Jan 05 2012

Is Earth Unique? What this “Benchmark Moment” Means for ETs and Our Future

Astronomer John Gribbin (Alone in the Universe; 2011) uses the latest astrophysics to make an impressive scientific case that we are alone in our Galaxy.

This is despite several hundred planets currently known to exist around nearby stars, and despite NASA’s recent discovery of Earth-size planets orbiting Sun-like stars, as well as the potential for billions of such worlds in our Galaxy of almost one trillion stars.

Even Gort and Klaatu (from “The Day the Earth Stood Still“; 1951) could learn a trick or two from the ultra-ETs — suggested by current astrophysics and physics — that might be visiting us today.

Despite this “benchmark moment in the history of science” according to Berkeley astronomer Geoffrey Marcy (Wall Street Journal, 12/21/11), Gribbin traces the origin of human intelligence and civilization from the Big Bang to today, and shows that the odds of our development are so small that we are most likely the first high civilization to arise in the Milky Way.

For example, Gribbin points to the origin of the Moon by an impact with a Mars-size body over 4 billion years ago as a pivotal and yet very dicey event. The impact itself had to avoid destroying Earth’s spin (as apparently happened at Venus) and yet excavate and launch into space enough material to form an unusually large Moon that could gravitationally anchor Earth’s axial tilt. Without such a Moon our rotation axis would wobble chaotically due to tugs by Jupiter, Venus and other bodies, and undermine the long-term climate stability conducive to the development of high intelligence and civilization.

Last summer Howard A. Smith of the Harvard Center for Astrophysics also independently found ETs to be scarce in the Galaxy — in American Scientist (July-August, 2011) — as did I last March: Click HERE. I used an updated, anthropic version of the Drake Equation to show that unless a high-tech civilization lives for at least millions of years (highly unlikely) we are probably alone in the Galaxy.

However, other scientists hold contrary views. For example, as I noted in October, 2010:

Following scientific meetings in 2009 at the Vatican on Extraterrestrials, the prestigious UK Royal Society has had not just one, but 2 scientific meetings in 2010 (in January and just last week) to consider if exterrestrials are here on Earth and how to properly greet them.

This current growth of interest in ETs and Earth-like planets is part of a multi-century trend recognized by 21stCenturyWaves.com. It extends back to at least the 19th century and has presaged and figured prominently in each transformative Maslow Window since that time.

For example, just after the financial Panic of 1893 that ultimately led to “Panama fever” and “pole mania” of the early 20th century Maslow Window, it featured the founding of Lowell Observatory in Arizona to study evidence for a highly intelligent canal-building civilization on Mars. Early in the Apollo Maslow Window, Frank Drake began the radio search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI) almost a decade before humans first landed on the Moon in 1969.
For more see: “State of the Wave: ETs Surge to Center Stage.”

If we take Gribbin’s conclusion seriously for a moment, it has a number of intriguing implications for the cosmos, ETs, and our future:

1. If we are the first lofty civilization to develop in our Galaxy then radio SETI should not expect success, and we will never see interstellar Von Neumann machines in our vicinity. But the good news was envisioned by Marshall Savage in The Millennial Project (1992):

The stars are our destiny…Strewn like diamonds…All these treasures are free for the taking. There is no guardian genie. There are no alien owners to be bargained with, no evil empires to be vanquished…The galaxy is free and open now in a way it never will be again.

2. If there are no native ETs in our Galaxy, then UFOs may come from very far away — other galaxies or even other universes — and will require exotic transportation concepts (e.g., wormholes) to arrive here. This is a future that could begin tomorrow or may already be in progress, and was imagined — both the good and bad news — by Deardorff et al. in JBIS (2005):

While the ‘We are alone’ solution to Fermi’s paradox was once a seemingly valid one, this answer is now incompatible with the infinite universe and random self-sampling assumption consistent with inflation theory. We thus find ourselves in the curious position that current cosmological theory predicts that we should be experiencing extraterrestrial visitation…

The huge technological head start of the presumed ETs would still come as a great shock to many … The implication that we would be powerless relative to their presumed capabilities and evolutionary advantage may be most unwelcome … science would have difficulty coming to terms with the situation.

3. If there are no ETs from anywhere, then UFOs may originate from covert, terrestrial sources (e.g., secret military aircraft) and we have arrived in Jacques Vallee’s intriguing world of Messenger’s of Deception (1979):

UFOs may be a control system…there is a genuine technology at work here, causing the effects witnesses are describing. But I am not ready to jump to the conclusion that it is … some kind of “spacemen.”

The social, political, and religious consequences of the (UFO) experience are enormous … over the timespan of a generation… Is the public being deceived and led to false conclusions by someone who is using UFO witnesses to propagate … social conditioning?


4. Gribbin’s conclusion scientifically elevates human civilization to the pinnacle of the Galaxy which has important implications for both space colonization and theology:

My view is that while life itself may be common, the kind of intelligent, technological civilization that has emerged on Earth may be unique, at least in our Milky Way Galaxy…

Whether or not you see the hand of God in any of this, it would mean that we are the most technnologically advanced civilization in the Universe, and the only witnesses with an understanding of the origin and nature of the Universe itself.

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Apr 23 2011

State of the Wave — Current Prospects for Prosperity and the New Space Age

Princeton economist Alan Blinder (Wall Street Journal, 3/31/11) recently compared the current U.S. recovery to an injured athlete.

If you’re searching for a metaphor for the U.S. economy right now, think of an athlete who is recovering from serious injury and must navigate a difficult obstacle course. She’s getting into better shape but there are hazards along the way…

In a similar vein, J.P. Morgan recently downgraded their GDP growth forecast for 2011 to only 1.4%, and Macroeconomic Advisors likewise slashed their previous forecast (of 4%) for 2011 to 1.7%.

Stanford economist John B. Taylor believes this simple chart holds the secret to future prosperity.

Former Secretary of Labor under Bill Clinton, Robert Reich (RobertReich.org; 8/17/10) recognizes the value of economic growth and its long wave influences, including the “Great Prosperity” which culminated in the 1960s Apollo Maslow Window.

Faster growth greases the way toward more equal oportunity and a wider distribution of gains. The wealthy more easily accept a smaller share … the middle class more willingly pays taxes to support public improvements like a cleaner environment and stronger safety nets. It’s a virtuous cycle. We had one during the Great Prosperity that lasted from 1947 to the early 1970s.

On the other hand,

Slower growth had the reverse effect … It’s a vicious cycle. We’ve been in one most of the last thirty years.

See also: Prosperity: A Technological and a Moral Imperative.”

Our recovery from decades of slower economic growth to another “Great Prosperity” — expected to begin near 2015 — is essential to the new international Space Age. The Great Boom of 2015 is expected to trigger widespread JFK-style ebullience that will drive the new Apollo-style golden age of human expansion into the cosmos.

See also: “State of the Wave — 10 Space Trends for 2011”

Here’s Blinder’s prioriitized (low to high concern) list of “the four biggest obstacles to recovery”:
1) The Japanese disaster, 2) The European debt crisis, 3) The U.S. budget deficit, and 4) The oil market.

Although Japan’s nuclear situation has recently been compared to Chernobyl, Blinder believes that in “well-ordered economies” like Japan, the effects will be “short-term.” And while the EU members have “bickered, dithered, and delayed,” a financial collapse in Europe is “unlikely.”
Although gold closed at a record high above $ 1500 per ounce this week — indicating a general lack of confidence in governments — Blinder amazingly sees only a 5% chance that the deficit will remain a serious problem for the recovery.

Blinder is most concerned about oil price shocks (such as in summer, 2008) to the U.S. economy; e.g., economists surveyed by the Wall Street Journal in February said oil would have to exceed $ 125 a barrel “to threaten the U.S. economy.” Today oil is $ 112 and rising.

Blinder estimates a 40% probability that any of these events will become a serious obstacle to the recovery — which he confesses leaves him “uneasy.”

In the midst of these economic and political fireworks, Stanford economist John B. Taylor proposes a “fact-based” debate on the economy (WSJ, 4/22/11). His chart (see above) shows annual government spending as a percent of GDP over the last decade (since 2000) and projected through the next (to 2021). The top two curves are the White House budget plans of February 14 and April 13, and the House (Ryan) plan of April 5.

According to Taylor,

When I show people this chart they ask why Washington is even having the debate. They say: If government agencies and programs functioned with 19% to 20% of GDP in 2007, why is it so hard for them to function with that percentage in 2021, when GDP will be substantially higher and with many opportunities for reforms and increased efficiencies? And if GDP and employment grow more quickly, as they would if private investment increased as a result of lower government spending and debt, then that 19% to 20% share of GDP could provide much more in the way of public goods.

Taylor’s chart highlights the political choice the American people are faced with: The Obama plan with higher government spending (~22% of GDP) requiring “substantial tax increases.” or the House vision with faster economic growth, spending near 2007 levels, and no increase in taxes.

This political situation is eerily reminiscent of the Great 1890s Recession that followed the financial Panic of 1893, and the challenges of President Grover Cleveland. As they always have over the last 200+ years, during an approach to a Maslow Window and recovery from a great recession, the people a century ago voted for prosperity.

Even ~5 years out from the next anticipated Kennedy-style Boom, prosperity is an easy political call to make. What’s hard is identifying which party — Republicans or Democrats — will be most effective in packaging it.

That’s because over the last 200+ years, no Maslow Window has ever been delayed or diminished in any observable way by any economic downturn or military conflict.

Human nature and the laws of economics — which drive economic and political cycles and the Maslow hierarchy — have proven to be very formidible in limiting modern human society to only 2 transformative decades per century. This is because they’ve been ignored by policy-makers and the electorate for so long.

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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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Feb 20 2011

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

I greatly enjoyed George Friedman’s new book, The Next Decade (2011). A New York Times best seller, it’s sort of a more focused, near-term sequel to his blockbluster, The Next 100 Years (2009).

Satellites that collect solar energy in space and beam it to Earth should begin to impact our growing energy use by 2015.

Friedman’s section on technology and demographics is both simple and powerful, and reflects basic principles regarding economic cycles and prosperity that also guide us here at 21stCenturyWaves.com.

…economic expansion and contraction are driven … at a deeper level … by demographic forces and by technological innovation.

The challenge for the next decade will be that “breakthrough technologies” — the ones that stimulate prosperity by meeting key societal needs — will be in short supply.

Friedman blames the financial Panic of 2008 and the great recession of 2008-10 for reducing investment in new technologies and making people unusually risk-adverse. Plus a major engine of technological development — military needs during major wars — has not been activated by the pre-Maslow conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Friedman forecasts that financial stresses will subside after 2015 (as the next Maslow Window opens) but,

Given the lead time in technological development, the next generation of notable technological breakthroughs won’t emerge until the 2020s.

While Friedman’s picture is reasonable, it’s likely he underestimates the Great Boom of 2015 that’s expected to trigger a golden age of prosperity, exploration, and technology comparable to the Kennedy Boom of the 1960s. The reason is we haven’t seen a financial Panic/Great Recesson sequence like our current one in over 100 years!

Back then it began with the Panic of 1893 and the Great 1890s Recession. They were followed in 1899 by one of the most spectacular recoveries and ebullient decades (i.e., the Peary/Panama/T. Roosevelt Maslow Window) in the history of the U.S..
Please see (especially Fig. 4): “The Economics of Ebullience Points to a Sparkling New Global Space Age.”

Because of the close connection of energy availability with economic growth, and the fact that most increases in energy use have come from developing countries, the question of what will power technological innovation in the next decade assumes center stage.

Increased oil use will not be able to meet global energy demands of the next decade, and Friedman concludes that the only viable choices are coal and natural gas. And while the U.S. has large domestic supplies of both, the trick is…

The president must choose the balance between the two available fossil fuels, coal and gas. Then he must tell the people that these are the only choices. If he fails to persuade the public of this, there will not be energy for the technologies that will emerge in the next decade.

One of these new technologies is space-based solar power. Friedman believes that energy needs in the future will be driven by desalination of ocean water associated with increases in global standards of living and growing industrialization, and the best long-term solution is collecting solar energy in space and beaming it to Earth.

Progress is occurring. For example, a Southern California company, Solaren Corp. has contracted with Pacific Gas & Electric to sell it 200 megawatts of power per year starting in 2016 (Wall Street Journal, 9/27/10), after testing systems in space during 2014. While the Switzerland-based Space Energy Group’s business plan features a solar satellite in orbit in 3 years. And in 2009, Japan announced a new $ 21 B space solar power initiative.

However, Friedman warns that the U.S. government is currently funding worthy research into key technologies for cures of degenerative diseases and for robotics,

But the fundamental problem, energy, has not had its due.

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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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Nov 25 2010

Images Celebrate Gold, John Sutter, and the Ebullient Mid-19th Century Maslow Window

Since I planned to be in Sacramento last weekend, I decided to enjoy some of the key historical sites — e.g., of the extraordinary California Gold Rush — associated with the ebullient mid-19th century Maslow Window.

Typical of America’s exceptional mid-19th Century ebullience was the California Gold Rush (1848-1855); gold was first discovered here at Sutter’s Mill in Coloma, CA by James Marshall.
Click .
(All images by Bruce Cordell, 2010)

Maslow Windows over the last 200 years are usually preceded by a financial panic and major recession (much like the Panic of 2008 and our current global recession), and the Dr. Livingstone/James Polk Maslow Window (~1847-60) was no exception.

The Panic of 1837 was a monster — in 1960 Nobel winner Milton Friedman compared it to the 1930s Great Depression — but in 6 long years it finally gave way to an early-1840s recovery and boom that triggered the ebullience of “Manifest Destiny.” This Panic/Great Recession/Boom/Maslow Window sequence repeated one long wave later starting with the Panic of 1893 and culminating with perhaps the most ebullient decade in U.S. history: the Peary/Panama/T.Roosevelt Maslow Window.

For more background on Mainfest Destiny please see, “How the West Was Won — The Expansionist Effects of Ebullience,” and on the CA Gold Rush see #1 of “10 Lessons Lewis and Clark Teach Us About the Human Future in Space.”

I’ve written about this period a lot lately because it appears that we began reliving major elements of the 1893-to-1913 chronology two long waves later starting with the Panic of 2008. If this trend continues, as it has repeatedly over the last 200+ years, we should expect a new 1960s-style golden age of prosperity, exploration, and technology triggered by a major economic boom, to emerge by 2015.

Shortly after the discovery of gold there, Sutter’s Mill was closed. The flood of 1862 destroyed the structure and the current replica (shown here from the river side) was constructed on the original site in 1967 — fittingly during the ebullient Apollo Maslow Window.


The image below is not a cannon. It was used during “hydraulicking” to dislodge sediment and gold from rock walls. The jets of water were environmentally destructive. A realistic depiction of this technique is seen in Clint Eastwood’s popular 1985 movie “Pale Rider”.


The Gold Discovery Museum of the Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park in Coloma has a number of captivating exhibits.


I was originally headed up 80 to Tahoe to take a peek at the Donner Museum and the famous snow monument, but ran into an electronic sign announcing the need for chains at the summit. Since Hertz had rented me a red Mustang convertable (not my choice!), I was unequipped for the trip so I headed first to Coloma and then back to Sacramento to see Sutter’s Fort.

Proof of the macho Sierra storm was provided by this car’s snowy roof (and many others). It was fleeing westward down the hill Sunday afternoon on highway 50 just west of Placerville.


The famous, ebullient John Sutter who owned Sutter’s Mill also founded Sutter’s Fort in 1839 (he called it “New Helvetia”) that eventually grew into Sacramento. This interior view was taken looking southeast. I was in front of the Blacksmith Shop (doors on the right) in the West Yard looking toward the fort’s main entrance (near the left edge). Sutter would have been fascinated by the modern Sutter Medical Center in the distance.

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Here’s the Blacksmith Shop. State-of-the-art for its time. In terms of the craftsmen and technologists required to support early 19th century frontier life, the fort was essentially self-contained. It was the first non-native American outpost in the Central Valley. Except for the more benign environment and the native inhabitants, Sutter’s Fort was the 19th century analog to a first lunar base.


Cannons stationed in the second-floor bastion at the southeast corner made sure that anyone not invited to the party wouldn’t crash it.


Sutter founded his fort only 2 years after the Panic of 1837 (see above). Relative to the long wave, that’s what we call — bad timing. And although he was the quintessential entrepreneur, Sutter was increasingly plagued by debt. Here we see the Central Building — the only original structure still standing in the rebuilt fort — including the 2nd floor offices of the doctor, clerk, and Sutter himself. It would have provided the last line of defense if necessary.


It’s clear that everyone at Sutter’s Fort feasted well. This view — from the Clerk’s 2nd floor office — shows the northeast corner of the East Yard. Here are the Bakery and Bakery Storeage areas, and the outdoor Beehive Oven.

This must have been of great interest to the last survivors of the Donner party who were brought here in April, 1848, as the mid-19th century Maslow Window was gaining steam. Sutter’s Fort was near the end of the famed California Trail and welcomed many an ebullient pilgrim who came seeking their fortune in gold, agirculture, etc.


In this image (pardon the screen) we are peering into Sutter’s 2nd floor business office in the Central Building. This is where Sutter planned his new enterprises, worked with his Clerk to monitor operations and finances, and sadly, watched his fortune dissolve.


Sutter’s empire was short-lived. According to William Dillinger (The Gold Discovery, 2006), within only a decade of its founding, and …

After the gold discovery, Sutter’s heavily mortgaged fort and lands were overrun by gold-seekers and squatters until he was finally driven to take refuge at his “Hock Farm” on the Feather River.

In the Museum there is a revealing quote from Sutter to the effect that he would have become very rich if the gold discovery had happened only a couple of years later (~1850), but the ensuing chaos caused him to lose almost everything. In effect, if the normal major mid-19th century economic boom had not been temporarily subverted by gold fever, his under-capitalized (i.e., debt-ridden) businesses would have flourished — if his timing had been better.

Sutter’s experience reminds us that the long wave is very formidable — especially when you are unaware of it. Or if you don’t plan for it. This key lesson — gleaned from transformative Maslow Windows over the last 200+ years — still applies in the 21st century to those who aspire to grow with human expansion into the cosmos, when it re-ignites by 2015.

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Nov 06 2010

Historic, Wave Election Supports 21stCenturyWaves.com Forecasts

Last Tuesday American voters presented Republicans with control of the U.S. House of Representatives and Democrats with the loss of 60 seats, with 9 other races still too close to call (Wall Street Journal, 11/6/2010). This dwarfed the Republican wave elections of 1946 and 1994 and conjured up images of the political realignment of 1894 as suggested here pre-election based on long wave economic and political trends.

This is significant beyond just the fortunes of U.S. party politics because it indicates the increased likelihood that we are reliving major elements of the financial Panic of 1893/Great 1890s Recession scenario that promptly triggered one of the most ebullient decades in American history — the Peary/Panama/T. Roosevelt Maslow Window (~1901-13).

And thus a similar transformative, golden age of prosperity, exploration,and technology (i.e., a Maslow Window) by 2015 is increasingly indicated.

A good summary of our pre-election scenarios is in: “Michael Barone Comments on the 1894 Political Scenario of 21stCenturyWaves.com”

Checking Our Pre-Election Expectations versus the Results —

1) The current economic/political framework resembles 1893 – 1913 (the Cleveland/Roosevelt era) more than 1949 – 1969 (the Eisenhower/JFK era).
Although no financial panic/great recession pair occurred between 1949 and 1969, the historic Panic of 2008 signaled that we are returning to the dominant pattern of the last 200+ years where financial panics — e.g., the Panic of 1893 — lead stunning Maslow Windows by 6 to 10 years.

2) The Political realignment of 2008 should continue through 2010.
Grover Cleveland was elected president in 1893, the year of the financial panic. The Great 1890s Recession was a double dip that continued until 1899. Like 2010, the election of 1894 was a realigning election featuring a Republican landslide (Democrats lost 125 seats). Thus the political realignment of 2008 has continued.

3) Political trends are more associated with the drive for prosperity than any particular party or candidate.
Like the election of 1894, the recent election was driven by economic issues, and was less in favor of Republicans than it was against Democrats. Exit polls revealed voter concerns were focused on job creation, federal spending, the budget deficit, and taxes. This is consistent with both short-term trends resulting from our great recession, and the pattern of the last 200+ years when the drive for prosperity becomes paramount as we approach a Maslow Window.

Three Key Near-Term Issues and Trends

1) Will the Cleveland-Obama electoral parallel continue?
Both Cleveland and Obama were elected near a financial panic. In their midterm elections, both presidents experienced major public rebukes to their economic policies. For Cleveland, the election of 1894 set the stage for his defeat two years later.

Former pollster for Bill Clinton, Douglas Schoen, recently (WSJ, 11/4/10) characterized Obama’s “historic choice” as,

He can become marginalized and largely irrelevant — as was Jimmy Carter in much of his last two years in office. Or he can return to the promise of his campaign when he offered to eschew partisanship and pursue the centrist agenda that the American people elected him to advance.

Schoen recognizes that, from the voters’ perspective, the drive for prosperity trumps any particular candidate or party.

2) Will the current political realignment continue beyond 2010?
The Wall Street Journal (11/1/10; N. King, Jr.) anticipates a “historic era” in U.S. politics and sees parallels with the 1890s.

Financial panic in 1893 set the stage for a series of sharp swings in the 1890s. Republicans won a landslide in 1894, picking up 135 seats, but then lost 48 seats two years later , despite Republican William McKinley’s triumph in the presidential race.

The Journal is suggesting that change will continue, and is hinting that unless he changes course — which is not yet indicated by the president’s recent, post-election statements — Mr. Obama risks defeat in 2012.

3) Will the Great Boom of 2015 Materialize?
Opinion polls and the success of Tea Party candidates in 2010 suggest it’s the front-burner issue. And macroeconomic data and historical trends over the last 200+ years point to the central role of a major economic boom in triggering a new Apollo-style Space Age by 2015.

Three possible economic scenarios for the U.S. and the world over the next few years are being discussed. Based on the “nominal” forecast model of 21stCenturyWaves.com, here are the 3 scenarios from high probability to low:

1. MOST PROBABLE: Recovery from the (possible double dip) great recession followed by the Great Boom of 2015 which triggers a new global Space Age,

2. POSSIBLE: Major inflation triggered by the Fed’s new $ 600 B quantitative easing “Hail Mary pass” (WSJ, 11/4/10) policy,
3) LEAST LIKELY: A Japan-style deflationary decade of economic stagnation.

More discussion of these is coming.

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Oct 09 2010

Michael Barone Comments on 1894 Political Scenario of 21stCenturyWaves.com

This week Gallup.com released poll results that suggest voter trends in the direction of economic/political scenarios that have been previously identified by 21stCenturyWaves.com as potentially highly relevant to our future.

Does this obscure 19th century U.S. President hold the secret to our future trajectory?

In particular, Gallup’s results suggest that our continuing political realignment may have similar dynamics to the election of 1894 that was heavily influenced by the financial Panic of 1893, and culminated in the transformative Peary/Panama/T. Roosevelt Maslow Window of 1901 – 13.

Gallup’s generic ballot for Congress among registered voters reveals an extraordinary “double-digit advantage under two separate turnout scenarios” for Republicans. Among likely voters in their “higher turnout” model, the Republican candidate is preferred over the Democrat by 53% to 40%. Among likely voters in their “lower turnout” model — more likely in mindterm elections like 2010 — the Republican wins 56% to 38%.

This amazing margin is unprecedented for Republicans in the history of Gallup surveys (since 1942).

Michael Barone (WashingtonExaminer.com, 10/4/10), principal author of The Almanac of American Politics, indicates Gallup’s stiking poll numbers,

suggest huge gains for Republicans and a Republican House majority the likes of which we have not seen since the election cycles of 1946 or even 1928 … The Gallup high turnout and low turnout numbers suggest it looks like 1894, when Republicans gained more than 100 seats in a House of approximately 350 seats.

Two years ago (10/20/08) I wrote that the financial Panic of 2008 has an analog in 1893.

21stCenturyWaves.com has also characterized a class of panics that predates Maslow Windows by about a decade … Ironically, about a month ago I was in the process of writing a new post on the Panic of 1893 and its similarities to today — and trying to develop the courage to forecast a similar crisis today (!) — when the credit meltdown occurred. The Panic of 1893 caused estimated unemployment over 10% for 5+ years. It lasted 18 months but was followed by another recession that lasted until 1897. The combination of GDP declines of several % coupled with population growth meant that GDP per capita didn’t recover to 1892 levels until 1899.

Last year (8/29/09) I suggested there were two economic/political scenarios of particular interest:

Scenario 1: The 1960s John F. Kennedy (JFK) Replay … In which the economic and geopolitical trends of 1945 – 1960 reappear about one long wave later — between 2000 and 2015 — including the end of a world war, a great economic boom, and the election of a charismatic JFK-style Democratic president, that trigger a Super Apollo Maslow Window (2015 – 2025) featuring a Camelot-like zeitgeist.
Scenario 2: The 1900s Teddy Roosevelt (TR) Encore … In which the economic and geopolitical trends of 1888 – 1903 reappear about two long waves later — between 2000 and 2015 — including a financial panic followed by a major recession, and the election of a charismatic TR-style Republican president, that trigger a Super Apollo Maslow Window (2015 – 2025) featuring a Panama Fever-style zeitgeist.

Until recently, I have seriously considered only the “JFK Replay” as the nominal scenario for the 2015 Maslow Window, but recent economic and political events have convinced me to also consider the “TR Encore.”

I concur with Barone about the potentially monumental implications of recent Gallup polling data, and believe it reinforces my tentative conclusions of December, 2009:

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

(See: The Economics of Ebullience Points to a Sparkling New Global Space Age)

The 1894 Election Model adds weight to current trends supporting a continuing political realignment fundamentally motivated by the drive for prosperity more than any particular candidate.

Because of President Grover Cleveland’s (pictured above) inability to deal with the effects of the Panic of 1893, McKinley won the presidency in 1896 and presided over the return to prosperity. In 1901 McKinley’s successor, President Theodore Roosevelt led the U.S. into perhaps its most ebullient Maslow Decade in history …

Like its 1893 counterpart, the Panic of 2008 triggered a political realignment with the election of President Obama and Democratic supermajorities in Congress. Given current economic trends, it’s likely that Republicans will experience significant Congressional gains in November, and may continue the political realignment — but this time in their favor …

Although current history is not necessarily hostage to an 1890s-style replay, one thing seems likely: the drive for prosperity in the form of a major economic boom commencing by 2015. Over the last 200+ years, this stage in the long business cycle (the “long wave”) consistently features a major economic boom that drives unprecedented, ebullient exploration and technology programs immersed in a Camelot-like zeitgeist.

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

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Jul 11 2010

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

As we search for clues to our economic future by looking for parallels between our current great recession and the past (e.g., the 1930s), it’s logical to also seek historical parallels relating other great events that are strongly dependent on economic conditions. For example, the manned space program, and specifically, human spaceflight to the Moon and Mars.

Viewed in this context, President Obama’s recent cancellation of Constellation — America’s program to return to the Moon by 2020 — is not a big surprise. It’s just a speed bump on the road to a near-term Moon base, including international commercial and scientific development of Earth-Moon space.

This glimpse of the future is not based on hope or optimism, but on long-term trends in the economy, technology, and geopolitics which point to a near-term re-ignition of President Kennedy’s nearly 50-year old vision of human exploration of the Moon and planets.

The 1960s Apollo Moon program was the greatest combined exploration and technology event in the history of the world, because it was off-world!
Click .

If we could understand what fundamentally drove Apollo, we might glimpse our future in space. And yet, as we discovered again last July during celebrations of the Moon landing’s 40th anniversary, we still can’t agree on why Apollo moonwalking ended in 1972. For example, Right Stuff author Tom Wolfe believes “the answer is obvious. NASA had neglected to recruit a corps of philosophers,” such as Saturn V developer Wernher von Braun, to explain the real meaning of Apollo to the public. In his Pulitzer Prize-winning book, The Heavens and the Earth (1985), Walter McDougall explains that

the bold lunar goal … encouraged Congress and the nation to believe that Apollo was the space program … Once the space race was over and won, Americans could turn back to their selfish pursuits.

Formerly with CNN, Miles O’Brien dismisses the most obvious manned space challenge — cost.

If you don’t want to mention the cost of the wars, if you would rather not get into Wall Street or Detroit bailouts, or if you don’t want to tell them the money we spend on the space program is about the same as our annual expenditure on coffee — why not mention India?…Calcutta can afford it — and Cleveland can’t?

This is an important clue. Apollo cost about $ 150 B (in 2007 USD). Imagine the Apollo-level manned space programs we could have funded with only a fraction of Obama’s initial $ 800+ B stimulus package. But although the money magically appeared, Americans did not spontaneously demand Moonbases or manned Mars missions. So the availability of money, by itself, does not fundamentally drive big space programs.

Wolfe alludes to powerful. but short-lived forces permeating Apollo: “

Everybody, including Congress, was caught up in the adrenal rush of it all.

This included the quintessential media figure of the time, Walter Cronkite, who predicted that after Apollo 11, “everything else that has happened in our time is going to be an asterisk.”

And O’Brien concludes that.

Truth is, we have done nothing to equal (much less top) the accomplishments of Apollo. And even worse, we haven’t tried. We did someting truly great, but then walked away from it.

This emotional component — and its rapid demise in the late 1960s — explains why money is not enough. The people also have to feel good.

This is reminiscent of a Keynesian concept called “animal spirits,” used to explain why investors become either irrationally exhuberant or unnecessarily discouraged by business conditions during a boom or a bust. However, public support for Apollo was not primarily driven by the promise of profits from space, nor in the end, even by beating the Soviets to the Moon.

Instead the unprecedented, widespread affluence from the Kennedy boom momentarily catapulted many average citizens to elevated levels of Maslow’s hierarchy where their expanded worldviews made the Apollo program seem not only intriguing, but almost irresistible — as reflected in 1960s opinion polls.

Indeed, the strong connection between manned planetary exploration and Maslow-related values was emphasized in 1961 by the National Academy of Science’s Space Science Board, chaired by Lloyd Berkner, in their influential report to President Kennedy.

Man’s exploration of the Moon and planets (is) potentially the greatest inspirational venture of this century and one in which the whole world can share; inherent here are great and fundamental philosophical and spiritual values which find a response in man’s questing spirit and his intellectual self-realization.

But the Maslow effect was short-lived. As early as 1966, growing distress over Vietnam and budget issues began to erode affluence-induced “ebullience,” and this 1960s Apollo “Maslow Window” rapidly closed, as evidenced by Nixon’s cancellation of the last three Apollo Moon missions.

As recently as Memorial Day weekend in Chicago at the International Space Development Conference 2010, distinguished physicist and space scientist Freeman Dyson lamented that “we have been stuck in LEO for 40 years.” In the context of Apollo, this is consistent with the absence — since the 1960s — of a post-World War II-style long boom culminating in widespread, Camelot-style ebullience.

We almost got one started in 2007 when Fortune magazine (7/12/07) celebrated the “greatest economic boom ever.” But it was interrupted by the financial Panic of 2008 and our subsequent great recession. Will 2007’s great boom be revived? And how soon?

Intriguing parallels with Apollo go back at least 200 years to Lewis and Clark, but the last century is particularly revealing. For example, the financial Panic of 1893 and the great 1890s recession may have more parallels with our current circumstances than the Apollo-related decades from 1950-70. The 1890s featured a double-dip recession and unemployment above 10%, as well as a political realignment that led to a stunning 1960s-style economic boom after 1899. The resulting early 20th century Maslow Window featured extraordinary ebullience, including “Panama fever” as the new canal split the continent and transformed America into a global power, “pole mania” as heroic international teams risked death to be the first to the poles, the civilization-altering Wright brothers’ first flights, and perhaps the most ebullient U.S. president ever: Theodore Roosevelt.

The trajectory of future history is not confined to a choice between the 1890-1913 Panic/recession model or the 1950-1973 Apollo example. But significantly, they both point to a golden age of prosperity, exploration, and technology that’s just around the corner.

Based on the historical pattern of rhythmic, twice-per-century Maslow Windows — over the last 200 years — including the Panic/Great Recession pairs (like the Panic of 2008) that typically occur a few years before the Windows, we can expect the new international Space Age to start gaining momentum by 2015.

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Jul 01 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Multi-Century Patterns in History Provide Powerful Insights

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

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

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

According to Boyle,

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

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

We agree because history shows he’s right.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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