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Hard Data on Robotic Space Exploration, Private Spaceflight

Posted by: Troubadour - Tue May 08, 2012 9:44 am
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Hard Data on Robotic Space Exploration, Private Spaceflight 
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Post Re: Hard Data on Robotic Space Exploration, Private Spaceflight   Posted on: Fri May 11, 2012 1:29 pm
SuperShuki wrote:
And yet, life exists, defying logic!


The existence of life does not defy logic. It just surprises people who don't have a very good understanding of either.

SuperShuki wrote:
freedom, itself, has the ability to create something out of nothing.


No, freedom does not violate the First Law of Thermodynamics.

SuperShuki wrote:
You think that because you don't live in an environment with a truly free market.


There is no such thing as a truly free market - markets are an unstable phenomenon based on transient balances that quickly decay into stagnant conditions where dominance is increasingly determined by existing market share and political connections rather than the price or quality of anything delivered. The only way to maintain the existence of a market is, ironically, to interfere in its natural decay by using government policy to force competition that would otherwise disappear into unchanging monopolies and oligopolies.

SuperShuki wrote:
Also, why do you think that government beurocrats know how to fix the "problems" of the free market, any better than the members of the free market themselves?


Because the problems of the "free" market wouldn't exist if the "members" of the market were inclined to fix them. Look at the circular logic that's followed the failure of Big Aerospace to create cost-effective access to space - they didn't create it, ergo they argue that it can't exist. It's the rationale of arrogant solipsists.

SuperShuki wrote:
By the way, I am against democracy. 51% of the people have no right to dictate to 49% how to act, nor to take their money.


If that's the case, then no percentage of the population can decide anything for any other percentage, and you're basically advocating anarchism. Good luck getting into space on such a basis - the Somali space program will probably get there first.

SuperShuki wrote:
Government is necessary to secure freedom, not to build rockets.


I don't advocate government rocketry, but that isn't the same as denying they have a role to play in promoting creation of commercial spaceflight. The private sector has simply failed to adequately invest in it, so either you're of the opinion that it shouldn't exist at all - in which case your commenting in a space forum is very puzzling - or you must admit that the only alternative is public investment.

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Post Re: Hard Data on Robotic Space Exploration, Private Spaceflight   Posted on: Fri May 11, 2012 2:27 pm
Troubadour wrote:
SuperShuki wrote:
And yet, life exists, defying logic!


The existence of life does not defy logic. It just surprises people who don't have a very good understanding of either.


Logic depends on knowing the absolute truth. Humans have free will, and therefore it is impossible to apply logic with certainty to human behavior.
Quote:
SuperShuki wrote:
freedom, itself, has the ability to create something out of nothing.


No, freedom does not violate the First Law of Thermodynamics.


Humans, like quantum particles, do not obey the laws of classical physics. They are fundamentally unpredictable. They are "free" to choose - just like quantum particles.

Quote:
SuperShuki wrote:
You think that because you don't live in an environment with a truly free market.


There is no such thing as a truly free market - markets are an unstable phenomenon based on transient balances that quickly decay into stagnant conditions where dominance is increasingly determined by existing market share and political connections rather than the price or quality of anything delivered. The only way to maintain the existence of a market is, ironically, to interfere in its natural decay by using government policy to force competition that would otherwise disappear into unchanging monopolies and oligopolies.


There may be no such thing as a perfectly free market, but there is certainly a continuum; there are markets that are very free, and there are markets that are almost completely unfree. There is also a direct correlation between the freedom of a society (including economic freedom) and it's success. This happens because success is a function of freedom. So if you want the rocket industry to be successful, make it more free, not less free.

And it is possible to have a relatively free market. During the 19th century, the US had a relatively very small governmental presence in society, and science and technology grew by leaps and bounds.


Quote:
SuperShuki wrote:
Also, why do you think that government beurocrats know how to fix the "problems" of the free market, any better than the members of the free market themselves?


Because the problems of the "free" market wouldn't exist if the "members" of the market were inclined to fix them. Look at the circular logic that's followed the failure of Big Aerospace to create cost-effective access to space - they didn't create it, ergo they argue that it can't exist. It's the rationale of arrogant solipsists.


Big Aerospace is paid directly by government. They are, in that sense, government employees. You are mistaking government for a free market.

Quote:
SuperShuki wrote:
By the way, I am against democracy. 51% of the people have no right to dictate to 49% how to act, nor to take their money.


If that's the case, then no percentage of the population can decide anything for any other percentage, and you're basically advocating anarchism. Good luck getting into space on such a basis - the Somali space program will probably get there first.


Somalia has a problem with their culture that prevents them from having freedom. They don't have a free market either. Lack of government in the economy is not the only thing necessary for a free market.

Quote:
SuperShuki wrote:
Government is necessary to secure freedom, not to build rockets.


I don't advocate government rocketry, but that isn't the same as denying they have a role to play in promoting creation of commercial spaceflight. The private sector has simply failed to adequately invest in it, so either you're of the opinion that it shouldn't exist at all - in which case your commenting in a space forum is very puzzling - or you must admit that the only alternative is public investment.


When government takes away most of your money, and tells you how to spend the rest of it, it's hard to take risks.

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Post Re: Hard Data on Robotic Space Exploration, Private Spaceflight   Posted on: Fri May 11, 2012 8:33 pm
Ah, the joys of arguing with anarcho-libertarian right wing extremists. I'd give up Troubadour, he's not going to budge :).

The way I see it, the goal of a society is to continuously maximise and extend the collective happiness of its citizens. Technological development is one way of doing that, and a good way of achieving technological development is to create a nice big level playing field, write up some rules to ensure it stays level (e.g. no using bulldozers!), put a referee or two on it to make sure everyone keeps to these rules, and let anyone compete.

The better you play, the bigger a share of the collective wealth you get, but there must be mechanisms in place to ensure that the wealth differential cannot become too large. The reason for that is that success in the market is not just a measure of how hard you work, but also of talent and opportunity especially early in life. As those are a matter of random luck, it would be unfair to let them have too much of an influence on relative wealth, and that seems to match with people's innate idea of fairness, as societies with a lower income differential are generally happier.

Of course, you need a referee, and someone to make the rules. This can only be done by the society as a whole, or more practically by a representative of society as a whole, i.e. a government. The government, as elected by the people, decides which playing fields to build and what rules to make. SuperShuki's anarchism is like playing the Champions League final (Superbowl for you Americans :)) without rules or a referee, and expecting a well-orchestrated display of football excellence.

Interestingly, technology has given us better health and more comfortable lives, but we seem to be running into things now that we can't fix technologically. We basically still have no idea about the causes or treatment of mental illness for example, while suicide is getting higher and higher on the lists of common causes of death (IIRC in The Netherlands, it's at number three after cardiovascular diseases and cancer). Our Western societies are safer than any other in the history of humankind, and yet people feel scared and insecure. We have the technology to go into space but no good rational reason, and we lack the sense of adventure to go anyway just because it's there. How do we solve that?

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Post Re: Hard Data on Robotic Space Exploration, Private Spaceflight   Posted on: Sat May 12, 2012 6:34 am
SuperShuki wrote:
Logic depends on knowing the absolute truth.


No, actually not. Logic is the application of a self-consistent set of assumptions (also known as axioms or postulates) to deduce conclusions based on available evidence, and inherently recognizes that all such conclusions are contingent on the validity of the assumptions. Alternative assumptions can be examined for self-consistency and then applied to observational evidence to see if they generate more useful conclusions than current ones.

Examining basic assumptions is known as inductive reasoning, and the application of assumptions to evidence to produce conclusions is known as deductive reasoning. Together, they form the logical basis of the Scientific Method - an empirical algorithm for continuously producing more accurate representations of reality. No "absolute knowledge" is needed or sought, and is indeed proven definitively impossible by information theory. What is merely sought, and achieved, is a continuously improving understanding through recursive application of the scientific process.

Life, for instance, is understood to be an inevitable consequence of certain types of chemistry occurring under certain conditions in sufficient statistical volumes. Its complexity is based on the sheer number of the combinatoric possibilities involved - i.e., the random combinations of the molecules - not some magical process that defies explanation.

SuperShuki wrote:
Humans have free will, and therefore it is impossible to apply logic with certainty to human behavior.


Free will, whether it exists or not, concerns how one decides among possible options - it is not an exemption from the laws of physics. You cannot "free will" yourself to Mars this weekend, even though you can begin making choices that will ultimately make such a trip possible. What this means in general is that because options are limited by the laws of physics and the consequences of choices are predictable in the short-term, human behavior has standard features despite the complexity of our brains and the astronomically high combinatoric possibilities of those brains acting in concert.

Ergo, logic is applicable to human behavior: Otherwise neurology could not exist as a field of medicine, nor would it be useful to learn about history or art, because nothing could be deduced about people by their behavior or their artistic and technological output. In fact, we could not function as social animals if we could not form valid conclusions about others by observing their behavior, and the cities and technological infrastructures we take for granted would be impossible. People have the free will to do random things that do not more or less follow human behavioral standards, but unless serious illness is involved, they simply won't because there's no motive and no advantage that would promote the behavior.

SuperShuki wrote:
Humans, like quantum particles, do not obey the laws of classical physics.


Yes, we do. See above about "free willing" yourself to Mars this weekend. There is no possible method of observing yourself that would cause you to spontaneously be on another planet, because you are not a particle - you are the statistical outcome of billions of particles whose probability functions have already collapsed into classical mechanics in the course of causing you to exist. Just because you build a desk out of wood doesn't mean you can plant it and it will sprout branches.

SuperShuki wrote:
There may be no such thing as a perfectly free market, but there is certainly a continuum; there are markets that are very free, and there are markets that are almost completely unfree.


The entire premise is flawed. The value of a market is determined by its activity, and the implication that activity is optimized by minimizing government involvement is demonstrably false. In fact, the implication that a one-dimensional measure of "market freedom" is even relevant is false. The only measure that matters is whether a given set of policies produces a more functional market than another, and simply trying to redefine "market" to mean minimum-government is a matter of ideology rather than economics.

Every country that doesn't invest any government resources in space proves that simply not being involved isn't a realistic pathway to generating a cost-effective space industry. Those with traditional cost-plus public/private relationships have proven that those relationships also fail. However, there is great promise and already significant evidence that commercial contracting can succeed, if sufficient resources are invested.

SuperShuki wrote:
There is also a direct correlation between the freedom of a society (including economic freedom) and it's success. This happens because success is a function of freedom.


I agree, but neither freedom in general nor economic freedom specifically is in any way defined or measured by lack of government involvement. My nominal freedom to travel into space simply because no one would actively stop me doesn't mean anything if I can't afford it or if the technology is never created in the first place. So you see, just like our discussion above with respect to free will, markets are not free - they are limited by the laws of physics and the legacy of past decisions, and most of the decisions that limit your choices are other people's: Exactly the kind of situation government exists to guide and mediate. People have a right to collaborate through democratically-elected governments to enable future opportunities that laissez-faire markets fail to produce.

SuperShuki wrote:
So if you want the rocket industry to be successful, make it more free, not less free.


My definition of freedom is how many opportunities are available, how good the opportunities are, and how broadly applicable they are to the population. The anarcho-libertarian definition of freedom is basically saying that the freest place to live is somewhere with no other people because then nothing will get in your way, but that's not useful, and not how common sense would define freedom: To my mind, and I think the minds of most people, freedom requires opportunity, and governments play a very large role in enabling that. For space, commercial contracting seems to offer the best combination of enabling opportunities and room to experiment.

SuperShuki wrote:
During the 19th century, the US had a relatively very small governmental presence in society, and science and technology grew by leaps and bounds.


You're half-right. The US did indeed have minimal government involvement, but science only grew by leaps and bounds in Europe, where governments were quite keen on promoting science and technology. The United States was a relative backwater until the post-Civil War period when massive public investments were made in railroads and other industrial technology. And while it was competitive with Europe for a long time, it didn't leap ahead until after WW2, when massive rural electrification projects, road-building, the Interstate highways, airports, educational programs, and advanced telecommunications were pursued by the federal government.

Let's not forget the internet we're both using right now - the result of a DARPA program - or the World Wide Web that sits on top of it, which was created by Europe's CERN laboratory. Or that pretty much everything around us all the time is the result of massive public spending in countless ways both obvious and subtle. If you were to go back in time and erase all public investments in such things, we wouldn't even be on this continent.

SuperShuki wrote:
Big Aerospace is paid directly by government. They are, in that sense, government employees. You are mistaking government for a free market.


The government doesn't dictate what they do with the money, so they have no excuse for having failed to pursue cost-effective access to space.

SuperShuki wrote:
Somalia has a problem with their culture that prevents them from having freedom.


Chaos is not a culture, and what prevents them from having freedom is the fact there is no government involvement in the market: You can buy anything in Somalia - any weapon, any drug, any act of violence, and any product that can be pilfered from a pirated merchant ship. You can buy endangered animals, human slaves, anti-tank rockets, anything. But only things that can be bought or stolen from somewhere else, because markets left to their own devices don't produce anything - they just redistribute it to whoever has the most power. "Too much" and "not enough" government have the same outcome - no innovation, no progress, no freedom.

SuperShuki wrote:
When government takes away most of your money, and tells you how to spend the rest of it, it's hard to take risks.


The US government doesn't take away "most" of anyone's money, and doesn't dictate how they spend the remainder. So why you keep saying this phrase is puzzling.

-------------------------------

Lourens wrote:
Ah, the joys of arguing with anarcho-libertarian right wing extremists. I'd give up Troubadour, he's not going to budge :).


Probably, but it's just been a while since I flexed my patience muscles, and I enjoy thinking about how to explain concepts. In the process, I find that I learn more about them myself even if I don't convince the other person.

Lourens wrote:
The way I see it, the goal of a society is to continuously maximise and extend the collective happiness of its citizens. Technological development is one way of doing that, and a good way of achieving technological development is to create a nice big level playing field, write up some rules to ensure it stays level (e.g. no using bulldozers!), put a referee or two on it to make sure everyone keeps to these rules, and let anyone compete.


Well said. My own philosophy can be summed up by the acronym LEO - Liberty, Equality, Opportunity. Space has the greatest potential of all time to liberate, equalize, and enable humanity: If people are oppressed, they will some day be able to escape. If they are treated unfairly by a system, they can go start their own new one. And the resources and potential habitat in this solar system alone are so massive as to defy imagination of what could be done with them. This is in contrast to a future where we are stuck on Earth, desperately trying to grab ever-shrinking pieces of the pie as the money and power accumulates in fewer and fewer hands.

Lourens wrote:
The better you play, the bigger a share of the collective wealth you get, but there must be mechanisms in place to ensure that the wealth differential cannot become too large. The reason for that is that success in the market is not just a measure of how hard you work, but also of talent and opportunity especially early in life. As those are a matter of random luck, it would be unfair to let them have too much of an influence on relative wealth, and that seems to match with people's innate idea of fairness, as societies with a lower income differential are generally happier.


This is actually something I'm trying to demonstrate in microcosm in the structure of the organization I'm in the early stages of exploring - one where donors contribute to a budget and then vote on what to do with it, with votes somewhat weighted by the proportion of their donation (but within limits). It wouldn't be very impressive at first, but I figure if in the long-term the industry in general could get involved, you could have kind of a "space commonwealth" where companies, academic institutions, and civic organizations all come together to form a general human space program that transcends sectors and national boundaries. But I know that's kind of the distant game.

Lourens wrote:
We have the technology to go into space but no good rational reason, and we lack the sense of adventure to go anyway just because it's there. How do we solve that?
[/quote]

We have tons of good rational reasons. I identify most of them in response to question 1 of my FAQ & Statistics page. But in terms of sense of adventure, really the only way to cultivate that is to demonstrate the existence of the opportunity. Once the New World opened up, countless oh-so-civilized European gentlemen gave up their wine, banquets, and prim courtesans to become ragged colonists just barely surviving illness, weather, starvation, and Native attacks. Their tales of woe and misadventure only intensified the desire to experience it. Same thing happened with Mt. Everest - now hundreds of people climb it every year, passing right by the frozen corpses of failed climbers. The moment space is an affordable option, it'll be swarming.

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Post Re: Hard Data on Robotic Space Exploration, Private Spaceflight   Posted on: Sun May 13, 2012 9:19 am
Quote:
Life, for instance, is understood to be an inevitable consequence of certain types of chemistry occurring under certain conditions in sufficient statistical volumes. Its complexity is based on the sheer number of the combinatoric possibilities involved - i.e., the random combinations of the molecules - not some magical process that defies explanation.


You are in essence saying that life is deterministic, that the only thing that distinguishes a brain from a computer is its complexity. You are denying free will - the ability of humans to do the illogical thing - not out of a lack of understanding, but out of choice. This is nonsense. Humans do perfectly illogical things all the time, and they understand that it is illogical. They do it anyway.

Human behavior is fundamentally illogical, and therefore you cannot apply logic to it. You cannot make any assumptions upon which to base your logic, because there is no way of predicting the effects of that logic. You can only accept that, and plan accordingly.

Quote:
Free will, whether it exists or not, concerns how one decides among possible options - it is not an exemption from the laws of physics. You cannot "free will" yourself to Mars this weekend, even though you can begin making choices that will ultimately make such a trip possible. What this means in general is that because options are limited by the laws of physics and the consequences of choices are predictable in the short-term, human behavior has standard features despite the complexity of our brains and the astronomically high combinatoric possibilities of those brains acting in concert.


Free will allows people to make new options where there were none - to literally change the laws of reality. Of course, this doesn't seem logical - but it's reality nonetheless. There is no logical reason that the airplane, or the rocket, or the bridge, or anything had to be invented. There was no way to predict those inventions. They literally came out of nowhere, out of the human mind. Furthermore, until the human mind came up with those inventions, they were impossible according to the laws of physics - the world, left alone, would never have come up with them.

You can learn about humans, but that knowledge won't let you predict anything with certainty.

Think about it metaphorically, and not literally.

Quote:
SuperShuki wrote:
Humans, like quantum particles, do not obey the laws of classical physics.


Yes, we do. See above about "free willing" yourself to Mars this weekend. There is no possible method of observing yourself that would cause you to spontaneously be on another planet, because you are not a particle - you are the statistical outcome of billions of particles whose probability functions have already collapsed into classical mechanics in the course of causing you to exist. Just because you build a desk out of wood doesn't mean you can plant it and it will sprout branches.


And yet we can make an ear grow on the back of a mouse.

It's true, that logic can still be a useful tool, which is what I think that you are trying to say. But only once you accept that you don't know everything - that reality determines the assumptions of logic, not vice versa.

Quote:
SuperShuki wrote:
There may be no such thing as a perfectly free market, but there is certainly a continuum; there are markets that are very free, and there are markets that are almost completely unfree.


The entire premise is flawed. The value of a market is determined by its activity, and the implication that activity is optimized by minimizing government involvement is demonstrably false. In fact, the implication that a one-dimensional measure of "market freedom" is even relevant is false. The only measure that matters is whether a given set of policies produces a more functional market than another, and simply trying to redefine "market" to mean minimum-government is a matter of ideology rather than economics.

Every country that doesn't invest any government resources in space proves that simply not being involved isn't a realistic pathway to generating a cost-effective space industry. Those with traditional cost-plus public/private relationships have proven that those relationships also fail. However, there is great promise and already significant evidence that commercial contracting can succeed, if sufficient resources are invested.


There is no absolute value in a market. There is no absolute "functioning" that you can determine in a market. It's completely subjective. I might say that a market only has value if it produces chocolate milk, and you cannot prove me wrong. Especially since I love chocolate milk (yum!)

Quote:
SuperShuki wrote:
There is also a direct correlation between the freedom of a society (including economic freedom) and it's success. This happens because success is a function of freedom.


I agree, but neither freedom in general nor economic freedom specifically is in any way defined or measured by lack of government involvement. My nominal freedom to travel into space simply because no one would actively stop me doesn't mean anything if I can't afford it or if the technology is never created in the first place. So you see, just like our discussion above with respect to free will, markets are not free - they are limited by the laws of physics and the legacy of past decisions, and most of the decisions that limit your choices are other people's: Exactly the kind of situation government exists to guide and mediate. People have a right to collaborate through democratically-elected governments to enable future opportunities that laissez-faire markets fail to produce.


And yet, with all the government mediation and guiding, the space industry has gone nowhere. You cannot force people to create new ideas out of nothing, you must let them do it themselves.

Quote:
SuperShuki wrote:
So if you want the rocket industry to be successful, make it more free, not less free.


My definition of freedom is how many opportunities are available, how good the opportunities are, and how broadly applicable they are to the population. The anarcho-libertarian definition of freedom is basically saying that the freest place to live is somewhere with no other people because then nothing will get in your way, but that's not useful, and not how common sense would define freedom: To my mind, and I think the minds of most people, freedom requires opportunity, and governments play a very large role in enabling that. For space, commercial contracting seems to offer the best combination of enabling opportunities and room to experiment.


Well, I'm not an anarcho-libertarian. I recognize the reality, however, that government only impedes progress; it can protect people's ability to make progress out of thin air, but it cannot make progress itself. Only free people can do that.

Quote:
SuperShuki wrote:
During the 19th century, the US had a relatively very small governmental presence in society, and science and technology grew by leaps and bounds.


You're half-right. The US did indeed have minimal government involvement, but science only grew by leaps and bounds in Europe, where governments were quite keen on promoting science and technology. The United States was a relative backwater until the post-Civil War period when massive public investments were made in railroads and other industrial technology. And while it was competitive with Europe for a long time, it didn't leap ahead until after WW2, when massive rural electrification projects, road-building, the Interstate highways, airports, educational programs, and advanced telecommunications were pursued by the federal government.

Let's not forget the internet we're both using right now - the result of a DARPA program - or the World Wide Web that sits on top of it, which was created by Europe's CERN laboratory. Or that pretty much everything around us all the time is the result of massive public spending in countless ways both obvious and subtle. If you were to go back in time and erase all public investments in such things, we wouldn't even be on this continent.


And yet, the telephone, the gramaphone, the production line, the airplane, the Gatling gun, were all invented and developed in the United States - not by government, but by free people.

It's like saying that the USSR made ZIL was made by government, so therefore government is the source of innovation and progress.

The Internet is simply a computer network; what made it successful, is it's adoption by the private sector. There is no reason that the scientists at CERN had to be funded by government in order to create the web; in a free market, they could be funded by private money, and do alot better (I know CERN is expensive, but it's expense is nothing compared to the expense of government involvement in the market).
Quote:
SuperShuki wrote:
Big Aerospace is paid directly by government. They are, in that sense, government employees. You are mistaking government for a free market.


The government doesn't dictate what they do with the money, so they have no excuse for having failed to pursue cost-effective access to space.


Government is the main buyer of rockets, so naturally they can control the product.

Quote:
SuperShuki wrote:
Somalia has a problem with their culture that prevents them from having freedom.


Chaos is not a culture, and what prevents them from having freedom is the fact there is no government involvement in the market: You can buy anything in Somalia - any weapon, any drug, any act of violence, and any product that can be pilfered from a pirated merchant ship. You can buy endangered animals, human slaves, anti-tank rockets, anything. But only things that can be bought or stolen from somewhere else, because markets left to their own devices don't produce anything - they just redistribute it to whoever has the most power. "Too much" and "not enough" government have the same outcome - no innovation, no progress, no freedom.


Sure, government is necessary - to protect markets, not to create progress. But it is not enough - there still has to be a culture of freedom.

Quote:
SuperShuki wrote:
When government takes away most of your money, and tells you how to spend the rest of it, it's hard to take risks.


The US government doesn't take away "most" of anyone's money, and doesn't dictate how they spend the remainder. So why you keep saying this phrase is puzzling.


Taxes, at the high end of the spectrum (the productive end), are over 50% (at least theoretically). Government regulates almost every aspect of life - for the greater good, of course.

Hence my statement.

Quote:
Lourens wrote:
Ah, the joys of arguing with anarcho-libertarian right wing extremists. I'd give up Troubadour, he's not going to budge :).


Probably, but it's just been a while since I flexed my patience muscles, and I enjoy thinking about how to explain concepts. In the process, I find that I learn more about them myself even if I don't convince the other person.


I'm not an anarcho libertarian shishkabob. I recognize reality, however - progress comes from, freedom, not government.

Quote:
Lourens wrote:
The way I see it, the goal of a society is to continuously maximise and extend the collective happiness of its citizens. Technological development is one way of doing that, and a good way of achieving technological development is to create a nice big level playing field, write up some rules to ensure it stays level (e.g. no using bulldozers!), put a referee or two on it to make sure everyone keeps to these rules, and let anyone compete.


Well said. My own philosophy can be summed up by the acronym LEO - Liberty, Equality, Opportunity. Space has the greatest potential of all time to liberate, equalize, and enable humanity: If people are oppressed, they will some day be able to escape. If they are treated unfairly by a system, they can go start their own new one. And the resources and potential habitat in this solar system alone are so massive as to defy imagination of what could be done with them. This is in contrast to a future where we are stuck on Earth, desperately trying to grab ever-shrinking pieces of the pie as the money and power accumulates in fewer and fewer hands.


You're "goal" for society is arbitrary; so is your whole philosophy. It's a statement based on logic, not facts, or experiment. You assume that space will be able to change human nature; that is false. You assume that the best way to get to space is to force people to go there, instead of letting them decide for themselves; that is also false. You assume that you know what's best for humanity; that is also false.


Quote:
Lourens wrote:
The better you play, the bigger a share of the collective wealth you get, but there must be mechanisms in place to ensure that the wealth differential cannot become too large. The reason for that is that success in the market is not just a measure of how hard you work, but also of talent and opportunity especially early in life. As those are a matter of random luck, it would be unfair to let them have too much of an influence on relative wealth, and that seems to match with people's innate idea of fairness, as societies with a lower income differential are generally happier.


This is actually something I'm trying to demonstrate in microcosm in the structure of the organization I'm in the early stages of exploring - one where donors contribute to a budget and then vote on what to do with it, with votes somewhat weighted by the proportion of their donation (but within limits). It wouldn't be very impressive at first, but I figure if in the long-term the industry in general could get involved, you could have kind of a "space commonwealth" where companies, academic institutions, and civic organizations all come together to form a general human space program that transcends sectors and national boundaries. But I know that's kind of the distant game.


Fairness is a completely subjective concept, and practically, impossible to enforce; I don't think it's fair that my head is on top of my body, and my feet at the bottom, so perhaps I should cut off my head and my feet, and switch them?

What you are talking about is not fairness, but jealousy.

Quote:
Lourens wrote:
We have the technology to go into space but no good rational reason, and we lack the sense of adventure to go anyway just because it's there. How do we solve that?


We have tons of good rational reasons. I identify most of them in response to question 1 of my FAQ & Statistics page. But in terms of sense of adventure, really the only way to cultivate that is to demonstrate the existence of the opportunity. Once the New World opened up, countless oh-so-civilized European gentlemen gave up their wine, banquets, and prim courtesans to become ragged colonists just barely surviving illness, weather, starvation, and Native attacks. Their tales of woe and misadventure only intensified the desire to experience it. Same thing happened with Mt. Everest - now hundreds of people climb it every year, passing right by the frozen corpses of failed climbers. The moment space is an affordable option, it'll be swarming.
[/quote]

You cannot formulate a rational reason to go to space, because space has risks and benefits like anything else. You can only say that you want to go to space, and do it yourself, taking the risks and responsibility, along with the reward.

I want humanity to go to the stars, I want to see a lander on an extrasolar planet in my lifetime (however absurd that is) but I recognize the reality that only free people will get us there. I place objective reality above my own personal wants; I am not willing to enslave free people in order to fulfill my personal desires.

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Post Re: Hard Data on Robotic Space Exploration, Private Spaceflight   Posted on: Sun May 13, 2012 12:05 pm
I don't have the time to respond to all the points raised here, but this one caught my attention.
SuperShuki wrote:
You are in essence saying that life is deterministic, that the only thing that distinguishes a brain from a computer is its complexity. You are denying free will - the ability of humans to do the illogical thing - not out of a lack of understanding, but out of choice. This is nonsense. Humans do perfectly illogical things all the time, and they understand that it is illogical. They do it anyway.


Actually your assumption is very likely not correct, and complexity is in fact the only difference. Two things to consider:

a) Humans don't really do illogical things out of choice and in full knowledge of the nature of their acting. Most things somebody from an outside viewpoint might call "illogical" are perfectly logical from the acting persons point of view. The reasons for this are manifold: incomplete knowledge about the situation, personal preference developed from past experience in similar situations, emotions!, etc, etc.
"Choice" is the outcome of a "performance maximizing function" that depends solely on 1) the persons desires (what do you currently want to achieve), 2) knowledge about effectiveness of means.

b) As a consequence it looks like sufficiently complex computer systems (in the sense of artificial brains, not simply more of the same stuff like a more powerful supercomputer) will behave in pretty much the same "illogical" ways, as humans (and even animals) do if they are forced to operate under similar assumptions: incomplete knowledge, personal "drives" (need for energy, desire for self-preservation, etc.) At least that's the direction cognitive science currently points to.

Free will and choice is not some kind of magic ingredient that makes humans different from lower animals or machines. It is an "artifact" of the way our brains evolved if you want to call it that way, although that sounds a little bit to negative for my taste, after all it still is a fantastic feat of nature to achieve this.

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Post Re: Hard Data on Robotic Space Exploration, Private Spaceflight   Posted on: Sun May 13, 2012 4:12 pm
Logic, rationality and predictability are three different things, and they're being conflated here. People often act irrationally (e.g. in a way that is not the best way for them to get what they want), although they're also often accused of being irrational by others who simply disagree with their goals. But even when people act irrationally, they may still be predictable, and given the right assumptions, logic can then still be used to predict their behaviour.

(edit: typo)

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Post Re: Hard Data on Robotic Space Exploration, Private Spaceflight   Posted on: Sun May 13, 2012 6:41 pm
Quote:
Free will and choice is not some kind of magic ingredient that makes humans different from lower animals or machines. It is an "artifact" of the way our brains evolved if you want to call it that way, although that sounds a little bit to negative for my taste, after all it still is a fantastic feat of nature to achieve this.


Well then, you have no moral problem with murder, then? After all, the murderer really has no choice in the matter. And after all, the victim is just a complex animal, no different from a cow with a particularly big brain.

That's exactly where this philosophy leads, and has led, historically. And since it denies the existence of objective reality, there is no arguing with it.

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Post Re: Hard Data on Robotic Space Exploration, Private Spaceflight   Posted on: Sun May 13, 2012 6:54 pm
Lourens wrote:
Logic, rationality and predictability are three different things, and they're being conflated here. People often act irrationally (e.g. in a way that is not the best way for them to get what they want), although they're also often accused of being irrational by other who simply disagree with their goals. But even when people act irrationally, they may still be predictable, and given the right assumptions, logic can then still be used to predict their behaviour.


That's a good definition of the three, but the fact is, that they are directly related. Because people act irrationally, it is impossible to predict their behavior with certainty - and therefore it is impossible to make any sort of logic which will hold true absolutely. Therefore, while it is possible to use logic as a tool to develop theories, it is impossible to use logic to as a basis to tell what humans should do. That's why, even if you have the smartest person in the world (Dan Fredrikson, for example), he would not be able to know what you should do. You know, everybody on this board bashes Dan, but many here are essentially promoting the same philosophy - perhaps with less bombast, but with essentially the same amount of modesty. The only one who is truly modest, of course, is me. :lol:

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Post Re: Hard Data on Robotic Space Exploration, Private Spaceflight   Posted on: Mon May 14, 2012 8:06 am
You still seem to struggle with the concept of "choice".

Of course a murderer has made a choice, but simply the wrong one in the opinion of the society. Morality and Ethics are a social concept born out of civilization. At least for a short moment, it was the "best" thing to do in the eyes of the murderer, even if that simply meant that his desire to do so (out of grief, agony, rage, whatever) was overwhelming any reason not to do so.


We as a society have made the choice to not tolerate murder (* with certain exceptions) but there is no fundamental law of nature that forbids murder.

* = The arbitrary nature of this decision becomes obvious if we consider that most societies think it "perfectly acceptable" to murder/kill other people in a war - as long as it isn't civilians, prisoners, etc..

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Post Re: Hard Data on Robotic Space Exploration, Private Spaceflight   Posted on: Mon May 14, 2012 11:28 am
Well, that's where statistics comes in. Heck, quantum mechanics teaches us that the universe itself is fundamentally statistical. We can still use logic to derive the probability distribution of a stochastic event, so that even if the final outcome is random we do know something. There's an extremely high probability that I won't murder anyone today. So, we can logically deduce that I very likely won't be arrested for murder today, very likely won't go to jail, and very likely will be able to read your next reply. That is a very useful prediction with a high probability of being true, but it's not a certainty in mathematical terms.

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Post Re: Hard Data on Robotic Space Exploration, Private Spaceflight   Posted on: Mon May 14, 2012 8:21 pm
Marcus Zottl wrote:
You still seem to struggle with the concept of "choice".

Of course a murderer has made a choice, but simply the wrong one in the opinion of the society. Morality and Ethics are a social concept born out of civilization. At least for a short moment, it was the "best" thing to do in the eyes of the murderer, even if that simply meant that his desire to do so (out of grief, agony, rage, whatever) was overwhelming any reason not to do so.


We as a society have made the choice to not tolerate murder (* with certain exceptions) but there is no fundamental law of nature that forbids murder.

* = The arbitrary nature of this decision becomes obvious if we consider that most societies think it "perfectly acceptable" to murder/kill other people in a war - as long as it isn't civilians, prisoners, etc..


Exactly. In your world view of relative morality (as opposed to objective morality) you have no problem with murder. There is nothing to fight for, beyond your own pleasure - because living entails risk, and there is no reason to risk anything when there is nothing really to gain. Life doesn't exist, so there is no reason to live.

http://www.bartleby.com/102/55.html

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Post Re: Hard Data on Robotic Space Exploration, Private Spaceflight   Posted on: Wed May 16, 2012 7:46 pm
For someone who goes on about logic, you're not making much logical sense.

My ideas above are based on a clear value: maximising happiness. That is indeed in some sense arbitrary: you could just as easily decide that you would value more a society in which everyone is as miserable as possible, and then figure out how to achieve that.

If I understand correctly, you prefer the religious view that life, having been created by God, is sacrosanct and not ours to take in any circumstances. As an atheist I would submit that that is more arbitrary than trying to maximise happiness. Jews, Catholics, Protestants and Muslim all have the same God, but quite different ideas about how to organise their religion, how to worship, and how to live. And many people have died in religious wars over the centuries. Why follow book X and not book Y? You can only answer that question by stating that you prefer certain values, and then the question is whether your religion is the best way of achieving them. In any case it's still far from absolute.

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Post Re: Hard Data on Robotic Space Exploration, Private Spaceflight   Posted on: Wed May 16, 2012 11:26 pm
Well, I have been banned from talking about any Dietifical topics on this forum; so I won't. I will, however, say that the idea that there is an objective reality that cannot be deduced from logic is not the sole domain of people who believe in a Diety; there are also the Objectivists, aka Alisa Rosenbaum, aka Ayn Rand; although she was also in that sense "religious" (in her own words).

In a sense, this could be viewed as a Socratic, vs. an Aristotelian world view. Socrates believed reality could be deduced using logic; Aristotle felt that it could only be deduced using experiment. Socrates, of course, killed himself. The Aristotelian philosophy of determining reality by experiment, not theory, is the basis of modern science.

Happiness, as a goal, has no objective meaning. I am happy when I am drinking chocolate milk; you may be happy when your ears twitch. And yet if I had all the chocolate milk I wanted, and you had all the chocolate milk you wanted, it would not make us happy. Happiness is not a goal, only a byproduct.

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Post Re: Hard Data on Robotic Space Exploration, Private Spaceflight   Posted on: Thu May 17, 2012 5:54 pm
That's true, happiness is difficult to define. I am right now very happy because I just ran 10km in 37:02, which is completely arbitrary as well. The goal of a happy society is unlikely to be reached by making everyone run 10km races. Conversely, I'm not a big fan of chocolate milk. So I'll be the first to admit that it's a rather nebulous goal. What can we do?

Your Socrates vs. Aristoteles comparison makes your position much more clear, and it's an interesting one. I'm not sure that I disagree with Socrates in principle, but the seemingly statistical nature of reality does seem to invalidate his idea. In practice surely Aristoteles' view is the more useful one.

One point for Socrates: I forgot where I got this idea, I think it's from one of the grand masters of science fiction, although it sounds like it could be a Feynman story as well. If you lived on a perpetually cloudy planet, but you had figured out the laws of gravity and of nuclear fusion, then you could logically deduce the existence of the stars even though you can't observe them. All you need to do is deduce what happens if you put a certain amount of gas together. The larger the amount of gas, the greater its gravitational pull, and the greater the pressure in the centre, until at some point (the Chandrasekhar limit) that pressure becomes large enough to cause the atoms in the gas to undergo nuclear fusion. Presto, star.

I think in modern science it's actually a bit of a mix of both approaches. We measure a lot, but there are also things that we cannot measure and must deduce from measurable things by model fitting. Think of detecting exoplanets by very accurately measuring the wavelength of the light that the star they orbit. The planet causes the star to wobble, the wobble causes a shift in frequency, which we measure. We then deduce that there must be a planet of a certain mass in a certain orbit, without having measured the planet directly. We start with a bit of Aristoteles, and then apply some Socrates to figure out what the measurement likely means.

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Last edited by Lourens on Fri May 18, 2012 3:39 pm, edited 1 time in total.



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