2012′s bright spots included NASA’s hugely popular Curiosity rover on Mars and the impressive expansion of current activities and future plans for the commercial space arena. As expected, 2012 also featured continuing economic difficulties, and — with the re-election of President Obama and the Republicans in the House — the promise of continuing political sparring through the coming year.
The space-related world remains firmly on track with trends identified here early last year ( “State of the Wave — 10 Space Trends for 2012“) — e.g., increasing global evidence for the approaching 1960s-style “critical state” — as well as the expected directions sketched almost three years ago for the coming decade (“DecaState of the Wave — 10 Space Trends for the Decade 2010-2020“).
2013 will be a “Year of Uncertainty” in space especially regarding the lack of direction for NASA, plus a slow economy and events in the Middle East and elsewhere that will impact our trajectory toward prosperity, the impending Maslow Window, and the new international Space Age — all expected to begin emerging by mid-decade.
For a brief intro to how space exploration is likely to go ballistic in the near-term, see my 2012 Ad Astra article; Click: A New Apollo Level Space Age.
Here are 10 key Space-related Trends for 2013:
10. NASA’s $ 2.4 B Curiosity Rover Points the Way to Mars:
Billed as “the most complex spacecraft ever landed on another planet,” the one-ton Curiosity Rover has been a challenge to operate on the surface of Mars. “Everything is taking longer then we had hoped,” according to chief engineer Rob Manning.
Curiosity rover is becoming known as a “scientist’s dream,” and recently became the first robot on Mars to extract a sample by drilling into a local rock.
The immediate goal is to find evidence for life — past or present — in Gale crater. Such locales may present the best chance for Martian microbial life because impact craters exhume rocks that show evidence of being altered by water below the surface; and this is where bacteria would be shielded from the hard radiation on Mars’ surface.
Although funding for future robotic Mars exploration remains uncertain, in the coming year Curiosity will “Follow the Water” to better understand the present, past, and future of Mars’ climate, surface, and its possible biology, including preparing for human exploration and settlement.
At the Annual International Mars Society Convention in Pasadena last August 5, just before Curiosity landed on Mars, I had the pleasure of participating in a panel discussion on “Our Future in Space” with former astronaut Story Musgrave, astrophysicist Richard Gott (Princeton Univ), and Robert Zubrin of the Mars Society.
You can see the Mars Convention video HERE.
Current global trends suggest that near-term human spaceflight to Mars is doable before the mid-2020s and in fact may become geopolitically leveraged like Apollo in the 1960s.
9. Private Commercial Space Begins to Surge
Perhaps the most stimulating words spoken by candidate Obama during the 2008 presidential campaign were, “We must unleash the genius of private enterprise to secure the United States’ leadership in space.” And as president in 2010 he canceled the development of NASA’s Aries 1 and V heavy-lift rockets and the Moon program.
“This was a crucial step. It makes the things in the future, and the ultimate path toward humanity becoming a multi-planet species, much, much more likely,” remarked SpaceX CEO Elon Musk in reference to his unmanned Dragon space capsule launched on a Falcon-9 rocket becoming the first private spacecraft ever to dock with the International Space Station (5/25/12).
Regular cargo missions to ISS began last October and manned flights of Dragon are planned within a few years.
Recently, Robert Walker and Charles Miller (Wall Street Journal, 1/28/13) interpreted Obama’s positive approach to commercial space as part of a “30-year arc” of space policy that originated with Reagan in 1982 when he created the Office of Commercial Space Transportation and encouraged “the fullest commercial use of space.”
Walker and Miller now recommend that Obama relaunch his commercial space policy by completing “the privatization of all U.S. Space Transportation.” They assert that, “Just as the government does not design or build automobiles, ships, trains or airplanes, NASA should not be designing, building or launching rockets to go to low Earth orbit.”
Not everyone agrees. Former NASA boss Mike Griffin comments (WSJ, 2/4/13) that NASA’s planned heavy lift vehicle (the Space Launch System) will carry more than 10x the payload to orbit than any commercial vehicle and that “no commercial program is positioned to tackle” the deep space challenges of a return to the Moon or humans to Mars.
Things are jumping at Spaceport America near Truth or Consequences, New Mexico. According to the February Spaceport Newsletter, “We achieved a major milestone — we gave Virgin Galactic the keys to the Virgin Galactic Gateway to Space on January 15 and correspondingly they started paying rent.”
If you haven’t seen their recent construction, check out my images taken January 6. The word is that Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic will do its first flight — with paying passengers and Branson himself — late this year, and given the increasing readiness of the Spaceport and the SpaceShips, this may be it!
“We have ambitions to go to the Moon someday, have a base there,” the visionary real estate and hotel magnate Robert Bigelow indicated recently.
On January 16, 2013 Bigelow Aerospace and NASA announced their plan to attach a Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM) to the ISS in 2015 to test the viability of inflatables in space.
By 2016, Bigelow hopes to attract tourists, private companies, and small countries seeking an inexpensive space program to his inflatable orbital outpost for 2 weeks to 2 months of orbital bliss with a per-seat tab between $ 25 – 35 M.
And for the first time ever, two private companies — Planetary Resources and Deep Space Industries — announced they intend to commercially develop near Earth asteroids for water and platinum-group metals, to provide propellants for access to space and to directly enrich Earth’s economy.
Appropriate technologists, entrepreneurs, and billionaire-investors appear to be involved and both companies plan to fly initial spacecraft by 2015 as they seek the new “Gold Rush” in space.
8. The Panic of 2008 and Slow Recovery Point Toward a 1960s-Style, Transformative Decade, Including a New International Apollo-level Space Age by Mid-Decade
It’s not a coincidence that about 45-50 years after Lewis and Clark drew international attention to the American northwest, the California Gold Rush became symbolic of its commercial potential.
Likewise, it’s no surprise that a “gold rush” into space — symbolized now by Planetary Resources and DSI — will materialize 45-50 years after the Apollo Moon program initially introduced the international community to the resources and commercial potential of space.
All four of these seemingly unrelated seminal events were (and are) fundamentally driven by twice-per-century JFK-style booms (>4%) apparently triggered by self-organized “critical states” in the international economic system, known as Maslow Windows. The most recent one featured the Apollo program and the first Space Age, and the next transformative 1960s-style decade is expected by mid-decade and should trigger an international renaissance in space.
The first economic precursor of a typical Maslow Window is easy to recognize. It’s a financial Panic which is followed by a multi-year great recession, like that of 1893 or 1837 – both of which led to transformative Maslow Windows.
Based on macroeconomic patterns of the last 200+ years, the financial Panic of 2008 signaled that we were within about 6-7 years of the opening of the next Maslow Window. The slow recovery since the Great Recession (2008-10) is also consistent with a 200-year pattern.
U.S. economic trends continue to be very daunting:
a) Unsustainable Fiscal Path:
The Government Accounting Office (GAO), in its recent (1/17/2013) audit of the U.S. Government, concluded that, “…absent policy changes, the federal government continues to face an unsustainable fiscal path.” So unless government spending is brought under control and entitlement programs are reformed, the value of the U.S. dollar will decline rapidly.
b) Our Debt is a National Security Imperative:
The U.S. national debt is now about $ 16.5 T – an all-time record – and increasing rapidly. To show their concern for the future stability of the U.S., fifteen former leaders from government and military explained why “Addressing our Debt is a National Security Imperative…” (WSJ, 12/5/12). The bipartisan list included Michael Mullen, Madeleine Albright, Henry Kissinger, and George Schultz.
c) Slow Growth and High Unemployment Continue:
The slow recovery since 2010 has featured consistently high unemployment (recently up again to 7.9%) and low GDP growth; indeed, the last quarter of 2012 actually contracted by 0.1 %.
Historically, slow post-Panic/Great Recession recoveries are usually remedied by political realignments such as those in the national elections of 2008 and 2010. However, in 2012 — the first post-Great Recession national election — the American people voted for the status quo which suggests we can expect a resolution by 2014.
Current economic trends indicate that the anticipated twice-per-century JFK-style expansion – like that of the early 1960s and early 1900s – has not yet arrived. However, this observation is completely consistent with the timing of the Panic of 2008, our political trajectory, and with long-term trends that point to a new, transformative Maslow Window opening by mid-decade.
7. The Secret X-37B Suggests a Possible Roadmap to a National Security Moon Base
One of the most interesting space programs is one that we know very little about: the USAF X-37B spaceplane.
It’s missions are secret and the third successful X-37B launch occurred on December 11, 2012. A previous X-37B technology development mission ended on June 18, 2012 after 469 days in orbit! Thus the current X-37B mission may last beyond 2013.
Built by Boeing, the X-37B is an unmanned, reusable, winged, Mach 25 spaceplane, about 1/4 the size of NASA’s Space Shuttle. It’s launched on an Atlas V in Florida and lands like an airplane at Vandenberg AFB in California.
It’s well-known that a vehicle like the X-37B could change the world. For example, it could deliver weapons systems or civilian passengers (whatever you need!) anywhere in the world, very fast.
According to former NASA executive Charles Miller, reusable spaceplanes are also the key to commercial space.
The nation that builds the first true reusable spaceplace will be in a position to dominate the much broader commercial space industry…such as satellite servicing, tourism, and medical breakthroughs from zero-gravity research.
And as our strategic space assets like surveillance satellites and comsats become increasingly vulnerable to anti-sat weapons being developed by China (successfully tested in 2007) and even North Korea and Iran, an X-37B-style spaceplane would transform national security by their ability to rapidly replace such orbiting assets, and thus reduce the incentive to attack them in the first place.
Traditionally, the Moon has been viewed as the most secure location for Earth surveillance, as expressed in 1984 by the famous physicist Edward Teller at the Lunar Bases and Space Activities of the 21st Century Conference. (I also spoke at this event on importing water from the moons of Mars for use in the Earth-Moon system.)
Teller stated he would like to see an outpost on the Moon (~12 people) as soon as possible. As a “special proposal” he recommended that,
Surveillance of the Earth — permanent continuous surveillance that is hard to interfere with — is an extremely important question, important to us, important to the international community, important for peace-keeping … It is in everyone’s best interest to have observation stations that are not easy to interfere with.
Miller suggests a Moon base would become cost-effective by reducing Earth-launch costs by a factor of ~10 to $ 500 per pound and achieves this by development of a totally reusable spaceplane.
Given the geopolitical significance of the Moon in the coming mid-decade Maslow Window, I searched for recent studies of potential national security applications of a Moon base.
The closest I could come was a chilling Moon-related military scenario in George Friedman’s (Stratfor.com) book The Next Hundred Years (2009); he agrees with Teller’s opinion of the value of Earth surveillance from the Moon and suggests that, “Sustaining and defending a base on the Moon will actually be easier than doing the same for orbital systems.”
In Friedman’s mid-21st century fictional scenario, both Japan and Turkey — two key space powers by then — become understandably threatened by powerful U.S. command and control “battlestars” in Geostationary orbits that can very rapidly direct a variety of weapons — advanced versions of the X-37, lasers, hypersonic missiles — at any point on Earth or in space.
By this time many nations will have bases on the Moon, however Japan and Turkey build an underground base on the Moon’s farside where they secretly use lunar materials to develop, build, and launch missiles to attack the Battlestars in Earth orbit.
I won’t give away how the story ends here. However, it is unlikely that “secret” military activities could go unnoticed for long on the anti-Earth side of the Moon. For example, many astronomers have already chosen the Moon’s farside as the best location for a radio observatory in this part of the solar system.
6. Geopolitical Events Accelerate Toward a 1960s-style global “Critical State”
A surprise during 2012 was North Korea’s December launch of its first satellite into orbit. The South Koreans warned that, for the first time, the North might be able to deliver a warhead to the U.S. West Coast, and the Wall Street Journal (12/13/12) echoed that “the nuclear threat to Japan and the U.S. will soon be real.”
The tragic irrationality of North Korea’s $ 1.3 B (estimated) missile program is that instead it could have bought millions of tons of food for its starving population, especially amid reports of cannibalism and a variety of other human rights atrocities. Lignet.com reports that Pyongyang’s brutal treatment of its own people and plans for another nuclear test suggest it may be inclined toward “engaging in military aggression.”
Apparently not wanting to be left behind as the world approaches another 1960s-style transformative decade, Iran reportedly sent a live monkey into suborbital space last month and recovered it. “This success is the first step towards man conquering the space and it paves the way for other moves…” claimed Iran’s Defense Minister.
Analysts in the West naturally warn against Iran’s missile technology providing the capability to launch nuclear warheads against targets in the Middle East, Europe, and elsewhere.
Former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger warned recently at the World Economic Forum that an Iran nuclear crisis is close.
Unilateral intervention by Israel would be a desperate last resort, but the Iranians have to understand that if they keep using the negotiations to gain time to complete a nuclear program then the situation will become exteemely dangerous.
It’s estimated that the “Red Line” will be crossed by Iran, in late spring, 2013, as it gets nuclear weapons, thus changing the balance of power in the region forever.
Our recent discovery that NASA space programs, over the history of the agency, are “fractal,” — as are wars and financial systems — implies that all three are attracted to “critical states” due to decades of self-organization of the international economic system. They are extraordinary because during the critical state almost anything can occur — both good and bad — and often does.
For example, the most recent critical state was in the 1960s. It featured the Cuban missile crisis (1962) which almost triggered a nuclear war, but was over almost as fast as it began. And instead it stimulated the intense Space Race that resulted in the first humans on the Moon in 1969.
The Cold War-style Asian arms race stimulated by China’s impressive expansion as a military and space power is also a key part of this picture.
For example, China announced its first jet landing on its new carrier in November, a classified US study last year cited China’s increasing ability to disrupt US strategic space assets (e.g., military communication satellites), China will expand its nuclear missile capability with rail-based ICBMs that can disappear in tunnels (Lignet.com), and China’s manned space program and plans for the Moon continue to enhance its national prestige.
Current economic and geopolitical trends — as well as the history of the last 200+ years — suggest we are moving into a new 1960s-style critical state featuring the potential for major, but short-lived international conflict, a stunning economic and technology boom, and unprecedented great explorations in space.
5. The Sun Takes Center-Stage in 2013
Our DayStar is expected to reach the maximum of its current 11-year Sunspot Cycle (#24) in 2013. The latest official NASA forecast — as of 2/1/2013 — is for a maximum sunspot number of about 69 in the Fall, 2013.
Are sunspots, as plotted in this NASA diagram, going out of style?
As can be seen in the Figure above, the current cycle is much smaller than the previous one (#23) and, in fact, will be the smallest solar max since 1906.
Nevertheless, even a weak solar cycle can produce spectacular solar weather, as occurred in 1859 with the increasingly famous Carrington Event. If a Carrington-like solar flare occurred today the National Academy of Sciences estimates damages could reach $ 1 – 2 T, mostly due to our high-tech infrastructure (e.g., power grids, transformers, communications); for comparison, Hurricane Katrina cost around $ 125 B.
About 18 months ago Frank Hill of the National Solar Observatory announced that “The solar cycle may be going into a hiatus.”
In fact, based on their extensive observations of sunspot magnetic fields in both Cycles 23 (previous) and 24 (current), Matthew Penn and William Livingston (NSO) concluded in 2010 that Cycle 24 should have only about 1/2 the number of sunspots of Cycle 23 — broadly consistent with the above NASA plot — and after 2020 (Cycle 25) there would be “virtually no sunspots.”
Low sunspot numbers are historically associated with global coolings on Earth; e.g., the Maunder Minimum and the Little Ice Age. Indeed, the international CLOUD Experiment at CERN continues to reveal how galactic cosmic rays — which are modulated by solar activity — may stimulate cloud formation in Earth’s low atmosphere, and thus enable either global cooling or warming depending on the solar cycle.
In this developing solar context, it’s interesting that British environmental guru James Lovelock — author of the iconic “Gaia” model of the Earth as a living organism — recently admitted that he “made a mistake” about man-made CO2 global warming, and indeed was an “alarmist” about climate change.
The problem is we don’t know what the climate is doing. We thought we knew 20 years ago. That led to some alarmist books — mine included — because it looked clear-cut, but it hasn’t happened.
Lovelock added that as an “independent and a loner” it was easier for him to admit a mistake than for a university or government scientist who might fear loss of funding.
Oxford-trained biologist and author Matt Ridley recently explained (Wall Street Journal, 12/19/12) that new analyses of observational data related to the sensitivity of global climate to CO2, reduce our reliance on unverified global climate models. His observation-based estimate is that a doubling of CO2 will lead to an increase in global temperatures of 1.6 – 1.7 degrees C. — much less that the IPCC’s best estimate of 3 degrees C. Other independent, observation-based estimates from the Norwegian Computing Center and the University of Illinois also converge on 1.6 degrees C.
Ridley concludes that,
A cumulative change of less than 2°C by the end of this century will do no net harm. It will actually do net good … Rainfall will increase slightly, growing seasons will lengthen, Greenland’s ice cap will melt only very slowly, and so on.
As our observation-based understanding of climate change — including the Sun-climate link — increases, replacing an ideology-based approach to tax and energy policy with one based on observational science will promote economic growth and accelerate the approach of the new international, Apollo-level Space Age.
4. The Coming Boom
As noted previously, all the expected geopolitical and economic precursors of our near-term Maslow Window featuring the new international, Apollo-level Space Age can be seen except for the final one: the major, JFK-style economic boom.
Historically, the Boom provides financial resources that enable large technology and exploration projects (e.g., the Panama Canal, Apollo), and it also creates a widespread, buoyant sense of getting ahead in the public as real wages rapidly increase. Indeed, prosperity is both a technological and a moral imperative.
There are many potential sources of the next JFK-style U.S. Boom:
a) The North American Gusher
The U.S. Boom will be powered by abundant, cheap oil and gas, and the Wall Street Journal (1/19/13) reports that the oil boom is already on.
U.S. oil production grew more in 2012 than in any year in the history of the domestic industry , which began in 1859, and is set to surge even more in 2013.
Application of the technologies of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) have opened up deposits previously thought to be non-commercial, such as North Dakota’s Bakken shale region.
Daniel Yergen of IHS (WSJ, 10/23/12) points out that the energy revolution in the U.S. is “already providing a foundation for a domestic renaissance in manufacturing.” Even California could decide to become “the next shale boom state”!
In their report “Energy Outlook 2030″ the London-based energy company BP forecasts that the U.S. will be 99% energy self-sufficient by 2030 due to the shale oil and gas boom enabled by hydraulic fracturing, which will trigger “a reindustrialization of the U.S.”
The U.S. will likely surpass Russia and Saudi Arabia in 2013 as the largest liquids producer in the world (crude and biofuels).
b) The Tech-led Boom
Several breakthrough technologies are poised to transform our future as telephony and electricity changed the past.
Physicist Mark Mills and Northwestern engineering dean Julio Ottino (WSJ, 2/10/13) highlight three transformative technologies: 1) Big data, 2) smart manufacturing, and 3) wireless communications.
Because processing power and data storage are “virtually free” and due to innovations including “cloud” computing, Mills and Ottino assert “we are on the cusp of unimaginable markets.” According to Michael Malone (WSJ, 7/5/12) big data will,
have an impact as great as mass production did more than a century ago — creating a new world of mass personalization of products and services.
New materials will be designed from the molecular level up (nanotechnology) and will possess properties “not possible in nature.” When combined with 3-D printing — which is already being studied for bases on the Moon — it could revitalize manufacturing and bring jobs back to the U.S..
Wireless communications will soon allow billions of people around the world to “communicate, socialize and trade in real time.” Billions of humans will be stimulated to learn, problem-solve, and innovate as never before.
c) The Green-Plus Boom
William Halal (emeritus, George Washington University) forecasts a major economic boom by 2015, based on his work with the TechCast Project (www.TechCast.com), which he describes as a “virtual thinktank” that tracks potential breakthroughs in a wide variety of technologies.
Entrepreneurs are working on alternative energy sources – wind turbines, biofuels, nuclear plants, and solar cells. This entire “green revolution” is growing 30-50% per year, roughly the same rate of the famous Moore’s Law that drives information technology to double every 2 years.
He argues that all sectors of the economy will be revitalized by a high-technology boom, and — because it is connected with cycles that affect U.S. markets — that a “global boom” is likely to erupt in 2015.
A number of other sources will contribute to the mid-decade Boom, but it’s clear the American economy is ready.
Negative animal spirits that currently afflict the economy can be overcome with tax and immigration polices that promote innovation, a regulatory environment that enables business expansion, and liquid financial markets.
In the near-term these objectives will be achieved as current (and future) politicians evolve in favor of economic growth and prosperity as the expected political realignment forms by 2014.
As Mills and Ottino point out,
America’s success isn’t preordained. But the technological innovations circa 2012 are profound. They will engender sweeping changes to our society and our economy. All the forces are in place. It’s just a matter of when.
3. Have NASA and America Lost Their Pioneering Spirit or just Their “Ebullience”?
Dr. Leroy Chiao, former NASA astronaut and ISS commander, asked recently, in the post-Shuttle world,
Did America somehow lose, or see a diminished pioneer spirit?
He blames NASA’s organizational atrophy as it grew larger and became more complex for the problem, and recommends that NASA be de-politicized, stabilized, and streamlined back to its original vitality.
While NASA has indeed become more bureaucratic, it also suffers from generational changes that are symptomatic of something deeper.
In fact, the history of the last 200+ years reveals that great explorations (like Apollo, and Lewis and Clark) and the largest macro engineering projects (like Panama Canal and Apollo) are triggered by twice-per-century JFK-style (>4%) booms and sustained by what we call “ebullience”.
As the boom causes affluence to surge through the population, many become “ebullient” and ascend to elevated states in Maslow’s Hierarchy where their momentarily expanded worldviews make great explorations and MEPs seem not just intriguing, but almost irresistible. But as “ebullience” weakens due to a war or the slowing boom — as it did during the late 1960s with Apollo — space program support declines (as when the last 3 Apollo Moon missions were canceled by President Nixon).
To see why President Obama’s $ 800 B Stimulus package did not trigger “ebullience” in 2009, Click: “Why No One’s Been to the Moon in 40 years — How Soon We’ll Go Again”
Today we are in “counter-ebullient” times much like people experienced a few years after the financial Panics of 1893 and 1837, and many investors suffer from a related effect called negative animal spirits.
For example, late last month Gallup recorded that American optimism — closely related to “ebullience” — hit its lowest point since the Carter Administration; i.e., only 39% rated the U.S. in a positive manner, the most negative self-feedback since 1979.
And for the first time, the U.S. slipped out of the top 10 (to #12) in the Legatum Institute’s Prosperity Index, an annual ranking of 142 countries based on 89 indicators from several categories affecting happiness, affluence, and safety.
The bottom-line is: Until the arrival of the next JFK-like Boom — expected by mid-decade — the lack of ebullience will slow the development of the new international Apollo-like Space Age.
2. Our Sputnik Moment Expands
The first “Sputnik Moment” occurred in 1957 when – in the context of an intense Cold War rivalry between the U.S. and the Soviet Union and attempts to work together in the International Geophysical Year – the Soviets launched the first artificial satellite, without warning. It was called the “Shock of the Century.” Americans who had provided leadership during W. W. II and promoted international economic growth in the post-War world suddenly experienced a crisis of confidence in their educational system, their ability to compete in technology development and space, and even in their ability to guarantee national security.
It seemed that the U.S. trend was down while others were headed up.
Something similar may be occurring today, and the trends have intensified since last year. For example:
NASA’s Strategic Direction is Up In the Air –
The National Research Council finds that NASA is adrift in their recent report: “NASA’s Strategic Direction and the Need for a National Consensus” (2012):
There is no strong, compelling national vision for the human spaceflight program … The lack of national consensus on NASA’s most publicly visible mission, along with out-year budget uncertainty, has resulted in the lack of strategic focus necessary for national agencies …”
Defense Cuts Leave the U.S. Vulnerable
Douglas Schoen, a Democratic strategist and author (Newsmax, February, 2013), expands on the rarely-mentioned critical point that U.S. national security is “inexorably linked” to its economic strength, as emphasized by the bipartisan group, the Coalition for Fiscal and National Security.
We lack credibility in terms of national security across the board. We do not have a strategy on the budget, or a strategy on upgrading our weapons systems, or an overall vision for who we are as a nation and how we provide for our national security.
Americans are Losing Trust in Their Institutions and it’s Hurting the Economy
Jon Hilsenrath (Wall Street Journal, 1/28/13) cites the importance of trust in society to economic growth and good government.
Only a third of Americans trust banks, and about one in six trust the stock market or large corporations … Gallup found that only 25% of Americans had much confidence in newspapers, while only 21% trusted television news or organized labor. Congress got a vote of confidence from just 13% of the population … A September Gallup poll showed that only half of Americans trusted the government to solve domestic problems.
A Possible “Financial Pearl Harbor” Looms
Just prior to the last “critical state”/Maslow Window of the 1960s, a “Cold War” set the stage for their Sputnik Moment; and as we approach the new mid-decade Maslow Window the new context may be a “Currency War”. Investment banker and DoD advisor James Rickards believes that a Currency War could strike unexpectedly and be devastating to Americans, much like the 1957 Sputnik Moment.
A currency war, fought by one country through competitive devaluations of its currency against others, is one of the most destructive and feared outcomes in international economics.
1. There’s No Shortage Today of Wildcards With Global Strategic Implications
One feature of an approaching 1960s-style “critical state” is an unusually dynamic and highly interactive international environment, particularly as manifested by a large number of “wildcards.”
Here are just a few wildcards – and potential tipping points — that face the U.S. and the world in 2013:
a. A deep recession in the Eurozone triggers a global depression.
b. The threat of nuclear weapons triggers a war with Iran.
c. A potentially hazardous asteroid is discovered on an Earth-impact trajectory.
d. A major currency war erupts.
e. A Carrington-level solar flare produces blackouts and other EMP-related effects on Earth, resulting in economic stress and strategic uncertainty.
As I pointed out last year,
After a list like this it’s comforting to contemplate the good news: Over the last 200+ years – that included the Great Depression, several financial panics and great recessions, the Civil War and two world wars — no Critical State/Maslow Window renaissance has ever been delayed or diminished in any observable way.