Jan 26 2010

State of the Wave — 10 Space Trends for 2010

The big space news for 2009 was that we didn’t learn the answer to the big question: What is the future of human spaceflight in the U.S.? But this didn’t happen in a vacuum and it was anticipated by 21stCenturyWaves.com last January; see State of the Wave — 10 Space Trends for 2009. The U.S. space program exists at the intersection of long-term trends in economics, geopolitics, and domestic politics, and thus the space trends for 2010 are best understood in the context of those for 2009 and previous years.

2009 was a year of monumental change globally and especially — as President Obama promised — in the U.S.. The seismic shifts of 2009 — both positive and negative — will reverberate well into 2010.

For a post-State of the Union update, click HERE.

Here are 10 space trends for 2010:

10. Although 2009 was the Year of Obama, in 2010 it will continue to be hard for him to focus on space.

According to Stratfor, “Obama dominated 2009 as no freshman year president has since Reagan.” Early in the year public confidence in Obama was so high that he was easily able to engineer major bailouts and stimulus bills — including the $ 787 B stimulus package — that were guaranteed to keep unemployment under 8 %. As unemployment approached 10% public confidence in the administration began to decline; e.g., on July 12, the Los Angeles Times announced “The End of Obamania”. During 2009 the president’s job approval rating fell 20 points, from 68% to 48% (Gallup.com), largely due to high unemployment, record government spending, huge deficits, and Obama’s preoccupation with his health care program.

Recently the unthinkable occurred: a Republican (Scott Brown) won a special election in the most Democratic state in the U.S. (Massachusetts), and took the Senate seat of the late Ted Kennedy that he’d held for decades. And the Washington Post recently reported (1/16/10) that “By 58% to 38%, Americans said they prefer smaller government and fewer services to larger government with more services.” That’s 15% more people favoring small versus large government since Obama’s nomination in June, 2008.

Last January, 21stCenturyWaves.com noted that President Obama’s agenda would be dominated by the great recession and national security, and he would not be able to focus on space. This is still true; e.g., Gallup reports that “67% don’t expect economic recovery to start for 2+ years.” But unlike early 2009, Obama has to contend now with the serious political challenges of Republicans in 2010. All this comes as the U.S. space program is approaching a tipping point, as described below.

9. Economically, 2010 will be a year of uncertainty, but long-term trends continue to show we’re on schedule for a New Global Space Age starting near 2015.

Last January, 21stCenturyWaves.com reported that the timing and severity of the financial Panic of 2008 was consistent with our next Maslow Window — a golden age of prosperity, exploration, and technology — opening by 2015. This is because over the last 200 years, a financial panic/great recession combination typically precedes the Maslow Window by 7 to 10 years (except for the 1960s Apollo Window which had none); e.g., the Panic of 1893/1890s Great Recession and the stunning Peary/Panama Maslow Window (~1901-13), and the Panic of 1837/1840s Great Recession and the ebullient Dr. Livingstone/Suez Maslow Window (~1847-57).

The big question is: How soon will the current great recession subside and allow the economy to return to the “greatest boom ever” that was interrupted by the Panic of 2008?

On July 24 (Wall Street Journal) Princeton economist Alan S. Blinder stated that, “The U.S. economy appears to be hitting bottom.” In its 2010 Annual Forecast (1/4/2010), Stratfor concurs but adds that, “pockets of economic weakness remain within the U.S. and larger problems continue elsewhere in the world.” Financial advisor John Mauldin (1/8/10) cautions against a robust “V” shaped recovery because of worries about continuing unemployment among others. His major concern is “Congress is likely to allow the Bush tax cuts to expire … (and) we could see a massive increase in taxes of $ 500 B … or 4% of GDP.”

Long-term patterns in financial panic/great recession pairs in the decade preceding Maslow Windows over the last 200 years suggest the 2015 Maslow Window is on schedule. Recent opinion polls and election results show frustration with Obama’s economic policies during 2009. Today’s New York Times (1/24/10; R. Zeleny, P. Baker) indicates Obama is aware of the political situation. If the trio of unemployment/spending/deficits is not reduced soon the American people may seek new leadership. Thus both long- and short-term economic and political trends point to a new Space Age by 2015.

8. Geopolitical and national security issues will continue to dominate Obama’s attention in 2010, but their timing and significance are consistent with a rapidly approaching Maslow Window near 2015.

It became fashionable in 2009 to compare Obama with previous presidents, mainly in connection with concerns about Afghanistan, Iraq, and other potential flashpoints. For example, the New York Times (8/23/09, P. Baker) sees a potential parallel between Obama and Lyndon Johnson because Afghanistan could eventually resemble Vietnam. More recently, Walter Russell Mead of the Council on Foreign Relations fears that Obama’s foreign policy could become like Jimmy Carter’s (Foreign Policy, Jan/Feb, 2010).

Stratfor (1/4/2010) sees the major geopolitical issues of 2010 as “Russia’s resurgence as a major power … (and) the sharpening crisis in the Middle East,” centered on Iran’s nuclear program and a potential “Israeli strike on Iran — a strike that could quickly spiral into a general melee in the world’s premier energy artery, the Persian Gulf.” The recent Fort Hood massacre and the Christmas Detroit airline bomber show that the threat of terrorism within the U.S. also remains a major concern.

In a recent post I showed that significant military conflicts occur either early in a Maslow Window or just before it; e.g., the Cuban Missile Crisis of October, 1962. Please see the summary in: How the West Was Won — The Expansionist Effects of Ebullience. These conflicts played a key role in the major exploration and/or technology activities of their Maslow Window. Given that the Iran crisis could threaten global energy supplies, it is a potential flashpoint nearly at the level of the Cuban Missile Crisis. These events signal growing international tensions that are characteristic of early or pre-Maslow Window times over the last 200 years.

7. The new NASA Administrator — Gen. Charles Bolden — supports true international collaboration in space, but doesn’t know “The Answer” yet.

Director Bolden emphasized the importance of international collaborations in space. Perhaps most important is the idea of treating our partners as “equals” and with “respect.” This is the 21st century trend in international space cooperation. My concept for a global space agency (“Interspace”) features organizational equality among the major players and an opportunity to participate for almost everyone else. In the mid-1990s I forecasted that Interspace would materialize near 2013, driven by global interests in space colonization.

Director Bolden also echoed a familiar theme of Obama: the importance of education. As in the late 1950s, in response to the launch of Sputnik, it is likely that similar calls for beefed up science and math education in the U.S. will ramp up as international activities in space intensify near 2013.

Although Bolden assured his audience that, “This will not be the president who precedes over the end of manned space flight,” he was unable to be more specific because Obama has not publicized his decision on the future U.S. vision for human spaceflight.

While NASA waits on pins and needles, Obama has not articulated his vision for manned space. This is partly due to the economic, geopolitical, and now the political trends that demand his attention. President Obama is in a tough spot. He cannot ignore space because of national prestige and growing international space programs. On the other hand, he must be willing to commit $ 3 B more annually to do the Moon and beyond. The solution, of course, is to join with other global space powers to settle the solar system together before a Sputnik-like event drives us apart. It will be an interesting test of his policy of international engagement in 2010.

6. 2009 was the year that Global Warming politics showed significant decline in response to Climategate, new science results, and the public’s rejection of this negative vision of the future.

The Climategate scandal showed that most scientists — including those associated with the IPCC who didn’t want to publicly admit it — agree that global warming ended in 1998, that temperatures have declined in recent years, and that global climate models based on CO2 effects cannot account for the current lack of warming, and thus cannot be scientifically used to forecast climate in future decades. The Climategate scientists also speak privately of manipulating temperature data sets to emphasize warming.

The Wall Street Journal (1/23/10) recently recounted the strange story of the “rapidly receding” Himalayan glaciers. In their 2007 report the IPCC insisted that these glaciers would disappear by 2035 — due to global warming. The IPCC was warned in 2006 by a leading glaciologist that the 2035 forecast was bogus, but they chose to ignore it. According to glaciologist Georg Kaser, “This number is not just a little bit wrong … It is so wrong that it is not even worth discussing.”

Based on history of the last 200 years, including the 1960s, Maslow Windows are golden ages of prosperity, exploration, and technology. They are times of extraordinary affluence-induced ebullience when many in society ascend Maslow’s hierarchy and become supportive of great exporations and macro-engineering projects. The public’s growing rejection of global warming politics will continue in 2010 and is consistent with our approach to the ebullient 2015 Maslow Window.

5. The psychology of financial meltdowns and economic booms suggests that our current great recession will be followed by a major economic boom that will trigger the new Space Age.

Behavioral economist George Loewenstein of Yale recently (Discover, Jan/Feb, 2010) explained the factors which produce financial meltdowns as well as economic booms. They include 1) self-destructive behavior, 2) believing that what we want to believe is true, 3) short-term focus on immediate threats, and 4) lazy decision-making (going with the flow). These factors click in when the trend is up or down and thus reenforce behavior during both meltdowns and booms.

According to Keynes, the father of behavioral economics, the trick during a recession is changing people’s negative expectations to overcome their “animal spirits.” According to Keynesians George Akerlof and Robert Shiller, the economic policies of Franklin Roosevelt were ineffective during the Great Depression, “The drop in confidence during the Great Depression was so fundamental that it continued for a decade. Confidence — and the economy itself — were not restored until World War II completely changed the dominant story of people’s lives, transforming the economy.”

Obviously with 67% of Americans not expecting economic recovery to start for 2+ years and consumer confidence low, negative Keynesian animal spirits are currently in full force. When Obama is able to reverse the current trend and elevate consumer confidence, history shows the economy will rapidly respond with a major economic boom.

4. One of the most exciting developments in modern astronomy — the search for Earth-like planets — continues to motivate public interest in human expansion into the cosmos.

According to the online Extrasolar Planets Encyclopedia, as of January 23, 2010, there are a total of 424 planets known to be orbiting stars other than the Sun. Most of these are hot gas giants resembling Jupiter but much less than 1 AU (Astronomical Unit) from their star, as opposed to 5 AUs for Jupiter.

However, a few recent discoveries have had tantalizing, Earth-like results. In February a European group using the Corot space observatory detected a small planet in orbit around a star in Monoceros about light 500 years away. Subsequent observations confirmed that the planet is almost twice Earth’s diameter and 5 times its mass, indicating it’s composed mostly of rock. However, it is so close to its star that its surface temperature is a toasty 2000 degrees F.

In April, planet hunters reported that Gliese 581, a star only 20 light years away, has a planet with 7 Earth masses that is at the right star distance for liquid water. It is the first extra-solar planet ever discovered that could possibly support life. At only 20 light years distant, if the Gliesians exist and can build rockets, they should have been here by now!

And in March, NASA’s Kepler satellite began scanning 145,000 stars for transiting Earth-like planets. The observatory works. Earlier this month Kepler scientists announced the discovery of 5 new extra-solar planets. Earth-like planets can’t hide for long from Kepler.

Even smaller planets with Earth-like sizes and masses in their Sun-like star’s habitable zone will eventually be discovered, possibly in 2010 or soon thereafter. The closest ones — inhabited or not — will someday become targets for human exploration as human civilization expands into the cosmos.

3. In 2010 NASA will face a tipping point involving the Shuttle, the International Space Station, and international plans for human spaceflight to the Moon and Mars.

In 2010, the current plan is to complete construction of the ISS and retire the Shuttle. Four of the last 5 Shuttle missions will visit ISS and deliveries will include the U.S. Tranquility node as well as a Russian module.

Last month, Space News (12/14/09) suggested that “the administration will cancel Ares 1 in favor of a different approach to getting astronauts to and from the space station … (like) a commecially developed crew transport service (that) could be available sooner than Ares 1-Orion and at less cost.” Space News concludes that Administration changes must be “accompanied by a long-term commitment to meaningful exploration of space beyond low Earth orbit, with a credible story — with resources to match — for getting there…”

On the other hand, in the same issue (Space News, 12/14/09) Christopher Kraft warns that “The suggestion that commercially developed launch vehicles can replace the Ares 1 rocket is ill advised.” His recommendations include continuing to operate the Shuttle, continue to operate the ISS as long as it’s economically feasible and scientifically productive, continue with the goals of the Constellation program, and develop the capability to send astronauts to Mars.

In 2010 President Obama is facing a major political challenge to his presidency. He must reduce economic distress and show progress toward future prosperity, and at the same time he must run the war in Afghanistan, monitor Iraq, influence Iran and Russia, and neutralize global terrorists. This doesn’t leave much time for space, but he must respond to the tipping point space issues above. Human spaceflight is very supportive of Obama’s interests in motivating youth and improving education, and it is a powerful symbol of American leadership in the world. It is unlikely that US participation in a Moon race with China or others would excite the American public because the US won that prize over 40 years ago. And given the understandable anti-ebullient state of the American public, planning manned missions to Mars is probably out of the question during Obama’s current term. This leaves less expensive human missions to near Earth asteroids and/or Lagrange points as potential U.S. space objectives beyond low Earth orbit, possibly coupled with American leadership in a long-term international effort to expore, commercially develop, and eventually settle the Moon. In this scenario, preparations for human spaceflight to Mars would continue at ISS, with astronaut access provided by a commercially developed space vehicle, while the actual Mars expeditions themselves would be relegated to the late 21st century Maslow Window (starting in 2071).

2. President Obama is Creating the new Space Age: Scenario I — The JFK model

As the last 200+ years have shown, extraordinary pulses of activity in exploration and engineering are enabled by reliable, long-term business cycles. And all indicators suggest we’re sneaking up on the edge of another Golden Age of Prosperity, Exploration, and Technology that will trigger the new Space Age; see How President Obama is Creating the New Space Age.

Typically, during the twice-per-century upswings of the long economic wave and within a decade after a major financial panic (such as the Panic of 2008) and its major recession, we emerge into an ebullient, transformative decade known as a Maslow Window. Perhaps the most ebullient one followed the Panic of 1893 and was led by Theodore Roosevelt: the Peary/Panama Maslow Window from 1903 to 1913.

Our most recent Maslow Window — the stunning 1960s Apollo Moon decade — was unique in the last 200+ years in that it wasn’t immediately preceded by a financial panic or great recession. But the approaching Maslow Window, expected to open near 2015, resumed the much more “normal” sequence of the last 200+ years when the Panic of 2008 heralded its impending arrival.

So one key lesson of the last 200 years is: The Panic of 2008 supports our expectation that the next Maslow Window — the next Golden Age of Prosperity, Exploration, and Technology — will open near 2015.

But the question is: Will Obama reverse current trends and set the country on a trajectory toward near-term prosperity — the hallmark of all Maslow Windows?

If he does Obama will be a 2-term president and will become the new John F. Kennedy without the Vietnam-style baggage of LBJ. And he will continue the brilliant transformative legacy that began with Thomas Jefferson and Lewis & Clark.

1. President Obama is Creating the new Space Age: Scenario II — The Theodore Roosevelt model

Another potential scenario is remminiscent of the Panic of 1893 that culminated with Theodore Roosevelt’s spectacular Peary/Panama Maslow Window of the early 20th century. The Panic of 1893 has parallels with the recent Panic of 2008 and the great recession that bottomed out in mid-2009. The great 1890s recession lasted nearly 6 years — and let’s hope that’s not one of the parallels.

In the Roosevelt model, Obama becomes a victim of the current great recession and — because of his inability to ignite prosperity — becomes a 1-term president much like Grover Cleveland in the 1890s. In this scenario Obama is replaced by a president who does start the recovery, points the nation toward prosperity, and triggers the 2015 Maslow WIndow.

So which is it? Scenario I — The JFK Model, or Scenario II –the Theodore Roosevelt model?

I. Long-term macroeconomic patterns — especially the Panic of 2008 — suggest the 2010s are more like the Roosevelt Maslow Window than the Kennedy one. In this case, the great recession that favored Obama’s election in 2008 would ultimately prove to be his undoing (like Grover Cleveland), and thus support Scenario II.

II. Recent polls and election results — especially the recent Massachusetts Senatorial shocker — show the public is anxious about Obama’s economic policies because they haven’t reduced unemployment and seem inconsistent with prosperity. These also support Scenario II.

III. But it’s still really all up to Obama. If in 2010 he decides to reverse course, reduce economic distress, and stimulate the recovery, he will experience Scenario I. If not, it will be Scenario II. In a month or two we should be able to discern his economic trajectory.

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Dec 13 2009

Are We Entering the “Superproject Void”?

The New York Times (11/29/09) thinks we are.  According to Louis Uchitelle,

Generation after generation, giant public works projects have altered the American landscape. The Erie Canal and the transcontinental railroad come to mind. So do massive urban sewer and sanitation systems, the Tennessee Valley Authority, rural electrification, the Hoover Dam, the Interstate System, the subway networks in San Francisco and Washington, the Big Dig in Boston … and the list abruptly stops.

For the first time in memory, the nation has no outsize public works project under way.

Actually, the Times’ Superproject data is supportive of  21stCenturyWaves.com’s  Maslow Window model and its relation to Macro-Engineering Projects (MEPs) over the last 200 years – including the early 19th century, near-MEP Erie Canal mentioned by the Times — as well as current MEPs and those anticipated during the 2015 Maslow Window.

1. The 1960s Apollo Maslow Window appears in public works spending data for the last 60 years.
The signature of the long economic wave is visible in the Times‘ graphic of public works spending as a percentage of GDP from the late 1940s to the present; Click HERE.

The rapid rise in spending during the 1960s was enabled by  the major economic boom that triggered the 1960s Maslow Window;  it slammed shut just before 1970 and was followed by a precipitous decline across the 1970s and beyond. Both mirrored the trends of the long wave at those times.  As Uchitelle points out, “the strongest periods of economic growth in America have generally coincided with big outlays for new public works and the transformations they bring once completed.”

The  post-WW II spending boom of the 1950s and late 1940s has not been replicated in the late 1990s and early 2000s.  Instead, the Panic of 2008 and our current great recession appears to be following the pattern of the Panic of 1893 and the great 1890s recession, which, after 1899,  rapidly rebounded into one of the most ebullient decades in U.S. history:  the 1903-1913 Maslow Window.  It featured Theodore Roosevelt’s transformative Panama Canal and the spectacular international races to both the north and south poles.

2.  Over the last 200 years, MEPs tend to cluster in rhythmic, twice-per-century pulses.
In The Way MEPs Really Work,”  I adopted the definition of an MEP from Eugene Ferguson (1916-2004), a well-known professor of engineering and later history, and a founding member and former president (1977-78) of the Society for the History of Technology  According to Ferguson,

MEPs are: 1) at the state-of-the-art of technology for their time; 2) extremely expensive (at least $ 1 B,  in 2007 USD) and usually large in size; and 3) sometimes practical in purpose, but often they are aimed at satisfying intangible needs of a spiritual or psychological nature and are highly inspiring.

This is a demanding definition that excludes many extraordinary projects like trans-continental railroads or large highway systems because, while expensive and significant, they do not stretch technology.

The rhythmic, twice-per-century pulses of MEPs are visible in Cordell (1996).  Their association with Maslow Windows and regular timing suggests that the next flurry of Superprojects and MEPs will begin near 2015.  So, any “Superproject void” should be short-lived.

3. The Erie Canal was considered by Thomas Jefferson to be “a little short of madness.”

ErieCourtesy of the Memorial Art Gallery of the University of Rochester.

Uchitelle correctly identifies the Erie Canal as the key Superproject of early America, although I have been unable to convince myself that it is a true Ferguson-style MEP in the context of other MEPs of the last 200 years (e.g., the Panama Canal or Apollo Saturn V).

The Erie Canal is considered to be the greatest engineering marvel of its day and was often referred to as the 8th Wonder of the World.  Construction began in 1817 and it opened in 1825; the canal featured 18 aqueducts and 83 locks to accommodate the 568 foot rise from Albany to Buffalo.  It led to a population boom in western New York state, caused a drop in transportation costs by more than 90%, and opened up the western Great Lakes area to new settlers. In essence, the canal was a response to the pressures for westward expansion that had been ignited by the Great Exploration of Lewis and Clark earlier in the Maslow Window.

Jefferson’s “madness” quote referred to the canal’s cost: $ 7 M, courtesy of the New York state legislature; that’s about $ 0.1 B in 2007 USD, which is a little low for a true primary MEP. More impressive is its cost expressed as a fraction of GDP: 0.1 %.  That’s large and puts it in the same class as the Panama Canal (Apollo was 0.2 % of GDP); this is the best case for Erie being a Ferguson-style MEP.   However, despite the Erie Canal’s “engineering marvel” reputation, the project leaders were ebullient amateurs, not professional engineers because there were none in the U.S. at that time.  And its key technology advancements were limited to new, efficient techniques for removing tree stumps so the canal could be kept on schedule and within budget. 

The Erie Canal is definitely a Times-style Superproject, but not quite a Ferguson-style MEP.  I view it as transitional between the smaller, but still important, engineering projects of the late 18th century, and the more modern, true MEPs beginning in the mid-19th century Dr. Livingstone-Suez Canal Maslow Window.

4. Construction of the spectacular Golden Gate Bridge from 1932-37 did not end the Great Depression.
Uchitelle’s interest in the history of American superprojects relates to our recovery from the current great recession. 

President Obama has earmarked just $80 billion — a tenth of his stimulus package — for megaprojects, and put off most of that down payment until next year. His focus instead has been on spending hundreds of billions to quickly and visibly repair existing public works, especially highways, and also levees, dams and locks, particularly in the New Orleans area. That’s not a bad thing — those repairs are certainly needed — but it doesn’t create permanent wealth.

By the standards of the past, however, they are not the spectacular feats of engineering and ingenuity that greatly enhance the economy. The Erie Canal was just such a feat …

“Last year at this time we were debating whether we should be concentrating our spending on big projects that, in the long run, add to economic growth,” said John J. Wallis, an economic historian at the University of Maryland. “That debate never got resolved, and the stimulus bill we enacted in February ended up focused instead on quick spending.”

This is consistent with Harvard economics professor Robert Barro who finds that stimulus spending doesn’t work to stimulate the economy; “The available empirical evidence does not support the idea that spending multipliers typically exceed one, and thus spending stimulus programs will likely raise GDP by less than the increase in government spending,” (Wall Street Journal, 10/1/09)

The Golden Gate Bridge is a spectacular Northern California landmark that was built between 1932 and 1937 during the Great Depression  for $ 35 M; that’s about $ 530 M in 2007 USD.  As a fraction of GDP it’s 0.01%, much smaller than the Erie or Panama Canals, but still a sizeable amount of cash.

It’s significant that GGB was financed privately (without any significant expenditures of state or federal money), so it could have stimulated the economy, but in 1938 — almost a decade after the Crash of 1929 that triggered the Great Depression and 6 years after Franklin Roosevelt was elected — U.S. unemployment was still about 14%.  Well-known Keynesian economists George Akerloff and Robert Schiller believe that FDR and Hoover were ineffective. In fact, “Confidence — and the economy itself — was not restored until World War II completely changed the dominant story of people’s lives, transforming the economy,” (Animal Spirits; 2009).

5. Current MEPs, the Panic/Recession of 2008+, and our current recovery suggest that any “Superproject void” will be brief. 
Indeed, the 2015 Maslow Window — a Golden Age of Prosperity, Exploration, and Technology – should not be late, based on the last 200 years of financial panics and great recessions (e.g., the 1890s great recession) that commonly occur in the decade just prior to Maslow Windows.  Plus pre-Maslow Window secondary MEPs — like the Large Hadron Collider and the International Space Station — point to the on-time opening of the 2015 Maslow Window.

 

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Sep 24 2009

How President Obama is Creating the New Space Age

Fear not. The Augustine Commission and Congress notwithstanding, President Obama is setting the stage for the next Space Age. And below I examine 2 specific, well-constrained scenarios, and their dynamics, showing how this is likely to occur.

Norman Augustine, former Lockheed Martin CEO, states we need $ 3 billion more per year to have a viable Moon program. Click augustine.jpg.

It is true that chair Norman Augustine — who’s becoming known as “the 3 billion dollar man” — insists, “The current program that’s being pursued is not executable,” because a return to the Moon requires $ 3 B more annually. It’s also true that in response to an Arizona Congressman (who’s married to an astronaut) who accused Augustine of presenting “a set of alternatives that look almost like cartoons,” Augustine retorted, “I respect your feelings, but I must question your facts.”

But this is all just the usual short-term political stuff.

In reality — as the last 200+ years have shown — extraordinary pulses of activity in exploration and engineering are enabled by reliable, long-term business cycles. And all indicators suggest we’re sneaking up on the edge of another Golden Age of Prosperity, Exploration, and Technology(GAPET).

Typically, during the twice-per-century upswings of the long economic wave and within a decade after a major financial panic (such as the Panic of 2008) and its major recession, we emerge into an ebullient, transformative decade known as a Maslow Window. Perhaps the most ebullient one followed the Panic of 1893 and was led by Theodore Roosevelt: the Peary/Panama Maslow Window from 1903 to 1913. But before that the mid-19th century Dr. Livingstone/Suez Maslow Window produced the “technological jewel of the 19th century,” the Suez Canal, and the famous Lewis and Clark Maslow Window opened the Great Northwest to the world in 1805.

Our most recent Maslow Window — the stunning 1960s Apollo Moon decade — was unique in the last 200+ years in that it wasn’t immediately preceded by a financial panic or great recession. But the approaching Maslow Window, expected to open near 2015, resumed the much more “normal” sequence of the last 200+ years when the Panic of 2008 heralded its impending arrival.

So one key lesson of the last 200 years is: The Panic of 2008 supports our expectation that the next Maslow Window — the next Golden Age of Prosperity, Exploration, and Technology — will open near 2015.

And President Obama is playing a key role in triggering GAPET, although there is understandably a lot of confusion about that, especially among those unaware of the long-term forces that govern the ebullient, large-scale human affairs of Maslow Windows.

For example, shortly after the Panic of 2008, Reagan economist Arthur (“Laffer Curve”) Laffer complained that President George W. Bush “will be remembered like Herbert Hoover…(and that) the age of prosperity is over,” (WSJ, 10/27/08). And others — including Obama — have compared Obama to Franklin D. Roosevelt who was president during the Great Depression. Surprisingly, Keynesian economists George Akerloff (a Nobel-winner) and Robert Shiller don’t think FDR (or Hoover) went far enough:

“Confidence — and the economy itself — was not restored until World War II completely changed the dominant story of people’s lives, transforming the economy.”

In reality, 21stCenturyWaves.com has identified the Great Depression as an example of panic/recessions that occur 16-18 years after a Maslow Window (another is the Great Victorian Depression of 1873); they tend to be very long and severe as the long wave descends. Conversely, the Panic of 2008 is typical of upswings in the long wave that precede, by less than a decade, the transformative GAPET of Maslow Windows. While still an economic crisis characterized by major suffering, the Panic of 2008 had only a small chance (e.g., WSJ, 9/1/09; Allan Meltzer) of ever evolving into a true 1930s-style Depression (e.g., 25% unemployment).

Given the high likelihood of our next Maslow Window materializing near 2015, the key question is: How will Obama create the exceptional prosperity that is the hallmark of such Camelot-like times?

There are basically 2 options:

OPTION I: Obama becomes a 2-term President: He becomes the new John F. Kennedy without the Vietnam-style baggage of LBJ.
Historical/Economic Model: The 1960s Apollo Maslow Window.

Three ways Obama could trigger prosperity are:

a) The recession will end naturally and prosperity will follow.
Post-War recessions have averaged 11.3 months in length (with the longest 16 months) and the current one is 22 months old. Most economists think the economy hit bottom recently and is currently recovering.

b) Obama will “reset” his presidency resulting in prosperity.
Ted Van Dyk, a long-time Democrat and formerly Vice President Hubert Humphery’s assistant in the LBJ Whitehouse, advises Obama to cut back his proposals and expectations (WSJ, 7/17/09):

“You made promises about jobs that would be ‘created and saved’ by the stimulus package. Those promises have not held up. You continue to engage in hyperbole by claiming that your health-care and energy plans will save tax dollars. Congressional Budget Office analysis indicates otherwise.”

c) The Keynesians are right and major government spending and deficits result in prosperity.
For example, according to British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, the idea of slowing major stimulus spending would be an “error of historical proportions,” (WSJ, 9/22/09; B. Stephens). And George Akerloff and Robert Shiller (WSJ, 4/24/09) believe that,

An understanding of animal spirits — the human psychology and culture at the heart of economic activity — confirms the need for restoring the role of regulators as guiding hands in a healthy, productive free-enterprise system. History — including recent history — shows that without regulation, animal spirits will drive economic activity to extremes.

Importantly, an especially intense version of animal spirits (called “ebullience” here) is apparently responsible for the extraordinary exploration and engineering activities during Maslow Windows.

Bottom Line for Option I:
It appears that combinations of b and c are unlikely, but various combinations of a and b or a and c could occur.

In either case, Obama becomes the new JFK. He continues the brilliant, transformative lagacy of Theodore Roosevelt and the Panama Canal, that began with Thomas Jefferson and the Lewis and Clark expedition.

OPTION II: Obama becomes a 1-term president: He becomes the new Grover Cleveland (and possibly LBJ), and leads to a pro-prosperity Republican presidency.
Historical/Economic Model: The Peary/Panama Maslow Window (1903-13).

The New York Times (9/6/09; Richard Stevenson) observed that,

Nearly eight months after the inauguration, the economy … has stabilized sufficiently that the nation is no longer gripped by the sense of urgency that allowed Mr. Obama, almost without challenge, to carry out an audacious act of industrial engineering: reshaping the automobile industry from the Oval Office in a matter of weeks … On health care, he is getting no such philosophical pass … The most relevant political framework instead appears to be a more problematic one inherited from his predecesser: a general loss of faith in government.

On August 21, the Wall Street Journal (8/25/09; William McGurn) reported that,

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said his boss was “quite comforrtable” with the idea that sticking to his agenda may well mean “he only lives in this house” for one term.

Indeed, if unemployment remains high into 2012, reelection will be a challenge for Obama.

Three things that could hinder Obama’s reelection are:

a) The Stimulus has not worked.
The Wall Street Journal (9/17/09; Cogan,Taylor,Wieland) reports that,

The data show government transfers and rebates have not increased consumption at all … and that the resilience of the private sector following the fall 2008 panic — not the fiscal stimulus program — deserves the lion’s share of the credit for the impressive growth improvement from the first to the second quarter.

And as unempoyment heads toward 10%, Obama’s promise that rapid passage of the stimulus package would keep unemployment below 8% has not been realized.

b) Obama’s economic policy may be fundamentally flawed.

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 not stimulate the economy in his first term.

According to William Gale of Brookings,

The budget outlook at every horizon is troubling: the fiscal-year 2009 budget is enormous; the ten-year projection is clearly unsustainable; and the long-term outlook is dire and increasingly urgent.

Add to this White House projections of a 10-year record federal deficit of $ 9 T, and by next decade’s end the national debt will be 75% of GDP, and it’s easy to see why Obama’s job approval ratings have settled into the low 50s.

c) Afghanistan turns into Vietnam.

The New York Times (8/23/09; Peter Baker) has focused on the dangers a protracted conflict in Afghanistan could have on Obama, “The LBJ model — a president who aspired to reshape America at home while fighting a losing war abroad — is one that haunts Mr. Obama’s White House as it seeks to salvage Afghanistan while enacting an expansive domestic program.”

And despite considerable personal popularity around the world, “All that good will so far has translated into limited tangible plicy benefits for Mr. Obama … foreign leaders have not gone out of their way to give him what he has sought,” (NYT, 9/20/09; Peter Baker)

An interesting bottomline emerges:

Re: Prospects for the New Space Age Near 2015:
Based on patterns in macroeconomic data and historical trends over the last 200 years, all realistic roads lead to a 2015 Maslow Window featuring a Golden Age of Prosperity, Exploration, and Technology, although wildcards are possible.

Re: Mr. Obama’s Prospects:
Despite the fact that Mr. Obama is currently setting the stage for a robust, transformative new Space Age within the next 3-5 years, his presidential prospects remain uncertain.

Obama’s long wave timing and election circumstances (i.e., panic/recession) have more parallels with the 1893-1913 Peary/Panama Maslow Window — in which a 1-term Democrat (Grover Cleveland) was replaced by a pro-prosperity Republican — than with the 1949-1969 Apollo Maslow Window of John F. Kennedy. And Obama’s continuing challenges with high unemployment, record deficits, huge budgets, and Afghanistan, pose real dangers for him.

As the New York Times noted and as evidenced by Obama’s descending poll numbers, many Americans are again expressing skepticism about big government and the economy. Obama will have to create prosperity — the cornerstone of the 2015 Maslow Window — and given Obama’s popularity and flexibility, he’s quite capable of doing it.

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Aug 23 2009

Kepler, Carl Sagan, and the Guzman Prize — Our Century-Long Search for Space Aliens

Special thanks to Dr. Sean for vectoring me toward this week’s Newsweek.

Newsweek this week (8/24 & 31/09) features “In Search of Aliens” on its cover and uses NASA’s new $ 600 M Kepler spacecraft as our most recent attempt. On March 6 Kepler became the first spacecraft ever launched whose mission is to directly detect Earth-like planets in the habitable zones of nearby stars.

This is huge.

Kepler’s mission is among the most important in the history of space science. Click kepler.gif.

Although early science results already exist — the HAT-P-7 light curves — Kepler’s monumental significance is not yet fully appreciated by the global community. However, it will grow in global esteem as we approach the 2015 Maslow Window because Kepler feeds directly into 2 of the basic rationales driving near-term space colonization: 1) detection and international exploration of Earth-like planets, and 2) discovery of extraterrestrial life, especially intelligent space aliens. And it motivates the third: Human settlement of the solar system and beyond.

As we approach the 2015 Maslow Window, the way we currently search for extrasolar Earthlike planets (including their possible residents!) is with Kepler. But by 2015 we’ll have an even more sophisticated and powerful tool: the Terrestrial Planet Finder!

Of course, our search for space aliens didn’t start with Kepler, it goes back at least to the late 19th century discovery of canali on Mars by the Italian astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli. And as we scan the last century it becomes apparent that the public’s interest in space aliens has been modulated by the long wave. During times of economic upswings (especially during Maslow Windows) there is great interest in detecting and communicating with space aliens, but as the long wave plummets toward its trough between Maslow Windows, the public becomes more negative toward them.

During the 1960s Apollo Maslow Window, astronomer Frank Drake launched ebullient radio searches for messages from space aliens, and popularized the “Drake Equation” — familiar to every introductory astronomy student — that attempted to estimate N: the number of high-tech civilizations in our Galaxy.

Interest in Drake’s seminal work encouraged the development of extraordinary NASA concepts for advanced searches (Project Cyclops). Bernard Oliver’s favorite featured a phased array of one thousand, 100 – meter radio attennas covering an area 10 km in diameter! Now that’s 1960s ebullience! It’s scope was exceeded only by its pricetag: $ 6 to 10 B.

Toward the end of the 1960s Apollo Maslow Window, a directed beam from the Kelvans, Kelinda and Rojan, in the Andromeda Galaxy could have theoretically been detected by Cyclops. Click kelvans.jpg.
© 1968 Paramount Pictures

Of course Project Cyclops was never built because it broke a fundamental rule for Macro-Engineering Projects: Never propose a multi-billion dollar MEP toward the end of a Maslow Window. The last 3 Apollo missions had already been canceled, and as the Apollo program wound down, there was little political or public interest in another MEP — no matter how exciting — that cost 1/2 of Apollo.

One of the most ebullient scientists of the late 20th century and maybe the best science popularizer of all time, Carl Sagan was not one to avoid the infectious ebullience of the 1960s Apollo Maslow Window. In 1963 he wrote a scientific paper (Planetary and Space Science Vol. 11, May, 1963, pp. 485-498) asserting that space aliens could come here (and probably had already done so) in real interstellar spaceships and would be aided by relativisitic time dilation!

Although Cyclops became an early casualty of the collapsing Apollo Maslow Window, a much smaller version was eventually funded by NASA. Unfortunately, it was canceled by Congress in 1993 — a victim of the “Giggle Factor” as constituents began to ridicule the public-funded search for space aliens. This was only a few years before the long wave trough — an anti-ebullient time for sure.

During perhaps the most ebullient decade in US history — the Peary/Panama Maslow Window (1903-1913) — space alien fans had a field day. Lowell Observatory was founded to study Mars and its presumably modern, canal-based civilization. The Guzman Prize was offered to anyone who could prove contact with space aliens; But they couldn’t be from Mars because that was considered too easy! But that’s hardly surprising because the Wall Street Journal published an article in 1907 on “the proof by astronomical observations . . . that conscious, intelligent human life exists upon the planet Mars.” And some ebullient folks even suggested we should light huge fires at night to signal the Martians directly.

By contrast, during the Great Depression in 1938 — almost exactly one 56 year long wave before Congress canceled SETI — Orson Welles did his famous radio broadcast of the War of the Worlds, in which the Martians invaded New Jersey. It reportedly resulted in panic and mass hysteria.

Near long wave troughs we ridicule search attempts for space aliens (and cancel funding) or imagine the aliens actually attacking us; either way we’re pretty negative toward them. But as we approach Maslow Windows, such as the one in 2015, interest in space aliens picks up.

Just ask Newsweek.

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Aug 18 2009

The Carnival and South Korea

21stCenturyWaves.com is again happily participating in the Carnival of Space #116.

This week the Carnival is at Habitation Intention.

I especially enjoyed Cumbrian Sky’s funeral for manned Moon and Mars missions — although I’m not particularly concerned by it.

Two things:

1) We’re near, at, or just past the bottom of the worst recession since the Great Depression. And it will take years to recover. So naturally gloom and doom prevail. But money’s not the real problem; we’ve just spent trillions of dollars on stimulus packages and bailouts….remember? It’s not money, it’s our national priorities, as usual. And they won’t change until something else does…

2) The good news is that about twice per century over the last 200 years there’s an amazing pulse of human exploration and major engineering activity that’s unparalleled for its time. The last pulse (i.e., a Maslow Window) was in the 1960s with Apollo, and before that was perhaps the most ebullient decade in U.S. history — when Teddy Roosevelt led the U.S. into the Peary/Panama Maslow Window. These extraordinary pulses extend all the way back to Lewis and Clark. And the next one is due near 2015.

Y.E. Yang becomes the latest symbol of South Korea’s ebullience! Click yang.jpg.

What’s interesting is that every Maslow Window except one (the Apollo decade) was preceded by a financial panic and deep recession — just like our current one — which is similar to the Panic of 1893 and the 1890s Recession. And remember, it was followed immediately by Teddy Roosevelt and his extraordinary Maslow Window. That’s likely to happen again within a few years, and then the really important change will occur: Our attitudes will become ebullient and for a short time, based on the last 200 years, we will believe that almost anything is possible.

Want a current example of ebullience? I suggest South Korea. They are already recovering from the global recession. Plus they’re preparing to launch their first satellite from their home space center on August 19. And last Sunday, Y.E. Yang of South Korea became Asia’s first male winner of a major golf championship, the U.S. PGA Championship. Yang did something no one else has ever done: He beat Tiger Woods, probably the best golfer of all time, despite the fact that Tiger started the final round with a lead over the field. Previously, when Woods led starting the final round of a professional tournament, he was 14 – 0.

Now that’s ebullience! Congratulations to everyone in South Korea and good luck on the 19th!

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Aug 07 2009

State of the Wave — Public Support For Space is Robust

Recent opinion polls suggest the American public’s support for the space program is remarkably resilient, especially considering the current global recession.

Gallup shows that public support for space has increased since 1979. Click gallup1.doc.

Just prior to Apollo 11′s 40th anniversary (July 10-12) Gallup found that 58% of respondents believe “the space program has brought enough benefits to justify its costs,” while only 28% did not. This number has increased since the late 1970s when, 10 years after the first Moon landing, only 41% agreed with Gallup’s statement; it was 47% in 1994 and increased to 55% in 1999.

This positive progression is what we’d expect as we approach the excitement of the 2015 Maslow Window, but it is especially impressive given that we’re apparently at the bottom of the worst global contraction since the Great Depression.

Dan Cano, a consultant and former political appointee in NASA, recently summarized the attitudes of many toward space costs (Space News 8/3/09),

While I fully appreciate that the international space station is a technological marvel and necessary steppingstone to learn how to live and work in space for longer trips to Mars than the Moon, it is not necessary and sufficient by itself. We need to be going somewhere. And when I hear that our nation cannot afford such journeys, I have to ask: Why can our government afford so many other things? Look at how little is spent in space exploration today compared to 40 years ago, and compare that investment and what the achievement meant to our nation and the world, even 40 years later.

Gallup also found that the fading memories of some Baby Boomers are not quite as fired up as the imaginations of those too young to have witnessed the Moon landing themselves. While 63% of those 18-49 think the space program’s costs are justified, only 53% of those 50 and over concur. Here we are beginning to see the support of 80 million Millennials (born 1980 to 1995) — who love technology and progress — for space.

Gallup’s July summary is revealing.

Americans remain broadly supportive of space exploration and government funding of it. In fact, Americans are somewhat more likely to believe the benefits of the space program justify its costs at the 40th anniversary of the moon landing than they were at the 10th, 25th, and 30th anniversaries.

Although support for keeping NASA funding at its present level or increasing it is lower now than it has been in the past, the fact that 6 in 10 Americans hold this view in the midst of a recession suggests the public is firmly committed to the space program.

This is particularly interesting in light of the Rasmussen 7/21/09 poll about a U.S. manned mission to Mars, in response to a proposal by Buzz Aldrin, where only 51% opposed it. It’s likely as we approach the 2015 Maslow Window and our current economic dstress subsides, that support for manned Mars will soar.

Today I received a comment from Chris in North Carolina that is characteristic of those somewhat unsure about our space program. I appreciate his sending it and wanted to share his comment and my response.

From Chris in North Carolina:

I think, if we can come through the problems we have now (like our over-reliance on fossil fuels), then we’ll have a chance of making meaningful progress in space sometime in the next century or so. It definitely won’t be 2020.

There’s only one thing we can say “definitely” about the future: It definitely cannot be predicted with certainty!

That’s why I use a technique based on 200+ years of global economic, technology, and political trends. When you see patterns popping up repeatedly over 2+ centuries you have to be impressed. The media and most commentators have us so saturated with ultra-short term thinking that it’s hard for most to identify with a long-term perspective — that’s one reason 21stCenturyWaves.com was created.

But I think you’ve got it a little backwards, we aren’t waiting to solve all our problems on Earth before we go into space; that’s like waiting until we get well before we go to the doctor!

In reality, we’re going into space to help solve our problems on Earth !! A very important point. Energy is a perfect example of how this will work.

It’s 2009. By 2025 — within 16 years or so of right now, based on the Maslow Windows on the past 200 years — we should have international bases on the Moon, solar power satellites near Earth, and maybe the first folks on Mars. But asserting this is like time-traveling back to 1953 and walking up to someone and saying, “Do you realize that in 16 years or so the first men will land on the Moon?” But of course it happened! And it’s getting ready to happen again for the same economic and psychological reasons it did before.

That’s why this website exists: To show how how these brief, but magnificent Maslow Windows originate and how they enable unprecedented exploration and technology programs that transform the world. And that it’s starting again, right now. Even our current global recession is a typical part of this picture; please check my archived posts on this topic.

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Jul 27 2009

State of the Wave — "Economy Has Hit Bottom"

Friday in the Wall Street Journal (7/24/09) Alan S. Blinder, a Princeton professor and former vice chair of the Federal Reserve Board, announced that, “The U.S. economy appears to be hitting bottom.” Mr. Blinder presents his message in a good news/bad news format, indicating that although economic growth will soon arrive, we still are in a very serious global financial situation.

Intrade.com participants believe U.S. unemployment will hit 10% by December, 2009. Click usunemp.png

One of the especially scary economic signs so far is that our major recession has been mirroring the 1930s Great Depression, especially on a global level. This suggests while the U.S. may lead the world out of the recession, it may take longer than expected to do it. Although at 7.5 % growth — a 19 year low — China is still not economically large enough to play this role.

World GDP decline has been tracking the Great Depression’s pace well. (From Eichengreen and O’Rourke, 2009) Click worldgdp.doc.

According to financial advisor John Mauldin this is serious business,

To sum up, globally we are tracking or doing even worse than the Great Depression, whether the metric is industrial production, exports or equity valuations. Focusing on the US causes one to minimize this alarming fact.

That’s why it’s so important that the U.S. economy finds the bottom and soon begins the recovery, which WSJ believes it has apparently done.

Despite this, Blinder states that,

Jobs will take longer, maybe much longer to revive … So even though the economy may be making a GDP bottom about now, the unemployment rate will probably keep rising for months … It will take years of strong growth to return to full employment.

Nobel prize winner and Berkeley economics professor George Akerlof and Yale economist Robert Shiller (Animal Spirits, 2009) see parallels between our current situation and the Panic of 1893 and the subsequent 1890s recession, “In the United States the obvious ‘trigger’ for the depression was the financial panic of 1893.”

The Panic of 1893 and the 1890s recession is a possible analog for our current financial situation and I’ve plotted U.S. unemployment for both; click 1890s1.doc.

In the plot, the 1890s revised unemployment data is from Christina Romer (1986) and cited in Akerlof and Shiller (2009). I have horizontally shifted the plots so that 1893 (the year of the panic) is directly above 2008 (the year of our panic); this allows the chronological trends of the unemployment data from both eras to be compared directly. (I assumed the unemployment for 2009 will be 10% but it might be higher.)

Although the dimensions of the global recession suggest that almost anything is possible, the apparent bottoming of the U.S. economy points to a more hopeful future. And if the 1890s are a descriptive model for today’s recession, it suggests an envelope for our current unemployment trends; i.e., nothing close to the peak of the Great Depression (~25%), although potentially one to a few years at or near 10%. This can be influenced by policymakers in Washington, DC and elsewhere around the world.

The 1890s model also suggests that unemployment should be well below 10% long before 2015, the expected opening date of our next Maslow Window. Keep in mind that the spectacular Maslow Window exploration and technology activities of the last 200 years were driven by a momentary, pervasive feeling of ebullience — not triggered by a high GDP, but by growth in real wages and declines in unemployment — because many people feel that they are really are getting ahead.

Despite the current major recession, these conditions are likely to be met prior to 2015. In fact, the feelings of euphoria generated by the end of the global recession itself are likely to trigger the initial ebullience that will rapidly accelerate into the spectacular 2015 Maslow Window. This would be a replay of what happened when the 1890s recession ended and gave birth to one of the most ebullient decades in U.S. history — the Peary/Panama Maslow Window.

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Jul 11 2009

Young People, Long Waves, and a Glimpse of Their Coming Space Age

Thanks to Aron Sora, a recent high school graduate who blogs at habitationintention.blogspot.com for his intriguing comment about his and other young people’s future:

I’m going to graduate from college in 2013, just in time for the Maslow window. I want to be an active participant in the next window … I just feel really lucky about my birth date since it will lead to me having a undergrad degree two years before the window or a doctoral degree about mid-way.

The next Maslow Window should open near 2015, and trigger a New Space Age for young people! Click mars_base.jpg.

1) Let me reiterate that there is every reason to believe that the 2015 Maslow Window will open approximately on time, based on the last 200 years of Maslow Window timings and current data. I’ll give a brief summary here with more to come soon.

U.S. unemployment recently reached 9.5% and the prediction market Intrade projects, at the 80% level (up from 50% in April), that it will surpass 10% by December, 2009. Although “casting doubt on prospects for the U.S. economy to soon rebound,” (Wall Street Journal, 7/3/09), this is still a long way from the devastating unemployment rates during the Great Depression (25% in 1933 to 17% in 1939).

Although Jeffrey Frankel, a Harvard economist, is “expecting the recovery to be a slow one,” (WSJ, 7/3/09), another Harvard economist — Robert Barro — who has examined data on recessions back to 1870 for the U.S. and 33 other countries, says there is only a 20% chance that our current crisis will result in a GDP decline of 10% or more (a major depression has 25% decline).

Akerloff and Shiller (2009) see current parallels with the Panic of 1893 and its major recession; e.g., “U.S. unemployment rose to 12.3% in 1894, peaked at 12.4% in 1897, and did not fall below 10% untill 1899.” However, the 1890s recession was followed by a time of “sustained prosperity” (Fischer, 1996) that we know of as the Peary/Panama Maslow Window (~1903-1913), one of the most ebullient decades in the history of the United States.

The fact that — over the last 200+ years — no Maslow Window has ever been delayed or in any observable way diminshed by a financial panic or recession, plus the special parallels with the “1893 to 1913 Panic – Recession – Maslow Window” experience , suggest the 2015 Maslow Window will open on time. (More to come in future posts.)

2) 1930 was a good birth year for future Apollo astronauts. What about the first Mars explorers?

It’s true. The entire Apollo 11 crew — Armstrong, Aldrin, Collins — was born in 1930, as were many others. An incomplete list includes Tom Stafford (Apollo 10), Pete Conrad (Apollo 12), Ed Mitchell (Apollo 14), Jim Irwin (Apollo 15), and John Young (Apollo 16), etc.

The irony is that they had to be born during the Great Depression to be chronologically positioned for the long wave as it ascended into the unparalleled economic boom of the 1960s Apollo Maslow Window. These and most other Apollo astronauts were born about 40 years before they went to the Moon (1969-72).

Using this model, and assuming the 2015 Maslow Window will culminate near 2025, the Apollo astronaut analogs — possibly the first Mars explorers — were born near 1985; they’re called “Millennials.” They graduated from high school near 2002 and college near 2006; some will get PhDs soon.

Like their Apollo analogs, the Millennials are positioned for their approaching Maslow Window (near 2015) but have less in common with them than you might expect. For example,
a) the Millennials have not experienced a major international war as destructive as WW II or Vietnam, and
b) the Millennials are affected by the Panic of 2008 and the current major recession in the decade before their Maslow Window, which did not occur prior to the 1960s Apollo Maslow Window.

Thus it’s interesting that the Millennials’ general life experience, as we approach their Maslow Window during a major recession, may have some key elements more in common with the polar explorers of the Peary/Panama Maslow Window than with the Apollo explorers of the 1960s. Remember also that although pre-Maslow Window financial panic/recessions are the rule over the last 200 years, they are not required to produce a Maslow Window as shown by the 1960s Apollo Maslow Window.

3) When’s the best time to be born?

Many good things and bad things happen near peaks of the energy cycle, about a decade after the Maslow Window begins. The exact timing varies with the specific Maslow Window over the last 200 years but, in general, Maslow Windows are usually terminated by a rapid decline in the economy and/or a major war.

The biggest challenges will be experienced by young people who leave school and come into the world looking for their first real economic opportunity (i.e., job) near the culmination of the Maslow Window. That often occurs around the age of 20. So based on this Maslow Window model, a good rule of thumb is: Think twice about being born about 20 years before an energy cycle peak.

At the most vulnerable time in your professional life, you will be impacted by the abrupt end of a major economic boom and you may be caught up in a major war. Although many are able to “turn lemons into lemonade” you should be aware that these twice-per-century challenges can be formidable. Perhaps the worst aspect is that you’ll be too young to personally participate in the great explorations or MEPs of your Window. And after 10 years of watching them, when you finally are old enough to join the fun, it will all end. We’re talking here about people born between about 2000 and 2010 (they may not be reading this yet!), between 1945 and 1955, and between about 1888 and 1898 (also probably not reading this).

It’s much better to be 20 years or older as the Maslow Window begins. As you emerge into the economic world the long boom will be fully warmed up. Almost anything you do will be profitable. And the ebullience of the Maslow Window will make you feel like it will never end. Of course it always does in about 10 years, but by then you’ll be better established in your career and less vulnerable to the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune — of the economy and the world. Remember the Apollo astronauts were about 30 as their Maslow Window opened, and as more mature people go into space, even being 40+ might be OK; e.g., in 1971 Alan Shepard became the oldest person to walk on the Moon at 47, and in 1998 John Glenn became the oldest human to fly into space at 77. To optimally participate and prosper from the last 3 Maslow Windows (including the 2015 Window), it was best to be born between about 1975 – 2000, 1920 – 1945, and 1863 – 1888.

Although these rules of thumb are broadly consistent with the last 200 years of macroeconomic data and historical trends, they are only approximate and are subject to many exceptions. For example, if you were born during “sub-optimal times,” having supportive parents or being a resourceful person can make up for many challenges associated with the long wave.

But if you’re secretly holding out hope that the lessons of the last 200+ years regarding Maslow Windows and long waves will magically melt away, don’t bet on it. For example, the stunning MEP trio of the Panama Canal, Apollo program, and the International Space Station illustrate the power of the long wave. Amazingly, neither Ferdinand de Lesseps nor President Ronald Reagan — both brilliant leaders about 100 years apart — could make their MEPs materialize during unfavorable portions of the long wave. While Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and John Kennedy became heroes for successfully initiating the Panama Canal and Apollo program during their respective Maslow Windows. And even the Clinton/Bush ISS has recently become known as an “international marvel” as we approach another Maslow Window. The moral of the last 200+ years regarding great explorations and macro-engineering projects is: “great leaders help, but the economy rules.”

In any case, if you’re thinking about having kids this year, and plan to be supportive parents … go ahead!! The economic recovery should begin next year and, although it may be followed by a few years of sluggish growth, we should return to the rapid growth levels of 2007 relatively soon. The long-awaited 2015 Maslow Window will open on time. And remember, history shows that whether you do experience a financial panic/recession just before your Maslow Window (e.g., 1903-1913; or 2015-2025) or whether you don’t (e.g., 1959-1969), your Maslow Window will be spectacular.

As for Mr. Sora, who just graduated from high school and was born in 1991, he is a Millennial and is well chronologically positioned to be about 24 when the next Maslow Window begins. Nice birthdate Aron, work hard and enjoy your Maslow Window!

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Jun 28 2009

Does President Obama Need Space?

Like virtually all other presidents in U.S. history, President Obama ultimately wants a second term; and to get that, he needs to succeed in his first. So the question becomes: Can space contribute to the success of Obama’s first term?

Does President Obama need space to advance his economic and foreign policy objectives? Click obama-nasa.jpg.

In January I suggested that at least in 2009, space would not be a major focus for Obama. But in a recent op-ed piece in Space News (4/6/09), retired Air Force major general James B. Armor takes a longer view and boldly asserts that “Space is an important ingredient toward addressing every administration agenda and national goal.” He convincingly cites several arenas — including fixing the economy, buttressing national security, education reform, energy independence — that illustrate his point.

I will elaborate on General Armor’s discussion and inject, where appropriate, the lessons of macroeconomic data and historical trends over the last 200 years.

1) Fixing the Economy: Gen. Armor is right that investing in high-tech jobs in space-related industries would have a higher pay-off than many other alternatives. However, the global recession requires Obama to first deal with the issue of confidence in the economy.

As a Keynesian, Obama’s solution includes multi-trillion US$ stimulus/bailout packages, government control of large industries (e.g., auto), and record high deficits. In the language of Keynes, Obama must reverse the current negative “animal spirits” that afflict actors in the economy. Instead of Obama’s hoped-for outcome, some express doubts; for example the Brookings Institution, where “William Gale and Alan Auerbach share increasing public concerns about the deficit…as bad as the $1.7 trillion deficit looks for this year, the medium term and long-term numbers are of much greater concern. Our fiscal house of cards has dire implications for the American economy.”

Unusually intense Keynesian-style animal spirits — called “ebullience” — is a hallmark of twice-per-century Maslow Windows over the last 200 years, including the 1960s Apollo decade and the early 20th Century Peary/Panama Window. However, the lesson of the last 200 years seems to be that ebullience is a result (not a cause) of major economic booms. Akerlof and Shiller (2009) see parallels between now and the panic/recession of the 1890s, but they do not mention the most ebullient decade of the last 200 years — the Peary/Panama Maslow Window — which followed immediately. For those who see current parallels with the 1930s Great Depression, the current long wave trend is up toward the 2015 Maslow Window, as opposed to down during the 1930s, which should help Obama’s chances to ameliorate the crisis.

If Obama succeeds and receives a second term, he will be president during the major economic boom that is expected to open the 2015 Maslow Window, based on the last 200 years of economic and historical trends. If so, he will follow in the monumental footsteps of Presidents John Kennedy, Theodore Roosevelt, and Thomas Jefferson as he initiates the unprecedented great explorations and macro-engineering projects of this time.

Referring to the Great Depression, Akerloff and Shiller (2009) note that, “Confidence — and the economy itself — was not restored until World War II completely changed the dominant story of people’s lives, transforming the economy.” If our economy has not fully recovered by 2015, it’s possible that surging international pressure to build Moon bases and send people to Mars may have a WW II-style transformative effect on the economy.

2) Strengthening National Security: North Korea has recently tested a long-range missile and an underground nuclear device. While it’s doubtful North Korea can weaponize its nukes or control the trajectory of its long-range missiles, the U.S. has taken reasonable defensive measures against a possible missile launch toward Hawaii on July 4. North Korea has also repudiated the 1953 armistice ending the Korean War.

Some have suggested that North Korea is Obama’s Cuban Missile Crisis (of JFK in 1962). In any case, 1953 is exactly one long wave ago and we should expect analogous international pressure points to develop. For example, Iran and North Korea are allies and share missile technology. Protests against the disputed Iranian election have driven a wedge between Obama and Iranian leaders.

In addition, as Obama deals with a resurgent Russia, pursues the war in Afghanistan, monitors progress in Iraq, and continues to defend the U.S. against a 9/11-style attack, Obama will depend on space technology. According to Gen. Armor, “Re-establishing U.S. space leadership in collaborative international projects in all space sectors — civil, military, intelligence — can be a keystone to re-energizing U.S. foreign policy.” As we approach the spectacular and very dynamic 2015 Maslow Window, this will be increasingly evident.

3) Avoiding a Replay of Sputnik: The U.S. should build on the spectacular foreign policy success of the International Space Station by providing international leadership so that global resources, that might otherwise fuel international conflicts at hotspots on Earth, are channeled into a constructive “Grand Alliance for Space.”

About one long wave ago as another international cooperative space effort was taking shape (the International Geophysical Year) during the first Cold War, one result was the surprise launch of the first artificial satellite (Sputnik) that triggered the first race to space and an American on the Moon in 1969.

Based on trends over the last 200 years, in the next few years we are likely to see NASA participate in — or even become part of — a truly global space agency (e.g., Interspace) with a deep space (i.e., beyond Earth orbit) focus.

As Gen. Armor points out, the development of space-related technologies will support Obama’s foreign policy objectives and stimulate global economic growth. And the release of raw human exploration passions will re-energize education reform. “Space has a proven record of inspiring the young … A robust space program will create jobs and motivate K-12 science and math education, as well as focus academia and business as sponsors of scholarships and internships.”

4. Elevating the Human Spirit: Mindful that a new Augustine report on space is being compiled at the request of Obama, I’d like to feature my favorite quote from the original. After describing several rationales for human expansion into the cosmos, Augustine et al. (1990) state that “perhaps the most important space benefit of all is intangible — the uplifting of spirits and human pride in response to truly great accomplishments — whether they be the sight of a single human orbiting freely around the Earth at 18,000 miles per hour, or a picture of Uranus’ moon Miranda transmitted 1.7 billion miles through space, and taking some 2-1/2 hours merely to arrive at our listening stations even when traveling literally at the speed of light. Such accomplishments have served to unite our nation, hold our attention, and inspire us all, particularly our youth, as few other events have done in the history of our nation or even the world.”

Indeed, with the advantage of a powerful, long-term perspective encompassing the last 200 years, it’s clear that large international audiences have been literally enthralled and had their spirits elevated by the twice-per-century pulses of great explorations and macro-engineering projects during Maslow Windows that were unprecedented for their time. The great explorations included Apollo Moon, the polar expeditions, Dr. Livingstone (“…I presume.”) in Africa, and Lewis and Clark; and the MEPs included Apollo infrastructure, the Panama and Suez Canals, and currently ISS.

Commenting on the spiritual importance of exploration, Gen. Armor states that “as a frontier culture, we must be actively engaged in conquering outer space. America will simply not be America is it is not.” And the spiritual and legacy benefits are not limited to America. “The space frontier must be part of any great nation’s legacy. Other countries that aspire to greatness — China, India, Russia and a growing number of new spacefaring states — inherently understand this and emulate us.”

The benefits of these intangible rationales will have a profound impact on our global culture. Leadership means “new missions and activities that continually set legal precedents to ensure that democracy, rule of law and market economy conventions prevail in outer space.” These powerful ideas that conquered the world, offer a positive vision of our space future — for the United States and the world — that is worth aspiring to and energetically working for.

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May 09 2009

Do Long-Term Trends in Cinema Point to the New Space Age?

The Wall Street Journal (3/26/09; Allen Barra) is enticed by the fact that the classic 1960s John Wayne western movie “Rio Bravo” is “still popular and hip at 50,” but the Journal is puzzled about why.

In addition to Wayne it had a special cast — Dean Martin, Ricky Nelson, Angie Dickinson, and is admired by the “in” people; e.g., British critic Robin Wood would choose Rio Bravo as the one film that would “justify the existence of Hollywood,” and Quentin Tarantino (“Pulp Fiction”) admitted in 2007 he used Rio Bravo to screen new girlfriends — “she’d better like it.”

What do movie icons John Wayne and Russell Crowe have in common? Click wayne.jpg and crowe.jpg. Are they focal points in the pop culture long wave?

The Journal asks why such a “simple western with an unremarkable plot,” has become the “rarest of films — both popular and hip?” And even more to the point, “Why two generations of fans have loved Rio Bravo without caring at all about its political implications?”

Although less celebrated than Rio Bravo, we could also add the 2007 remake of “3:10 to Yuma” starring Russell Crowe, that is also separated by 50 years from the original movie with Glenn Ford (1916-2006), also a legendary star. And in a recent post (“Klaatu Barada Nikto“), we were struck by the fact that one of the most memorable science fiction movies of the 1950s was also recently remade about one long wave after the original.

We would not be surprised at pop culture elements resonating with the 56 year cycle because of the “omnipresent financial, technological, and cultural influences that long-term fluctuations in the economy have on society during similar portions of the wave; e.g., both the original and sequel of “The Day the Earth Stood Still” appeared 7 – 8 years before their Maslow Window opened.”

Plus, the fact that Strauss & Howe generational cycles are correlated with long waves and that popular culture elements have been in synch with long waves in the past, suggest to us that our working hypothesis deserves more attention.

In 2003, R. Philip Loy commented that the American Western frontier has “enthralled the American imagination” and that movies “quickly became the primary genre through western myths and legends were communicated.” Loy is concerned that Western films through the 1960s reflected “more wishful thinking than history,” but to us this is less important because we’re interested in films as indicators of the mindset and interests of the American public. Our goal is to extract long-term cultural trends from the films rather than to evaluate their historical accuracy.

Some long-term trends in cinema are apparent. For example…

1. “Hollywood westerns of the 1930s and 1940s were positive expressions of … the frontier experience, and they were useful as the nation came to grips with the national challenges of the two decades,” (Loy,2003). This included western outlaws being portrayed as victims of Depression-style oppressive characters. But in response to WW II, “westerns reminded Americans that they were heirs to hardy pioneers and resolute frontier sheriffs.” This is consistent with counter-ebullient, “Aspirin Age” times when the long wave was heading from the 1930s Great Depression to its trough in 1941.

2. “Reflecting the renaissance of national pride during the Kennedy era, early-1960s westerns returned to the images, myths, and legends that had shaped the genre of an earlier era,” (Loy, 2003). Examples include John Wayne’s heroic depiction of “The Alamo” (1960), and perhaps the most “epic expression” of the western frontier, “How the West Was Won” (1962). Frontier themes in westerns were responses to the opening of the 1960s Apollo Maslow Window with its unparalleled affluence and ebullience, iconic figures (e.g., President Kennedy), and its new Space Age.

3. While Western films had been omnipresent during the 1950s (e.g., see Grossman, 1981), between the late 1960s and 1985 “western films nearly disappeared.” Loy (2003) attributes this to reinterpretations of American western history by “New West” writers, although after 1985 westerns “saw a mild resurgence.” Currently, this up trend continues and includes even traditional westerns on the cable TV Western Channel. During the 1950s post-WW II boom many people experienced elevated states in Maslow’s heirarchy and resonated strongly with frontier themes in western films. As the long wave peaked and began to decline in the late 1960s — rapidly bringing the Apollo Maslow Window to a close — Americans and others returned to lower Maslow states and interest in westerns disappeared.

4. In addition to frontier themes in westerns, movie portrayals of the military and the police appear to have fluctuated along with long waves. According to Powers et al. (1996), “since the mid-1960s, the U.S. military is more likely to be portrayed negatively than positively…In Hollywood movies since the mid-1960s, the police have become increasingly like the criminals they face.” For example, their quantitative thematic analysis of movies shows that from 1946 to 1965, the military was portrayed as follows: Positively-40%, Mixed-40%, Negatively-20%; while from 1966 to 1975 the military was portrayed: Positively-12%, Mixed-62%, Negatively-25%. But from 1976 to 1990, Powers et al. find “the most critical depictions of the military,” Positively-27%, Mixed-40%, and Negatively-33%. It appears that military and police-oriented movies are responding to the post-Maslow Window collapse of societal ebullience much like movies (see Point 1 above) did previously during the analogous, counter-ebullient “Aspirin Age.”

Because frontier themes in westerns and science fiction movies of the 1950s were harbingers of the 1960s Apollo Maslow Window, it’s reasonable to expect that similar trends in cinema will repeat as we approach the 2015 Maslow Window. The recent resurgence of “Rio Bravo” and remake of “3:10 to Yuma”, and the emergence of mostly-realistic movies like “Red Planet” (2000) and “Mission to Mars” (2000) suggest this trend may already exist.

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