jump to navigation

Dodos with IEDs December 21, 2007

Posted by shubber in Uncategorized.
trackback

A recent email thread which I am cc:d on had the following tag line at the bottom:

The dinosaurs were destroyed by an asteroid because they weren’t space-faring.

It then went on to describe how perhaps Gaia decided to try with us mammals – and that we are now developing the capability (whatever that means) to detect and deflect asteorids, and goes on to speculate about future space colonies and spreading beyond Earth to ensure life would survive a planetary catastrophe.

This got me to thinking – as silly comments often do – what about the poor Dodo?

Perhaps the real message in the extinction of the Dodos was that if they were clever enough to invent IEDs (or even handguns – er… wing-guns?) then they would still be around today….

So the lesson to extrapolate from that, of course, is that we should all learn how to make IEDs and go out and purchase guns, to do our part to ensure that our future alien overlords can’t wipe us out the way we did the Dodo..

kent_brockman.jpg

Advertisements

Comments»

1. Starry-Eyed Space Nut - December 22, 2007

Uh..so you disagree that habitat redundancy is a survival advantage?

2. admin - December 26, 2007

Dodos live!

3. shubber - December 26, 2007

Uh..so you disagree that habitat redundancy is a survival advantage?

I disagree with the value of a “sky is falling” call to arms to try to rally an otherwise ambivalent (at best) populace that they must support our pet passion (i.e. space development).

Given our species’ penchant for laughing at known risks – be it building the 7th largest economy in the world right on top of a major faultline that has hugely destructive earthquakes every few hundred years (and is about 30 years overdue for the next “big one”, developing extensive coastal properties in a zone that gets hit repeatedly by massive hurricanes (which have, in years past, decimated both people and the insurance industry), to increasing the levels of pollutants in our air, water, and bodies (just google “toxic chemicals” and “blood tests” to see how it’s permeated even into our children…) – tell me again why you think a strategy of “the asteroid is coming! the asteroid is coming!” is a particularly smart one?

4. Starry-Eyed Space Nut - December 26, 2007

So you think because people play 8-lane pinball on highways without thinking, the thought of an incandescent, supersonic mountain falling out of the sky and landing on their heads doesn’t scare them? Look up the grosses for Armageddon and Deep Impact. Write a letter to the Discovery Channel and ask what subject is most popular on space-themed programs. But actually this is all moot, because we know what doesn’t work as a PR strategy for space: Banality.

5. shubber - December 26, 2007

So you think because people play 8-lane pinball on highways without thinking, the thought of an incandescent, supersonic mountain falling out of the sky and landing on their heads doesn’t scare them?

No, I don’t. I think if you ask people to list their concerns, boogeymen fears such as the terrorist lurking in their garage in small town America ranks much higher than “death by asteroid”.

Look up the grosses for Armageddon and Deep Impact.

Why? That’s a bogus argument, and you know it. Here’s just a few reasons why:

1) If they were so concerned about ELE (extinction-level-events) as portrayed in those movies, why isn’t hollywood making more of those?
Answer: they were done. In the 80s the movie was called “meteor” and I believe that time we wiped them out with combined US/USSR nukes shot into the heavens.

2) If you really believe that movie grosses for a blockbuster fiction event equates to real beliefs/fears of the populace, then I suggest you are are quite gullible in your belief that Transformers, Aliens and Predators have been on our planet for quite some time, and have been just one of many well-kept secrets by the folks at Area 51…

But actually this is all moot, because we know what doesn’t work as a PR strategy for space: Banality.

But then we all know that the last refuge of a space tragic who just can’t “get” why people don’t give a crap about his/her pet love is to make specious, banal arguments.

6. Starry-Eyed Space Nut - December 27, 2007

I think if you ask people to list their concerns, boogeymen fears such as the terrorist lurking in their garage in small town America ranks much higher than “death by asteroid”.

People have always been morons, yet sometimes, somehow, the right priorities end up in Washington. I think it has something to do with a crazy little thing called leadership – a quality anyone, at any time can exercise. Especially respected commentators (hint hint).

If they were so concerned about ELE (extinction-level-events) as portrayed in those movies, why isn’t hollywood making more of those?

Why didn’t Hollywood make more nuclear apocalypse movies during the Cold War? Because it’s a niche subject – once you’ve covered it, it’s covered – it’s not like broad genre pictures that can be made over and over again. But the few films that were made directly about nuclear apocalypse are still powerful today, and at least Deep Impact (the more realistic of the two ELE movies) likewise still packs a wallop for thoughtful viewers.

But then we all know that the last refuge of a space tragic who just can’t “get” why people don’t give a crap about his/her pet love is to make specious, banal arguments.

Sensationalism works for space, because space is sensational – it is utterly bizarre and exotic. Banality does not work for space – we’ve experienced decades of it, and all we’ve gotten for it is an expanded radio playlist and knowing our coordinates while driving to the supermarket. With all due respect to the makers of these helpful toys, they don’t come close to the full potential of existing technology, let alone expanding it, and they sure as hell don’t make mankind any more robust over the truly long-term.

7. shubber - December 27, 2007

Sensationalism works for space, because space is sensational – it is utterly bizarre and exotic. Banality does not work for space – we’ve experienced decades of it, and all we’ve gotten for it is an expanded radio playlist and knowing our coordinates while driving to the supermarket.

What you call banal, many investors would call profitable investments…. and if you think GPS is only good for helping reduce your probability of getting lost while driving, you are missing a big part of what space *is* used for (hint: timing networks help MANY industries).

But here’s my real question, since you keep jumping from one “argument” to the next every time I challenge you: what actually IS your point?

8. Starry-Eyed Space Nut - December 28, 2007

What you call banal, many investors would call profitable investments….

Some other profitable investments: Cocaine, heroin, crystal meth, oil, guns, surveillance, prison construction, repossession… is my point obvious enough yet?

and if you think GPS is only good for helping reduce your probability of getting lost while driving, you are missing a big part of what space *is* used for (hint: timing networks help MANY industries).

Most space technology is beneficial in a marginal sense, but does GPS directly reduce the likelihood of human extinction? Clearly not. It’s a simple case of the military building a system for one application and then the public, because the system exists, finding uses for it later. There’s very little rational “we need this, so let’s build it” on the part of either commercial entities or civilian space.

9. shubber - December 28, 2007

Some other profitable investments: Cocaine, heroin, crystal meth, oil, guns, surveillance, prison construction, repossession… is my point obvious enough yet?

If your point is that you don’t know how to have a rational debate… well, then, yes you’ve made it quite obvious.

Remind me again which exchange coke, heroin, and crystal meth are traded on – they seem to be quite profitable and I want my broker to get me in on the action.

Most space technology is beneficial in a marginal sense, but does GPS directly reduce the likelihood of human extinction? Clearly not.

Tell me what program DOES clearly reduce the likelihood of human extinction in your mind. You seem awfully sure you have some magical answer which until now you’ve hidden from us less enlightened masses. Please do tell.

I need a laugh.

10. Starry-Eyed Space Nut - December 28, 2007

Remind me again which exchange coke, heroin, and crystal meth are traded on – they seem to be quite profitable and I want my broker to get me in on the action.

The point is that profit is the means by which investment benefits the economy and society, not an end in itself. If you just follow a profit-maximization curve without ever feeding the gains back into delayed-profit, high-risk, infrastructure-focused startups, the industry will grow on a geologic time scale if at all. We can’t just keep investing in tertiary and quaternary applications while the core technology fossilizes over decades.

Tell me what program DOES clearly reduce the likelihood of human extinction in your mind.

SpaceX looks poised to reduce launch costs, so that’s an obvious one. Bigelow has a relatively credible shot at developing orbital and lunar habitats, so that’s another. Virgin Galactic, once operational, will create a large pool of demand for private manned spaceflight that will drive the next cycle of investment and innovation. Then there’s any other credible firm involved in ISRU, space medicine, launchers, transports, landers, or the related technologies that will be necessary for long-term space colonization. They vary widely in credibility, but if you can find serious ones with decent business plans (using Elon’s as the standard), then they should be funded.

The vast majority won’t succeed – that’s just business – but the ones that do will multiply the number of secondary, tertiary, and so on applications for conservative investors to benefit from. But someone has to build the roads before you can make a profit selling car radios, and the government just isn’t that interested any more.

11. Jonathan Goff - December 29, 2007

StarryEyed,
While I do agree that having a multi-planet civilization would improve the odds of humanity lasting in the long run by some non-zero amount….I’m kind of with Shubber that its a really weak motivation for space development. The probabilities are just so low that if your main concern is the survival of the human species, there are much better near term investments. Not that I think there aren’t any good motivations for space development, just that I think the human-survival angle is pretty wimpy.

~Jon

12. Starry-Eyed Space Nut - December 30, 2007

Jon,
I agree there are higher survival priorities, but I also think that all priorities on this scale are woefully underfunded. We need to take care of both angles – saving this habitat, and developing others – and put a lot more resources into both than we have. The case should further be made that space development directly contributes to the environmental technologies that will make Earth a better place. Relatively easy, investor-friendly applications like entertainment and GPS tracking are not directly beneficial in this way, and do not (AFAIK) lead to greater investment in applications that are.

13. shubber - December 30, 2007

We need to take care of both angles – saving this habitat, and developing others – and put a lot more resources into both than we have. The case should further be made that space development directly contributes to the environmental technologies that will make Earth a better place. Relatively easy, investor-friendly applications like entertainment and GPS tracking are not directly beneficial in this way, and do not (AFAIK) lead to greater investment in applications that are.

See, now you’re just either being willingly naive or you really don’t know what space technology is being used for today. One example, that meets your goal of helping to protect the environment here on Earth but leverages commercial (investment-ready) satellite systems is the remote monitoring of environmental and other assets using simple store & forward LEO satellites uploading data from small monitors in the field. This capability was enabled by someone putting up a (gasp!) commercial system that served boring customers that aren’t the traditional space-tragic wet dream of rockets and O’Neill colonies, but, say it isn’t so, allowed others with a need for monitoring hard to reach assets and locations with the capability to do so…

14. Starry-Eyed Space Nut - December 31, 2007

One example, that meets your goal of helping to protect the environment here on Earth but leverages commercial (investment-ready) satellite systems is the remote monitoring of environmental and other assets using simple store & forward LEO satellites uploading data from small monitors in the field.

That’s pretty vague. “Remote monitoring of environmental and other assets” is directly applicable to human survival? This commercial sector is not, to my knowledge, involved in global CO2, glacier, or other large-scale climatological or resource monitoring – it mainly provides agribusiness, lumber, mining, and other concerns specialized data to maximize their yields regardless of environmental consequences. Academia can also use these services, but as far as I know the data they provide is extremely limited and localized compared to what’s available from NOAA. Moreover, my point remains that more attractive investments like satellite-delivered media content provide no incentive path to invest even in limited applications like that, let alone in infrastructural advances. What benefit they might provide – incentivizing satellite servicing or on-orbit refueling – is indirect at best, very marginal, and probably not “investment-grade” in the estimation of Cynic investors.

15. Paul F. Dietz - January 24, 2008

The quote about the dinosaurs deserves direct criticism. Even after a major asteroid impact, the Earth would be more habitable than anyplace else in the solar system. The dinosaurs were wiped out because they were unintelligent animals without food stockpiles. If they had been technologically savvy sapients, they could, as a species, have survived through the dark period after the impact and the following ecological devastation.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: