mikegarrison

Colonization Discussion Thread (split from SpaceX)

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Just now, tater said:

Maybe it's because I finally read Bostrom, and then Max tegmark's new book, but I think that the intelligence explosion will be transformative, yes. Imagine being able to send narrowly intelligent machines to build designs optimized by even better intelligences to make habitats with no human labor required. Build a place to go, then go there.

You're starting to sound like one of the Aurorans from Isaac Asimov's Robot Series.

There's a great deal to be said for the pioneer spirit.  If we never go anywhere until it's comfortable, we lose something of humanity.  That's not the kind of world I want to live in, without that vital energy- and neither does Elon Musk...

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1 minute ago, Northstar1989 said:

 If we never go anywhere until it's comfortable, we lose something of humanity.

I'm afraid, then 99% of humanity is permanently lost.

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5 minutes ago, Northstar1989 said:

There's a great deal to be said for the pioneer spirit.  If we never go anywhere until it's comfortable, we lose something of humanity.  That's not the kind of world I want to live in, without that vital energy- and neither does Elon Musk...

You can't be a "pioneer" in space, not in the traditional sense. Space requires cooperation, discipline, planning ... you don't just strike out in the hab with an ion drive at your back unless you've got a death wish, colonies will be regimented, strictly ordered societies until they are well established. You'll have to redefine your definition of "humanity".

Edited by regex

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7 minutes ago, Northstar1989 said:

You're starting to sound like one of the Aurorans from Isaac Asimov's Robot Series.

There's a great deal to be said for the pioneer spirit.  If we never go anywhere until it's comfortable, we lose something of humanity.  That's not the kind of world I want to live in, without that vital energy- and neither does Elon Musk...

We're not talking comfort, we're talking just not dropping dead.

Pioneers of the past spent their own money (like my great great grandfather getting on a sailing ship in 1848) to move someplace. Musk nods to this, but my GG grandfather then spent what little he had left to buy a few acres of land, and farm rural WI. Back then it was very much sink or swim. Darned socks, and sometimes maybe less than full bellies. On Mars, you either import stuff at great cost, or you die. There is not a lot of in between. This is a pioneer spirit that requires making other people pay for it.

Edited by tater

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4 minutes ago, Northstar1989 said:

I was never implying that all of this UP would actually be SOLD.  So e would.  Some would simply be shared, or stolen/ripped-off.  What I was saying is that the IP, even if not monetized, would contribute to the betterment of humanity, and that some small PORTION would be commercialized- which would provide governments and corporations at least some incentive to invest in Mars...

A tiny incentive compared to a massive investment. If the ROI does not cover the investment, then it isn't an investment.

So that doesn't work.

4 minutes ago, Northstar1989 said:

The most easily-commercialized IP just happens to be straight out of my fields of biology and medicine- pharmaceuticals, patents on medical devices, cures for diseases, and GMO's.  There's no reason a new drug developed to treat Cancer (likely a high-priority research topic there, due to all the radiation) on Mars couldn't also be licensed out to a pharmaceutical company on Earth.  Similarly, a new strain of genetically-engineered soybean designed to grow with 10% less water than existing varieties could sell just as well on Earth has on Mars.

Why would Mars biologists have more chance of discovering those things that Earth biologists ? Why couldn't a research lab on Earth be able to elaborate treatments for Mars patients ?

Why would Monsanto or Pfizer invest in an R&D facility on Mars for 100 times the cost of an equivalent R&D facility in India or Malaysia ?

4 minutes ago, Northstar1989 said:

Once Mars' economy becomes sufficiently advanced to make such products, there is PLENTY of return governments will see on their investment.

Once. But how much time does it take to get to that point, while operating at a loss.

You keep on claiming that like will be great once the colony reaches a critical mass. The problem is still the decades or centuries it takes to reach that critical mass. You can't just dump a million people on Mars. You need to build a city for millions of people, to grow it progressivement. In order to reach that critical mass, the effort needs to be both sustainable (not self-sustainable) and attractive (economically and in terms of quality of life) from the start, not after 100 years.

4 minutes ago, Northstar1989 said:

Until that time, Mars colonists will probably embark out of a sense of adventure and a search for new frontiers- not because they're in it to make money (although, governments could incentivize select groups of people with certain critical skills yo go with cash-transfers, to help subsidize their tickets or provife a bdtter living for loved ones they leave behind on Earth...)

You're still in your wild west fantasy.

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1 minute ago, Nibb31 said:

Why would Mars biologists have more chance of discovering those things that Earth biologists ?

Because if they won't, they get no food.

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18 minutes ago, Northstar1989 said:

Governments who want to see the Mars effort succeed, or just see greater representation of their cultural values in the new society, could incentivize people to go by paying for part/all of their ticket, and even providing cash transfers to relatives they leave behind on Earth.

You are aware that government colonization rarely ends well for the governments. In the past, invariably, the colonies that were built at a huge expense all end up demanding independence and breaking off from their mother country.

A self-sufficient Mars colony isn't a great objective for a government to invest in.

Edited by Nibb31

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The ante per colonist should not be a notional 200k in flight cost, it should be the total estimated cost for the rest of their lives in resupply. 

The Musk model would really require a collective colonization corp to form. The ticket might be 200k, but in addition, they invest (sign over their retirement stuff, etc) enough that the Earth markets can safely grow that money to cover all subsidy, and ideally profit the colony. Say the cost is estimated at  $75,000 per person, per year. They'd need 1.5M$ invested at an assumed 5% to cover that. Don't trust my accounting, lol.

Edited by tater

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1 hour ago, Northstar1989 said:

America trades because it has the OPTION to, and trade enables a better standard of living than would be possible without trading

Similarly, a Mars colony will likely trade with Earth because it will have the OPTION to, and that trade will enable a better standard if living on Mars.  However, what will CONSTITUTE the items of trade will most likely not be material goods, but intellectual property and knowledge.

Almost anything that can be made on Earth will eventually be able to be manufactured on Mars, and vise-versa.  With the enormously-high transport costs between Earth and Mars, it will almost never be beneficial to ship material goods from Earth when there is much more money to be made by a bootstrapping an industry and figuring out how to make it on Mars.

Why would anybody on Mars ever choose to run an import-export business between Earth and Mars (except in rare goods like artwork) when there will be much more money to be made by starting up a factory to make a good on Mars that would otherwise have to be imported from Earth?

The only trade in physical goods that is ever likely to occur will be in the early days, when it will be a physical impossibility to manufacture certain goods in Mars' early colonial economy, and the colonists will have no choice but to import them from Earth.  Once the colonies there have sufficiently matured, they will make all necessary goods on-planet, trading between various cities specialized in different industries just like on Earth.

This works for the US who could technically produce all it needed with an very few exceptions. It would be more expensive if nothing else that you produce for 5% of earth population only. 
An small country like Holland could not do this, lack of mineral resources and oil, too low population to produce all sort of high tech items.
An Mars colony even as an major city would have the same issue, you could not produce all the high tech items you need and its not just about standard of living or even productivity. 
If you can not manufacture all parts of an mars suit you can not go outside and repair after the last suit failed same with life support. 

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2 hours ago, Nibb31 said:

A Mars colony will always be dependent on re-supply shipments from Earth, just like America is dependent on imports for lots of stuff (including food, energy, and hi tech devices).

The point (At least by Elon) is that if it had to be cut off from Earth, it'd be fine, but just like between other countries, some trade deals, and resupplies will always be wanted, and improve life there.

And regarding economics, I wonder What kinds of things it could export. Them eventually having some sort of entertainment industry could be cool, but that's more digital trade. If they begin terraforming, I imagine they could give Earth new, or better technologies (Bit of a stretch in at least the 1st half century, but they'll catch up eventually). 

I agree with most of your other points.

Edited by Spaceception

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1 hour ago, regex said:

Wasn't there some speculation that a single asteroid could pretty much crash the Earth mineral markets? That is, as soon as you introduce that much raw material to Earth economies its worth becomes pretty meaningless. Wealth takes on whole new meanings and you start pondering the realms of post-scarcity. BFR may make that future a reality with so much mass on orbit so cheaply.

Yeah, early on, I can see the colony being socialist, with capitalism being mixed in later. And payment could be some sort of cryptocurrency, but I don't know what they would need to pay for, food, water, and air will at least be guaranteed early on.

Maybe different pieces of art and entertainment could be something they buy, there will always be a market for that.

Perhaps they are guaranteed only  basic rations and water, if they want say, a pizza, or soda, they have to pay for it (This would exist once they have a town though, and people to spare for small business). And payment could be based on how much they did, rather than hours spent (Like setting up propellant lines, making solar panels, servicing robots, etc) since it might be physically draining, and one who does something else for 8 might have the same value, yet they would be payed more.

Does this make sense?

Edited by Spaceception

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12 minutes ago, Spaceception said:

Yeah, early on, I can see the colony being socialist.

It's pretty much a requirement for survival. Everyone has to have a purpose for being up there (actual purpose, as in "backup person who maintains the air filters") until things are well established. Anyone else is a waste. Children will need to be planned for and educated by the colony for specific purposes in well-planned expansions. I don't even see economy as being relevant until there comes a point where new colonists are essentially "free", that being the point where they're not a significant drag on the system and can specialize into non-essential jobs. Of course, once you reach that point you also run into the issue of laziness and people who just don't clean the filters, or not enough people entering school to learn how to clean the filters, letting things go to waste. That's a death sentence in space.

I'm much more inclined to believe that robots will be doing the colonization and cleaning, and people will simply show up later.

Quote

Does this make sense?

Not early on, no. Later, it really depends on the circumstances of their society. In machine-driven post-scarcity economy makes little sense, as does wealth. I'm sure people will invent something, but in the early stages of an actual humanity-driven beachhead on Mars, it makes little sense to retain an economy since everything will need to be regimented and planned.

Edited by regex

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17 minutes ago, regex said:

It's pretty much a requirement for survival. Everyone has to have a purpose for being up there (actual purpose, as in "backup person who maintains the air filters") until things are well established. Anyone else is a waste. Children will need to be planned for and educated by the colony for specific purposes in well-planned expansions. I don't even see economy as being relevant until there comes a point where new colonists are essentially "free", that being the point where they're not a significant drag on the system and can specialize into non-essential jobs. Of course, once you reach that point you also run into the issue of laziness and people who just don't clean the filters, or not enough people entering school to learn how to clean the filters, letting things go to waste. That's a death sentence in space.

I'm much more inclined to believe that robots will be doing the colonization and cleaning, and people will simply show up later.

Not early on, no. Later, it really depends on the circumstances of their society. In machine-driven post-scarcity economy makes little sense, as does wealth. I'm sure people will invent something, but in the early stages of an actual humanity-driven beachhead on Mars, it makes little sense to retain an economy since everything will need to be regimented and planned.

Yeah, agree. Imo, education would probably be a requirement, maybe even a punishable one if they neglect it. If one idiot screws up a life support system, or hydroponic row, they could create a lot of work for someone, or waste precious resources. So everyone will need solar system class (heh) education or risk getting in trouble, along with their parents.

For the 2nd chunk. Yeah, also agree, but how long would it be post scarcity? It'd definitely be at least many generations. Hmm, there's a video on that on YouTube, I'll have to watch it xD

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2 minutes ago, Spaceception said:

but how long would it be post scarcity?

There are a lot of resources in space. There are even more in other star systems. Welcome to the impetus to explore and expand.

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3 minutes ago, regex said:

There are a lot of resources in space. There are even more in other star systems. Welcome to the impetus to explore and expand.

Drat outta likes.

Humanity is gonna be in for a wild ride in the next century or so. And perhaps longer, may take awhile to get used to it.

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1 hour ago, Northstar1989 said:

I was never implying that all of this UP would actually be SOLD.  So e would.  Some would simply be shared, or stolen/ripped-off.  What I was saying is that the IP, even if not monetized, would contribute to the betterment of humanity, and that some small PORTION would be commercialized- which would provide governments and corporations at least some incentive to invest in Mars...

The most easily-commercialized IP just happens to be straight out of my fields of biology and medicine- pharmaceuticals, patents on medical devices, cures for diseases, and GMO's.  There's no reason a new drug developed to treat Cancer (likely a high-priority research topic there, due to all the radiation) on Mars couldn't also be licensed out to a pharmaceutical company on Earth.  Similarly, a new strain of genetically-engineered soybean designed to grow with 10% less water than existing varieties could sell just as well on Earth has on Mars.

Once Mars' economy becomes sufficiently advanced to make such products, there is PLENTY of return governments will see on their investment.

Okay. So now the portion of IP that you do commercialise also has to support the IP that is shared or infringed. It also has to support all the research or other intellectual activity that went into creating said shared or infringed IP.

Setting up a research lab on Mars for the betterment of humanity is a noble aspiration. As a reason to invest in a Mars colony, that is, put money into the colony in the hope of making a profit - its a complete non-starter. Doing so whilst the colony is still growing, even more so.

I work in a university tech transfer department. My day job (more accurately the day jobs of myself and my colleagues) is making a scenario, much like the one you describe, actually work. We start with the knowledge generated by our university. We figure out whether we can get any sort of useful IP protection for it (and equally important, whether we should be protecting it at all, depending on how it was funded). Then we try and monetise that IP in various ways.

Any money we do make gets ploughed right back into the university. No Ferraris for us.

Incidentally, life sciences, drug discovery and medicine are particular strengths of my university, so I have at least some insight into commercialising IP in those fields.

If you can point me at a single university that is able to support its biology department using the proceeds from IP generated by that department, I will be seriously impressed. I would also point out  that that department is not operating in isolation in the way an equivalent Martian lab would be.

Finally, the kind of examples you've picked are also very much the kind that look great on paper but are not at all easy to actually commercialise.

Taking your cancer drug as an example (and ignoring the part we both know about cancer being an umbrella term for numerous separate diseases), possible drug targets for treating cancer are ten a penny (I exaggerate but not by much).

Screening against a validated target and doing the hit-to-lead work required to develop a compound capable of hitting that target - is also fairly routine.

Some of those compounds might even be active in-vitro and sufficiently selective to be a useful tool compound.

Of those tool compounds, some of them might even be active in-vivo. They might cure cancer - in mice. Although, as the old joke goes,  there's practically nothing we can't cure in mice.

Then there's a slim chance that your murine wonder drug actually turns out to be sort of useful for treating cancer in humans. Not curing - treating.

That's a pretty harsh winnowing process. The overwhelming majority of potential cancer treatments (and all the expensive IP behind them) wash out along the way. Pharma companies know this, as you might expect. The amount of work needed to de-risk a new drug compound to the point where a pharma company is going to look seriously at it is non-trivial. Then, assuming that they are interested and take a license to any patents protecting your compound, the chances of you actually seeing any significant returns from that license are slim.

Not a great way to run a Mars colony.

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2 hours ago, Nibb31 said:

You are aware that government colonization rarely ends well for the governments. In the past, invariably, the colonies that were built at a huge expense all end up demanding independence and breaking off from their mother country.

A self-sufficient Mars colony isn't a great objective for a government to invest in.

A hundred or two hundred years of exploitation, however, tends to pay all the bills. Just look at which Earth countries are dominant today and they are the former colonizers, not the former colonies.

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3 minutes ago, mikegarrison said:

A hundred or two hundred years of exploitation, however, tends to pay all the bills. Just look at which Earth countries are dominant today and they are the former colonizers, not the former colonies.

Like the USA? Or like Spain and Portugal?

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1 hour ago, Spaceception said:

Yeah, agree. Imo, education would probably be a requirement, maybe even a punishable one if they neglect it. If one idiot screws up a life support system, or hydroponic row, they could create a lot of work for someone, or waste precious resources. So everyone will need solar system class (heh) education or risk getting in trouble, along with their parents.

Punished? No, never. You'd get recycled. Don't think of it as being punished. Think of it as no longer being able to perform your assigned job, so you're being given a new one.

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13 minutes ago, Nibb31 said:

Like the USA? Or like Spain and Portugal?

Yes. The USA still has many overseas territories. And Spain and Portugal were dominant powers for about 400 years after they started colonizing.

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17 minutes ago, mikegarrison said:

Yes. The USA still has many overseas territories. And Spain and Portugal were dominant powers for about 400 years after they started colonizing.

I was referring to the USA as being former colonies that became dominant.

Spain and Portugal lost all domination before they lost their colonies. Actually at one point the state of Portugal was relocated to Brazil.

There is no rule that expansion through colonization is always profitable. Besides, historical analogies do not apply. For one, colonization was mostly for political and economical profit with trade as a major incitation.

Edited by Nibb31

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There's nothing to exploit on Mars, though.

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Just to steer the thread even more wildly off course... say that Musk finally manages to build his colonial transporter. 150 tons to Mars or whatnot, with options to return home as well.

Wouldn't it make just as much sense to load up a couple of the things with an excavator and a small refinery, maybe some crew quarters if required, and make a beeline for the closest suitable* asteroid instead? Sure, you'd get less payload with you per launch on that trip, but the stuff you bring back home will hopefully be able to cover the cost of the extra launches.

I mean, it's nice to have the capability to go to Mars and fund a colony there, but that capability isn't exclusively applicable to Mars. If you can take colony equipment there, you can take colony equipment almost anywhere. And, as has been extensively discussed in the last few pages of this thread, there isn't an awful lot of profitable things to do there that you can't do on Earth. By contrast, asteroids full of rare earth metals are like treasure chests littered across the abyss, if certain ideas are to be believed. I presume it's cheaper to do refinement on-site in the beginning, then carry only the refined products home (I guess somebody would pay well for the slag, ice and gravel too, but maybe not in the long term). Another benefit, you don't have to drag the goods out of a gravity well before taking them home to Earth. On the other hand, you'd have to leave a lot of really expensive mining/refining equipment tethered to the mined-out asteroid.

*As for what counts as suitable, I think convenience of travel and presence of useful metals would be the biggest prequalifiers. You'd have to make sure the trip is worthwhile before going there. Finding a suitable asteroid would be a time-consuming matter, but developing the required technology for remote prospecting sounds like pocket change compared to "sustainable colony on Mars" amounts of money. Also, the prospector probes could presumably be launched on existing or near-future ships. Perhaps somebody will get on with that task within a few years?

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