Rapidly Bootstrapping Solar System Wide Civilization

April 20th, 2012 | Posted by paul in Uncategorized - (Comments Off on Rapidly Bootstrapping Solar System Wide Civilization)

Imagine the possibility that within 50 years, a thousand human civilization equivalents of greater wonder, beauty and prosperity than we have now:


Via American Society of Civil Engineers:

Advances in robotics and additive manufacturing have become game‐changing for the prospects of space industry. It has become feasible to bootstrap a self‐sustaining, self‐expanding industry at reasonably low cost. Simple modeling was developed to identify the main parameters of successful bootstrapping. This indicates that bootstrapping can be achieved with as little as 12 metric tons (MT) landed on the Moon during a period of about 20 years. The equipment will be teleoperated and then transitioned to full autonomy so the industry can spread to the asteroid belt and beyond. The strategy begins with a sub‐replicating system and evolves it toward full self‐sustainability (full closure) via an in situ technology spiral. The industry grows exponentially due to the free real estate, energy, and material resources of space. The mass of industrial assets at the end of bootstrapping will be 156 MT with 60 humanoid robots, or as high as 40,000 MT with as many as 100,000 humanoid robots if faster manufacturing is supported by launching a total of 41 MT to the Moon. Within another few decades with no further investment, it can have millions of times the industrial capacity of the United States. Modeling over wide parameter ranges indicates this is reasonable, but further analysis is needed. This industry promises to revolutionize the human condition.

This becomes an ever more tangible possibility as SpaceX revolutionizes commercial spaceflight, and interplanetary propulsion methods reach specific impulses of 250,000 seconds. This is equal to 1 pound of fuel delivering 1 pound of thrust for 250,000 seconds (~3 days), or 250,000 pounds of thrust for one second. Either way it’s a lot! It means rapid (multi-week) flexible travel anywhere in the solar system.


You Want a Totally Unregulated Free-Market? Okay.

April 19th, 2012 | Posted by paul in Uncategorized - (Comments Off on You Want a Totally Unregulated Free-Market? Okay.)

Some thoughts on why I think the utopia of left-leaning libertarians is the most likely outcome of the current power struggle.

Imagine what would happen if right-wing libertarians actually got what they wanted – a totally free and unregulated marketplace (something I’m in favor of by the way). After all they keep telling us it’s the government that keeps getting in the way of free enterprise. Lets give it to them – lets have free enterprise without government. So what does that mean? For starters it means no more copyright laws. For without government or some other centralized monopolization of force, who would enforce copyrights? It also means no more patents. For without regulation (enforcement), who would enforce patents? It would also mean no more licensing restrictions, fees, permits or other artificial entry barriers  keeping the little guy from competing head on with the big guys. For without fees and permits, anybody can participate in the free market. It also mean no more monopolies. For without laws enforcing “intellectual property”, how could a company corner the market on anything? So no more big companies either. For without government backed market protection or fictional “corporate personhood” laws, how could big companies compete against thousands of little companies innovating faster and more diversely than any large company ever could? If you think patents and copyrights promote innovation rather than stifle it, think again.

Also, no more centralized currencies. For without government backed currencies and centralized banking laws, how could anyone corner the market on freely proliferating and competing currencies? So goodbye to Goldman Sachs and other vampire financial firms. No more patents stifling innovation, and thus no more restrictions keeping anyone from creating super amazing stuff and putting it out on the internet for free, and so fast that any kind of enforcement will be too little, too late. It means hand-held devices that do everything and operate on any frequency. This in turn means rapid decentralized global deployment of totally free and unregulated broadband communications for everyone. No more cell phone companies charging exorbitant fees – actually no more cell phone companies period. No more censorship or information control either. No more mainstream media, and other domineering propaganda channels. No more secrets. No more conspiracies. No more monopolization of power.

I suspect this is not what the current “deregulation crowd” had in mind. They want there to be some kind of centralized enforcement branch to protect their “intellectual property rights”. I think the best argument against this kind of right-wing libertarianism is this – if they insist that at least one centralized institution remain to enforce intellectual  property rights (through threat of incarceration or violence of course), what is to keep that central point of failure from being hijacked by the most rich and powerful to create protection rackets for themselves and thus eliminate their free market? I challenge them to tell me then how such a scenario won’t happen, and an how it is any different than what we have now. From where I’m sitting their “free” market is not really free, but an untenable fantasy. You can’t have it both ways. Either we have a free market and all that implies (above) or you’re back to some kind of oppressive system – in this case corporate feudalism. So here is the naked truth – any right-wing libertarian who says they want a free-market with enforced intellectual property rights, is either deluding themselves or damned liars who are the very tyrants they warn us against.

Of course some would call this anarchy, and what may seem like an inevitable bazaar of violence emerging to dominate it (predicted by people like Bruce Sterling and John Robb). However that problem, as troublesome as it is, is also not sustainable, as more and more of that kind of power flows into the hands of individuals. Because the truth is this – good intentions out number bad ones 20 to 1. The beauty of this logic is simple – the network magnifies good intentions exponentially faster than the bad ones. As the power of the network grows, individuals can create network collectives of transparency and prosperity that far out compete (and out number) any stupid, criminal, secret, malicious or parasitic conspiratorial system. This means that over time the good guys will out compete the bad guys at every turn. Until then expect more medium-size players taking on large incumbents, such as the Mexican cartels taking on the Mexican government. But that unfortunate trend is only temporary as power continues to shift to the edges. Already smaller towns in Mexico have made it nearly impossible for criminal elements to take over their communities. After all, if everything is unregulated, how could criminal/corporate/political cartels ever survive? They won’t.

I should add that the more enlightened right-wing libertarians feel property right contracts should be voluntary and never forced on anyone. They believe that those who choose such contracts will create an economic bloc that will be superior to other types of collectives. I’m fine with that, and their welcome to try. However, they’ll quickly discover they cannot compete when everyone else is not honoring those contracts and remixes and re-engineers any and all innovation to ever higher heights.

Meanwhile trends continue to nip away at “intellectual property” all over the world. China has gotten where it is in largely by ripping off everyone else’s intellectual property, particularly the West’s innovative capital. How’s that working out for the West? Not well. The genie is out of the bottle when it comes to information, so we’re going to see more innovation coming through open information channels, and less through the traditional copyright and patent system. Those who want to create a property rights nirvana are living in a dream world that can no longer exist in a world where anyone can remix and “steal” any electrons and duplicate that knowledge around the world in seconds.

Because of the new reality of free information, great efforts are now being expended to maintain the old system – SOPA, PIPA, CISPA (expect more nth derivatives), and new threats of violence and incarceration in things like the NDAA (which makes it “legal” to incarcerate or assassinate anyone without due process). The trend however is that monopolization of violence is rapidly vanishing as well. The transition to these new utopias I’m afraid will be quite rocky for a time as both the old power elites do whatever they must to maintain their power, while newer more nimble thugs make a go at at it. But that is a transitional trend not an endpoint, thankfully.



DIY Drugs

April 16th, 2012 | Posted by paul in DIY/Maker - (Comments Off on DIY Drugs)

From University of Glasgow:

A new 3D printing process developed at the University of Glasgow could revolutionise the way scientists, doctors and even the general public create chemical products.

Professor Lee Cronin, Gardiner Chair of Chemistry at the University, believes his research could lead to the development of home chemical fabricators which consumers could use to design and create medicine at home.

A new research paper, published in the journal Nature Chemistry, outlines how the process has been proven to work. Using a commercially-available 3D printer operated by open-source computer-aided design software, Professor Cronin and his team have built what they call ‘reactionware’, special vessels for chemical reactions which are made from a polymer gel which sets at room temperature.

By adding other chemicals to the gel deposited by the printer, the team have been able to make the vessel itself part of the reaction process. While this is common in large-scale chemical engineering, the development of reactionware makes it possible for the first time for custom vessels to be fabricated on a laboratory scale.


What Kind of Particle Are You?

April 2nd, 2012 | Posted by paul in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

Here’s a mind map of particle physics based on the Standard Model (the closest thing we have yet to a Grand Unified Theory), sans dark matter or other exotica. But hey, it’s the exotica that are more fun, right? This is a fun and engaging map anyway:



Hydra: The Thrivability Quadrant

March 27th, 2012 | Posted by paul in Uncategorized - (Comments Off on Hydra: The Thrivability Quadrant)

Qudrants-HydraEver since I first read about Bucky Fuller’s Design Science Revolution, I’ve taken the proactive position that no problem is unsolvable given enough will. I’ve lived long enough now to know there are solutions to every problem we have, including the more difficult ones (the unknown unknowns). It has been a bit discouraging to see most thinking still stuck within the first three quadrants, with many of the more conscious and smart people hanging out in the upper left quadrant – the Spore quadrant. The essence of this quadrant is that it’s all “going to shit”, but we can still plant seeds or “spores” of resilience now that will eventually sprout in the far future.” (John Robb, who I have a great deal of respect, is the most notable person in this category). For us thrivability people however we see the crisis as an opportunity, an inflection point where things can get a lot better. Sometimes it takes crisis to push us in the right evolutionary direction. As Hydra’s we see the network, the global brain, as coming to a megaconvergence just as we face a megacrisis. The Hydra’s see the same “facts” as the Spores, but see far more opportunity for positive change.

P2p technologies are one great example. They have the power to break the entire stranglehold on mind, hearts and innovation that is currently holding humanity back, way back. Like the medieval church before it, the current economic elites have rigged the system for their benefit, in large part by locking up and controlling as many liberating technologies as they can. They are the winners with their spoils, and they are going to hold onto them as long as possible. But it is too late for them – the genie is out of the bottle. The network is democratizing the entire information universe–  ideas, movies, books, formulas, recipes, instructions, designs, and now physical objects – tools, manufacturing processes, replicating 3d printers, and soon every means of production. If you want more information on how this works, I’ve detailed a bit the ingredients that will enable this “Hyrda” post-scarcity world to emerge.


The Three Requirments for a Post Scarcity Economy

March 27th, 2012 | Posted by paul in Uncategorized - (Comments Off on The Three Requirments for a Post Scarcity Economy)

I have identified just three necessary ingredients for achieving a fully sustainable, post-scarcity economy – open information, open manufacturing and full regenerative use of local materials. All of these are proving to be unstoppable.

Lets look at each of them in a little detail:

1) Open Information  – The modern trend towards increasingly open information began with the Gutenberg printing press in 1436 and became unstoppable ever since.  There is not a single instance anywhere in history where information has been successfully censored indefinitely. The Internet is merely the most recent and dramatic example of this ongoing information explosion. Despite the best efforts of powerful interests everywhere to control and censor information, information wants to be free, and makes it so. The end result will be a totally decentralized and uncensored global network “brain” where everyone will be able to create, share and receive bits from anyone else. For example, the Pirate Bay, the biggest victim of censorship attacks, is now designing and building solar powered, high-altitude (70,000 feet) wireless servers that will be extraordinarily difficult to shut down. Open source hardware devices like the $50 Arduino and $25 Rasberry Pi, are only the beginning of cheap, widely available general purpose computing devices. With the rapid digitization of everything, including books, music, movies, money, recipes, formulas, designs, manufacturing processes, patents, copyrights, trade secrets, state secrets, solutions of every kind, and most importantly computation itself, the genie is out of the bottle for good on this one. No amount of laws or wars to stop it will succeed. Sadly, until the old order collapses, much of the progress in these domains will be done by outlaws.

2) Open Manufacturing – With the advent of open-source desktop manufacturing, the means to create physical goods locally will be made available to all. Open sourced manufacturing generates some dramatically positive outcomes:

  • Radically improved product design without planned obsolescence – think 50-100 year product lifetimes. Indefinite product lifetimes means no further expenditures on tools, and radically reduced requirements for new materials. This translates to far less consumption, waste and strain on the planet.
  • Modular construction methods for easy and rapid construction, repair and upgrading. Example: Wikispeed designed a totally modular car in less than 3 months that gets 100mpg, has 10 minute average repair times, and can be changed from a gasoline to an electric car (and back again!) in less than an hour. Currently automobiles are deliberately designed to fail within a few years, in which repairs and parts are both expensive and difficult to replace. This planned obsolescence is a deliberate design flaw for maximizing auto industry/auto mechanic profit margins. Open source automobiles totally eliminates this waste and expense.
  • Designed from the beginning to use local and biofriendly sources of raw materials – current business models favor the use of expensive or hard to obtain materials for maximizing profit margins. If the materials are cheap and readily available, prices can’t be fixed by resource hoarding. There are strong incentives withing the current closed-source system for incumbents to use materials and processes that are hard to duplicate elsewhere. Prices only drop when their is genuine competition in raw materials. By designing open-source products to use locally available and renewable resources, the price fixers, hoarders, renters and other middle-men are completely cut of of the equation.

3) 100% Regenerative Use of Local Materials – Currently many of the products of our civilization require precious materials from far away places. However the means to create advanced technologies like high capacity batteries and computer processors is becoming possible using everyday organic materials like carbon. A good example is graphene, a new and spectacular type of carbon molecule whose strength and electrical conductivity is greater than any material ever recorded. Already people have figured out to make graphene supercapacitors and do microlithography (the process used to make microchips) using nothing more than a $50 DVD burner! The continued work on creating new materials using readily available recyclable and biodegradable resources makes the possibility of having an fully regenerative, earth friendly, advanced technological, post-scarcity, thriving abundant civilization, a tangible possibility. See Spime.



A perfect comedic deconstruction of the total malarkey dished out by copyright cartels:





LSG (Graphene) flexible capacitor

A super advanced technology breakthrough using  a $50 DVD-Burner.

Courtesy Extreme Tech:

A team of international researchers have created graphene supercapacitors using a LightScribe DVD burner. These capacitors are both highly flexible and have energy and power densities far beyond existing electrochemical capacitors, possibly within reach of conventional lithium-ion and nickel metal hydride batteries.

The team, which was led by Richard Kaner of UCLA, started by smearing graphite oxide — a cheap and very easily produced material — films on blank DVDs. These discs are then placed in a LightScribe drive (a consumer-oriented piece of gear that costs less than $50), where a 780nm infrared laser reduces the graphite oxide to pure graphene. The laser-scribed graphene (LSG) is peeled off and placed on a flexible substrate, and then cut into slices to become the electrodes. Two electrodes are sandwiched together with a layer of electrolyte in the middle — and voila, a high-density electrochemical capacitor, or supercapacitor as they’re more popularly known.

Now, beyond the novel manufacturing process — the scientists are confident it can be scaled for commercial applications, incidentally — the main thing about LSG capacitors is that they have very desirable energy and power characteristics. Power-wise, LSG supercapacitors are capable of discharging at 20 watts per cm3, some 20 times higher than standard activated carbon capacitors, and three orders of magnitude higher than lithium-ion batteries. Energy-wise, we’re talking about 1.36 milliwatt-hours per cm3, about twice the density of activated carbon, and comparable to a high-power lithium-ion battery.

These characteristics stem from the fact that graphene is the most conductive material known to man — the LSG produced by the scientists showed a conductivity of 1738 siemens per meter (yes, that’s a real unit), compared to just 100 siemens for activated carbon. The performance of capacitors is almost entirely reliant on the surface area of the electrodes, so it’s massively helpful that one gram of LSG has a surface area of 1520 square meters (a third of an acre). As previously mentioned, LSG capacitors are highly flexible, too, with no effect on its performance (pictured right).

These graphene supercapacitors could really change the technology landscape. While computing power roughly doubles every 18 months, battery technology is almost at a standstill. Supercapacitors, which suffer virtually zero degradation over 10,000 cycles or more, have been cited as a possible replacement for low-energy devices, such as smartphones. With their huge power density, supercapacitors could also revolutionize electric vehicles, where huge lithium-ion batteries really struggle to strike a balance between mileage, acceleration, and longevity. It’s also worth noting, however, that lithium-ion batteries themselves have had their capacity increased by 10 times thanks to the addition of graphene. Either way, then, graphene seems like it will play a major role in the future of electronics.



With all of the talk about censoring the internet with things like SOPA, PIPA and now ACTA, comes the possibility of creating an entirely new free internet immune to censorship – high-altitude geostationary solar-powered dirigible wireless server drones. Already DIY drones are taking off everywhere – see this video for a good idea of how citizens can counter the increasing surveillance of the state by spying back on them. Ideally these drones would all be connected to each other in a self-healing mesh-network, should any of them fail, get lost or be “shot down” by unfriendly forces.

Now comes this news about Pirate Bay’s intent to create “Low Orbit Server Drones”:

The Pirate Bay, the file-sharing site, has, at this point, generally accepted the fact that their front-end servers are perpetually at risk of being confiscated by some government or other that they’ve ticked off with their “crazy” ideas of freedom of information. Whether or not you agree with The Pirate Bay, you can probably understand the seriousness of what they’re up against, so it’s not really that surprising that they’ve been looking for a place a bit more out of reach to stash their hardware. Their latest idea? Low Orbit Server Drones.

A Low Orbit Server Station (or LOSS), as best as we can tell, would be a small customized robotic blimp of some sort that would float “some kilometers” up in the air, keeping station with GPS. On board would be a microcomputer (TPB mentions the Raspberry Pi, a cheap ARM Linux box, as one possibility) and a radio transmitter. A ground station could talk to the blimp at 100 Mbps from up to 50 km away, acting as a remote, distributed proxy system. The idea here is that in order for anyone to raid the aerial proxies, they’d have to launch an aerial attack of some sort on the robot blimp network. As TPB puts it:

“This way our machines will have to be shut down with aeroplanes in order to shut down the system. A real act of war.”

We’re not sure about the legal aspects here, or if there are even any precedents for something like this. But, it’s certainly an interesting (and potentially incendiary) approach that The Pirate Bay is looking to take. And not just looking: this is apparently going to happen for real, and the first drone in the network will take station somewhere in international waters. Probably a good plan.



Open Source Cars

March 16th, 2012 | Posted by paul in DIY/Maker - (0 Comments)




Wikispeed Roadster

There’s a manufacturing revolution going on that is making it possible to produce most of what we currently buy from the global production system (multi-national companies, like Walmart, and China) locally, within our own communities.  That even includes products as larger and complex as cars.

Wikispeed is making an open source car.

Wikispeed is an online car company with a volunteer team of designers, engineers, and enthusiasts all over the world.  Recently, this team jointly designed a complete car in a stunningly quick three months that:

  • gets high performance,
  • achieves 100 miles per gallon mileage,
  • meets all US safety standards,
  • uses modular construction (so that all parts and subsystems can be easily replaced).

If you want to take on the challenge of building this car in your town, check out their technical videos.

I want to point out that modular construction means that the most difficult repairs could be fixed in less than 10 minutes. No more devastating $2000 mechanic bills.  You simply plop the part out, and put the new one in. This is exactly how airplanes are built – to be very easy and fast to repair. Cars on the other hand are made intentionally difficult to fix in order to maintain the Auto industry/auto mechanic money racket. No more planned obsolesence either. There open-sourced cars can be made to last indefinitely.  Imagine that, one and only car purchase, and should you get bored with it, upgrade it, or swap it out. What this means is a lot less stress on the planet, less materials consumed, and far less energy.

For our purposes, it’s important to understand that this design can be made in a relatively small, local “factory.”  A factory that employs craftspeople you know.  A factory that you can visit.  A factory where it may be possible to participate in the manufacturing process. Here’s a video of one Joe Justice, one of the team leaders, talking about how they did it:


So how it is possible to build an awesome 100mpg street legal and beautiful car in three months?  Scrum:

The Scrum Framework in 30 Seconds

  • product owner creates a prioritized wish list called a product backlog.
  • During sprint planning, the team pulls a small chunk from the top of that wishlist, a sprint backlog, and decides how to implement those pieces.
  • The team has a certain amount of time, a sprint, to complete its work – usually two to four weeks – but meets each day to assess its progress (daily scrum).
  • Along the way, the ScrumMaster keeps the team focused on its goal.
  • At the end of the sprint, the work should be potentially shippable, as in ready to hand to a customer, put on a store shelf, or show to a stakeholder.
  • The sprint ends with a sprint review and retrospective.
  • As the next sprint begins, the team chooses another chunk of the product backlog and begins working again.
For more information see Wikipedia entry on Scrum, and the Scrum Alliance.

Wikispeed has recently inked an agreement with the people over at innovative Open Source Ecology.

Local Motors is also working on their own open-sourced, locally manufactured automobile.

[Source:  Resilient Communities]