Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Further evidence that there just might be hope for this species if we can escape the ever-dwindling confines of our home planet:

Zbigniew Oksiuta's talk at ars electronica

Oksiuta has been working for ten years on the possibility to create a new breed of biological habitat which would organically and dynamically adapt to conditions such as the absence of gravity that one might have to face both in the biosphere and in space. While architecture evokes ideas of stability and immobility, he envisions the possibility of making it living and unstable. Vegetable matter could become a live habitat, an isolated spatial entity that takes up, transforms, and synthesizes matter and energy from its surroundings by biological means.

6 comments:

mr. intense said...

"Further evidence that there just might be hope for this species if we can escape the ever-dwindling confines of our home planet..."

Not only does the technology not exist to even get to Mars anytime soon, with a small crew, where and how do you see humans being able to develop and afford anything so mega-scale that we could emigrate off-planet? And where to?

No, this is a pipe-dream for now and the intermediate future. Time is growing short for us to find the technological means, if even possible, to combat global warming and ecological pollution and their effects on humanity.

We need to begin an international, Uber-Manhattan project on developing technologies to correct ecological and atmospheric damages, and to find alternative energy sources than oil.

Wind power, solar, and biofuels are not going to be adequate, or in time, either.

We need fusion power as soon as possible, practicable, and safe to accomplish. Without these things, we are doomed as a species. Forget the fantasy of mass space migration for now--time is of the essence to merely find the means to survive on this planet as a "civilized" species with some hope of sustainability.

Let's be real, and practical, shall we?

Mac said...

Let's be real, and practical, shall we?

Here's a crazy thought: why can't we do both? It seems to me the technologies would compliment each other. I see no reason at all we can't take big steps toward ensuring the survivability of Earth *and* establishing a meaningful presence off-planet.

mr. intense said...

Well, sure, IF that can be done. I don't think it can, given our actual timeframe for survival. I wish I were wrong, frankly.

But first things first, eh? Mass space migration seems to me to most likely to involve very different technologies than would be applicable to environmental technologies of the sort I referred to above.

If there are spinoffs, like systems to use on mass-migration spaceships in the far future for environmental applications on-board or at the destination locations, that would be fantastically fine and definitely worth pursuing.

However, I do not forsee us being able to effectively eat our cake and have it too. If we can't solve the problems we have generated on this planet as I suggested, then trying to develop transportation tech to leave earth would be foolish, and even if successful (extremely doubtful in any reasonable amount of time), we would be bringing to any other planet the same ignorance, self-destructive impulses, and attitudes that are ruining this one. That would be insanely delusional to even try.

I don't think humanity would be able to occupy any other planet for long if we can't even fix our own. We not only wouldn't "deserve" it (from an ethical and moral standpoint); it's ludricrous to think we have the available time, brainpower, and resources to develop interplanetary, let alone real interstellar, transport to some nice planet we could actually live on elsewhere in the galaxy.

I mean, come on now, put on your pragmatism glasses and look carefully at the _realistic_ options.

The only other possible option is a breakthrough in biogenetic engineering to greatly enhance our intelligence (to begin to see how our resources can be better applied to space migration, or other more dire issues we are confronting), but only _after_ the fact or accomplishment of an eco-cure and stabilization tech (and possibly combined in parallel with direct intelligence enhancement in _humans_, not robots or AI's).

As always, it is WE who are our only real hope to reverse course and fix the potential of species destruction. And I'm not too optimistic, as I'm sure you can tell.

Just how do you see the technologies for one being directly complimentary or usable for the other, Mac? I'd really like to know. I don't think you are really considering the issues deeply enough. The tech of each of these two matters would be almost completely different, and not truly cross-applicable.

No, I don't think we can or should try to do both in parallel. Let's see what can be done on Earth first, to save ourselves, before we start investing in and developing off-world tech.

There are only so many resources available (human, technological, and funding), and I think that fixing the atmospheric and ecological problems on this planet, starting NOW, will strain those resources to the breaking point, if it's even _possible_ at this late date to do what is required to avoid a massive human dieoff and the effective end of civilization within the next 20 to 50 years at the outside.

It's all a matter of time left and timing. If we fuck up this planet the way we are going, there's no space migration anyway, as there will be no infrastructure, civilization, or real technology left in order to do so. Just sharp rocks and sharpened sticks. IMHO.

Mac said...

Mass space migration seems to me to most likely to involve very different technologies than would be applicable to environmental technologies of the sort I referred to above.

Who's talking "massive space migration"? I'll settle for what I mentioned before: a meaningful human presence in space, which should be neither impractical nor unduly expensive.

Michael said...

Gattaca comes to mind. Who will go....who will be left behind?

mr. intense said...

"I see no reason at all we can't take big steps toward ensuring the survivability of Earth *and* establishing a meaningful presence off-planet."

Well, now that you've somewhat clarified what you meant, I can agree with you. Maybe.

I guess what I thought you were suggesting, by the statement above, and the following: "if _we_ can escape the ever-dwindling confines of our home planet..." and "a meaningful human presence in space, which should be neither impractical nor unduly expensive" was implying a major effort to create and fund something more large-scale than just, for example, enhancing the International Space Station, which will end up costing well over a $100 billion dollars before it's completed.

Could you define for me, Mac, what you consider would be a "meaningful human presence in space"? Orbital habitats? Colonies on the moon and Mars? How is your phrase quantified?

New estimates on the long-term costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are now up to $1.7 to $2.4 TRILLION dollars, and our national debt is over $10 trillion (and depending on how it's calculated and by whom, perhaps as much as up to $40 trillion in debt).

Just how expensive do you think it may be to establish a meaningful presence in space (which, to me, means sustainable independence from earth for resources)? I think we may be talking about at least a couple trillion. Which, considering the strain on our national budget now, with the wars, and combined with our national debt, does seem most likely to be both impractical, technologically and financially, and unduly expensive, considering the inevitable corporate expense padding and generic cost overuns in large scale projects.

Look at the ISS, for example. And the ISS holds relatively few people, is completely dependent on earth restocking flights, and was recently nearly brought down by a moisture-corroded wire contact in the triply redundant, poorly-designed Russian computer control system.

Perhaps we will have to just agree to disagree about human priorities, expenses, and whether we can afford or develop the tech to do what either of us have in mind when it comes to an off-world presence for humans in space that is actually meaningful, which to me would be at least a self-sustaining colony on another planet like Mars.

What do you mean by "meaningful presence" in space other than what NASA already has planned for the moon and Mars visits?

To me, atmospheric and ecological technologies of remediation are far more critical and important to our immediate survival. We might have 10 to 15 years left to make the necessary breakthroughs, if we can.

Spending billions and even trillions more on wars and establishing a "meaningful presence" in space, away from Earth, I'm afraid, is just plain wrong, considering the time left.