Archive for the 'Wave Guide 3: Politics' Category

May 07 2017

The Maslow Window as a Self-Organized Critical System

Maslow Windows are rhythmic, transformative pulses — featuring great human explorations (e.g., Lewis and Clark) and Macro Engineering Projects (e.g., Panama Canal) — that occur twice per century. A Maslow Window is often triggered by geopolitical conflict (e.g., Sputnik; Cuban Missile Crisis), but is powered by an exceptional economic and technology boom (e.g., the JFK Boom) which collapses unemployment and increases real wages across society. As a result many individuals experience “ebullience” as they ascend the Maslow hierarchy and their worldviews expand. The most recent Maslow Window culminated in the 1960s Apollo Moon program. And right on schedule, it appears we entered a new Maslow Window in 2016.

The Maslow Window as usually described here is an empirical model based on long-term trends, historical patterns, and scientific analysis that makes specific predictions about space, technology, and related areas. However, the Maslow Window also has an enticing, but still developing, theoretical side that’s featured below.

Punctuated equilibria characteristic of Maslow Windows hints they’re governed by self-organized criticality (SOC). Over the last 30 years SOC has become a popular tool to explain a wide variety of phenomena like solar flares, black holes and accretion disks, earthquakes, lunar craters, financial systems, and even wars. In this brief summary we’ll utilize the SOC model of Aschwanden et. al (2016) in Space Science Reviews (Vol. 198, Issue 1, pp 47–166).

The classic SOC system is the BTW Sand Pile described by physicist Per Bak (1948-2002) and his colleagues in 1987.
Sand is dropped grain by grain on a pile. Eventually the sand forms steep slopes that reach a critical threshold; i.e., one more grain may trigger a system-wide change called an “avalanche”. In our case the “avalanche” analog is the Maslow Window itself.

A SOC system at its critical threshold displays non-linear energy dissipation and scale-free, intermittent avalanches with power-law size-frequency distributions. In a solar flare the avalanche is associated with the explosion of electromagnetic energy emitted by the flare, and for an earthquake it’s the surge of seismic energy released during the event. The Maslow Window critical state is observed in the real world to sequentially dissipate energy in several key avalanches including: financial events (a Panic and later a Boom), major geopolitical conflicts, great human explorations, and macro-engineering projects (MEPs).

Every SOC system needs to achieve a critical threshold so it’s capable of an avalanche. For an earthquake it’s the critical strength of the rocks that’s reached when the local stress field causes a fracture. For a solar flare the threshold may be reached by a critical configuration of the sunspot magnetic fields resulting in a magnetic reconnection process.

Interestingly, all of the above mentioned events during a Maslow Window are believed to be individual SOC systems themselves (although more data on MEPs is needed). They are apparently triggered by several specific thresholds associated with the decade-long Maslow Window critical state. Perhaps the most fundamental Maslow Window threshold is provided by financial prosperity. By analogy with a solar magnetic field, imagine a “GDP field” with spatio-temporal variability across the Earth. As it approaches a threshold value, the increasing GDP field launches many people to elevated levels in Maslow’s hierarchy where they experience “ebullience”. Maslow’s ebullience and Keynes’ animal spirits — substantially different, but still related ideas — combine to trigger potentially system-wide avalanches in the financial, technology, exploration, and geopolitical arenas. When the boom ends, and ebullience declines and animal spirits reverse, the Maslow Window slams shut, usually in response to a major war (e.g., World War I) — also a SOC process.

For a SOC system to experience avalanches in its critical state, it must be continuously driven toward its critical threshold; hence the name, “self-organized criticality.” For a solar flare the magnetic fields are generated and controlled by thermal convection ascending from the Sun’s interior. In the Earth, movement of the tectonic plates continually adjusts the stress field.

Consistent with our GDP field, the international economic system (IES) is the driver for a Maslow Window through the need for profits and income. (Other long-term factors may also influence the IES such as national prestige.) For a typical Maslow Window, separation of time scales is maintained because in the real world it takes several decades for the IES to self-organize to its critical threshold, but less than a decade to dissipate its energy through an avalanche (i.e., the Maslow Window).

Our new Maslow Window is a complex system with many degrees of freedom that has slowly self-organized over decades to a critical threshold which allows short-lived avalanches — both good (e.g., SpaceX) and bad (e.g., North Korea) — to exist. However, the history of JFK’s Cuban Missile Crisis during the 1960s Maslow Window (plus all others over the last 200 years) argues convincingly that major kinetic conflicts will not occur in the next 10 years.

Major human exploration initiatives like Apollo are statistically identical and show similar generic features to other complex systems like solar flares and earthquakes. However, the physics is quite different. The Maslow Window centrally involves fundamental human nature through psychology (e.g., “ebullience”) and the basic laws of economics (e.g., “GDP field”). This and the Maslow Window’s persistence through the worst catastrophes (e.g., two world wars, the Civil War, Great Depression, several financial panics and great recessions) of the last 200+ years, suggest that Maslow Windows are robust and likely to continue into the future.

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Mar 12 2017

U.S. Optimism Rises Toward “Early Ebullience”

“With wealth never before imagined, America could dream dreams never before possible. In the early years of the 1960s, national optimism reached epidemic levels … (it made) anything — and everything — seem possible,” according to historians Mackenzie and Weisbrot (2008).

Here at, this feeling is called “ebullience” and is associated with a very positive — almost giddy — emotional state that’s historically associated with widespread affluence during a 1960s-style major economic boom. In response to affluence-induced ebullience, many people ascend the Maslow hierarchy where their expanded world views make Great Explorations (e.g., Apollo) and Macro Engineering Projects (e.g., Panama Canal) seem not just intriguing, but almost irresistible — hence the name “Maslow Window”.

A classic example of 1960s ebullience featured Walter Cronkite — a famous broadcast journalist/anchorman for CBS (1962-81), often referred to as “the most trusted man in America” — commenting on-air during the launch of the first astronauts to the Moon, that after Apollo 11, “everything else that has happened in our time is going to be an asterisk.”

According to the Maslow Window Model, full ebullience is historically triggered by a JFK-style economic boom. However the question arises now: Is merely the current widespread expectation of a future JFK-style boom actually triggering a preliminary version of the 1960s “epidemic” of optimism known as “early ebullience”?

Is Bloomberg’s Consumer Comfort resurgence a precursor of 1960s-style “Early Ebullience”?

In response to the recent closing of the Dow over 21000 for the first time, the Wall Street Journal headlined: Stocks Surge As Optimism Rises. They continue:

Wednesday’s stock-market rally echoed the response to the Nov. 8 U.S. election, when investors bet market-friendly market shifts would help boost economic growth , inflation and interest rates.

Late last week volatility from the oil market (not surprisingly) caused a pause in the Trump Rally. This early ebullience, based mostly on expectations of imminent rapid growth, is merely a precursor and not as robust as true 1960s-style ebullience that drives transformative change.

However, early ebullience is also clearly evident in recent, very positive sentiment about the U.S. economy. Last week Bloomberg indicated that,

Americans’ confidence continued to mount last week as the Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index reached the highest point in s decade (since March, 2007) on more upbeat assessments about the economy and buying climate…

Bloomberg notes that this impressive consumer optimism extends beyond Republicans to Independents.

Historical analysis suggests that ebullience has been the fundamental driving force behind the stunning, civilization-altering exploration and engineering activities during Maslow Windows over the last 200 years. Indeed ebullience appears related to the “animal spirits” of behavioral economist John Maynard Keynes and the “irrational exuberance” of Alan Greenspan.

In the 1960s Apollo program and Peace Corps of John F. Kennedy it was the ebullient feeling that we could do almost anything; in the early 20th century it was Theodore Roosevelt’s Panama Canal fever and (north & south) pole mania; in the mid-19th century is was manifest destiny of James Polk and the central Africa adventures of Dr. Livingstone, I presume; and about 200 years ago it began auspiciously with Jefferson, Napoleon, and Lewis & Clark.

However, even during these rhythmic, twice-per-century waves of ebullience, some people remain stalled at lower Maslow levels — usually distracted by personal affluence, unproductive ideologies, and/or partisan politics — and thus are empowered negatively. Internationally, they sometimes trigger conflicts or even major wars (e.g., WW I) that can terminate Maslow Windows.

Widespread ebullience is usually short-lived because it is fundamentally a psychological phenomenon that often responds to feelings and perceptions — either positive or negative — as much as or even more than facts.

Despite the documented growth in consumer and investor optimism, the Maslow Window model forecasts that early ebullience cannot survive or transition into full 1960s-style ebullience without the near-term, large economic expansion promised by President Trump. Although initial trends look good, this is the key challenge confronting the Administration and Congress.

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May 05 2013

Citizen Hearing on Disclosure Supports Maslow Forecasts

This week’s Congressional-style inquiry into the reality of ET contact with humans was very significant, both in terms of its content and what it reveals about our societal trajectory.

Dr. Jesse Marcel, Jr. — who allegedly examined the Roswell crash debris in 1947 — testified last week at the Citizen Hearing on Disclosure at the National Press Club in Washington, DC.

Running from April 29 to May 3 at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., the “Citizen Hearing on Disclosure” — while not perfect — hit a genuine homerun.

Before I get to the details, here’s the context:

A variety of long-term and current indicators — including macroeconomic (financial Panic of 2008), geopolitical (the Iran-North Korea crisis), technology (the Mach 25 X-37B space plane), and others — suggest strongly that we are rapidly approaching a 1960s-style “critical state,” apparently due to self-organization over decades of the international economic system.

Such twice-per-century “critical states” can be traced back to Lewis and Clark and always dramatically change the world. Although typically preceded by financial panics and geopolitical stress, critical states are best seen through Maslow Windows that are triggered by major JFK-style economic booms and driven briefly by the societal euphoria (“ebullience”) that always follows.

The most recent Maslow Window was in the 1960s and featured an extraordinarily diverse agenda typical of critical states including the Cuban missile crisis, Apollo Moon program, and Peace Corps. A similar transformative, albeit bumpy road is expected with the arrival of the next critical state/Maslow Window — by mid-decade.

Over the last 100+ years, public fascination with intelligent life in space has surged as we approached each new Maslow Window; Click: State of the Wave: ETs Surge to Center Stage
And recent interest in UFOs, extra-solar planet discoveries, and now the Citizen Hearing on Disclosure indicate this pattern is continuing.

The CHD featured an unprecedented gathering of 40 of the world’s most significant UFO researchers and witnesses.

My favorite was the Tuesday afternoon panel on tampering with nuclear ICBM launch sites in the U.S.. Four former USAF personnel (including three officers) violated their security oaths (one, Capt. Schindale, for the first time) by describing multiple examples of UFOs hovering around Minuteman launch sites, including instances where ICBMs were mysteriously disabled by the UFO. The men and their stories continue to be believable and the national security implications are obvious and stunning.

The Wednesday afternoon panel on the UFO crash at Roswell in 1947 was good too; it featured the usual riveting suspects — Kevin Randle, Don Schmitt, and Stan Friedman. It’s always impressive to hear Dr. Marcel describe his first-person view, as an 11-year old, of the Roswell debris that his father brought home directly from the crash site.

During the week, several participants were invited to speculate on rationales for the multi-decade UFO cover-up by the U.S. government. The suggestions ranged from military technology to new game-changing energy sources.

However, on the Friday “Truth Embargo” session, historian-researcher Richard Dolan recounted two stories of the very disturbed emotional states that former President Jimmy Carter and (later) a high-level Reagan official appeared to be in after receiving key classified information regarding the nature of UFOs. Dolan speculated that a fear-factor may also be involved in the cover-up.

The CHD organizers hope that increased exposure of the facts about UFOs to the media and the public will trigger a true Congressional investigation into what the government and all its retired members actually know about UFOs.

And it’s likely the CHD will be a key step in that direction as we begin to become engulfed by the 1960s Camelot-style ebullience of the approaching Maslow Window.

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Nov 04 2012

If Romney Wins, What Can We Expect in Space?

In May, 2008, shortly after the founding of this website, Rachel and I asked a similar question about then candidate Obama. We noted that his timing was a little early because the next John F. Kennedy-like president should appear closer to 2016 or possibly 2012, based on our calculation that the next Critical State/Maslow Window is expected near mid-decade, in partial response to an anticipated “Sputnik-like event” during this interval as well as the financial Panic of 2008.

Could the Romney of today, transform into the new JFK-like Space President?
(Mitt Romney speaks at Astrotech Space Operations, Cape Canaveral in January, 2012. Photo by Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty Images.)

On June 5, 2008 Rachel and I saw parallels between Obama and JFK — especially that Obama appeared to be an “adaptable leader and a quick study” — and we speculated that he might lead us to Mars. Unfortunately, these hopes have not worked out — Click “Obama on Space — The New Eisenhower or JFK?” — and given Obama’s current self-inflicted political status, it’s unlikely Obama could transform himself into a JFK-style space president even if he won a second term.

With the election only a few days away, veteran political observer Michael Barone (author of The Almanac of American Politics, 2012) has called for a major Romney electoral win of 315 – 223. And today both the New York Times and Washington Post — both friendly to Obama — admit that the race is tied. In neutral language, that probably means: Give the edge to Romney.

So it’s of real interest to try to imagine what Romney would do as President of the United States with space exploration.

To begin, it’s important to realize that space has not been a front-burner issue in this campaign, mainly because of the very slow recovery from the Great Recession of 2008-10. Indeed, the Democratic Platform doesn’t even mention space, while Republicans recognize that space is important because of its connections to 1) technological innovation, 2) national security, and 3) national pride. These might provide initial clues to Romney’s approach.

Romney’s website provides no direct mention of space in its issue list, but it’s vision statement is revealing:

The foundations of our nation’s strength are a love of liberty and a pioneering spirit of innovation and creativity.

It appears that Romney excels in three key areas that are the cornerstone of an Apollo-level space initiative:

I. A Focus on Prosperity.
Romney’s stated purpose is a return to prosperity. He believes that “liberty, opportunity, and free enterprise have led to prosperity and strength before and will do so again.” Romney received a joint J.D./M.B.A. from Harvard because he was analytical and could integrate new data into his success-oriented thinking. Over the last 200+ years, a return to prosperity via JFK-style growth is always the trigger to transformative exploration and technology booms. Like JFK before his election, Romney is not especially interested in space exploration, but his business background and focus on prosperity could move the U.S. in this direction.

II. A Focus on Pioneering Spirit.
The fact that Romney chose to emphasize a “pioneering spirit of innovation and creativity” in his vision statement (see above) as the secret of America’s success and still the promise of its future suggests that, like JFK, Romney will recognize key Apollo-style forks in the road as they arise. Indeed, the pioneering spirit, driven by a JFK-style boom, is the essence of “ebullience” which took Americans from the seminal explorations of Lewis and Clark to the surface of the Moon in less than 200 years!

III. A Focus on Leadership.
It’s almost a cliché to note that Romney has demonstrated exceptional leadership in both his business career and in politics. Indeed, his experience in the private sector might be important to expanding commercial space. On January 27, 2012 seven prominent leaders in the space world — chaired by Scott Pace (possible future NASA boss under Romney), and including Apollo astronaut Gene Cernan, and former NASA Administrator Michael Griffin — endorsed Romney’s visionary leadership:

Restoring the U.S. space program to greatness will require the leadership, management skill, and commitment to American exceptionalism possessed by only one candidate in this race: Mitt Romney.

Would Romney display the JFK-style of leadership which led to his courageous choice of landing a man on the Moon before the end of the 1960s? Mindful of our earlier miscalculations relating to President Obama, it’s clear that no one can predict that.

However, Romney’s focus on prosperity, pioneering spirit, and leadership would create the foundation — demonstrated repeatedly by transformative exploration and technology booms over the last 200+ years — required for human expansion into the cosmos.

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Jul 24 2012

Current Economic and Political Trends Support Maslow Forecasts

Poverty in the U.S. is soaring to levels not seen in several decades according to the Associated Press (Hope Yen; 7/23/12):

The ranks of America’s poor are on track to climb to levels unseen in nearly half a century, erasing gains from the war on poverty in the 1960s amid a weak economy …

Increasing poverty in the U.S. ironically points to the approach of a transformative 1960s-style decade by mid-decade.

The AP’s broad survey of economists, think tanks, and academics reveals a consensus that the official poverty rate of 15.1% in 2010 may surge as high as 15.7% for 2011, although even a 0.1% increase will make it the highest since 1965.

In February the Congressional Budget Office indicated that the last 3+ years with over 8% unemployment have been the longest sustained period of high joblessness since the Great Depression, and the AP sees a connection to poverty.

Poverty is closely tied to joblessness. While the unemployment rate improved from 9.6 percent in 2010 to 8.9 percent in 2011, the employment-population ratio remained largely unchanged, meaning many discouraged workers simply stopped looking for work. Food stamp rolls, another indicator of poverty, also grew.

Although Maslow Windows are transformative decades that feature JFK-style economic booms — note the dramatic decrease in poverty during the 1960s Maslow Window (above) — they are typically preceded by a financial panic like that of 2008, a great recession and a slow recovery. Therefore the strong desire for a return to Maslow-level prosperity begins to dominate the political discussion.

In 2010, just before the election, I indicated that,

current trends support a continuing political realignment fundamentally motivated by the drive for prosperity more than any particular candidate.

While well-documented for the 2010 election, we are beginning to see the same widespread drive for prosperity surface in the current presidential campaign. For example, Rasmussen reports (7/19/12) that by a 2-to-1 majority, voters believe the government should focus on “economic growth” rather than “fairness.” This is partly due to the stumbling economy but also because only 1 in 5 voters believe that more government involvement in the economy results in increased fairness.

In early 2011, I expressed the strong connection between prosperity and winning:

History shows that as we approach a Maslow Window (such as the one expected in 2015), the leader who can best manifest prosperity and model ebullience wins. In the early 1800s it was Jefferson, in the mid-1840s it was James Polk (of all people), in the early 20th century it was Theodore Roosevelt, and in the 1960s John F. Kennedy. It appears that long-term economic circumstances do more to determine our leaders than the reverse.

While it is far from clear who will wn the U.S. presidency in 2012, for the first time, perceptions of President Obama’s economic policies are beginning to decline. Yesterday The Hill announced a new poll that shows

53 percent of voters say Obama has taken the wrong actions and has slowed the economy down. Forty-two percent said he has taken the right actions to revive the economy.

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Feb 27 2012

Foreign Affairs Features The Case for Space

The current issue of Foreign Affairs (March/April, 2012) featues “The Case for Space” by astronomer Neil deGrasse Tyson of the Hayden Planetarium in New York. In 2004 he was appointed by President Bush to the “Moon, Mars, and Beyond” Commission, so he is familiar with the range of arguments relevant to U.S. space exploration policy.

Neil deGrasse Tyson, Ph.D. believes we should spend more time and money reaching for the stars.

How Much is a New Planet Worth?
Tyson initially grabs our attention by asserting that a manned mission to Mars would “surely cost hundreds of billions of dollars — maybe even $ 1 trillion.” This is a surprising number since the whole 1960s Apollo Moon program cost ~$ 150 B in today’s dollars. To approach $ 1 T you would have to look at a multi-decade program of manned Mars missions, which is not currently in the cards. Zubrin has recently shown how we can fly to Mars by 2016 for far less than the Apollo program.

On the other hand, in 2009 I estimated — based on cost ratios of pre-Maslow MEPs to the major Maslow MEPs over the last 200 years — that the coming Maslow Window (expected by mid-decade) will feature a total MEP expenditure of between $ 1 and 3 T (current USD). But this could include a variety of projects such as manned Mars, lunar bases, and space-based solar power infrastructures.

Because of their large costs, importance to national prestige, and use of high technology, major space programs become political issues, and Tyson highlights what he sees as the end of “immunity to partisanship” of the space program after 2004 when the Shuttle Columbia was lost. It got worse when President Obama took office in 2009. Partly due to his space policies and other controversial issues, Obama is the most polarizing president on record according to Gallup; his rating of 68 (the difference between the percent of Democrats and Republicans who approve of his job performance) is the highest on record for a president’s 3rd year, as were his partisan gaps for his first and second years (65 and 68).

Tyson notes that in the end, Obama’s suggestions for manned Mars missions in the 2030s have not been taken seriously because

When a president promises something beyond his years in office, he is fundamentally unaccountable … The only thing guaranteed to happen on his (Obama’s) watch is the interruption of the United States’ access to space.

While Tyson’s focus on politics is understandable, it misses the real point: Economics is the fundamental problem.

Doesn’t anyone watch Animal Planet anymore?
The last time I checked, when the main waterhole is drying up, disputes become common and everyone tends to be edgy about everything.

The same is naturally happening with the economy today. Negative animal spirits call into question positive visions of the future like space.

Tyson naturally believes — and he is right — that a visionary U.S. space program is the solution to motivating youth and revitalizing the American education system, as well as stimulating innovation and the economy. And most importantly:

The United States will once again witness how space ambitions can shape the destiny of nations.

But he does not emphasize that the fundamental reason we have been trapped in Earth orbit for 40 years (since Apollo) is because of the lack of a JFK-style economic boom that created exuberance by increasing prosperity to virtually every group in society and dropping unemployment to nearly zero.

Two hundred years of macroeconomic and political patterns as well as current global trends suggest we’re on trajectory for the next 1960s-style golden age of prosperity, exploration, and technology… to begin by mid-decade.

The political realignment that began in 2008 is continuing and will determine its exact timing.

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Nov 21 2011

Is Obama a Victim of History? Democratic Pros Suggest He May Not Run

Will Obama pull an LBJ in January?

With America’s sons in the fields far away, with America’s future under challenge right here at home, with our hopes and the world’s hopes for peace in the balance every day, I do not believe that I should devote an hour or a day of my time to any personal partisan causes or to any duties other than the awesome duties of this office–the Presidency of your country.

Accordingly, I shall not seek, and I will not accept, the nomination of my party for another term as your President.

…President Lyndon Johnson on March 31, 1968 with reference to Vietnam.

In 1968 President Johnson took the moral high ground and, to reduce “partisan divisions”, declined to run for a 2nd term.

Today in the Wall Street Journal (11/21/11) two veteran Democratic pollsters suggest Obama might do likewise because of his inability to develop a “bipartisan” economic and foreign policy and his low job approval numbers.

Patrick Caddell and Douglas Schoen assert that:

When Harry Truman and Lyndon Johnson accepted the reality that they could not effectively govern the nation if they sought re-election to the White House, both men took the moral high ground and decided against running for a new term as president. President Obama is facing a similar reality—and he must reach the same conclusion.

They conclude that Obama would have to run the “most negative campaign in history” to overcome his record while President, and, even if he won, it would be “almost impossible for him to govern”. As “patriots” and “Democrats” Caddell and Schoen call on Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi to bring this message to President Obama and to convince Hillary Clinton to run in 2012.

Last September, Dick Morris — President Clinton’s former pollster — came to a similar conclusion and felt there was a “good chance” Obama will not run in 2012.

This is especially intriguing in the context of the eerie parallels between the economic and political chronology of the late 1890s — events that eventually triggered the early 20th century Peary/Panama/T. Roosevelt Maslow Window — and our trajectory today.

For example:
1. Both Presidents Grover Cleveland and Obama were elected near major financial panics (1893 for Cleveland and 2008 for Obama) that were followed by great recessions. Click: Wave Election.

2. The 1890s panic and great recession are becoming more widely recognized for their similarities to the economic crisis that began in 2008. Click: Eerily Similar.

According to Samuel Rezneck (Business Depressions and Financial Panics; 1968) the “unprecedented fiasco” began on May 5, 1893 and …

Spread to a nation-wide epidemic of some five hundred banks and nearly sixteen thousand business failures during the year … Recovery was slow, despite the recurring tendency, as during 1895, to grasp at “harbingers of widening prosperity,” only to be warned that, “the alleged era of prosperity is not in sight.”

Indeed, the second recession (double-dip) followed soon.

3. Cleveland’s and Obama’s presidential elections were each followed 2 years later by mid-term elections that featured significant political realignments favoring the other party. Click: Michael Barone.

4. Because of his inability to deal successfully with the great 1890s recession as well as union issues, Grover Cleveland was not renominated by his party for a second term. The fact that something similar may be happening to Obama today is extraordinary.

However, Obama’s political destiny (including possibly even his re-election) is obviously not as important as the game-changing signifcance of the societal drive for prosperity that we see around us today. Based on 200+ years of macroeconomic data and historical trends, it suggests the “Great Prosperity” can be expected to return by mid-decade.

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Jul 15 2011

Does Obama Have an Anti-Mars Policy?

Bob Zubrin of the Mars Society is also a nuclear engineer. In a recent Space News op-ed (“The VASIMR Hoax”; 7/11/11), he reports that the Obama administration insists that NASA needs a technology “breakthrough” (e.g., Space News, 7/11/11, P. 8 ) before astronauts can travel safely to Mars. VASIMR is it and “We can’t go to Mars until we have the revolutionary VASIMR, … and once it arrives, all things will be possible.”

Should Columbus have waited for the 747 to be invented before he went to America?

Back when I began to hear this need-new-propulsion talking point, I was surprised because it clearly isn’t true. As I mentioned in my decade space forecast in March, 2010:

4. We are the Beneficiaries of 60+ Years of Space Technology Development, and Are Capable of going to Mars, Developing the Moon, and/or Utilizing Space Resources in the Next Decade

We already have the basic technology to go to Mars and ISS can help resolve issues related to long duration human spaceflight before 2020. While advanced propulsion is always preferred on Mars missions, it is not required. Split mission concepts — where return propellants, consumables, and other cargo — are sent first to Mars orbit before the crew leaves Earth improve performance and safety for the crew vehicles. In situ resource utilization is an important technology that is needed to process propellants from water (or other substances) on Phobos and/or Mars. It needs to be developed but is hardly a showstopper.

Great explorations always involve significant risk. The risk must be identified, quantified, managed, and then accepted. In essence, you are ready to go exploring when you think you are.

Columbus and his descendants could have waited until the 747 was invented to make the trip to America — it would have been a lot safer and more comfortable — but they chose to go in 1492. There were many unknowns (a pre-mission cost/benefit analysis was difficult) and the crew suffered casualties, but the mission of exploration was a success and the world was changed.

In their 1963 EMPIRE study for NASA, German rocket scientist Krafft Ehricke and his staff at General Dynamics concluded that “Preliminary schedule analysis strongly indicates that a 1975 (manned) mission…to Mars is in the realm of realistic technological planning…” It was 6 years before the Moon landing, and Krafft Ehricke, Bill Strobl, and the other authors of the document calculated we were nearly ready to go to Mars. …

Zubrin concludes that VASIMR doesn’t hold water in the context of attempted mitigations of either cosmic radiation or zero-g effects en route to Mars. He concludes that the real cost of VASIMR goes beyond its R&D program,

its real cost … is the tens of billions that will be wasted as the human spaceflight program is kept mired in Earth orbit for the indefinite future, accomplishing nothing while waiting for the false vision to materialize …

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Jun 26 2011

10 Lessons JFK and Apollo Teach Us About Ebullience and the Coming Boom

Amid what the U.S. Federal Reserve recently called a “disappointingly weak recovery,” it’s easy to become engulfed in what Akerloff and Shiller (2009) dsscribe as “Animal Spirits” — i.e., when negative psychology produces self-fulfilling prophecies. At times like this, historical perspectives are especially useful in reconnecting with reality.

For example, the presidency of John F. Kennedy is associated with one of the greatest periods of economic growth (the 1960s Apollo Maslow Window) in history. JFK’s ebullient mindset and actions set the tone for the most transformative decade of the last 100 years.

JFK, Vice President Johnson (left), and Jackie Kennedy watch the launch of the first American in space, Alan Shepard, in 1961.

JFK, himself, saw his approval of manned spaceflight to the Moon in 1961 as

among the most important decisions that will be made during my incumbency in the Office of the Presidency.

JFK’s approach to Apollo provides insights into the coming decade, when a major economic boom is likely to trigger 1960s-style ebullience that historically causes civilization-altering technological spectaculars like Apollo to emerge.

Fortunately, John Logsdon’s excellent new book John F. Kennedy and the Race to the Moon (2010) offers a plethora of historical hints that suggest…

10 Lessons JFK and Apollo teach us about ebullience and the coming boom:

10. Apollo was an extraordinary decision by JFK that reflected the ebullience of the early 1960s.
The quintessential media figure of the time, Walter Cronkite, typified this mindset when he predicted that after Apollo 11, “everything else that has happened in our time is going to be an asterisk.”
Despite current conditions, do not be surprised to encounter — and even share — this exuberant mindset after 2015.

9. In 1961 the Soviets were ahead in space and there were significant technical issues facing NASA, yet JFK chose the Moon.
The Soviets launched 2 successful manned missions into orbit — including the first human into space (Yuri Gargarin) on April 12, 1961 — before the U.S. sent John Glenn into orbit on February 20, 1962. (Alan Shepard had become the 2nd human — and 1st American — in space with his suborbital flight on May 5, 1961.) And the Soviets added another first in June, 1963 when they launched the first woman (Valentina Tereshkova) into space. But in 1961 JFK was very concerned about the Soviet’s lead in rocket thrust. It was not until 2 1/2 years later (shortly after JFK’s death) that the U.S. Saturn 1 launch vehicle finally took the lead in that key category.
Despite great uncertainties, JFK’s ebullience provided an especially positive view of the future and the U.S.’s ability to prevail.

8. The future cost of Apollo was uncertain when JFK made his decision in 1961, but the 1960s boom initially made it nonessential.
Americans were so ebullient about space and Apollo that NASA’s first 5 years were characterized by “seemingly unlimited growth.” Amazingly, it wasn’t until January, 1963 that the New York Times initially suggested that:

Whether the $ 20 B (or $ 40 B) race to the Moon is justified …we do not think the matter has been sufficiently explained or sufficiently debated.

Notice that the Times didn’t know the cost either, even in 1963!
You’re immersed in peak ebullience when cost is not a central issue.

7. Ebullience is not limited to space; 1963 to 1966 was “The Perfect Storm” for social programs.
During this period President Lyndon B. Johnson was the author of many ebullient statements, including:

End poverty, conquer bigotry, heal the sick, teach all the young … We can do it all…

By 1966 “Even in the White House that kind of talk had begun to ring hollow…” when 385,000 Americans were fighting in Vietnam (Mackenzie and Weisbrot, 2008).
Ebullience is always a heady experience, but not always positive. And it usually ends sooner than expected. (It cost LBJ his presidency.)

6. Although by 1963 Congress had second thoughts, the American public supported Apollo through 1969.

Roger Launius (2003) documents public support for Apollo in the 1960s. The top curve is ebullient; notice those who “approve of Apollo” fluctuate between 60% and 80%. In the middle, those who think “Apollo is worth the cost” are below 40% except for only 2 years: 1965 (45%) and 1969 (53%), the year of Apollo 11. Bringing cost into the question always confuses ebullient people, however the middle curve may appear more negative than it is. Other polls show that Americans traditionally wildly overestimate the cost of NASA; many think it consumes ~20% of the entire federal budget. Given a more realistic picture of NASA budgets, it’s likely the cost curve would ascend.
The ebullience driving 1960s space and social spending was strong for a total of 8 years, but it collapsed due to the war and costs.

5. In 1961 when he made the big decision, JFK was not certain the Soviets were racing to the Moon.
The U.S. had endured “the shock of the century” in 1957 when the Soviets launched Sputnik. This triggered the Space Age and the formation of NASA one year later. However, when JFK as president experienced the launch of the first human into space (Cosmonaut Yuri Gargarin) on April 12, 1961, he knew it was serious geopolitcal business. (Less than one week after Gargarin, the U.S. launched the unsuccessful Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba.) Given the Soviet threat and the ebullient reception for NASA, JFK concluded that the U.S. could not tolerate being #2 in space. In reality, Khrushchev didn’t approve a Soviet race to the Moon until August, 1964, and he lost power later that year.
The 1960s were the most recent example of an international “Critical State,” where ebullience is high, and positive things (e.g., Peace Corps, Apollo) and negative things (e.g., Bay of Pigs, Cuban Missile Crisis) can happen rapidly, seemingly without warning.

4. JFK considered several options, but ultimately believed that the Soviet space challenge required an ebullient response.
JFK was not particularly interested in space when he became president, and he initially considered a variety of alternatives to a Moon race. However, his idealism and ebullience were triggered by the Space Science Board report, chaired by Lloyd Berkner (McDougall, 1985),

Man’s exploration of the Moon and planets is potentially the greatest inspirational venture of this century and one in which the whole world can share; inherent here are great and fundamental philosophical and spiritual values which find a response in man’s questing spirit and his intellectual self-realization.

Indeed, as JFK told his science advisor Jerome Wiesner,

If you had a scientific spectacular on this earth that would be more useful — say desalting the ocean –or something that is just as dramatic and convincing as space, then we would do it.

Ultimately space won out because it was more ebullient, dramatic, convincing. Being #1 in space strongly reinforced America’s national power.

3. JFK saw the Moon as potentially an opportunity to collaborate with the Soviets.
JFK proposed that the U.S. and Soviet Union go to the Moon together. The first time was privately during his June, 1961 Vienna summit meeting, shortly after JFK’s announcement of the U.S. Moon program. Khrushchev declined because of military security relating to their ICBMs. The second time was a very public speech to the General Assembly of the United Nations on September 20, 1963. JFK was assassinated 2 months later.
Over the last 200 years, the twice-per-century “critical states” have always featured major booms and peak ebullience, but there’s been more international competition than cooperation, including during Apollo. Given the success of the International Space Station, this is likely to change during the 2015 Maslow Window.

2. “If we can put a man on the Moon …”
The Apollo Program gave birth to an ebullient, famous cliche and set a standard of excellence against which all other challenging endeavors continue to be measured. JFK made the Moon commitment openly in front of a joint session of Congress on May 25, 1961, more than eight years before the first astronauts landed on the Moon in 1969. All things considered, Apollo was one of the most ebullient, amazingly successful, peacetime projects in the history of the U.S..
As we approach the 2015 Maslow Window, we expect a new JFK-style leader to emerge and encourage the next quantum leap in human expansion.

1. Camelot-style ebullience — the driver of the Apollo Moon program — was triggered by the 1960s Kennedy economic boom.
The last 200+ years of economic and technology history are supportive of JFK’s experience: A major boom triggers widespread affluence-induced ebullience. However, it’s the ebullience that actually drives the “golden age” by catapulting many in society to higher levels in Maslow’s hierarchy. Elevated Maslow states, and their momentraily expanded worldviews, make great explorations and huge technology projects seem not only intriguing, but almost irresistible. However, when the Vietnam War eroded ebullience by 1966, the 1960s “Maslow Window” began to close.
When the next JFK-style boom occurs (expected by 2015), a transformative pulse of Apollo-style exploration will follow.

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Jun 22 2011

State of the Wave: Our “Weak” Recovery and Prospects for the 2015 Boom

Harvard’s Martin Feldstein (Wall Street Journal, 6/8/11) asserts that “the economy is worse than you think.”

Growth during the coming year will be subpar at best, leaving high or rising levels of unemployment and underemployment.

Feldstein’s scrutiny of the numbers reveals that, because most of the anemic 1.8% first quarter growth for 2011 went into business inventories, “the actual quarterly increase was just 0.15%.” And the Obama administration’s “stimulus” package created a “bigger deficit without economic growth.” The situation will continue,

until someone enacts a plan to bring deficits under control without raising taxes.

What’s the solution to an increasingly imperiled recovery?

Allan Meltzer of Carnegie Mellon emphasizes the generational implications of low growth.

After one generation, a one percentage point difference in growth rate becomes a 25% difference in per-capita income.

In contrast to the booming global ecnomy, Federal Reserve officials today (WSJ, 6/23/11) admitted that…

The U.S. economy is settling into a disappointingly weak recovery this year and next, and … they have done all they are prepared to do to spur growth for now.

Plus, the Congressional Budget Office today added to concerns about sinking home prices, falling comsumer confidence, and a “misery idex” at a 28-year high, by warning that if growth in the $ 14.2 T national debt is left unchecked, the U.S. could face a European-style “sudden fiscal crisis.”

Despite deepening concerns about our imperiled recovery, there is a growing recognition from diverse sources that rapid economic growth in the U.S. is possible just around the corner.

Prominent examples include:
1) Standard Chartered Bank documents that we’ve entered a new growth “super-cycle” of the type that culminated in the 1960s Boom associated with President John F. Kennedy,

2) Stanford economist John B. Taylor recently indicated that a 5% national economic growth goal is not some “pie-in-thesky number” and makes a “great deal of sense”,
3) William Halal, president of TechCast — an online think tank of 100 global experts — forecasts a “new economic boom in 2015“.

TechCast data show emerging technology frontiers are likely to lead the world out of global recession. Green Business, Climate Control, Alternative Energy, E-Commerce, and other sectors are likely to start the next economic upcycle about 2015.

Plus, based on long-term GDP growth trends since the 19th century, recently projected that a major, JFK-style economic boom — featuring 5% annual growth — is likely by 2015.

How will this transition occur?

It appears the U.S. is reliving key elements of its economic history of one century ago. The financial Panic of 1893 triggered the great 1890s recession, which featured 10+% unemployment and a double-dip. It’s reminiscent of our current trajectory — minus the double-dip, at least for now — since 2008.

The deep 1890s contraction soon resulted in a political realignment that ignited a major JFK-style boom. This spectacular 5% expansion surged through the first decade of the 20th century and triggered the stunning Peary/Panama/T. Roosevelt Maslow Window.

The importance of a growing, healthy economy will become the defining issue of 2012. As happened a century ago, the party that can best model prosperity will win.

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