Feb 13 2012

Are Stratfor’s “Generational Shifts” like “Falling Grains of Sand”?

In their most interesting Annual Forecast for 2012, Stratfor.com has identified this year as a very special time that they call a “generational shift”:

There are periods when the international system undergoes radical shifts in a short time … We are in a similar cycle, one that began in 2008 and is still playing out.

In Les Miserables (1862), French novelist Victor Hugo asked, “How do we know that the creations of worlds are not determined by falling grains of sand?”

Another way to think of Stratfor’s description is as a “critical state” in the international economic system that has been self-organizing for decades. As we approach the critical state small triggers can have rapid, often unexpected — even system-wide – effects.

Over the last 200+ years, critical states are intimately associated with the emergence of Maslow Windows — transformative, 1960s-style decades always featuring huge engineering projects like the Panama Canal, a great exploration like the Apollo Moon program, and a Camelot-style zeitgeist.

In his remarkable book — How Nature Works (1996) — former Brookhaven professor of physics Per Bak (1948-2002) imagined that the real world was analogous to a sand pile, created by dropping one grain of sand at a time. Initially and for some time, as grains began to pile up nothing much happens. But eventually the sand pile slopes become large and unstable — i.e., it reaches a self-organized “critical state.” Then one more tiny grain of sand could rapidly trigger an “avalanche” that might be small or medium in size, or large enough to change the whole sand pile.

Based on Stratfor’s observations and my analysis, it appears that the world is approaching a critical state today, which will feature Bak-style “avalanches”. The question is: How big will they be?

According to Stratfor, the current generational shift since 2008 features the following:

The European Union has stopped functioning as it did five years ago and has yet to see its new form defined. China has moved into a difficult social and economic phase, with the global recession severely affecting its export-oriented economy and its products increasingly uncompetitive due to inflation. The U.S. withdrawal from Iraq has created opportunities for an Iranian assertion of power that could change the balance of power in the region. The simultaneous shifts in Europe, China and the Middle East open the door to a new international framework …

During the world’s most recent critical state (in the 1960s), the Cuban Missile Crisis prsented an existential crisis for the U.S and U.S.S.R. that, fortunately, was rapidly resolved. In the language of self-organized criticality, a major nuclear exchange between the US and USSR in 1962 would have brutally terminated the 1960s critical state (i.e., leveled Bak’s sand pile) seven years before the first manned landing on the Moon actually occurred.

The Cuban Missile Crisis was not the first existential threat to the US during the approach to a critical state. Prior to 1803 when Jefferson finally secured the Louisiana Purchase, it was widely believed that Napoleon had his eye on a North American empire.

Stratfor observes that this generational shift is still associated with much uncertainty.

The 2012 forecast is unique in that it is not a forecast for one year in a succession of years, all basically framed by the same realities. Rather, it is a year in which the individual forecasts point to a new generational reality and a redefinition of how the world works.

Although potential conflicts involving countries like North Korea and Iran present very dangerous threats during the approaching critical state, the good news is that — over the last 200+ years — each critical state has triggered major economic booms and an ebullient population that have enabled monumental macro-engineering projects and great explorations like Apollo.

There’s every reason to expect this multi-century pattern will persist.

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Feb 06 2012

Readers’ Favorite Posts — January, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

Updated 2/1/2012

I. JANUARY — Readers’ Favorites

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

II. THE LAST 7 DAYS — Readers’ Favorites

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

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Jan 01 2012

Happy New Year and The Top 10 for 2011

Happy New Year!

PLEASE NOTE: This year’s “State of the Wave: 10 Space Trends for 2012″ will be appearing very soon! (See #9 below for 2011 trends.)

Also, be sure to catch Bruce on The Space Show on Tuesday, January 10, 2012.

Here is the Top 10 for 2011:
This is a special updated New Year’s edition of our readers’ favorite posts, based on the number of times each post was visited during 2011.

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

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

Updated 1/1/2012

THE LAST 365 DAYS (2011) — Readers’ Favorites

1) 10 Lessons the Panama Canal Teaches Us About the Human Future in Space — 5/18/09
2) The Allure of Moving to Mars Points to the New Space Age — 10/30/10
3) The Moon is Not Enough…! — 11/22/08
4) Phobos: The Key to the Cosmos? Just Ask Russia and China! — 3/27/10
5) Kepler, Watson, and Gott Point to the Rare Earth Hypothesis — 3/20/11
6) Happy Fourth of July — Independence Day! — …and Readers’ Favorite Posts — June, 2010 — 7/4/10
7) AIAA — Analyst Predicts New Space Age Coming Soon — 6/30/11
8 ) State of the Wave: Today’s Gloom & Doom, and the 2015 Boom — 8/29/10
9) State of the Wave: 10 Space Trends for 2011 — 1/23/11
10) Standard Chartered Bank’s “New Super-Cycle” Points to the New Apollo-Style Space Age — 3/5/11

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May 15 2011

Celebrating 3 Years of 21stCenturyWaves.com at ISDC 2011 in Huntsville

This week we’re celebrating our 3rd exciting year of exploring the future of space, technology, and education at 21stCenturyWaves.com!

I’d like to thank Rachel Nishimura, who is the co-founder of 21stCenturyWaves.com, for making it possible, and all the Contributing Editors who have provided invaluable advice and information over the last 3 years, as well as new colleagues who help this quest continue to grow.

Most of all I’d like to thank the readers of 21stCenturyWaves.com from around the world who’ve visited this site for a glimpse of the future. Please come back often because long-term indicators and current global trends show we’re accelerating toward a 1960′s-style transformative decade — including a new international Space Age — by 2015. And 21stCenturyWaves.com is just getting started.

This week I’m celebrating 3 years of 21stCenturyWaves.com by speaking at the International Space Development Conference (ISDC 2011) at the Von Braun Center in Huntsville, AL. In “Economic Booms and Apollo-Style Exploration” we’ll see how rhythmic, twice-per-century 1960s-style decades over the last 200+ years culminated in humans on the Moon and point to a spectacular future…

The history of the last 200+ years – back to Lewis and Clark — shows that Apollo-style explorations and macro engineering projects emerge only during brief, twice-per-century intervals called “Maslow Windows”. They are exclusively associated with major economic booms (e.g., the 1960s Kennedy boom) and appear to be fundamentally driven by long-term business and generational cycles. During the booms, affluence-induced ebullience catapults many in society to elevated states in Maslow’s hierarchy where great explorations seem not only intriguing, but almost irresistible.

For your enjoyment, here are…
The Top 10 Readers’ Favorite Posts During Our 3rd Year:

1) The Moon is Not Enough…! — 11/22/08
2) 10 Lessons the Panama Canal Teaches Us About the Human Future in Space — 5/18/09
3) Phobos: The Key to the Cosmos? Just Ask Russia and China! — 3/27/10
4) State of the Wave: Today’s Gloom & Doom, and the 2015 Boom — 8/29/10
5) The Allure of Moving to Mars Points to the New Space Age — 10/30/10
6) A Major Economic Boom By 2015? … The Lessons of Cleveland, Roosevelt, and Obama — 7/31/10
7) State of the Wave: Why No One’s Been to the Moon in 40 Years — How Soon We’ll Go Again — 7/11/10
8 ) Kepler, Watson, and Gott Point to the Rare Earth Hypothesis — 3/20/11
9) China Surges to #2 and Contemplates More Freedom: The Implications for Space — 8/21/10
10) Space: The Fractal Frontier — How Complexity Drives Exploration — 5/1/10

Here are a couple of Honorable Mentions…

Standard Chartered Bank’s “New Super-Cycle” Points to the New Apollo-Style Space Age — 3/5/11

State of the Wave: The Maslow Window — A Brief Intro — 4/02/11

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May 04 2011

Kanal Istanbul — A View To an Ebullient, Apollo-style Age?

During his ongoing re-election campaign, the prime minister of Turkey is selling a big idea. According to Mr. Recep Tayyip Erdogan (Wall Street Journal, M. Champion, 4/28/11),

We are today starting to work on one of the biggest projects of the century, which leaves behind the Panama, the Suez and—in Greece—the Corinth canals.

Do ebullient visions of Kanal Istanbul signal the approach of a 1960s-style golden age?

Given that the Suez Canal was the “technological jewel” of the 19th century, and Panama was the greatest macroengineering project of the last 200 years (until Apollo), Mr. Erdogan is using the language of ebullience.

Here at 21stCentuyWaves.com, ebullience is a technical term that indicates a very positive, somewhat irrational emotional state characterized by unusual confidence in the future.

In the 1960s Apollo program and Peace Corps of John F. Kennedy it was the ebullient feeling that we could do almost anything; … and about 200 years ago it began auspiciously with Jefferson, Napoleon, and Lewis & Clark.

Mr. Erdogan envisions Kanal Istanbul as reducing shipping traffic and increasing safety and quality of life in the Bosphorus area by creating a channel from the Black Sea to the Mediterranean; indeed, between 1982 and 2003 the Bosphorus experienced more than 600 shipping accidents.

But environmental rationales aside, the project’s main appeal is apparent in the prime minister’s ebullient rhetoric.

We said Turkey deserves to enter 2023 with such a major, crazy and wonderful project, and we took the step for this.

This timeframe suggests Kanal Istanbul would occur near the projected culmination of the 2015 Maslow Window.

History shows that truly ebullient projects — characteristic of the approach to (or early in) Maslow Windows — are usually fuzzy about costs, and Kanal Istanbul is no exception. For example, Mr. Erodgan didn’t address the issue partly because the exact path of the ~50 km-long canal is not decided.

However, William Marcuson, of the American Society of Civil Engineers, estimates a big canal rate of $ 1 B per kilometer, which puts Kanal Istanbul in the $ 50 B range, or about 1/3 of the 1960s Apollo Moon program.

Apollo-level costs convince critics that the canal will never be built. For example, Amada Paul (Today’s Zaman, 5/3/11) suggests that,

This project is probably little more than a three-minute wonder with Erdoğan announcing it without putting any meat on the bones … Once the elections are over it will likely fade away.

The real question is whether Kanal Istanbul will be more like the Grand Korean Waterway or the Panama Canal Expansion Project? In the former case, Lee Myung-bak’s ebullient vision has encountered opposition from the public. But in Panama in 2006, 72% of voters ebulliently approved the $ 5.25 B project — a tab close to the original cost of the Canal!

The Bottom Line
Given Turkey’s ascending geopolitical trajectory (e.g., George Friedman, The Next Decade, 2011) toward regional primacy, it’s probable that Kanal Istanbul will materialize sometime during the 2015 Maslow Window. In any case, the fact that the Kanal is being seriously advocated today is interpreted as more empirical evidence of our approach to another transformative 1960s-style golden age.

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Apr 02 2011

State of the Wave: The Maslow Window — A Brief Intro

This is a brief introduction to the Maslow Window model that forecasts another transformative, 1960s-style “golden age” to begin by 2015. (Just click on the titles below.) Keep in mind that on the Blogroll, posts are archived according to Category, publishing date, and keywords.

Future updates of this post will be archived as a Page. Click HERE.

What follows is NOT a complete list of relevant posts, merely a few key ones to get you started.

A good place to start is The Concept page.

Economic Growth — A Brief 21stCenturyWaves Perspective

Economic Booms and Apollo-style Exploration: How Soon the 40-Year Moon Hiatus Will End

Joseph Friedlander’s view of Maslow Windows at NextBigFuture.com

Trends and Forecasts
State of the Wave — 10 Space Trends for 2011

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

Ebullience and Animal Spirits are the Drivers
Are Great Explorations Driven by Keynesian “Animal Spirits” on Steroids?

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

Is Booming Antarctic Tourism a Prelude to Earth Orbit and the Moon?

State of the Wave: Why No One’s Been to the Moon in 40 years — How Soon We’ll Go Again

Economic Growth is the Trigger
Economic Crisis Supports Maslow Window Forecasts

200 Years of GDP Trends Support a Near-Term, New Space Age

Standard Chartered Bank’s “New Super-Cycle” Points to the New Apollo-Style Space Age

Prosperity: A Technological and a Moral Imperative

The Coming Great Boom
State of the Wave — The Recession and the Next Race to Space

State of the Wave: Today’s Gloom & Doom, and the 2015 Boom

Stratfor’s George Friedman Likes Space-Based Solar Power in “The Next Decade”

“The Greatest Era in the History of Mankind”

Sketches of Each Maslow Window
1960s Apollo Maslow Window…
“The Liberal Hour” Supports Maslow Window Model and Points to the Approaching Greatest Boom in History

The 1960s Apollo Maslow Window was “Transformative”

Early 20th Century Maslow Window…
10 Lessons Peary & Amundsen Teach Us About the Human Future in Space

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

Mid-19th Century Maslow Window…
10 Lessons Dr. Livingstone (“…I presume?”) Teaches Us About the Human Future in Space

How the West Was Won — The Expansionist Effects of Ebullience

Early 19th Century Maslow Window…
10 Lessons Lewis & Clark Teach Us About the Human Future in Space

Maslow Windows as a “Critical State”
Why Humans Became #1 and How Technology and Sex Lead to Unprecedented Prosperity

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

Space: The Fractal Frontier — How Complexity Drives Exploration

Political Waves — Past and Present
How President Obama is Creating the New Space Age

A Major Economic Boom by 2015? … The Lessons of Cleveland, Roosevelt, and Obama

Historic, Wave Election Supports 21stCenturyWaves.com Forecasts

Key Space Policy Issues
Is the Moon a “Golden Oldie” or a “One Hit Wonder”?

The Shocking Truth About the Father of the Space Station

The Allure of Moving to Mars Points to the New Space age

Commercialization of the Moon — How Soon and Who?

“A United, Global Effort for Long-Term Human Space Exploration?” — Why Not?

Precursors Point to the New Space Age

China’s Recent Educational Quantum Leap Triggers a “Sputnik Moment”

The Cold War-style Arms Race in Asia and the New Space Age

Facebook-Aided Arab Uprisings & Their Historical Parallels Signal a Transformative Future

Korea, Iran, and the Venezuela Missile Crisis: Self-Organizing Toward a Critical State?

China Surges to #2 and Contemplates More Freedom: The Implications for Space

Xunantunich and the Large Hadron Collider Support Maslow Window Forecasts

State of the Wave: ETs Surge to Center Stage

Phobos, Key to the Cosmos? Just Ask Russia, China

Major Wars Threaten Future Space Initiatives

Asteroid Threats — Rusty’s Call for A Global Response

One More Thought…
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) and “Pole-Mania” (of the N & S polar explorers), 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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Mar 05 2011

Standard Chartered Bank’s “New Super-Cycle” Points to the New Apollo-Style Space Age

Standard Chartered bank (The Super-Cycle Report, London, 2010) asserts that,

We are in a new ‘super-cycle’ driven by the industrialisation and urbanisation of emerging markets, and global trade.

Two previous Super-Cycles have culminated in stunning economic booms during Maslow Windows in the early 20th century and the 1960s. The 3rd Growth Super-Cycle has already begun.

They define a growth super-cycle as,

A period of historically high global growth, lasting a generation or more, driven by increasing trade, high rates of investment, urbanisation and technological innovation, characterised by the emergence of large, new economies, first seen in high catch-up growth rates across the emerging world.

This is closely related to what we at 21stCenturyWaves.com call a “Maslow Window”.
See: State of the Wave — 10 Space Trends for 2011.”

In 2007, we were enjoying “the greatest economic boom ever” before it was interrupted by the financial Panic of 2008 and the Great Recession of 2008-10. As the recovery continues and the growth Super-Cycle takes off, we expect to accelerate toward the Great Boom of 2015 and another 1960s-style golden age of prosperity, exploration, and technology.
See: “State of the Wave: Today’s Gloom & Doom, and the 2015 Boom.”

According to Standard Chartered bank, we’ve enjoyed two previous growth super-cycles.

The first super-cycle took place during the second half of the 19th century, from 1870
until 1913, the eve of the First World War. At that time, the world economy witnessed a significant step-up in its rate of growth, rising 2.7% on average per annum in volume, or real, terms. That was a full 1% higher than the average growth rate seen during the previous half-century. America was the big gainer, moving from the fourth largest to the largest economy.

The first super-cycle culminated in the Peary/Panama/T. Roosevelt Maslow Window (1901-13), one of the most ebullient, transformative periods in U.S. history. It immediately followed a serious financial crisis known as the Panic of 1893 and the Great 1890s Recession, that have economic and political parallels with today.

The 2nd super-cycle featured the post-WW II expansion.

The second super-cycle was after the Second World War until the early 1970s. World growth averaged a huge 5% per annum, again in real or inflation-adjusted terms. Japan and the Asian tigers saw the biggest gains over this time. Japan, for instance, moved from 3% to 10% of the world economy.

The 2nd super-cycle culminated in the 1960s Apollo Maslow Window that featured the first great exploration that was “off-world”, the greatest macro engineering project of modern times, and probably the most transformative decade in U.S. history.

Although “emerging markets could propel a global boom comparable to the industrialization of the United States,” Standard Chartered believes the 3rd super-cycle represents a shift in global economic power from the U.S. and Europe to Asia. According to Ian Bremmer (Wall Street Journal, 3/2/11),

Americans and Europeans should be relieved to hear that other countries can do a bigger share of the world’s economic lifting.

However not everyone concurs. For example, Harvard professor Joseph Nye projects that,

China will give the U.S. a “run for its money” but it will not pass the U.S. in overall power in the first half of this century.

See also: “Harvard’s Joseph Nye sees U.S. “unlikely…(to) be surpassed…” Well Positioned for the 21st Century.”

And the eminent British historian and author of Modern Times (2001), Paul Johnson, believes America will stay on top (WSJ, 3/5/11; B. Carney).

I think America has such huge strengths — particularly its freedom of thought and expression — that it’s going to survive as a top nation for the foreseeable future. And therefore take care of the world.

In any case, the 3rd super-cycle will feature a return to prosperity that should usher in the stunning 2015 Maslow Window. If the last 200+ years are any guide, we will experience wonders like space-based solar power systems, international commercial development of the Moon, and the initial expansion of human civilization to Mars.

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Jan 23 2011

State of the Wave — 10 Space Trends for 2011

Dramatic change has swept the space world since January 2010, when “State of the Wave — 10 Space Trends for 2010″ first appeared.

Nevertheless, current directions in space and related areas are well within the envelope of those idenified last year for the decade from 2010 to 2020. But 2011 will be a “Year of Transition.”

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launches a new era in space from Cape Canaveral on December 8.
Click .

Here are 10 space trends for 2011:

10. 2011 is a Key “Year of Transition” as We Accelerate Toward the New Space Age.
Major events of 2010 will ripple though the next 12 months and beyond. These include the Shuttle retirement in 2011, a political realignment that began with Obama and continued in 2010, the beginning of upward momentum in the economy, and major shifts in the international space world.

This is what we should expect as we approach another 1960s-style transformative decade — the 2015 Maslow Window.

In 2011 — based on macroeconomic data and global trends over the last 200+ years — we’ll accelerate our transition from a multi-decade period of low international self-organization toward an ebullient, fractal “critical state” in the world economic system where almost anything is possible.

Previous Maslow Windows have featured quantum leaps in human exploration (e.g., Lewis and Clark) and technology and management (e.g., Apollo Moon program; the Panama Canal); and they are usually terminated by a major war (e.g., World War I).

This year we can expect the stage to be set for the return to prosperity, continuing political realignments, major educational reform, simmering geopolitical conflicts, and a new vision of the future for NASA and the international space community.

9. The Cancellation of Constellation Puts the Focus on Commercial Space
Last February Obama took heat for planning the cancellation of Constellation, including dumping the Moon and postponing until 2015 a decision on a new heavy lift launch vehicle for deep space manned missions.

Retirement of the Shuttle this year required NASA to buy several trips to the International Space Station — for ~$ 60 million per shot — on the Russian Soyuz between 2013 and 2014. The last of 3 remaining Shuttle missions is STS-135 planned for June or later. Contrary to Obama’s plan, the NASA Authorization Act requires the agency to begin work on the heavy lift launcher in 2011.

By far the most innovative element of Obama’s plan was to let private companies eventually assume responsibility for moving cargo and astronauts to and from ISS. However last March, A. Thomas Young — and virtually all the 1960s NASA family — insisted that Obama’s plan created “a risk too high.”

Despite these concerns, SpaceX’s successful launch, orbit insertion and maneuvers, atmospheric entry, and recovery of the Dragon cargo carrier on December 8 demonstrate that commercial taxi service to ISS may eventually be in the cards.

8. The Economy Shows the Way Space Really Works
Over the last 200+ years, each ebullient cluster of great explorations (e.g., Lewis and Clark) and macro engineering projects (MEPs: e.g., the Panama Canal) was triggered by a major economic boom like the 1960s Kennedy Boom; and another is expected by 2015.

Why hasn’t anyone been back to the Moon in 40 years?
Click .

Indeed the lack of a Kennedy-style boom explains why no one has been to the Moon in 40 years. See: “State of the Wave: Why No One’s Been to the Moon in 40 years — How Soon We’ll Go Again.”

Our current economic trajectory continues to look more like the 1893 to 1913 Panama Maslow Window (featuring the Panic of 1893) rather than the 1949 to 1969 Apollo Maslow Window (with no financial panic) — although both the Peary and Apollo Maslow Windows were exceptionally ebullient and eventful.

The New York Times (1/2/11) gets it:

The question for 2011 is whether growth will ever translate into broad prosperity … Yet growth is not expected to be strong enough to make a real dent in unemployment.

According to 55 economists surveyed by the Wall Street Journal (12/13/10), the probablity of a double-dip recession in 2011 has dropped to 15%, due to extension of the Bush tax cuts. However, growth for 2011 is only 3% and unemployment drops to 9% by December with job growth of only 100,000 per month.

Three years after the Panic of 1893 — about where we are now in January, 2011 relative to the Panic of 2008 — the second contraction of the 1890s Great double-dip Recession occurred. This may mean we’re either luckier or smarter than folks one century ago.

Or it may mean we’re not out of the woods yet. For example, Vernon Smith, the
2002 economics Nobel winner, and Steven Gjerstad’s empirical study (WSJ, 9/10/10) of all 14 postwar recessions and the Great Depression shows that…

the economy doesn’t recover until housing recovers.

And home prices are deflating; Case-Shiller home prices declined 1.3% month-over-month in October, and all 20 cities showed a sequential decline.

Given this and other unsettling economic news, it’s interesting that CBO director Douglas Elmendorf estimates that unemployment will not fall to around 5 percent until 2014, while Bernanke suggests (1/7/11) that “it could still take four to five years for unemployment to drop to … around 6 percent.” These government projections suggest that growth toward a 2015 boom — the historical trigger of the next Space Age — is realistic.

It’s important to realize that no Maslow Window of the last 200+ years has ever been delayed or significantly diminished in any observable way by a finncial panic or great recession in the decade prior to the Maslow Window.

7. The Wave Election of 2010 Supports Maslow Window Forecasts
When the Republicans won the House in November, it: 1) stalled Obama’s domestic agenda, and called into question his political future, and 2) showed our political trajectory — like our economic trajectory — has major parallels with the Cleveland/T. Roosevelt period (1893-1913), which resulted in one of the most ebullient decades in U.S. history.

Immediately after the November wave election, veteran election forecaster Larry Sabato (University of Virginia) rather surprisingly called the 2012 election against Obama.

There’s only one logical conclusion to be drawn: President Barack Obama is down for the count, will have an early lame duck presidency, and will be out of the White House in two years.

The political parallels between the elections of 1894 and 2010 are remarkable; see “Historic, Wave Election Supports 21stCenturyWaves.com Forecasts.” And indeed the polls show that voters were focused on smaller government, lower taxes, and bringing the national debt under control.

Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mike Mullen, recently underlined the challenge,

Debt is the most significant threat to national security.

In their recent study of 21 countries with major deficits over 37 years, three economists (Wall Street Journal, 12/29/10) concluded that,

the typical successful fiscal consolidation consisted, on average, of 85% spending cuts … (and) tax increases play little role in successful efforts to balance budgets …

These sound like economic directions the Republicans are poised to exploit during 2011. However, Obama is very recently perceived by the public as moving toward the center. Given the fact that Gallup reports that only 19% of Americans like the direction of the country, it’s likely that whoever can move the U.S. in the direction of prosperity — and, like the 1890s, trigger the next major boom — will win.

6. Potential Conflicts in Iran and North Korea Threaten Peace, Prosperity, and the new Space Age
Long-term indicators and current global trends suggest that we are within 5 years of perhaps the most transformative decade of the 21st century — when almost anything can happen. Typically at these times over the last 200+ years, conflicts, or even wars, can ignite or appear potentially devastating (e.g., the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962); see “Near-Term Wars Threaten the New Space Age”.

Unfortunately current tensions in Iran and North Korea are perfect examples, not to mention 97,000 Americans still in Afghanistan.

The Los Angeles Times (D. McManus; 1/16/11) reports that Israel is convinced that Iran is “at least 4 years away from deploying a nuclear weapon, maybe more.” Recent intelligence signals “a dimished prospect for a military strike in the near term, whether by Israel or the U.S.,” (Wall Street Journal, 1/8/11)

The Wall Street Journal recently asked if Afghanistan will become a “forgotten war” like Korea, which ended in 1953 — about 6 years prior to the 1960s Apollo Maslow Window. The Korea conflict has recently threatened to reignite but has been dialed back apparently by China’s influence.

Contrary to several analysts last year, I recently concluded that it is unlikely — for strategic, political, and historical reasons — that Obama will attack Iran. And, although we should be mindful of avoiding another “disastrous 2007 Natonal Intelligence Estimate on Tehran’s weapons program,” as well as “Why we’re always fooled by North Korea,” current trends and historical patterns over the last 200+ years suggest that these potential flashpoints will not expand into wars during 2011 or even within the next decade.

It’s important to keep in mind that no Maslow Window of the last 200+ years has ever been delayed or significantly diminished in any observable way by a war or conflict just prior to or early in the Maslow Window.

5. ETs Surge toward Center Stage
When times are good, people like to have fun. And, over the last 100+ years, one way they’ve done it is to enjoy and encourage scientific speculations about life in space and distant Earthlike worlds.
See: Kepler, Carl Sagan, and the Guzman Prize: Our Century-Long Search for Space Aliens

A radio beam from the Kelvans (Kelinda and Rojan) in the Andromeda Galaxy could theoretically have been detected by Project Cyclops (circa 1971).
Click kelvans.jpg.
© 1968 Paramount Pictures

For example, in 1894 (one year after the Panic of 1893) Percival Lowell founded his observatory in Arizona to study Mars. Years later Lowell became convinced that the canals were a macro engineering project built by intelligent Martians to irrigate the Red Planet. His public loved it and in 1907 — during the spectacular Peary/Panama/T. Roosevelt Maslow Window — the Wall Street Journal actually announced “…the proof by astronomical observations…that conscious, intelligent life exists upon the planet Mars.”

Unfortunately, by 1938 (during the Great Depression) the formerly peaceful, canal-building Martians had become dangerous invaders of Earth according to Orson Welles and his crowd. A similar transition in our vision of ETs was seen during the 1960s Apollo Maslow Window with Frank Drake’s ebullient SETI searches for radio signals from high-tech civilizations, followed by the ultra-ebullient ~ $ 10 B (nearly 1/2 the cost of Apollo!!) Project Cyclops. It failed to gain public support during the counter-ebullient 1970s.

As we ascend toward another crescendo in human achievement — the 2015 Maslow Window — something similar is happening again. UFOs are being seen in China and around the world, potentially habitable planets are being discovered around nearby stars, and even the Vatican and the Royal Society are openly planning to properly greet intelligent interstellar visitors. One of the most important NASA missions ever flown — the Kepler spacecraft — will accelerate this ebullient trend in 2011.

4. The U.S. is Headed for Another “Sputnik Moment” in Education
Fifty-three years ago the surprise Soviet launch of “one small ball” became the “shock of the century” and instantly transformed U.S. education.

It’s hard to imagine how distraught Americans were about Sputnik in 1957, but as I wrote 2 1/2 years ago in Math and Science Education Perspectives,

Only 10 days after Sputnik 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!

It’s a key forecast of 21stCenturyWaves.com, that major elements of this Sputnik-related history are likely to repeat.

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 Chester Finn (WSJ, 12/8/10) of Stanford’s Hoover Institution, China has delivered

another wake-up call to those who think American schools are globally competitive … On math, reading, and science tests given to 15-year-olds in 65 countries last year, Shanghai’s teenagers topped every other jurisdiction in all three subjects.

And the U.S. was just muddling in the middle of the pack.

This is consistent with last year’s report (9/23/10) by the National Academy of Sciences.

The nation’s education system has shown little sign of improvement, particularly in math and science … 78 percent of U.S. high school graduates in 2008 did not meet readiness benchmark levels for one or more entry-level college courses in mathematics, science, reading, and English. And the World Economic Forum ranks the U.S. 48th in the quality of its math and science education.

Given their economic, demographic, and political challenges, it’s good that China is rising educationally. It’ll motivate the U.S. and others to consider real education reform, expecially in math and science, in 2011 and beyond. Plus China has become essential — as both a collaborator and competitor — to human expansion into the cosmos; see “10 Reasons Why China is Good for Space

3. BRICs+ Demonstrate International Momentum toward the New Space Age

BRICs and other space powers continue their surge into the cosmos.

In one of the most impressive firsts since the original Space Age, Japan confirmed last June that its amazing, 7-year Hayabusa probe mission actually returned samples from asteroid Itokawa. Although Japan’s ambitious Venus probe Akatsuki failed to achieve orbit last month, JAXA has plans to try again in 5 years when it swings by Venus.

The amazing asteroid Itokawa has twice the porosity of a handful of sand.
Click .

In 2009 former Harvard professor Richard Pipes wrote that, “Russia is obsessed with being recognized as a ‘Great Power’…” This is partly due to their victory over Germany in World War II and “the success in sending the first human in space.”

So Russia — like the rest of the world — sees being a great space power as a key part of being an important global power. And they see the approaching new Space Age as an important time to demonstrate again their impressive capabilities in several areas, including manned space (e.g., transportation to ISS), new infrastructure (e.g., the new Vostochny Cosmodrome), and future planning (e.g., asteroid deflection missions).

This has never been clearer than last month (Aviation Week, 12/30/10) when a Russian Proton rocket carrying three Glonass navigation satellites failed, resulting in 2 executives being fired by Russian President Medvedev, including the deputy head of Roscosmos; Anatoly Perminov, head of the Russian space agency, received an official reprimand.

China has become a major global player in the worlds of defense and space, and is prominently featured throughout this report. For example, in 2010 China had more successful space launches — 15 — than ever before. And for the first time, it matched the annual launch rate of the United States.

One of China’s launches last October was the Chang’e 2 Moon probe which was successfully inserted into lunar orbit from where it will map the lunar surface. It’s China’s second successful lunar mission in three years.

Last year China dropped hints that its long-term space plans include sophisticated Earth orbital operations including a heavy lift launch vehicle and assembly of a 30 ton space station. These are currently targeted for the early 2020s timeframe — i.e., quite late in the 2015 Maslow Window.

2. President Obama is Creating the New Space Age
Whatever the new Space Age will become, President Obama is creating it now. Although at this point, he may have substantially delegated the direction of NASA planning to John Holdren (science czar) and Charles Bolden (NASA Administrator), Obama continues to create the new Space Age by his policies and actions especially in the economic and technology arenas.
See: “How President Obama is Creating the New Space Age.”

Obama has wisely directed the U.S. away from a race to the Moon by 2020 — a competition the U.S. already won over 40 years ago. However, his most important, long-term contribution to space may be his stimulation of the commercial launch sector by offering them the job of Earth-to-LEO taxi service.

But even more important is the issue of prosperity. About twice per century we enter an ebullient pulse of major economic growth — a “critical state” — known as a Maslow Window. In addition to enabling great explorations and MEPs, the widespread ebullience has transformative effects across society, as in the 1960s. But the 1960s were only the most recent example.

History shows that as we approach a Maslow Window (such as the one expected in 2015), the leader who can best manifest prosperity and model ebullience wins. In the early 1800s it was Jefferson, in the mid-1840s it was James Polk (of all people), in the early 20th century it was Theodore Roosevelt, and in the 1960s John F. Kennedy. It appears that long-term economic circumstances do more to determine our leaders than the reverse.

The Wall Street Journal (1/22/11) predicts Obama will “push new spending,” while the Los Angeles Times (1/23/11) headlines Obama’s “shift to the center…for 2012.” These appear contradictory, and the question remains: Can Obama produce the 1960s-stye prosperity required for wide-spread ebullience that will trigger the transformative 2015 Maslow Window and the new international Space Age?

1. A New Vision of the Human Future in Space?
NASA seems frustrated.

While liberated by Obama from a new Moon race they won over 40 years ago, NASA currently has no real vision for the future. This makes it difficult to synthesize new strategic goals, space infrastructures, and rockets that will be meaningful and attract public support.

This uncertain mode is reminiscent of where we were 20+ years ago when NASA was internally debating the Moon and Mars.

Homer Hickam reflects many in the U.S. and elsewhere when he asked recently, “How About A Moon Base?” (Wall Street Journal, 12/14/10). The Moon has the traditional virtues of closeness and resource-richness, and it has been envisioned as a potential transportation center. It might also be able to support space-based solar power satellites that could make clean, cheap electricity abundant anywhere on Earth.

I looked again recently at the Moon option, and — despite its huge potential as a future commercial and tourist center, plus a scientific bonanza — I find myself agreeing with the 1984 comment of the great, former NASA Administrator Tom Paine that

The Moon will never motivate the American prople again.

He meant that the Moon will be important, but it will never drive human exploration again.
See: “Is the Moon a “Golden Oldie” or a “One Hit Wonder”?”

That leaves Mars.

And NASA has been thinking about Mars a lot lately; just check out their marvelous, 1000-page volume on Colonizing the Red Planet, edited by Joel S. Levine. One particularly interesting option is the one-way human Mars mission advocated by Paul Davies and Dirk Schulze-Makuch. It speeds up the timeline and is cheaper.

Russian and Chinese interest in Mars continues to grow. For example, Lev Zelyony’s (Russian Space Research Institute) intriguing comments in 2008 included,

We lost the race to the Moon. But we have something of a head start in this race as we have the most experience in long-duration, manned spaceflight.

It’s possible that their joint Phobos-Grunt mission could blossom into a Russia-China Mars colonization initiative.

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

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Jan 09 2011

Is the Moon a “Golden Oldie” or a “One Hit Wonder”?

Former NASA engineer Homer Hickam recently asked, “How about a Moon base?” (Wall Street Journal, 12/14/10).

In 1984, the great NASA Administrator during the first human missions to the Moon (1968-70), Tom Paine (left, w Pres. Nixon) said “The Moon will never motivate the American prople again.” Was he right? Is the Moon a One Hit Wonder?

The author of Rocket Boys (1998) and Back to the Moon (1999), Hickam feels that currently, NASA is up to … “Not much.” Because last year Obama sent

Mr. Bolden, the ex-astronaut, to Capitol Hill with a plan to cancel every one of NASA’s astronaut-related programs.

Hickham likes the Moon for all the usual reasons.

It’s close, it’s loaded with resources, and we can get there with existing technology.

Why not build a 21st century Moon base …

like the National Science Foundation’s South Pole Station, and invite the world to join us.

We’ll give our technological prestige a sorely needed boost, and something else will also happen: New and wondrous products based on NASA requirements for metallurgy, composite materials, solar arrays, computers and batteries will boost our economy, just as the technologies of the Apollo mission did.

Oh by the way, it won’t cost “vast amounts of money.”

Can you feel it?
That’s what we call ebullience” — the key driver of great explorations like Apollo, and macro engineering projects (MEPs) like the Panama Canal.

And Mr. Hickham, not surprisingly, has identified himself as among the elite early ebullients in the world today. We call them “early ebullients” because they are anticipating a trend that will sweep the world around 2015 — based on macroeconomic data and global trends over the last 200+ years — much like Apollo captured global headlines in the 1960s.

As an ebullience junkie myself, I personally find Hickam’s enhtusiastic Moon base idea almost irresistible. It’s spirit reminds me of the 1990 plan of Lawrence Livermore National Lab, “The Great Exploration Plan for the Human Exploration Initiative,” by three sensational physicists: Rod Hyde, Yuki Ishikawa, and Lowell Wood.

Speed was essential; the whole permanent base would take less than a decade to create, with its first inflatable hab modules in place on the Moon by 1997.

You’ve got to love their ebullient theme (circa 1990): “We already have in hand what we need for the Great Exploration of the inner solar system.” And the controversial cost estimate was great too — only $ 11 B — that’s less than $ 20 B in 2009 USD, compared to about $ 150+ B (2009 USD) for the entire Apollo program.

So simple, inexpensive starter-homes on the Moon are possible today. But the real question is: Will the American people get as excited about it as Homer and I are — or was Tom Paine correct?

This is where the long-term, empirical approach of 21stCenturyWaves.com can provide unique insights.

How Maslow Windows Work
Over the last 200+ years Americans and many others have gone exploring whenever they could afford it. These transformative, great explorations — always accompanied by MEPs and sadly punctuated by a major war — have clustered exclusively around rhythmic, twice-per-century major economic booms, such as the Kennedy Boom in the 1960s.

During the major booms, affluence-induced ebullience catapults many to higher levels in the Maslow hierarchy. Their momentarily expanded worldviews — due to elevated Maslow states — make great explorations and MEPs seem not only intriguing, but almost irresistible. Trends associated with these “Maslow Windows” provide insights to our future.

The chronology of great explorations is as follows:
Late 18th/Early 19th Century Maslow Window: Lewis and Clark
Mid-19th Century Maslow Window: Dr. Livingstone (equatorial Africa)
Early 20th Century Maslow Window: N and S Polar Expeditions
1960s Maslow Window: Apollo Moon missions

It’s clear that great explorations of new, interesting geographical sites progress from more-to-less accessible regions, consistent with the technologies of the times. For example, President Theodore Roosevelt could not outfit Adm. Peary to explore the Moon, but he did encourage him to reach the North Pole. And John F. Kennedy chose to go to the Moon — rather than Mars — because he thought it would be a challenging, yet doable global demonstration of America’s technology and economic system.

Where Will the Next Great Exploration Be?
A reasonable forecast for the next great human exploration during the 2015 Maslow Window would be Mars colonization. No one’s ever been there and it’s the next accessible (beyond the Moon) new site of interest. Plus it’s the most Earth-like world.

But suppost Mars colonization does not begin after 2015? What then?

Over the last 200+ years each Maslow Window has featured a “great exploration.” If the 2015 Maslow Window doesn’t have one it would be the first time in over 200 years that’s happened.

What about the Moon? We know it has major commercial and scientific potential, but could the Moon again have the power to rivet the attention of the global public like Apollo, the polar expeditions, Dr. Livingstone, and Lewis and Clark did generations before? Will the public see the Moon as an Earth-style “golden oldie” (i.e., a pleasant memory) with real potential for more excitement, or a “one hit wonder.”

Does the Moon Have the Right Stuff?
As we saw above, over the last 200+ years the great explorations on Earth opened up spectacular new geographic vistas through a succession of quantum leaps from Lewis and Clark to (ultimately) the polar regions. And like the Earth, the Moon has many tantalizing surface locations awaiting intrepid human explorers.

But here are 3 reasons why the Moon may become a “one hit wonder” and prove Tom Paine’s forecast correct.
1) The Moon is subtle. The Moon is a small, airless, dry (at least on the surface!), impact crater-dominated world with a month-long day-night cycle. It’s omnipresent shades-of-gray color scheme completes its alien, repetitive presentation, at least to public eyes.
2) Space technology and the “Been there, done that” Syndrome. Since the 1960s the Moon has been studied in surprising detail with satellite technology, and we have a fair idea of what’s there — at least on and near the surface. So relative to pre-1960s Earth — when many regions were truly unknown — robotic and human exploration of the Moon has accelerated our understanding such that it may not provide another riveting, Apollo-style transformative milestone for public enjoyment.
3) Apollo 11 was a hit. During the 1960s Apollo program the Moon was a One Hit Wonder. Although the first humans on the Moon (Apollo 11) made a big splash globally — as did Apollo 13 because lives were threatened — subsequent Apollo landings featuring spectacular geologic sites were greeted by an increasingly distracted public.

On the other hand, here are 3 reasons why the Moon might again acquire the wonder and excitement required for a great human exploration.
1) Star Trek — The Next Generation. A new generation of young people, who are unaware of Dr. Paine and did not personally witness Apollo, are increasingly excited about exploring and developing the Moon.
2) ISS and Interspace:. Many of these folks are in countries (like China and India) with growing space programs and dynamic economies. International cooperation and competition — based on the International Space Station model — may focus attention on lunar exploration starting from an Antarctica-style base like that advocated by Hickham.
3) “Potential for cultural shock and social disorientation…”. According to Dr. Heywood Floyd at the American lunar base in Clavius (“2001: A Space Odyssey”, 1968), describing the alien monolith recently excavated on the Moon. Anything even remotely like this and you know the answer.
Click 2001′s Monolith on the Moon

The Tentative Bottom Line
Based on its questionable ability to motivate, Apollo-style the new Space Age, the Moon is probably a One Hit Wonder, although it will become much more than just a Golden Oldie (a pleasant memory). Indeed, the Moon is a scientific bonanza and has long-term potential for multiple MEPs supporting its future role as a major commercial, energy, and tourist center.

But barring some civilization-altering discovery on the Moon, the next great exploration will likely be in the Mars system.

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

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Dec 18 2010

Korea, Iran, and the Venezuela Missile Crisis: Self-Organizing Toward a Critical State?

Bill Richardson describes current tensions on the Korean peninsula as “a tinderbox.” It’s “particularly complex and sensitive,” according to Jiang Yu of the Chinese Foreign Ministry. The popular New Mexico governor asserts “There’s enormous potential for miscalculation.”

All this is 57 years — one long economic wave — after the end of the early 1950s Korean War, a proxy war where the Soviet Union and China lined up with the North Korean Communists against the U.S.-led United Nations forces in the South.

Surely the rekindling of Korean tensions one long wave after the original war is a coincidence… Or is it?

Actually, over the last 2 1/2 years 21stCenturyWaves.com has highlighted a variety of evidence supporting my initial suggestion in 1996 (Cordell, 1996; Also 2006) that long-term trends in the economy (i.e., the long, 56-year business cycle, discovered in 1989) are the fundamental drivers of great human explorations (e.g., Lewis and Clark), macro engineering projects (e.g., Panama Canal), and major wars (World War I) that exclusively cluster together every 55-60 years, over at least the last 200+ years.

More recently, two new ideas are explored here: 1) that “Maslow Windows” — the rhythmic, twice-per-century pulses of great explorations, MEPs, and major wars — are actually brief critical states of the international economic/technology system, typically achieved through decades of self organized criticality (SOC) processes, and 2) that serious conflicts or wars are typical features of the years just before a Maslow Window or early in the Window itself.

The classic example of such a pre- or early Maslow Window conflict is the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 — early in the Apollo Maslow Window (1959-69) — when conflict over Soviet offensive missiles emplaced in Cuba almost led to a major nuclear exchange with the U.S.. Other examples include the Napoleonic Wars (Lewis and Clark Maslow Window), the Mexican war (Dr. Livingstone/Suez Maslow Window), and the Spanish-American War (Peary/Panama Maslow Window).

This model suggests the current Korean tensions — including their potential for nuclear war involving N and S Korea and possibly other nearby states (e.g., Japan) — are a harbinger of the next Maslow Window expected by 2015. Plus the seemingly irrational provocations by North Korea resulting in a “tinderbox”, “complex,” and “sensitive” situation, are actually the types of interactions we’d expect as we approach a critical Maslow state.

While it’s tempting to dismiss this model as just another scary fantasy, please be reminded that medium-size wars have already been identified as SOC phenomena by National Aademy of Sciences member Donald Turcotte and his colleagues as early as 1998.

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

Plus historian Niall Ferguson suggested recently that WW I was a product of self organized criticality.

But there’s more.

Iran is believed to be developing nuclear weapons and the missiles needed to deliver them to places like Israel and beyond. Some observers have suggested that Israel might preemptively attack Iran’s nuclear facilities. And WikiLeak cables indicate that even Saudi Arabia has encouraged the U.S. to attack Iran.

Iran’s growing nuclear capability is interpreted here as a precursor to the strong SOC conditions that will trigger the 2015 Maslow Window. And along with spiking Korean tensions, it underlines the gravity of our current, increasingly fractal, geopolitical situation.

And, or course, there’s even more: the Venezuela Missile Crisis.

The highly-regarded German daily, Die Welt. reported last month (11/25/10) that Iran — who apparently shares missile technology with North Korea — has plans to place medium-range ballistic missiles in Venezuela.

If this story is confirmed, it would constitute a true Cuban Missile Crisis-style threat, that would require a strategic response from the United States.

However, things have changed since the 1960s. Popular Mechanics (December, 2010) recently described a chilling scenario in which China is able to neutralize U.S. aircraft carriers — the basis for U.S. force projection in the Pacific and elsewhere — utilizing a new Chinese antiship ballistic missile. China’s carrier killer could conceivably preclude American naval support of Taiwan, South Korea, and other U.S. allies in the region.

Some have speculated that the recent mystery launch of an unidentified missile (it didn’t appear to be an airplane) off the Southern California coast was intended to demonstrate China’s growing antiship capabilities.

That’s the bad news.

But the good news is that even the Cuban Missile Crisis was rapidly resolved and did not delay — and indeed probably intensified — the 1960s space race to the Moon. The same is true of all other pre- or early Maslow Window conflicts over the last 200+ years.

Growing international interests in lunar development, space commercialization (including space toruism), and even Mars colonization, might stimulate the development of a Grand Alliance for Space. With a little luck, it could reduce the intensity of current conflicts that show evidence of increasing, long wave-related SOC in the world system.

NOTE: Please check out the following Comment for more on why a major war or nuclear conflict is unlikely in the next 10-15 years.

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