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Advanced Propulsion in Context

I want to run through the particulars on the upcoming 2010 Advanced Space Propulsion Workshop at the University of Colorado in a moment, as the deadline for abstracts is still three weeks away for those who are thinking of submitting papers. But looking through the presentations at conferences like this one — it’s sponsored by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the US Air Force Research Laboratory and Glenn Research Center’s In-Space Propulsion Technology Project — I always think about where we stand in terms of long-term goals. And something Caleb Scharf said in a recent post on Life, Unbounded resonated in those terms.

Scharf (Columbia University) had been discussing the list of Mars launches, going all the way back to 1960 with the failed Soviet Marsnik 1, subsequent Sputnik 22, Zond and Cosmos launches, various Mariner attempts, and, of course, the eventual Viking Landers. It’s a list of failures interspersed with triumphs like the current rovers and orbital vehicles like Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. The failures stung but they also taught, and sheer persistence wins the day, leading Scharf to ponder the meaning of what we do when we send such probes:

Each of these launches, each chunk of alloy and package of electronics, was made to reach across interplanetary space. There was nothing glum about this. Bottles cast into the currents full of tentative human optimism and love and care. All the hallmarks of a space faring species negotiating its first steps. All for a minuscule fraction of resources across the years compared to wars, financial crises, pharmaceuticals, and political shenanigans. To my mind we are already a space faring species, we just haven’t quite realized it yet.

Image: Mariner 4, which flew by Mars in July of 1965. Credit: NASA/JPL.

It’s Scharf’s last line that resonates: We are already a space faring species, we just haven’t quite realized it yet. And it’s also clear that we’ll continue to be so long as we’re intent on studying planets around other stars, for getting up above the atmosphere to build the kind of interferometric technologies and occulters we’ll need to directly visualize small, rocky worlds will require an ever deepening expertise at working in space. Sometimes, then, it’s good to get the context. We’re not always talking about the far future when we talk about space as destiny.

But back to the 2010 Advanced Space Propulsion Workshop (ASPW2010), which describes its goals on its Web site:

We are soliciting presentations in both Mission Analyses and Technologies. For example, we are interested in presentations describing mission applications that can be enabled by the use of advanced propulsion and power, and in particular the technology performance requirements (e.g., Isp, mass, power, specific mass, efficiency, lifetime, etc.) identified by the mission analyses that must be met by the technologies to enable these missions. The second area is in presentations that describe the various advanced propulsion technologies in terms of their current development status and projected performance. For example, we are interested in discussions of technologies suitable for near-term mission applications, as well as those suitable for more aggressive far-term missions. Also, technologies capable of being scaled over a large size range, such as from the relatively modest mass and powers associated with unmanned robotic missions, to the higher mass and powers of human piloted missions, are of interest.

For those with a deep space interest, there is plenty of room here for papers on solar, laser and plasma sails, beamed energy propulsion, advanced electric propulsion and nuclear options from fission to fusion to antimatter possibilities. Given the sponsorship, I need to note that this is to be an open meeting with attendance not only by US government personnel but also academics, business people and other interested scientists. Electronic copies of abstracts should be submitted by November 1 to Ioannis G. Mikellides at JPL and Andrew Ketsdever at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs — addresses for both men are found on the Web site, as are the full particulars of submission formats and presentation requirements.

Most Centauri Dreams readers are probably aware of the Technology Readiness Level (TRL) scale, which runs from 1 to 9, with 1 defined as ‘basic scientific/engineering principles observed and reported’ and 9 being ‘operational use of actual system tested, and benefits proven.’ The numbers in between tell the whole story of going from a back of the envelope idea all the way to a successful launch. ASPW2010 focuses on low TRL (i.e., TRL from 1 to 3) concepts, meaning relatively far-term propulsion and power concepts for ambitious missions later in the century.

Those of who you follow Centauri Dreams through the actual Web site rather than through RSS subscription can see the ‘What I Am Reading’ plugin and know that I’m currently making my way through Stephen Pyne’s Voyager (Viking, 2010), a rousing story of the Voyager missions as placed in the context of earlier ages of discovery. Stepping back for context is always useful. Is Scharf right that we are already a space-faring civilization? History may well judge him so as even now we tune up the technologies for more intensive study of the planets we can reach, and contemplate the possibilities for pushing farther and deeper than we ever have before.

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  • Caleb Scharf October 7, 2010, 8:55

    Thanks for the shout out to my post! Sagan, in his ‘Pale Blue Dot’ book also of course does a terrific (and first hand) job at bringing both the Voyager missions to life, as well as the bigger context of human exploration.

  • Paul Gilster October 7, 2010, 9:15

    Yes, ‘Pale Blue Dot’ may be the ultimate example of putting a space mission in context! Have you read the Pyne book, Caleb? Quite interesting, though going much deeper into history than Sagan tried to do in his book.

  • Carl Keller October 7, 2010, 9:30

    “Is Scharf right that we are already a space-faring civilization?”

    Yes. The analogy of the explorations which led to European settlement of the western hemisphere can only go to a point. They had no automation to perform long journeys by such extension.

    Many of us have seen the thrill in the control rooms when our probes show the new raw data coming in. Those people are there in spirit, with the electromechanical proxies. I remember watching “Neptune All Night”, when the thrill of the only encounter with this rich system was shared by television.

    Though humans have not returned to the moon since the end of Apollo, there has been continuing manned space flights. Now there is an uninterrupted human presence in space. More unmanned missions have been launched, many very ambitious. Modernizing nations are joining the spacefarers, with no less than three Asian nations conducting, among other things, highly successful lunar missions.

    Interplanetary human voyages, it has been asserted, must be international due to the expense of the undertaking. This has been said since the 1970s. When we leave Earth orbit, the crew – and the powers and talents behind them – will likely be such a cooperation. But our servants are out there in great numbers, adding to what is known, and all the while revealing new challenges. We respond to these with more missions. Yes, we are spacefarers, and not by armchairs. One day, people will follow the robotic vanguard into the new territory.

  • Eniac October 7, 2010, 9:42

    Let us not forget what I think is an at least equally enthralling story about space exploration, the Soviet exploration of Venus:

    http://www.mentallandscape.com/V_Venus.htm

    A fascinating read.

  • douglas100 October 7, 2010, 11:42

    I think you’ll find that the picture shown is Mariner 2 which flew past Venus in 1962.

  • ljk October 7, 2010, 12:58

    Here is the Cosmos episode that focused on the Voyager missions to Jupiter:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sBP8rk3y9Mk&feature=related

    The episode was made while Voyager 2 was flying by Jupiter in July of 1979.

  • Paul Gilster October 7, 2010, 13:22

    Thanks for the tip, douglas100. My mistake — I’ve now corrected the original post with a new illustration.

  • kurt9 October 7, 2010, 13:59

    I challenge the notion that we are a space-faring civilization. When we get cheap access to space and the relevant biotechnologies such that large numbers of people can live sustainably in space (or on other planetary surfaces), then we are a space-faring civilization. Until then, we’re not there yet and this fact has profound implications for the Great Silence.

    Flight (wings) evolved several hundred million years ago. Clearly atmospheric flight has established itself as a successful evolutionary innovation. Tool-making intelligence, on the other hand, has been around for maybe 100,000 years. It it not yet established that it is a successful evolutionary innovation. Indeed, the only fundamental task that tool making intelligence appears to be useful for is spreading life off of the original planetary surface and into the space environment. We have yet to do this in a meaningful sense.

    Failure of humanity to expand into space may result in our extinction, even if we manage to create and persist for a 100,000 years in the ideal steady-state society that the greens dream about.

  • NS October 7, 2010, 15:49

    Thanks for the great link on Soviet space probes, Eniac.

  • Istvan October 7, 2010, 16:41

    @kurt9: I’d even be willing to argue that the greens are more likely to get something closer to their ideal steady-state civilization on Earth after we become more thoroughly spacefaring. Our resource extraction, and no small part of our industries, could then be located in places that have a much-reduced effect on Earth’s ecology.

  • tesh October 8, 2010, 3:20

    catch 22. You need the heavy industries to get you out into space. I guess you need to foul the nest a little to encourage first flight…

  • Joy October 8, 2010, 4:06

    I would say we are a space-probing species.

  • Michael Spencer October 8, 2010, 7:01

    So often I am guilty of wishful thinking, and when I read that we are a ‘spacefaring’ people I wanted to believe.

    Truthfully though we are not. Compare the heady days of sailing! When the Portuguese and the Spanish and the Danes were all over the oceans of our planet, exploring, earning sufficiently to finance such trips–and, yes, losing a fare number of ships in the process– that was ocean-faring.

    And now, imagine me in my paddle boat hugging the gentle shores of the Gulf down here in Naples.

    That is alas where we are.

  • Ric Capucho October 8, 2010, 7:34

    I would say that we’re very almost a space-faring species. Almost, but not quite.

    We’ll be there once we can sustainably live off the planet, with all our subsistence needs being met using off-planet resources; that is no need for resupply. Everything we need being sourced off-planet, manufacturered off-planet and distributed off-planet. And I suppose, to be picky, we have to be off-planet in a robust way, i.e. we’re not just a small step away from having to retreat ingloriously back to Earth because of a flu epidemic, or someone loses the master password.

    Not sure how many more years, decades or perhaps even a century or two it might take, but, barring calamity, I’m confident we’ll get there in the end. Even the pessimistic timescale of 200 years is a mere blip in human history. The human gene pool has plenty of patience, even if you and I would like to see the transition occur sometime in the next few weeks.

    Ric

  • douglas100 October 8, 2010, 11:50

    @ Michael Spencer: analogies between ocean voyages and spaceflight are quite useful, but we shouldn’t take them too far. We shouldn’t expect the future of spaceflight to resemble our maritime past too closely. So I agree with Caleb Scharf that we are already a space-faring species.

    Also: Danes all over the planet???

  • Mark Wakely October 8, 2010, 13:31

    Until NASA (or some other country) builds an orbiting fleet of reusable interplanetary space vehicles, we cannot call ourselves a reliable space faring civilization. There is a clamoring among space enthusiasts to go to Mars ASAP and make us space faring right now, but my fear is that we risk an Apollo-like funding backlash that will result in Mars being abandoned once the initial euphoria about landing men and women there has faded, just as there was no Apollo 18 and beyond. Each planned “Mars Shot” will cost billions of dollars and will have to face the harsh scrutiny of every new administration and future bad economies. It’s not difficult to imagine several Mars modules being sent to Mars and occupied for awhile until either economic times or waning public interest results in one final mission to bring all the astronauts back to Earth with the vague promise to return one day, only for the modules to fail from lack of maintenance and eventually be buried in the wind-blown Martian sands. But reusable interplanetary space vehicles, while initially pricey, would just need to be refueled and resupplied before heading back out on their next mission, each time lowering the total cost of heading “out there,” wherever that might be. Fast nuclear powered vehicles would make the most sense in order to limit the amount of time astronauts would be exposed to space radiation and weightlessness, not to mention quicker turn-around times and more missions possible each year. If you don’t have reusable vehicles to get you somewhere consistently- whether that’s on the ocean, in the air or in space- you’re not a “faring” anything, you’re just an infrequent traveler using wasteful “one-offs” each time.

  • kurt9 October 8, 2010, 15:34

    Even the pessimistic timescale of 200 years is a mere blip in human history.

    This is too long. Not from a material resource standpoint, but a demographic one. I’ve never bought into the whole “limits to growth” ideology, even if we all stay on Earth indefinitely. Fission power (LFTR and traveling wave) offers to meet all of our power needs for millions of year, if necessary. Rare Earth metals can be mined from the waste resulting from Phosphate mining as well as Aluminum production (this can also provide us with enough Thorium to power LFTR’s from now until kingdom come), not to mention coal ash.

    About the only thing we would get from space are Platinum group metals, and I’m not even sure this will be necessary.

    The limit is not peak supply, but peak demand. Global fertility is declining. The entire developing world, except for Sub-Saharan Africa, has a fertlity rate around 2.6 and falling fast. China’s youth population (age 20-24) peaks this year, with their working age population peaking in the next 10 years. India, Latin America, Muslim Middle-east, and Malay SEA are not far behind,demographically speaking. Even Africa, seen as a hopeless basket case, has grown 5-6% economically since 2000.

    Global population peaks around 2040-2050. When it does, the average age will be around 40, a lot like Europe and Japan today. Not only will global consumption level off (really, how many trips can you take or vacation homes can you own?), but a global society with such a demographic distribution is unlikely to have the dynamism and drive, let alone the actually need, to settle space in a grand way.

    The key to opening up space is not to rely on the larger society to finance and support it (this is the primary mistake of the old L-5 Society), but to foster the development of the technology that will ultimately make it possible for space settlement to be self-financing by small self-interested groups. I believe that this is the ONLY way we’re going to get into space in a meaningful way.

    The recent launch start-ups like SpaceX are a good start. The revolution in additive manufacturing based on 3-D fabbers is another essential peace to the puzzle. A third is an effective biomeme technology based on synthetic biology. This is where people like Craig Venter come into the picture. It is an amalgamation of these technologies that might, just might, make it possible for a small group (say 100 people) to settle space on their own around 2040 or so.

    BTW, Dyson has been of the opinion for nearly 30 years that space settlement will not occur until it is possible to self-finance by small self-interested groups.

  • JDK October 8, 2010, 22:20

    Destiny of the past-
    From this discussion , I carry away the message that the readers believe that humanity has a Destiny. Did the dinosaurs have a Destiny? did the first amphibian? are we “Destined” to conquer space or “Destined” to go extinct after we wipe out all the other primates on the planet?
    Here is a radical Idea. Destiny is Hind-sighted, not far-sighted. We look behind us to understand the ” destiny” of our ancestors who crossed oceans, who built civilizations, who fought, who invented, who created and who all now rest with their bodies in the ground and their genes in us. They did not have destiny, they had visions and dreams, they had the ” failed to” they had the “want to” and finally the “need to” that drove them. What connected these was the persistance and sweat.
    We Failed to follow up on the apollo landing, We “want to” explore and learn, and the only question is do we perceive, that we “Need To” move out in the cosmos?. If we do then our children, ( those with our genes or those offspring we create) , will be the ones to look bank and proclaim “it was their Destiny” . if we fail,… then there will be no one to look back .

  • Adam October 9, 2010, 20:24

    Just thinking about “Advanced Propulsion”, in context, and the hopes for exponential progress supposedly being dashed. Advancement in energy production and power application has seemingly increased roughly exponentially, but in a distributed fashion instead of ever-larger power-plants and passenger transports. Aerospace leapt from mere walking pace to supersonic because flying, as we know it, is in a very useful medium, which allows reaction mass to be scooped along the way.

    But space-travel requires a very different kind of energy relationship and works in a very different medium. Reducing trip-times around the Solar System, and beyond, requires inverse squared energy/power to trip-time kind of relationship. For example travel at 10 km/s is fine for orbital missions and required a development period of 1920-1957 or more like 1890-1957 to go from principle being explicated to proven application. That’s 67 years from Tsiolkovsky to Sputnik 1. The first working liquid propellant rockets took shakey first steps c.1920-1937, then 20 years to working maturity.

    It took 20 years to get to the first NERVA systems, late 1960s, from the 1940s designs, but these were shelved due to fiscal realities and a lack of need in c.1972. The jump in power between an advanced chemical rocket and an NTR is minor and in that respect isn’t a huge advance. Without the budgetary hiatus they would’ve been in orbit by 1978-1980, by the expected programme time-lines.

    Similarly ion-rockets were first discussed, in principle, by Goddard in the 1920s, first seriously designed in the 1940s and first operated in orbit c.1967. But stalled for lack of power and need. Deep Space 1 was the first working interplanetary example and roughly 20 years late due to economics, not technical difficulty.

    All these examples – chemical, nuclear thermal and solar ion – achieve perhaps 10-15 km/s delta-vees. But how long to the 100-150 km/s delta-vee range? It requires 100-fold increase in total energy and 10-fold increase in power for the same thrust. Power is the real limiting factor. A 20 meganewton chemical rocket is operating with a power of about 90 GW – a power level yet to be achieved by ANY nuclear reactor. The biggest NTR was about 9 GW and the largest power-plants a fraction of that. We’ve stalled because we don’t *need* the power required for the next level. We may want it, but its a ‘want’ with a very focussed ‘need’.

    To go faster or further we have to learn how to use the medium to our advantage, to learn the lesson of the aerospace age. Work with and adapt to the medium. Solar-sails and magneto-plasma sails, for example, with beamed-power systems analogous to the railways. We’ve neglected these important forward steps because we were enamoured with big, powerful machines – but the first Atomic War, nuclear-testing and the Cold War have taught us that extreme power applications are as deadly as they are powerful.

    That realization kind of rankles with my instincts since I’m quite fond of big rockets, but it does make a lot of sense. If we can figure out how to use the interstellar medium, then our range becomes unlimited…

  • tesh October 10, 2010, 6:04

    kurt9 October 8, 2010 at 15:34

    The only problem I see with your argument is that though the population will plateau, the total number of people will not. Some biologists predict that a person alive today will live to be 200. Further, it will not be very long (say within a 2-4 decades) before a person is born that will live for at least a 1000 years. So the population will go through a second wave of growth because people will not die quickly enough. Also, couples will probably have more than the 2 children (purely speculation) as after the first, say 200-400 years they may want to revisit their “youth” and have another litter or two or three…

    Just a thought…

  • kurt9 October 10, 2010, 14:05

    tesh,

    Of course you are correct.

    My assumptions were based on no life extension. I’m an avid life extensionist. This is a contentious issue here as there are others on this blog who do not think this will work (of course, I do things that work for me that people claim is impossible, but I see no reason to discuss this here). So, I never talk about life extension here.

    I do think that robust rejuvenation will lead to large scale settlement of space. Not so much the population issue itself, but 5-6 billion rejuvenated people will make for a very active, energetic populace, to say the least. These people will need an outlet for all of their energy and dynamism and large scale space settlement is the perfect outlet.

  • Ronald October 10, 2010, 15:34

    tesh, kurt9: I agree, fascinating thoughts, the consequences, both practical and psychological, that drastic life extension will have on individual people and society.
    One possibility may indeed be, if combined with some kind of suspended animation/induced hibernation, the ability and willingness of people to spend decades of traveling to a neighboring planetary system.

    However, there might also be another drastic and poorly foreseen psychological consequence of this kind of life extension: years ago I read a pretty good (short) SF story about a future where people indeed live up to a potential lifespan of about 1000 – 1200 years. Life became so precious that people became frantically careful, cautious to the extreme, avoiding any risks and any adventure, simply because with this kind of potential lifespan the chance of accidents became statistically very significant.
    I do not know how much reality there is in this psychology, but it seems that in some of the worst parts of the middle ages, e.g. 14th century Europe with the black plague, people were quite callous and careless about life, and death and mortal risks were an easily accepted daily facts.

    Probably the truth is somewhere in the middle: with that kind of life extension and prosperity some people would undoubtedly retreat into self-centered hedonism, but others would try to commit their lives to new and special purposes.

  • Eniac October 10, 2010, 22:06

    Ronald, the increased emphasis on safety you mention is real, and here already. Just 50 years ago nobody wanted to bother with seat belts, helmets, air bags, etc., and look at us now. We have become a race of fearful cowards.

    On the other hand, we are increasingly doing even the most intrepid work from the safety of an office cubicle, like fixing oil wells 2000 ft under water, killing people in far away lands, or faring space. If this continues, as I expect it will, fear of accident is not going to be in the way of kurt9’s dynamic rejuvenated population, and Mark’s fleet of spaceships and kurt9’s 100 person settlements will be built, operated, and thoroughly safety tested before anyone gets their b***s out of their office chairs to board them.

  • Mark Wakely October 10, 2010, 23:16

    Pratt & Whitney’s TRITON nuclear engine is a practical design that might not be decades away if properly funded:

    http://www.engineeringatboeing.com/dataresources/AIAA-2004-3863.pdf

    And here’s an “Atomic Rocket Engine List” that compares performance of a few practical but mostly hypothetical engines:

    http://www.projectrho.com/rocket/rocket3c2.html

    This webpage is part of a larger website devoted to space travel. I especially like the “Suggested Reading” webpage.

  • kurt9 October 11, 2010, 15:41

    Life became so precious that people became frantically careful, cautious to the extreme, avoiding any risks and any adventure, simply because with this kind of potential lifespan the chance of accidents became statistically very significant.

    I think this will be much less significant than commonly thought. A part of developing radical life extension is the development of robust regeneration that will make such accidents far more survivable without permanent effects. The only kind of accident that would kill you is explosion type accidents that destroys your brain (along with everything else). It means you can still die in a plane crash, but just about everything else will be survivable with a regenerated body.

    Aerospace accidents will be the leading cause of death in 2100.

  • Bounty October 11, 2010, 18:14

    We only have 1 manned boat in the water. Maybe some day when we have launch loops or space elevators, when we can say we have several manned boats in space, we can call ourselves space faring.

  • ljk October 11, 2010, 21:03

    The beginnings of planetary exploration

    Fifty years ago this month the era of planetary exploration began with the first attempts by the Soviet Union to launch probes to Mars. Andrew LePage recounts the ultimately failed attempts by the Soviets to send spacecraft to the Red Planet.

    http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1709/1

  • Eniac October 11, 2010, 23:38

    @Bounty: I think the point was that our unmanned boats qualify to make us space-faring.

  • JoeP October 12, 2010, 0:13

    “Space faring.”

    No. The potential is there, but all I see since the mid-80s is a gradual decline in boldness and purpose, and a turning inward to social, national, and economic practicalities.

    If someone had asked me where we humans would be in space by 2011 back when I was a little 8 year old kid and was watching the tail end of the Apollo project, I would have certainly answered with enthusiasm, “Moon bases! Mars exploration! Orbiting city!” Too bad, because it was possible, at least technically and financially.

    The true space farer’s will be either small teams of highly motivated and well-funded high-tech private ventures (like some distant future descendant of Space X, Blue Origin, or Scaled Composites), or more likely AIs using robotics. It is likely that these groups will have very little involvement with the vast number of Earth-bound residents that will never really have a chance to participate.

    But maybe that is all we need and all that Earth needs to be sure “life” spreads out before our star does us all in and bakes us. And, in this context, by life I mean biological or technological offshoots that we generated — so long as it has the wits to self-replicate and persist in survival.

    Robots are built of stuff that can survive space and “live off the land” far easier than we can.

  • kurt9 October 12, 2010, 11:49

    “Robots are built of stuff that can survive space and “live off the land” far easier than we can.”

    Almost all undersea work is done by robots as well.

  • kurt9 October 12, 2010, 11:59

    In the 60’s it was believed that people would live in underwater communities doing things underwater. The Conshelf and Sealab experiments were intended to develop the technologies to make this happen. Instead, robots got good enough in the 70’s that they could do all of the work with the people being either on the surface or going down in submersibles for short time periods. The deep sea environment is hostile to human life. It is better to build robots to work down there than to send humans.

    Same with space. Its a lot cheaper to send machines to do work in space than to send people. If I had a billion dollars to sink into an asteroid mining venture (for Platinum Group Metals, of course), I would find a way to do it without having to send people out there. Machines break down. The way around this problem is simply to send redundant machines out there. One breaks down, another takes over. Once I get all of the PGM I can get out of the asteroid and send it back, I leave the mining equipment on the asteroid.

    Robots will become more common in terrestrial mining, particularly shaft mining. The current Chile mining disaster reminds us that shaft mining is an incredibly dangerous activity for humans. Like the deep sea, mining is better done by machines than humans.

  • Bounty October 12, 2010, 14:10

    I could see “those” machines getting intelligent before “we” humans actually become space faring for ourselves. In that sense, “they” will be space faring and “we” will still be land bound. Sun blows up, robots live, “we” still die.

    I see our space efforts as equivalent to putting messages in a bottle or using carrier pigeons. Accessing a medium by proxy is not the same thing. I’m glad they still make seats in baseball stadiums.

  • Duncan Ivry October 12, 2010, 14:22

    @kurt9

    Yes, robots can and should do much more. But there is the problem of having cheap human labor in abundance. Is the following only a horror vision? We have several billion human beings on earth. In some areas of the world there still are a lot of unemployed, angry young men. Instead of letting them become criminals, soldiers, or holy warriers, send them to the asteroids. If one human worker breaks down, another takes over. Mining is better done by humans than machines.

  • kurt9 October 12, 2010, 15:57

    “In some areas of the world there still are a lot of unemployed, angry young men.”

    This problem will disappear as the developing world develops and fertility drops below replacement in the next decade or two. The earliest we’ll see asteroid mining is around 2040. The so-called “third world” will be well into the same demographic transition as Europe and Japan is today.

  • Eniac October 12, 2010, 16:24

    @Duncan: Abundant cheap human labor is not a problem. It is an asset. If we can feed, clothe, house and entertain the population without using all the available labor, we’ll use it for other purposes. Designing robots, for example. Or spaceships. Or watching baseball. Or surfing the net. Your “horror vision” is indeed just that, a cold-blooded throwback to the past. It has no place in the future.

  • ljk October 13, 2010, 12:36

    Well, so much for Sealab 2020.

    http://www.toonopedia.com/sealab.htm

    Another childhood dream down the tubes, just like Moon and Mars colonies, flying cars, jet packs, robots that do all the work – wait a minute….