Feb 20 2011

Stratfor’s George Friedman Likes Space-Based Solar Power in “The Next Decade”

I greatly enjoyed George Friedman’s new book, The Next Decade (2011). A New York Times best seller, it’s sort of a more focused, near-term sequel to his blockbluster, The Next 100 Years (2009).

Satellites that collect solar energy in space and beam it to Earth should begin to impact our growing energy use by 2015.
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Friedman’s section on technology and demographics is both simple and powerful, and reflects basic principles regarding economic cycles and prosperity that also guide us here at 21stCenturyWaves.com.

…economic expansion and contraction are driven … at a deeper level … by demographic forces and by technological innovation.

The challenge for the next decade will be that “breakthrough technologies” — the ones that stimulate prosperity by meeting key societal needs — will be in short supply.

Friedman blames the financial Panic of 2008 and the great recession of 2008-10 for reducing investment in new technologies and making people unusually risk-adverse. Plus a major engine of technological development — military needs during major wars — has not been activated by the pre-Maslow conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Friedman forecasts that financial stresses will subside after 2015 (as the next Maslow Window opens) but,

Given the lead time in technological development, the next generation of notable technological breakthroughs won’t emerge until the 2020s.

While Friedman’s picture is reasonable, it’s likely he underestimates the Great Boom of 2015 that’s expected to trigger a golden age of prosperity, exploration, and technology comparable to the Kennedy Boom of the 1960s. The reason is we haven’t seen a financial Panic/Great Recesson sequence like our current one in over 100 years!

Back then it began with the Panic of 1893 and the Great 1890s Recession. They were followed in 1899 by one of the most spectacular recoveries and ebullient decades (i.e., the Peary/Panama/T. Roosevelt Maslow Window) in the history of the U.S..
Please see (especially Fig. 4): “The Economics of Ebullience Points to a Sparkling New Global Space Age.”

Because of the close connection of energy availability with economic growth, and the fact that most increases in energy use have come from developing countries, the question of what will power technological innovation in the next decade assumes center stage.

Increased oil use will not be able to meet global energy demands of the next decade, and Friedman concludes that the only viable choices are coal and natural gas. And while the U.S. has large domestic supplies of both, the trick is…

The president must choose the balance between the two available fossil fuels, coal and gas. Then he must tell the people that these are the only choices. If he fails to persuade the public of this, there will not be energy for the technologies that will emerge in the next decade.

One of these new technologies is space-based solar power. Friedman believes that energy needs in the future will be driven by desalination of ocean water associated with increases in global standards of living and growing industrialization, and the best long-term solution is collecting solar energy in space and beaming it to Earth.

Progress is occurring. For example, a Southern California company, Solaren Corp. has contracted with Pacific Gas & Electric to sell it 200 megawatts of power per year starting in 2016 (Wall Street Journal, 9/27/10), after testing systems in space during 2014. While the Switzerland-based Space Energy Group’s business plan features a solar satellite in orbit in 3 years. And in 2009, Japan announced a new $ 21 B space solar power initiative.

However, Friedman warns that the U.S. government is currently funding worthy research into key technologies for cures of degenerative diseases and for robotics,

But the fundamental problem, energy, has not had its due.

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Oct 14 2010

State of the Wave: ETs Surge to Center Stage

In the 1950s this might have been called a UFO “Wave”, but today it just appears that interest in extraterrestrials – some of whom might even be coming here – is the rage from China to London and of course to Hollywood.

Does our growing global fascination with extraterrestrials suggest the new international Space Age is just around the corner?
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A Chinese Astronomer Says Yes
Wang Sichao, a veteran astronomer of the Purple Mountain Observatory of the Chinese Academy of Sciences said flat out in August that “extraterrestrial beings do exist and their UFOs have the ability to visit our earth,” (Peoples’ Daily Online, 8/23/10). His statements are as unequivocal as former Apollo Moon-walking astronaut Edgar Mitchell, who has claimed for years that “…we have been visited on this planet and the UFO phenomenon is real … It has been covered up by governments for quite some time now,” (7/28/2008, ABC News).

However, Wang believes that Stephen Hawking’s recent warnings that their arrival would be a bad day for humanity are premature.

“If they are friendly to us, we can promote the human beings’ civilization through exchange and cooperation with them. If they are not, as long as we prepared for their invasion, we can beat them back based on their weaknesses. After all, they are life entities, they would show their slips,”

Obviously the professor is an optimist. Anyone with the technology to travel across interstellar distances could also make us wish they hadn’t. The classic Twilight Zone episode “To Serve Man” comes to mind!

Wang’s public statements come in the wake of 8 reported UFO sightings in China since June. For example, last month an airport in Inner Mongolia was shut down for over an hour because a UFO — reportedly seen both visually and on radar — was buzzing the field.

Unknowns Lurk Everywhere
UFO sightings are not limited to China — they appear almost everywhere. A quick scan of the Mutual UFO Network website, a 40+-year-old, science-based organization, indicates that current aerial unknowns range from a silent boomerang in Boise to agile cigars in Australia.

Over the last 100+ years, a global surge in UFO/ET interest has presaged and figured prominently in each transformative Maslow Window.

For example, the ultra-ebullient Peary/Panama/T. Rosevelt Maslow Window (~1901-13) followed the founding of Lowell Observatory in Arizona to probe the “canals” on Mars. Lowell saw the canals as convincing evidence for a global Macro Engineering Project built by intelligent Martians. His public loved it and in 1907 the Wall Street Journal actually announced “…the proof by astronomical observations…that conscious, intelligent life exists upon the planet Mars,”

Likewise, early in the 1960s Apollo Maslow Window, astronomer Frank Drake inaugurated the famous Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) using a radio telescope in West Virginia. Later he and Carl Sagan ebulliently asserted that a million advanced civilizations might exist in our galaxy, and in 2010 Drake reiterated his ebullient belief that it’s “only a matter of time” before we detect them. Before aligning exclusively with radio SETI, Sagan wrote a stunning, but currently obscure scientific paper (in 1962) in which he argued that advanced ETs had already visited Earth using interstellar spacecraft aided by relativistic time dilation.

If this century-plus pattern holds, we should expect global interest in ETs, UFOs, Earth-like planets, and human expansion into the cosmos to accelerate as we approach the new international Space Age around 2015.

Is Life Abundant in the Galaxy?
It’s not just UFOs that are grabbing the global public, it’s anything to do with extraterrestrials. For example, Chandra Wickramasinghe, Director of the Cardiff Centre for Astrobiology, flatly asserts that current astrophysical research “overwhelmingly” supports his theory that human life started outside of Earth; i.e., that all humans are, in fact, “aliens from outer space.”

In his recent article in the International Journal of Astrobiology, Wickramasinghe argues that the spectral signatures of interstellar dust clouds are due to “biologically derived aromatic molecules.” Thus major components of interstellar materials are actually “… degradation products of biology,” suggesting life is not rare in our galaxy.

The Royal Society Seeks Extraterrestrials
Not to be left out — following scientific meetings in 2009 at the Vatican on Extraterrestrials — the prestigious UK Royal Society has had not just one, but 2 scientific meetings in 2010 (in January and just last week) to consider if exterrestrials are here on Earth and how to properly greet them.

At the Royal Society, Professor Paul Davies of Arizona State University suggested that, contrary to the approach of radio SETI, “We need to give up the notion that ET is sending us some sort of customised message and take a new approach.”

This flurry of ET-related scientific meetings, astrophysical research, and UFO sightings occurs in the context of the exciting recent discovery of the first extrasolar planet with the potential to be genuinely Earth-like. It orbits the red dwarf star Gliese 581 and is nearby — only 20 light years away. If advanced Gliesan’s ever existed, they should be here by now.

What if ET Really Phones Home?
And finally, to complete the pop culture scene, the new movie Skyline opens November 12. It features UFOs and extraterrestrials on Earth and a Rapture-like scene that’s unforgettable. As in the 1960s Space Age, cinema is likely to play a major role in the 2015 Maslow Window.

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Apr 15 2010

Parallels Between Presidents Truman and Bush Provide Insights Into the Future

Today Mark McKinnon, a former media advisor to both President George W. Bush and Senator John McCain, highlighted a few compelling parallels between the personal characters and presidential challenges of Presidents Harry Truman and Bush (Daily Beast, 4/14/10).

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Why are Truman and Bush so similar? Is it our imagination or something deeper?
ClicK .

McKinnon echoes themes that Contributing Editor Ann Hovey and I independently sketched almost 2 years ago in connection with the fact that the presidencies of Truman and Bush are separated by one long wave (about 56 years); see McCain and the Republican Panic.

Over the last 200 years, long waves in the economy appear to fundamentally trigger spectacular Maslow Windows; i.e., rhythmic, twice-per-century golden ages (e.g., the Camelot-style 1960s) when great explorations (e.g., Lewis and Clark), macro-engineering projects (e.g., the Apollo Moon program), and sadly, major wars (e.g., World War I) cluster together exclusively.

So it’s reasonable to expect that a wide variety of political, economic, cultural, and even military trends, events, and personalities might display key parallels from similar times during one long wave to another.

While McKinnon appears to be interested in “Bush’s resurrection,” our focus is on using Truman and Bush as another interesting historical test of this long wave model.

For example, in June, 2008 we wrote:

Truman’s and “Dubya” Bush’s first terms tantalizingly are 56 years apart (1945 and 2001), which suggests the economic, political, and military framework of each administration should have had similarities, although Bush did not have an analog for W.W. II. In fact, each president governed during times of unpopular conflicts – Truman in Korea, and Bush in Iraq. The Truman years saw the birth of the Cold War. Today, Russian President Putin is seen by some as launching the same cold war tensions. After WWII, the Truman era featured a wave of anti-communism and international tensions. Bush’s administration, in response to international terrorist attacks, introduced the Patriot Act. Thus both presidents governed in an environment of controversy where national security and civil liberties seemed to compete.

In terms of their public persona, both Truman and Bush were/are perceived by many as being “rough around the edges,” and as somewhat unenlightened. Their public approval ratings plummeted during their terms of office with record lows (20s – 30s), although both presidents presided over significant economic gowth.

McKinnon sees similar parallels:

They both gave hell and got hell.
As presidents, George W. Bush and Harry S. Truman had a lot in common.
Both were skeptical of elites and the media, driven by their faith, had troubled presidencies, made momentous and difficult decisions, took the nation into war, were unpopular in their time and weren’t concerned about it. They deeply believed if they did the right thing, history would sort things out in the end.

But consider the following observations about Truman from noted historians and how they easily they could be applied to Bush (all citations are from David McCullough’s Truman, except where otherwise noted):
He presented himself as a common-sense country boy…
…reputation of an intellectual lightweight…
Truman was often called a simple man, which he was not.
He made no pretense at being superior in any regard. He did not seem to need the limelight, flattery, or a following …

His whole life Truman had been moved primarily by faith… “I have a deep and abiding faith in the destiny of free men.”
In just three months in office, Harry Truman had been faced with a greater surge of history, with larger, more difficult, more far-reaching decisions than any president before him.
…unparalleled power and responsibility had been thrust upon him at one of history’s greatest turning points…
[On the Korean War] The war Truman had never wanted or expected, but knew to be of utmost importance to the future of the world—the most important decision of his presidency, he believed—had come to overshadow his whole second term.
The decision to go into Korea, he said, was the most important of his time in office… His intent in Korea, he now said, was to prevent World War III …

[Mid-term elections] The opposing party swept the election, carrying both houses of Congress for the first time since before the Depression…
“The shrill pitch of abuse heaped upon the president continues to echo,” wrote Time.

Finally, regarding America’s role in the world, Truman and Bush sound eerily similar.
President Truman in 1948:
“The only expansion we are interested in is the expansion of human freedom and the wider enjoyment of the good things of the earth in all countries… The only prize we covet is the respect and good will of our fellow members of the family of nations.”
President Bush in 2002:
“Our nation’s cause has always been larger than our nation’s defense. We fight, as we always fight, for a just peace—a peace that favors human liberty. We will defend the peace against threats from terrorists and tyrants. We will preserve the peace by building good relations among the great powers. And we will extend the peace by encouraging free and open societies on every continent. Building this just peace is America’s opportunity, and America’s duty …

Truman and Bush. The similarities are striking … With his ability to “take it,” his inner iron, his bedrock faith in the democratic process, his trust in the American people, and his belief that history was the final, all-important judge of performance, he was truly exceptional. He never had a doubt about who he was, and that too was part of his strength…

Noted historian Doug Brinkley perhaps best sums up the pair: Both Truman and Bush were avatars of direct action. Neither cared much about public opinion polls or pulse-reading. At their best, they were decisive mavericks. At their worst, too-fast-of-draws.

A coincidence? Within the context of many such parallels over the last 200 years, probably not. The long wave creates a framework that enables certain types of events and personalities to ascend at favored times. However, we should keep in mind that due, for example, to advances in technology and its ripples through the global economy, history appears to be more a spiral than a cycle.

Parallels between Truman, Bush, and their times, provide insights into how it all works. And, in combination with a wealth of macroeconomic evidence and historical trends over the last 200 years, they support our forecast that the next golden age of prosperity, exploration, and technology should arrive by 2015.

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Jan 03 2010

How the West Was Won — The Expansionist Effects of Ebullience

I had a very Merry Christmas season this year — specifically,  about 500 powerful pages by Robert Merry.   His new book is  A Country of Vast Designs: James K. Polk, The Mexican War and the Conquest of the American Continent (2009). 

Many agree it’s enthralling.  The New York Times (Sean Wilentz, 11/22/09) calls it “one of the most astute and informative historical accounts yet written about national politics, and especially Waahington politics, during the decisive 1840s.”  The Wall Street Journal (Aram Bakshian, Jr; 11/6/09) says it’s an “authoritative biography …(that) provides a compelling, perceptive portrait of one of the oddest men (James Polk) ever to occupy the White House…”

Against all odds, this smaller-than-life man achieved the impossible and ebulliently changed the world in only 4 short years; President James K. Polk in 1845. 

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In his unlikely, self-imposed one-term presidency, Polk accomplished the nearly impossible — he “engineered the triumph of Manifest Destiny” (NY Times) — including the annexation of Texas (1845), and the acquisition of the Oregon Territory (1846) and essentially the rest of the U.S. West including California, Nevada, Utah, and Arizona — all by 1848.

This is an extraordinary story that occurred in ebullient times that we call a “Maslow Window”  — see  “Buzz Aldrin — A Man For All Maslow Windows!” —  less than half a century after Lewis and Clark  explored the Louisiana Purchase to the Pacific, and still a few decades before the U.S. became the leading economic power on Earth.  Probably for this reason, neither the Great Exploration of this Window — see 10 Lessons Dr. Livingstone (“…I presume?”) Teaches Us About the Human Future in Space —  nor the primary Macro-Engineering Project (MEP)  — the Suez Canal —  were closely related to the U.S.  (although Stanley was dispatched by a New York newspaper to find Livingstone in Africa). 

However, the affluence-induced ebullience  — see The Economics of Ebullience Points to a Sparkling New Global Space Age—  that triggered these epochal events abroad was also strongly present in the U.S. as evidenced in Merry’s book.  Here are a few examples:

1. New Technology Was “Exploding” in America.

According to Ralph Waldo Emerson in 1844, “American is the country of the Future.  It is a country of beginnings, of projects, of vast designs and expectations.”  

Merry explains that a key reason the “impulse of exuberant expansionism” continued to surge was because,  “Just as America was encompassing ever greater distances, technology —  steam power and Morse’s telegraph — was obliterating the sluggishness of distance.”

2. The Financial Panic of 1837 and Great Recession Recovered by 1843 to a most “Prosperous State of Affairs.”

The financial Panic of 1837 was a major contraction where 40% of the U.S. banks failed and unemployment was at record highs; the resulting Great Recession lasted 6 years until 1843.  According to Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman writing in 1960, the Panic of 1837 “is the only depression on record comparable in severity and scope to the Great Depression of the 1930s.”

Merry notes that,

Within nine weeks of Van Buren’s innauguration, economic collapse swept the country. It began when New York banks suspended specie payments, causing widespread alarm and setting in motion a deflationary period as credit dried up … The Panic of 1837 ushered in “a cycle of recession, recovery, and depression” that would dominate American politics for the next seven years … Van Buren lost much of his popularity … Polk remained a stalwart floor leader for Van Buren’s agenda, but the tide had turned against his party.

Polk left the House and won the Tennessee governorship in 1839, but lost it in 1841 and 1843. “At forty-seven, he knew he looked washed up…”  But due to his pro-Texas annexation position which mirrored the expansionist electorate, Polk, against all odds, became the Democratic candidate for president and was elected in 1844.

As Polk assumed the presidency in 1845, the dynamic duo of prosperity and ebullience was everywhere.  According to Merry,

The national economy had been expanding at an average annual rate of 3.9%.  Not even the Panic of 1837, for all its destructive force, could forestall for long this creation of wealth.  And throughout the land could be seen a confidence that fueled national success. “We are now reaching the very height, perhaps, to which we can expect to ascend,” declared the Democratic Wilmington Gazette of Delaware.

Despite the Panic of 1837 and its Great Recession, the mid-19th Century Dr. Livingstone/Suez Maslow Window (roughly 1847 to 1860) opened on time and featured Africa’s most famous explorer (Dr. Livingstone), the “technological jewel” of the 19th Century (the Suez Canal), as well as impressive secondary MEPs (including the Great Eastern ship).   In addition to the stunning culmination of American Manifest Destiny in 1848,  this Maslow Window’s ebullience is also  exemplified by the famous Gold Rush of the American West (1848 – 1855).

Over the last 200 years, financial panics and great recessions have usually preceded Maslow Windows; see “Economic Crisis Supports Maslow Window Forecasts.”  Two 19th Century panics (1837 and 1893) , were both about one decade prior to their Maslow Windows;  none in 1949 (during the post W.W. II boom) one decade before the Apollo Maslow Window;  and one in 2008 (7 years before our expected 2015 Maslow Window). The New York Times (11/30/08) also describes a “deep recession” that appearently occurred somewhat after 1776, about 10+  years before the Lewis & Clark Maslow Window.

In fact, during the last 200+ years, no financial panic/great recession pair has ever delayed or diminished, in any observable way, any Great Explorations or MEPs associated with a Maslow Window. And there’s every reason to expect this 200+ year pattern will continue.

3.  The Controversial Mexican War Played a Major Role in U.S. Expansion.

Wars that occur early in the Maslow Windows of the last 200 years are complex, destructive events  — far beyond the scope of our discussion here — but according to historical accounts, usually play an important role in the ensuing events of the Maslow Windows.  It appears that ebullience — also known as “animal spirits” and “irrational exuberance” in an economic context; see “Are Great Explorations Driven by Keynesian “Animal Spirits” on Steroids?” — played a central role.

A few of the interesting parallels are sketched here:

Despite the (then) unresolved issues of slavery and the legality of the war, the Mexican War was vigorously and successfully executed by Polk with the support of the American people. Their ebullient expansionist belief in Manifest Destiny transformed the world.  According to Merry, the U.S. was “a vibrant, expanding, exuberant experiment in democracy whose burgeoning population thrilled to the notion that it was engaging in something big and historically momentous.”  This is the language of societal ebullience.

One Maslow Window earlier, the Napoleonic Wars in Europe played a major role enabling the Lewis and Clark expedition and in launching U.S. westward expansion.  Napoleon’s need to fund his war machine encouraged the sale of Louisiana to Jefferson;  see “10 Lessons Lewis & Clark Teach Us About the Human Future in Space.”

Likewise, the Spanish-American War of 1898 — as the Great 1890s Recession was ending and as the ebullient Peary/Panama Maslow Window began — played an intriguing role in Maslow Window events.  “Remember the Maine, to hell with Spain!”, an Alamo-like cry in response to the deaths of 266 US sailors while anchored in Havana Harbor, helped ignite the Spanish-American War.  To replace the Maine, another battleship (USS Oregon) stationed on the Pacific coast rushed 14,700 miles around South America to Cuba — while Teddy Roosevelt, leader of the famous “Rough Riders,” vectored toward Cuban battle himself.  Since the Oregon arrived at Cuba two months after war began, it didn’t require much abstract thinking for TR to recognize the Panama Canal’s potential strategic advantages;   see “10 Lessons the Panama Canal Teaches Us About the Human Future in Space.”

Early in the 1960s Apollo Maslow Window, Cuba again was the focus of an even bigger crisis for America and President John F. Kennedy: the Cuban Missile Crisis.  Because of Soviet emplacement of offensive nuclear missiles in Cuba the world came closer to a major nuclear exchange than ever before or since.  Although this crisis did not ignite the Space Age — the surprise 1957 launch of Sputnik did that — it intensified the Moon race and showed that the global stakes were high; see “The New Cuban Space Center and Vladimir Bonaparte.”

The “early Maslow Window wars” are continuing into the present — Iraq, Afghanistan, the War on Terror — as we recover from our Panic of 2008/Great Recession combination (analogous to the Panic of 1893/Great 1890s Recession and Panic of 1837/Great Recession), and as we ebulliently head toward the much anticipated, spectacular 2015 Maslow Window.  

4. Manifest Destiny Was Fueled by an “Exuberance of Spirit” Across the U.S.

There are many visionary quotes in Merry’s book that clearly indicate the extraordinary level of ebullience permeating mid-1840s America, but one of the most striking is from an obscure Democratic congressman from Ohio (then a western state) named John D. Cummins, who referred to the disputed Oregon Territory as nothing less than,

“the master key of the commerce of the universe.”  Get that territory into U.S. jurisdiction, he argued, and soon it would fill up with “an industrious, thriving, American population” and “flourishing towns and embryo cities” facing west upon the Pacific within four thousand miles of vast Asian markets.  Now contemplate, he added, ribbons of railroad track across America, connecting New York, Boston, and Philadelphia to those burgeoning West Coast cities and ports that would spring up once Oregon was in American hands. 

Cumins continued, think about how the “inevitable external laws of trade” would render American the necessary passageway for “the whole eastern commerce of Europe.” … “The commerce of the world would thus be revolutionized.”

Cummins bold vision was easily dismissed as hopelessly fanciful in a world utterly dominated by Great Britain. And yet it crystallized a fundamental element of the era’s politics — the widely shared conviction that America was a nation of destiny, that one day it would supplant Britain as the world’s dominant power, that Oregon represented merely an interim step toward realization of that vision.

Merry’s bottom line regarding Polk and American ebullience of the 1840s  is simple but powerful:

his legacy comes down to … the map outline of the continental United States, which is very close to what Polk bequeathed to his nation … To look at that map, and to take in the western and southwestern expanse included in it, is to see the magnitude of Polk’s presidential accomplishments … It didn’t come easily or cheaply …It unleashed civic forces that hadn’t been foreseen and couldn’t be controlled … But in the end he succeeded and fulfilled the vision and dream of his constituency.  In a democratic system that is the ultimate measure of political success.

The expansionist effects of ebullience apparently drove not only the Manifest Destiny of 1840s America, but also Jefferson’s seminal Lewis and Clark expedition, and the early 20th century’s international races to the north and south poles as well as the greatest MEP of the last 200 years (until Apollo): the Panama Canal.  In the 1960s the expansionist effects of ebullience finally drove us offworld to the Moon. 

As we approach another ebullient golden age of prosperity, exploration, and technology — the 2015 Maslow Window — it’s very likely the impossible will be accomplished again and the world will be changed.

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Oct 02 2009

That’s One Extraordinary Space Clown…!

The world’s “first clown to go into orbit” lifted off yesterday morning (GMT) from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. While some cynics might insist that other “clowns” have already been in orbit — and they shall remain nameless here — this was the first professional clown to actually do it.

Canadian billionaire Guy Laliberte is the 7th private space tourist and the 1st real clown to reach orbit. Click soyuz.jpg.

Guy Laliberte, the founder of Cirque du Soleil paid the Russians $ 35 M for a Soyuz ride to the International Space Station; he plans to give a space-worthy performance that will be streamed on the internet.

According to the BBC, Mr. Laliberte is different than anyone ever to visit orbit,

I’m an artistic person and a creator. I’m not a scientific. I’m not an engineer. Life has given me some qualities, some assets and I have built up a team of very creative people around the world. With those people I think we’ll present something that is originally creative and hopefully will have the result of sensitising people toward the situation of water in the world.

On October 9, Laliberte’s 2-hour “poetical social” performance from high above everything, will feature contributions from links to 14 cities around the world.

This is a seminal event in the expansion of human cvilization and culture into the cosmos. Although the cause celebre is the need for clean water for people everywhere, equally striking is the performance in orbit by a famous, professional entertainer.

Hopefully the 2015 Maslow Window will allow more artists to perform in space. However, in the short term — after Shuttle retirement in 2010 or 2011 — there may be few Soyuz tourist seats available as they are taken by professional astronauts on their way to work in space.

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Sep 07 2009

Private Funding for the Settlement of Mars Has Begun

Some folks hope to jumpstart human expansion into the cosmos by privately funding bases on other worlds. One serious approach is by Dr. Charles Polk who recently founded The Martian Trust (J. British Interplanetary Soc., Vol. 62, No. 5, pp. 187-197, May, 2009) with the sole intent of financing a self-sustaining outpost on Mars.

The Martian Trust, a new INGO founded by Charles Polk, bills itself as “The Virtual Society Building A Real World.” Click marsoutpost3.jpg.

Polk has a PhD in economics from Caltech and is a former aerospace engineer who worked on Space Shuttle main engines. Frustration with the funding processes of public space programs led to his interest in economics. According to Polk,

The Martian Trust introduces a key principle to space exploration: An endeavor is best accomplished when it is conducted directly between people who can and want to buy it and people who can and want to sell it. I believe that there are tens of millions of people who will want to imagine, design, and finance, a Mars outpost through the processes of The Martian Trust. These people, these millions of patrons, with a hugh trust fund under their direction, will command the interest of industries capable of selling them a Mars outpost.

In case you’re new to this blog, The Martian Trust is a superb example of what we call “early ebullience.” Early because Polk’s visionary concept precedes the 2015 Maslow Window — the next major pulse of ebullient human expansion into the cosmos — by about 6 years, and ebullience because it marvelously symbolises the fundamental force — energized and focused human curiosity — driving near-term space colonization. Inspirational endeavors like The Martian Trust are exactly what we would expect to see as we approach the 2015 Maslow Window, an ebullient 1960s-style decade with a Camelot-like zeitgeist.

Currently, space-themed media including movies, TV programs, novels, and games, reach hundreds of millions of consumers but have no direct connection — neither the consumers nor the creators — with a real space program. Polk intends to change this. His international non-governmental organization (INGO), will focus on the Mars outpost goal, “The precise meaning of this goal and how to attain it are left to those who hold stakes in the INGO. Stakes are allotted based on the revenue supplied to a trust fund, which may come from two sources: donations and media businesses.” Polk is basically adopting and expanding the media revenue model of The National Geographic Society.

Even if The Martian Trust cannot ultimately generate the tens of billions of USD needed for an initial Martian outpost, it still might play an important role by financing one or more key systems (e.g., habitation modules) in a much larger international, governmental Mars initiative. This is what Otto Steinbronn and I were envisioning in the INTELSAT-style organization that we called InterMoon (or InterMars, depending on the destination); see P. 291, Figure 3 in “Interspace…”; Space Policy, Nov., 1992.

In winter of 2008, Dr. Polk formed a non-profit corporation in Washington state to initiate the development of The Martian Trust and validate its business model. The Trust’s motto is “The Virtual Society building a Real World.” To avoid any suspicions that The Martian Trust was formed to promote any particular aerospace industry or any specific country’s economic aspirations, Polk chose to base the INGO in New Zealand. Formal establishment of The Martian Trust in New Zealand awaits the concurrence of “high net-worth space exploration and science fiction enthusiasts” who will form the INGO’s cornerstone of patrons.

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Aug 29 2009

State of the Wave — Obama is Not LBJ; New Space Age Will Bloom

This State of the Wave updates my January list of “10 Space Trends for 2009” and synthesizes new insights into Obama’s presidency as well as prospects for the approaching new Space Age in 2015.

This post marks a significant departure from my previous view of the 2015 Maslow Window. Indeed, the weight of new data and interpretations opens up the possibility that the 2015 decade may be even more than merely an analog of the spectacular 1960s Apollo Maslow Window.

With the Apollo Moon project’s continuing success and his unparalleled Great Society programs, Lyndon B. Johnson (2nd from left) was on track to become one of the most celebrated presidents in U.S. history, until Vietnam ended his career. Click lbj.jpg.

The New York Times recently (8/23/09; Peter Baker) suggested — in “L.B.J. All the Way” — that Obama’s “presidency may ultimately be decided in the rugged terrain of Afghanistan.”

Let’s be honest: This is not the most insightful idea I’ve ever seen in the Times, but at least it was inspirational (to me) and resulted in “The State of the Wave…” that you see here.

The Times’ approach strikes me as typical of continued unfairness to Obama from most of the media, much like his supporters who, ever since the campaign began, unrealistically projected their near-messianic hopes and aspirations on him. Admittedly, Obama encouraged this premature hero worship, like any politician trying to get elected would, but for the Times to draw a parallel this early in Obama’s term between Afghanistan and the Vietnam War of President Lyndon B. Johnson (LBJ) — who, along with President John F. Kennedy (JFK), presided over much of the 1960s Apollo Maslow Window — is really a stretch.

Before we dive in let me make a couple contextual points:

Because of impressive macroeconomic and historical evidence of the last 200 years, I have been compelled to admit to myself that, in some key ways, I am essentially an “economic determinist,” — but not in the usual sense. With me, it refers only to the fact that over the last 200+ years, long waves in the economy enable clusters of large engineering projects (e.g., Panama Canal) and great human explorations (e.g., Apollo Moon), as well as major wars (e.g., W. W. I), exclusively during rhythmic, twice-per-century pulses of ebullient activity (called Maslow Windows). This long-range perspective provides unique insights that fundamentally motivate this post, and most others on this blog.

Secondly, in 21stCenturyWaves.com the focus is on evaluating our technology and space forecasts in the context of key events and global trends using the 10 Wave Guides, not to express preferences for politicians or parties. We seek to identify what is most likely to happen, not what should happen or what we would like to happen. In essence, this strives to be a reality-based blog, even when we set sail into the far future.

This is such a remarkable time — economically and geopolitically — in U.S. and world history, that the last 200 years point to really only 2 likely Scenarios for the next 15 – 20 years:

Scenario 1: The 1960s John F. Kennedy (JFK) Replay … In which the economic and geopolitical trends of 1945 – 1960 reappear about one long wave later — between 2000 and 2015 — including the end of a world war, a great economic boom, and the election of a charismatic JFK-style Democratic president, that trigger a Super Apollo Maslow Window (2015 – 2025) featuring a Camelot-like zeitgeist.
Or…
Scenario 2: The 1900s Teddy Roosevelt (TR) Encore … In which the economic and geopolitical trends of 1888 – 1903 reappear about two long waves later — between 2000 and 2015 — including a financial panic followed by a major recession, and the election of a charismatic TR-style Republican president, that trigger a Super Apollo Maslow Window (2015 – 2025) featuring a Panama Fever-style zeitgeist.

Until recently, I have seriously considered only the “JFK Replay” as the nominal scenario for the 2015 Maslow Window, but recent economic and political events have convinced me to also consider the “TR Encore.”

It’s of particular interest that in both 2015 Maslow Window scenarios above, the key difference is which political party provides leadership, NOT whether major unprecedented technology and space activities (that I’ve estimated costing between $ 1 T and 3 T, current USD) will occur. In fact, based on macroeconomic data and historical trends of the last 200+ years, we can expect they will.

But why does the politics differ between the JFK Replay and the TR Encore?

History and common sense suggest that the state of the economy is a major influence on the outcome of U.S. presidential and congressional elections. This was concisely expressed by Bill Clinton’s staffer James Carville during the 1992 campaign, “It’s the economy, stupid.” In a similar vein, the Wall Street Journal (6/4/09) has suggested the Obama presidency will “rise or fall” on the economy.

In U.S. history, major wars can also sway elections. For example, the end of W. W. II in 1945 resulted in a post-War boom that was uninterrupted by a 1929-style financial panic, and culminated in the 1960s Apollo Maslow Window — a boom of unprecedented, widespread affluence.

To discern which Scenario is more relevant to the 2015 Maslow Window we compare the economic and geopolitical situation since 2000 with the 25 years preceding 1970 and also 1913.

Since 2000:
We experienced the financial Panic of 2008 and are still suffering from a major global recession. Although Iraq and Afghanistan have been traumatic wars, there was no major W. W. II – style global war in the 1980s or 1990s or since 2000.
1945 – 1970:
There was no 1929-style financial panic during this interval. The Vietnam War/Cold War was a major, international war for America.
1888 – 1913:
The financial Panic of 1893 was followed by the major 1890s recession; there was no major W. W. II – style global war during this interval.

It appears that the decade just before the Peary/Panama Maslow Window (1903-1913) of TR shares more key elements in common with our current trajectory toward 2015 than the decade just prior to the 1960 Apollo Maslow Window of JFK.

This long-term analysis presents us with a powerful window into the future and suggests real political dangers confront Obama.

For example:
1) Some commentators suggest that unless Obama is able to reduce unemployment below 10% by the next presidential election (2012) he risks defeat. In a previous post, I plotted recent unemployment rates against those near the Panic of 1893 (as estimated by Christina Romer; see #2 below). If the 1890s are a good economic model for current circumstances, the 2012 goal will be a close call.

2) Published economic research by the current head of President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisors — Christina Romer — raises doubts about Obama’s policy of major government spending to end the recession. The Wall Street Journal (8/21/09; Alan Reynolds) quotes Professor Romer’s 1999 study (J. Econ. Perspect.) that between the pre-WW I era and the era of big government (post-WW II), “recessions have become only slightly less severe…and recessions have not become noticeably shorter,” in fact post-WW II recessions are one month longer. WSJ concludes that, based on economic history since 1887, “bigger government appears to produce only bigger and longer recessions.” If this is true, Obama’s large stimulus/bailout packages and large federal budgets will make the 2012 goal hard to achieve.

Obama’s current economic and political difficulties suggest that the chronology of the 1890s may be relevant to the 2015 Maslow Window.

1893 – 1897: Grover Cleveland, the first Democrat elected after the Civil War, became president during the 1890s recession right after the Panic of 1893. Although elected with a bi-partisan majority, his policies during the 1890s recession were generally unpopular. His party deserted him and nominated William Jennings Bryan in 1896.
1897 – 1901: Republican William McKinley defeated Bryan calling himself “the advance agent of prosperity.” In 1900, McKinley again campaigned against Bryan. While Bryan inveighed against imperialism, McKinley quietly stood for “the full dinner pail.” McKinley won again but was assassinated in September, 1901.
1901 – 1909: Theodore Roosevelt, not quite 43, became the youngest President in the Nation’s history. He brought new excitement and power to the Presidency, as he vigorously led Congress and the American public toward progressive reforms and a strong foreign policy. Roosevelt steered the United States more actively into world politics. He liked to quote a favorite proverb, “Speak softly and carry a big stick. . . . ” Aware of the strategic need for a shortcut between the Atlantic and Pacific, Roosevelt ensured the construction of the Panama Canal. He won the Nobel Peace Prize for mediating the Russo-Japanese War, reached a Gentleman’s Agreement on immigration with Japan, and sent the Great White Fleet on a goodwill tour of the world. Some of Theodore Roosevelt’s most effective achievements were in conservation.

Teddy Roosevelt presided over perhaps the most ebullient time — the Peary/Panama Maslow Window — in U.S. history.

Here are the Bottom Lines:

1) Following decades with wildly different economic and geopolitical circumstances — the Maslow Windows of both TR and JFK featured spectacular, unprecedented great explorations (polar expeditions, Apollo to the Moon) and massive MEPs (Panama Canal, Apollo/Saturn V space infrastructure). They will be even greater during the 2015 Maslow Window.

2. Obama is not LBJ largely because of the vastly divergent economic worlds they each inherited. During the greatest economic boom up to that time, LBJ inaugurated the Great Society and successfully built the Apollo Moon program that JFK started. Such things are much more difficult for Obama to contemplate now because of the global recession and and its limited political vistas.

3. Obama faces significant economic and political challenges during the next few years. If he does not succeed, he may become Grover Cleveland instead of Lyndon Johnson, and Scenario #2 — the TR Encore — would be likely after 2015. Obama’s success would point to a JFK/Camelot-style Maslow Window.

21stCenturyWaves.com’s Tentative Forecast is … Given our current economic and geopolitical trajectory toward 2015 and the patterns of the last 200 years: Scenario #2 is more likely. However Obama still has time to reverse this trend and to shape the 2015 Maslow Window in his likeness.

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Jul 05 2009

Buzz Aldrin — A Man For All Maslow Windows!

Special thanks to Eric Rybarczyk for his interesting emailed comments on Maslow Windows and for suggesting that I take a closer look at Buzz’ comments.

In addition to being the 2nd man to walk on the Moon in 1969, Dr. Buzz Aldrin is one of the most intelligent, energetic individuals you will ever meet, and recently, he became a “Man for All Maslow Windows!” Click buzz.jpg.

Congratulations to Buzz for his brilliant synthesis of a stunningly positive vision of the human future in space. In today’s world of major global recession, asymmetric conflict, and a brewing new Cold War, a positive vision is hugely important. As pointed out at the beginning of the 1960s Apollo Maslow Window by Dutch sociologist Fred Polak in The Image of the Future,

The rise and fall of images of the future precedes or accompanies the rise and fall of cultures. As long as society’s image of the future is positive and flourishing, the flower of culture is in full blossom. Once the image of the future begins to decay and lose its vitality, however, the culture cannot long survive.

Although the details of his plan are certainly open for debate, Buzz — truly an icon of the 1960s — has provided us with an ebullient vision worthy of the 2015 Maslow Window.

The Maslow Window Model

About twice per century over the last 200+ years there are extraordinary pulses of great explorations (e.g., Lewis and Clark) and macro-engineering projects (e.g., Panama Canal) that resonate around the world. These “Maslow Windows” are times of extraordinary affluence-induced ebullience similar to “animal spirits” theorized to drive business cycles by British economist John Maynard Keynes in the 1930s. In response to ebullience, many in society ascend Maslow’s Hierarchy and, as their world view expands, find that great explorations and MEPs are not only intriguing, but seem momentarily irresistible. This captivating, but short-lived ebullience is triggered by major, twice-per-century economic booms over the last 200+ years that were first described by Kondratieff in the 1920s.

Thus the classic ideas of Maslow, Keynes, and Kondratieff — synthesized into this Maslow Window model — can explain the transformative pulses of great explorations and MEPs over the last 200+ years, including our 1960s fascination with Apollo and its rapid demise in the early 1970s. This model also points to the 2015 Maslow Window as the most likely time that visions like Buzz Aldrin’s will to come to fruition and revitalize society.

The Phobos Connection

I first met Buzz Aldrin in the late 1980s at General Dynamics in San Diego. He would come down from LA to share ideas about manned Mars missions, and the morning briefings would usually culminate with lunch at a local restaurant. His interests centered on Earth-Mars Cyclers — a concept for routine interplanetary transportation that he was developing with JPL — and mine were in using Phobos and Deimos (moons of Mars) as service stations for interplanetary vehicles and as manned orbital science stations.

Buzz now advocates a manned station on Phobos by 2025 to “monitor and control the robots that will build the infrastructure on the Martian surface, in preparation for the first human visitors.” I suspect his Phobos thrust is partly driven by the Russian Phobos mission scheduled to be launched in October, 2009, but now possibly delayed 2 years. In any case, Buzz’ manned Phobos base (or even an international lunar base) is exactly what we need before the 2015 Maslow Window slams shut on or before 2025. If we cannot achieve a human outpost in deep space by that time, we could be trapped in Earth orbit as the global economy slides for decades to the long wave trough (e.g., like ~1975-1995) and eventually recovers for the next Maslow Window near 2070. Keep in mind that nobody’s been beyond Earth orbit since the last Apollo mission in 1972, and that could occur again after 2025 unless we begin to colonize space.

Instant Martians

Some may be surprised that Buzz suggests one-way missions as a way of jump-starting the colonization of Mars. In fact, during the 1960s, according to historian Matthew Hersch, competition with the Soviets for Moon firsts became so desperate that some suggested 1-way suicide missions, just so the first man on the Moon wouldn’t be a Soviet. But not surprisingly, NASA wasn’t interested.

However, Buzz isn’t suggesting 1-way Mars suicide missions, he’s advocating 1-way “pilgrim” missions. This makes more sense for Mars than the Moon because while it takes 3 days to get to the Moon, a manned Mars mission may take 3 years.

According to Buzz,

One-way tickets to Mars will make the missions technically easier and less expensive and get us there sooner. More importantly, they will ensure that our Martian outpost steadily grows as more homesteaders arrive.

Instead of explorers, one-way Mars travelers will be 21st-century pilgrims, pioneering a new way of life. It will take a special kind of person. Instead of the traditional pilot/ scientist/engineer, Martian homesteaders will be selected more for their personalities—flexible, inventive and determined in the face of unpredictability. In short, survivors.

Buzz’ Mars pilgrims would also have several other positive effects:
1) They would prevent the “Apollo-ization” of Mars. A dreaded effect that space advocates used to fret about where the “been there…done that” syndrome after a few landings would preclude our ever going back.
2) They would provide a planetary beachhead in space that would stimulate multi-decade plans for colonization of the Solar System even between Maslow Windows, when human spaceflight beyond Earth orbit has never occurred (see “The Phobos Connection” above). And…
3) They would provide an incentive to eventually develop interplanetary vehicles for routine transportation between Earth and Mars (e.g., Earth-Mars Cyclers) including the establishment of an interplanetary economy.

Going to Mars Together
I am on record for over 20 years as advocating an international approach to manned Mars missions, including even a specific macro-management concept for a global space agency (“Interspace”).

However, Buzz appears to be advocating a more-or-less U.S.-alone program for manned exploration of Mars, although he does propose an international program for the Moon.

This appears to contradict our spectacular foreign policy success with the International Space Station, known as an “international marvel.” As a major participant in the race to space during the Cold War, Buzz appears to favor an Apollo model for Mars over the more recent ISS experience. And there are fundamental differences between the two programs: Apollo was about space transportation and lunar exploration, while ISS is an Earth orbit MEP devoted to laboratory and space science. To be bluntly honest, the geopolitical impact of ISS is much lower than it was for Apollo.

As I’ve often written here and elsewhere, I would still like to see the U.S. achieve a “Grand Alliance for Space” with all other nations, including plenty of opportunities for cooperation and competition built in to the human expansion into the cosmos. But I have to admit, history doesn’t support such optimism. It isn’t just the story of the 1950s International Geophysical Year and the surprise Soviet launch of Sputnik, it also includes Amundsen’s deliberate deception of Scott so he could be the first to the South Pole in 1911. When the historical and/or geopolitical stakes are high, humans sometimes will deceive their competition to reach their goal first.
Near-Term Issues

Buzz has conceived a vision for the near-term human future in space that is thrilling and highly motivating, but it’s certainly not without issues. These include continuing Shuttle to 2015, abandoning lunar science to a commercial-only emphasis, human rating of Atlas V, canceling Ares I, China joining ISS, and several others.

These would have to be worked out, but Buzz’ basic idea is compelling. He believes that the next major space initiative should be Goal-oriented, not focused on Infrastructure. As in the days of Apollo, if we can agree on a compelling enough goal in space, the public support and required infrastructure will quickly follow. On the other hand, bureaucrats usually favor an infrastructure approach because it’s more like a regular government program.

However, the last 200 years — including especially the 1960s — suggest that things happen fast because Maslow Windows seem to open unexpectedly (unless you understand the Maslow Window model above) and evolve quickly. Indeed, Maslow Windows don’t leave much time for extensive infrastructure development and are subject to wildcards (e.g., Vietnam).

Buzz’ genius is to apply an Apollo model for a 21st Century Mars Initiative to a multipolar space world. It’s certainly more consistent with the typical ebullience exhibited during Maslow Windows of the last 200 years than working hard to repeat a 40-year-old space feat on the Moon.

Lunar commercial development begins, Mars is reached and colonization starts, and everybody gets to play. All by 2025. It’s exciting and historically realistic.

Sounds like a lot of fun!

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Jun 21 2009

Panama Canal Named "Best Construction Project in the World"

One of the greatest engineering marvels in human history — and one that points directly toward the ebullient 2015 Maslow Window — the Panama Canal continues to win awards for its Expansion Program. And the Canal Authority continues to modernize the current canal and to internationally market the canal’s future.

The Panama Canal Expansion Program is a remarkable example of “early ebullience” that signals our rapid approach to the long-awaited 2015 Maslow Window. Click panamaecp.jpg.

An interesting measure of the Canal’s ability to attract major attention from an international audience — one of the key characteristics of a modern Macro-Engineering Project (MEP) — is the response to my recent post, “10 Lessons the Panama Canal Teaches Us About the Human Future in Space.” Published just under 5 weeks ago on May 18, it has surged to #3 on the All-Time Readers’ Favorite List; up from #4 as recently as June 16, and it continues to climb.

The Canal itself is a magnificent story and, in combination with the International Space Station and the Apollo Moon program, provides surprising insights into the future, such as: the probable costs of future space programs, the types of future MEPs most likely to succeed, and the key role of the long wave in major programs. I think the unusual, future-oriented approach of the post appeals to many, but I’m sure that most of the international web surfers who visit are attracted by the extraordinary nature of the Panama Canal itself.

For example, at the 2009 International Logistics and Material Handling Exhibition (SIL 2009) in Barcelona, Spain, the Panama Canal Expansion Program (CEP) was given the esteemed Samoter award for “Best Construction Project in the World.” The Canal Expansion Program was also named the “Best International Project” by judges for their management of the “largest infrastructure initiative in Latin America.” To date, the Panama CEP has won a total of 11 international awards.

The Panama Canal Authority continues to modernize its operations. Recently US$ 320 M were invested in a new lighting system for increased safety, a new track and turntable system that cuts transit times, and several new tugboats. The Canal Authority has also recently signed MOUs with U.S. east coast port authorities of Philadelphia (6/12/09) and Maryland (6/2/09) to promote trade and economic growth and the “All-Water Route” connecting Asia to the U.S. east coast via the Panama Canal.

The Panama Canal Expansion Program continues to be perhaps the most visible example of “early ebullience” in the world today. And despite the global recession, the CEP remains a sparkling bridge to more properous times in the near future. With its completion scheduled for 2014, the Canal will signal the opening of the 2015 Maslow Window and stimulate economic growth throughout the world — enabling human expansion into the cosmos.

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May 11 2009

Getting Star Trek Right!

Today’s New York Times (Dave Itzkoff, 5/10/09) waxes philosophical about Star Trek in general and how it relates to the world (and the new movie). Itzkoff gets some of it right but his lack of a long-term perspective is, as usual, the mother of misconceptions. (Happy Mother’s Day, BTW!)

When Spock’s father Mark Lenard heard my personal Star Trek story, he had a decidedly non-Vulcan reaction! Click sarek1.jpg.

Incidentally, when it comes to Star Trek I have obsessive credentials!! After the original TV series went off I decided it would be fun to have my own collection of Star Trek videos. This was long before they were available on VHS so I had to rendezvous with my TV/VCR each Saturday afternoon (when Star Trek came on in San Diego) and edit the commercials as I taped. It took almost two years but I finally got them all!

By this time I had joined General Dynamics, Convair (later Space Systems) and invited all the engineers and scientists to our Star Trek Party where we had the whole collection on display using 3 television/VCR combinations around the house that ran continuous Star Trek episodes all afternoon and evening! It sounds dumb but everybody loved it.

I eventually got to tell this gi-normous story to one of the Star Trek cast members when Spock’s father Mark Lenard (1924-1996) came down to the Reuben Fleet Science Center in 1988 to do narrations on a planetarium show (“Mars!”) I was helping Dennis Mammana with. Mark initially acted like he’d heard them all, but eventually became reasonably wide-eyed about my story of the 2-year video pursuit of Star Trek! At least he gave me an autographed picture…!

Itzkoff in The Times gets it right about the original Star Trek being “the futuristic fulfillment of John F. Kennedy’s inspirational oratory, in which his New Frontier became ‘the final frontier’.”

Of course, Star Trek was part of the affluence-induced ebullience of the 1960s Apollo Maslow Window led by its iconic Camelot-style President, John F. Kennedy. “The budget surpluses and budding space program of the early 1960s gave rise, in the 23rd century, to the utopian United Federation of Planets.” (I still have my UFP T-shirt!)

Actually, I’ve always identified strongly with the Star Trek vision of galactic exploration. In the 1980s I enjoyed attending Star Trek conventions in the LA and San Diego areas but was embarrassed to admit it to my professional colleagues. Unlike most of the fans, it wasn’t the stars of the show that turned me on, it was the wonderful, giddy fantasy of having complete access to the Solar System and being a participant in the interstellar colonization wave!

This weekend, a cable TV show with Leonard Nimoy and several Star Trek cast members, focused on Gene Roddenberry’s enduring “vision” of Star Trek. But the vision itself didn’t begin with Roddenberry; e.g., extraterrestrials were featured in many 1950s movies including “The Day the Earth Stood Still“, and many of the elements of Star Trek appeared first in “Forbidden Planet” and other movies. What Roddenberry did was bring this vision to television on a weekly basis! Many thought it couldn’t succeed, but it’s still gaining momentum 40 years later!

Itzkoff quotes Professor H. Bruce Franklin of Rutgers who suggests that “we’re starting the era of the 1960s in 1967,” presumably in reference to Iraq and Afghanistan and the parallels he sees to Vietnam. “Culturally we’re reinventing the ‘60s, but economically we’re reinventing the ‘30s.” Unfortunately, this misconception is typical of short-term thinking.

First, repetitive patterns in long-term trends in the economy, technology, and exploration – over the last 200 years – indicate we’re entering the 1950s (around 1953 based on the 56 year long wave), not the 1960s as Professor Franklin suggests.

Second, major financial panics are common in the decade just prior to each Maslow Window (except for the post WW II boom near 1949 when there was none), so the Panic of 2008 which gave birth to the current “Great Recession,” should not have been a big surprise.

And third, our current great recession, while severe and painful, is not as dreadful as the Great Depression of the 1930s. Based on the last 200 years of macroeconomic data and historical trends, if we were going to revisit the Great Depression it would have occurred between 1985 and 1987 (based on long wave timing). In fact the Crash of 1987 (“Black Monday”) was the worst crash since 1929 but didn’t lead to a Depression or even a recession because of financial rules adopted during the 1930s.

Finally, Star Trek is unlike a lot of science fiction today because of its optimistic tone. According to Leonard Nimoy, “We need that kind of hope…that kind of confidence in the future.”

He’s right. In fact, Star Trek is a preview of coming attractions. It’s optimism is a prelude to the ebullience that will drive the unprecedented space spectaculars of the 2015 Maslow Window.

We’ve recently suggested that long-term trends in western and science fiction movies point to the the next Space Age. It’s interesting that the new Star Trek movie grossed over $ 72 M this weekend – the first time any Star Trek movie has broken into the Top 30 Opening Weekends of all time. The previous 10 Star Trek movies had opening weekend box offices of only between $ 12 and 30 M.

The new Star Trek movie — after only the first weekend — is already #5 on the Star Trek movie list for total gross; momentarily topped by my favorite one, “Star Trek IV” at nearly $ 110 M. As we approach the 2015 Maslow Window, more major-money Star Trek movies will appear as this trend continues.

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