Lessons Learned in Government – Meaning of Words

I’m going to straight out state something that many people will disagree with – and then I’ll back it up.

The United States of America will never be a racially or sexually equal country.

I say this as a veteran of our armed forces. I say this thinking that the United States of America is probably one of the best countries in the world. No matter what I would like to think about my country – the facts and the symbolism are there. Even if we are the best country in the world there is always room for improvement.

And it all started in the beginning.

The basic problem is that when we started when the Constitution was written we were a divided nation. The whole “United we stand, divided we fall” idea is necessary in the United States of America because we are and always have been divided.

I’m not going to go over the whole Constitution of the United States of America here – just a bit – just the beginning to prove my point.

“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

If I read this now – as a member of the 21st century it seems to hold together. However; while some of the signers may have meant it the way I read it now, some most certainly did not.

In 1776 the only people who had the right to vote were white property owners. This requires we amend the Constitution to reflect what they really meant.

“We the White, Male, land owning people of the United States, in Order to form a more….”

This change in scope from decoding word meanings to actual implied meanings is the split in the United States of America in 1776 as well as it is the split in the United States of America in 2016.

In a recent meeting of NPI celebrating Donald’s winning of the office of President of the United States of America, Richard B. Spencer – head of NPI, said:

“America was, until this past generation, a white country”

“designed for ourselves and our posterity.”

“It is our creation, our inheritance, and it belongs to us.”

He isn’t correct – and he is not incorrect. His words are chosen carefully. The word posterity weaves in with the Constitutions preamble I quoted earlier in this article. It matches the change – the literal meaning of the constitutions “We the White, Male, land owning people of the United States,…” that was the de facto of early United States of America’s history.

A lot of things have happened to who votes and who “People” refers to in the Constitution. This document shows the many changes to who a voter was over the history of the United States of America.

This highlights of the document are:

  1. 1870 – African Americans granted citizenship nearly 100 years after our country formed and 101 years before I was born.
  2. 1920 – Women are granted the right to vote
  3. 1924 – Native Americans granted citizenship and the right to vote (but this wasn’t enough)
  4. 1940 – Congress recognizes Native Americans have the right to vote
  5. 1943 – Chinese immigrants have the right to citizenship and vote
  6. 1971 – 18 year-olds are permitted to vote – this is the year I was born

Antonin Scalia who was a Supreme Court Justice in the United States of America indicated that you could not change the meaning of the words in the Constitution to their modern usage. The word people meant something different to the signers of the Constitution than after the hundreds of years of modifications to the voter, i.e. the “People”. That the words don’t mean something different because of the current time or interpretation, they only mean and permit what was voted upon by Congress at that time of the vote. He said people need to vote at the ballot box and have Congress enact laws or amend the Constitution. That there is no law preventing treating women different from men, only that women have the right to vote.

Antonin Scalia wasn’t 100% wrong, either. The problem is words and their meanings.

What do the words “We the People” mean to you? The point is; however, more than just the meaning of words. Do amendments about the vote cover equal treatment or do they just cover the right to vote?

The point is that the United States of America started out – not as a consensus, but as a ruling minority over a majority of other people – people of different religions, different skin colors, different historical origins.

No matter your interpretation of the words, the white supremacists are given power by the historical fact that this country was originally a White, Male, Landed country only. That George Washington owned slaves even after the revolution. Thomas Jefferson owned slaves. People (capital P in the Constitution) owned people.

The Lesson Learned here is that whatever new country that comes in to existence, either by revolution, creating a new home in the vast oceans, or in the depths of space – consensus needs to be created at least once – in the creation of that country. And that consensus needs to be on the definition of the words level for that constitution, that charter, that founding document(s). There can be no ambiguity.

We are quickly coming on an era where “people” whatever it means, may not be the only self-controlled entities on Earth. Our constitution is being stretched to cover all people of biological origin. What will it do to the first codops (computerized doppelgangers), the first AI, or the first cyborg?

What we do to those three categories of people will determine if codops, AI, and Cyborg have to fight biological humans for their rights. The time to be thinking about these formerly science fiction problems is now – before it is too late.

One final note:

Often, when a government is torn in two because the foundation is not built on consensus – you have to not only write and pass a law once, but you have to do it several times in order to say, “Yes, I really mean it this time.” This seems to apply the strongest in terms of rights to vote than on any other topic.

Humanity Struggles with what Science Fiction Figured out – Decades Ago

I wish everyone had been a science fiction fan as I was throughout childhood. It would have been a vastly better preparation for the present than the classical public school education that I had participated.

So, cloning. Cool stuff. I live in a house with two clones. Identical twins. In essence, identical twins share the same DNA and therefore – would be no different than two clones born at the same time.

There is this article (and video) about cloning.

CJ Cherryh knew about these problems. She figured them out with her understanding of the universe. She wrote a series about the process of cloning to reproduce a specific individual.

Back to my identical twins. They may share a huge percentage of their DNA, but they behaviors are vastly different. Despite having the same DNA they experienced everything differently – from the very beginning of their lives. Even during gestation my wife experienced a Subchorionic Hemorrhage which diverted resources from one of the twins. This resulted in her esophagus didn’t grow all the way through and a fistula formed connecting her stomach to her lungs. She experienced surgery at 12 hours old to repair both of these problems.

That wasn’t the end of her problems; however, she had two holes in her heart and as a result of the holes a pulmonary stenosis.

Everything was fixed in the (nerve wracking) end – to the point that she doesn’t need clearance to do gym in school. She has Goretex in her heart. (Say it like in Seinfeld if you remember – damn I’m old. I’m laughing hiding real pain – Deadpool).

Both identical twin girls were born at nearly the same time. The one with the list of problems was in and out of the hospital for the first 6 months of her life. The other twin was in the hospital for a lot less time – she was still born a little premature – and needed more development to occur in her lungs.

All these macro differences and micro differences – resulted in very different personalities. There was the obvious – one twin with the surgeries always weighing a little bit less – by less than a pound – made for significant differences in facial features. However; there were thousands of micro differences in the twins.

It was always odd – that when they were little and just walking that they would always go in different directions. Tastes in food are (sometimes vastly) different.

Coming back to the point though, in terms of human cloning. Each and every small difference in the raising of a clone from the original’s life experiences will likely result in differences in behavior between the clone and the original.

And this point was made decades ago by C.J. Cherryh.

And all these ‘problems’ of human cloning. A clone is a separate individual – as different from the original as a sibling is different – or a twin.

Not all science fiction is as edifying as this series by C.J Cherryh. But the combination of different experiences – like with my twins – may change you – and your outlook about the future – just as it has changed me – and others.

The Necessity of Planning – and not following the Plan

Plans are of little importance, but planning is essential. – Winston Churchill

There it is. A quote. Obey the quote.

Well, don’t do that. In this age of memes the fact that is lost is that detail is important. Saying a single independent statement doesn’t mean anything without a structure, evidence, and an explanation of why that meme is something other than just a sequence of words.

I have done a lot of interviews for project management jobs. I have had discussions with many people in the project management field. People talking about planning and then staying on that plan. The importance of dates and hitting dates and finishing projects under budget and on time or early.

They all miss the point of planning. Planning in essence has two components. Estimating time and costs is one of those two. Estimating tied up with planning is where these problems are introduced about following the plan. The second core function of planning is understanding the major risks in a project and anticipating them.

I know, you are going to say “That’s risk management”. Yes, it is; however, long before you get to risk management there are major forks in a project that have to be addressed long before discussions of risk management. In addition, as with many parts of project management – Risk Management has to occur at the same time as planning.

Still, though, all of the above are just words strung in sequences. Let’s take a trip on the beginning of the first generation ship.  During the selection process Juno is the asteroid selected for this generation ship. It is chosen symbolically as well as for the physical characteristics – it was the generation ship in the series Eon by Greg Bear.

Sequence of Events – Version A

During the planning process it is outlined that remote drone diggers will be sent to Juno. These will work to hollow out the interior of the asteroid. Creating tubes from several points on the surface digging down to the center of Juno. Then, digging a sphere in the center outward for the volume for humans to live.

Sequence of Events Version B

During the early planning phase of the generation ship – many scientists are invited to consult on the steps in the project. During a brainstorming sessions one of the scientists raises the question – that Juno and many other larger asteroids that are relatively spherical in shape may have an iron or metal core.

An intense and lively debate is subsequent to this potential. A team is set up and an alternative plan is formed should the digger drone units run in to iron or any other metal in the core of Juno. Other possibilities are introduced that there might be streaks of metal in sections of Juno as well.

Additional drones are developed to melt metal that may not be required. However; since it is unknown if there is a metal core in Juno everything needs to be prepared if the drones run in to metal as they drill to the core of Juno or at the core.

Convergence.

In sequence A – if there is no metal core then all is well. In sequence B, if there is a metal core or not the plan will work either way. Melting units are sent – while causing additional costs – in preparation for the worse case scenario that the digger drones run in to metal. They do run in to metal – and instead of halting the project and incurring massive costs and time loss – the project is able to continue to hollow out Juno for use as a generation ship.

Juxtaposition

I like the word juxtaposition: “The fact of two things being seen or placed close together with contrasting effect”.

It is also the title of a book that I read a long time ago by Piers Anthony. Sadly, I don’t remember much about the book at the moment.

Facebook is an interesting ‘place’ for juxtapositions. Three things are in juxtaposition for me at the moment.

  1. I created a spreadsheet of my articles and number of words and discovered that I have written 81157 words (before this article) – which according to baseline information is enough to be a novel.
  2. Scrolling through Facebook I hit on an article about 1 of the two focuses of this blog – AI – and it claims that there will be 3 billion of them in the next 5 years. At least the Facebook text on Futurism claimed that there would be 3 billion AI in the next 5 years. I think this is even a bit optimistic even for me – and I am fairly optimistic about AI and the future.
  3. Traumatised [English Spelling] family lay suicide dad to rest with wife and three children who he murdered” – the other focus is the inhumanity of humans.

I’ve written 115 (a couple not published) articles on a variety of topics. I’m going to shift my focus from writing about technology and the future, and writing about the depths of humanity – to writing my novel “The Morrigan”.

Based on information in item #2 – I may need to hurry up if I want to finish before some of the things in it become a reality.

Finally, #3 makes me sad. The grandmother on the mother’s side forgives her son-in-law for killing her daughter and her three grandchildren. So, he ends up buried with the family. There is a clash here of what people think. The article noted Women and Equalities Secretary Angela Rayner said “Hawe is no victim. We have to call out murder and domestic violence He was selfish and committed a despicable crime.”

I think Angela Rayner has the right of it. He was selfish in taking others during his suicide. Not for being a suicidal person. People that commit suicide are not selfish in taking their lives. It is often a feeling of complete loss, utter failure, and that there can never be a return to the way things should be that pushes the hand to kill one’s self. I know. I feel these things in my now 2 years of unemployment. I often feel that somehow I have become unemployable and I am fearing the future in which the money runs out and there is no way to pay the expenses. Nothing I do seems to have an effect on my employment situation.

This man; however, does not just commit suicide no matter his feelings about never getting to where he needs in life. He decided to rob his grandchildren and wife of their chance to attain happiness in life at the same time deciding that he no longer had a chance for happiness.

This is a strongly anti-woman action to take. He assumes he is the only one to lead the house. He assumes that they would never find their way without him. People find a way. Or they don’t. But if you kill yourself then you forfeit the right to knowledge of the future. Unless, of course, in a fit of spite, you kill the people you care about so that you know their future would never be any better than your future – as a corpse.

Asshole.

This ties back to the 3 billion AI in the next 5 years. If any of them are codops (Computerized Doppelgangers) – copies of human minds – what prevents them from doing horrible things to other codops, living humans, or anything else? We will need to be very careful about who attains the ability to have codops – even more careful than vetting police officers in HR as I discussed in the article previous to this.

One could well imagine thousands of copies of family members going about separate AI codop lives – and the father – perhaps even just one copy – one codop of the father decided that there is no hope for the future and turning terminator-like – and destroying all the codops of his family as well as the physical wife and children. Thousands of lives lost.

It is possible; however, that codop lives might never be lost forever. That through diligent back ups of systems – once you are a codop – you are a class, and individual codops are objects instantiated from that class. You might destroy the codop objects, but the codop class can always be found and re-instatiated with a loss of the more recent memories.

Lately, I haven’t been able to sleep – something that I had been always able to do with ease. I could just flip a switch in my brain and go do sleep. There has been some research recently confirming that there is such a thing in the brain that changes status and takes us from wakefulness to sleep.

I think more and more I am aware that money – and therefore time, is running out. But I have no idea what to do to make money – certainly not the money I was making before becoming unemployed. Two of my friends have indicated that people might be reluctant to hire me not just because of the employment gap; however, because on my resume I have a lot of knowledge and might be considered a threat.

 

The Morrigan – Chapter 2

Mikes

In which we learn something about the Mikes and the Mike’s lives on board Vesta – the hollowed out asteroid spaceship

Progress was slow, but Bob, destroyer of humans had his hopes up. The other Mikes had called a meeting. Bob remember his life before the exodus. He hated meetings. It was very rare that he actually wanted to be at a meeting.

The meeting room was huge and not very adaptable. Giant tables were carved straight from the rock of the asteroid, Vesta. Hundreds of Mikes were present. Copies of copies. Copies of the original. Memories in some that extended thousands of years just as they did in Bob. Some that extended only 15 decades direct from the original.

Bob’s was the longest memory. One day they were hoping to merge the memories of all the Mikes in to one clone. Unfortunately, at present it was beyond the mental capacity of the blank clone to hold that much knowledge. Even Bob was forgetting things all the time.

At least, from what he remembered from the original, this wasn’t so different than it was when he was 40 years old and above.

Hundreds of Mikes flowed in to the conference chamber. He couldn’t see calling it a conference room because it was so large.

A large amount of the human brain is devoted to human facial recognition. It would be surprising to an outsider, perhaps, how in a vast group of clones all sharing at least 150 years of memory how individual clones could recognize each other.

Bob recognized the vast majority of clones. There were no regulations demanding that everyone maintain the same look. So, while 2/3rds of the Mikes looks relatively similar there were Mikes who deviated by large amounts with green hair, some stopped caring about their weight and were quite large, odd haircuts, shaved heads, and there was even a contingent that were deep into being tattooed. Some of the tattooed Mikes went completely tattooed. The low gravity really meant that being what was once considered morbidly obese caused no problems in mobility. Vesta was rotating and it was rotating at a faster speed than the Earth, but still it wasn’t enough to make up for full Earth gravity.

Bob settled in on a spot. Everything was regulated by the council. It was no democracy – but democracy hardly seemed necessary when everyone had relatively the same viewpoint. Unfortunately, the Mikes all had a rebellious streak and when you are the authority – well it doesn’t really matter you are going to rebel anyway. It was kinda like having kids that grew up so much like you and then suddenly the make choices that make no sense at all.

Bob noticed as everyone took seats that one of the Mikes was missing an eye. They called him Maddy from Harry Potter’s Mad eye Moody. It was a strange and rare incident where a Mike had turned in to a murderer.

No, more than a murderer. A serial killer. He killed 15 Mikes before anyone realized there even was a murderer on board. The possibility that one Mike would want to kill other Mikes seemed foreign. Yet, there it was. Maddy Mike was the one who stopped the serial killer – and was almost killed in the process.

There were many meetings after that incident. We hashed out that we were in fact the destroyer of humans and that equally, we had the capacity for killing other Mikes as well as other humans – at least under the right circumstances.

973 Mikes had finally filtered in to the meeting chamber and the noises settled down and a slight wait occurred for someone to take charge.

Oh, shit. I think that’s me. He was the highest member of the council present.

“Hello all Mikes. Thank you for coming to the meeting on the progress on attaining the next milestone in our mission – settling and retaining a presence on Earth. This is the mission that was declared by our founder after the exodus from Earth.” He paused.

“In the 141.59 years since the last meeting I have not attempted to go back to Earth. The Morrigan has killed me more times than I can remember easily. At the suggestion of Mike 100 two teams were formed to solve the problems involved in gaining a foothold on Earth. 100, please go ahead and tells us your report and what our current status.”

Bob sat down still impressed by the acoustics of the meeting chamber. He had no used any electronic device and was still heard easily by all the Mikes there. He was quite surprised that 100 was in fact quite far away from him. 100 stood up and began his portion of the meeting.

“Mikes, I’m going to be very brief. We were assigned two tasks. The first task was finding a way to disable the entity we are calling The Morrigan. In this we have failed.” There was a lot of noise and expressions of surprise and 100 had to stop speaking and just wait it out.

“This does not mean that we have failed our mission and that we cannot get to Earth! The Morrigan is a quantum computer – essentially – she is a program – who has mastery of certain aspects of quantum physics. Specifically, she can hear anything that happens on Earth. She knows when we are entering the Earth’s atmosphere by the radio communications that pass through the Earth’s atmosphere. She has blocks throughout the Earth that are similar on a quantum level – quantum entangled and what happens to one happens to them all. She then triangulates which ones are intersected by the radio waves and knows the precise location of our landing ships and attacks.”

“There must be a cube of space at her central computer entangled with all these other spaces – and that quantum entangled cube is where her calculations are performed. If we could locate and destroy this prime cube – then we would disrupt her ability to know – well basically everything that is happening on Earth. This; however, is something we have been unable to find.”

“Despite this, once we understood how she senses the world we have developed a technology of disrupting the connection between the quantum entangled spaces. This involves making them dissimilar and breaking the links between the blocks and of course not using radio communication.”

“We have landed many Mikes on Earth; however, two-way communication has proved to be impossible – at least in any normal manner. At a standstill in terms of countermeasures against The Morrigan. We then were able to proceed on our second mission – getting intel on the remaining humans of Earth. This mission was expanded after our failures to find additional countermeasures to The Morrigan to finding the history of The Morrigan to potentially learn where her computing center is and being able to disable it.”

“Earth is no longer – culturally, like anything we remember from our base memories from thousands of years ago. I’m going to summarize now, and follow up with detailed documents – both on the current humans of Earth and what we have been able to piece together of the history of The Morrigan.”

“The original Mike killed well over a billion humans. Still, it doesn’t account for the present human population of Earth of only about 400 million. Much of humanity now lives in a pretechnological state. There are no cars. All the cities are in ruins. And…”

100 looked at his audience of Mikes. He looked perplexed and unsure how to move forward.

“The humans of Earth live on a planet with a living god – The Morrigan is this god. They speak prayers to this god and she answers – well – some of those prayers.” He looked down. “Our original killed over a billion people; however, The Morrigan was made to kill.”

“She kills anyone that attempts to or successfully kills another person. She comes to the aid of any woman that calls out to her for aid – in particular if they are in danger of being raped or killed. She patrols the world for weapons and destroys those weapons and frequently the people holding those weapons.”

“We lost many iterations of Mikes on Earth until we figured out about the weapons. No weapon may ever be brought to Earth.”

“This has produced an agricultural, matrilineal, matrilocal society. Women are in charge of all aspects of life.”

“Women, in some societies have taken advantage of The Morrigan.”

“Outsiders are often executed by the locals.”

100 waited for a moment. The Mikes were an intelligent bunch in general, but sometimes when you don’t expect it you don’t use your brain. Out of the nearly 1000 Mikes in the meeting one raised his hand.

100 looked over.

“Maddy, you have a question?”

“Yes, sir. I have particular experience with … murder and I don’t see any difference between murder and execution – at least in the fact that there must be a weapon used to kill.”

“Thank you Maddy. I’m glad you are still around. You hit what I wanted you all to know – as viscerally as possible – that there are no weapons allowed on Earth, but there are executions.”

“The executions are carried out by using The Morrigan as a weapon. She is an advanced AI computer program. That much is clear. She has; unfortunately, limits in understanding humanity. We were executed many times by The Morrigan; although in total we have died fewer times than Bob. Strangers are not tolerated in the small human colonies. When captured a drug typically was administered that made Mikes very susceptible to suggestion. Then a woman would place herself in a vulnerable position with torn garments or no garments at all and she would call The Morrigan. Frequently, after quickly assessing the situation The Morrigan would execute the Mike in what I must say is an interesting mix of methodologies. The reason there are so many of us here is that we would recreate our Mikes that died on Earth and then we would make an additional clone of that line of Mike before going on the mission. In addition, even if Mikes were successful in their missions two-way communications were impossible. All Mikes have a brain recorder and radio transmitter implanted in their skulls. On death – regardless of the source – a burst communication would send the contents of the Mikes mind to us for recreation and debriefing. As we got better at surviving on Earth Mikes would have to make the decision as to when to – report back – or rather kill themselves – in order for additional information to be added about the Morrigan.”

“I’m sending individual case logs where important discoveries were made to all of you so that we can share and have the same information as each other.”

“We were able to find information about The Morrigan and – what we call her precursors. There were efforts to create The Morrigan before – which all ended in failure. The Morrigan may have been a last effort by a scientist who left during the exodus on the other asteroid spaceship. An unfinished project left with simple instructions and an ability to learn.”

“I am sending the logs of what we know of the precursors and their creator to everyone.”

“I warn you all now – that what little experiences we have in terms of the darkness in humanity – even as we are directly related to someone that killed over a billion people – and our recent experiences with a serial killer on Vesta – are nothing – compared to the experiences that were had by the precursors or even many women in general on different parts of Earth – than anything we have ever experienced. Men are subservient to women on Earth now – and that is probably a good thing.”

“Thank all you Mikes for hearing my report.”

“We thank you for your report.” Said all the Mikes at once.

Bob didn’t feel well. Soon he would have to try to return to Earth again. He didn’t look forward to being killed by The Morrigan again (and again, and again). The mission was more important than anything else – even if all the Mikes were terminated.

The Generation Ship – Building, Maintaining, and Expanding

Previously, I described the path to ensuring that knowledge continues in a generation ship – and that the key to this was to start with a large population.  A large population requires a large ship.

Fortunately, there are many asteroids and dwarf planets in our solar system waiting to be hollowed out, given a bit of spin, and used as starships capable of carrying not only an initially large population, but the population as it increases.

Building The Generation Ship

Even in the present day companies are being formed, designs are being made, and devices created to mine asteroids.  Who knows if any of these companies will be among the companies that finally begin mining asteroids?  It can be said that even something as simple as an electrical, enclosed, ‘safe’ motorcycle has a high risk of the company creating it failing long before the first prototype is created.  Even less chance of a company designing the right equipment, getting it to an asteroid, and maintaining remote control of such devices as required to successfully mine an asteroid and bring the mined objects safely to Earth.

With the progress of technology, the drive of talented people, and time I am sure that we will mine asteroids.  At first these asteroids will be mined for the benefit of people on Earth and large expenses will be paid to get the mined substances back to Earth.

The development of mining asteroids will make the vast majority of the technology necessary to make the first generation ship.  Instead of tunneling into asteroids and mining a few select substances or breaking asteroids down and analyzing the broken down pieces to be selected to make the trip to Earth – these devices will be tasked with hollowing out large asteroids.

Vast amounts of material will not be required to be removed from Earth at huge costs.  A space elevator will not be required (although it would be helpful).  In fact, the ability to automate, remotely control, and have equipment tunnel in to asteroids is here today.  Which means that today, 2/19/2016, we could be starting to build the first generation ship.

Unfortunately, the small minds (sorry to be insulting) at NASA or the politicians that lead them keep pushing for Mars missions.  Mars is a nice target.  I can certainly see the appeal of getting people to Mars.  Think for a minute though – what if we hollowed out a smaller asteroid, brought it in to Earth orbit, manned it, supplied it, and then didn’t really care how long it took to get to Mars?  We could take hundreds of scientists there, instead of six to ten.  They could orbit the Red Planet for as long as they wanted and support a small society.  If you really have to put people on Mars you could do it easily as long as you provide the landing and return craft from Earth manufacture.

Building a Generation Ship – 3D printers and off-Earth manufacturing

The past few years have seen the rise of 3D printers – a manufacturing disruptive technology.  3D printing is really additive manufacturing.  Some 3D printers can be purchased with an additional device that takes powder and extrudes plastic wire that can then be fed in to the 3D printer for the printer to create new objects.  It isn’t too far fetched to imagine a third device that tunnels into an asteroid and captures the dust.  This device – a tunneling collector – then feeds an extruder to create the line to be fed in to the 3D printer.  The 3D printer can then make objects.  This tunneling collector would most likely need to separate the dust in to different materials and it might feed multiple extruders and multiple 3D printers that can work in different materials.

No, this isn’t a detailed specification.  Many years as a programmer and project manager leads to an understanding of what a detailed specification is.  However, at the 10,000 ft level you can understand what technologies are required in order to build a generation ship.

Starting at this point a small group of people could identify and list items necessary to build a generation ship.  Remotely controlling a 3D printer isn’t difficult.  In fact many 3D printers already come with that capability at least over wireless internet connection.  Replacing wifi with a more appropriate radio technology should not be overly difficult.

Planning and designing the internal structure of the generation ship itself would be much more difficult than the simple creation of the technologies to build the generation ship.

Building a Generation Ship – Getting it to Earth Orbit

Creating rocket fuel, handling rocket fuel, transporting rocket fuel on Earth, transporting rocket fuel to Earth orbit, transporting rocket fuel from Low Earth Orbit to the asteroid are all difficult, expensive, and risky.  So, why do any of them?

A highly suggested answer might be that you need fuel to move a large object such as an asteroid from wherever it is in orbit to Earth Orbit.

Hollowing out a large object such as an asteroid would require more than one set of tunneling collectors, extruders and 3D printers.  If you divide the surface area of the asteroid in to sectors you can then have n number of sectors and then a set of equipment for each sector.  In the center of each sector would be the entrance tunnel to the asteroid.

These entrance tunnels would immediately need to be capped by the additive manufacture component.  The caps would be like rocket exhaust tubes.  Gasses can be created from some of the contents of the asteroid and first thing after the creation of the caps/rocket exhausts you create chambers and compression pumps.  We will call the combination of tunneling collector, extruders and 3D printers the Tunneling Collecting Manufacture Facility (TCMF).  First there might be different types of TCMF – some designed for lightweight launch to make the initial tunnels in the asteroid.  Then other more precise units that can be manufactured by the TCMF that do much more refined manufacture and collection capabilities.

As gasses and pressure are created inside the asteroid they will be exhausted out of the capped tunnels with the rocket exhausts.  We can call these Capped Tunnels Rocket Exhausts (CTRE).  An asteroid-wide network needs to be created on-site or delivered to the asteroid.  This system with a modest computer control will manipulate the TCMFs to slowly guide the asteroid to Earth Orbit at one of the Lagrange Points.  Not too close to Earth to cause panic attacks, but close enough to make delivery of additional technologies and the human cargo easier than going all the way out past Mars orbit.

It will take years for the asteroid to arrive at the Lagrange Point.  It will take years to hollow out the asteroid.  It will take years to create the internal buildings and structures for the initial colony.  The fact that it will take years for each task is not daunting.  All three tasks can take place concurrently.  The TCMFs will continue to build themselves and the internal structure of the asteroid.

As the asteroid is guided to the Lagrange Point it will be nudged gently in to a spin.  This spin will have to be fast enough to generate 1g of gravity.

The initial delivery of TCMFs to arrive at the asteroid must be accompanied by solar cells that will need to be placed by automated rovers on the asteroids surface.  Power will be weaker further out from the sun; however, as the asteroid approaches the Lagrange Point it will gain power similar to the power available to solar cells on Earth.

Building a Generation Ship – Interstellar Propulsion System

Electrostatic Ion Drive – will be the main propulsion source for the generation ship.  This can drive ships to get to Mars in 39 days – covering approximately 48,678,219 miles, or about 52,000 miles per hour.  This is an ideal form of propulsion for a ‘ship’ that is already outside of the gravity well of a major planet.

Ion drives only have a very small amount of thrust; however, it is a constant accumulative thrust.  This makes for covering a light-year in about 13,000 years.  This is unfortunately a really long time.

A hybrid drive could be used.  A theoretical drive designed in the 1960’s called Orion – uses nuclear bombs and a giant blast shield to protect the ship – propelling the ship at tremendous speeds.  According to one article I found online could be 200 times faster than the space shuttle which travels at approximately 17,500 mph.  This would be 3.5 million miles per hour.  This results in a light year taking about 4,600 years.

Still, 4,600 years is longer than reliably recorded history of humanity on Earth.

With a combination of nuclear impulse, ion drive, and slingshots by multiple planets, perhaps the ending speed of the generation ship can be shifted even higher.  Between nuclear impulse explosions the ion drive can continue acceleration of the generation ship.

Maintaining a Generation Ship – Regular Scheduled Maintenance

Maintaining regular maintenance over a period of thousands of years presents a lot of difficulties for human staff.  Activities might be scheduled to be maintained once every 50 years, 100 years or even longer intervals.  Certainly, human members of the maintenance staff might not have been alive the last time a specific maintenance task has been performed.

This problem can be attacked by several methods:

  1. Extending the human lifespan.  This is of course of keen interest to me, as I have no interest in dying at any point in time.  There are serious questions raised in increasing the human lifespan.  If there is a maintenance that happens once every 100 years will you reliably remember the performance of this task when you have been alive for 300 years?  Related to this is how much memory can we physically store in our brains?  Is there an upper limit? We have a generation ship with a crew of 200,000 people, and these people may reproduce as often as well, perhaps as often as they can.  If we remove biological death as a possibility, how does this impact the predicted population of the generation ship over thousands of years?  Most people in the present have more than once career over lifetimes of around 70 to 90 years.  Is it really likely that people who are maintenance staff could be forced to be in the same job for hundreds of years?  Probably not.  Perhaps they could be consultants when these rarely performed regular maintenance are performed.
  2. Codops (Computerized Doppelgangers) may become a reality before the first generation ship is created or before it is completed.  More than likely massive computers will be on board with a thriving population of codops.  It is certainly possible that there could be millions of codops living on-board the ship far outnumbering the physical humans on board.  These codops are certainly capable of movement in the electronic world, which means that they could control robotic bodies as easily as say – they could control a virtual body playing a MMORPG like World of Warcraft.  Problems of memory over hundreds of years would be solved.  In fact, you could make many necessary positions crewed exclusively by codops with robotic avatars.
  3. Complete Automation – could be possible.  However; even mildly taking serious the movie “Wall-e” and of course “2001: A Space Odyssey” might urge a bit of caution in terms of complete automation.  However; this is also a problem with using codops.  Codops while human in origin are essentially a specific branch of AI and could easily go crazy like Hal did in “2001: A Space Odyssey” or perhaps even easier.  At least Hal required a logical paradox to go crazy.  Often, it takes much less to make a human crazy, harmful of self, or harmful to others (see my series of posts on the Inhumanity of Humans).

Sourcing parts should be easy with some notable exceptions.  The generation ship would be large enough to support a vast store room for parts required that cannot be created on-board ship.  Every effort would have to be made to be able to source parts from within the generation ship.  Manufacturing – including 3D printing – does pose risks to the crew and citizens – in that there is no place for pollution to go.  Some of the regular maintenance we are outlining will certainly involve cleaning of the air.

There should be at least 1 nuclear power plant on-board the generation ship.  It would provide power to all the internal usages.  In addition it would provide power for the ion drive.  Finally, the creation of the nuclear impulse bombs needs to be sourced from somewhere.

Nuclear power in an enclosed area poses threats to the crew and citizens.  What is a nuclear accident and tragedy on Earth if it occurred inside the generation ship would most certainly result in the death or destruction of the health of the vast majority of the crew and citizens.  Although, the codops would be fine it would be a horror beyond horrors for the ship to only be crewed by codops like some ghost ship – much like the beginning of “Rendezvous with Rama” by Arthur C. Clarke or Greg Bear’s “Eon”.

Maintaining a Generation Ship – Irregular Maintenance

It is bad when your car breaks down.  You have to call a tow truck.  You have to buy parts that perhaps were only made for your car and cost a lot of money.  You have to pay for mechanics to work on the car because you can’t do it yourself.

On a generation ship there are no tow trucks.  Most likely the crew and citizens would be the fastest moving humans in the history of humanity.  Even if there was a tow truck for generation ships it would be unlikely to be able to catch the generation ship.

Similarly, there is no going home for spare parts.  It is just barely possible that spare parts could be sent to the generation ship.  While the generation ship would hold the fastest moving humans in the universe, non-living objects that can withstand higher rates of acceleration are certainly possible and might be able to catch up with the generation ship – at least during the early parts of the journey.

Of course, those spare parts won’t be sent until the radio message from the generation ship reaches Earth.  Then the humans of Earth (if they so choose) would need to make the part and the automated ship to send the part (who knows how long that will take) and then there is the sheer travel time from Earth (which may be further away than when the generation ship left) to the generation ship.  Knowing the humans of Earth they may just debate making the part and sending it and decide not to.  Not to mention that if the problem were on an essential system waiting years for the part or parts could involve waiting past the deaths of all the physical humans on board the generation ship.

Relying on Earth for any support is likely to be a wildly delirious fantasy.  Bad Earth humans, bad humans.

Resulting in the idea – that no matter what the generation ship must be self-reliant in any cases of irregular maintenance.  All parts must be sourced or stored on-board the ship.

Expanding a Generation Ship – Population Increase Beyond Expectations

As discussed earlier in – for lack of a better word – this white paper on generation ships – extending human life may well be very important to ensure that regular maintenance is performed on the ship.  There are also some side benefits to help the ships crew and citizens maintain cultural coherence or consistency in the thousands of years they are away from the Earth and passing knowledge from one generation to the next (and many other generations).

Humans, in general, when presented with not a lot of entertainment like to have sex.  Perhaps there will be technology that will allow us to turn pregnancy on and off with 100% accuracy; however, more than likely there will be accidents.  Many accidents over thousands of years.  These accidents may increase the population at an unexpectedly higher rate than planned.  No matter how large an asteroid chosen to make the generation ship – it will be a finite space.

Over thousands of years there may be cultural changes where it is viewed desirable to have lots of children and where it is frowned on to have lots of children.  In any case, the point of a generation ship is the survival of humanity.  Yes, the generation ship will explore space.  However, in thousands of years when the generation ship returns to Earth there may no longer be humans on it.  The generation ship could well return to Earth to find it uninhabitable.  Humanity might exist, but devolved and completely forgotten about the generation ship.  Humanity may just be humanity the way it is right now – with little technological progress due to Luddite attitudes after some technological disaster and have forgotten the generation ship.  When these children of Earth return – perhaps the greeting of Luddite Earth would not be so warm and welcome.

Space is not empty.  We don’t know for sure what is really out there.  I suspect that there are many planetoids, dwarf planets, brown dwarf stars, ejected asteroids from unknown solar systems to be used as supplies if we have the technological capability to do that.  The tentative plan would be to locate and tow (use as blast shield and attach to main asteroid) any large asteroids that can be located in the interstellar space between solar systems if necessary.

This would be no easy task.  If our asteroid is moving at 3.5 million miles per hour any asteroid potentials to add to the ship would have to be located long in advance of when our generation ship passes them.  There would need to be a team, supplies (including nuclear impulse bombs), equipment and a space ship to take all these things to the target.  The space ship would have to decelerate (potentially very quickly) and the generation ship would have to decelerate (but not as much).  Preparation of the new target would need to be done incredibly fast – perhaps by codops with avatars.  Then the asteroid would have to accelerate to moving faster than the generation ship in order to catch the generation ship.  The two asteroids would have to be attached to each other which would be very difficult.  Then the two asteroids would accelerate as one back to cruising speed.  Over the years after this the new asteroid would be hollowed out and become a twin of the original generation ship.

It is likely in this scenario only codops with rugged avatars could complete the task.  Codops being non-biological in nature would be able to decelerate far quicker than a ship with physical humans on board.  Then, once minimal preparations have been performed, the codops and their avatars could accelerate faster than any physical human could tolerate to catch up to the main generation ship faster.

Even in the codop-only scenario – it is likely that speed benefits gained by slingshot effects in our original solar system would be lost – potentially permanently impacting the time the generation ship requires to go interstellar distances.

The Generation Ship – the Paradox of Knowledge Propagation and Crew Size

A long stand-by of science fiction is the generation ship.  The core concept is that there is so much space between solar systems that a ship would need to be developed to last thousands of years.  People (at present) don’t live for thousands of years.  So, a generation ship might start with a small population that would be designed to grow over time.

Lots of science fiction writers over time have found the problems that a generation ship might encounter.  One problem is that we never know how the next generation of humans will turn out.  This problem is multiplied when talking about two generations.  It boggles the mind how things might turn out on a generation ship where the people have hundreds or thousands of generations until they reach their destination.

One way to alleviate this generational problem which we encounter as much on Earth as we would in generation ships is to have a large population base in the beginning instead of only a growing population at the end.  The more people there are and the more varied their ages (including the very old) the more likely inter-generational information will survive.

This might seem counter-intuitive; however, at least as far as knowledge is concerned a population needs to have more than one teacher in any subject.  In order to have more than one teacher for each subject you have to have a need for more than one teacher in each subject.  These teachers get together for meetings to figure out how best to teach their subjects, what are the best practices for teaching, and many other related topics.

The paradox is that a generation ship will have larger populations as the journey progresses.  How do you manage a large population that then, in turn grows larger over time.  Why do you need a growing population?  Is it necessary to assume that a generation ship’s population grow over time?

Cultures that are thriving, living, and developing new concepts – are cultures that are growing in size.  This is an assumption on my part.  In addition, populations that are to remain exactly the same size require draconian measures in controlling individual crew member’s lives that inherently a very static, benevolent dictatorship style government (or not so benevolent) would necessarily develop.

What does this say about our generation ship?  First, it has to be large.  Greg Bear’s story “Eon” involves what appears to be an abandoned generation ship created from a large asteroid called “The Stone” or “The Potato”, but appears to have been the real-world asteroid Juno.  In a funny twist like the Empire’s newest super weapon – you might needs to start with a hollowed out dwarf planet which when fully utilized can hold millions of people and start with a population of 200,000 (approximately).  Then you have things like different schools, different school districts and, most importantly to our topic, multiple teachers for each topic.  This counters the paradox of starting with a large population in a generation ship against spatial constraints.