Aug 28 2008

Why the World Is Not Going to End

It’s easy to become a collector of negative headlines about the economy these days, and my collection includes: “Economists Expect 2008’s Second Half to be Worse Than First” (Wall Street Journal, 8/11/08), “World Economy Shows New Strain” (WSJ, 8/15/08), and for you Harrison Ford/Tom Clancy fans, “Inflation is a Clear and Present Danger” (WSJ, 8/19/08).

If this financial turmoil were to persist for an indefinite period it might threaten the major economic boom that’s expected to trigger the affluence, ebullience, and spectacular technology and space activities of the 2015 Maslow Window, based on trends over the last 200 years.

But most analysts think it’s going away soon.

For example, best-selling author and financial strategist John Mauldin considers himself a short-term bear, because we have to deal with the twin bursts of the housing and credit bubbles, and can expect slow growth “through at least 2009”.

But as Mauldin explains in his online column (7/18/08), long term he is a “wild-eyed optimist!” Indeed he asserts that, “The next 20 years are going to see the most powerful wave of technologically driven growth the world has ever seen.”

This supports our expectation that the 2015 Maslow Window is going to feature unprecented technology programs and great explorations that will be spectacular.

Mauldin attributes this magnificent wave to the internet and to adding 2 billion people to the global middle class. “We will simply be throwing more people at an ever wider array of problems, and they will be able to share their discoveries at the speed of light.”

As I’ve pointed out, the trend of long economic waves and Maslow Windows over the last 200 years was not deterred by the Civil War, the Great Depression, W.W. I and II, or a variety of lesser disasters, including, for example, the Panic of 1837 — see State of the Wave, 8/15/08 — which is second only to the 1930s Great Depression. Despite the Panic of 1837, the 1847 Maslow Window ebulliently exploded with the greatest macro-engineering projects of the 19th Century and the still-famous equatorial African great explorations of Dr. Livingstone.

Mauldin simply concludes, “Why should the trend stop now?”

Indeed, the lesson of the last 200 years is that the future of the next 20 years is so bright, you’ll probably need shades!

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Aug 19 2008

State of the Wave, Friday 8/15/08

Every other Friday the State of the Wave summarizes specific progress toward the opening of the 2015 Maslow Window and movement toward real, near-term space colonization. The focus is on events and trends from around the world of long-range significance, especially in the context of the 10 Wave Guides.

It’s easy this week, although not very pleasant, to summarize the Wave: the Russian invasion of Georgia has thrown the 2010+ future of the American space program into real uncertainty. (See Russian Invasion and the Shuttle 5-Yr Gap)

Using Russian systems as an add-on launch capability was one thing, but becoming dependent on the Russian Soyuz for American access to the Space Station is proving to be a deeply flawed strategy. Will there be a U.S. commercial alternative that can substitute for the Shuttle after 2010?

Because the Russia/Georgia crisis has implications far beyond the space program, and the U.S. feels a need to punish Russia, the prospects for U.S. human spaceflight after 2010 appear dim, even if Georgia does join NATO in the near future.

As we approach a time of ebullient global space activity, many space-related groups are very energetic. For example, a space elevator conference was recently held at Microsoft in Washington. Their hopes center on major technology advances in power beaming and ultra-strong materials, but their technology literally offers the relatively near-term promise of a frontier society in space. Likewise India announced recently that they have decided to launch their own spacecraft to the Moon, in addition to participating in the multinational agreement signed recently with the U.S. as part of the International Lunar Network.

Based on long-term trends over the last 200 years, the major economic boom expected to usher in the next Maslow Window is right on schedule for a 2013-15 take-off. However, short-term, the Wall Street Journal (8/15/08) highlights a 4-year unemployment peak in July of 5.7%, an uptick in U.S. inflation (July’s 17 year high of 5.6 % from the year before), plus sluggish GDP trends in Europe. But China, India, and other developing economies continue to expand strongly, and the dollar’s increasing strength could cool inflation somewhat.

To provide historical perspective, it’s interesting to identify analogs of major recessions that gave way to the major economic booms that drove previous Maslow Windows. One such example is the Panic of 1837. The Panic began 20 years before its 56 year cycle energy peak (in 1857) while our current economic “recession” began in late 2007, about 18 years before our peak (coming in 2025). Thus its wave timing (very similar to now) and its severity (considerably worse than now) make it very relevant to our future.

The Panic featured closure of 40% of all U.S. banks, record high unemployment, and economic turmoil until 1843; it is considered second only to the Great Depression of the 1930s. Nevertheless, the mid-19th Century Maslow Window (1847-57), powered by a major economic boom, opened right on schedule and featured ebullient behavior like Stanley’s African search for Dr. Livingstone engaged in his Great Exploration (“Dr. Livingstone I presume?”) and the California Gold Rush (1848-55). This Maslow Window also featured the “technological jewel” of the 19th Century — the Suez Canal — plus several other secondary MEPs, and tragically, the worst war in U.S. history: the Civil War. More on this Panic soon.

The current picture — sadly including Russian misbehavior and flickering of a renewed Cold War — is very consistent with our expectations 5 to 7 years out from our next Maslow Window.

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May 11 2008

Economic Growth — A Brief 21stCenturyWaves Perspective

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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May 11 2008

Global Conflict — A Brief 21stCenturyWaves Perspective

The last 200 years teach us that every 56 years or so, when an unparalleled economic boom produces the exceptional affluence and eventually even the widespread ebullience that we call a Maslow Window, there is both good news and bad news. The good news is major human explorations like Apollo and spectacular macro-engineering projects like the Panama Canal. The bad news is the tragic death and destruction associated with a major war like W.W. I.

In the last 200 years there are no exceptions: every Maslow Window ended shortly before a major war. Although the wars themselves may not have directly terminated Maslow Windows, the destructive psychological and economic effects of the wars were sufficient to reduce the unusually high ebullience and affluence characteristic of society during a typical Maslow Window.

However, one bad omen is that the most recent Maslow Window (Apollo) was clearly terminated directly by the intensification of the Vietnam War in 1968. During this time there was campus unrest, budget and political pressure, and considerable anti-war feeling across the U.S.. President Nixon responded by canceling the last three Apollo missions (18, 19, and 20) and eventually by terminating the entire manned space program except for the Shuttle.

It is sobering to consider what might have happened if Vietnam had exploded just a few years earlier. All the Moon landings — not just the last 3 — might have been lost. Indeed, the most troubling and uncertain wildcard for the 2020s is the timing of future major military conflicts and their negative effects for society, including the potential loss of MEPs and the long-term postponement of human expansion into the cosmos.

Upcoming posts in Wave Guide 9 will focus on parallels between the previous Cold War and the current War on Terror as well as specific potential flashpoints (e.g., Taiwan) that political scientists and strategists have identified as future threats. If, as some analysts suggest, a new cold war has already begun, this will be partly an unfortunate consequence of generational and economic patterns of 56 years ago that are starting to repeat again today. A new cold war superimposed on the current War on Terror in the context of an increasingly multipolar world (e.g., including China and others), while potentially dangerous, would definitely be consistent with the specific forecasts of this blog.

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