Thursday, October 6, 2016

Discouraged by Musk

Elon's vision and business acumen is making a multiplanetary future closer to possible. But it isn't his job to figure out everything. However he is in a unique position to guide the discussion but isn't really fit for it. His strength is his integrity to his vision. His weakness is his inability to lead/inspire/explain a movement.

Elon himself admits his architecture is wild, but it is a direct result of the numbers associated with his design goals. Some refinements are obvious, such as launching fuel to orbit first before sending crew to orbit. His 100 crew at a time is a claimed requirement to get a large population to mars in a reasonable time, but the real metric to focus on is cost per crew which a large quantity at a time contributes to.

Ironically, bringing cost per crew down too fast might even hurt the colonization of mars (more ahead as to why.)

Admiral Grace Hopper is famous for the expression, "it's better to ask forgiveness than to ask for permission." To colonize mars this thought will probably be essential because there are forces lining up to keep it from happening. Planetary protection is one kind of idiocy that could hold us back, but the biggest issue is the fundamental world view.

Who owns mars? Who will? How does that impact the future? Does it matter?

Is there a connection between these questions and the elephant in the room... funding?

Does it affect the quality of life and growth rate of the colony?

I  believe so. I think the social issues are magnitudes more important than the technical issues. I believe the faith in top down planning will do more harm to colonization than any other single issue. Musk's focus, while understandable, on bringing down cost per crew may be his downfall. Why and how? Because he's really a very traditional business person at heart and is trying to jump past a historically essential element of growth. Things always cost more at the beginning and will in this case as well, but that has good implications for growth.

Colonists will have a certain mass of personal property that will have more value precisely because of the high cost of transportation. Lower that cost too fast and you've robbed those earlier colonists of their assets. Trying to get the colonists to pay for their tickets (inside the box thinking) will limit the number of colonists. Provide them all with free tickets (by thinking outside the box) and the focus correctly goes to those willing to take on the other risks to be colonists.

Mars has all the assets required to pay for every colonists ticket for the first million colonists. All that is required is to realize it. Musk hasn't, nor have any others (even though they have absolutely no argument to reject it.) The only thing they can say is it will not work because people don't believe in it. That's the only thing they get right. But people would believe in it if someone like Musk, who has earned the credibility with his hard work for over a decade, would support it. That's my disappointment.

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