[Server-sky] SSPS, Hydro, and other distractions

Keith Lofstrom keithl at gate.kl-ic.com
Thu Jul 18 05:29:49 UTC 2013

On Thu, Jul 18, 2013 at 08:14:36AM +0900, Michael Turner wrote:
> First, something that keeps getting lost in this discussion is that I
> propose beaming power up from Earth through a microwave relay back
> down to Earth. 

I wrote three different replies to this, and they kept coming out
cranky, and I don't want to be cranky with my friends.

There are advocates and skeptics for many ideas, and the reason
they disagree is that both sides haven't dived down into the deep
research and analysis that usually leads to a third path,  avoiding
the pitfalls obvious to the skeptics, while reaching goals both
sooner and more profitably than the grand designs of the advocates.

SSPS?  Small hydro?  Do the research and calculations yourself, with
a skeptical bent, not to kill the ideas but to find the real flaws
to bypass and the excellent opportunities on the bypass routes.  I
could do it for you, and did so in my cranky responses, but where's
the fun in that?

Linus Pauling taught that the way to have good ideas is to have
LOTs of ideas, and get rid of the bad and mediocre ideas as quickly
as possible.  If you need me to find the flaws in the ideas you
cling to, you will never be a Linus Pauling (or Torvalds).

If the advocates haven't made real progress in decades, it isn't
repression by the wicked, it is their own dogmatic commitment to
flawed approaches.  That's the way most people are.  That is why
there are great opportunities to remix and succeed while the timid
beat their heads against the same old walls and their weapons
against the same old enemies.  It takes real courage to listen
to the people who disagree with you, and even more to abandon
certainty for the power of extended collaboration.

Ask yourself what can be done with water on top of a hill, perhaps
at the top of the troposphere.  Ask yourself what can be done with
vacuum and microgravity drenched in 1360 W/m² sunlight.  Making
those superb resources into bulk, low value electric power, and
digging up the planet for copper and aluminum so we can blacken
the blue sky with more wires, seems like a 19th century regression
from 21st century opportunities.

380 trillion terawatts is VERY attractive.  Using 1960s ideas to
prop up a rickety 1930s electrical grid is not.  Computation and
cleverness can replace resource consumption with /enhancement/,
putting stuff back better than we found it, sharing abundance with
all life on earth so it has even more bounty to share with us.

We need computational results from space, not the heat wasted to
produce them.  With a 5777K solar source and a 2.7K black body
heat sink, we can do a LOT of computation out there, and make
clever and useful optimizations down here on the mudball
without cooking it into pottery.

Humans will inhabit space soon, if we establish rapidly growing
ecologies of biology and computation for life to inhabit.  Tiny
metal prisons in orbit makes little sense.  Branches of enhanced
humanity will live in the raw energy and vacuum of space, not
space suits, adapting as our distant ancestors adapted to land
from water.  We will do this with computation and biological
modification rather than glacially slow Darwinian evolution, not
because we are smarter than nature, but because we are impatient.

The Earth can return to its best role as the slow but extremely
powerful computation engine of natural selection, protected from
the occasional asteroid impactor or nearby supernova, shielded 
from a relentlessly hotter sun.  Wipe your feet at the door and
don't track gene-mods into the house.

Those are distant dreams, of course, far beyond server sky, which
itself is many steps beyond the first profits and successes we
will find on our lifelong journey.  Stepping backwards into the
nostalgia of Apollo or Counterculture America, dreaming of what
might have been, will only take us away from where we must go.

Think galacticly, act microscopicly.


Keith Lofstrom          keithl at keithl.com         Voice (503)-520-1993

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