Jun 14 2009

It's the "Ebullience," Not Just the Economy…!

Thanks to Aron Sora of Trenton, NJ at Habitation Intention for responding to my previous post with this question:

Is it an either or thing? Will having a deep sea program prevent the development of a space program or visa versa. Are there enough resources during a Maslow window to support both?

In the 2015 Maslow Window — based on the last 200 years — I’m sure it will be both, but the emphasis will most likely be on space development and colonization; I think that’s the lesson of the 1960s.

I’ve been asked before by 21stCenturyWaves.com readers why we don’t focus on Antarctica or the Ocean Floor as our next Great Exploration — after all they are closer! I’m sure we’ll continue to internationally develop these areas, but one big hint for your question is that President Kennedy chose to send us to the Moon. That was, and still is the most exciting (especially for the general public) direction with the greatest potential for human expansion. You may be aware that in 1992, Marshall Savage started his proposed colonization of the Galaxy with Ocean Colonies on Earth.

What strikes me about Project Mohole is that Dr. Munk and his collaborators really felt a competition between their Earth Science and the Race to Space! You can still hear that sentiment today when some scientists complain about the cost of establishing bases on the Moon. Unfortunately, Mohole was an early casualty of the inevitable collapse of 1960s Maslow Window ebullience, triggered by the Vietnam War and political issues with Mohole’s prime contractor Brown & Root.

Coincidentally, in the late 1980s when I was assembling an international team for our studies of manned lunar and Mars missions at General Dynamics, we chose Brown & Root as our base infrastructure experts. They were great people to work with. My Houston trips were always fun because after meetings with our friends at Johnson Space Center, I’d usually stop by Brown & Root’s Houston headquarters and then visit Larry Bell’s Sasakawa International Center for Space Architecture at the University of Houston; enjoyed working with them!

Based on macroeconomic data and historical trends of the last 200 years (including the 1960s!), it’s apparent that declining financial or other resources do not directly terminate Great Explorations and MEPs. It’s the decay of widespread ebullience — the force that initially makes Great Explorations and MEPs seem irresistible to the general public through their ascent to higher levels in Maslow’s Hierarchy — that eventually causes their “surprise” demise.

Ebullience — the hallmark of a Maslow Window — is a very intense, widespread form of Keynesian “animal spirits” and is a rare phenomenon. In the last 200 years it has appeared only during the rhythmic, twice-per-century major economic booms that trigger Maslow Windows.

Indeed, recent international events show the U.S. and other countries are financially capable of investing a few hundred billion USD in a decade of large-scale space colonization at almost any time they choose to do so — based on $ multi-B expenditures on recent wars and “stimulus” packages. But widespread ebullience is caused only by a major economic boom — not the reverse — presumably because these are stimulating times when a majority of citizens sense they are actually getting ahead.

Keep in mind that Maslow Windows are times of societal ebullience when it’s felt that almost anything is possible. If you can’t personally remember the 1960s or haven’t read about it, you may not understand how exceptional it really was. To get the feel for the ebullience of the 1960s, I suggest you scan my post on “The Liberal Hour.

By the way, I suspect that the Peary/Panama Maslow Window (~1903 to 1913) featuring Teddy Roosevelt, may have been the most ebullient decade in the entire history of the U.S. The world had just survived the Crash of 1893 and the associated deep recession (ending 1899), and the U.S. was getting used to being a major economic power. And they really felt they could do virtually anything.

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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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Apr 10 2009

Space Daily, Gila Bend, and the Next Space Age

Space Daily recently (4/7/09) published an intriguing editorial on the next Space Age that was inspired by the recent 25th National Space Symposium of the same theme. It’s hard to resist focusing on a few key Space Age-related issues here, because this weblog was founded to provide a long-range perspective on the human future in space.

I’m more than suitably inspired for this task having just checked in to none other than the Space Age Lodge in Gila Bend — basically across the street from the Barry Goldwater Air Force Range in the southwest desert of Arizona — as I spend a few days visiting friends and space sites in AZ and NM.

The Space Age Lodge in Gila Bend is a genuine icon of the 1960s Apollo Maslow Window that tantalizingly points to the next Space Age. Click spaceage.jpg.

More than just a fun, out-of-the-way place sporting pictures of the Shuttle in every room and the Space Age Restaurant, the Space Age Lodge is a genuine 1960s icon. The Lodge was initially built in 1964 — at the apex of the Apollo Maslow Window — by Al Stovall, who not only had his own copper mine and his own plastic factory, he was also a major supplier of manganese to the U.S. military during WW II. After Sputnik in 1957, Mr. Stovall became very interested in NASA and eventually displayed his large collection of personally autographed photos of nearly every astronaut of the 1960s. After getting my masters from UCLA, I stumbled onto this place enroute to starting a PhD program at the University of Arizona under Gerard Kuiper. When I saw all the autographed astronaut photos on the lobby walls I thought I’d been out in the sun too long!

Unfortunately you can’t see them anymore. When Al passed away in 1973 (apparently shortly after my visit) his autographed photos were returned to family. But the spirit of Al Stovall and the First Space Age are still captured here by the current owners.

Space Daily recognizes the close connection of technology, finance, and the first Space Age. “It seems that such historic periods (the first Space Age) end as a result of two converging events: the “new” technology of the time reaches a mature, established, stable state; and new, societal-changing technologies become widely adapted…(As) the space industry was showing its age…The public seemed to lose interest, government enthusiasm seemed to wane and the industry began consolidating.”

Macroeconomic patterns and historical trends of the last 200 years show that the 1960s Space Age was similar to earlier major pulses of Great non-space Explorations and Macro-Engineering Projects that have clustered together every 55 to 60 years. This can be seen in 200 Years and is described in Cordell (2006) and throughout this weblog. These spectacular decade-long “Maslow Windows” are fundamentally driven by major, twice-per-century economic booms, when widespread affluence-induced ebullience thrusts many in society to elevated states in Maslow’s heirarchy. For a few fleeting moments, the unprecedented exploration and technology projects seem irresistible, in the style of Keynesian “animal spirits.”

Space Daily expresses concern about our current financial crisis and recession and asks the question, “Will there be another Space Age?”

They seem unaware that — over the last 200 years — financial panics and major recessions are a common feature of the decade just preceeding every Maslow Window except one (the post-WWII Apollo Maslow Window). Space Daily concludes that “only after the new global economy has matured and stabilized will a new ‘Integrated Space Age’ be realized.”

They’re correct. And every indicator suggests this process will culminate with the opening of the next Maslow Window near 2015.

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Apr 05 2009

State of the Wave — The Economy, Pyongyang, Freeman Dyson…4/4/09

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

1) The Economy

U.S. unemployment is 8.5% — the worst since 1983 — and forecasters say it is headed to 10% later in 2009, and “the world economy is in the midst of its deepest and most synchronized recession in our lifetimes,” according to Klaus Schmidt-Hebbel of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (Wall Street Journal, 4/1/09).

Nevertheless, the globally slumping economy remains well within the historical envelopes of similar pre-Maslow Window panic/recessions over the last 200 years.

The New York Times (3/15/09, V. Bajaj) cautiously seeks the bottom by noting that: 1) price/earnings ratios for stocks are very low now but still about twice the P/E ratios of market bottoms for 1932 and 1982, 2) although existing house prices have declined by 1/3 (in current dollars) from their peak in 2006, they remain higher than in the housing booms of the 1970s and 1980s, and 3) Americans are starting to cut back on consumer spending of disposable income which has recently hovered near 100%. According to Obama economic advisor Lawrence Summers, these are the type of early signals that suggest the crisis is easing, although it’s not clear how soon it will end.

On the other hand, the Congressional Budget Office indicated recently that Obama’s budget would result in annual deficits of about $ 1 T over the next decade, and the total deficit from 2010 – 2019 would be “$ 2.3 T more than the administration forecast last month,” (Wall Street Journal, 3/21/09). This could weaken support for Mr. Obama’s spending initiatives. For example, North Dakota Democratic Senator Kent Conrad expressed concern over the long-term debt level because it “threatens the economic security of this country — I believe it in my bones.”

The odds of our current recession reaching depression status were estimated at only 15% recently by a Wall Street Journal (3/30/09, Justin Lahart) poll of economists. According to 94-year old economist Anna Schwartz, who studied causes of the Great Depression with Milton Friedman, “When you get an unemployment rate of 25%, everyone is conscious of that and fearful. We’re not talking in the league at all.” According to Lahart, a depression today would be different than the 1930s because fewer people work in agriculture and more are in service-related jobs today, plus the social safety net programs (e.g. unemployment insurance) would “blunt the blows.” Even without an official depression, Nobel economist Paul Samuelson, is concerned that “after the economy bottoms out, there could be a ‘lost’ four or five years of sluggish growth.”

Even Samuelson’s bleak scenario wouldn’t significantly delay the next Maslow Window. Indeed, growing global Maslow-style pressures to explore and colonize the Moon should have a positive economic effect; e.g., as they did toward the end of the 1893 panic/recession just prior to the Panama Canal/Polar Exploration Maslow Window.

2) North Korea Missile Launch

The launch of Pyongyang’s Taepodong-2 rocket occurred as I was writing this post; Stratfor reports that, “North Korea launched a satellite into orbit via a multistage rocket, Yonhap reported April 4, citing a statement by the Japanese government. The rocket lifted off at 0230 GMT, and it passed over Japan as planned in the flight path.”

The launch had generated global concern: The Los Angeles Times (2/8/09; J. Glionna)speculated that it might test the U.S. “The missile is pointing at Obama. North Korea thinks that with such gestures they can control U.S. foreign policy,” according Baek Seung-joo of the Korean Institute for Defense Analysis in Seoul. Anticipating its trajectory to be over Japan, Tokyo positioned missile interceptors against the rocket or its debris (Wall Street Journal, 3/28/09). British Foreigh Office Minister Bill Rammell, while visiting Seoul, said the launch would be “a clear breach” of the UN Security Council Resolution 1718. And Secretary of State Hillary Clinton labeled the North Korean launch a “provocative act” that would have consequences.

Stratfor reported on 3/25 that according to National Intelligence Director Dennis Blair, “all indications suggest that North Korea will actually launch a satellite.” It appears he was right.

I suggested earlier that “the North Koreans are betting that the ‘global trend of the times’ — i.e., new space programs are developing in many countries around the world — will make the DPRK story believable.” This global trend is a major theme of 21stCenturyWaves.com featuring the approach to our next Maslow Window (expected in 2015) — the culmination of 200+ years of long-term trends in the economy and technology development, characterized by a major thrust toward international human expansion into the cosmos.

On April 3, Stratfor stated that “Ultimately, the Taepodong series missiles and SLVs are showpieces — diplomatic tools Pyongyang wields with care. They are not weapons,” for a variety of reasons including inaccuracy, low production numbers, slow launch capability, and NK’s inability to miniaturize and weaponize a nuclear bomb, according to Stratfor. They expect a few more scoldings or sanctions from the UN, and that’s about it. We’ll see what happens.

3) Growing Optimism About Technology and the Future

As we approach the 2015 Maslow Window, this blog has consistently forecast 2 things: 1) increasing public interest in technology and space, and 2) more optimistic public attitudes toward the future. There is evidence that, even 5 to 7 years out from the next Maslow Window and in the midst of the current global recession, both are appearing.

For example, the New York Times Magazine last Sunday (3/29/09; N. Dawidoff) featured an in-depth inteview with Princeton’s Nobel-caliber emeritus physicist Freeman Dyson, whose mind is still described by his colleagues as “infinitely smart” and “extraordinarily powerful.” He is profiled as a brilliant pro-technology scientist, who’s not comfortable with Gore-style climate crisis rhetoric. According to Dyson, “the climate-studies people who work with models…come to believe models are real and forget they are only models.” But the real global warming culprit is NASA scientist “Jim Hansen. He consistently exaggerates all the dangers.” In a recent shift in public opinion, it appears the majority of Americans agree with Dyson; Gallup reports that only 38% think that global warming will have a major impact on their lives.

Another surprise was the current issue of Foreign Affairs (March/April, 2009) whose cover features a stunningly pro-technology article “Geoengineering the Climate?” In case Dyson and others are wrong, the article, by five legal, engineering, and public policy academics, favors albedo techniques to reject solar radiation and cool the Earth. In the style of volcanic eruptions, they suggest injecting sulfate aerosols or similar reflective materials into the upper atmosphere; the space-based reflective cloud technique of Roger Angel is not mentioned, despite the fact that it would be less invasive for the biosphere. Their technology-intensive bottomline is that “the option of geoengineering exists. It would be dangerous for scientists and policymakers to ignore it.”

In another pro-technology development, Gallup reports that “a majority of Americans have been supportive of the use of nuclear energy in the United States in recent years, but this year’s Gallup Environment Poll finds new high levels of support, with 59% favoring its use, including 27% who strongly favor it.” This mirrors beliefs expressed by University of Southern California engineering professor Najmedin Meshkati, at a public event in Orange County that I organized. While acknowledging concerns about nuclear wastes and life-cycle costs, Dr. Meshkati spoke of a “nuclear renaissance” due to increased reactor safety and environment-friendly energy.

Although it is not yet obvious what mix of technologies (e.g., solar, nuclear, others) is best to address future energy/environment challenges, the trend toward pro-technology solutions and optimistic public attitudes about the future is consistent with the last 200 years and especially with our forecasts of the 2015 Maslow WIndow.

4) No NASA Administrator

Space News has concerns about President Obama’s inaction regarding a new post-Griffin Administrator. In a March 30 editorial, they suggested that the candidate vetting and Senate confirmation processes could leave NASA leader-less “well into the second quarter of 2009.” The worry is about major near-term decisions — e.g., retirement date for the Shuttle and the 5-year gap — that will affect NASA well into the 2015 Maslow Window.

This situation is consistent with my January forecast that, despite Obama’s interest and support of NASA during the capaign, he will, of necessity, need to focus on the economy and national security. Therefore, NASA will simply not be a front-burner item early in his administration.

5) ABC News Explains the Theory of Maslow Windows!

The centerpiece of 21stCenturyWaves.com is the concept of a Maslow Window. These are decade-long intervals separated by 55 to 60 years, when major economic booms produce widespread affluence-induced ebullience. For most people, this triggers their ascent to higher levels in Maslow’s heirarchy, where major exploration and technology projects seem at least intriguing and often almost irresistible.

But why, over the last 200 years, have great explorations and macro-engineering projects not been favored by the public during the decades between Maslow Windows (e.g., 1970s, 80s, 90s)?

Gina Sunseri of ABC News (11/29/08) explains that “the space station is the most complicated engineering project ever undertaken, and astronauts are…accomplishing remarkable feats in space — but it is hard for most Americans to care much about the space program when they are worried about keeping their jobs, making house payments and putting food on the table.”

In other words, low levels on Maslow’s heirarchy just don’t make it. Thank you ABC News!

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Mar 31 2009

World Future Society Forecasts for the Next Maslow Window

The World Future Society recently published technology forecasts for 2010 through 2030 (The Futurist, March-April, 2009). Since this interval is essentially the expected 2015 Maslow Window — where exceptional affluence-induced ebullience thrusts many to elevated levels in Maslow’s heirarchy, making major technology and exploration initiatives seem momentarily very attractive — it’s of interest to examine their projections.

Will Virgin Galactic send the first paying customer into suborbital space (70 miles) on/before 31 Dec 2010? The prediction market Intrade says 25% yes, while Cetron’s panel says 2012 is more like it. Click spaceshipone.jpg.

The first article, by well-known futurist Marvin Cetron (Forecasting International Ltd.), describes a timeline first developed by British Telecommunications in 1991. Cetron has updated this effort using 6 consultants, including Dennis Bushnell of NASA, William Halal of George Washington University, and just to make it more mysterious, a Department of Defense technology expert “who chose to remain anonymous.” I heard Professor Halal’s well-attended technology talk at the World Future Society’s annual conference a couple of years ago in Toronto, and was impressed. He authors the second article and describes the TechCast Project as essentially a continuous, online Delphi poll of 100 high-tech executives, scientists, engineers etc. who are provided with data and analyses and then supply their best judgment about most likely timeframe for 70 technologies.

Cetron’s timeline is divided into 5-year intervals, a dozen disciplines (artificial intelligence through wearable and personal technology) and includes a few “Wild Cards.”

The first interval — 2010 to 2014 — is the run-up to the 2015 Maslow Window, and thus is likely to be a very stimulating time. The expected level of unusual excitement is suggested by events of about one long wave ago (i.e., in the late 1950s); e.g., Sputnik, the International Geophysical Year, and the formation of NASA. Cetron’s timeline lists the first suborbital space tours — a fairly safe prediction — for 2012. The Wild Card is “Zero point energy engineered/commercialized; all other energy sources become obsolete.” Because it isn’t clear that such uses are theoretically possible, this is a fun Wild Card. Halal’s timeline also shows space tourism in the same timeframe along with “climate control.” It’s very unlikely that a full-blown Angel-style albedo geoengineering scenario could materialize that early (by 2015), so it must refer to something smaller.

Cetron’s forecasts for 2015-2019 include a artificial heart, quantum computer (Halal lists it near 2023), and 25% of TV celebrities that are syntheticI thought they already were? :) The Space category lists “Space tugs take satellites into high orbits (2015).” By analogy with the 1960s Apollo Maslow Window, this is likely to be a time of system and technology development (e.g., like Mercury and Gemini programs), including zero-g medical countermeasures at ISS, for upcoming space missions. This may include pioneering space missions such as the first human interplanetary mission to a near-Earth asteroid — a potential stepping-stone to Mars.

The 2015 Maslow Window should be at its peak between 2020 and 2025+ however Cetron’s timeline lists nothing space-y between 2020 and 2024, but for 2025-2029 he suggests a 350 guest space hotel (2025). Wild Cards include a bio/nano experiment that goes haywire on a regional or global scale, and something that hints at the discovery of extraterrestrials: “Discovery of artifacts that force reconsidering significant aspects of common understanding of human history.”

All Cetron’s big space stuff is at or beyond 2040, including a Moonbase “the size of a small village”, and the first manned Mars mission. Based on the last 200 years, this timing is highly unlikely because the next Maslow Window should open near 2015 and remain open only until the mid-2020s, unless its prematurely closed Apollo/Vietnam-style by a major military conflict expected sometime during the 2020s. Unless we establish a permanent beachhead in space at the Moon or beyond by 2025, it’s likely that post-2025 space adventures will be like those since 1973 — no human missions beyond Earth Orbit — because the next Maslow Window opens near 2071. Halal shows a significant Moon base near 2029, which is more consistent with macroeconomic and historical trends of the last 200 years.

One final point: Cetron explains that adoption of a technology depends on it being “technically feasible, economically feasible, and both socially and politically acceptable.” He then uses the space program as an example and unfortunately propagates a common misconception. “The space-related events…assume that putting human beings into space will remain a priority, but that is not guaranteed…(because) future administrations might downgrade human spaceflight…In that case, the events on our timeline…and the dates will need significant adjustment.”

In fact, patterns in long-term trends in the economy, technology, and society — over the last 200 years — indicate that Great Explorations (like Apollo) and MEPs (e.g., Panama Canal) are fundamentally driven by long waves in the economy. For example, during the 1960s Maslow Window, President Kennedy was easily able to initiate the Apollo program that culminated in humans on the Moon, but collapsed rapidly (and predictably) after 1969. On the other hand, the best efforts of President Reagan couldn’t make the space station materialize in the decade after he proposed it — a decade almost the economic opposite of the great boom of the 1960s, that included the Crash of 1987 (Black Monday).

The rule of the last 200 years appears to be: Great leaders help, but the economy rules.
Which suggests “the new 1960s” should begin in only 5 – 7 years.

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Mar 28 2009

The Shocking Truth About the Father of the Space Station

The recent completion of the solar arrays on the International Space Station (ISS) and having just marked its 10th anniversary in space, invite us to celebrate and contemplate the station’s birth way back in the 1980s.

It was in 1984 that President Ronald Reagan proposed a manned space station in low Earth orbit; named Space Station Freedom (SSF), it became the progenitor of the current ISS. Called “the next logical step” into space, Freedom was to be ambitiously multifunctional: a satellite servicing facility, spacecraft assembly center, astronomical observatory, a lab to study microgravity’s effects on astronauts, a commercial/industrial manufacturing facility. Reagan’s inspirational rhetoric soared almost as high as the station, “We can follow our dreams to distant stars, living and working in space for peaceful, economic, and scientific gain.”

Cost estimates for Space Station Freedom were $ 12.2 B in 1987 and it was to be permanently manned by April, 1997. Click ssf1987.jpg.

The day after Christmas (2008) we decided to visit Reagan’s Presidential Library in Simi Valley because — although we both admired the “Father of the Space Station” — neither of us had ever been there. We were impressed by the beautiful setting, the story of Reagan’s humble beginnings in Illinois, his movie career (including the “win one for the Gipper” video!), his ascent to the California governorship and the Presidency, and most of all, his actual Air Force 1 (a 747) that you see Contributing Editor Carol Lane smiling in front of.

Carol enjoyed this view of President Reagan’s Air Force 1, but still felt that something was missing. Click af1.jpg.

But one thing was missing, and this led to the 1st Shocking Truth about President Reagan (or at least about his library): There was NO mention of the space station!! After looking everywhere we finally gave up. It’s 3 months later now and we’re still surprised.

Of course, compared to “winning the Cold War” — which led in 1993 to the transformation of SSF into today’s ISS — and dismantling the Berlin Wall (a large piece of which is on display in the west courtyard), we know that a project (like SSF) that never came to fruition during Reagan’s 2 terms — and in fact was almost voted out of existence by Congress — would be considered small potatoes. But we still expected something!!!

More recently, as we enjoyed the mountain drive on the way to Indian Wells for a couple days at the BNP Paribas Open tennis tournament, we began to come to psychological terms with this (to us) stunning omission in Reagan’s Library. We remembered how President John F. Kennedy played the key leadership role in the first race to space. His charisma, timing, and courage contributed to the first man on the Moon in 1969. But we also were reminded that patterns in long-term trends in the economy, technology, and society over the last 200 years suggest that the fundamental driver behind the Apollo Moon program was the unparalleled economic boom of the 1960s.

Indeed the captivating question about which was most important to Apollo — President Kennedy or the 1960s economic boom — lingered. It all boiled down to this: Could President Kennedy have successfully kicked-off Apollo at any other time than when he did it — the early 1960s? For example, could JFK, the charismatic leader of “Camelot“, have successfully motivated a large space program in the 1980s?

This led us to the 2nd Shocking Truth about President Reagan: Not even the “Great Communicator” himself, arguably at least as charismatic as JFK, could make the space station program happen during the decade after he proposed it.

Were the 1980s just not conducive to Apollo-level Great Explorations or MEPs? Or was there something “wrong” with the Space Station project itself?

Why did the space station experience endless concept redesigns, political turbulence, a hefty $ 100 B price tag, and an unbelievable delay in its completion date from Reagan’s 1994 initial target to the actual date in 2011? …Only 17 years late!!

Of course, ISS is not a Great Exploration in the sense of Apollo or Lewis and Clark, it’s a “national laboratory” circling the Earth every 90 minutes. And it is, after all, the most expensive man-made project in history, by some accounts totaling $100 billion in costs. It involves 16 countries and there is approximately 1,000,000 pounds of hardware in space. The International Space Station comprises 100 elements that were built all over the world and integrated into one structure only in space. In total, the ISS is both an extraordinary engineering and foreign policy accomplishment that guarantee it’s an MEP historically comparable to the Saturn V or the Panama Canal.

On June 12, 2008, while explaining why the Superconducting Super Collider (SSC) ultimately failed to generate public support, we proposed 4 “rules” for success for MacroEngineering Projects. Although the SSC violated all four, the space station only violated two of them:

Rule 1: Never initiate a $ multi-B MEP during the downgoing portion of the 56 year energy/economic cycle (it peaked in 1969)…
and,
Rule 3: Large MEPs like SSF or SSC that are proposed between Maslow Windows (i.e., “trough” projects) must be associated with a strategic conflict (e.g. the A-Bomb project during WW II) for them to be viable….

The two other rules were less a factor for the space station:

Rule 2: Never propose a big MEP during the downgoing portion of the 56-year energy/economic cycle when another spectacular MEP has already been approved. Although President Reagan announced Space Station Freedom in 1984 after he had proposed the Strategic Defense Initiative (“Star Wars”) in 1983, they were not really competitive because SDI was a “survival” program — not typically dependent on long waves in the economy — while SSF was a genuine “Maslow Program.”
and,
Rule 4: MEPs proposed at any time must be impressive and inspirational to achieve public approval. Unlike the pyramids, European cathedrals, and the Panama Canal, most of SSC was buried underground and invisible, while SSF/ISS is highly visible directly in space and indirectly visible through the large number of Shuttle launches since 1998 needed to construct it.

Thus it appears likely that the 1960s Apollo Maslow Window was fundamentally driven not by President Kennedy, or even by the specific Great Exploration and MEP involved — but by the huge economic boom that triggered wide-spread ebullience and momentarily elevated Maslow heirarchy levels.

A similar confluence of societal affluence and ebullience is expected near 2015.

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Feb 03 2009

Was the 1960s Apollo Moon program an "anomaly"?

Those of you not yet in your 50′s won’t remember it. And since then, there’s never been a time like it. The 1960s — the time of Camelot and Apollo — were special. Letting your mind casually drift through space events of the last few decades, and remembering that no human has ventured beyond Earth orbit since 1972, sometimes it’s easy to believe that Apollo must have been a historical fluke.

Was Apollo just blind, premature luck? Or is it starting to happen again right on schedule? Click apollo_rover.jpg.

This sentiment surfaced again recently in Aerospace America (January, 2009). In his summary of NASA’s current lunar agenda, Leonard David quotes well-known author Andrew Chaiken (A Man On the Moon) who asserts that Apollo was an anomaly because “political forces made the Moon our destiny … and all the forces aligned, however briefly. And by the time we got to the Moon, those forces were already starting to diverge.”

And Chaikin is hardly alone.

Actor Tom HanksApollo 13 star and major space advocate — suggests Apollo might have been early, “There was a national will and a mobilization of forces that could only come about by an executive order. We can….say we’re going to Mars someday, but it could be 120 years from now.” Without Kennedy we might not have traveled to the Moon “until the mid-1970s — maybe not even until the 1980s.”

Famous physicist Freeman Dyson (e.g., Dyson Sphere) expressed frustration with the political nature of the Space Station program during its development; although it’s a huge source of jobs, its utility for the human future in space wasn’t always the focus. Plus Dyson doesn’t “think we’re going to Mars in the next 50 years.”

I used to suffer from similar frustrations. For example, in my 1991 op-ed piece in Space News I saw the successful conduct of the first Gulf War as providing possible generic lessons for a future human planetary program. But it still wasn’t obvious to me what would drive it: “Perhaps the key hurdle facing SEI (Space Exploration Initiative) is identifying a motivation analogous to the Iraqi threat…There is little doubt that SEI would benefit science and international relations, and it would certainly elevate the human spirit. The question remains: can these worthy SEI rationales be formulated and communicated so that they become motivations as powerful as was the Iraqi threat?”

As I’ve since realized, looking for parallels between human space exploration and military conflicts can be misleading; they’re different creatures driven by fundamentally different forces. For example, a war is a “Survival Program” that can occur at any time, and funding isn’t an issue because national survival is Job #1. Although it’s never yet occurred (except in the movies), the challenge of deflecting an Earth-approaching asteroid might develop the same international urgency as a war. One could also argue that combating our current global economic crisis is also a “Survival Program,” at least in the financial sense. The Obama administration has given it great urgency and “stimulus” packages seem unlimited!

Notice also that our Economic Survival Program trumps human spaceflight. The champion of a U.S. return to the Moon by 2020 (Mike Griffin) has departed, and it is widely agreed that greater economic stability is a prerequisite for exporting human civilization to the Moon and beyond.

Although of great long-term value to civilization, this hierarchy suggests that NASA’s Vision for Space Exploration (VSE) isn’t a “Survival Program.” It’s what I call a “Maslow Program.” Maslow programs are triggered only during unparalleled economic booms that occur twice per century, when large segments of society experience affluence-induced ebullience. For many, this short-lived ebullience propels them to elevated levels in Maslow’s hierarchy where great explorations and macro-engineering projects are not only supported, but seem almost irresistible. But for those who do not ascend to elevated Maslow states, their affluence-induced ebullience often results in tragically destructive pursuits like initiating major wars.

Macroeconomic data and historical trends over the last 200 years indicate that this model is closely allied with reality and has predictive power for the 21st Century. In fact, Apollo seems like a historical “anomaly” only because Maslow Windows (i.e., the decade-long intervals when Maslow Programs flourish) are typically separated by 55 to 60 years.

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Oct 25 2008

The 1960s Apollo Maslow Window was "Transformative"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Oct 08 2008

The New Cuban Space Center and Vladimir Bonaparte

The last 200 years teach us that approximately every 56 years great explorations like Lewis and Clark splash into history along with stunning macro-engineering projects (MEPs) like the Suez Canal. Tragically, they are usually followed shortly by a major war like World War I.

Most of this twice-per-century action occurs in the decade just before a peak in the well-documented 56 year energy cycle. These Maslow Windows are invariably the time of exceptional economic booms that create widespread affluence and elevate society to higher realms of Maslow’s Heirarchy. Thus many people momentarily find great explorations and MEPs not only tolerable, but almost irresistible.

Our time is coming. We’re rapidly approaching the opening of the next Maslow Window near 2015, and can expect the usual unfortunate escalation of international tensions of the type we saw in the 1950s during the Cold War.

Unfortunately the current parallel with the 1950s is striking. The Wall Street Journal (8/12/08) suggests that Russian tanks in Georgia revealed “Vladimir Putin’s Napoleonic ambitions”: to dominate Eurasia again. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice asserted that “Georgia can be rebuilt. Russia’s reputation is going to take a while, if ever,” (CBS TV, 8/17/08). Peter Zeihan, a geopolitical analyst with Stratfor, which Barron’s once referred to as “the shadow CIA,” suggests that, “Russia is attempting to reforge its Cold War-era influence…”

One attractive Russian target is Cuba. Since space centers are the rage around the globe these days, Russia’s offered to build them one (Reuters, 9/17/08). Of course this would just involve little things like joint use of “space equipment…and space communications systems.” If this doesn’t remind you of the Cuban missile crisis (1962) during the early Apollo Maslow Window when WW III almost began, you need to Google it. For their part, the Russians openly acknowledge that “they want to renew Cuban ties that were neglected after the Soviet Union’s collapse.”

One of the greatest sources of joy to the American public, as revealed by opinion polls over the decades, is the prospect of true international cooperation in space, especially with the Russians. And now word comes from the recent International Astronautical Congress in Glascow, Scotland that not only the Russians, but the Chinese want to go to Mars… with the U.S.!!

Such a sparkling joint great exploration concept brings to mind the phrase, “Where do I sign?” But students of long-term trends in geopolitics and history must reluctantly advise caution.

Once upon a time, about one energy cycle ago in the 1950s, there was the International Geophysical Year (IGY), an exhuberant time of global scientific devouring of Earth’s atmospheric and space environment. In 1954 the International Council of Scientific Unions announced plans for artificial satellites to be launched during the IGY, and in July, 1955 the U.S. confirmed its intention to launch one for the IGY. Almost immediately, according to Professor Asif Siddiqi, the Soviets began a secret, crash program to beat the Americans and launch the first satellite.

The shocking result — at least to the U.S. — was the Soviet launch of Sputnik in October, 1957; an event that ignited the 1st race to space and culminated in Neil Armstrong’s footsteps on the Moon in 1969.

What will ignite the next race to space? One possible, but chilling response comes from Stratfor’s Zeihan, “It’s a fairly straightforward exercise to predict where Russian activity will reach its deepest. One only needs to revisit Cold War history.”

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Sep 14 2008

Forecasting the Next 20 Years in Space — State of the Wave, Friday 9/12/08

Bruce’s presentation last Thursday to the AIAA Space 2008 Conference in San Diego is now online here.

“Forecasting the Next 20 Years in Space: The New Race to Space,” has 3 purposes: 1) to briefly introduce the macroeconomic and historical data of the last 200 years for Great Explorations, Macro-Engineering Projects, and major wars, and to explain how they provide a framework for 21st Century space and technology forecasts, 2) to explore the basic forecasts themselves for the next 20 years and summarize global events and trends supporting them, and 3) to feature space policy-related implications of the forecasts. The bottomline is that long waves in the economy provide a framework in which major exploring, impressive building, and tragic warrior behavior are especially enabled roughly every 56 years.

The 56 year energy cycle (discovered by Stewart, 1989) provides a remarkable indicator of macroeconomic activity; the energy peaks (e.g., in 1969) correspond directly to peaks in major decade-long economic booms. Indeed, the energy cycle and the better-known Kondratieff waves are directly correlated. And Alexander (2002) has shown that the popular Strauss and Howe (1991) generational cycles are also correlated with (and apparently influenced by) K Waves.

Historical data from the last 200 years clearly show that Great Explorations, massive MEPs, and major wars, cluster near the 56 year energy cycle peaks in 1801, 1857, 1913, and 1969 (and soon 2025). (See the presentation charts and The Articles.)

The close association of Great Explorations, MEPs, and major wars with the 56 year energy/economics cycle suggests the following “Maslow Window” model: Rhythmic, twice-per-century major economic booms create widespread affluence. As societal “Maslow pressures” are reduced, many people ascend the Maslow Heirarchy into an affluence-induced ebullient state and momentarily find exploring and building to be almost irresistible. While others also reach ebullience — but do not ascend the Maslow Heirarchy — and tragically trigger major wars. This unusual confluence of affluence and ebullience creates what we call a “Maslow Window” — a spectacular decade that rapidly declines just after the energy peak. The impressive economic, political, strategic, and scientific parallels between Lewis and Clark and Apollo are, for example, easily explained by this model, as are many other such parallels over the last 200 years.

Projecting the last 200 years into the next 20 suggests that the decade from 2015 to 2025 will be the analog — in the economy, technology, exploration, politics — of the 1960s, complete with a Camelot-style zeitgeist.

Many signs of the times (documented in this weblog) — most good and some bad — support the idea that society is approaching the 2015 Maslow Window, including: the greatest global economic boom ever (July, 2007; momentarily postponed by our current turmoil), energetic international space programs, return of Cold War-like tensions in Europe, birth of the space tourism industry, a global explosion of non-space MEPs (e.g., the $ 5 B Panama Canal expansion), the emergent exploration-loving Millennial generation, and many others.

Policy-related implications of this Maslow Window model abound and include: 1) public ebullience and support for major Maslow programs (e.g., manned Mars) will fade abruptly near the next 56 year energy peak (2025), 2) timing of the expected 2020s major war is a major wildcard, 3) planned human Moon and Mars initiatives should strive for self-sufficiency in space so at least some deep space (i.e., beyond LEO/GEO) operations can continue after Maslow Window closure near 2025, 4) current U.S. Moon base plans and Maslow Window timing appear to preclude American spaceflight to Mars during this Window (next Window opens in 2071), 5) the next rapidly approaching Maslow Window (opening in 2013-15) requires action now, not paralysis by analysis, … and many others.

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