Archive for the 'Perspectives' Category

Jul 04 2017

Happy Independence Day 2017, USA!

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Here’s the powerful speech by President John F. Kennedy of September 12, 1962 at Rice University where he announces the rationale and plan for the greatest exploration and technology event in history — the 1st landing of humans on the Moon in 1969 — and does it in the context of human progress over our entire history. His emphasis is the American spirit of freedom and discovery, and it remains highly relevant to the potentially transformative exploration and technology vistas which beckon us today.

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Jun 18 2017

Bruce’s New Op-Ed is in the Washington Times

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My new Op-Ed, “Trump, the new JFK in space” appeared today in the Washington Times.


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May 11 2008

Economic Growth — A Brief 21stCenturyWaves Perspective

A variety of long-term indicators – economic, social, technological, and political – strongly suggest that a new international space race will take shape during the next 5 – 10 years. This unprecedented thrust into space is expected to significantly exceed the scale and scope of the 1960’s Apollo Moon program and will culminate by 2025 in a variety of major activities in space such as humans on Mars, tourists on the Moon, and solar power satellites in LEO.

Long-term patterns in the economy, technology, and exploration over the last 200 years appear to have predictive power for the 21st Century. In particular, a roughly 56-year cycle was identified, where macro-engineering projects (e.g., Panama Canal), significant human explorations (e.g., Lewis and Clark), and major military conflicts (e.g., Civil War) tended to cluster together, near economic booms. The bottom-line forecast is that the decade from 2015 to 2025 will be the analog of the 1960s, bringing a global focus on achievement in space exploration and a Camelot-like zeitgeist. The purpose of this Weblog is to evaluate these forecasts based on macroeconomics and macrohistory, by comparing them to
events and trends from around the world in 10 Wave Guide areas.

This long-term approach to 21st Century space forecasting is based on the concept of a “Maslow Window”, in which each successive economic boom (typically peaking every 56 years) does two things: 1) it fuels the societal affluence required to spur large-scale technology and engineering activities, and, more importantly, 2) it creates widespread ebullience by briefly elevating society to the highest levels in Maslow’s hierarchy. This ebullience creates the atmosphere of social well-being and confidence vital to undertake and support large, complex, risky, expensive, multi-year programs and explorations. The confluence of societal affluence and ebullience is seen only infrequently in modern times, when peaks in economic activity (following a 56 year cycle) triggered the four great explorations (Lewis and Clark, Dr. Livingstone in Africa, the Polar Expeditions, Apollo Moon) of the last 200 years.

In July, 2007 Fortune magazine termed the current worldwide expansion “the greatest economic boom ever”. Continued rapid growth, assuming consistent government policies, is projected by the Congressional Budget Office at least to 2011. This is precisely the trend one would expect as we approach the economic boom presaging the next Maslow Window. For example, based on economic data corresponding to the previous four Maslow Windows, projected GDP for 2025 should reach between two and three times its current value.

Evidence for the near-term approach to Maslow Window-style ebullience is also provided by travel industry statistics that indicate skyrocketing growth of adventure-type travel and extreme sports (e.g., high altitude mountaineering). Indeed, in 2003 the Wall Street Journal estimated the global market for adventure travel to be $ 245 billion. The beginning of the suborbital space tourist industry is another key step in this direction.

As society ascends the Maslow hierarchy it eventually aspires to fulfill what Maslow called “esteem needs,” reflecting a desire for respect from others and for others, and for self-esteem. Data relevant to these needs has been tracked by The National Conference on Citizenship. Their Civic Health Index (CHI) monitors 40 indicators across nine categories, including connections to civic and religious groups, trust in other people, trends in philanthropy and volunteer work, and awareness of current and world events.

Since 1975, subsequent to the close of the Apollo Maslow Window, the CHI has registered steep declines of 7%, a trend viewed as a “substantial and troubling pattern.” However, their data may indicate a turning point, demonstrating almost a 3 point recovery in the CHI since 1999, with a renewed ascent up the Maslow hierarchy. This is the trend we would expect as increasing affluence begins to elevate society back to the esteem and (eventually) the “cognitive” need levels that are characteristic of past Maslow Windows.

Additional evidence favoring these projections comes from the well-documented “generations” concept of William Strauss and Neil Howe (Generations, 1991). Recently, the changing characteristics of successive generations have been correlated with long economic waves (about 56 years). As we approach the next Maslow Window in 2015, the Millennial generation will be coming of age. As “Civics” they will be especially supportive of Maslow Window space activities; two previous “Civics” presidents were John F. Kennedy (Apollo) and Ronald Reagan (Space Station).

Growing international interest in non-space macro-engineering projects is also a reliable indicator of the impending Maslow Window opening in 2015. A prime example is the proposed $5B+ Panama Canal expansion project expected to be complete by 2015. The corresponding wave of ebullience that normally heralds such an achievement was recently reflected in the national referendum in 2006 where Panamanians approved the risky, expensive project by 76.8% of votes.

In a world plagued by economic uncertainty, global conflict, and natural disasters, major space programs are increasingly popular. Both Japan and the U.S. have announced plans to send people to the Moon within 12 years. China also wants to establish a Moon base but is worried about costs; this is a common pre-Maslow Window concern. Russia claims to be ahead in a “race to Mars” that they expect to win by 2025. The next race to space appears about to begin, right on schedule, and upcoming posts will document this activity on the global stage from the perspective of all 10 Wave Guides.

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May 11 2008

Public Opinion — A Brief 21stCenturyWaves Perspective

Public opinion is a major driver for any large U.S. space program and will likely launch the next race to space within 5 to 10 years. At the Public Opinion Wave Guide is separated from Politics (Wave Guide 3) because public opinion is not always rapidly reflected in political decisions due to economic, political, and/or international events.

While public opinion polls provide direct responses to specific questions from a scientific sample, they are regarded as suspect by some because results often depend on the precise wording of questions and other factors. An excellent example is Roger Launius writing in Space Policy in 2003, “A human Mars mission has never enjoyed much support from the American people,” who then quotes polls between 1969 and 1999 that show public support hovering near or below 40%. Compare this with a statement by Alex Kirk in 2004 (published by The Mars Society), “..the public seems to be in agreement that, generally speaking, sending humans to Mars is a good idea.” He quotes a 1996 survey by the Roper Center at the University of Connecticut that 67% support human Mars missions, and a 1988 survey by Time magazine who found 71% did.

On the other hand, almost everyone finds that Americans like the idea of international cooperation in space, especially with the Russians. Public views of space also seem to be influenced by popular culture (especially cinema and television); e.g., the movie Apollo 13 in 1995 which apparently elevated opinion polls about the importance of the space program by 13 % according to Yankelovich analysts in polls conducted for Boeing between 1978 and 1997. For this reason we devote an entire Wave Guide (# 10) to the monitoring of trends in pop culture and entertainment.

On the basis of public opinion polls Launius claims that popular support for Apollo was not as high during the 1960s as typically assumed. He points to polls during the 1960s asking if the federal government should fund human trips to the Moon that never rose above 45% approval and usually slouched near 40%. In fact, in 1965 one third of the country favored reducing NASA’s budget, and by 1969 — the year of the first human landing on the Moon — that percent had increased to 40% (it skyrocketed to 55% in 1975!). This suggests that popular support for Apollo started to erode almost as soon as the program was established, and supports the notion that Maslow Windows can flourish for up to a decade but then rapidly decline.

Based on the history of the 1960s, Launius concludes that in the future, a large-scale space program like Apollo will only be initiated if it, “serves a larger political, economic, or national defense agenda.” This is consistent with a key forecast of that another Sputnik-like international shock near 2013 will stimulate the American people and its leaders into the next race for space. Future Wave Guide 2 posts will evaluate evidence for evolving public interest in space and related arenas.

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May 11 2008

Politics — A Brief 21stCenturyWaves Perspective

Virtually every major human exploration event and macro-engineering project (MEP) of the last 200 years has captured at least national attention and usually also riveted an international following. This often translates into national and/or international political forces becoming factors in the human exploration or MEP, as well as activates U.S. presidential concerns and actions. In this “Brief Perspective” we only skeletally sketch typical political forces involved to set the stage for real-time posts in Wave Guide 3.

A perfect example is President Jefferson and the Lewis and Clark expedition just after 1800. In Jefferson’s Great Gamble, author Charles Cerami descrbes the economic boom of this Maslow Window as, “…so much success…thriving…country’s credit was so good…!” Nevertheless despite this near-Utopian financial wonderland, Jefferson feared Napolean’s strong interest in a North American empire. A scientist himself, Jefferson also burned with curiousity about the avalanche of scientific discoveries that awaited in the great unknown land of the American northwest. However, political pressure from Jefferson and Napoleon’s need to fund his cash-strapped European war machine finally motivated Napolean on April 11, 1803 to sell, “I renounce Lousiana…not only New Orleans…(but) the whole colony, reserving none of it.” Not one to waste time, Jefferson signaled the OK to Lewis and Clark who began the first major human exploration of the last 200 years from Camp Dubois near St. Louis on May 14, 1804.

The greatest MEP of the last 200 years, until the Apollo Moon program, was the Panama Canal. Despite the best efforts of the French fresh from success with Suez, technical, financial, and management problems almost doomed the disaster-plagued project until the advent of Theodore Roosevelt. In The Path Between the Seas, historian David McCullough describes Roosevelt’s enthusiasm for the canal as total, “No single great material work which remains to be undertaken on this continent is of such consequence to the American people.” In Roosevelt’s vision the canal was, “the indispensable path to a global destiny for the USA.” Success finally came. After spending almost $ 6 B (2006), suffering 27,000 worker deaths (French and American), conquering yellow fever, assisting Panama in their separation from Colombia, and excavating over 262 million cubic yards of earth, Balboa’s 1513 discovery of the Pacific coast of Panama finally came to fruition 4 centuries later when, in August 1914, the first ship passed through the canal from the Atlantic to the Pacific.

Prior to the 1960s, MEPs were always separated from major human explorations (e.g. Panama Canal vs. the Polar expeditions). However, in the Apollo Moon program — for the first time in the last 200 years — the major human exploration event was thoroughly intertwined with the Maslow Window’s MEP (see Cordell 1996, 2006). Walter McDougall, in his classic The Heavens and the Earth, explains how the pressures of the Cold War — including the surprise launch of Sputnik and America’s educational crisis of confidence (see Wave Guide 4 Perspective) — motivated the young, charismatic President Kennedy to announce on May 25, 1961 that, “…this nation should…before this decade is out…(land) a man on the Moon…and (return) him safely to the Earth.” With his supremely confident commitment to Apollo, President Kennedy became the President Roosevelt (Panama Canal) and the President Jefferson (Lewis & Clark) of his time.

Although President Kennedy was hardly alone in his enthusiasm for putting Americans on the Moon — the post-Sputnik American public and Congress were solidly behind him — the question arises about who will be the first Kennedy-like “Space President” of the 21st Century? He or she will have to be bold, capable of taking risks, willing to spend money, and above all be charismatic and visionary enough to lead America and the world into the next Maslow Window near 2015. Until recently no such individual had materialized, however many — including former Kennedy advisor and confidant Ted Sorenson (New York Times Magazine, 4/27/08) — have compared Barack Obama to John F. Kennedy, particularly with respect to the enthusiasm and confidence he inspires in his supporters. Future Wave Guide 3 posts will illuminate these mysteries by comparing the national and international political scene with our space-related forecasts for the early 21st Century.

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May 11 2008

Math and Science Education — A Brief 21stCenturyWaves Perspective

Education has always been closely linked to space and this was never more true than on October 4, 1957, the day the world changed. That’s Sputnik Day — a time certainly not celebrated during the 1960s Apollo Maslow Window in the U.S. — when the Soviets launched humanity’s first artificial satellite into low Earth orbit. Ironically, American forces led by German rocket expert Wernher von Braun, could probably have orbited one first but President Eisenhower was in no hurry according to Paul Dickson in his 2001 book, Sputnik — The Shock of the Century.

Only 10 days later the New York Times identified U.S. education as the problem, because Soviet science students were better motivated and given more prestige. Scholastic Magazine chimed in by announcing a “classroom Cold War” with the Soviets. Indeed, within a few months a Gallup poll reported that 70% of respondents believed that U.S. high school students should become more educationally competitive with their Soviet counterparts! And in 1958 Congress advocated beefing up math and science education from the elementary to high schools. Senators as diverse as John F. Kennedy (soon to be the first “Space President”) of Massachusetts and Barry Goldwater of Arizona were even willing to accept new taxes to meet the Soviet educational challenge in space.

This is a hallmark of Maslow Windows: loosening of federal and other purse strings to pursue a lofty goal of international significance. In 1969 U.S. News & World Report reported that although initial cost estimates for the Moon project had been up to $ 40 B, “Congress raised hardly any questions (and)…Initial funds were appropriated swiftly to send Project Apollo on its way.”

As we approach the 1960s-style economic boom of the next Maslow Window (fully ramped-up by 2015) these patterns will repeat. In short: 1) a major Sputnik-like shock will occur near 2013 (1957 + 56) involving probably China and their international partners; see Wave Guide 5, 2) the American public will raise urgent questions about the viability of American math and science education and demand reforms, and 3) the new “Space President”, a John F. Kennedy-like figure, will respond by committing the U.S. to spectacular, unprecedented activities in space with essentially unanimous support from Congress; see Wave Guide 3.

Upcoming posts will track this burgeoning tsunami of public concern about American math and science education as it peaks and breaks on the shore of international affairs within a few short years.

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May 11 2008

International Space — A Brief 21stCenturyWaves Perspective

The intersection of projected trajectories for the world’s current and future space powers suggests there will be a major international event just prior to the opening of the next Maslow Window (near 2015). The Nominal Model timelines (see Forecasts page) suggest this will occur near 2013 (Sputnik year 1957 + 56) and will have an impact on the U.S. and world comparable to Sputnik’s launch in 1957.

One likely model is that an international consortium of space powers (ICSP) – possibly led by China – will announce their comprehensive plan for the large-scale colonization and utilization of space, probably including the Moon and possibly Mars. In addition to lunar settlements and orbiting solar power stations, their agenda might include plans for LEO and lunar hotels. Moon hotels are hardly a new idea; the Shimizu Corporation (Tokyo) had impressive designs over 20 years ago when we had meetings with them in connection with a NASA rfp at General Dynamics space headquarters in San Diego. Interestingly, despite their sophisticated concepts, Shimizu did not feature their space projects on their website before and I am unable to find any mention of them now.

Based on the current interest levels and cooperation capabilities of many countries, this ICSP scenario seems very reasonable. For example, both Japan and the U.S. have announced plans to send people back to the Moon within 12 years, and China (possibly in cooperation with Russia) wants to establish a lunar base shortly thereafter. India also has lunar ambitions. And Russia, through its American broker Space Adventures, already offers private citizens their own personal trip around the Moon (for a hefty fee). Russia also claims to be ahead in a “race to Mars” that they expect to win by 2025.

Several countries recently signed the “Global Exploration Strategy” (GES), including Australia, Canada, China, ESA, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Russia, Ukraine, the U.K., and the U.S.. This strategy focuses on why we are returning to the Moon and what we envision doing there, with special emphasis on a comprehensive set of reasons for robotic and human exploration of the Moon. The GES is clearly only the beginning of a new style of international cooperation in space. Indeed, in his recent column in Aerospace America, Editor-at-Large Jerry Grey concludes that, “…despite the current ISS (International Space Station) concerns, there is no doubt that the internationalization of space is enjoying a new period of ascendancy.”(February, 2008).

So in a world plagued by international conflict, economic uncertainty, and natural disasters, major space programs featuring international cooperation are increasingly popular. This is what we would expect during a period of early ebullience as we approach the 2015 Maslow Window. Upcoming Wave Guide 5 posts will comment on events and trends about space powers from around the world and measure their progress relative to the forecasts of

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May 11 2008

Space Entrepreneurs — A Brief 21stCenturyWaves Perspective

Fifty-six years ago in 1952 there were no space entrepreneurs, but what did exist — although Earth-bound — was almost as exciting: Colliers magazine began its first-ever series on “Man Will Conquer Space Soon.” Headed by Wernher von Braun, Colliers’ staff of world-class space experts collectively asked, “What are we waiting for?” and then compellingly described each step of the human expansion into space including the Von Braun “Wheel”, the subsurface Moon base, and the convoy to Mars!

As the space tourism industry prepares for launch, today’s aspiring space adventurers are not limited to just reading about cosmic joys, but will soon experience them personally. Bert Rutan, the dean of space-tourism advocates, who won the $ 10 million X-Prize in 2004, believes he can fly 100,000 passengers on his suborbital spaceships by 2020! Rutan is currently supplying spaceships to British billionaire Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic and expects the first launch in 2010 for about $ 200,000 per person. Branson’s passengers will zoom to 60 miles altitude and officially enter space. The first-ever space tourism price war is taking shape according to the Wall Street Journal (3/26/08) as XCOR Aerospace will offer thrill-seekers a ride to 37 miles altitude featuring 2 minutes of zero-g, for only $ 100,000.

Although currently not officially targeting space tourism, Bigelow Aerospace (Las Vegas) does operate the first two private space stations in history. Despite their smallish size, the Bigelow inflatable habitation modules are the precursors of orbital hotels. Undoubtedly, the future private space industry will feature orbital hotels for the penultimate astronaut-like vacation experience: circling the Blue Marble repeatedly with sunrises and sunsets every 90 minutes. The ultimate astronaut-like tourist experience is a trip to the Moon, which is already offered by the Russians through their American agent Space Adventures. Because of the hefty price ($ 100 M) and undeniable risks there have been no takers…yet. The elaborate, inviting lunar surface hotel concepts of Shimizu remain a golden dream for the 2020s.

The space tourism industry can be thought of as a spectacular, but secondary MEP — analogous to the famous 1912 passenger ship the Titanic (minus the sinking!) — heralding the approaching Maslow Window of 2015. Because of their innovations, space entrepreneurs stimulate public, business, government, and even international interest in space as they develop new concepts that challenge historical approaches and promise new adventures and profits. Wave Guide 6 posts will monitor the space entrepreneurs’ progress and their impact on the rapidly approaching 2015 Maslow Window.

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May 11 2008

NASA Programs and MEPs: A Brief 21stCenturyWaves Perspective

Currently, the most important issue for humanity’s future – within the next 5 – 10 years — is to resume the large-scale human expansion into space by achieving self-sufficient colonies (e.g. on the Moon) before 2025. This is serious business because such opportunities are not continuously available. Indeed, unless we breakout into space by 2025, the last 200 years of macroeconomic and macrohistorical experience teach that long-term trends in the economy, technology, and society will not be favorable again for human expansion until about 2071. This is especially sobering because attempting to estimate the geopolitical, technological, and/or economic state of the world that far into the future is essentially impossible, and therefore the next Maslow Window (2015 – 2025) is of inestimable importance.

Upcoming posts in Wave Guide 7 will focus on evaluating NASA’s progress toward this goal by commenting on events and trends in three areas: 1) the strategic vision for human expansion into space, 2) specific NASA programs – both human and robotic – that are operational or in the planning stages and their status, and 3) future technologies and potential space Macro-Engineering Projects that could impact progress toward near-term space colonization.

For example, the traditional strategic debate within NASA has been Moon vs. Mars as the next focus for human exploration and settlement. The “Lunatics” (meant genuinely affectionately) clustered at Johnson Space Center in Houston, while the “Martians” centered around NASA Ames near Sunnyvale, CA. Proximity to Earth, previous human experience, and opportunities for resource development have always decorated the Moon’s portfolio. But many Martians believe the Moon is scientifically boring and we should immediately focus our assets on the most Earth-like planet – Mars. In the past, I personally have been seduced by the scientific delights and colonization-potential of Mars, but two things have recently opened me to Moon dreams: 1) prospects for space tourism in Earth orbit and eventually on the Moon indicate that private activities in Earth-Moon space will stimulate space colonization, and 2) 2015 – 2025 may well be the last forecastable window for human expansion into space, and any space foothold is far, far better than none.

Since its inception in 2004, NASA’s official Vision for Space Exploration (VSE) has met with mixed reviews. It promised a return to the Moon by 2020 and eventually a crewed mission to Mars. Along the way a new Orion crew vehicle will fly by 2014 and Shuttle-Derived Launch Vehicles will be developed. Critics’ complaints include unrealistic cost estimates and schedules. Former NASA scientist Paul Spudis has deeper concerns, “The VSE in NASA terms has become all about building the new Orion and Ares vehicles with very little tying these spacecraft to their destinations….NASA still doesn’t really understand what its mission is…” Spudis recommends: “We’re going to the Moon to learn how to live and work on another world. It’s that simple.”

Spudis’ single-sentence mission is lunar colonization, which we forecast to begin after 2015. However, these and other concerns are typical of pre-Maslow Window times (such as now). After the Sputnik shock in 1957, the U.S. swiftly organized its assets into the greatest technology project of all time: Apollo! Upcoming Wave Guide 7 posts will monitor this transition at NASA as it occurs in response to the expected international Sputnik-like shock in the next few years.

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May 11 2008

Non-Space MEPs — A Brief 21stCenturyWaves Perspective

Surprisingly, one of the most reliable indicators of an approaching Maslow Window has nothing to do with space; we call them Non-Space Macro-Engineering Projects (MEPs). Our definition of an MEP is adopted from a former president of the Society for the History of Technology, Eugene S. Ferguson; An MEP is 1) at the state-of-the-art of technology for the time, 2)extremely expensive (multi $ B) and usually physically large, and 3) sometimes practical in purpose, but often aimed at satisfying intangible needs of a spiritual or psychological nature and 4) it is always highly inspiring.

One lesson of the last 200 years is that each Window (except the first in 1801) is decorated with at least one MEP. Typically, one MEP is especially ascendant, but the secondary MEPs are often precursors of the approaching Maslow Window and a measure of real-time “ebullience”.
For example, the Mackinac Bridge, which connects the upper and lower peninsulas of Michigan, began construction in 1954 after many decades of frustrating attempts. It opened in 1957 for a total cost of $ 1 B (2007 $). In 1959 an Air Force pilot deliberately flew his RB-47E Stratojet (a reconfigured bomber) under the bridge and promptly lost his wings! (Who could resist?!)

Secondary to the Panama Canal, the main MEP of the 1903-1913 Maslow Window, was the luxury passenger ship, the Titanic. Unless you haven’t been paying attention for the last 10 years, the words “Titanic” and “ebullience” definitely go together; if you haven’t seen the 1997 video, go rent it. Likewise the MEP jewel of the 19th Century was the Suez Canal, but it was preceeded by a gargantuan ship called the Great Eastern. Intended as a passenger ship, the Great Eastern only found use laying the first trans-Atlantic cable (another mid-19th Century secondary MEP).

Today the world is littered with so many plans for non-space MEPs you can almost hear them screaming, “Maslow Window approaching in 2015!” The current non-space MEPs include the 2001 foot Tokyo tower (due 2011) to be the tallest free-standing antenna in the world, the new 1,588 Kowloon Tower in Hong Kong (3rd tallest commercial building in the world), a proposed $ 16 B canal project in South Korea, Moscow’s $ 4 B Crystal Island development (due 2014) to be the largest building in the world and was recently compared to the biblical Tower of Babel by the LA Times (2/2008), mega-projects in China, mega-projects in Dubai, and many others.

Perhaps the best evidence for early ebullience is provided by the Panama Canal Expansion Project. At an estimated $ 5.25 B it will slightly exceed the original Panama Canal cost, and the original Panama Canal was the greatest MEP in the last 200 years until Apollo. In 2006 the Panamanians approved the risky, expensive project in a national referendum by 76.8% of all votes, and the president of Panama recently stated that the revenues from the expansion will transform Panama into a first-world country.

These and many other non-space MEPs will be tracked in future Wave Guide 8 posts for consistency with our expectations and forecasts for the increasing affluence and ebullience characteristic of an approaching Maslow Window.

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