Jul 01 2010

Cambridge Professor: “A Great Event” in 2014 … and The Way the Future Really Works

The way the future works has a lot to do with the past — especially the ways that humans, resources (especially geography), and technology have interacted before.

The future’s important because it’s where we’ll spend the rest of our lives. Click .

Here at 21stCenturyWaves.com, the idea has certainly not been to try to understand how everything works.

Instead, we have focused on the following questions: 1) Why do the great human explorations (e.g., Lewis and Clark), massive macroengineering projects (e.g., Panama Canal), and the major wars (e.g., World War I), cluster together — over the last 200+ years — exclusively in connection with rhythmic, twice-per-century major economic booms (e.g., the 1960s Apollo “Maslow Window”)? and 2) What does this tell us about the future of technology and space?

Because our approach provides a new framework to illuminate both the past and future — e.g., summarized in my recent look at the next decade — it’s always exciting to compare it to macro-historical thinking by a first-rate historian like Cambridge University Professor Nicholas Boyle.

Boyle’s book, 2014 – How to Survive the Next World Crisis, appeared this week and boldly uses multi-century historical patterns to project trends in the 21st century, including 2014 being a special year (which is no surprise to devotees of the 2015 Maslow Window!).

Multi-Century Patterns in History Provide Powerful Insights

Professor Boyle’s bold use of historical events over the last 500 years as the basis for his 21st century forecasts is impressive. He starts with Martin Luther’s theses of 1517 (triggering the Reformation) and surges all the way to 1914, the start of World War I. 21stCenturyWaves.com’s forecasts spring from macroeconomic data and historical patterns — especially with regard to great explorations, MEPs, and major wars — over the last 200 years.

Considered together these quite-different approaches feature surprising parallels and expanded insights into the past as well as the future.

There will be “a great event” in 2014
Boyle’s major insight is his forecast of a “great event” in 2014; this potential crisis is based on a generational rationale and the psychology of a new century. 2014 is near the projected opening of the 2015 Maslow Window — a 1960s-style golden age of prosperity, explorationm, and technology — based on the last 200+ years. So we like his timescale.

According to Boyle,

2007 started off colossal economic change which has still got a long way to go …

My thesis is that we have got another crisis to come, and you can already see that in the questions being raised over the debts of nations …

We agree because history shows he’s right.

Every Maslow Window of the last 200 years — with the exception of the 1960s Apollo Window — was preceded within a decade by a financial panic (liike that in 2008) and a great recession like the current one. A good analog for now is the Panic of 1893 and the 1890s great recession; it was a “double-dip” recession and lasted 6 years, suggesting our current recession should end by 2014 and could be consistent with Boyle’s expectation.

Interestingly, today CBO Director Douglas Elmendorf independently supported this estimate by stating that it will take another 4 years (not before 2014) for unemployment to decline to “normal levels” of about 5%.

However Boyle’s next “crisis” might be military. Over the last 200+ years, every Maslow Window has been plagued by an early- or pre-Window war or major conflict; the last was the Cuban missile crisis in 1962 that almost led to a major nuclear exchange. But the good news is that, so far, the world has managed to avoid major destruction by these early-/pre-Window threats. And in fact, most actually create momentum toward the Maslow Window itself.

In the 21st Century: Peace or war?
According to Boyle, a ‘Doomsday’ moment will take place in 2014 and “will determine whether the 21st century is full of violence and poverty or will be peaceful and prosperous.”

And history shows he’s right again — although both will probably occur.

The way the future really works is illustrated by the last 200 years. Transformative, decade-long Maslow Windows are fundamentally driven by affluence-induced ebullience that’s triggered by rhythmic, twice-per-century unparalleled economic booms.

For example, distinguished historian Eric Hobsbawm (b. 1917) describes “The Great Boom” which powered the mid-19th century Dr. Livingstone/Suez/Polk Maslow Window, as

the extraordinary economic transformation and expansion … (with) prolonged prosperity … Never did British exports grow more rapidly than in the euphoric years between 1853 and 1857…

However, the decades between Maslow WIndows feature devastating depressions and military strife as the long business cycle (the “long wave”) descends to a trough and begins its recovery over about 4+ decades. Speaking of the 20th century, Hobsbawn comments that

The decades from the outbreak of the First World War to the aftermath of the Second, was an Age of Catastrophe for this society …even intelligent conservatives would not take bets on its survival … a world economic crisis brought even the strongest capitalist economies to their knees …

In the languge of Self Organized Criticality, the international economic/geopolitical system continuously self-organizes toward a critical state (the “fractal” Maslow Window) where major changes — both good and bad — occur rapidly and often without obvious triggers. Examples include the Apollo Moon program in the 1960s and World War I during the early 20th century Maslow Window.

Between Maslow Windows, the international economic/geopolitical system elements (countries, corporations, individuals) interact weakly and typically require several decades to self-organize back into another critical state. (The next one should begin by 2015.)

The devastating “Aspirin Age” decades between Maslow Windows are not inevitable. When we learn to include the long wave in our strategic thinking and macro-planning, their extreme effects should subside.

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Mar 06 2010

DecaState of the Wave — 10 Space Trends for the Decade 2010-2020

Space-related global trends for the next decade are summarized here utilizing a long-term, empirical approach that focuses on patterns — over the last 200 years — in the economy, technology, and society. This unique approach to multi-decade space and technology forecasting was first sketched in Cordell (1996) and Cordell (2006), and further developed with colleagues in subsequent articles and essays, including the last 21+ months here at 21stCenturyWaves.com.

The Decade 2010-2020, will feature the opening of potentially the most transformative, 1960s-style decade — in space and on Earth — of the 21st Century. CLICK .
In honor of Robert McCall, the great space artist who passed away on 2/26/2010.

The basic 4-part approach is as follows:
1)  Sketch the economic framework for the decade based on long-term macroeconomic data and historical trends over the last 200+ years,
2) Identify recent trends in economics, technology, and geopolitics, that are likely to drive major directions — especially involving great explorations and MEPs — of the decade,
3) Where appropriate, insert specific forecasts from experts with special knowledge of key countries and/or potential events etc. (e.g., China collapse by 2015) that suggest possible scenarios, and
4) Identify Wildcards and evaluate their potential effects on the space-related trends and forecasts.

The success of this technique in providing significant insights into current and past space-related global trends and events — which you are invited to judge for yourself by perusing either the Categories or Readers’ Favorites lists — is encouraging, and has motivated this attempt to sketch major trends for the entire decade.

So, here are 10 Space Trends for the Decade 2010-2020.

10. Long-term Economic Trends Point to the Opening of Potentially the Most Transformative Decade of the 21st Century
Trends in the economy, technology, and society – over the last 200 years – show that we’re within a few years of potentially the most transformative decade of the 21st century: the 2015 Maslow Window.
Featuring clusters of great human explorations (e.g., Lewis and Clark), macro-engineering projects (e.g., Panama Canal), and major wars (e.g., WWI), Maslow Windows are extraordinary 1960s-style decades driven by rhythmic, twice-per-century major economic booms. Powered by widespread affluence-induced ebullience, many people ascend Maslow’s hierarchy where their expanded worldviews make Apollo-style engineering projects and explorations seem not only intriguing, but momentarily almost irresistible.

Initially in 1996, I forecasted that “the decade from 2015 to 2025 will be the analog of the 1960s; it will involve major activities in technology, engineering, and human exploration … the focus will be on large-scale human operations in space and they will be spectacular.”

The 5 years immediately preceding a Maslow Window are typically challenging times of recovery from major financial panics and great recessions, like that which began in 2008; only the 1960s Apollo Maslow Window escaped this fate. The Panic of 2008 signaled that we have returned to the more “normal” pattern of pre-Maslow Window decades over the last 200 years.

Indeed, macroeconomic data over the last 200 years shows that we are on a similar GDP trajectory to that of previous Maslow Windows including the 1960s Apollo Maslow Window and the especially ebullient early 20th century Peary/Panama Maslow Window.

The first 5 years of any Maslow Window — e.g., 2015 to 2020 for the next one — are typically very active as the golden age of prosperity, exploration, and technology is launched. For example, the early Apollo Maslow Window (circa 1957 – 1965) featured the Cold War, International Geophysical Year, Sputnik, the formation of NASA, Cuban Missile Crisis, the U.S. Apollo Moon program, and President Kennedy’s ‘to the Moon in this decade’ speech to Congress. See “Fred Kaplan’s “1959 — The Year Everything Changed” Points to the New Space Age.

Over the last 200 years, repetitive geopolitical and economic trends associated with the long economic wave indicate that the 5+ years before and after the opening of any Maslow Window are stunningly dynamic times, as the major economic boom gains momentum and international tensions increase, and as international events associated with great human explorations and macro-engineering projects (MEP) begin to unfold and dominate global headlines.

In general outline, that’s the next 10 years for space.

9. A Significant Military Crisis May Develop Early in the Decade (e.g., Iran) … but like usual, it will be rapidly resolved, and indeed may accelerate the world toward the 2015 Maslow Window.
The year of Obama – 2009, along with the years especially since 2005, have clearly set the stage for the 2015 Maslow Window. Please see, State of the Wave — 10 Space Trends for 2010, and State of the Wave — 10 Space Trends for 2009.

While preparing for a return to the Moon by 2020 with our international partners (and competitors) and strategizing about the Shuttle 5-year gap, we enjoyed basking in the “greatest global boom ever” (the hallmark of approaching Maslow Windows); see Fortune magazine, July, 2007. However, global prosperity came to a screeching halt as the current great recession began in December, 2007 and the financial Panic of 2008 gained momentum.

These and other factors triggered a continuing major political realignment in the U.S., including: the Year of Obama, concerns about economic sustainability, rebirth of the War on Terror, and a new approach to NASA and the human future in space. Similarities between current and previous macroeconomic, geopolitical, and technology trends over the last 200 years signal our approach to the 2015 Maslow Window and the new international Space Age.

For example, a possible war with a nuclear Iran and its potential effects on world (including China) energy supplies has parallels with the extremely dangerous Cuban Missile Crisis that intensified the U.S.-Soviet Moon race early in the Apollo Maslow Window. And the potential future political effects of a lingering or unsuccessful war in Afghanistan have some warning of parallels with LBJ’s Vietnam, that eventually ended the Apollo Maslow Window.

On the other hand, assuming — by analogy with the 1960s and all previous Maslow Windows — that we are able to control our early 2015 Maslow Window international crises, the spectacular foreign policy and technology success known as the International Space Station highlights a potential direction available to humanity as we contemplate the possibility of global, united human settlement of the solar system.

Current space-related trends associated with the global recession, a possible Sputnik event, the new NASA, a space commercialism boom, political realignments in the U.S. and elsewhere, global economic and demographic challenges, state-of-the-art technology and education, and possible wildcards, support the 2015 Maslow Window and are explored below.

8. The Financial Panic of 2008 Signaled That We Were Within 6 years of a New, Apollo-Style, Global Space Age
The Panic of 2008 and its Great Recession (see #9 above) devastated any lingering ebullience from the great global boom of 2007 and ultimately became a rationale for scaling back U.S. 2020 Moon plans.

Although predicted by a few — see Economic Crisis Supports Maslow Window Forecasts — the Panic of 2008/Great Recession nevertheless highlighted the limitations of current macroeconomic models, especially when unassisted by a long-term, empirical approach like that of 21stCenturyWaves.com.

The severity and historical sequence of pre-Maslow Window financial panics and great recessions is documented. For example, the spectacular mid-19th century Maslow Window featured the stunning ebullience of “manifest destiny” in the U.S., Dr. Livingstone’s still-celebrated central Africa explorations, and the “technological jewel” of the 19th century: the Suez Canal. It was preceded by the financial Panic of 1837 that triggered a great recession lasting until 1843. And it was no rose garden. According to Nobel economist Milton Friedman (writing in 1960), “It is the only depression on record comparable in severity and scope to the Great Depression of the 1930’s, and its monetary concomitants largely duplicate those of its later mate.”

Likewise, the ultra-ebullient early 20th century Peary/Panama Maslow Window was preceded by the Panic of 1893 followed by a great recession. The economy began to recover in 1896 with the election of President McKinley, but unemployment did not drop below 10% until 1899.

The historical record of both 19th and 20th century pre-Maslow Window panic/recessions suggests the current great recession should run no more than 6 years. Even better news is Harvard economist Robert Barro’s study of 59 international, non-war depressions since 1870 that shows they average only 4 years in duration. This data implies that the 2015 Maslow Window will easily open on time. It should be even easier assuming the Obama administration leverages the lessons of economic history and government policy accrued over the last 200 years. But what do current economists say?

Optimists remind us that most recessions are “V-shaped” and recover like tennis balls: a deep recession produces a robust recovery, which we should see in 2010. But many others forecast only a gradual recovery, including some experts at Davos who expect another “global dip” (New York Times; 1/28/10). Despite signs of recovery, the New York Times (2/21/10) warns of an increase in chronic joblessness, and of the perils of a “Japanese decade” (1/3/10). Prominent Keynesians complain that Obama’s stimulus/bailout packages are too small, while others warn of a “Keynesian hangover.” Still others worry about expiration of the Bush tax cuts in 2010, the potential for inflation, record debt, and the general lack of public confidence in the recovery. This situation should remind us of Stanford economist Russ Roberts’ recent column (WSJ, 2/27/10) where he seriously asks if economics is “really a science?” The economy may be far too complex for our imperfect data and limited models to routinely produce reliable forecasts.

However, what is known is that no Maslow Window over the last 200+ years has ever been delayed or diminished in any observable way by a financial panic/great recession in the decade immediately preceding it. In particular, current economic circumstances resemble the great recession of the 1890s more than the post-war boom of the 1950s, and yet the 1890s resulted in perhaps the most ebullient Maslow Window in the history of the United States. That’s a reasonable expectation for 2015.

7. The Cancellation of Constellation will Create New Worlds for Space Commercialization and for NASA
President Obama’s recent budget terminates NASA’s Constellation program that was to launch astronauts to the Moon by 2020, and after this year proposes to launch American astronauts to ISS on Russian Soyuz launch vehicles until American companies develop man-rated Earth-to-orbit vehicles. Although some Congressional opposition to this plan has materialized (e.g., WSJ, 3/1/10; A. Pasztor), we assume that it will be substantially adopted at least for the short-term.

This will be the first time in 60 years that NASA has no capability or specific plans for its own manned launch vehicle. And NASA Administrator Bolden has emphasized a new style of international cooperation in space where NASA treats its international partners as “equals” and with “respect.”

This new paradigm for NASA supports forecasts made here based on long-term macroeconomic data and historical trends over the last 200 years, and suggests that the new global Space Age is not far away. For example, 1) in 1996, I suggested that the next major thrust into space will occur between 2015 and 2025 (see point 10 above) and suggested this might trigger the formation of an organization in which the major space nations share power equally in program planning and management, 2) in 1992 I described an ESA-like concept for a global space organization (“Interspace”) that features “equality” among the major international partners and opportunities for others to participate based on their human, technology, or financial resources (Cordell, 1992), and 3) based on long-wave timing, in 2006 I identified 2014 as the likely timeframe when NASA would undergo a significant transformation (although I did not imagine NASA as being removed from the launch vehicle business).

For the first time the U.S. government will be subsidizing the efforts of private companies to develop a reliable manned launch vehicle to ISS, while not developing their own successor to the Shuttle. Several grants have already been awarded to private space companies.

History shows repeatedly that when you combine adequate capital with technologically sophisticated entrepreneurs that are driven by the profit motive, a mighty force will be unleashed into the marketplace. Although it will take years for them to develop a safe vehicle to send astronauts to ISS, it is highly likely that — thanks to President Obama — the space commercialization boom has finally begun.

But what of the Moon and Mars as near-term destinations for human settlers? Apollo 11 Moonwalker Buzz Aldrin (WSJ, 2/26/10) praises Obama for removing the U.S. from a puzzling Moon race (which Buzz and Neil Armstrong won for the U.S. 40+ years ago) and refocuses NASA on technology development for deep space human missions like Mars as our “long-term objective.” He then quotes President Kennedy’s famous 1962 speech, “We choose to go to the Moon in this decade…” as the type of “bold initiative” offered by Obama.

Unfortunately, unlike JFK’s Moon speech, there is currently no specific plan or timeline to go to Mars and there may not be any for many years to come. Based on long wave timing, we have only until the end of this decade until it becomes very difficult to initiate any major space program. This suggests that under Obama’s plan, a manned Mars initiative might not occur until the next Maslow Window that opens near 2071.

6. Affluence-Induced Ebullience will Drive Space-Related Expenditures to ~ $ 1 T (2007 USD) during 2015 to 2025
I estimate space-related MEP and exploration expenditures during the 2015 Maslow Window will reach between $ 1 T and 3 T (2007 USD), compared to about $ 150 B (2007 USD) for the 1960s Apollo Moon program. This is based on: 1) MEP cost extrapolations during successive Maslow Windows, and 2) ratios between previous primary-to-secondary MEP costs. Two examples of primary MEPs are the Panama Canal and the Apollo/Saturn V infrastructure, and secondary MEPs include, the Titanic and Great Eastern ships, the Mackinac Bridge in Michigan, and the Large Hadron Collider. All are very expensive, state-of-the-art projects (for their time) that caught the public’s imagination. This is affordable and pro-ebullient (see below) assuming that GDP in 2025 culminates between $ 29 and 35 T (2007 USD) as projected based on GDP trends of the last 200 years.

Such expensive endeavors are only politically feasible because of a powerful psychological phenomenon called “ebullience,” that over the last 200 years occurs exclusively during Maslow Windows separated typically by 55 to 60 years. Triggered by major, twice-per-century economic booms, affluence-induced ebullience becomes widespread and catapults many to higher levels in Maslow’s hierarchy where their expanded worldviews make Apollo-style explorations and MEPs seem not only intriguing, but almost irresistible. See The Economics of Ebullience Points to a Sparkling New Global Space Age.

Over the last 200 years, widespread ebullience typically collapses rapidly in response to public perceptions of financial contractions and/or wars, not necessarily the facts. And since ebullience is not a totally rational condition, it’s onset and collapse are not necessarily rational either. But the important point is that ebullience actually drives Maslow Windows, not just economics.

Currently, we’re still recovering from a great recession and the public is anti-ebullient, as expected. There is no political incentive for Obama to plan Mars missions. But as the recovery begins to revive the economy over the next few years, it’s likely the U.S. will respond much like it did in the ebullient Peary/Panama Maslow Window led by Theodore Roosevelt.

However, even now there are signs of “early ebullience” around the world that remind us of what’s just over the horizon for space and technology development. It’s typical of the approach to a Maslow Window when certain elements of society — e.g., high-end clientele, dynamic societies, and/or groups especially excited about a particular MEP, — anticipate the ebullience that eventually engulfs society during the height of a Maslow Window. Since we apparently are only ~5 years from the opening of the 2015 Maslow Window, early ebullience is expected.

5.  B-R-I-Cs are the Solid Foundation for a Grand Alliance for Space
The BRICs — Brazil, Russia, India, and China are demonstrating multi-decade long wave trends as well as the style of ebullience that points directly toward the 2015 Maslow Window.

China is the biggest economic questionmark of the decade. Some forecasters see it eventually taking over the world economically, while Stratfor believes China will experience a major, Japan-like economic collapse by 2015. Barnett (2/13/10) asserts that China must switch to democracy soon because “democracies simply perform better–not by how they run things but by how they get the hell out of the way of those who really need to run things, aka the private sector.” But Stratfor sees China in a quadruple economic bind, including: giving employment primacy, stagnating Western imports, aging demographics, and internal income tensions. This is important because an economically robust China is often assumed to be a major space competitor of the U.S. during the coming decade. See 10 Reasons China is Good for Space.

According to Harvard’s Richard Pipes, “Russia is obsessed with being recognized as a ‘Great Power’.” This is partly due to their success in WW II and their “success in sending the first human into space.” Currently, Russia is not only playing a central role in ISS, it is expanding its domestic space infrastructure (the $ 13.5 B Vostochny Cosmodrome), anticipates a joint Phobos robotic sample-return mission with China in 2011-12, and speaks openly of possible joint manned Mars expeditions with the U.S. and others. However, its continuing leadership in space is complicated by its vulnerability to the global recession and its recent Cold War-like actions. See The New Cuban Space Center and Vladimir Bonaparte.

India may have the most ebullient space program in the world. It’s first Moon mission (Chandrayaan I) recently discovered water on the Moon, and advanced propulsion will drive their first robotic probe to Mars after 2013. According to the Indian President their manned orbital program will start near 2014, and will “electrify” young people in India. India’s economy has suffered “no crisis” during the global recession — growth dropped from 10% to 6.5% — which suggests not even the sky’s the limit in India as we approach the 2015 Maslow Window.

Brazil is one of the most ebullient countries in the world and has a growing space program to match. Selection as the first-ever South American site for the Olympics (in 2016) is symbolic of its “arrival on the world stage.” In 2006 Brazil’s first astronaut trained with NASA, flew a Russian Soyuz, and enjoyed a week-long stay on ISS. Then he became an instant celebrity. In 1992 I suggested that Rio de Janeiro would be an ideal headquarters city for a new global space organization (“Interspace”) that we forecasted would form by 2014. Brazil rapidly exited the global recession with a 1.9% GDP surge in 2009 Q2 and expects to grow 5% in 2010. They’re well-positioned to be an ebullient, global player in the 2015 Maslow Window.

Although not a BRIC, the #2 economy in the world is currently suffering from a debt/GDP ratio of more than 2 and is scrambling “to avoid being the next Greece” (WSJ, 3/1/10). The last half century of both Japan’s economic and political history are strongly consistent with the long economic wave. For example, Japan’s “lost decade” from 1991 to 2000 is centered on the trough (1997) of the 56 year energy cycle, and Japan’s historical election in 2009 — giving it a new government — occurred after 54 years (one long wave) of almost continuous rule by the LDP. Japan’s new strategy for growth during the next decade suggests it will retain its position as a major global leader in space, including current projects like ISS as well as major new initiatives such as its planned $ 21 B space-based solar power MEP.

All the major space powers enter the decade with significant economic and demographic challenges. This makes it appear that a Grand Alliance for Space — that would be promoted by a new global space agency like Interspace — would be highly likely, because no country would have the economic flexibility to do otherwise. However, our current economic trajectory is more like that of the late 1890s great recession than the pre-Apollo 1950s, and thus an unparalleled economic boom is probable as the drive toward prosperity gains momentum in the next 3-5 years. Therefore, a 21st century version of the late 1950s International Geophysical Year scenario is still realistic, and the possibility of a Sputnik-style surprise cannot be ruled out.

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

It is incorrect to say that we do not have the technology to go to Mars.

We already have the basic technology to go to Mars and ISS can help resolve issues related to long duration human spaceflight before 2020. While advanced propulsion is always preferred on Mars missions, it is not required. Split mission concepts — where return propellants, consumables, and other cargo — are sent first to Mars orbit before the crew leaves Earth improve performance and safety for the crew vehicles. In situ resource utilization is an important technology that is needed to process propellants from water (or other substances) on Phobos and/or Mars. It needs to be developed but is hardly a showstopper. The modern technical literature on human spaceflight to Mars is extensive and goes back 50 years; a good place to start is the Case For Mars volumes that began in the 1980s.

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

Columbus and his descendants could have waited until the 747 was invented to make the trip to America — it would have been a lot safer and more comfortable — but they chose to go in 1492. There were many unknowns (a pre-mission cost/benefit analysis was difficult) and the crew suffered casualties, but the mission of exploration was a success and the world was changed. In their 1963 EMPIRE study for NASA, German rocket scientist Krafft Ehricke and his staff at General Dynamics concluded that “Preliminary schedule analysis strongly indicates that a 1975 (manned) mission…to Mars is in the realm of realistic technological planning…” It was 6 years before the Moon landing, and Krafft Ehricke, Bill Strobl, and the other authors of the document calculated we were nearly ready to go to Mars. Even bolder was the pulsed nuclear propulsion system of Project Orion. Begun in 1958 at General Atomics by Ted Taylor and Freeman Dyson, the goal was inexpensive, fast, near-term travel throughout the solar system, and every available technological assessment of the system shows that it would have worked. Larger, classified versions would have made good star-ships, but the project lost funding due to the Partial Test Ban Treaty of 1963.

Post-Apollo Mars plans were canceled by President Nixon near the end of the Apollo Maslow Window, and no human has ventured beyond Earth orbit since the last Apollo mission in 1972. But the point is that serious plans and capability for manned Mars missions existed in the 1970s. To claim that manned Mars missions cannot be done in the next decade suggests NASA needs to be reminded of this superlative technological legacy and also needs to grow a pair — both of which will happen naturally as we approach the 2015 Maslow Window and become globally enthused by its surging ebullience.

3. The U.S. is Approaching Another Sputnik-style Crisis of Confidence in Education
In 1957, only 10 days after the surprise Soviet launch of Sputnik — the world’s first artificial satellite — the New York Times identified U.S. education as the problem, because Soviet science students were better motivated and given more prestige. Scholastic Magazine chimed in by announcing a “classroom Cold War” with the Soviets. Indeed, within a few months a Gallup poll reported that 70% of respondents believed that U.S. high school students should become more educationally competitive with their Soviet counterparts! Well they did. And 12 quick years later an American stepped onto the Moon.

As we approach the 2015 Maslow Window, legitimate public concerns about the state of education will skyrocket because of anxiety over America’s ability to compete with the rest of the world in space and technology. And it’s already begun.

According to The Space Foundation, “The basic problem is that the U.S. education system is not producing students in quantity and at a level of achievement to be globally competitive.” This is because of “declining interest and achievement in the math, science, and technology subjects that are critical to the space industry.”

Due to a shortage of teachers prepared in science and math, the U.S. K-12 system produces a decline in the capability of our students in these crucial subjects. For example, 29% of 4th graders are rated as proficient in science and 39% were good in math. But by the time they reach 12th grade, students have declined to 23% proficient in math and 18% in science.

International comparisons for U.S. students are also uninspiring. In 2007, U.S. 8th grade math students ranked 9th after several asian countries (e.g., Taipei, Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan), and 11th behind a similar group in science.

The impending retirement of Boomers fuels concerns about declines over the last 20 years in science and engineering B.S. graduates in the U.S.; even math and computer science graduates have remained only level during that time.

With or even without another Sputnik-style event in the next few years, concerns about the state of U.S. science, math, and engineering education will become more intense during the coming decade, possibly even reminiscent of one long wave ago in the 1950s.

2. President Obama is Creating the New Space Age — Another Golden Age of Prosperity, Exploration, and Technology
There is a political realignment taking place in the U.S. that began with President Obama’s election in 2008 and is continuing. It’s fundamentally about a return to prosperity. And while not always fully aware of it, President Obama is the prime motivator in America’s return to prosperity and leadership in the new Space Age. For details, 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. But before that the mid-19th century Dr. Livingstone/Suez Maslow Window produced the “technological jewel of the 18th century,” the Suez Canal, and the famous Lewis and Clark Maslow Window opened the Great Northwest to the world in 1805.

One key lesson of the last 200 years is: The Panic of 2008 supports our expectation that the next Maslow Window will open near 2015. So the key question becomes: 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.
, or…

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).

A Democratic Party insider on a cable TV news program recently admitted that either Obama will bring back the economy and be reelected, or he won’t and will become a one-term president. It’s that simple.

Obama’s record fall in the polls has been reflected in recent elections including the historical “Massachusetts Massacre” — referring to the election of Scott Brown to Ted Kennedy’s long-time Senate seat — according to liberal columnist Frank Rich (New York Times, 1/24/10) who worries that Obama’s “populist rhetoric” is not enough. And a February CNN poll reports that anti-incumbent fever is at an all-time high. Only 34% of voters think most members of Congress should be re-elected, and 52% do not think Obama deserves a second term. On August 21 Robert Gibbs said that Obama is “quite comfortable” with the idea that sticking to his agenda might make him a 1-termer. But polls show the political realignment is not all about Obama, it’s about prosperity.

Despite the fact that Mr. Obama is currently setting the stage for a robust, transformative new Space Age — e.g., triggering a new boom in commercial space, discouraging a questionable Moon race, rekindling Americans’ desire for prosperity — 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, although he is still capable of reversing course and being successful.

But whether Obama is a 1-termer or the new John F. Kennedy, he is still creating the new Space Age according to the trajectory of macroeconomic data and historical trends of the last 200 years; in fact, all realistic roads lead to a 2015 Maslow Window featuring another Golden Age of Prosperity, Exploration, and Technology, although wildcards are possible.

1. Potential Wildcards and the Bottomline for Space
The previous space-related trends –- based on macroeconomic data and historical trends over the last 200+ years — will strongly influence the human future in space during the 2010-2020 decade. However, other trends that are possible and important, but much harder to evaluate — the Wildcards — may also play a role, as they have in the past. Here are three.

A Major 2020s War:
Without exception, every Maslow Window of the last 200 years has been punctuated by a major war. A classic example is World War I that terminated the utopian ebullience of the Peary/Panama Maslow Window just as it was reaching its apex. The Apollo Moon program lost its last 3 planned Moon missions due to Vietnam, and might have been decimated if Vietnam had intensified just a few years earlier. Similar situations may occur in the 2020s, toward the end of the 2015 Maslow Window. If the expected 2020s major war occurs in the late 2020s, the Great Exploration and MEPs should be mature, but if it starts near 2020 or before, it might threaten the great Mars, Moon, or other space spectaculars possible in this decade. The exact timing of this Wildcard is unpredictable.

A Space Impactor Threatens Earth:
Sometime during this decade an Earth-crossing asteroid may be discovered that threatens Earth. Assuming there is time to react, this would trigger international planning — of the type currently advocated by Rusty Schweickart — and development of space systems and coordinated operations to deflect the object. This Wildcard would focus global attention on space, possibly lead to the development of a global space agency, and remind the world of the potential resource and exploration benefits of human settlement of the solar system. In short, it could be a very positive thing.

The Chinese and Russians Announce They Are Going to Mars Together:
Near 2014, in response to the booming global recovery, the Russians and Chinese announce plans for their joint manned mission to Mars during the 2015 Maslow Window. Because they are smart, they will do it the easy, safe, inexpensive way: Set up an initial manned outpost on the martian moon Phobos, because every two years it is easier to reach (energy-wise) than our Moon, and can process expected waters into propellants, as well as coordinate the scientific reconnaissance of Mars (using a huge fleet of small robotic surface rovers) in real-time from Mars orbit, with greater safety. If things go well, in a couple years they launch an unmanned mission carrying a Mars Lander to Phobos so they can send the first humans to the Mars surface whenever it’s convenient. This would be the natural outgrowth of their current collaboration on the anticipated joint China-Russia Phobos mission in 2011. While initially viewed as a Sputnik-like event by the U.S. and others, it might trigger a truly global approach to the human settlement of Mars.

In the powerfully ebullient environment of the 2015 Maslow Window — not seen since the 1960s Moon Race, the early 20th century “Panama-fever” of the Canal, the mid-19th century “manifest destiny” of the U.S., and the seminal exploits of Lewis and Clark over 200 years ago — almost anything is possible.

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Dec 19 2009

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

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

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

It’s defined as a very positive, somewhat irrational — almost giddy — emotional state,  that’s usually due to widespread affluence during a 1960s-style major economic boom.  In response to affluence-induced ebullience, many people ascend the Maslow hierarchy where their expanded world views make Great Explorations and MEPs seem not just intriguing, but almost irresistible  —  hence the name “Maslow Window.”  

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

However,  even during these rhythmic,  twice-per-century waves of ebullience, some people remain stalled at lower Maslow levels and thus are empowered negatively; i.e., they sometimes trigger conflicts or even major wars (e.g., WW I) that can terminate Maslow Windows. 

SOCIETAL EBULLIENCE DRIVES MASLOW WINDOWS

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

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

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

THE ECONOMICS OF EBULLIENCE

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE EBULLIENCE RATIO AND THE 1960s APOLLO MASLOW WINDOW

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

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

CLICK   

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

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

THE EBULLIENCE INDEX

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CLICK 

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

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

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

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

OUR CURRENT LACK OF EBULLIENCE AND THE COMING GLOBAL SPACE AGE

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

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

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

CLICK 

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

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

CLICK 

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

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

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

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

This is both good news and bad news:

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

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

 

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Sep 28 2009

New York Times Sunday Opinion Page Features Long Wave Analogs

On Sundays I usually take a quick tour of the New York Times OpEd section to see if they have any interesting long-term insights. Today I was intrigued by two celebrated columnists who happen to be on the same page (12): Frank Rich on “Obama at the Precipice” about the threat of Afghanistan to Obama’s presidency, and Thomas Friedman on “The New Sputnik” about China going green.

Did China just launch its 21st century version of Sputnik, the first artificial satellite that was in 1957 “the shock of the century”? Click sputnik.jpg

I’m always encouraged when I see major journalists attempting to play the “long wave” analysis game, even if they don’t call it that. And we definitely have two of them here. But the end result is often questionable. For example, I can’t see a significant parallel with a green China and Sputnik, although Friedman does. And, although many folks are fascinated with proposed parallels between Afghanistan and Vietnam, Rich’s explanation isn’t very convincing to me. So I give them an “A” for their creative approach, but have to give them a “C-” for their analysis. Here’s why.

21stCenturyWaves.com explains the clearly observed, twice-per-century major clusters of great explorations (e.g., Lewis and Clark), macro-engineering projects (e.g., Panama Canal), and major wars (e.g., World War I) as fundamentally driven by long waves in the economy — essentially a 56-year long business cycle — that is documented back almost 200 years.

This is a powerful idea that offers us scientific predictability for the next 20+ years of major exploration, engineering, and military events, based on patterns in macroeconomic data and historical trends over the last 200+ years. The basic idea is that many major events in society are being enabled and/or encouraged by our position in the 55-60 year long wave.

Rich seems excited about this idea. For example, “Analogies between Vietnam and Afghanistan are the rage these days.” Referring to the “hawkish young President Kennedy wrestling with Vietnam during his first months in office. … The remarkable parallels to 2009 became clear last week…” And as Gordon Goldstein — author of Lessons in Disaster, the new “must-read book” for Obama — recently said to Rich, “it’s ‘eerie’ how closely even these political maneuvers track those of half a century ago, when JFK was weighing whether to send combat troops to Vietnam.”

And yet Rich uses the long wave idea in a casual way. One problem is that 2009 minus 56 (the approximate length of the long wave) is 1953 — several years before John F. Kennedy became president. This date suggests there might be interesting parallels between 2009 and the Korean War, a conflict that involved the United Nations and others in a proxy war that was part of the larger Cold War; it ended in 1953.

Even a year or two makes a difference in the long wave’s influence on society. For example, in July, 2007, the world was still experiencing the “greatest boom ever,” which was only months before the Panic of 2008. This reminds us that JFK became president as the 1960 economic boom was taking off — certainly a far cry from the experience of Obama who was greeted by the Panic of 2008 and a great recession. Not to mention that no Vietnamese soldier ever directly attacked New York City. While there might eventually be political dangers for Obama in Afghanistan, parallels between the context and events of Vietnam and Afghanistan are exaggerated.

Friedman, in “The New Sputnik,” is a little better with his arithmetic, but less convincing with his analysis. Sputnik’s surprise launch was in 1957 (remember that 2009 – 56 = 1953) which is only 4 years off; about 1/2 the error of Rich. However, Friedman equates Sputnik with China’s recent energy direction, “I believe the Chinese decision to go green is the 21st-century equivalent of the Soviet Union’s 1957 launch of Sputnik — the world’s first Earth-orbiting satellite.” Friedman refers to China’s decision to invest in solar energy, wind power, and batteries so they can exploit future global markets in these areas.

I think the challenge that China presents to the West in these technologies will increase global competition and thus have a net positive effect. However, I see little relation of this to Sputnik, as Friedman essentially admits, “Unfortunately we’re still not racing. It’s like Sputnik went up and we think it’s just a shooting star.”

In 1957, nobody had to explain the symbolic, technological, and military threat of Sputnik to the West. Sputnik changed the world and launched the first Space Age that culminated in an American on the Moon in 1969.

Unless we are able to channel global interests in lunar bases and the commercial development of space into a “Grand Alliance for Space,” we may be forced to re-live a Sputnik-like event near 2013 when possibly a China-led consortium announces their program for the aggressive exploration and colonization of space, including the ultimate “green” technology: space-based solar power collectors that provide inexhaustible, clean energy to Earth to meet the 24/7 demands of economic growth everywhere on Earth.

Now that’s a Sputnik-like event that everyone would recognize.

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Sep 02 2009

The Carnival of Space #118 and A New NASA?

21stCenturyWaves.com is again happily participating in the Carnival of Space #118.

This week the Carnival is at Cumbrian Sky. Thanks to Stuart Atkinson of Cumbrian Sky for his kind comments about 21stCenturyWaves.com.

Commercial Space, a Canadian blog, probes the fun topic of “NASA as the next General Motors…”

But his bottomline is really:

What will happen to NASA?

That’s easy to predict. NASA employees and their subcontractors will either develop new skills, associations and capabilities to survive or the organization will become irrelevant and either slowly die or be changed into something else useful but in a different (perhaps less inspiring) way.

This is important stuff.

NASA’s predecessor, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) was formed just after the Peary/Panama Maslow Window slammed shut, as an emergency measure during World War I. NACA’s assets were incorporated into the new NASA in 1957 as an emergency response to the surprise launch of Sputnik. In 2013, NASA will be 56 years old — one long wave in age — and it’s likely there will be another major transition in that timeframe.

The “new” NASA might be a product of an international Sputnik-like shock near 2013, involving a consortium of non-US countries which trigger another race to space (like Apollo). They might announce, for example, their plans to commercially develop the Moon, create solar power satelites, and/or colonize space. The post-2013, Sputnik-style NASA would be highly competitive, focused on deep space, and involve relatively few international partners. On the other hand, we might be fortunate enough to create a “Grand Alliance for Space” including all key global space powers. It would have dramatic, unprecedented goals in space and might resemble “Interspace.”

In any case, as Commercial Space suggests, NASA is likely to change dramatically in the next few years.

Next Big Future offers highlights of ambitious Russian hopes for manned missions to Mars — featuring joint missions with the United States. The Russians advocate a Mars-first strategy, leaving the Moon temporarily to the more space-challenged. Their “Interplanetary Expeditionary Complex” (IEC) includes a nuclear-powered space tug and a full interplanetary infrastructure.

The Russians see IEC as more of a prospectus than a realistic engineering plan, hoping to share the financial, technology, and human requirements with several international partners.

Perhaps the largest fantasy element is the timescale: Their manned space initiative would span 3 decades. Multi-decade space plans are unrealistic unless they take into account the history of Great Explorations and Macro-Engineering Projects (as well as major wars) over the last 200 years. Unless a major program is carefully coordinated with the opening of the 2015 Maslow Window it’s likely to lose momentum rapidly and fail.

Consistent with the conclusions above by Commercial Space, the Russian proposals — if taken seriously — would require major, near-term changes in NASA.

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Jul 22 2009

The Right Stuff, Celebrities, and Sarkar's Social Cycles

The media continues to reverberate today with profound thoughts about Apollo 11’s 40th anniversary. For example, The Wall Street Journal is struck by how different things are now versus the 1960s.

The First Man had and still has “the right stuff.” Click neil1.jpg.

It took eight years from the time John Kennedy declared we would go to the Moon to the day an American landed on it, 40 years ago this week. It was also eight years ago this September that terrorists struck the World Trade Center, the site of which continues to be a hole in the ground and a national disgrace. (Wall Street Journal, 7/21/09)

Messy New York politics aside, and using their version of, “If they can send a man to the Moon, why can’t they…”, the Journal wonders,

How much harder can it be to fill a hole in the ground with buildings of any kind than to master the ground-breaking science and mechanics of space travel over the same number of years?

We’ve long resisted the notion of American decline … But it’s hard not to see in the contrast between the Moon program and … Ground Zero a warning about America’s national will.

The issue is largely one of timing and program type. Over the last 200 years, there are brief, exceptional intervals — called Maslow Windows — when the public is momentarily very supportive of great explorations and large technology projects. Maslow Windows are ebullient, transformative times generally separated by about 56 years, that are fundamentally driven by major economic booms during upswings in the long wave. The last one was in the 1960s during Apollo. Despite our current global recession, which is like other major contractions that have preceded nearly all other Maslow Windows of the last 200 years, our next ebullient, camelot-style interval is expected between 2015 and 2025. Not surprisingly, timing and economic conditions have not aided Ground Zero.

Program type is also important. Apollo was a Great Exploration that for the first time took humans to another world. Apollo was also a $ 150 B macro-engineering project (MEP) that captured the imagination of this world; no one who ever saw (or felt!) a Saturn V launch ever forgot it. Although there had been Great Explorations (e.g., Lewis and Clark) and MEPs (e.g., Panama Canal) before, this was the first time they were ever unified in one grand project. Ground Zero is associated with a surprise terrorist attack on the U.S. in which 3000 people died. Given Ground Zero’s timing and history, it seems that Apollo is not a fair comparison.

On the next page (WSJ, 7/21/09), Bret Stephens compares “the right stuff” of the astronauts to our current celebrity culture and sees great disparity.

I detest anti-Americanism but I’ll concede this: It’s hard to watch American celebrity culture at work and not feel revolted … We make a fetish of uninteresting, detestable, loud or unaccomplished people: Paris Hilton, Princess Di, Keith Olberman, Michael Jackson.

By contrast, the 1960s Apollo astronauts were modest, private, patriotic, etc. For example, Neil Armstrong — the first man on the Moon — “never fails to mention the 400,000 people who worked to get him there,” and Gene Cernan, Commander of Apollo 17 the last lunar mission, marvels that, “One day you’re just Gene Cernan, young naval aviator, whatever…And the next day you’re an American hero. Literally. And you have done nothing.”

Stephens wonders if America makes men like Cernan and Armstrong anymore. And of course America still does — in the military, fire-fighters, police and others who often risk their lives so that ours can go on relatively unthreatened.

It reminds me again of Sarkar’s social cycles that I first read about in a book by SMU economist Ravi Batra. Sarkar believed there are 4 types of people and social classes: 1) Adventurer/Warriors, who are strong physically and mentally and willing to take risks, 2) Intellectuals, who are interested in ideas, 3) Acquisitors, who have a nose for money and enjoy accumulating it, and 4) Laborers, who lack the skills of the first 3 groups and who, while essential to society, are sometimes exploited by them.

At any time in history, society as-a-whole takes on the characteristics of one of these 4 groups. You can tell which group is ascendant by the types of people that are most celebrated. For example, the 1960s were a brief throwback to Adventure/Warrior times because Apollo astronauts were globally admired for their courage and explorations. But over most of the 20th century, according to Batra, society has been dominated by the Acquisitor mindset, as evidenced by the types of celebrities mentioned by Stephens above.

In Cordell (1996), I speculated that a major episode of social change might soon result in a sociopolitical climate favoring grand explorations.

Although seemingly farfetched, this is exactly what economist Ravi Batra expects based on Indian scholar P.R. Sarkar’s law of social cycles. Batra sees our current social malaise as leading to a social revolution in which wealth ‘acquisitors’ will be replaced by ‘adventurer/warriors’ as the dominant group in society. The adventurer/warrior spirit is what led the USA to send people to the Moon and could be expected to focus on the endless space frontier again. Based on the timing of Sarkar’s cycles over the last 2000 years, this revolution could occur sometime between now and 2010.”

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Jul 20 2009

Tom Wolfe's "Giant Leap to Nowhere"

Today Tom Wolfe (New York Times, 7/19/09) added his name to the growing list of commentators who are frustrated and puzzled by the Apollo Moon program’s abrupt end almost 40 years ago, and even more so by the fact that no human has traveled beyond Earth orbit since 1972!

Tom Wolfe asks today if we’ve lost the “right stuff.” Click mercury7.jpg.

1972 was a LONG time ago. If you’re over 40 years old, think about where you were then and what you were doing. (Those under 40 are excused from this exercise.)

Most of my reply to Wolfe’s op-ed has already been published at “The Secret of Why Apollo Was a ‘Giant Step, Full Stop’” so I won’t repeat it here. But because Wolfe did write The Right Stuff (1979), the celebrated story of the Mercury 7 astronauts (made into a movie in 1983), his take is interesting.

Although it was a small step for Neil and a giant leap for mankind, the first Moon landing was “a real knee in the groin for NASA,” according to Wolfe.

The American space program, the greatest, grandest, most Promethean — O.K. if I use “godlike”? — quest in the history of the world died in infancy … the moment the foot of Apollo 11’s Commander Armstrong touched the surface of the Moon.

How did this uber downer happen?

Maybe because he’s a writer, Wolfe thinks “the answer is obvious. NASA had neglected to recruit a corps of philosophers.” By the mid-1970s the only philosopher who could explain the real importance of Apollo was the developer of the Saturn V, Wernher von Braun, who was dying of cancer. But according to Wolfe, Von Braun’s “heavy German accent” and former WW II nazi connections limited his use.

In fact, based on the last 200 years of Great Explorations and MEPs, the moral of the story appears to be: “Great leaders help, but the economy rules“. It is very unlikely Von Braun himself or even an army of Von Brauns could have changed the course of 1970s macroeconomic history or the related decay of Apollo ebullience that began as early as 1966. As they have for every Maslow Window of the last 200 years, these fundamental factors initially enabled and eventually terminated the Apollo program and have kept humanity trapped in Earth orbit since 1972.

Wolfe alludes to the short-lived effect of ebullience without using the term, “Everybody, including Congress, was caught up in the adrenal rush of it all. But then, on the morning after” they began to wonder about it’s real meaning. This effect is graphically portrayed in the riveting 1960s political history, The Liberal Hour.

According to Wolfe, the answer is Mars. “For 40 years, everybody at NASA has known that the only logical next step is a manned Mars mission…” However, current plans — the U.S. returning to the Moon by 2020 — ignore historical trends of the last 200 years which point to closure of our next Maslow Window by 2025 or before, leaving little time for Mars. Unless we change the plan, such as Buzz Aldrin has proposed lately, our next shot at Mars may be delayed until 2070.

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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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May 18 2009

10 Lessons the Panama Canal Teaches Us About the Human Future in Space

The monumental Panama Canal was — prior to Apollo — the greatest Macro-Engineering Project (MEP) of the last 200 years. The Canal brought people together by splitting the continent, and in terms of cost, management, technology, and global significance, it has strong parallels with Apollo and the International Space Station (ISS), and offers us insight into our spectacular future.

The secrets of the Panama Canal reverberate through the last 100 years and — together with Apollo and the International Space Station — illuminate future Macro-Engineering Projects in space. Click panama.jpg.

Here are 10 Lessons the Panama Canal teaches us about the human future in space.

10. “The creation of a water passage across Panama was one of the supreme human achievements of all time,” according to ultra-historian David McCullough (1977), “…the culmination of a heroic dream of over four hundred years…It is a work of civilization.”

In Cordell (2006) I adopted the definition of an MEP from Eugene Ferguson (1916-2004), who was a well-known professor of engineering, a founding member and former president (1977-78) of the Society for the History of Technology, and a da Vinci Medalist (SHoT’s highest honor) in 1977. According to Ferguson, MEPs are: 1) at the state-of-the-art of technology for their time; 2) extremely expensive 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 Canal’s grandeur versus Apollo’s and ISS’ off-world technology, are tantalizingly suggestive of the unprecedented MEPs and great explorations that await us in the 2015 Maslow Window, as humanity’s expansion into the cosmos accelerates.

9. “The fifty miles between the oceans were among the hardest ever won by human effort and ingenuity,” (McCullough, 1977). The enormous sacrifice in human life — called a “great war” by President Theodore Roosevelt — was in excess of 27,000, including an estimated 22,000 during the French period (1881-1889) and 5,600 deaths during the American period between 1904-1914.

The threat of tropical diseases, land slides, railroad accidents, and premature dynamite explosions contributed to the extraordinary psychological stress for the workers. And while yellow fever crippled the French effort to build the Canal, the successful medical research of Drs. Carlos Finlay and Walter Reed aided the American project tremendously.

The modern and future world is indebted beyond words to the people who risked (and often lost) their lives working on the construction of the Panama Canal. They provide a profound inspiration to those currently engaged in the human expansion into the cosmos.

8. As of the early 20th century, the Panama Canal had the highest price tag of any construction project in U.S. history; indeed, it was the largest commitment ever of resources in peacetime for any nation. It cost the U.S. about $ 375 M — $ 8.3 B in 2008 dollars — over 10 years (i.e., the Peary/Panama Maslow Window). The Canal consumed only 0.10% of U.S. GDP during that time.

Although the Panama Canal was for transportation while Apollo was the first combined MEP and Great Exploration, and it was off-world, it’s still interesting to compare their costs. In today’s dollars Apollo cost close to $ 150 B, so Apollo was almost 20x as expensive as the Canal. However, a more meaningful comparison is as fraction of GDP. During the years of their programs, Apollo averaged about 0.25% of GDP compared to 0.10% for the Canal.

Comparison of Panama and Apollo suggest that MEPs during the 2015 Maslow Window will dwarf Apollo. For example,

A. INCREASING PUBLIC INTEREST IN MEPS: If this trend of an increase in GDP fraction allocated to MEPs continues (i.e., increase by 2-3x over Apollo), then coming MEPs would dwarf Apollo by corresponding factors. (This would imply that public support for MEPs in 2015+ would have increased over Apollo by as much as it did between Panama and Apollo.)
And,

B. BOOMING ECONOMIC GROWTH: Given the projected growth based on the last 200 years of macroeconomic data — i.e., by 2025, increase of GDP by 7x over 1969; as of 2008, GNP has increased 3.1x over 1969 –, it is reasonable to expect MEPs in the 2015 Maslow Window to dwarf Apollo by corresponding factors. (PLEASE NOTE: As they have over the last 200+ years, rhythmic twice-per-century major economic booms trigger the Maslow Window ebullience effects on society, which fundamentally drive public support for MEPs and Great Explorations.)

Socio-economic insights from the Panama/Apollo MEP experiences and macroeconomic data from the last 200 years, suggest near-future MEPs
(e.g., including planetary bases, space solar power sats, interplanetary transportation systems) during the 2015 Maslow Window will significantly dwarf Apollo by factors of from 7x to 20x — i.e., in the $ 1 T to $ 3 T ballpark (current USD).

7. Both the Panama Canal and Apollo Moon program were fundamentally about designing, constructing, and using major transportation systems in hostile environments, and their management and technology challenges have impressive parallels and lessons for the future.

The Panama Canal’s design and technology challenges centered around the location and type of canal, and construction operations. No one had ever built an enormous structure in a tropical environment that included mysterious, lethal diseases (e.g., yellow fever) and other natural hazards (e.g., climate, snakes). This led to large loss of life and contributed to eventual failure during the French period (see 9 above). However, by November, 1905 yellow fever had been eradicated in the Canal Zone by the Americans.

In the early 1880s, the French under de Lesseps decided to construct a sea-level canal based on their successful experience at Suez — the technological jewel of the 19th century. Although the American chief engineer, John Stevens, initially agreed with the French, soon after his arrival in Panama he insisted on a system of locks (e.g., Parker, 2007).

McCullough (1977) speculates that if de Lesseps had changed his plan from sea-level to locks in 1886, the French might have succeeded — and this invites an intriguing parallel with Apollo. Although locks increased the Canal’s complexity and risk, they also reduced its cost and accelerated its schedule. This is similar to NASA’s decision to use rendezvous in lunar orbit to deliver astronauts to the Moon; this likewise increased (operational) complexity and risk, but obviated the need to develop an even bigger, more expensive launch vehicle than the Saturn V (i.e., Nova).

During the American period management challenges included supervising 34,000 construction workers and dealing with the continual threats to their lives (e.g., from accidents), as well as the unparalleled engineering, financial, political, and schedule issues of construction. The Panama Canal construction was motivated and begun by President T. Roosevelt, who made the first trip of any sitting U.S. President outside the U.S., a trip to the Canal. However, President William Howard Taft provided the most active, hands-on participation over the longest period (4 years as president) for the Canal, and President Woodrow Wilson officiated at its opening in 1914. Nevertheless, Theodore Roosevelt is considered “the real builder” of the Panama Canal.

The Apollo Program’s design and technology challenges centered around space transportation and operations, and crew systems. They included: 1) delivering Max Faget’s Mercury capsule to Earth orbit using modified ICBMs (e.g. Atlas for John Glenn in 1962) and returning it using heat shields, 2) testing Buzz Aldrin’s orbital rendezvous techniques in Earth orbit in preparation for John Houbolt’s Lunar Orbit Rendezvous mission mode, and 3) using Wernher von Braun’s monumental Saturn V launch vehicle to send astronauts and hardware to the Moon.

During Apollo, NASA hired 400,000 people from about 20,000 companies and universities. NASA management was subject to two major influences that did not exist for Panama leaders: 1) the urgency of an actual race to the Moon with another superpower, and 2) the immediacy of live television news broadcasts that emphasized the national prestige and symbolic elements of Apollo. The Apollo Moon program was announced by President Kennedy in 1961 and is most closely associated with him. However, Apollo developed substantially under President Johnson, and the lunar landings (1969-72) were accomplished during President Nixon’s administration.

Even being situated within the major economic boom of a Maslow Window and having great leadership is no substitute for the required technologies, systems, and engineering designs. This preparation for the 2015 Maslow Window is currently ongoing by ISS, private entrepreneurs, national laboratories, and elsewhere. It’s highly likely that the management challenges of the 2015 Maslow Window will include close interaction with international partners in all phases of future MEPs.

6. Like Apollo, the Panama Canal vastly elevated American national prestige and was a direct result of international politics and conflicts.

In 1897, the U.S. acquired Hawaii as a US territory, and later as a result of the Spanish-American War, Spain sold the Philippines to the U.S.. Since the Philippines had previously declared their independence from Spain, these events emphasized the growing need for both a Pacific naval presence as well as an Atlantic one for the U.S. (Rohatyn, 2009).

“Remember the Maine, to hell with Spain!”, an Alamo-like cry in response to the deaths of 266 US sailors while anchored in Havana Harbor, helped ignite the Spanish-American War. To replace the Maine, another battleship (USS Oregon) stationed on the Pacific coast rushed 14,700 miles around South America to Cuba — while Teddy Roosevelt, leader of the famous “Rough Riders”, vectored toward Cuban battle himself. Since the Oregon arrived at Cuba two months after war began, it didn’t require much abstract thinking for TR to recognize the Panama Canal’s potential strategic advantages.

Likewise, one long wave later, new President John F. Kennedy found himself embroiled in Cuban adventures early in the Apollo Maslow Window. The first was the ill-fated Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba (4/17/61), followed shortly by JFK’s inspirational May 17, 1961 speech announcing our goal to “land a man on the Moon, before this decade is out…” Even more threatening was the Cuban Missile Crisis of October, 1962 which almost triggered W.W. III. Both served to increase Soviet-U.S. tensions and intensify the competition and global political significance of the Space Race.

Many large, medium, and small space powers sense the international prestige associated with human space exploration of the Moon and planets, and intend to leverage the lessons of America’s history in this pursuit. New Maslow Windows have historically been times of increased international tensions and conflicts (e.g., the 1960s Cold War, the Spanish-American War), and it is likely such conflicts will arise again as we approach the 2015 Maslow Window, possibly in connection with space. For example, Cuba has been a focal point during the last two Maslow Windows, and Stratfor suggests it may be again.

5. “To a visitor from Mars it must have seemed that the Western world in 1914 was on the brink of Utopia,” according to historians J. Harrison and R. Sullivan (1966). This pre-WW I zeitgeist was responsible for the Panama Canal, the North and South Pole expeditions, the Titanic, the ascent of President Theodore Roosevelt, and the ebullience of “Panama Fever” and “Pole mania.”

Historical accounts suggest that Teddy “Speak softly but carry a big stick!” Roosevelt may well have been the most ebullient U.S. President in the history of the country, and that the Peary/Panama Maslow Window may have been the most ebullient period in U.S. history.

In addition to his Canal initiative, T.R. was a major supporter of Adm. Robert Peary’s ebullient expeditions to the North Pole. Indeed, Roosevelt has the distinction of being the first and only President to have played major roles in both the major MEP and Great Exploration of his Maslow Window; by the 1960s, the MEP and GE had become integrated into a single project: President Kennedy’s Apollo program.

TR became the 26th President of the U.S. in 1901 while still 42 — currently the youngest person, including John F. Kennedy, to hold the presidency — and left the office in 1909, about five years before the Panama Canal opened, yet he is still known as the one who built the Canal.

The story of TR and the Panama Canal show the power of the long wave in history and for the future. Like JFK, TR appeared at the perfect time — as his Maslow Window was opening — when his ebullient personality and great leadership qualities could most benefit the U.S. and the world. According to Roosevelt himself, what was crucial for the Canal was that “somebody (namely himself) was prepared to act with decision,” (Parker, 2007). However, the last 200 years teach us that, Great leaders help, but the economy rules!

4. The Great Victorian Depression began with the collapse of the Vienna Stock Market on May 9, 1873 (the Panic of 1873) and rapidly spread to America. Also known as “The Long Depression” it continued until the late 1890s, and is considered by some to be worse than the Great Depression of the 1930s. It is in this financial context that the French under de Lesseps began work on the Panama Canal in 1881. By 1889 de Lesseps called it quits, their effort a victim of disease, inadequate technology, poor canal design, and not surprisingly, lack of money.

In 1873 the New York Stock Market closed for 10 days attempting to achieve stability, while almost 1/4 of all railroads went belly-up, businesses failed, unemployment reached an estimated 14% (in 1876), and credit crashed.

The power of the long wave is demonstrated by the MEP-related experiences of Kennedy, Roosevelt, and De Lesseps. Kennedy and Roosevelt initiated their MEPs during major economic booms in the decades prior to their long wave peaks (their Maslow Windows) and were successful. De Lesseps initiated his during a descending portion of the long wave and failed. Since TR succeeded in his Panama Canal effort while de Lesseps failed in the same endeavor, is it possible that we are seeing the effects of markedly superior leadership rather than the power of the long wave? For example, could TR have successfully initiated the Canal in 1935? Or could JFK have launched Apollo in 1985 and been successful? In fact, history illuminated this question in the 1980s (see next point).

3. The Panama Canal and the International Space Station are intriguing examples of MEPs that began at unfavorable times during the long wave and were soon discontinued, only to re-emerge later and achieve success. The goal here is to achieve insight into the relative importance of long wave timing versus great leadership, and any other factors that may be important.

For example, President Ronald Reagan first proposed Space Station Freedom in 1984 with an estimated cost of $ 8 B. As congressional support for SSF dwindled, the end of the Cold War led to SSF being included in the International Space Station plan in 1993 with an estimated cost of $ 17.4 B. ISS orbital assembly started in 1998 and will be completed in 2010 for an estimated $ 100 B, including development, assembly, and operations.

Although both the Canal and ISS went through 8-9 year initial phases that did not achieve success, both later re-emerged under “new management” and were successful. Let’s consider the long wave timing of the “initial” phases of the Canal and ISS.

The initial Panama Canal phase was run by de Lesseps and began (in 1881) 22 years before the opening of the Peary/Panama Maslow Window in 1903, and only 4 years before the LW trough in 1885. Likewise, the initial ISS Phase was proposed by President Reagan and began (in 1984) 31 years before the 2015 Maslow Window, a full 13 years before the LW trough in 1997.

Based on long wave considerations, it’s hard to say which project should have suffered most — de Lesseps’ Canal from the Victorian Depression or Reagan’s Station from economic weakness indicated by the Crash of 1987 — but both projects should have been DOA. And they were.

But a historically interesting question was also answered. Not even President Reagan — usually considered to be at least comparable in leadership and charisma to JFK and even TR — could make his MEP materialize in the decade after he proposed it, during a downward portion of the long wave. This suggests that any leadership and/or strategic deficiencies de Lesseps may have exhibited were not the deciding factor in his lack of success — because Reagan’s Station experience suggests that the long wave trumps great leadership.

The “final” phases of both projects are also interesting, because both were successful. I have already noted that, due to perfect long wave timing and his great leadership, TR’s Canal project should have been — and was — a success. However, the ISS final phase began under President Bill Clinton (in 1993) 22 years before the 2015 Maslow Window and 4 years before the long wave trough — the identical long wave circumstances of de Lesseps’ initial Canal project; the one that failed! (Is this a coincidence??)

With identical long wave circumstances, why did de Lesseps’ Canal project fail and the Clinton/Bush II Station succeed?

Globalization? The broad, robust international cooperation flavor of ISS is consistent with the post-WW II, and especially post-Cold War, trends toward increased globalization in technology and science. The space station has picked up momentum ever since it became international.

Although it has not yet had the global psychological impact of either Apollo or the Canal, ISS is regarded by its participants as an “international marvel.” And well it should be: It’s second only to Apollo as the most expensive human project in modern history, it was made by 16 countries (almost “everybody” but China), there are 1 million pounds of hardware in orbit, and over 100 elements and modules were assembled in space.

In short, ISS is both an extraordinary engineering and foreign policy accomplishment that is historically comparable to both the Saturn V and the Panama Canal.

And yet despite its success, ISS is anomalous because it hasn’t yet generated “Panama Fever” or Apollo-style ebullience! ISS has apparently been able to temporarily survive low public ebullience, by surfing on the accelerating wave of “globalization.”

As we approach the 2015 Maslow Window, it’s very likely that public appreciation and excitement about ISS will greatly increase.

2. In some ways, the Canal was the ultimate MEP of the last 200 years. Like the Apollo program (see point 6), it was an engineering marvel that required the coordination of huge numbers of people. In terms of ROI, the economic benefits of the Canal for seafaring commerce and strategic uses have been very significant over the last two long waves.

However, to increase the Canal’s capacity and deal with future competition — which now includes the Suez Canal — the Third Set of Locks Project was approved by Panamanians in a 2006 vote by an ebullient majority of 76.8%.

This Panama Canal expansion project will cost $ 5.25 B — about 75% of the original Canal cost — and will receive $ 2.5 B in international funding. Construction will generate thousands of jobs for Panamanians and should be complete by 2014, just in time for the 2015 Maslow Window. Major risks to the plan include finances and whether the traffic model of the business plan is realistic.

Panama recently elected a new president who’s committed to the Canal Expansion Project and continuing economic growth during the world recession. U.S.-educated, conservative Ricardo Martinelli — owner of Panama’s largest supermarket chain — was elected in a landslide with 61% of the vote. President-elect Martinelli’s landslide election is new evidence that “early ebullience” in Panama is continuing to accelerate as we approach the 2015 Maslow Window.

1. The Panama Canal is an immensely important MEP of the early 20th Century Maslow Window that — by itself and in comparison to Apollo and the International Space Station — continues to inform us of the relative importance of the long wave, great leadership, and globalization to the probable success of potential MEPs and Great Explorations during the next 20 years.

The Lessons include:

A. If an MEP starts during a Maslow Window (with wide-spread ebullience) and features a great leader, it will succeed. Examples include the Panama Canal with Teddy Roosevelt, and Apollo with John F. Kennedy.

B. If an MEP starts during the down going portion of the long wave (during a time of counter-ebullience), even with a great leader, it will probably fail. Examples include de Lesseps Panama Canal project, and Reagan’s Space Station.

A reasonable rule of thumb is: “Great leaders help, but the economy rules.”

However, If the conditions of Point B exist, but globalization is a significant factor, the program may survive and eventually even prosper as it approaches the next Maslow Window. The only example is ISS starting in 1993 under President Clinton.

By our definition, ISS is not yet officially an MEP because, although it is recognized by its participants as an “international marvel,” opinion polls indicate the U.S. public has embraced ISS only minimally.

This gives us empirically-based hope that — despite the evidence of the last 200 years — post-Maslow downturns in the long wave will not inevitably terminate spectacular Maslow Windows. And more specifically, that globalization has a significant role to play in mitigating counter-ebullient portions of the long wave for future multi-decade or multi-century space initiatives.

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Apr 21 2009

Why Wasn't There a Great Depression and a World War Between 1985 and 2001?

Thanks to “GK” from Mountain View, California for some intriguing questions that I want to feature here, because they are important to an understanding of Maslow Windows, long waves, and the long-term prospects for space colonization.

1. Why does each energy peak have to have a major war?

This is a question that initially puzzled me in the mid-1990s when I first saw major hot wars (e.g., W. W. I) line up with each peak in the 56 year energy cycle, over the last 200 years. It’s an empirical fact that they do, however it adds credibility to forecasting if the circumstances make sense.

Because the peaks are the culmination of large economic booms that surge during the Maslow Windows, it’s a time of unprecedented, almost utopian affluence, and they seem an odd time for big wars. A popular opinion among political scientists is that this is the only time nations can “afford” a war; other times they just don’t have the financial means or the will.

The way it works is that the major economic boom that triggers a Maslow Window creates widespread affluence-induced ebullience in society. This ebullience is a powerful form of Keynesian “animal Spirits” and Greenspan’s “irrational exhuberance.” For many people, ebullience catapults them to elevated levels in Maslow’s Heirarchy where they are momentarily fascinated by large technology projects and/or great explorations. However, other people — who are also experiencing exceptional ebullience — do not ascend Maslow’s heirarchy. And they have the financial means and ebullient energy to make trouble by engaging in large wars.

2. What major war started in 1969? The Cold war was already underway, and most of the casualties in VietNam had already happened.

The Cold War was a time from about 1947 to 1991 when the Soviet Union collapsed. This time of international tensions was punctuated by a number of “hot” international wars and “almost” wars, including the Korean War (1950-53), the Cuban Missile Crisis (1962) which almost started W. W. III, the Vietnam War (1965-73), and the Soviet War in Afghanistan (1979). The Cold War began to draw to a close with President Reagan’s “Tear down that (Berlin) wall” speech in 1987 followed by the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991.

U.S. involvement in Vietnam began during Eisenhower’s administration; by 1960 there were several hundred military advisors helping the Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam). Because of his concern about Communist expansion in the region, by 1963 President John F. Kennedy increased U.S. military personnel in Vietnam to 16,000. However, U.S. involvement experienced a quantum leap in 1965 when President Lyndon Johnson sent 22,000 troops there. And by 1968, U.S. troops in Vietnam numbered 525,000.

Largely due to the unpopularity of the war, President Johnson did not seek a second term and Richard Nixon was elected president in 1968. In 1973 — the year after he opened China to the West — Nixon withdrew U.S. troops from Vietnam. Vietnamese deaths are estimated in the millions and U.S. deaths were 58,000.

One result of the severe human and financial costs of the Vietnam War for the U.S. was the cancellation of the last 3 Apollo missions to the Moon (18, 19, 20), for which Saturn V launch vehicles had already been built. Even during the recent Iraq War, which came to a positive conclusion, the wounds of Vietnam — 3 decades later — still lingered; e.g., Is Iraq Another Vietnam? (Brigham, 2006).

It’s important to keep in mind that the long wave is not always exactly 56 years; it typically varies between 55 and 60. So expecting major wars to occur exactly at the peak in 1969 is unrealistic, although major wars over the last 200 years are quite close. Please see Joshua Goldstein and others for an in-depth discussion of the relation of long waves and wars.

Speaking of the Cold War, one possibility is that a 2nd Cold War will increase global tensions and contribute to a new international Race for Space near 2013 (Sputnik year plus 56). The recent Russian invasion of Georgia and a generally resurgent Russia are seen by many as evidence for a possible 2nd Cold War.

In fact, the most important Wild Card of the 2015 Maslow Window is the date of the major war expected in the 2020s. If it comes in the late 2020s, human civilization may expand to the Moon and possibly even Mars. If it starts closer to 2020 — in addition to the tragic loss of life and property — human expansion into the cosmos may be postponed until near 2071, when the late 21st Century Maslow Window is expected to open.

3. Also, the Great Depression and WW2 appeared to be in the middle of the cycle, not at the ends. If the GD + WW2 period was 1929-45, 56 years after that comes to 1985 – 2001, which was actually a boom.

You’ve brought up an interesting case study. Actually, in 1987 — 58 years after the Crash of 1929 and 18 years after the last energy peak in 1969 — was the greatest stock market crash (Black Monday) since 1929.

In a previous post I mentioned that the amazing lack of a recession or depression after 1987 is attributed to financial reforms implemented during the Great Depression. This also explains the initiation of the long boom in the late 1990s, although there was a significant recession in 2001.

W.W. II is the only example of a major “trough war” in the last 200 years, and is commonly attributed to tensions and unfinished business from W.W. I; see, for example, Friedman (2009). Because W.W. II was an anomaly, there was no reason — based on the last 200 years — to expect a major war between 1997 and 2001.

Almost right on schedule, this long boom — described by Fortune in July, 2007 as the “greatest economic boom ever” — was interrupted by the Panic of 2008, about 7 years before the anticipated opening of the 2015 Maslow Window. Such financial panic/recessions appear to be a common feature of the decades just prior to each Maslow Window (except for the Apollo Maslow Window).

4. Is it possible that the 56-year window is lengthening, because life expectancies are rising? In the past, the 56-year window was due to very few people living long enough to remember the prior crisis 56 years ago. Today, that cycle may be longer.

This is also a fun question although it assumes a cause for the 56 year long wave that is not verified. I assume a Schumpeterian trigger (“creative destruction”) related to bunching of basic innovations that launch technological revolutions that trigger new economic booms every 55 to 60 years. However, there’s little doubt that poor human memories of the preceeding Maslow Window is a contributor to the relative lack of public understanding of the long wave phenomenon.

In the past, some readers of my articles and this website have suggested that the long wave is getting shorter because of the commercially, technologically, and socially accelerating effects of the internet, mass media, and global transportation. For example, imagine Thomas Jefferson’s ability to communicate with Europe versus ours now.

However, GK is apparently suggesting that the previous Maslow Window must remain just outside most human memories, because otherwise we’d strive to avoid its negative aspects (e.g., post-Window economic collapse and major wars); an optimistic assumption!

Data for the United States shows an increase in human longevity of about 3 months per year since 1900; a total of about 30 years change over the 20th century. Although we can’t rule it out, there is little empirical evidence for a significant change in the long wave during that time, or indeed over the last 200 years. This does not support GK’s model.

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