Feb 06 2012

Readers’ Favorite Posts — January, 2012

SPECIAL NOTE: Be sure to look for my new article in Ad Astra this month: “A New Apollo-Level Space Age.”

This is an updated end-of-January list of our readers’ favorite posts, based on the number of times each post was visited during the times indicated below. The lists below include both Daily Wavelet posts and State of the Wave posts.

Timeframes of the readers’ lists below are: I) Favorites during January, and II) Favorites during the Last 7 days.

To see readers’ favorite posts for each previous month, click HERE.

The lists below give only the top 5 favorites in each category in order of reader preference.
All posts below are clickable and their publishing dates are given.

Updated 2/1/2012

I. JANUARY — Readers’ Favorites

1) Is Earth Unique? What This “Benchmark Moment” Means for ETs and Our Future — 1/5/12
2) State of the Wave: 10 Space Trends for 2012 — 1/10/12
3) The Maslow Window — Summary — 4/2/11
4) 10 Lessons the Panama Canal Teaches Us About the Human Future in Space — 5/18/09
5) The Maslow Window — Intro — 7/6/11

II. THE LAST 7 DAYS — Readers’ Favorites

1) State of the Wave: 10 Space Trends for 2012 — 1/10/12
2) Phobos — The Key to the Cosmos? Just Ask Russia and China! — 3/27/10
3) Space: The Fractal Frontier — How Complexity Drives Exploration — 5/1/10
4) The Moon is Not Enough…! — 11/22/08
5) A Major Economic Boom by 2015?…The Lessons of Cleveland, Roosevelt, and Obama — 7/31/10

No responses yet

Jan 10 2012

State of the Wave: 10 Space Trends for 2012

2011 featured continuing economic difficulties and the retirement of the Space Shuttle, and followed most of the trends identified here last January ( “State of the Wave — 10 Space Trends for 2011“) as well as the expected directions sketched almost two years ago for the coming decade (“DecaState of the Wave — 10 Space Trends for the Decade 2010-2020“).

2012 will be the “Year of Decision” especially in the U.S. as presidential and other major elections occur that will impact our trajectory toward prosperity, the impending Maslow Window, and the new international Space Age — all expected to begin emerging by mid-decade.

For a brief intro, see my recent Ad Astra article; Click: A New Apollo Level Space Age.

Here are 10 key Space-related Trends for 2012:

10. Phobos-Grunt Symbolized A Key Approach to Mars Exploration:
Russia’s Phobos-Grunt mission was to be the first sample return of Phobos material to Earth — a highly attractive Mars science and colonization strategy that was recommended by us at The Case for Mars III Conference — as well as to deliver the Chinese Mars orbiter Yinghuo-1 and the Planetary Society’s LIFE capsule. Sadly, Phobos-Grunt became stranded in low Earth orbit shortly after launch on November 9 and its launch window closed on November 21.

In Space News (9/2010) I had indicated that a Phobos-first approach is a “safe, inexpensive, and smart” strategy for Mars colonization and a successful Phobos-Grunt mission might tempt Russia and China to employ it jointly. Last January I concluded that:

Two key indicators to watch in 2011 are plans for an international Moon base and a successful Russian/Chinese Phobos-Grunt mission. They’re important because they point in different directions.

It’s interesting that less than 2 months after the loss of Phobos-Grunt, China announced its development of a “preliminary plan for a human lunar landing,” (see 9 below).

However, interest in Mars remains high, including the successful launch of NASA’s $ 2.5 B Mars Science Laboratory, the continuing success of ESA’s Mars Express, NRC’s identification of Mars Sample Return as highest priority, and continued advocacy for near-term human spaceflight to Phobos (Unified Space Vision) and Mars (The Mars Society).

9. China Ascends in Space and Global Power
On December 29, shortly after the loss of Phobos-Grunt, China released a white paper announcing its intention — within the next 5 years — to pursue preliminary planning for a human landing on the Moon. In addition to the continued development of their space station and enhancing their Long March series,

China will launch orbiters for lunar soft landing, roving and surveying to implement the second stage of lunar exploration. In the third stage, China will start to conduct sampling the moon’s surface matters and get those samples back to Earth.

China’s rise as a global power has accelerated. In its “New Military Strategy” report released last February, the Pentagon sees connections between China’s growing military and its aspirations in space and elsewhere,

We remain concerned about the extent and strategic intent of China’s military modernization, and its assertiveness in space, cyberspace, in the Yellow Sea, East China Sea, and the South China Sea.

Surprisingly, China’s economy may become its biggest challenge due to aging demographics, a difficult regulatory environment, and bad debt; Strafor predicts China will experience a Japan-like economic collapse by 2015.

China is well positioned to competitively encourage the U.S. to become a dynamic leader in deep space as we approach the next Maslow Window.

8. A Global “Critical State” Continues to Self-Organize and Points to the New International Space Age
Iran’s actions include war games in the Persian Gulf and threats to close the Strait of Hormuz if the U.S. returns its aircraft carrier (the USS John C. Stennis) to the Gulf. Recently the US Secretary of Defense reiterated that the US would not allow the Straits to be closed by Iran, and that attempts by Iran to develop a nuclear weapon will “get stopped.”

Iran’s provocations suggest irrationality. For example, most of the oil through the Strait goes to asian markets, not the U.S., although global oil price spikes might be the result of closure. Iran knows the US can use force to keep the Staits open if necessary, and also that covert operations have been utilized to delay their development of nukes. And speaking of irrationality, nuclear North Korea — who apparently shares its rocket technology with Iran — has previously threatened its neighbors and others with attacks. The recent loss of their long-time dictator has heightened tensions there.

So why all the turmoil — now? “Maslow Windows” — the rhythmic, twice-per-century pulses of great explorations, macro-engineering projects, and major wars — are actually brief critical states of the international economic system, achieved through decades of self organized criticality processes. And serious conflicts or wars are typical features of the years just before a Maslow Window or early in the Window itself.

The most recent example of such a pre- or early Maslow Window conflict was the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 (early in the Apollo Maslow Window;1958-69) which almost led to a major nuclear exchange. The Iran/Korea-style conflicts suggest a world rapidly approaching a 1960s-style “critical state” that is expected to trigger the next transformative Maslow Window — including the new international Apollo-level Space Age — by mid-decade.

7. NASA’s Kepler Discoveries Trigger A Copernican-level Expansion of Worldviews
One of the most important space programs of all time — NASA’s Kepler mission — is currently searching the skies for Earth-like planets orbiting nearby stars, with considerable success. As of today its website lists 33 confirmed new planet discoveries, 2,326 planet candidates, and most importantly, the recent discovery of the first Earth-size planets orbiting a Sun-like star.

In what Berkeley astronomer and planet hunter Geoffrey Marcy calls “a benchmark moment in the history of science” (Wall Street Journal, 12/21/11), many people and some astronomers are naturally jumping on the Earth-like planet bandwagon. For example, following scientific meetings in 2009 at the Vatican on extraterrestrials, the prestigious UK Royal Society had 2 scientific meetings in 2010 to consider if extraterrestrials are here on Earth and how to properly greet them.

This current growth of interest in ETs and Earth-like planets is part of a multi-century trend that extends back to at least the 19th century and has presaged and figured prominently in each transformative Maslow Window since that time.

However, Howard A. Smith (Harvard Center for Astrophysics) recently concluded in American Scientist (July, 2011) that the Rare Earth Hypothesis remains viable:

“Despite the growing catalog of extrasolar planets, data so far do not alter estimates that we are effectively on our own.”

In December, UK astronomer John Gribbin published Alone in the Universe (2011) in which he traces the development of human intelligence and civilization from the Big Bang to now, and concludes that the odds of our development are so low that we are probably alone. He cites, as just one of a large number of unlikely events, the exceptional circumstances of the large impact that produced our Moon and yet did not destroy Earth’s spin or axial tilt.

This is a scientific debate of Copernican proportions that has major implications for the presence of ETs in our Galaxy and elsewhere, the importance of human civilization and space colonization, and theological perspectives. It’s intensity will grow as more Earth-size planets are discovered.

6. Apocalypse Not Now, but the Doomsday Story will “go nuts in 2012”

The UCLA magazine (1/2012) interviews Dr. Ed Krupp (Ph.D., UCLA, 1972), 35-year director of Los Angeles’ Griffith Observatory and an authority on prehistoric and ancient astronomy. Given his research and professional background, he’s ideally qualified to comment on the end-of-days prophecies for 2012.

According to Dr. Krupp,

The great thing about astronomy is that you actually can predict some things. I can predict that (the doomsday story) is going to go nuts in 2012.

The pop culture fixation that when the Maya cycle of time ends on December 21, 2012 and the winter solstice Sun aligns with the center of the Milky Way – 27,000 light years away, by the way – that global havoc will ensue is “just totally untrue,” Krupp assures us.

Indeed, the Mexico Tourism Board expects more visitors in 2012 focused on the relevant Maya sites.

However, it’s important to realize that many people do not relate to space in terms of business plans, scientific advancements, technology development, national prestige, or even the excitement of discovery, but through the mystical world of astrologers and psychics. And because of the coincidental alignment of Maya end times with the approaching Maslow Window, it’s reasonable to expect that the magnitude of the public’s response – suggested by Dr. Krupp — will be intensified by the by the same “critical state” that is currently rippling into global business, geopolitics, science, and technology.

5. Slow U.S. Recovery Fits a 200-Year Pattern and Points to a JFK-style Boom by Mid-Decade
The financial Panic of 2008 and the subsequent great recession are classic precursors of the twice-per-century “critical state” over the last 200 years. While creating great hardship for many, the panic/great recession also signaled that the next JFK-style economic boom – not seen since the 1960s Maslow Window – is due by mid-decade (~2015), and would trigger the next transformative Maslow Window, featuring a new international Space Age.

That’s been the pattern over the last 200+ years, and explains why Apollo occurred during the 1960s and why we’ve been trapped in low Earth orbit for 40 years.

Stanford economist John B. Taylor (Wall Street Journal, 11/1/11) suggested recently that,

With a weak recovery – retarded by new health-care legislation and financial regulations, an exploding debt, and threats of higher taxes – the U.S. is in no position to lead as it has in the past.

Unfortunately this impacts U.S. leadership in space as well as in business, education, and technology.

Although previous pre-Maslow Window panic/great recessions have featured “double-dips” – and such concerns still exist today – the pace of the recovery will be strongly influenced by the elections of 2012 and the wildcards of Trend #1 below.

The eerie parallels between the economic and political trajectory of the 1890s – which led directly to one of the most ebullient booms in U.S. history and a transformative Maslow Window featuring the Panama Canal – and today, suggest that the prospects for prosperity will trump party affiliation or candidate identity for voter approval in 2012.

4. Solar Activity May Decline Significantly

The solar cycle may be going into a hiatus. This is highly unusual and unexpected, but the fact that three completely different views of the sun point in the same direction is a powerful indicator that the sunspot cycle may be going into hibernation,

according to Frank Hill of the National Solar Observatory last June. He was reporting the results of a 300-person meeting of the American Astronomical Society’s Solar Physics Division in Las Cruces, New Mexico.

The Sun’s erratic behavior is based on long-term observations of its missing east-west jet stream (discovered by Hill’s group 15 years ago), the Sun’s erratic corona, and the declining strength of sunspot magnetic fields. Indeed, a simple extrapolation of the sunspot data indicates sunspots could completely disappear by 2022 (an earlier, less conservative interpretation of the data suggested 2015).

Hill suggested that one possibility is a nearly spot-free condition like that observed between 1645 and 1715 known as the Maunder Minimum.

Due to increases in solar activity over the last few months, the Solar Physics group of NASA/MSFC updated their forecast this week for the next solar max (in February, 2013) to 96. This is still the smallest solar cycle in more than 80 years but about 50% greater than during the Dalton Minimum (1790-1820).

Both the Maunder and Dalton Minima are associated with significant coolings on Earth (The Little Ice Age; B. Fagan, 2000). and are active areas of research. Likewise, breakthrough research at CERN is illuminating the possible connections between solar activity, cosmic rays, cloud formation, and global climate change on Earth. These studies are important to radio communication, power grids, satellite longevity, human spaceflight, and major climate and economic events.

3. The Commercial Space Age Has Begun:

I wanted to create a spaceship where myself and my children could go into space, and our friends could go into space,

explains Virgin Galactic founder and CEO Richard Branson (Wall Street Journal, 12/17/11).

I think it just simply goes back to watching the moon landing on blurry black-and-white television when I was a teenager and thinking, one day I would go to the moon—and then realizing that governments are not interested in us individuals and creating products that enable us to go into space.

In October, Branson christened Spaceport America – “the world’s first purpose-built commercial spaceport” – near Las Cruces, NM, and despite delays, predicts his first commercial flight by next Christmas.

Msnbc.com (Leonard David, 1/3/12) predicts that 2012 will be “a pivotal year” for private spaceflight. According to Carissa Christensen, of the Tauri Group in Alexandria, VA, the commercial achievement in human spaceflight by companies like Sierra Nevada, SpaceX and Blue Origin made “the end of the Shuttle program (feel) as if we mourned the passing of the mainframe but overlooked the emergence of the PC.”

Author/engineer Homer Hickam (Wall Street Journal, 11/17/11) concludes that:

What’s a government for if it isn’t funding research and development to make new stuff so we can all make new money? Human spaceflight is in that category. If we’re looking for a way to stimulate our economy today and in the future, a new space race—not relying on the Russians—is a good place to start.

2. Is the U.S. approaching a 21st Century “Sputnik Moment”?
The first “Sputnik Moment” occurred in 1957 when – in the context of an intense Cold War rivalry between the U.S. and the Soviet Union and attempts to work together in the International Geophysical Year – the Soviets launched the first artificial satellite, without warning. It was called the “Shock of the Century.” Americans who had provided leadership during W. W. II and promoted international economic growth in the post-War world suddenly experienced a crisis of confidence in their educational system, their ability to compete in technology development and space, and even in their ability to guarantee national security. It seemed that the U.S. trend was down while others were headed up.

Something similar may be occurring today.

For example, the U.S. educational system seems to be in the middle of the pack in international tests of math, science, and reading. On tests given to 15-year-olds in 65 countries in 2009, Shanghai’s teenagers topped every other jurisdiction in all three subjects, and in 2011 SAT scores in reading and writing have set new lows. Many students are looking for inspiration.

NASA seems to be adrift. While visits to asteroids and possible human missions to Mars (in the 2030s) are discussed, there is no plan or financial roadmap.

The U.S. is experiencing a slow economic recovery and uncertain future in response to the financial Panic of 2008 and the subsequent great recession. There is the perception of a lack of leadership in Washington.

President Obama’s proposed “historic shift” in military strategy involves major cuts in the Army and would limit U.S. ability to endure long-term conflicts and project power around the world (Wall Street Journal, 1/6/12).

There seems to be an unusual number of tipping points or wildcards (See Trend #1 below) that could have a major impact on the U.S. in 2012 and beyond.

Highlighting our “Sputnik Moment,” Apollo 17 astronaut and former U.S. Senator Harrison H. Schmitt summarized it recently this way:

America’s eroding geopolitical stature, highlighted by the July 21, 2011, end to flights of the United States Space Shuttle, has reached crisis proportions. Obama Administration officials now spin the nebulous thought of Astronauts flying many months to an undetermined asteroid in 2025 as an actual “National Space Policy”. On the other hand, Republican candidates for President have not yet recognized the importance of international civil space competition in the federal government’s constitutional function to provide for the nation’s “common defense”. Candidates appear to be uninterested in having the United States lead deep space exploration, including establishing American settlements on the Moon…

Over the last 200+ years, at this stage of the recovery from a financial panic/great recession just prior to the next “critical state” and Maslow Window, a political realignment (such as the one that began in 2008 and is continuing) has typically put the U.S. back on the road to prosperity and geopolitical ascent.

1. Several Wildcards Could Dramatically Influence U.S. and Global Trends in 2012 and Beyond
There is a perception today of an unusual number of wildcards that have the potential to dramatically influence current economic, geopolitical, and political realities. This is typical of the unusually dynamic and highly interactive environment seen during previous “critical states.”

For example, during a brief period of President Kennedy’s administration in the early 1960s, the tipping points included: the first human in space (Gargarin), the first American in space (Shepard), the Bay of Pigs invasion, the Cuban missile crisis, the beginning of the Peace Corps, JFK’s “To the Moon” speech, and JFK’s offer to the Soviets to go to the Moon jointly.

Here are just a few well-known wildcards – and potential tipping points — that face the U.S. and the world in 2012:

a. A major recession in the Eurozone could trigger a global depression.
b. The threat of nuclear weapons could trigger a war with Iran.
c. The threat of oil flow disruptions in the Gulf might trigger a price spike and a recession.
d. The constitutionality of Obamacare will be decided in the Supreme Court.
e. As we approach solar max in early 2013, a major solar flare produces blackouts and other EMP-related effects on Earth, resulting in economic stress.

After a list like this it’s comforting to contemplate the good news: Over the last 200+ years – that included the Great Depression, several financial panics and great recessions, the Civil War, and two world wars — no Critical State/Maslow Window renaissance has ever been delayed or diminished in any observable way.

5 responses so far

Nov 25 2010

Images Celebrate Gold, John Sutter, and the Ebullient Mid-19th Century Maslow Window

Since I planned to be in Sacramento last weekend, I decided to enjoy some of the key historical sites — e.g., of the extraordinary California Gold Rush — associated with the ebullient mid-19th century Maslow Window.

Typical of America’s exceptional mid-19th Century ebullience was the California Gold Rush (1848-1855); gold was first discovered here at Sutter’s Mill in Coloma, CA by James Marshall.
Click .
(All images by Bruce Cordell, 2010)

Maslow Windows over the last 200 years are usually preceded by a financial panic and major recession (much like the Panic of 2008 and our current global recession), and the Dr. Livingstone/James Polk Maslow Window (~1847-60) was no exception.

The Panic of 1837 was a monster — in 1960 Nobel winner Milton Friedman compared it to the 1930s Great Depression — but in 6 long years it finally gave way to an early-1840s recovery and boom that triggered the ebullience of “Manifest Destiny.” This Panic/Great Recession/Boom/Maslow Window sequence repeated one long wave later starting with the Panic of 1893 and culminating with perhaps the most ebullient decade in U.S. history: the Peary/Panama/T.Roosevelt Maslow Window.

For more background on Mainfest Destiny please see, “How the West Was Won — The Expansionist Effects of Ebullience,” and on the CA Gold Rush see #1 of “10 Lessons Lewis and Clark Teach Us About the Human Future in Space.”

I’ve written about this period a lot lately because it appears that we began reliving major elements of the 1893-to-1913 chronology two long waves later starting with the Panic of 2008. If this trend continues, as it has repeatedly over the last 200+ years, we should expect a new 1960s-style golden age of prosperity, exploration, and technology triggered by a major economic boom, to emerge by 2015.

Shortly after the discovery of gold there, Sutter’s Mill was closed. The flood of 1862 destroyed the structure and the current replica (shown here from the river side) was constructed on the original site in 1967 — fittingly during the ebullient Apollo Maslow Window.

Click

The image below is not a cannon. It was used during “hydraulicking” to dislodge sediment and gold from rock walls. The jets of water were environmentally destructive. A realistic depiction of this technique is seen in Clint Eastwood’s popular 1985 movie “Pale Rider”.

Click

The Gold Discovery Museum of the Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park in Coloma has a number of captivating exhibits.

Click

I was originally headed up 80 to Tahoe to take a peek at the Donner Museum and the famous snow monument, but ran into an electronic sign announcing the need for chains at the summit. Since Hertz had rented me a red Mustang convertable (not my choice!), I was unequipped for the trip so I headed first to Coloma and then back to Sacramento to see Sutter’s Fort.

Proof of the macho Sierra storm was provided by this car’s snowy roof (and many others). It was fleeing westward down the hill Sunday afternoon on highway 50 just west of Placerville.

Click

The famous, ebullient John Sutter who owned Sutter’s Mill also founded Sutter’s Fort in 1839 (he called it “New Helvetia”) that eventually grew into Sacramento. This interior view was taken looking southeast. I was in front of the Blacksmith Shop (doors on the right) in the West Yard looking toward the fort’s main entrance (near the left edge). Sutter would have been fascinated by the modern Sutter Medical Center in the distance.

Click .

Here’s the Blacksmith Shop. State-of-the-art for its time. In terms of the craftsmen and technologists required to support early 19th century frontier life, the fort was essentially self-contained. It was the first non-native American outpost in the Central Valley. Except for the more benign environment and the native inhabitants, Sutter’s Fort was the 19th century analog to a first lunar base.

Click

Cannons stationed in the second-floor bastion at the southeast corner made sure that anyone not invited to the party wouldn’t crash it.

Click

Sutter founded his fort only 2 years after the Panic of 1837 (see above). Relative to the long wave, that’s what we call — bad timing. And although he was the quintessential entrepreneur, Sutter was increasingly plagued by debt. Here we see the Central Building — the only original structure still standing in the rebuilt fort — including the 2nd floor offices of the doctor, clerk, and Sutter himself. It would have provided the last line of defense if necessary.

Click

It’s clear that everyone at Sutter’s Fort feasted well. This view — from the Clerk’s 2nd floor office — shows the northeast corner of the East Yard. Here are the Bakery and Bakery Storeage areas, and the outdoor Beehive Oven.

This must have been of great interest to the last survivors of the Donner party who were brought here in April, 1848, as the mid-19th century Maslow Window was gaining steam. Sutter’s Fort was near the end of the famed California Trail and welcomed many an ebullient pilgrim who came seeking their fortune in gold, agirculture, etc.

Click

In this image (pardon the screen) we are peering into Sutter’s 2nd floor business office in the Central Building. This is where Sutter planned his new enterprises, worked with his Clerk to monitor operations and finances, and sadly, watched his fortune dissolve.

Click

Sutter’s empire was short-lived. According to William Dillinger (The Gold Discovery, 2006), within only a decade of its founding, and …

After the gold discovery, Sutter’s heavily mortgaged fort and lands were overrun by gold-seekers and squatters until he was finally driven to take refuge at his “Hock Farm” on the Feather River.

In the Museum there is a revealing quote from Sutter to the effect that he would have become very rich if the gold discovery had happened only a couple of years later (~1850), but the ensuing chaos caused him to lose almost everything. In effect, if the normal major mid-19th century economic boom had not been temporarily subverted by gold fever, his under-capitalized (i.e., debt-ridden) businesses would have flourished — if his timing had been better.

Sutter’s experience reminds us that the long wave is very formidable — especially when you are unaware of it. Or if you don’t plan for it. This key lesson — gleaned from transformative Maslow Windows over the last 200+ years — still applies in the 21st century to those who aspire to grow with human expansion into the cosmos, when it re-ignites by 2015.

No responses yet

Sep 18 2010

“The Greatest Era in the History of Mankind”

Despite continuing bad news about the economy — e.g. the U.S. poverty rate increased over 1% from the previous year to 14.3% in 2009, the highest since 1994 (near the long wave trough) — there are many reasons to expect a major economic boom by 2015; see “State of the Wave: Today’s Gloom & Doom, and the 2015 Boom.”

Many energy-intensive desalination plants like this one, producing 800 million gallons of pure water per day — currently the world’s largest on Saudi Arabia’s Persian Gulf Coast — could someday use microwave beams supplied by space based solar power satellites to solve the world’s future water challenges.
Click .

Veteran expert on corporate real estate and economic development, McKinley Conway, sees the approach of the greatest boom ever,

A period of unprecedented global development lies just ahead. It will energize world economies and provide new hopes and opportunities for people of many nations. The great new era will start in the 2010-2020 decade and build to a peak by 2050.

Conway’s unique asset is his company’s database of new plant reports that has been maintained since 1954 and serves “as a vital link around the world between Corporate Facility Planners and Area Developers and Service Providers.” By providing a realistic assessment of the nation’s fastest growing firms, Conway found a multi-decade picture of consistent growth; “growth that continued despite wars, natural disasters, recessions, and depressions … a measure of the true strength of our economic system and its future.” This is due to the geographic and functional diversity of thousands of new plants started every year.

For example, as fresh water sources become inadequate, the future world will have to depend on massive seawater desalination plants. Currently, over 13,000 desalination plants produce more than 12 billion gallons of water a day around the world. “Selling water will become the world’s biggest business,” according to Conway.

As the world moves away from fossil fuels, alternate energy sources will be developed including nuclear, solar, and “new systems yet to be developed.” It’s clear that increasing industrial activities and quality-of-life issues around the globe will benefit from clean, space based solar power and other growth technologies. And due to global television and the internet, even “those who live in the Third World are well aware of what they are missing.” This includes the “underlying desire of all people to be self-governing.”

No responses yet

May 17 2010

Animal Spirits, Complexity, and “The Most Dangerous Guy Out There”

New York Times Magazine (5/16/10; B. Wallace-Wells) features a revealing profile of former Chicago professor and current Obama regulatory czar, Cass Sunstein. A profound devotee of behavorial economics — which assumes that human irrationality is predictable — Sunstein commented that its elaboration “is the most exciting intellectual development of my lifetime.”

Did positive Keynesian Animal Spirits drive both the Panama Canal in 1914…
Click

… and the Apollo program in 1969? Click .

The Times’ piece is of interest to us at 21stCenturyWaves.com because John Maynard Keynes — the first prominent behavorial economist — invented the concept of “animal spirits” to explain the crucial role of confidence (both optimism and pessimism) in the economy. Conceptually, animal spirits appears related to “ebullience” which — through the psychologically expansive effects of Maslow’s hierarchy — triggers public support for great explorations and MEPs.

In fact, animal spirits and ebullience may be two sides of the same coin. For example, positive animal spirits stimulate actors in the economy to produce a boom. While ebullience, although typically affluence-induced, operates in the elevated Maslow (self-actualizing) mode and makes great expectations and MEPs seem almost irresistible. Negative animal spirits rapidly terminate the boom, erode ebullience, collapse society’s elevated Maslow state, and “close” the Maslow Window.

But the Times explains that not everyone is happy with Sunstein’s vision.

Conservatives see a Big Brother strain in Sunstein’s philosophy (Glenn Beck called him “the most dangerous guy out there”), while some liberals worry that behavorial economics is too immature to handle the weight of guiding policy.

This is partly because of two Sunstein beliefs:
1) the idea that the human quality of irrationality can be predicted,
and, according to the Times,
2) “this is the controversial part — that if the social environment can be changed, people might be nudged into more rational behavior.”

Animal Spirits Exist
More interesting at this point — given the still-embryonic state of the science — is the recent discovery by a University of California, Irvine economist that animal spirits are actually important to business cycles (Investers Chronicle, 3/26/10; C. Dillow). Fabio Milani compared the expectations of individual economic forecasters (from the Survey of Economic Forecasters) with a learning model featuring a “rational expectations solution” to the system. According to Milani,

Private sector agents in some periods may be overly optimistic — by forecasting a higher future output or lower inflation rate, for example, than implied by their learning model — or overly pessimistic. These waves of over-optimism and over-pessimism, which are exogenous to the state of the economy, are defined as the expectation shocks in the model.

Milani’s “expectation shocks” can account for more than half of the variation in the U.S. GDP over the last 40 years. Not only did his expectation shocks fall before each of the last 7 recessions, they are near an all-time low now. Thus animal spirits, expectation shocks, and ebullience are apparently at work during business cycles.

The Market is a Complex Adaptive System
Herbert Gintis (3/31/2009) of the Santa Fe Institute modeled the market in 2007 as an agent-based complex adaptive system. In his review of Akerloff and Shiller’s book, Animal Spirits (2009), Gintis suggests that animal spirits are only part of the story:

The major thesis of the book is only partially correct in attributing macroeconomic instability to human foibles … Akerlof and Shiller do not have enough evidence to assert confidently that people are driven by irrational animal spirits to produce market volatility. People imitate the successful, both in my agent-based model and in real life. This is generally quite rational behavior, but it can produce “behavioral cascades” that are destabilizing

Part of the confusion apparently arises because of evolving conditions that affect the notion of “rational” versus “irrational.” Is it rational for investors and businesses to join the bandwagon when a strong upward economic trend has been established? Probably yes. On the other hand, is it irrational for investors and businesses to assume that the boom will continue forever? Yes, for sure.

Therefore, investors who were initially rational may become irrational as the boom peaks. This is especially true when the system becomes strongly fractal and increasingly unpredictable.

It appears that animal spirits have an empirical foundation and, together with ebullience, are able to explain the psychological rationale behind widespread public support for great explorations and MEPs during Maslow Windows. The fact that public support is short-lived and that Maslow Windows display punctuated equilibrium — e.g., are separated by 55 to 60 years — is consistent with the idea that we’re dealing with a complex adaptive system that requires 5 – 6 decades to repeatedly self-organize into a critical state (the Maslow Window).

No responses yet

May 01 2010

Space: The Fractal Frontier — How Complexity Drives Exploration

Like a breath of fresh air, the science of self organized criticality has illuminated many disciplines, including astrophysics, biology, climate, economics, geopolitics, and others (see Turcotte & Rundle (2002) PNAS, “Self-organized criticality in the physical, biological, and social sciences.”)

What do Apollo and the new international Space Age have in common?
…Self organized criticality?

Click .

The brainchild of Danish physicist Per Bak (1948-2002) — “one of the most original people in science” — SOC is an emergent property of complex systems whereby they organize themselves into a critical state such that rapid changes, including catastrophes, can occur. You can see the famous “Bak sandpile” conceptual model of SOC in Aschwanden (2010) as well as in Bak (1996), How Nature Works.

The captivating assertion of social scientist and SOC enthusiast Gregory Brunk (2002) that,

Virtually all aggregate-level, monumental events are somehow ’caused’ by the process of self-organized criticality,

suggests that SOC may have played a major role in the Apollo program and other major MEPs over the last 200 years. This post is a brief sketch how that might work.

Apollo Was the Most Recent of the Great Explorations
Cordell (1996) described the extraordinary pulses of great human explorations (e.g., Lewis and Clark), macro-engineering projects (e.g., Panama Canal), and major wars (e.g., WW I) that cluster together exclusively every 55 to 60 years, over the last 200 years. I speculated that the decade from 2015 to 2025 would have economic, technology, and geopolitical parallels with the spectacular Apollo 1960s, including a JFK/Camelot-style zeitgeist.

Cordell (2006) introduced the concept of a “Maslow Window,” triggered by rhythmic, twice-per-century economic booms. Affluence-induced ebullience propels many to higher states in the Maslow hierarchy, where their momentarily expanded worldviews make great explorations and MEPs seem not only intriguing, but almost irresistible. As ebullience decays — due to widespread perceptions of budget stresses, a war, etc. — the Maslow Window closes.

The Bottomline is: The realization that Apollo is the most recent in a rhythmic, 200-year long string of great human explorations starting with Lewis and Clark, potentially opens the door to Bak-style SOC.

Wars and the Evidence for Complexity
According to Bak, a complex system exhibits SOC only if it has some form of power-law scaling, called “fractal” by Mandelbrot (1963). Based on their size-frequency plots for wars, Roberts and Turcotte (1998) conclude that,

The results we have shown indicate that world order behaves as a self-organized critical system independent of the efforts made to control and stabilize interactions between people and countries; and wars, like forest fires, are SOC processes.

Although Roberts and Turcotte (1998) only had data up to 150,000 deaths per war, the fact that “medium-size” wars are almost pure SOC indicates that the major wars of Maslow Windows are also fractal, as suggested recently for World War I by Harvard historian Niall Ferguson.

Punctuated Equilibria and Exploration
In 1994, the National Academy of Sciences held a major colloquium in Irvine, CA on “Physics: The Opening to Complexity.”

In Bak’s conference paper, he considers SOC in the contexts of geology, biological evolution, and macroeconomics. For example, in economics each system consists of many “agents” that interact together,

such as producers, governments, thieves, and economists. These agents each make decisions optimizing their own idiosyncratic goals. The actions of one agent affect other agents. In biology, individual organisms … (or individual species) interact with one another. The actions of one organism affect the survivability, or fitness, of others. If one species changes by mutation to improve its own fitness, other species in the ecology are also affected.

Bak generalizes Stephen Jay Gould’s biological theory of “punctuated equilibrium” to all complex systems:

The system exhibits punctuated equilibrium behavior, where periods of stasis are interrupted by intermittant bursts of activity … They are intrinsic to the dynamics of biology, history, and economics … Large, catastrophic events occur as a consequence of the same dynamics that produces small, ordinary events … We believe that this punctuated equilibrium behavior, first noted by Gould and Eldredge (1977, 1993), is common to all complex dynamical systems.

The Bottomline is: The Apollo program — seen in the context of 200 years of great explorations — exhibits punctuated equilibrium behavior, an important step toward identifying it and the other MEPs as a SOC process.

Dynamics of SOC — The Gap Equation
Bak’s Gap Equation governs the system’s evolution from weak SOC to the fractal, self organized critical state.

The model is so general that it can also be thought of as a model for macroeconomics. The individual sites represent economic agents, and the random numbers f1 represent their “utility functions.” Agents modify their behavior to increase their wealth. The agents with lowest utility functions disappear and are replaced by others. This, in turn, affects other agents and changes their utility functions.

Bak’s quote above could apply just as well to agents of particular space projects modifying their behavior and vying for funding at NASA (or elsewhere) and/or Macro-Engineering Projects likewise seeking support of all types. Agents and projects with the “lowest utility functions” soon disappear (a Darwinian principle), no matter how big they are – just ask Constellation advocates!

The Bottomline is: This compatibility with Bak’s law indicates that space projects and MEPs are most likely governed by SOC. The Space Project/MEP System is most fractal just before and during a Maslow Window. As in Bak’s computer simulations, transitions into and out of the strong SOC state are abrupt just before (e.g., in 1901; in 1958) or just after the Maslow Windows (e.g., in 1914 and in 1970). While in the critical state, large changes (i.e., great explorations, MEPs, major wars) can occur in response to even a minor stimulus.

Predictability and SOC
The fractal nature of SOC inhibits long-term predictability of specific events during the critical state (i.e., during a Maslow Window). However, the last 200+ years show that, especially during the non-fractal decades between Maslow Windows, the long wave has been a reliable guide to the rhythmic, twice-per-century timing of Maslow Windows from Lewis and Clark through 1960s Apollo to the present. And other intriguing regularities are also observable.

For example, according to former UCLA geophysics professor Didier Sornette — who more recently founded the Financial Crisis Observatory in Zurich — in reference to the U.S. stock market, “It is possible to identify clear signatures of near-critical behavior many years before the crashes and use them to ‘‘predict’’ the date where the system will go critical …”

Bak also hints at predictability (by analogy with his sandpile model, he refers to major changes during the critical SOC state as “avalanches”):

During an avalanche, a great deal of rapid activity occurs in which species come and go at a fast pace. Nature “experiments” until it finds another “stable” ecology with high fitnesses. The Cambrian explosion 500 million years ago can be thought of as the grandmother of all such avalanches.

So what should we expect prior to a Maslow Window? What’s the analog for Nature looking for a more “stable” ecology while “species come and go” in a Darwinian sense? What signal should we see of “near-critical behavior many years before” the critical Maslow Window?

Two potential candidates have been identified that appear regularly over the last 200+ years:
1) Major financial panic/great recession combinations (e.g., Panic of 1893) that usually begin 6-8 years before a Maslow Window (including the Panic of 2008 and current great recession),
and
2) Moderate wars and/or dangerous confrontations (e.g., Cuban Missile Crisis) that are rapidly resolved and occur early in or just before Maslow Windows (including the current Iran crisis).

These precursors are consistent with both long wave patterns and self organized criticality, when our complex international economic system self-organizes into a critical state — characterized by Great Explorations, Macro-Engineering Projects, and major wars — that we call a Maslow Window.

One response so far

Mar 16 2010

Niall Ferguson — On the Edge of Chaos, Immersed in the Long Wave

Dr. Ferguson is a very insightful history professor at Harvard who has previously written about the financial history of the world, and recently in Foreign Affairs (March/April, 2010) used some ideas from complexity theory to explain the downfall of nations. Ferguson’s article points away from grand theories like those of Toynbee or more recently Diamond, who focus on long-term cultural, economic, or ecological forces, in favor of very rapid changes; e.g. “A very small trigger can set off a “phase transition” from a benign equilibrium to a crisis…”; the Butterfly Effect.

I am especially intrigued with Ferguson’s portrayal of self-organized criticality in this context because it fits well into the Maslow Window model — that explains rhythmic, twice-per-century clusters of great human explorations, macro-engineering projects, and major wars over the last 200 years – which is fundamentally driven by a long business cycle known as “the long wave.”

What Caused World War I?

No one expected it, but soon historians had constructed a theory extending back to an unfortunate treaty signed in 1839. Nonsense. According to Ferguson, “the proximate triggers of a crisis are often sufficient to explain the sudden shift from a good equilibrium to a bad mess … World War I was actually caused by a series of diplomatic miscalculations in the summer of 1914…”

In terms of the long wave, WW I is a classic “peak war”; i.e., one of several major wars that occur near or shortly after the peak in the long wave – a time when a major economic boom has culminated in widespread societal affluence – such as near the end of the Peary/Panama Maslow Window. When asked why nations would fight a major war in the midst of such affluence, the response of some political scientists – apparently seriously – is that’s the only time nations can afford them. However, physicist Theodore Modis (1992) suggested that peaks of the long wave are likely to be times of chaos in an economy or among nations, as opposed to rapid growth periods like Maslow Windows.

Thus the Maslow Window/Long Wave model and Ferguson-style self-organized criticality together provide a plausible explanation for the timing and magnitude of WW I as well as other peak wars over the last 200+ years.

What About the British and Soviet Empires?

Ferguson marvels at the rapidity with which the British Empire and more recently the Soviet Union collapsed. “The United Kingdom’s age of hegemony was effectively over less than a dozen years after its (WW II) victories over Germany and Japan.” And “less than 5 years after Gorbachev took power, the Soviet imperium in central and Eastern Europe had fallen apart, followed by the Soviet Union itself in 1991. If ever an empire fell off a cliff — rather than gently declining it was the one founded by Lenin.”

However, the persistent influence of long wave economic trends apprears to have contributed in both cases. For example, Fareed Zakaria (2008) notes that at its height the British Empire covered “a quarter of the earth’s land surface and included a quarter of its population.” And yet,

Britain’s exalted position was more fragile than it appeared … Britain was a strange superpower … The wonder is not that Britain declined, but that its dominance lasted as long as it did … By World War I, the American economy was twice the size of Britain’s, and together France’s and Russia’s were larger as well … Having spearheaded the first industrial revolution, Britain had been less adept at moving into the second.

Although complexity probably played a role in Britain’s decline in the mid-1950s relative to the U.S., the effect of America’s economic surge toward the 1960s Apollo Maslow Window was also crucial. And if the Butterfly Effect triggered the Soviet Union’s downfall, its centrally planned economy, lack of democratic institutions, and the downward trend in the long wave (toward its trough in 1997), didn’t help either.

Is the U.S. Poised To Go Down?

Because national decline is “precipitous and unexpected” and most involve “fiscal crisis,” Ferguson maintains that “Alarm bells should be ringing very loudly, as the United States contemplates a deficit for 2009 of more than $ 1.4 trillion — about 11.2% of GDP, the biggest deficit in 60 years — and another for 2010 not much smaller.”

It’s not just the numbers that matter, it’s the perception. “In imperial crises, it is not the material underpinnings of power that really matter but expectations of future power.” This is similar to our concept of “ebullience” that powers unparalleled explorations and engineering projects during Maslow Windows, as well as the anti-ebullience experienced during great recessions (like now).

Suddenly one day,

it will not be just a few policy wonks who worry about the sustainability of U.S. fiscal policy but also the public at large, not to mention investors abroad. It is this shift that is crucial: a complex adaptive system is in big trouble when its component parts lose faith in its viability.

We may be reaching that point in the U.S. now. However, unlike the old Soviet Union, America has an informed electorate that can change the country’s direction like it has done recently beginning with President Obama’s election and continuing to the present. Although Ferguson is right that we are running high economic risks today, the U.S. has successfully weathered pre-Maslow Window financial panics and great recessions over the last 200 years that have never failed to give birth to unparalleled, undelayed, truly ebullient Maslow Windows.

And we expect the next one by 2015.

No responses yet

Dec 19 2009

The Economics of Ebullience Points to a Sparkling New Global Space Age

Special thanks to Contributing Editor and psychologist Dr. Ken Meehan for helping me think more clearly about this discussion.  (This post is taken from a working paper soon to be submitted to a journal.)

Here at 21stCenturyWaves.com, “ebullience” is a technical term. 

It’s defined as a very positive, somewhat irrational — almost giddy — emotional state,  that’s usually due to 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 and MEPs seem not just intriguing, but almost irresistible  —  hence the name “Maslow Window.”  

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 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 and thus are empowered negatively; i.e., they sometimes trigger conflicts or even major wars (e.g., WW I) that can terminate Maslow Windows. 

SOCIETAL EBULLIENCE DRIVES MASLOW WINDOWS

It appears that ebullience has been the fundamental driving force behind the stunning exploration and engineering activities during Maslow Windows over the last 200 years, and ebullience appears to be similar to the “animal spirits” of behavioral economist John Maynard Keynes and the “irrational exhuberance” of Alan Greenspan.    Historically, widespread ebullience is usually short-lived because it is fundamentally a psychological phenomenon that often responds to feelings and perceptions — both positive or negative —  more than facts.

Societal ebullience is usually triggered by a major economic boom, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be.  For example,  if benevolent extraterrestrials landed at the White House, this would probably trigger at least momentary global ebullience, regardless of our financial state.  Conversely, ebullience is often terminated by bad financial trends (such as the economic boom moving past its peak and declining), but the psychology of ebullience can be eroded by almost anything negative, such as a war or even unfriendly extraterrestrials landing at the White House.

However,  recently we’ve seen again that even the availability of large amounts of funds — e.g.,  the $ 787 B stimulus package — does not guarantee ebullience, as evidenced by negative attitudes and actions of the U.S. public (documented through surveys and opinion polls).  Even a small fraction of the stimulus money would enable the greatest human space program of all time, but it hasn’t happened yet because the public isn’t in the mood. They are simply not ebullient.

THE ECONOMICS OF EBULLIENCE

The issues are:  What specific economic factors trigger ebullience?  And can we create a numerical Ebullience Index composed of economic parameters that will allow us to track and analyze it?

 One possibility is that the public is responding to increases in GDP like those experienced before and during the 1960 Apollo Maslow Window; see plot below.

Figure 1 — The U.S. GDP (in B of 2000 USD) since 1950 shows the 1950s post-WW II boom and the major economic boom of the Apollo Maslow Window between 1961 and 1969.    CLICK   

It’s clear that rapid economic growth occurred until about 1961 when the economy went into even higher gear and produced the greatest economic boom up to that time.  But who really cares about GDP?  Undoubtedly economists and business forecasters do as well as some politicians, but nobody can spend GDP so it’s probably not triggering ebullience in typical American employees.

Better hints are found in Benjamin Friedman’s 2005 book, The Moral Consequences of Economic Growth. The Harvard professor suggests that sustained economic growth is important because these are times when typical workers feel like they are really getting ahead; i.e., their wages are increasing relative to inflation.

But common sense informs us that ebullience will not result from a comfortable increase in real wages if we’re worried about losing our jobs.  So healthy growth in real wages coupled with low unemployment rates may be related to the widespread feeling of ebullience in society.

THE EBULLIENCE RATIO AND THE 1960s APOLLO MASLOW WINDOW

As an experiment, let’s define the Ebullience Ratio (ER) as proportional to real wages divided by the rate of unemployment as percent of workforce.  Keep in mind this is an attempt to express widespread feelings of affluence-induced ebullience in terms of common economic parameters.  Annual values for the ER have been computed for the 1950s and 1960s Apollo Maslow Window; see plot below.

Figure 2 — The Ebullience Ratio from 1950 to 1974 peaks at 1969 (Apollo 11 Moon landing) and clearly displays the Apollo Maslow Window from about 1961 to 1969.  

CLICK   

As unemployment drops, the ER increases, and as unemployment approaches full employment, the ER dramatically increases,  reflecting the presence of a major economic boom during the 1960s Maslow Window (from about 1961 to 1969).  Short business cycles are seen in the 1950s ER data that are superimposed on pre-Maslow Window economic growth.  In 1958 the short business cycles subside as unemployment declines signaling the approach of the Maslow Window.  The highest ER is in 1969 and drops rapidly thereafter as the Maslow Window closes.

The consistency of both the economic (GDP) and ebullience (ER) trends — especially between 1961 and 1969 — suggests that the Apollo Maslow Window is well described by these parameters.

THE EBULLIENCE INDEX

As another experiment,  let’s define the Ebullience Index (EI) for an interval of time as the integral of the ER function (i.e., the fractional ER increase per year as a function of time) over the duration of the interval in question (e.g., the Maslow Window).   This synthesizes the annual rate of change of real wages divided by their rates of unemployment — the two things that matter most to a typical worker — into a single index for any Maslow Window.

Using ER values for the interval between 1961 and 1969, the 1960s Apollo Maslow Window has an Ebullience Index of 4.9.  This number is most meaningful in comparison with other Maslow Windows and/or intervals, so we’ll  look now at the economics and ebullience of the Peary/Panama Maslow WIndow.

WHAT  ABOUT THE EARLY 1900s PEARY/PANAMA MASLOW WINDOW?

It’s interesting to compare the 1960s Maslow Window ebullience values with those of the early 20th century Peary/Panama Maslow Window, because Peary/Panama was preceded by the financial Panic of 1893 and the great recession of the 1890s (like our current panic/recession), while neither existed before the Apollo Window (although WW II did).

Figure 3 —  This U.S. GDP (B in 2000 USD) plot from 1890 to 1914 clearly shows the great 1890s recession that transitions into rapid growth, interrupted by two brief recessions, until 1913 when the Peary/Panama Maslow Window ends abruptly.
CLICK
  

Notice that GDP is flat during the 1890s great recession but perks up — signaling the onset of the Peary/Panama Maslow WIndow — after 1901.

Figure 4 — Ebullience Ratios from 1890 onward clearly convey the psychological dimensions of the 1890s great recession which began with the financial Panic of 1893, and the supersonic Maslow Window recovery beginning in 1898. 

CLICK 

If you compare the 1960s ER trends (Fig. 2) with Fig. 4 you see that Maslow Windows preceded by a financial panic are quite different from those without. Athough GDP data (Fig. 3) suggest the economy was already humming again by 1896, the ER data (Fig. 4)  suggest the psychological impact of the 1890s great recession lingered until about 1898 when the Maslow Window opened.  Although ER peaks in 1906, historical events suggest the Window itself continued until 1913; WW I began in 1914.

Just to give you a little chronology here: Theodore Roosevelt’s presidency ran from 1901 to 1909; U.S. construction of the Panama Canal began in 1904 and was completed in 1914;  the international races to the poles culminated between 1909 (Peary first to N pole) and 1911 (Amundsen first to S. pole).

For  the first 8 years of the Peary/Panama Maslow Window — from 1898 to 1906 — the Ebullience Index is 13.9,  almost 3x the value (4.9) for the Apollo Window.  This supports my impression from reading historical accounts of the era (e.g., America 1908 by Jim Rasenberger) that the Peary/Panama Maslow Window was even more ebullient  — if that’s possible!! —  than the 1960s Apollo Moon decade.

The Peary/Panama Window apparently produced so much affluence and ebullience  that extraordinary exploration and engineering activities  — characteristic of populations at elevated Maslow states —  continued until 1913, well after the 1906 ER peak.  On the other hand, this may suggest our Ebullience Index may not include all psychologically relevant factors.

OUR CURRENT LACK OF EBULLIENCE AND THE COMING GLOBAL SPACE AGE

 Over the last 200 years, Maslow Windows tend to culminate every 55 or 60 years near peaks of the energy cycle; and open about 10 years earlier.  This led to my initial forecast (made in 1996) for another spectacular, 1960s-style Maslow Window  opening near 2015 and culminating by 2025.  Although wildcards can alter this nominal timing,  the economics of ebullience suggests our time is coming soon:  indeed, we appear to be only a few more years from the next Maslow Window.

In particular, the financial Panic of 2008 suggests that our current trajectory might be more similar to the Peary/Panama Maslow Window than the 1960s Apollo Window, which had no financial panic/great recession in the decade just preceding it. 

Figure 5 —  The U.S. GDP (B in 2000 USD) from 1985 to 2009 displays the Panic of 2008 and our current great recession in the 2 points on the right adge. 

CLICK 

The recessions of 1990 and 2001 are seen by flattenings of the GDP curve, and the Panic of 2008 (next to the right edge) preceded the current great recession.  Note that the theoretical trough of the 56-year energy cycle is in 1997.

 Figure 6 — Ebullience Ratios from 1985 to 2009 show the Panic of 2008 and our current great recession, as well as a very interesting boom from 1991 to 2001. 

CLICK 

 The dramatic collapse of ER starting in 2007  just preceded the Panic of 2008 and the great recession continuing to the present.  If you compare Figure 6 to Figure 4 you’ll see that our future could evolve something like the Peary/Panama Maslow Window — a rather exciting prospect once we recover from our current challenges.  We’ll return to this in a minute.

Notice the impressive economic boom in the center of  Figure 6, from 1991 to 2001; it’s the longest expansion in U.S. history.  Although it occurred at the long wave trough (1997), the 1990s boom has many basic economic characteristics of a Maslow Window  — duration of 10 years, rapid real GDP increase, and an amazingly large Ebullience Index of 5.3 (compared to Apollo’s 4.9 and Peary’s 13.9)  —  but, although plans for the International Space Station (to be completed in 2011) began in the early 1990s and construction began in 1998, the next major international thrust into space did not occur then.

The Apollo-size Ebullience Index of the great 1990s boom suggests this parameter, as defined above,  is incomplete.  To make a long story short: the answer is provided by the economics of the 1990s and the nature of ebullience.  To have widespread ebullience, large segments of the population must share in the boom’s affluence, but during the 1990s income inequality grew appreciably;  this continued a long trend that interestingly began in 1968 near the end of the Apollo Window.  Without going into the numbers here, merely inserting an income inequality factor (e.g., the Gini index) into the denominator of the Ebullience Ratio will significantly decrease the Ebullience Index of the 1990s boom and increase Apollo’s EI (when income inequality declined).

The bottomline is that the appearance of the Panic of 2008 was historically monumental.  It signaled that our future trajectory will be more like that of the early 20th century Peary/Panama Maslow Window and less like the 1950s.

This is both good news and bad news:

The Bad News is that the current great recession could last up to 5 years, like the 1890s great recession did (1893 to 1898; See Fig. 4).  Ebullience and a shorter recession will be favored by government policies that stimulate economic growth,  increase real wages, and reduce unemployment for most segments of society.

The Good News is that once we survive the recession, the future’s so bright we’ll all need shades!  The Peary/Panama Maslow Window had a measurable ebullience of nearly 3 times the Apollo Moon decade and suggests that  — if unabridged by wildcards —  global space-related investment between 2015 and 2025 should be at the $ 1 T to 3 T (2007 USD) level.  Empowering the 2015 Maslow Window with Peary/Panama-level ebullience points to  many of our fondest, unprecedented dreams like major space-based solar energy systems, international lunar commercialization, and even the first Mars colonists.

 

No responses yet

Jun 20 2009

Concerns About Higher Education Point to the 2015 Maslow Window

Although the U.S. has led the world in higher education for decades, today only 41% of young adults (ages 25-34) in the U.S. have college degrees, compared to more than 50% in Japan, Korea, and Canada, according to Peter McPherson in today’s Wall Street Journal (6/20/09), the former chair of Dow Jones & Co. and former president of Michigan State University. Plus, the U.S. ranks only 9th in the proportion of young adults with college degrees among countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Expanding access to higher education will drive near-term human expansion into the cosmos. Click collgrads.jpg.

McPherson believes that America’s “prominence is at risk” because the United States’ economic future depends on the intellectual capital of its young people. “Our educational advantage made us the world’s leader in discovery, invention and innovation.” Likewise, U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) has recently pointed out that “Our future strength as a nation will rest, in large part, on scientific and technical talent,” (Space News, 4/6/09).

Growing public calls for improvement of U.S. education are reminiscent of those one long wave ago during the 1950s when the Cold War and Sputnik were the global focus. For example, in Math and Science Education Perspectives, I reminded readers that only 10 days after the surprise launch of Sputnik “the New York Times identified U.S. education as the problem, because Soviet science students were better motivated and given more prestige.” And 70% of Gallup poll respondents believed that U.S. high school students should become more educationally competitive with their Soviet counterparts! In response to America’s crisis of self-confidence, in 1958 Congress advocated beefing up math and science education from the elementary to high schools.

It’s clear that education reduces unemployment; e.g., in May, 2009 only 4.8% of those with bachelor’s degrees were unemployed compared to more than double that (10.0%) for those with a high school diploma, and soaring to 15.5% for those with less education. (For perspective, 5% to 11% are considered recession-level unemployment rates, while unemployment in 1933 during the Great Depression was 25%.) It’s of great concern that individuals without a high school education may be heading to their own education-related Depression.

McPherson suggests that we make 55% of young adults with a college degree our national target for 2025 — the end of the 2015 Maslow Window. That’s an increase of 875,000 graduates per year.

McPherson sees a parallel between our current situation and the post-WW II years, about one long wave ago. “In the 15 years following WW II, post-secondary enrollment expanded by 82%. And in the baby-boomer period of 1962-76, enrollment expanded by a whopping 174%.”

Of course he’s describing the post-War boom that culminated in the unparalled economic boom of the 1960s Maslow Window. And we can expect to see that occur again as we approach the 2015 Maslow Window.

The difference is the current major global recession that began during the Panic of 2008; i.e., during the years around 1949 there was no such thing, probably because of sound financial practices of the time and financial reforms enacted during the Great Depression. But McPherson suggests that “The sobering lessons from the current economic situation could contribute to a similar pattern of thought and action.”

It’s possible that our current economic situation may have more in common with the 1890 – 1914 interval (culminating in the celebrated Peary/Panama Maslow Window) than 1945 – 1970 (the Apollo Maslow Window). The former featured the Panic of 1893 followed by a devastating, nearly decade-long recession that ended just before the most ebullient Peary/Panama Maslow Window opened in 1903. While the latter had no post-WW II financial panic as the long boom culminated in the unparalleled (for its time) economic boom of the 1960s Apollo Maslow Window.

As McPherson states, education can play an important role in our current recession. But as the history of the 1950s and 1960s shows, strong global interests in Moon bases will generate two extremely important factors: international competition (and cooperation) and raw human exploration passions. History shows that both have explosive effects on the minds of young people and their interest in education.

No responses yet

Oct 25 2008

The 1960s Apollo Maslow Window was "Transformative"

And, indeed the social scientists think so too. As we approach the spectacular 2015 Maslow Window — a decade that economic and other indicators over the last 200 years suggest will be the analog of the 1960s, including a Camelot-like zeitgeist — a new academic social science journal is bursting over the horizon. “The Sixties: A Journal of History, Politics, and Culture.” It’s published by Routledge and edited by Jeremy Varon, Michael Foley, and John McMillian.

The 1960s was the time of humanity’s greatest explorative event: the first man on the Moon. It was and is the greatest because it was the first time humans left Earth and set foot on another world. The Sixties was also the first time in the last 200 years that a Great Exploration (i.e., Apollo to the Moon) was thoroughly integrated with the predominant macro-engineering project (i.e., the Apollo program infrastructure) of its time. For example, the Great Explorations of 1909-11 (the polar expeditions) — which many decades later were judged to be among the top 100 greatest events in all human history — were unrelated to their great contemporary MEP: the Panama Canal — except maybe in their joint sharing of a feeling of almost global ebullience.

The momentous Saturn V symbolized the first time a Great Exploration was thoroughly joined with an MEP in the last 200 years. Click saturnv.jpg.

The Apollo Moon program was fundamentally triggered by an unparalleled economic boom accompanied by the surprise 1957 launch of Sputnik and the intense confrontations of the Cold War. However in the typical pattern of Maslow Windows during the last 200 years, Apollo was effectively terminated by declining 1960s ebullience and affluence due to the Vietnam War. Nevertheless, Apollo remains a major international symbol of the Sixties.

Although, in their Editorial announcing the new Sixties journal, the editors somehow forgot to mention the most compelling technological and geopolitical theme of the Sixties — the race to space — maybe in time they will rediscover it, because they are on the right track. For example, they sense that the 1960’s produced an ebullience “that continues to initrigue, inspire, confound, amuse, tempt, repel, and capture us.”

In the Sixties, the editors recognize that “all this energy — by parts dignified, militant, uptopian, and delusional — was of great consequence…No recent decade has been so powerfully transformative in much of the world as have the Sixties.”

The Sixties decade “has become plainly iconic.” It continues to “not only define us but remains urgently with us.” But the editors display frustration with their lack of understanding of what created the Sixties’ “transformative longing”: “As time passes, and periodic predictions that a given society or the world is poised for a similar experience prove false, the very fact that ‘the Sixties’ happened at all seems increasingly remarkable.”

We can help them with this one. The last 200 years show that rhythmic, twice-per-century major economic booms create climates of affluence-induced ebullience (known as Maslow Windows) that are momentarily manifested by Great Explorations (e.g., Lewis and Clark), massive MEPs (e.g., Panama Canal), and a utopian feeling of “transformative longing” (e.g., Apollo). The record shows that exceptional ebullience does not propel all people to elevated levels in Maslow’s heirarchy. Tragically, some trigger major wars.

The Sixties editors prefer to consider the “long Sixties” from 1954 to 1975. According to the 56 year energy/economic cycle, the year 2008 corresponds roughly to (2008 – 56) 1952. So it’s not surprising that academics have renewed interest now in the Sixties. Long-term trends — over the last 200 years — indicate the “new 1960s” will begin in only 5 to 7 years..

One response so far

Next »