Up and out! The spark needed to accelerate space exploration
Our inward-focused global decision-making system is breaking down. Let's fix it by expanding outward into space using a novel approach.
It should be evident to everyone that making sound decisions is getting harder at every level of society and across every institution. In nearly every case, decisions are getting bogged down in politicized infighting and irreconcilable inconsistencies, uncertainties, and ambiguities. It’s less obvious why this is happening.
The best answer is what John Boyd, the namesake of this institution and arguably America’s best strategic philosopher, saw as a consequence of shifting from an externally focused decision-making system to an inward-facing system.1 Specifically, we went from a decision-making system that drove economic, social, and technological globalization to one focused on optimizing it through HR-like obsessions over micro-aggressions, equity, and optics. Since that shift was made, every inward-focused attempt to improve our understanding of the world — from gathering more data, to networking more people, to automating more processes — has led to discord and unpredictability that has paralyzed our collective decision-making capability.
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Fortunately, we can use Boyd’s insights to solve this.
The first step to fixing this is to become externally focused again. We can do this by reframing our economic, social, and conceptual world model into one focused outward again, toward outer space. We need new frontiers to restore our collective mental health before we become so confused and addled that we become shut-ins.
Now that we have a solution to the inexorable deterioration of our decision-making system, the question is how to do it quickly. In these situations, John Boyd would exclaim, “Let’s build a Snowmobile!” In Boyd’s terminology, building a snowmobile is crafting a novel solution to a problem that synthesizes various fully optimized but conceptually unrelated elements into a cohesive whole (motorcycle handlebars + tank treads + skis + boat outboard motor = a vehicle built to traverse snow). In this case, we need a novel solution that rapidly develops space.
The Space ‘Snowmobile’
A novel solution capable of accelerating space development would require combining the following elements:
The Internet. We used a combination of extreme incentives (Internet company capitalization), light regulation (protection from predation and taxation), and minimal rule sets (Internet and Web standards) to network the world in a decade.
The Oklahoma Land Rush. On April the 22nd, 1889, fifty thousand people lined up in a race to claim their allotment of 160 acres out of the two million acres available for settlement. Within a year of that most famous Rush event (there were many), Oklahoma was settled enough to claim territory status.
Participatory equity. The development of crypto and the example of participatory equity incentives in start-ups provide us with a model for sharing the upside potential of space development.
Three Elements to Ignite a Space Gold Rush
Next, let’s synthesize them into a cohesive whole — our space Snowmobile — that solves this seemingly impossible problem.
First, we need a legal structure to make private claims possible in space. To raise the vast capital needed to develop space as rapidly as, say, the Internet, we need to make it legal for private individuals and firms to claim valuable territory in space. For example, the ability to claim the exclusive mining and development rights on a significant asteroid, many of which are estimated to be worth quintillions (quintillion = $1,000,000,000,000,000,000), would even under the most aggressive estimates of present value, make it possible to raise trillions in capital.
Second, we need to decentralize and personalize the effort of making a claim, like the Oklahoma Land Rush model. To force the build-out of space infrastructure and prevent an extreme centralization of ownership, every claimant must send a representative to the site claimed in person. Furthermore, by design, the claims should be limited in size to prevent extreme concentration of ownership. These requirements force the build-out of space infrastructure, from launch to orbital ship manufacture, to orbital habitation, to deliver claimants to sites.
Finally, to ensure that this development benefits humanity per the Outer Space Treaty, we can use crypto or other mechanisms to provide every inhabitant on earth a royalty or equity participation in the value generated by this development. This novel form of participatory involvement in the development of the Space Commons would immediately gain the moral high ground relative to any other method of space development. In moral warfare terms (another lesson from Boyd), it would instantly make any other system appear selfish or corrupt.
Space Acceleration Now
Taken together as a cohesive whole, the combination of a space gold rush, a race to make claims, and participatory equity has the potential to squeeze half of a century of space development into a decade and do it in a way that is far more beneficial to humanity than alternatives. This expansion would radically improve our collective decision-making by providing a positive external challenge to overcome. More significantly, it would bring humanity the benefits of space resources and energy that are both entropy- and scale-free so that we can achieve an abundant, collective future.