they release great amounts of energy. If the energy can be harnessed, you have an effective source of energy. We can bust apart atoms easily, but fusing them takes more pressure and heat than we can effectively sustain without a huge investment of space, money and time – and we still don’t get a payoff worth the investment. As Steve Crowly, director of the Culham Centre for Fusion Energy told Popular Mechanics in 2013: “For $25 billion, I could build you a working reactor. It would be big, and maybe not very reliable, but 25 years ago, we didn’t know we’d be able to make fusion work. Now, the only question is whether we’ll be able to make it affordable.”

Lockheed Martin said in October 2014 that is has had a breakthrough that will allow it to do just that – but physicists are skeptical in the absence of hard evidence, which the company has not yet provided.  Lock-Mart is using deuterium and tritium for its fusion, but it may provide a market for 3He, if it can prove its technology and if other companies can recreate it.

 

Flooding the Market with Rock: Will Asteroid Mining Bring a Boom or a Bust?

A more secure market comes with asteroid mining. Many asteroids contain useful and sometimes rare minerals that are already in use and demand here on earth, such as gold and platinum. Companies like Deep Space Industries and Planetary Resources are looking at the most effective and cost effective way to mine asteroids. NASA has estimated the cost of a capture and return mission at $2.6 billion dollars. According to Asterank, a database of over 600,000 asteroids, the most cost effective asteroids bring a profit of $1.4 billion to $1.25 trillion. These are the kind of numbers that give enterpreneurs hope.

However, they assume a stable market for the metal in question. Historically, if you flood the market with a commodity, the price goes down. An article in the Economist notes that even a doubling of a supply of a mineral such as platinum might lower the price so much that the company no longer profits. And when one 150-mile asteroid can contain as much platinum as is mined on Earth in a year, it’s possible that the market might crash under the influx.

That’s not to say we shouldn’t do it, anyway, but companies need to carefully consider their economic models. They may not see the short-term massive profits that many people consider a lure.

 

So Why Do It?

We are no more doomed to being stuck on the Earth than the Old World was to remain on the shores of Europe and Asia. In some ways, we have an advantage: we know what’s out there, and we know the challenges. Space holds great benefits for humankind once we master its challenges and tap its resources.

“I believe that space travel will one day become as common as airline travel is today. I’m convinced, however, that the true future of space travel does not lie with government agencies — NASA is still obsessed with the idea that the primary purpose of the space program is science — but real progress will come from private companies competing to provide the ultimate adventure ride, and NASA will receive the trickle-down benefits.”  – Buzz Aldrin

As we can access space resources, we will see benefits. A supply of helium-3 will make fusion research much easier. Even if the market falls out on platinum or other rare elements, their newfound commonality will open the way for other uses, just as it did for aluminum. But even more, if we ever want to have a sustainable, growing manned presence outside our atmosphere, we need to have established access to these resources. Right now, the biggest expense for anything having to do with space is getting the materials off the Earth. If we can establish industry outside our gravity well, our space exploration can truly take off.

Even now, visionary men and women are forging ahead to make the dream of conquering space a reality. They are pushing the boundaries of law as well as those of science. They will build new economic models along with technological ones. Unlike in Columbus’ day, however, it will take more than the sponsorship of a queen to make their mission a go. We need to offer our support, from letting our political leaders know space is a priority to joining in the economic challenges to accepting the risks involved in this dangerous adventure – and in instilling that sense of adventure in our children. Only then will we leave the home port of Earth and sail the starry skies.

And with any luck, there will be Dragons – at least, if Elon Musk has his way.

******

image illustration via shutterstock / 

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Profit from a Glimpse of TomorrowLand

Thursday, April 16th, 2015 - by Walter Hudson

This featurette evoking the creative futurism of Walt Disney, which took one form in his Epcot Center and will take another in this year’s feature film Tomorrowland, reminds us how vast the entrepreneur’s vision truly was. He clung to an optimistic view of the future where urban planning would improve the quality of life for new generations.

When we consider such past visions of the future, like that of 2015 imagined in 1989’s Back to the Future, Part II, we clearly see how much they deviate from our modern reality.

Why is it so difficult to predict future developments, and what lesson should we take away from that observation? Technology futurist Daniel Burrus relates in the clip below how we tend to focus on the wrong things when predicting the future. He provides some insights into how to focus on the right things, and profit from it.

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3 Reasons Why We Haven’t Conquered Space Yet, #2: Safety Third

Thursday, April 9th, 2015 - by Karina Fabian

Space, Liability and Government Regulation

When the first explorers set out to the New World, they knew some of them would not return. People would die and ships would sink. Later, as we developed new technology, we knew jets would blow up and trains crash as we figured out the technology. We accepted danger as the price of progress.

Nowadays, we’re less likely to accept that risk.

A company working in tandem with the US government will find itself tied to the government’s regulations and caution. Thus, a destructive error could mean the company’s space efforts will be stalled, maybe even for years. Before each shuttle disaster, the program had had 20 or more successful missions (25 before Challenger and 87 between Challenger and Colombia). Nonetheless, the Challenger and Columbia disasters each halted the space shuttle program for over two years. Imagine a business being forced to delay operations that long because of a malfunction.

Even without a failure to slow operations, there may be delays. SpaceX, working with NASA, launched the Dragon resupply capsule in May 2012. SpaceX founder Elon Musk then predicted having a crew-ready capsule by 2014 based on the resupply vehicle, but it had to undergo a redesign to meet government safety regulations, and is now slated for a 2017 launch.

Private companies operating on their own will nonetheless have to concern themselves with government regulation, and the possibility of government control. The 1967 Outer Space Treaty, launching nations are responsible for the space activities of the equipment they send into space. That could mean that if a US-launched company causes a disaster with its space-exploration activities, the US is liable for damages. This is affirmed in the Liability Convention of 1973. Already, space businesses doing launch have extensive liability agreements with the launching nation, but so far, we’ve only had to deal with machines. How will the picture change when human lives are at stake?

We may find out this year. On Halloween 2014, Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo was destroyed in a test flight. Virgin Galactic is nonetheless planning to test the second SpaceShipTwo and build a third, but as agreed it will make any modifications recommended by the government investigation. Even though the National Transportation Safety Board has determined the crash was caused by co-pilot error, it has also said it may need up to nine more months to finish its investigation and make recommendations.

OSHA in Space

Virgin Galactic is only concerned with suborbital flights, and with its current motor configurations, it will not cross the Karman line, the “designated barrier” between atmosphere and outer space. Crossing this line is where flyers become astronauts, even if Virgin Galactic ever gets past this line, its passengers will receive more of an honorary designation of “astronaut” than a practical one. What issues will companies face for those astronauts who will not only cross the Karman Line, but live and work beyond it?

Naturally, the technical issues of safety are huge. Terrestrial dangers aside, a malfunction or human error in space can mean the life-threatening loss of oxygen or heat. Even when all goes well, there is still the matter of radiation, micrometeoroids – even space trash.

In short, even when we’ve successfully and safely gotten Out There, we still have a lot of dangers to contend with. However, the modern world isn’t as comfortable with taking risks, anymore. From mandatory seatbelts to OSHA regulations, we have rules to enforce safe operations. At some point, however, those regulations may strangle our push into space.

One example is the 3% REID rule set by OSHA for astronauts. In 1982, OSHA declared astronauts were radiation workers, and thus employers must protect them from the dangers of ionizing radiation, which can cause death through severe internal damage or by the causing cancer. The standards were set by OSHA for earth-bound workers such as those in nuclear plants. While NASA has a waiver that makes allowances for the space environment, it is still low: an astronaut cannot be exposed to more radiation than may cause a 3% risk of exposer-induced death (REID) over the course of their career. NASA has further limitations, because long-term exposure can cause cancer.

First, that’s a very low risk factor. Crew members on the space station will receive that much exposure in six months on the ISS if those six months are during low-radiation times. Imagine a space industry where the employees can only spend six months in space in their entire careers. As it is, one of the major stalls to a manned Mars mission is the fact that we cannot create shielding strong enough to ensure this low a risk rate that is still light enough to get the ship into orbit. We may have to make a choice: find a way to waive the #5 REID rule or wait until we can develop the shield technology.

Now, let’s add some more complexity: It turns out there is a difference between men and women, after all. Women cannot handle as much radiation exposure as men. Will companies be forced to discriminate? Will women have to have special suits, designated habitats, and limited assignments in order to keep them from too much exposure? Will we up the safety bar for men, thus putting more limits on what we do in space, or will we allow women to accept the increased risk?

Finally, one more issue to deal with. The Outer Space Treaty could be interpreted to mean launching nations are responsible for the company’s ensuring safe operations in space – at least where the equipment it launched is concerned. This gets even more fun if we consider that one company may launch different components from different nations. You could work on a station whose habitats were launched from Florida, French Gianna, and China. Who regulates safety for the station as a whole? Since we’ve not had any commercial manned missions, no one has thought about whether that means a company must follow the worker safety regulations of its “home” nation, its launching nation, or both. Perhaps an international standard is the answer.

Is It Just About Regulations?

This article framed the safety issues in terms of liability and law, but the fact is, public attitude reflects and drives our laws. Our rules decry “Safety First!” because our society has not only made safety the most important thing, but also holds employers and companies responsible. There are individuals who are willing to take the great risks. We, as a society and as a governing body, must find a balance between safety and enterprise. Perhaps Safety is Third, after all.

Next Week’s Conclusion: 3 Reasons Why We Haven’t Conquered Space Yet, #3: Show Me the Money

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Must We Keep Citing 1984? The Case Against Orwell in 2015

Thursday, April 2nd, 2015 - by Kia Heavey

One thing that should be obvious by now is that the name “Conservative” no longer fits the modern American pro-freedom movement. The establishment has been so thoroughly corrupted and rotted by Progressivism’s long march that only the most zealous leftist can argue against the need for corrective change. Indeed, the most common conflict in Conservatarian chatrooms these days is whether to continue working within the system by reclaiming the Republican Party or go all-out revolutionary and tear it down because it is damaged beyond repair. In any event, our eyes are fixed firmly on the future.

Why, then, do we continue to point backward to a book written in the 1940s by a European citizen as the most apt cautionary tale for America today?

1984 pioneered the dystopia genre and is a prototype of literary resistance to leftist oppression. But is it the right dystopia for America in the new millennium? While the defining features of fascism are fixed, the details of its encroachment on modern American soil are a different story.

Orwell wrote from a European perspective and was unfamiliar with the concept of constitutionally-protected free speech. In the England of 1984, The Party dictated that Newspeak replace English. But in the U.S., the government is expressly prohibited from suppressing speech. To get around this, American Progressives employ cultural pressure to revise language (and thus, thought). Cultural institutions such as education, entertainment, and publishing have given themselves willingly to the Left, and they effect language changes through diffuse social pressures. Weekly hashtags inform us which words we must no longer use, while grievance groups crank out new jargon that erodes society’s standards. In the U.S., the government simply follows along.

Orwell’s derision of the “Proles” also smacks of European-style aristocratic elitism, and is actually offensive to Americans. The United States does not have “Proles.” We have free citizens who make of their lives what they will, and no one is inherently better than anyone else. In 1984, the Party doesn’t even bother to monitor the Proles, as they pose no threat to the system. When Winston Smith interviews an older prole to learn about the past, the man proves to be a useless idiot. But in the U.S., those who choose to perform their daily labors and raise their families without government interference are certainly not weak-minded and unimportant. These are the very people the Left works so hard to demonize and suppress by demanding they check their privilege and twisting basic education to smear them as worthy of destruction. The so-called “Proles” are actually the people the American Left most fears.

Orwell also flubbed the official Party stance endorsing chastity and purity. The current U.S. government position is the exact opposite, and has been a depressingly effective tool with which to batter Christians and others who hold to time-tested truths. As far as our government is concerned, no practice or preference is so abhorrent that it shouldn’t be celebrated and taxpayer-funded. The Left uses this principle to purge the military, the government and its agents, big education, corporate leaders, and society in general of tiresome Conservatives. Any politician who espouses chastity and traditional mores is mocked and scorned and denied a position of power. An official moral stance like the one in 1984 would actually boost the morale of America’s traditionalists, and is therefore unheard of.

Yet although 1984 is clearly not a great fit for our current situation, we still turn back to it again and again. Perhaps our knee-jerk citations of Orwell’s book are emblematic of a larger issue. Can it be that dystopia has run its course?

Dystopia is a crucial genre for showing us the future if we continue down the path we’re on. From 1984 and its post WWII cohorts, to the pod people and alien invaders of the Communism-leery 1950’s, to the devastated sci-fi landscapes of 70’s and 80’s movies, to recent YA giants like The Giver and The Hunger Games and even  today’s explosion of indie fiction, dystopia has dutifully served its purpose many times over. It has painted the future as a horrible place. Consider us warned and warned again.

Although the genre has been invaluable in showing us what the danger is, that is all it does. Its greatest limitation is that it does not give us the solution.

Which brings me to a modest proposal: perhaps it’s time for the creative right to kick our dystopia habit.

Enough with the doom and gloom. Everyone has felt oppressed, impoverished, and insecure long enough – there’s a reason they call it a “depression” – and what is needed now are stories that uplift and show the way forward.

No, I am not suggesting that we become the new purveyors of utopia. Snake oil futures are a propaganda pillar of the Left’s slog towards totalitarianism. Anyone who can still think critically knows that unicorns and rainbows will never be enough to allow people to work nine months of the year, retire at 50, and still live a life of affluence. The Left claims utopia is just around the corner because they are in denial of basic truths: power corrupts, rights are granted by the creator (or Creator, if you prefer), and nature’s law is absolute. Our vision of the future will differ from the Progressive lie because ours is informed by timeless truths, and is therefore possible.

Unfortunately, when searching for the way forward, Conservatives do tend to look back. In 1984, Winston Smith turns to the simple lifestyle of the past for comfort. He fetishizes an antique glass paperweight that represents a freer time when people had liberty to create items for beauty and pleasure. He rents an apartment in the Prole part of town, where he and his lover may nap in an old bed, heat water for real coffee on a gas ring, read books, and escape the ever-present telescreens of modern life. They are happy there because they are able to escape backwards in time.

Modern rebels must break this addiction to looking backward for the way forward. There is an old American Indian saying: if you want to steer your own canoe, you must paddle faster than the current. We must harness our uncorrupted imaginations to the task of envisioning how inalienable truths would play out in a desirable future society. Let us be the ones to show the world what a good future looks like.

Let’s world-build in a spirit of optimism once again. Let’s dream of new technologies and ever-improving lifestyles like we used to.

Let’s create an entrepreneur who establishes an organization that employs people and improves lives. Perhaps a brilliant scientist develops a wonderful invention with private investors and without interference. Citizens might freely make contracts among themselves. Couples could fall in love and marry and raise their children as they see fit. Maybe a religious baker respectfully refuses to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple, and the gay couple respectfully takes their business elsewhere and gets a fabulous cake anyway, and everyone gets the hell over it.

Let’s envision a future where principles that are timeless and not merely conservative rule the day: freedom, individual sovereignty, self-reliance, personal responsibility, love in all its forms, and respect for one another. These values served us well in the past and they will serve us well in the future. We have only to show the way. Millions of dispirited Americans are waiting to feel inspired again.

And once a positive, desirable vision of the future is widespread, people will know what they want (rather than only what they fear). Best of all, those who oppose this positive future will be revealed as the hateful, anti-progress, bitter clingers who are stuck in the past.

Let us be the side that stands for positivity and possibility. Nihilism and despair are the cultural tools of the left. 1984 is ultimately the wrong story for our times because, in the end, the totalitarian collective wins. That’s not the future we should create.

******

Image: 1984 Penguin books reissued cover via here.

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What Are The Greatest Science Fiction Stories of the 1950s?

Wednesday, March 18th, 2015 - by Pierre Comtois

Editor’s Note: Check out the previous installments in Pierre’s series exploring the development of science fiction by decade: The 10 Most Influential Science Fiction Stories of the 1910sThe 10 Most Influential Science Fiction Stories of the 1920s,  The Most Important, Visionary Science Fiction Stories of the 1930s, and What Were the Most Significant Science Fiction Stories of the 1940s?

Although the decade of the 1940s is rightly referred to as the golden age of science fiction, the 1950s were hardly less so given the heady mix of veteran authors and new writers of the next generation. Cordwainer Smith, Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, Robert A. Heinlein, A.E. Van Vogt, and Arthur C. Clark would all continue to produce new stories, each one it seemed, destined to be a classic in the field.

Meanwhile, new writers like Roger Zelazny, Harlan Ellison, Frank Herbert, Philip K. Dick, John Brunner, Richard Matheson, Harry Harrison, and Brian Aldiss would all have their first stories published in the 1950s, many pointing away from the hard science that occupied the attention of their predecessors and toward the social sciences that would concern much of SF in the next decade.

But that was still years in the future. At the start of the 1950s, outer space and other planets and alien life forms were still the primary concern of science fiction with a surprising amount of it finding its way onto celluloid with impressive adaptations of stories like Joseph W. Campbell’s “Who Goes There?” as The Thing From Another World and Harry Bates’ “Farewell to the Master” as The Day the Earth Stood Still, both from 1951.

Jack Finney’s The Body Snatchers, filmed as The Invasion of the Body Snatchers in 1956, and H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds came in 1953. Robert A. Heinlein’s “Rocketship Galileo” filmed as Destination Moon arrived in 1950 and 1955 offered This Island Earth, based on the novel of the same name by Raymond F. Jones.

Then there were the films based on original treatments by established SF authors such as Heinlein’s Project Moonbase and Bradbury’s It Came From Outer Space.

Finally, such impressive films as Forbidden Planet, with no visible connection with any established science fiction writer, seemed to prove that Hollywood, if not the rest of the world outside the small pond of literary SF, was finally getting it.

The Demise of Pulp Magazines

At the same time, the seedbed of modern science fiction, the pulp magazine, was becoming a vanishing breed. Its demise was determined, at first with increased cancellations of such venerable magazines as Thrilling Wonder Stories and Startling Stories, and then their shrinking dimensions and page count, and finally the triumph of the paperback original that restored the primacy of the novel over the short story.

At first, SF writers began by collecting and interconnecting short stories or expanding serials they’d written for the magazines to fill out the pages needed for paperback publication, but, by the end of the decade, they were choosing to write original novels intended for first publication directly as paperbacks.

The trend would signal the end of the SF magazine’s place at the center of the science fiction movement and eventually relegated them to backwater status. Established writers would soon dominate the limited page count in an ever-decreasing number of magazines leaving far less room than in previous years for new writers to establish themselves.

In the new world of paperback books, SF veteran A.E. Van Vogt led the charge in 1950 with The Voyage of the Space Beagle, a groundbreaking novel composed of four previously published short stories. It follows the adventures of a huge ship on a deep-space exploratory mission and the philosophical and political battles that take place among the crew.

The next year, John Wyndham’s apocalyptic Day of the Triffids was released in the United States. It tells the tale of a world where everyone is blinded by a meteor shower while having to deal with rampaging carnivorous plants called triffids. Its end-of-the-world setting inspired a whole sub-genre of disaster stories dealing with everything from the earth falling into the sun to earthquakes to out of control grass!

Following in Van Vogt’s footsteps, Ray Bradbury also took a number of previously published stories and debuted The Martian Chronicles in 1950 but it wasn’t until 1953 that his first original novel appeared (and arguably the one that made him a household name): Fahrenheit 451. Based on a number of previously published stories, the novel was nevertheless a paperback original about a dystopian future in which books were banned and firemen were assigned to burn them wherever they were found.

Also published in 1953 was Bring the Jubilee by Ward Moore. Influential as one of the first of the alternate history sub-genre that would become hugely popular in later decades, Moore’s book is about Hodge Backmaker who lives in a world where the Confederacy won the Civil War. Managing to travel back in time, he revisits Gettysburg, the scene of the South’s greatest victory. But in arriving in the past, Backmaker changes history and becomes stranded in the new timeline: our own!

After building a reputation as a short story writer, up-and-comer Richard Matheson broke through into novels early with 1954′s I Am Legend. Adapted into film at least three times, and arguably the inspiration for the end of the world zombie fad that has swept movies and television, the book details a future in which everyone on Earth has turned into a vampire except Robert Neville. Eventually, Neville is captured by the vampires who are evolving into a new race who resent and fear him. Preparing for his death, Neville comes to the realization that as the last surviving human on Earth, he has become a legend to its inheritors.

Perhaps not strictly SF, the setting of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged (published in 1957) takes place in the near future as America’s industrialists are hounded from society by an oppressive government to wait within a secret sanctuary for the day when society falls apart and their talents for invention and organization are needed again.

Concurrent with science fiction’s breakout into book publication, magazine SF was still a going concern through most of the 1950s even as many titles began to shrink to digest size towards the end of the decade. There, many of the authors who have since become giants in the field continued to hone their craft and offer their readers incredible worlds of imagination.

Among them was Alfred Bester whose “Demolished Man” was serialized in Galaxy Magazine in 1952. Again, hugely influential, its tale of murder in a world where the police can read minds was followed in 1956 by the author’s next big entry, “The Stars My Destination.”

Also serialized, this time in 1955 issues of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, was Walter M. Miller’s “A Canticle For Leibowitz,” a tale of an apocalyptic future wherein the monks of the Albertian Order of Liebowitz work to preserve knowledge of the past through a new Dark Age.

What all of these serials have in common is that they were eventually gathered into novel format as was true for Robert A. Heinlein’s “Starship Soldier.” First published in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction in 1959 and eventually gathered between covers as the better known Starship Troopers.

But all good things come to an end and the conclusion of classical SF was in sight as the 1960s dawned and a new breed of writers would emerge with different concerns than their elders from the golden age. They would set the stage for the eventual fragmentation, watering down, and dissolution of the field resulting in its being overrun by fantasy, television adaptations, endless book series, and space Marine warfare. With few exceptions, the great, mind-blowing ideas that had marked SF’s rise in the 1940s and 50s would come less frequently and then eventually just come to a halt.

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The Future of Civilized Society: One World

Thursday, March 12th, 2015 - by Mark Ellis

See Frank J. Fleming opening the discussion: “

In more dystopian moods, it is easy to agree with David Gelernter and other esteemed analysts that the future of civilized society moves away from nationalism and toward globalism.

Even when in a hopeful frame of mind, it is hard to see a future where borders demark true nations, cultures differentiate, and international relationships of enmity, accord, and alliance in constant flux survive the One World homogenization of humankind.

H.G. Wells’ prescient novel The Time Machine can be interpreted instructively when envisioning a globalist world.

In Wells’ classic, grotesque Morlocks exchanged for their captive Eloi masses relative safety and equalitarian comfort, as prelude to a final solution (Elois as Morlock food).

With Morlocks at the top of a denationalized globe, everything will be on the One World table, and precious little will be on anyone else’s table.

On planet Earth in 2070, the nationalistic lifeblood of our species may well have been drained away by centralized, authoritarian governance.

With no meaningful borders, no nationalistic instincts surviving, the globe will be comprised of regionalized clumps of loosely aggregated peoples, who call a family home, and call a house home, but have no nation.  A planet of exiles, rootless but for the whims of procreation and geography.

Eskimos still populate the Arctic Circle, but they are less Native Americans than contemporary Cro-Magnons, with electric heat and Sno-cats, under the yoke of something so far distant as to be mythical—until you make the wrong move.

Frenchmen still revere the Eiffel Tower, Frenchmen-in-name-only.

As unchecked in-migration globalizes Europe from within, encircled Israel invites Jews to make pilgrimage to the seat of Judeo-Christianity, and the Third World overwhelms the United States, the last voices for nationalistic life on Earth will not simply become marginalized. They become Morlock food.

What is now the European Union becomes the Hemispheric Union, answerable to a World Union ruled by progressive, anti-nationalistic “states-people,” subversive Machiavellians, and grand planners like Jonathan Gruber. Three heroes of the history of the march to globalism: President Barack Obama, Obama Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett, and the aforementioned Gruber, to name a few.

For nationalist die-hards, “Going, Galt” will be an option-in-extremis.

Godless oligarchs, bolstered by globe-spanning enforcement arms, (let’s just call them Morlocks), will control markets, infrastructures, institutions, and the modes of inescapable surveillance. Pockets of resistance will come under the jurisdiction of entities with the power to bleed-out “neo-patriots” who opt to go down fighting for whatever flag they fly, on whatever hill they are willing to die on.

The panoply of national flags themselves becomes quaint memorabilia, emblematic of a time when humans organized themselves territorially under variant symbolic imagery. The stars and bars, as viewed by the enlightened group-think of the globalists, may well be presented in the history books (assuming Old Glory survives them) sans irony beside the Nazi swastika and the Soviet hammer and sickle.

All will be congregated under one image, brainstormed by the mid-millennial heirs of Gruber, vetted by committees for whom nationalistic identification has become a Neanderthal vestige, and unveiled by whatever alarming potentate or de facto death panel first mounts the throne of globalist dominance.

George Orwell’s 1984 triumvirate of Big Brother truths–war is peace, freedom is slavery, ignorance is strength–will break down like: There is only one real seat of power; regional conflicts are treated as tribal warfare, and allowed to play out or be snuffed out as befits the grand design. The only real wars, which won’t last long, will be when the World government moves to suppress forces that would restore a nationalistic society.

The truly free will be hunted, and the masses propagandized by the everlastingly repeated deconstruction of the old countries, as ancient now as cave paintings, and the everlastingly repeated atheist prayer that the New Order is the new illumination of life on Earth.

Ignorance is valued when religion falls and nation states die off. It will be deemed counterproductive to remember a time when a nation was something to pledge allegiance to, to fight for, and to love.

It is countercultural conservatism’s job, and the job of all patriots looking to preserve their countries, to keep an eagle-eye on the twin heralds of One World: multiculturalism and diversity.

There’s a difference between when global culture is being celebrated, and being foisted.

There is a place for the acknowledgement and even celebration of myriad world cultures, but there is no place for slick, subliminal messaging aimed at convincing us that the world is one big happy family, and that the best way to live life on Earth is to abandon the thought that there is anything special about our homelands.

End Times believers worry that the black hole of Revelations is nigh, and that the Return is imminent. (So, repent.) But even if unthinkable weapons are let loose by ancient enemies, God forbid, some globalists, like the underground Morlocks, will survive.

When they emerge from the rubble of the nation states, there will form a new consensus. That consensus will criminalize nationalism, abolish identification with all but one flag, and use Armageddon to justify the propagation of One World: “Imagine” devoid of John Lennon, without the national pride that the hungry Morlocks wiped off the face of the earth.

*****

Please join the discussion on Twitter. The essay above is the seventeenth in volume 2 of the cultural discussions between the writers of PJ Lifestyle and Liberty Island exploring the history of counter-cultures, the future of conservatism and the role of new, emerging counter-cultures in restoring American exceptionalism. Want to contribute? Check out the articles below, reach out, and lets brainstorm: @DaveSwindle

Volume II

  1. Frank J. Fleming on February 26, 2015: What Is the Future of Government? Why It Won’t Look Like Star Trek 
  2. Aaron C. Smith on February 26, 2015: What Is the Future of Superheroes? Why They Need To Start Killing Super-Villains
  3. Mark Ellis on February 26, 2016: What Is the Future of Gen-X Manhood? Adam Carolla Vs Chuck Palahniuk?
  4. David S. Bernstein on February 26, 2015: What is the Future of Fiction? You’ll Be Shocked Who’s Fighting the New Conservative Counter-Culture
  5. Aaron C. Smith on March 2, 2015: The House Loses: Why Season 3 of House of Cards Utterly Disappoints
  6. Michael Walsh on March 2: What the Left Doesn’t Get About Robert A. Heinlein
  7. Frank J. Fleming on March 3: 8 Frank Rules For How Not to Tweet
  8. Susan L.M. Goldberg on March 4: 7 Reasons Why Backstrom Is Perfect Counter-Culture Conservative TV
  9. Frank J. Fleming on March 5: What Is the Future of Religion?
  10. Aaron C. Smith on March 5: The Future of Religion: Why Judeo-Christian Values Are More Important Than Science
  11. Spencer Klavan on March 5: Not Religion’s Future: ISIS and the Art of Destruction
  12. Chris Queen on March 7: 5 Reasons Why Big Hero 6 Belongs Among The Pantheon Of Disney Classics
  13. Jon Bishop on March 8: Why I Am Catholic
  14. Frank J. Fleming on March 11: 6 Frank Tips For Being Funny On the Internet
  15. Becky Graebner on March 11: 5 Things I Learned In My First 6 Months As a Small Business Owner
  16. Frank J. Fleming on March 12: This Is Today’s Question: What Does It Mean To Be ‘Civilized’?

See the first volume of articles from 2014 and January and February 2015 below:

2014 – Starting the Discussion…

January 2015 – Volume I

February 2015

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What Is the Future of Religion?

Thursday, March 5th, 2015 - by Frank J. Fleming

Science! It’s given us lasers and spaceships and explained the many great mysteries of life, like what is the sun, where does lightning come from, and what’s the deal with platypuses? Every day, the men in the lab coats tease out more secrets from this universe, and technology solves more of our problems (remember back in the day, when if you were lost in the woods, you couldn’t pull out your phone and quickly look up the filmography of the guy who played Balki in Perfect Strangers?).

So as we go into a future with robots and a greater knowledge of quantum physics, what exactly do we need thousands-of-years-old texts on morality for?

That’s my question: What is the future of religion?

As part of my novel, Superego, I take a look at religion hundreds of years in the future, when mankind has spread throughout the universe and interacted with numerous other sentient lifeforms. And this is all viewed through the lens of the protagonist, Rico, who is a coldly rational, conscienceless psychopath (though probably still not as irritating an atheist as Richard Dawkins). From his perspective, Rico finds faith to be a rather odd thing, as people can — and often do — just decide to believe in any nonsense they, for some reason, find appealing.

But as society advances in technology and knowledge, will we still hold on at all to what many consider superstitions of old? Frankly, I can’t remember ever seeing the Jetsons attend church. Plus, to many people science is increasingly replacing the need for religion. We can now understand the world through rational thought… and even people not that good at rational thought love science — there are things like the “I f-ing love science!” Facebook group basically turning science into a fetish of dumb people.

Science certainly seems more exciting than some ancient texts that don’t even mention T. rexes or black holes.

So maybe our future will be one where we only look to science for answers (“Oh, Men of the White Coat, tell us what to believe, and it shall be believed!”). We will be beings of pure logical thought with no need for the vagaries of religion.

The only problem is that people don’t work that way. Even as a child, I saw how the idea of a purely logical being like Spock (R.I.P.) was in fact illogical, because while logic is a great tool for solving problems, it never tells you what problems to solve.

From a purely detached standpoint, neither working hard at a career to be successful nor curling up in a hole to die is a more logical thing to do than the other until you add some values to the equation (for instance, how much you treasure money versus good old hole-sleeping). And values do not come from logic but from the irrational parts of our minds. And it’s that irrational drive that causes people to create and build things, and something purely logical like a computer is rather useless until one of us irrational idiots starts mashing its keyboard to either write some code or comment on a YouTube video.

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What Is the Future of Government? Why It Won’t Look Like Star Trek

Thursday, February 26th, 2015 - by Frank J. Fleming

Imagine it’s the future. You have your jet pack, your laser gun, your robot butler, your much smaller or much bigger phone (I don’t really get what direction phones are going right now). The music of kids these days is awful beyond all human comprehension. No one celebrates Earth Day anymore because we’ve found much better planets more worth celebrating and live on those. So do you see yourself there, in the future? Now I want you to answer one question: What does your tax bill look like?

That’s my question today: What is the future of government? Hi, I’m Frank J. Fleming. You might remember me from a bunch of political humor writing and a great peace plan that involves nuking only one natural satellite, but now I’m also a science fiction author. Liberty Island has published my first novel, Superego, which is a heartwarming story about a genetically engineered psychotic hitman who accidentally becomes a hero, falls in love, and, of course, kills lots of people. My intention in writing the novel was for it to be a fun action-adventure, but I explore a lot of themes in the novel that seem worth discussing. And one of the themes is what could happen to government in the future.

Now, anyone who knows how to use a calculator does not predict a great future for the U.S. government, but I’m not talking about specific governments here (like whether a thousand years from now there will still inexplicably be a Canada). I’m talking about the nature of government in general and how that might evolve.

When you think of a future government, probably the first thing that pops into your mind is the Federation in Star Trek. Another might be the Empire from Star Wars, but I said we’re talking about government in the future, and the Empire is from a long time ago. Anyway, the Federation is a more left-wing, highly organized type of government. And what do all the ships in the Federation have? Phasers and proton torpedos — because if you’re going to go around the galaxy telling people what to do, you’re going to need them.

The Federation reflects a problem with our current model of government and why it might not last into the future. That’s because it’s still based on a rather primitive notion: I’m bigger than you, so you have to do what I say. The first government was probably the largest guy in the tribe ruthlessly enforcing the rule that no one could make fun of his fancy leader hat, and then things escalated from there.  In a way, government is a more civilized way of putting a gun to someone’s head to make them do something — whether those edicts come from a democratically elected government or a single guy with a fancy leader hat. The reason most people obey laws — even really asinine ones — is that they know the government is big and can hurt them if they don’t. We don’t see something like passing a tax on cigarettes as a violent act, but that’s what Eric Garner got killed over. If the government is interested in enforcing a law, it will have to resort to using violence if someone does not comply. And the progressive vision of the future of government is that we will be threatened with violence over more and more things, like if we don’t buy health insurance or if our soda is too large.

In Superego, man has spread out to countless planets and interacts with numerous other sentient species, all with their own laws and customs. There are also spaceships that allow nearly instantaneous travel across the galaxy, which means someone could commit a crime on one planet and quickly get to some place where the government has no jurisdiction. The scope of the universe’s population has basically gotten too big for a traditional centralized government, meaning government can’t enforce much and thus becomes rather feckless — like a space Europe. This leaves a vacuum that is filled by ruthless criminal syndicates — organizations that don’t worry about borders or jurisdiction and rule wherever they’re strong enough to enforce their will. Which leads to an interesting side question about government: How is an organization like a mafia different from a traditional government, if at all?

So that’s what I see: Government just won’t work in the future. Eventually the scope of humanity (and perhaps alien-ity) will get so big that governments will either become irrelevant or will have to become extremely ruthless to keep enforcing their will. And, anyway, is our vision of the future really that the only way people can live together is if we have this big entity threatening us with fines and imprisonment over millions and millions of different things? Instead I think our future  — at least the one we should aim for — is using our advances in technology and our knowledge to find more ways people can work together voluntarily. We’ll always need punishments for theft and violence, but perhaps we can find ways to work together and provide for the poor and needy without all the threats over non-violent actions, such as how we choose to run our own lives or our own businesses. It does seem like a nicer, more peaceful future than our current arc.

So along with my rocket ships and genetically engineered miniature T. rex, I see little to no tax bill at all.

What do you think is the future of government?

Join the discussion on Twitter. And submit your answer to Frank’s question for publication at PJ Lifestyle: DaveSwindlePJM [AT] Gmail.com

*****

The essay above is the beginning of the second volume in the cultural discussions between the writers of PJ Lifestyle and Liberty Island exploring the history of counter-cultures, the future of conservatism and the role of new, emerging counter-cultures in restoring American exceptionalism. See the first volume of articles from 2014 and January and February 2015 below:

2014

January 2015

February 2015

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Would Christians Object to Living Indefinitely Through Technology?

Sunday, February 15th, 2015 - by Walter Hudson

We want to live forever. We seek immortality through a variety of means, living vicariously through our children, leaving a legacy in our community, and embracing the claims of religion.

But what if we could actually live indefinitely here on Earth? What if we could elect to live for centuries or even millennia? Would we want to?

Zoltan Istvan thinks so. Reason TV’s Zach Weissmueller interviews the author of The Transhumanist Wager in the video above. They come to an interesting aside when Weissmueller inquires about cultural resistance to the idea of technological immortality. Aren’t some people actually revolted by the idea? Istvan answers:

America and many places around the world are quite religious, especially America…a poll said 83% are still declaring themselves Christian. That makes it hard to want to take death out of the equation, because a natural part of the Christian ideology is to die and to eventually reach an afterlife with God…

While Istvan may anticipate the reaction of some, the Christian faith doesn’t necessarily preclude an embrace of transhumanist technology. It depends on the particular nature of the tech. There’s nothing in mainstream Christian doctrine which would forbid something like artificial organs, for instance. And if replacing organs could extend life by decades or more, why not?

… it’s not as though wanting to live indefinitely is something that’s going to intrude and conflict with one’s religion. It’s just something that’s kind of the evolving nature of the species. And if you can get people to think like that, and not see it in conflict with their own ideologies, then I think they’re going to be more on board with saying, “Yeah, it’s good to live 150, 200 years.” And again, I’m not saying let’s live forever. I don’t think any transhumanists are saying that. I think what we want is the choice to be able to live indefinitely. That might be 10,000 years. That might only be 170 years.

The line might be drawn at technology which changes one’s nature to something non-human. When we look at something like uploading one’s consciousness to a computer, the question must be asked: would you still be “you?” Or would you be essentially committing suicide?

The notion of living indefinitely, unto itself, should actually appeal to the Christian. After all, everlasting life is the promise of Christian salvation, and lifespans greatly surpassing those common today are recorded throughout scripture. Adam lived to 930. Noah made it to 950. Enoch was “taken” before his time at the tender young age of 365. For the believer who takes scripture literally, the notion of living for centuries has precedence.

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15 Things Back to the Future II Predicted for 2015

Friday, January 2nd, 2015 - by Paul Cooper

Back in 1989, Americans marveled at what the year 2015 might look like in the popular film Back to the Future II.  The second installment in the time-traveling trilogy focused heavily on Marty McFly and his girlfriend being taken by their pal Doc Brown 30 years into the future and seeing what life was going to be like.

Well, 2015 has arrived. What predictions did the filmmakers get right? What did they get wrong? Here are 15 things Back to the Future II predicted would happen by 2015. You’ll find some predictions were eerily accurate while many others were way off.

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Why the Chance of Life on Mars Went Up

Saturday, December 20th, 2014 - by Stephen Green
(Not an actual depiction of Mars.)

(Not an actual depiction of Mars.)

The chances are still slim of there being life on the Red Planet, but they’re better than they were last year:

A year after reporting that NASA’s Curiosity rover had found no evidence of methane gas on Mars, all but dashing hopes that organisms might be living there now, scientists reversed themselves on Tuesday.

Curiosity has now recorded a burst of methane that lasted at least two months.

For now, scientists have just two possible explanations for the methane. One is that it is the waste product of certain living microbes.

“It is one of the few hypotheses that we can propose that we must consider as we go forward,” said John P. Grotzinger, the mission’s project scientist.

The scientists also reported that for the first time, they had confirmed the presence of carbon-based organic molecules in a rock sample. The so-called organics are not direct signs of life, past or present, but they lend weight to the possibility that Mars had the ingredients required for life, and may even still have them.

Let the terraforming begin.

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cross-posted from Vodkapundit

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It Was My Understanding There Would Be No Math

Friday, October 24th, 2014 - by Stephen Green

MATH

There’s (almost) an app for that:

I’ve seen the future and it is math less and it is awesome and it is this PhotoMath app that solves math problems just by pointing your phone’s camera at them. It’s like a cross between a text reading camera, a supremely sophisticated calculator and well, the future. Point and solve and never do math again.

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Cross-posted from Vodkapundit

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Would You Ever Buy a Robot For Your Home?

Wednesday, October 8th, 2014 - by PJ Lifestyle Daily Question

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Robot Cheetah Sounds Like An Animated TV show For Grownups, But No

Wednesday, September 17th, 2014 - by Stephen Green

Via Gizmodo:

A lot of robots in development are able to perform amazing feats in a laboratory setting when they’ve got plenty of tethers and cables keeping them perpetually powered and safe. The real test of their capabilities is when they’re forced to explore and interact in a real-world environment, like the robot cheetah that researchers at MIT are developing, which recently took its first untethered steps outside.

The developers admit the current version is limited to 10MPH, but that they aren’t far off from developing a high-speed robot cheetah.

I smell a Hollywood blockbuster.

*****

cross-posted from Vodkapundit

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Man Loses Half His Skull. 3D Printing Gives Him the Lost Half Back

Sunday, August 31st, 2014 - by Bryan Preston

3D printing is incredibly disruptive technology. It has already impacted the debate over guns. Researchers are using it to recreate antique musical instruments.

At 3DPrint.com, they have the story of a Chinese man who lost half of his skull in a fall. 3D printing will give him that half of his skull back.

The 46-year-old was working at his construction job one day when he fall three stories to the ground. The fall left him disfigured, as if he had a large dent in the side of his head.

Surgion [sic] MaoGuo Shu, of Xijing Hospital, who has seen a vast array of head and skull injuries, says that cases like Hu’s are very rare, and finding a solution to fix the damaged skull is very complex and difficult. To try and come up with a solution, the hospital brought in dozens of experts in the field. What they came up with was an idea for a 3D printed titanium mesh which would cover Hu’s brain and help make his skull look normal again. Thankfully for Hu, he won’t have to pay a dime for the surgery, as the hospital is covering the cost, and an American company, Stryker has agreed to pay for the 3D printing and materials used in the printing process.

The titanium printed mesh should return his skull to his normal shape over time. His brain, which was badly damaged in the fall leaving Hu unable to talk and write, might regenerate itself, according to the doctors.

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cross-posted from the PJ Tatler

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The Next Big Player in the Drone Wars?

Monday, July 28th, 2014 - by Stephen Green

MR ROBOTO

Japan:

For decades Japan has been the world’s playground for design innovation. But now it may become ground zero for the future of something far more hostile: military drones.

The country has positioned itself as one of the unlikely players in the escalating global race for military drones, a move that’s controversial both at home and abroad.

Controversial? Sure, given Japan’s history and Article 9 of its constitution. Unlikely? Not really. Drones play on Japan’s strengths in aerospace and miniaturization, while sidestepping her major manpower weakness. I once had a daydream of a future Japan, barely populated by septuagenarians and up, protected by fully automated swarms of lightning fast and extremely deadly robots and missiles. Think of a retirement home in a dangerous neighborhood, defended by The Matrix.

Isn’t that the way Japan is already going?

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Cross-posted from Vodkapundit

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There’s a Tricorder App for That

Saturday, May 10th, 2014 - by Stephen Green
This is you in 2017.

This is you in 2017.

Star Trek is coming to your iPhone:

Accidentally slicing into an unripe avocado or trying to guess the nutritional value of a restaurant meal might soon be problems of the past thanks to SCiO, a pocket-sized spectrometer that lets users analyze the molecular structure of anything from food to plants — even the human body — and view the results on their iPhone.

Consumer Physics, SCiO’s creators, promise a Star Trek-like experience with the device. Users can point the Zippo-sized scanner at an avocado, for example, and find out how ripe the fruit is without touching or peeling it.

SCiO could be used to analyze a plate of food to determine its caloric and fat content, making meal tracking easier. It might also help users ensure their medication is authentic, or check soil conditions and alert gardeners that their plants aren’t receiving enough water.

$299 might seem like a steep buy-in, but that’s just for the first-generation model. There will be newer models and knockoffs for $99 within a couple of years, at which point the Tricorder SCiO becomes almost as ubiquitous as smartphones are.

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Cross-posted from Vodkapundit

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The Rise of the Robot Employee

Tuesday, April 8th, 2014 - by Bonnie Ramthun

104163

President Obama’s new initiative is a higher minimum wage, and if he is successful the result will not be higher-paid employees heading off to work every day. Instead their jobs will be filled by an entirely new sort of worker: Robots.

Robots, unlike humans, don’t require pay or sick time or vacations. If they break they’re thrown out and recycled. Robots are expensive, but the threat of a higher minimum wage is now making a robotic worker more cost-effective than hiring a real person.

Across Japan the noodle-making chefs are now made of metal, and when you order a Big Mac at a MacDonald’s in Europe you do it by touch screen. A company called Momentum Machines in southern California has developed a robot that cranks out 400 perfectly-prepared burgers every hour. (Note: Robots do not sneeze. Ever. Think about that for a bit.)

Where is this going? Are we heading for a future where slinky femme fatale robots plot the destruction of mankind while wearing the perfect red dress?

tumblr_meoasoftn81rw2uyvo1_500

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As More People Live Longer Why Are Rates of Dementia Falling?

Tuesday, December 10th, 2013 - by Theodore Dalrymple

shutterstock_114133954

There is nothing quite as difficult to predict as the future. In my lifetime I have already lived through an “inevitable” ice age that never materialized and “inevitable” mass starvation (through overpopulation) that also never happened. When I was in Central America I remember reading a book called Inevitable Revolutions by the historian Walter LaFeber, but more than a quarter of a century later the inevitable still had not taken place. By now, according to predictions, most of us should have been dead from AIDS, that is if variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease or Ebola virus had not got us first. The repeated failure of confident predictions is therefore almost enough to make one sceptical of dire visions of the future. Only the sheer pleasure of contemplating catastrophe to come keeps the market for apocalypses alive.

One of our present concerns in the western world is the rapid aging of the population. Never have so many people lived to so ripe an old age, and this at a time when the birth rate is falling. Who is going to support the doddering old fools who will soon be more numerous than the energetic and productive young?

A recent article in the New England Journal of Medicine points out that something unexpected has happened to confound the gloomy prognostications of epidemiologists and demographers. As the percentage of people surviving into old age increases, so the proportion of them who suffer from dementia decreases. People are not only living longer, but living better. This is a phenomenon that has happened across the western world.

The article states that “in 1993, 12.2% of surveyed adults 70 years of age or older [in America] had cognitive impairment, as compared with 8.7% in 2002.” Similar results have been obtained elsewhere. In the light of this unexpected and unpredicted trend, estimates of the prevalence of dementia in England have had to be revised downwards by 24 percent. The burden of the elderly on the economy will therefore not be as great as was feared.

What accounts for the decline in the prevalence of dementia?

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So, Who’s Ready for a Sky Full of Amazon Drones?

Monday, December 2nd, 2013 - by Bryan Preston

amazon-primeair
60 Minutes previewed the future last night. Amazon is planning to use drone aircraft to enable 30-minute delivery of many products that we order online.

Charlie Rose: This is?

Jeff Bezos:…is…these are octocopters.

Charlie Rose: Yeah?

Jeff Bezos: These are effectively drones but there’s no reason that they can’t be used as delivery vehicles. Take a look up here so I can show you how it works.

Charlie Rose: All right. We’re talking about delivery here?

Jeff Bezos: We’re talking about delivery. There’s an item going into the vehicle. I know this looks like science fiction. It’s not.

Charlie Rose: Wow!

Jeff Bezos: This is early. This is still…years away. It drops the package.

Charlie Rose: And there’s the package.

Jeff Bezos: You come and get your package. And we can do half hour delivery.

Charlie Rose: Half hour delivery?

Jeff Bezos: Half hour delivery/and we can carry objects, we think, up to five pounds, which covers 86 percent of the items that we deliver.

Charlie Rose: And what is the range between the fulfillment center and where you can do this within…

Jeff Bezos: These…this…this…these gener…

Charlie Rose: 30 minutes?

Jeff Bezos: These generations of vehicles, it could be a 10-mile radius from a fulfillment center. So, in urban areas, you could actually cover very significant portions of the population. And so, it won’t work for everything; you know, we’re not gonna deliver kayaks or table saws this way. These are electric motors, so this is all electric; it’s very green, it’s better than driving trucks around. This is…this is all an R&D project.

Charlie Rose: With drones, there’s somebody sitting somewhere in front of a screen.

Jeff Bezos: Not these; these are autonomous. So you give ‘em instructions of which GPS coordinates to go to, and they take off and they fly to those GPS coordinates.

Charlie Rose: What’s the hardest challenge in making this happen?

Jeff Bezos: The hard part here is putting in all the redundancy, all the reliability, all the systems you need to say, ‘Look, this thing can’t land on somebody’s head while they’re walking around their neighborhood’…

Charlie Rose doesn’t know what a drone is? Sheesh.

This idea seems cool until you think it through for a bit. Amazon’s drones will be eyesores in the air and electromagnets for lawyers when one of them goes haywire and crashes in someone’s yard or in the middle of a street or, heaven forbid, kills a guy. Human nature can be a nasty thing. Lawfare is strangling innovation in America. Watch octocopter-chasing lawyers have a heyday over Amazon’s drones and its fat wallet. Watch the newspaper Amazon owns defend whatever the company does. And watch environmentalists slow this whole thing down in court.

The hardest part technologically probably isn’t building in redundancy. The hardest part is making sure these things don’t become magnets for thieves (other than the aforementioned lawyers). Where you have valuable product moving, you have the potential for heists. These drones could and probably will become targets, especially if they’re in operation at night. So game that out, and Amazon will end up working with the FAA to either create sky lanes through which its drones will have special permission to travel, which would be protected either from the air or the ground against theft, or they’ll have to arm the drones with countermeasures.

When Amazon merges with Google to perfect the drones’ accuracy, it’s all heading toward SkyNet.
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Cross-posted from the PJ Tatler

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Debate: Death to the New Deal! Screw Social Security!

Thursday, October 31st, 2013 - by Dave Swindle

Dear Ron,

I thought it fitting to select Halloween as the day for a brief entry into the debate about whether conservatives should surrender and just accept the permanence of the Democrats’ unconstitutional welfare state. I have three points for your consideration.

1. The Welfare State Is a Zombie and It Can Be Killed.

My position is straightforward: I’m with Andy 100% and believe that conservatives must work over the coming decades to disassemble the federal government’s unconstitutional welfare state. This is an entirely reasonable, achievable goal. See James C. Bennett and Michael Lotus’s America 3.0 for the blueprint. They call the shrinking of the federal government and rebalancing of powers between the states “the big haircut.” See my review from a few weeks ago: On 9/11 and Benghazi’s Anniversary, We End Conservative Pessimism and Right-Wing Apocalypticism

2. My Generation Is Never Going to See a Damn Dime of the Social Security that’s Being Unwillingly Extracted From Us By Force of Imprisonment.

What kind of technology will America have come the 2020s, 2030s, 2040s? I tend to embrace the Ray Kurzweil model that predicts such things as artificial intelligence smarter than man in 2028. It won’t be until the 2050s when the first millennials are ready for where Social Security is set at today. Who is going to genuinely claim that Social Security will still be needed with the technology of decades from now making everything in the economy infinitely cheaper and lifespan expanding?

3. Charles Krauthammer Is Not All That Well-Known Outside of our Political Bubble and Amongst Those Who Don’t Watch Fox News.

Plenty of your commenters jumped on you for this one and I’ll pile on too:

Dr. Krauthammer is, as I am certain all PJM readers know, America’s most well-known and highly regarded spokesman for conservatism.

These days just about the only conservative media spokesman (who wasn’t a major politician at some point) that the non-politically obsessed can name is Rush Limbaugh. And maybe Ann Coulter too thanks to all her Today show type appearances where she says the right things to provoke the postmodern progressives.

But you’re half-right. Krauthammer is America’s most well-known and highly regarded spokesman, but it’s not of just overall “conservatism,” a role held for decades by William F. Buckley, Jr.

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Has Disney World Fulfilled Walt’s Dreams For His Florida Project?

Wednesday, October 30th, 2013 - by Chris Queen

Florida Project

Less than two months before his death from lung cancer, Walt Disney wrapped production on a short film detailing his plans for the 27,443 acres his company had purchased in Central Florida. He shared his grand vision for what his inner circle called the “Florida Project.” With writing help from Marty Sklar, Walt explained his ideas for more than just a theme park:

Right now our plans include an airport of the future (down here in Osceola County), an entrance complex where all visitors will enter Disney World, an industrial park area covering about 1000 acres, and of course, the theme park area way up here. And all these varied activities around the Disney World will be tied together with a high-speed rapid transit system running almost the full length of the property.

But the most exciting, by far the most important part of our Florida project—in fact, the heart of everything well be doing in Disney World—will be our experimental prototype city of tomorrow. We call it EPCOT, spelled E-P-C-O-T: Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow. Here it is in larger scale.

EPCOT will take its cue from the new ideas and new technologies that are now emerging from the creative centers of American industry. It will be a community of tomorrow that will never be completed, but will always be introducing, and testing, and demonstrating new materials and new systems. And EPCOT will always be a showcase to the world of the ingenuity and imagination of American free enterprise.

The futuristic city included a domed urban area with climate control for shoppers and hotel guests, along with transportation throughout the city via People Mover and Monorail. Residents of EPCOT (or Progess City, as some came to call it) would always have the latest technology at their fingertips. It was a bold dream, for sure, and some believed it would die with Walt.

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The Future Just Got Closer

Saturday, October 26th, 2013 - by Stephen Green

OBJECTS IN MIRROR

What to get to go with your 3D printer? A 3D laser scanner, of course.

*****

Cross-posted from Vodkapundit

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4 Safety Systems Steering us Closer to Autonomous Cars

Thursday, October 17th, 2013 - by Becky Graebner

Google-Car

Autonomous cars have been creating some buzz in the news lately.  From coverage on their capabilities and advantages to warnings about their limitations and security issues, everyone seems to be curious about the autonomous car.  Something else is brewing within this new-age driving hoopla: a battle for control of the stick shift.  Computer-operated driving systems are quickly infiltrating our beloved cars, crossing the line from “human driver” to “automated chauffeur.”  Are you ready?

A lot of the talk surrounding these systems is acronym-heavy and the names change depending on the car manufacturer.  (I see they are already creating aliases to confuse the human competition!)  Here’s an easy-to-read, short guide to the systems that are bringing us closer to autonomous cars.

1. Park-Assist

This is the system that allows drivers who dislike parallel parking to sit back, relax, and let the car do it for them.  The existence of this system does not indicate an fully autonomous car—the driver still needs to help the car out with shifting.

How does it work? Although the computer takes over to maneuver the car into the parking spot, most systems still allow the driver to press the brake, controlling the speed of the system’s parking throughout the entire maneuver.  To begin, the car will indicate to the driver when to stop alongside the car it intends to parallel park behind.  The driver will need to shift into Reverse to allow the system to back the car into the space.  When the car determines it has finished this procedure, it will notify the driver to shift into Drive.  The car will then pull forward, evening out the spacing.  Finally, the car will notify the driver to put it into park.

Available in: Ford Focus Titanium, Toyota Prius V, Land Rover Evoque, Mercedes-Benz GL350 (just to name a few)

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