How much would you pay for the universe?

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Taleweaver
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How much would you pay for the universe?

#1 Post by Taleweaver » Mon Mar 12, 2012 3:48 pm

Have to share this - this just brought tears to my eyes:

Please don't lock this. I don't want to turn this into a political debate. I want this to be about the inspration that space exploration has given us all. It sure has given me plenty of inspiration.
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Re: How much would you pay for the universe?

#2 Post by LateWhiteRabbit » Mon Mar 12, 2012 5:22 pm

I agree with everything here. It's sad, but humanity always makes it's greatest leaps forward on the impetus of war. The computer, antibiotics, metal alloys, nuclear energy, the space program - all birthed by the necessities of war. The human race would be immeasurably better off if we discovered a hostile alien race (provided we don't get wiped out). Nothing short of a common enemy to the human race's survival will bring the world together.

And our world, the planet Earth, is too fragile, too precarious in the universe. For the human race to ensure its own survival we need to colonize the stars. The space program also gives the people on the ground so many fringe benefits - advanced discoveries in plastics and medicine, just for starters. Anyone who wears glasses that aren't thick as Coke bottles, and whose lenses are no longer made of glass, is benefiting at this very moment from the space program of the past. LEDs, robotic artificial limbs, improved radial tires (tires that last tens of thousands of miles longer than conventional tires), anti-icing systems (the reason planes can fly in cold weather and not crash), chemical detection systems, etc. the list goes on and on.

For what we spent on wars in the Middle East in the last decade we could have base on the moon. But as the video points out, few of the rank and file citizenry of the world care about the future, only the present. SETI operates on $7 million a year, and the government keeps trying to eliminate it from the budget while spending tens of billions on banks. We have to PAY the Russians now to get our astronauts into space because NASA's new shuttles were underfunded and not ready.

Sad music all around I'd say.

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Re: How much would you pay for the universe?

#3 Post by PyTom » Mon Mar 12, 2012 8:53 pm

Well, I haven't actually posted the new rules yet, have I?

My problem is not with space. I love space. I love that people go to space. I want to one day see a Heinlein future where people hitch a ride on a spaceliner to go and make their fortunes out among the planets and the stars.

The thing is - for much of my life, when we spend money on space, we get not-space.

For the money we spent on the X-30, X-33, X-34, and X-38, when Dan Goldin was NASA administrator, what did we get? Not-space. (At least the X-37 is up there spyingflying.)

The orbital space plane program, the one that was Sean O'Keefe's thing - neat plans, more capsules than planes IIRC, but ultimately we got not-space from it.

The Vision for Space Exploration, under Michael Griffin? Rocket designs that were approximately equivalent to throwing your astronauts into a paint mixer. A system about which the review panel said that "If they gave us the system on a silver platter, the first thing we'd have to do is cancel it, because we couldn't afford the ongoing costs." A lot of money, a launch pad rusting in the Florida weather, and a whole lot of not-space.

And for all the money we spend on human spaceflight, we now send Astronauts up as passengers in Soyuz rockets.

Now we're spending $18 billion dollars - figure subject to change, always upward - to build the SLS - the Senate Launch System. (Another estimate has it at $40B for development and the first 4 flights.) If all things go as planned, it will launch once every two years, launching an unmanned trip around the moon in 2017 and a manned trip to the moon in 2019. Schedule subject to change - always slipping.

Does anyone thing that SLS has a chance of working? Or is it just going to become another not-space program?

How about the replacement for the Hubble Space Telescope, the Webb Space Telescope? In 1997, it was going to be launched in 2007, and it was going to have cost 500 million dollars. Now we've spent 3.5 billion on it, and it will launch in 2018. Maybe. That's a ton of money to spend on not-space - and it's money that's been taken away from the moderately successful bits of NASA, like the Mars program, which doesn't have a mission in it after 2013's MAVEN.

I don't mind spending money on space. I like space. I've been following the MER rovers for nearly a decade. I think COTS and Commercial Crew are brilliant, and hope that they will continue to exist with a program structure that rewards results, rather than existence. Commercial space is the last best hope to get a domestic space capability.

But times are tight. We're massively overspending as is - borrowing tons of money our grandchildren will still be paying back. So increased spending is far from free.

Is it worth it? I say yes. Spend money on space. Where do we get that money? Let's stop spending it on not-space, like we have been.
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Re: How much would you pay for the universe?

#4 Post by Auro-Cyanide » Mon Mar 12, 2012 9:23 pm

I felt it was a little... sensational, but nice. Bring on the pathos I suppose.

I do agree with the main sentiment that humans need to challenge ourselves with problems (though there are plenty for us to solve right here too...) because the knowledge and experimentation gained from such things is what leads us forward and that knowledge and technology will help us advance and hopefully help what we have here. There are plenty of people suffering here right now that need help, including people in the developed countries (seriously, the space programs aren't the only thing suffering in America *cough*healthcare and education*cough*). Everything we have and everything we find out should be used to help them, to solve those problems. Figuring out how to bring life to Mars can probably help a great deal in figuring out how to support industries and people in Africa for instance. There is always a trickle down effect from discoveries.

We know so very little about the universe and it is so much bigger than we are. I'm pretty sure we'll all be dead before we have a chance to scratch the surface. And that's okay because we aren't the centre of the universe and we certainly weren't meant to conquer it. It's good for humans to stand humbled, just as it is good to strive to understand everything we can. I definitely agree that we should be driven by our desire to understand and not our desire to conquer and rule. We are meant to be intelliegnt after all, but somethimes I wonder.

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Re: How much would you pay for the universe?

#5 Post by LateWhiteRabbit » Tue Mar 13, 2012 12:03 am

Auro-Cyanide wrote:I definitely agree that we should be driven by our desire to understand and not our desire to conquer and rule. We are meant to be intelligent after all, but sometimes I wonder.
Well, according to a very well reasoned argument (by I believe, Stephen Hawking), intelligence may actually EQUAL aggression. The most clever and intelligent animals on earth are always aggressive and eat meat as at least part of their diet. This includes chimps, dolphins, birds of prey, humans, etc. Speaking from an evolutionary standpoint, it is the act of having to outsmart another living creature to make it your dinner that drives the development of intelligence. Animals that do not have to strain themselves mentally to get their food (most herbivores) are usually very stupid. The grass or leaves never try and run away or escape them.

Bringing it back to space exploration, it is the reason Hawking advises we should NOT seek out intelligent alien civilizations. Any that we find are invariably going to be the most aggressive species on their planet, because only the most aggressive species would dominant a planet sufficiently to develop space travel. It is a sad truth that the most intelligent animals we know of on Earth are also the ones that have wars between their own kind. Chimps form war parties that use stealth tactics to attack other bands of chimpanzees for extra food, land, and to kidnap females. Dolphins have been observed to murder and organize parties of dolphins to systematically torture another dolphin to death - all for fun.

Hawking puts forward the hypothesis that star-faring alien cultures may be DESTINED to war with one another because of this. And if you have war between two races that have developed the FTL technology to reach one another, wars can easily be extinction level events. That is even if an intelligent race survives its own aggression to travel the stars without destroying itself in internal war. Hawking offers the depressing idea that intelligent life is almost doomed to destroy itself, thus helping explain the seeming dearth of alien civilizations in the galaxy. Most will destroy themselves or each other before we can find them.

For life to exist another form of life must die, be it bacteria and plants or other animals. Becoming a dominant species means subjugating the most life in as an efficient manner as possible. The most efficient manner is almost always violence and aggression. We are unlikely to find any intelligent aliens that evolved peacefully living in the stars. So unfortunately I doubt humans would be intelligent today if not for our aggressive and warlike nature.

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Re: How much would you pay for the universe?

#6 Post by Auro-Cyanide » Tue Mar 13, 2012 12:20 am

The grass or leaves never try and run away or escape them.
Pfft, that made me laugh.

But I agree. However I don't think agression equals physical harm. I don't think the agressive way we like to compete and best people physically and mentally is any different from the way we fight wars. The cold war was an example of two countries being at war without having to kill massive chunks of the population. The drive is the same, just without the killing. Now if that aggressive nature could be directed towards something prodcutive... who knows what can happen. Fear, Anger, Jealousy, Aggression, all these things will always be apart of who we are, but we should be the ones making the choice of how we direct them. Positive outcomes are a sign of greater intelligence to me because it shows we have thought beyond the immediate instinct to kill and conquer and thought about longer term effects and how they will effect everyone else. I would like to think we are the point where we can figure out how to get the same results. Physical aggression got us to where we are, doesn't mean it has to be our future. If we can comprehend it, we can change it, it's only behaviour.

Agreed about the aliens. But with the unlikely hood of either of us finding each other in the sheer amount of space and the fact humans are very likely to go extinct at some point (we are fragile, the Earth shifts one way or the other and we will probably be wiped out) it's not right up there with my concerns. Hell, we could be wiped out by something we don't even know is there because we can't sense it or don't understand it.

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Re: How much would you pay for the universe?

#7 Post by LateWhiteRabbit » Tue Mar 13, 2012 1:57 am

Auro-Cyanide wrote: But I agree. However I don't think agression equals physical harm. I don't think the agressive way we like to compete and best people physically and mentally is any different from the way we fight wars.
I agree that aggression doesn't equal physical harm. Ultimately aggression is self-serving behavior, placing an individual or group's needs or desires above another person or group. Threatening nuclear attack (waving around a weapon) like in the Cold War is an act of aggression. Taking the last serving of a group dish without asking is an aggressive behavior. (Some would argue that asking if anyone else wants the last serving is aggressive and self-serving also, because social etiquette means no one can speak up without looking bad and the asker knows this, assuring themselves the last serving while maintained social standing - i.e. passive aggression.)
Auro-Cyanide wrote: Physical aggression got us to where we are, doesn't mean it has to be our future. If we can comprehend it, we can change it, it's only behaviour.
A very idealistic thought, but humans have exhibited the same behavior in both pre-historic tribes, enlightened civilization, and even in space. The self-serving aggressive nature of our behavior comes from very basic physiological processes - hunger, fear, lust - and we can't just shut those off. Humans can easily suppress these things when all their wants and needs are satisfied (a near impossibility in itself, as it has been psychologically shown that the mind is hardwired to grow dissatisfied with current fulfillment factors and constantly seek more), but in the absence of societal controls or food, humans easily revert back to "primitive" behaviors.

I've personally been in a starvation situation with a group of people for training. At first, even with little to no food and hunger setting in, people are kind and work together. Scraps of food found are even shared altruistically between friends or groups, even if that means everyone only gets crumbs. This is also self-serving behavior, as homo-sapiens are social animals and we believe cooperation will result in the easier obtainment of food at a later time. However, as starvation continues, people become paranoid and suspicious, only pretending to work together, but looking for opportunities to obtain the most food for themselves. People that once seemed a benefit for obtaining food now become a liability or an impediment. If it goes on long enough, violence breaks out as a method of survival. I experienced it myself, and shamefully, but the "lizard" part of your brain takes over and screams that your survival depends on aggression against this other "animal". This meant that even when I and my friend discovered food that would be sufficient for BOTH of us, we fought over it physically for full possession, because our base animal behavior had taken over to ensure survival. I believe this is a built in process - brain activity and higher thought consume a lot of energy, and when the body is facing shortages, non-essential brain activity related to morals, philosophy, or math are suppressed.

I don't think humanity will ever break free of our aggression. It is too tied up in who and what we are. As you pointed out, our competitive natures stem from aggression. Aggression is how we survive, how we compete for love, how we protect what we love. Becoming more sophisticated means we just find other ways and reasons to be aggressive. Behavior is the sum-total of what it means to be human - we can channel its expression in different directions, but we can never change its fundamental nature.

The self-serving nature of humanity is why it is so hard for us to fund space research and colonization, because as PyTom pointed out, it is unlikely to directly be of great benefit to US, only to future humans yet unborn. It is laying the groundwork and altruistically spending your own time and money for a future you will never personally see.
Auro-Cyanide wrote: Agreed about the aliens. But with the unlikely hood of either of us finding each other in the sheer amount of space and the fact humans are very likely to go extinct at some point (we are fragile, the Earth shifts one way or the other and we will probably be wiped out) it's not right up there with my concerns. Hell, we could be wiped out by something we don't even know is there because we can't sense it or don't understand it.
If you believe in the singularity, it is possible our creation of intelligent life - AIs - will do us in. If Stephen Hawking is right and true intelligence cannot exist without being aggressive and self-serving, then the synthetic minds we birth may out compete us. Maybe the alien threat that brings humanity together against a common enemy will be one of our own creation.


(This discussion is reminding me very much of themes explored in the Mass Effect video games.)

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Re: How much would you pay for the universe?

#8 Post by Dollywitch » Thu Mar 22, 2012 6:14 pm

"It's a small world, and it smells funny. I'd buy another if it wasn't for the money."

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Mr-3JRvOtQ

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Re: How much would you pay for the universe?

#9 Post by bd648 » Thu Apr 12, 2012 12:23 pm

Um..... I just want to say i haven't stopped thinking about the future. I am working towards becoming an engineer so that i can make at least a little bit of my hopes for the future come true. I want to see my children do the same and i want them to dream of the future and i want them to make those dreams come true. I am sad that some people are happy with what they have now with no dreams of having more and it always makes me sad when people say that humanity cant advance anymore. We are not living in the future so it is our job to make the future.

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Re: How much would you pay for the universe?

#10 Post by Taleweaver » Sun Apr 15, 2012 9:13 am

bd648 wrote:We are not living in the future so it is our job to make the future.
I beg to differ. We live in the future. We live in the future as I thought it would be when I was, like, ten. (For the count, that's 1984, one year before I got my first home computer, a Commodore C=64.)

You have robots at home that do the housework while you're away? Check.

And speaking of your home, it has a computer network that can be accessed from anywhere within your house? Check.

You have a small portable computer with you that can answer questions you ask verbally? Check.

Cars come with maps that automatically guide you wherever you want to go? Check.

3D movies that aren't only about the 3D gimmick are being produced? Check.

Virtually everyone can communicate with everyone else on the planet, from everywhere, provided they are in first-world-countries? Check.

And as the year was 1984 and everyone was discussing the book of the same name:

Most modern nations have the technical capabilities to monitor their citizens' behavior 24/7: Check, unfortunately.

And we still haven't given up dreaming about an even grander future. Ain't that great?
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Re: How much would you pay for the universe?

#11 Post by PyTom » Sun Apr 15, 2012 10:06 am

Taleweaver wrote:Virtually everyone can communicate with everyone else on the planet, from everywhere, provided they are in first-world-countries?
I think the massive drop in cost in long-distance communications - and everything that entails - is probably the biggest change that's taken place in my lifetime. I remember when I was growing up, long distance telephone calls were prohibitively expensive. I fairly clearly remember a company advertising a 25-cent-per-minute rate as a huge improvement over the current price. And that's just for calling between states - or even within a state. IIRC, I'd have had to pay that rate for a call from Long Island to New York City - under 50 miles.

Computer communications were a bit cheaper, but not by much. IIRC, Compuserve was multiple dollars per hour - and if you used the forum part of it, the cost increased rapidly.

Nowadays, the telephone is basically free (and actually free, if you use Skype or something like it). I think most people pay no incremental cost for data communications to any place in the world.

Just recently, I was talking to a few salesmen at work - and I found it odd to realize that they had never socialized with people outside the US. That they generally don't communicate with people outside of this country. For me, that's such a natural thing to do, that I hardly pay attention to it. I mean, I'm replying to Taleweaver here, and he's in Germany - and I've done that on dozens of occasions, and it's hardly worthy of comment.

And it's amazing what cheap communications have enabled. Linux exists because of a team of people uses the Internet to collaborate to make it. Wikipedia is the same way. Google wouldn't exist without the Internet - Amazon might, but it would be far different.

Without the Internet, this forum might not exist. What's more - without the Internet, it isn't clear that visual novels would exist as a meaningful genre. Even now, it's too small to have much in the way of marketing - and word of mouth doesn't work if you don't know anyone else into it. (I still don't know - in person - anyone else who has played a visual novel.)

So, yeah - just in my lifetime, cheap communications has revolutionized the world. I wonder what the next big change will be. (If I had to guess, it will be the massive changes caused by the virtualization of education - is it better to learn in an expensive small class led by a mediocre professor, or a cheap or free enormously large class led by one of the best professors in the world?)
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