Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Wishes for a New Year

A wise man once said, “You can't cross the sea merely by standing and staring at the water. Don't let yourself indulge in vain wishes.” Then instead of wishing, I'll call these Resolutions for a New Planet, and all we need is the will to make them reality.

1. Peace. Many fiction books I've read recently have dealt with the theme of violence at the core of humanity: Ender's Game, Chasm City, and to a lesser extent, Deception Point & The Gunslinger. It's depressing to think we're nothing more than tribes of baboons battling other tribes and each other for the same ol' reasons. So get over it and be sapient.

Currently, the USA spends over $500 billion each year on military defense, with the world total around $1,500,000,000,000. Each year. That's just the money... but the true cost in deaths, lost property, or just misdirecting talents is harder to quantify.

I realize that it's naive to think we can just hold hands and then *poof* global harmony appears, but it's time to figure out how to work towards that goal.

2. Vanquish violence. I do not understand the causes of violent crime and how they relate to poverty, education, culture, or mental health. It does seem that violence does tend to feed off itself like a cancer; revenge killings, acceptance or resignation to death, loss of empathy, psychological damage. If we could stop this tragic waste, both in terms of lost lives and lost money on police & justice, we could take yet another step towards ensuring life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

3. Happiness is a full stomach. I'd like to think that by turning swords into plowshares, we could easily end world hunger. Just converting the mess halls and medical facilities to mobile facilities that could relief natural & economic disasters would make a huge contribution. There are roughly 15 million active duty soldiers each year, not including resources spent on reserve and paramilitary forces. It turns out that is roughly the same number of people that starve to death each year.

4. Enlightenment. Access to education and opportunities are what make people grow. Not just formal education & economic opportunity, but cultural exchanges of ideas and chances to find your calling. Dispelling poverty and ignorance would strengthen and unite the planet, and providing opportunity would end the cycle of desperation that leads to overpopulation coupled with overexploitation. Self actualization enables each of us to live full lives and find value in experiences instead of hollow luxuries.

Imagine; no wars, no fear, no desperate poverty. Overpopulation pressures begin to fade as the biosphere we depend on and the richness of biodiversity is restored and maintained. Teamwork on a global scale to solve our problems and achieve goals. Billions of people living toward full potential with nothing wasted on war.

Well, what are we waiting for? After solving world strife, hunger, and the ecological crises we can really get cranking. "The Earth is the cradle of the mind, but we cannot live forever in a cradle".

Here's my wish list for a self-actualized planet (keep in mind that the entire cost of all of it is less than what we spend each year on military budgets -- imagine projects of this scale being done annually!).

1. Zero Extinctions! Full funding for all institutions and projects identified by this report.

2. Accelerated funding for ITER and other fusion research projects, such as polywell; complete ahead of schedule and results are quickly used the design the next generation. The economic and environmental gains are potentially huge.

3. Terrestrial Planet Finder; Understanding solar systems is key to understanding our own. Finding a living planet would be such a fundamental discovery it would spur much excitement in biology, philosophy, and perhaps even instill a manifest destiny of epic proportions.

4. Accelerated funding for Constellation, Mars Exploration, Jovian Orbiter, and others. MSL & MAVEN are on the way, but recent confirmation of methane on Mars should ramp up design of the Field Lab & Sample Return. Europa and Ganymede both likely have subsurface oceans that are begging to be explored. The question of life on mars needs to be researched very throughly before humans add to possible confusion, and certainly need to be completed by 2050 because according to my plan, the first impacts of TNOs will be arriving!

5. Terraform Mars. Mars is so close to being a viable planet with it's own unique future. Understanding the past biology of Mars, if it existed, would help plan any new direction. If some microbes still exist under ice sheets or near geothermal vents, they should be collected and grown in special "ecological reserves" to protect them during terraforming. Collecting a few dozen TNOs to restore the atmosphere is both technological feasible and not prohibitively expensive, likely less than $10 billion per 'roid. Now just add a few orbiting mirrors to help compensate the seasonal freezing at the poles and voila: an entire new planet for much less money than the Department of Defense plans to spend in 2009. Now seed the biosphere with stuff that likes to breathe CO2 and adding O2, and eventually recreate a unique fauna... perhaps something not too different than the Pleistocene megafauna, which would be well adapted to cold and sparse vegetation, and the lower gravity would allow for even larger forms.