Gennady Stolyarov II
Gennady Stolyarov II
Editor’s Note: The U.S. Transhumanist Party / Transhuman Party (USTP) publishes this article by Nikolay Agapov to advance the goals of Section XVII of the USTP Platform, which states that “The United States Transhumanist Party holds that present and future societies should take all reasonable measures to embrace and fund space travel, not only for the spirit of adventure and to gain knowledge by exploring the universe, but as an ultimate safeguard to its citizens and transhumanity should planet Earth become uninhabitable or be destroyed.” The construction of a highly economical infrastructure project such as the Agapov Orbital Lift would greatly reduce the costs of space travel and thus enable rapid exploration and development of space for the benefit of humankind and all sentient entities – thus also accelerating our transition into the next era of our civilization. As of this time, the USTP has not yet endorsed a Presidential candidate but welcomes activity from all of our Presidential Primary candidates to advance the USTP Platform.
~ Gennady Stolyarov II, Chairman, United States Transhumanist Party / Transhuman Party, June 23, 2019
This article is primarily about the value to society of an industrial space elevator; which I believe could have already been built using a small fraction of the resources that have been spent on space tourism for a select few individuals. But before we begin, I would like to take a moment to talk about how “Space Age” goals do correlate quite strongly with the goals of “Digital Democracy” and the strengthening of your middle class more generally, that are described in Mr. Johannon Ben Zion’s “Futurist New Deal” platform as a candidate seeking the Presidential nomination of the Transhumanist Party. I have been previously described in an interview for this site as an “Open-Source Business Developer,” a term which is not a direct translation of the phrase that I used in the Russian interview, but it does describe this underlying commonality fairly well. By using “network technology” and allowing a larger group of peers to participate in the space industry, we’ll create a system that is making better use of the funds and resources that it has allocated and perhaps more importantly, one that can and will evolve as a matter of course to serve humankind.
This open yet technocratic principle is also very well understood when it comes to more decentralized and more representative forms of government, and the funding of social programs that support the middle class, whether they are funded in the present day by largely public means or in the near-future by public-private partnerships.
In a great many economies with post-industrial elements including Russia – although it is quite far from the strongest of economies – it is widely believed that the birth rate is “dangerously low.” So much so that future generations of adults, working people, are said to have to provide for far too many retirees – the idea being that this can lead to an economic crisis. To avoid the crisis of an aging population, developed economies are actively attempting to assist young families. In particular, the Russian government has provided many types of additional social services to young families that are not so widely available in the United States – for example, “Family Paid Leave”, “Universal Healthcare Services”, and other measures designed to encourage these vital family activities.
I believe that concerns about “under-population” are not entirely rooted in reality; the main problem that people who fear this population bust express is that the population of older people or pensioners, is becoming much larger than the population of young people, and while in 20th-century technology terms that would lead to a shortage of labor, we now live in the 21st century. Their fears do not take into account the ways in which all of our societies are moving towards full automation; a circumstance that is negating and will continue to negate these generational problems. However, the larger spirit and implementation of this partly fear-based set of policies is correct. Society and the economy flourish when people are free in their time and resources to pursue family life and small businesses; and these things are very strongly represented in the economic policies of the “Futurist New Deal”.
In Russia, the government is also concerned about a lack of human development and lower productivity. At a recent open press conference, the Russian president announced a program for a sharp increase in overall labor productivity. Achieving this rapid growth in production is possible only through a massive influx of small, private enterprises, but they must have a high level of automation and be able to quickly recoup the funds invested in them and develop rapidly both in quantitative and qualitative terms. For this industries-wide sea-change to occur, you first need to create a conducive environment for all entrepreneurs. A democratization of laws and government is necessary for this purpose; but the Russian government in some ways continues to follow a strategy of rigid central planning and economic development through large state projects that have a high price and long implementation periods; this failing itself tends to make these modernization programs which are occurring under government control a rather dubious institution.
At the same time, Russia has a weak civil society and relatively low economic literacy, which do not foster developing entrepreneurial communities at the grassroots level – those not dependent on the government. I think that developing decentralized production in Russia, as well as in many developing countries, is easier through collaboration with innovators in the United States. The first networks of decentralized industry are more likely to appear in the United States, Western Europe, and China. After that, they will begin to transfer the rights to use their intellectual property worldwide, for a percentage of the profits. This is similar to the way 20th-century franchises have tended to work.
Beginning to make these barest kinds of preparations for the economic health of a society, it is not so dissimilar from focusing on better and more discrete goals in the world of near-earth development. Just as moving away from the rhetoric of “austerity” or nationalism allows you to identify problem areas more clearly, and correct them; the colonization of space by more collaborative efforts on the part of users – with more industrial and less fanciful goals in mind – will be a truly great boon to humankind.
I have begun to create social networks such as my “People of the Space-Era” and various working groups to this end; and I hope that the people of the U.S. Transhumanist Party, perhaps one of the most technologically literate cohorts in the world, will see and promote the value of this “open-source” approach.
Imagine if a new continent here on Earth were discovered and, rather than create trade networks with that continent, those responsible for dealings with this new land opted to take a lot of “selfies” there instead – and do little else. As the public, you might rightly ask yourselves when it would be an appropriate time to begin to engage in more practical expeditions. The simple fact is that an information society, any post-industrial society should be making better use of our connectivity and our technology than we are.
When the first flights into space began, people enthusiastically waited for the first experiments to be followed up by larger-scale developments or innovations, such as those aimed at the practical and permanent venture into space by our species; and all the while hoping for inexpensive reusable rockets, or these fundamentally different ”rocketless” means of space transport to be developed. They waited with bated breath for the first extraterrestrial technological centers to be built, and after them the first extraterrestrial industrial enterprises should have surely followed. People waited for humanity to start taking real steps towards becoming a space civilization. Sadly the nation-states concerned used their astronauts only to maintain their standing in public opinion, and these state space programs remained at an earlier stage of research and experimentation.
If our society wants to move into the Space Age, it is time for all of us to take the initiative. Team up to work on new global programs such as the development of new industries based on digital production, consisting of miniature factories capable of making their own replacements to accelerate industrial growth on Earth. And later, in space, such micro-factories will themselves “multiply”, and build an array of near-earth industrial infrastructure, without the onerous costs associated with high-speed travel, operating on principles of development and economic efficiency. Today it is possible to develop on Earth the beginnings of a society on a truly cosmic scale, through the tenacity of many of you space-travel-minded people. These ways of thinking and ultimately this way of life must be adapted to the conditions of a functional space civilization, not tailored to narrower nationalistic or “creative” ends. The most innovative supporters of space expansion must take on these roles as coordinators to create earth-based industrial and entrepreneurial networks vital to this development of new programs for the industrialization of space.
Such initiative would lead to far broader and more robust sets of satellites which would improve the experiences of today’s device and IOT (Internet of Things) users and revolutionize this sadly untapped field of solar energy – which is inexhaustible and eco-friendly. The development of cosmic mineral resources, the most valuable of these being precious metals and rare earth elements will be supplied to earth with ease. Perhaps of less value, but still market-changing, those many resources that serve in the construction of consumer orbital enterprises and transport systems, and of course the more widespread industrial use of 3-D printing, minimizing the need for expensive cargo delivery from the ground, will become more commonplace in near-earth and earthbound building.
It is indeed possible to suppose that a decentralized civil society which is still overseen by “good-faith” public coordinators could also actively prepare better for the colonization of space than we are preparing today. For this to happen, the participation of nation-states directly is not needed, and even large capital investments would not be absolutely required; the network world of agile “citizen scientists” itself will become the best source of capital and resources. We need only initiative and personal energy to move past these 20th-century constraints.
One of the projects of these new rocketless transport systems, which I propose that we implement, is the “Agapov Orbital Lift” (A.O.L.). The A.O.L. is a simplified version of the space elevator which will remain in geosynchronous orbit but will not be secured to the ground by a tether. This design is relied upon, as it is far more effective than the “Stationary Space Elevator” which has a cable that reaches the earth. For the A.O.L. to work, there is a need for some rocketry, as the lower end of the cable will fly above the ground at a height of low orbit, but at a speed below the earth escape velocity of today’s rockets, at 1 – 3 kilometers per second. The A.O.L, unlike competitor lifts, will be able to immediately give us tremendous breakthroughs in the modernization of space transport. This project is technically feasible since the earth connection cable is not needed, and so additional materials science innovations such as nanotubes or graphene tape need not be made a contingency of the first-generation A.O.L. Suffice it to say that materials such as carbon fiber, “Kevlar,” “Vectran,” or other polyethylene materials of a high degree of polymerization will be strong enough to suit these ends. These existing materials-science innovations are already wholly mastered by industrial producers, are widely commercially available, and have a cost that is not exorbitantly high for near-earth development.
Waiting for one particular breakthrough is just not worth it when high-strength materials of many kinds are constantly being produced and improved upon, and as we mentioned at some length in our interview, the A.O.L. will also be upgraded many times in the course of its productive life. At certain intervals, older tethers, battered by space debris, will need to be replaced with newer, stronger, and longer ones made with more durable materials. And so, in the course of operation, the A.O.L. system of lifts will in short order be transformed into a stationary one, an achievement which itself would allow for the complete abandonment of missiles in near-earth travel.
The counterweight to the A.O.L. will be the International Space Station (ISS), as its life as a space-science laboratory comes to an end. And as part of the elevator, the station will be able to continue its multifaceted work in an exciting new capacity as a component of a revolutionary transport system. The ISS as counterweight to the elevator would be an appropriation of 100 billion dollars in existing space infrastructure, and its use will couple state space agencies with private firms in a timeless public-private partnership. In addition, the ISS as part of the orbital elevator will be able to work as a technological platform for mounting satellites and various useful space objects, from relatively light payloads delivered to it by cables from suborbital flight. In doing so we will be responsible for the beginning of true space production.
In my previous interview with Presidential candidate Johannon Ben Zion, we discussed a figure of between 100 and 500 million dollars for the building of a first-generation, highly-automated industrial space elevator. I understand that many of your readers are skeptical of this design and these figures, and at the risk of repeating myself from earlier in this article, I will say here again what I did not say in that shorter interview published June 12th, which is that the success of such a project could hinge on the “network effects,” the user-generated efforts in numerous interworking systems of networked organizations which are capable of consolidating the work product of industrial enterprises and small entrepreneurs on earth for the implementation of large-scale programs for the industrialization of space. We must spearhead this construction ourselves in order to turn the entire world industry into a springboard for the colonization of the solar system and not limit this to individual government agencies or scattered and not fully realized private space firms. In short, on this quality of being “Open-Source”, which is again not the exact wording that I preferred to use in the original Russian interview, that phrasing certainly does get to the heart of the way in which this kind of effort should be different from previous private or public space-faring attempts.
Even in the weeks since that interview was conducted, new discoveries of underground resources on the Moon have been made, I believe that had previous lunar expeditions been more focused on making use of these resources, we would already have the industrial infrastructure between our planet and our Moon to be safely excavating these kinds of materials.
It would be unfair to describe private space industry as unconcerned with these improvements; incredible breakthroughs have been made in recent decades toward streamlining space-faring processes, making them cheaper and cleaner. That said, I believe that almost all of the people working in this business have a fixation with rockets and an almost total lack of interest in the equally practical transport systems that I have described. If these engineers really believe that the focus of space travel is to stick pretty flags in piles of dirt, or engage in publicity stunts where people who are famous solely for being wealthy celebrate their success by enjoying zero gravity for a few hours – my advice is that they should pursue another line of work because these “accomplishments” are not of such great value as we have been led to believe.
My design for a space elevator is meant to be a transition, using the existing infrastructure now in low-earth orbit to create a lift system capable of slow but steady industrial growth – within 3 to 5 years – using the kinds of robotics that industry has taken for granted for a few decades. To achieve this some adjustments will need to be made to the International Space Station so that its orbit is better positioned to support this lift system. When you consider the hundred or more billion dollars that have been spent on space stations which are now decommissioned, and I would argue have always been underutilized, the choice not to build a space elevator from them seems to me, frankly, a silly one. The very important point in this design, which I have already iterated but that was sadly not included in the truncated first interview, is that this spacelift will not reach completely to Earth, and vehicles will be required to shuttle payloads up to that point. But as the cost of operating these vehicles will be much lower – as the high speeds required of rockets today to escape Earth’s gravity will not be necessary, the A.O.L. will nonetheless be of great value to industry.
There is no question in my mind that this tether design, which incorporates a few different interworking ultra-strong polymer blends, all of which are currently in widespread industrial use, will suffice for our materials needs. And I should point out once again, and it has been said many times before, that by first constructing this industrial lift, we will then very soon be able to build out its infrastructure and create parallel lift structures that will quickly improve industrial, and presumably consumer, uses.
With greater interest after significant return on investment from these industrial undertakings, we will very quickly see that this initial design was well worth the effort. I hope that the lack of focus on space tourism in our first-generation A.O.L. design will be seen by potential investors as an asset to both consumers and industry in the long-term.
It is not just nostalgia for my youth that drives my interest in this repurposing of existing space infrastructure like the International Space Station; we should give the ISS a second life; this is the best way to continue the work begun by those 20th-century visionaries who first sought to propel our civilization beyond our atmosphere. These state-sponsored space administrations and the public-private partnerships which today exist in service to space travel and research are not enough to undertake this repurposing. We need our “open-source” public efforts to become a kind of popular fascination, like the one seen in the 1950s “space race.” However, even the number of users currently contributing to the SETI app would be an excellent start to collaborative design and build efforts that would benefit our repurposing and tether-building efforts.
Such seeds of public fascination in an enterprise can direct public initiatives, both investment and intellectual capital into enterprises no less interesting and potentially far more vital than the some of the mechanisms of today’s Silicon Valley-style capitalism. Furthermore, this will give us a new arena for the development of information technology businesses in conjunction with these new generations of networks and satellite communications, which will make high-speed Internet far more accessible to the entire planet and will overwhelmingly strengthen the global information space of mankind, moving global civilization ever closer to the realization of a true “noosphere.”
Finally, I would reiterate that the focus on the cost of an industrial space lift should not be on the hundreds of millions of dollars in the initial outlay – but rather on the many trillions of dollars that could be generated by making this bold step. The A.O.L. transport infrastructure will confer great economic effects by the creation of a global industry in near-earth development; and just as on land, where railways and ports do not always bring the largest of profits, yet they do underpin the life of entirely greater industries and regions, so will millions of inhabitants benefit by industries developing out into the many hundreds of billions of dollars.
I hope that you will all leave this conversation with a somewhat clearer idea of the purpose and design of my industrial space lift, the “Agapov Orbital Lift”, and as well will consider endorsing Mr. Ben Zion and the “Futurist New Deal;” I believe that the architects of this plan truly do have your best interests as techno-optimists at heart.
Editor’s Note: The U.S. Transhumanist Party / Transhuman Party (USTP) has not yet, as of this publication, endorsed a candidate for U.S. President. Therefore, the statement in the last sentence above by Mr. Agapov should be considered to be his personal opinion only at this time. Readers can view the profiles of all USTP Presidential Primary candidates and make informed decisions regarding which candidate(s) and which of their proposals to support.
Johannon Ben Zion
Editor’s Note: The U.S. Transhumanist Party / Transhuman Party (USTP) publishes this interview between Johannon Ben Zion and Nikolay Agapov to advance the goals of Section XVII of the USTP Platform, which states that “The United States Transhumanist Party holds that present and future societies should take all reasonable measures to embrace and fund space travel, not only for the spirit of adventure and to gain knowledge by exploring the universe, but as an ultimate safeguard to its citizens and transhumanity should planet Earth become uninhabitable or be destroyed.” The construction of a highly economical infrastructure project such as the Agapov Orbital Lift would greatly reduce the costs of space travel and thus enable rapid exploration and development of space for the benefit of humankind and all sentient entities – thus also accelerating our transition into the next era of our civilization. As of this time, the USTP has not yet endorsed a Presidential candidate but welcomes activity from all of our Presidential Primary candidates to advance the USTP Platform.
~ Gennady Stolyarov II, Chairman, United States Transhumanist Party / Transhuman Party, June 11, 2019
Read the English-language outline for the Agapov Orbital Lift, written by Nikolay Agapov, here.
Johannon Ben Zion: We live in different countries; we’ve never met! Should we talk about how we met?
Nikolay Agapov: Yes, Ben, having heard of your Arizona Transhumanist Party‘s “Orbital Ring” publicity push, I felt I would have been remiss if I didn’t reach out to the Arizona Transhumanist Party and your U.S. Presidential candidacy with the Transhumanist Party, and offer to make a comparison and further study of the respective designs, my team’s included. I like to tell people that I am an “open-source” business developer in this context, and an avid supporter of the near-earth industrialization, in contrast to “pure exploration.”
I principally come from an educational background in economics with a specialization in business administration. I have made an extensive study of the global economic environment in the course of my international business studies and striven to understand and emulate the careers and novel methods of innovators like Henry Ford and Steve Jobs.
I have always been interested in the topic of space exploration and in the process of studying at the university, I began to develop extensive plans for near-earth industrialization with the relatively smaller-budgeted space agencies in mind, as Roscosmos now has, and also a focus on high attractiveness to investors.
In addition, I have often written of as well as developed several designs in the field of solid-fuel rocket engines. Making solid propellant rockets cheaper and more environmentally friendly with the ability to raise their efficiency to the level of liquid engines has been a central focus of my work.
After writing and developing in these areas for quite some time, I am convinced that space agencies and businesses are not nearly focused enough on outcomes or growth, which is why I have become an “open-source” business developer; network effects and “crowd-sourcing” effects in research and development must be better utilized if we are to quicken the pace of technological advancement.
The main goal of space businesses and agencies is the development of civilizational impacts of space-faring, the transition of humanity to the level of a true space-faring civilization. And all smaller projects should be viewed as merely steps to this larger goal.
It is not so much of an overstatement to say that modern space administrations in fact remain mechanisms of the state-run propaganda that arose during the period of escalation during the Cold War. Their goal is to maintain a certain prestige and visibility, through periodic campaigns and in the launching of scientific probes, etc. A “Space Age cynic” such as myself will view many of these endeavors as not always directly contributing to the aforementioned “transition to a space-faring civilization.” As for the real, practical, space exploration, they have no idea how to develop it and do not strive for it.
As a result, I have completely updated my approaches to the industrialization of space, in the form of more networked or “crowdsourcing-ready” businesses and more results-oriented public agencies. Since I’ve read more recently of your “Futurist New Deal”, I do hope that you will continue your commitment to near-earth industrialization as we first discussed.
JBZ: Well, yes, we absolutely will. Although our campaign is focused on domestic economic policy and e-governance issues now, all of our near-term undertakings are intended to set the stage for your “transition to a space-faring civilization,” or a true post-industrial society more broadly.
Nikolay Agapov: My team has our own approaches to the development of space expansion and the end goal, the preparation for the colonization of space, a goal I believe best achieved through the creation of a permanent transportation system to our nearest neighbor, the Moon. The more than one trillion dollars that have been spent in the pursuit of space travel have not had this focus, been a rather poor use of funds, with a somewhat disappointing result all told. I believe that you yourself told me in our first conversation that the efforts of your space agency [NASA] were “the most expensive PR campaign.”
JBZ: Yes, I said, “The most expensive PR campaign in history” and basically one with surprisingly little focus on tangible production outcomes, a concern I share with you. A popular, if a little operatic view of the history of NASA is one to which I do subscribe to a certain degree myself, at least in principle. It’s a distrustful sentiment that really gets to the heart of most of this confused thinking on the NASA subject in a roundabout sort of way; the NASA “conspiracy theories” are largely rooted, I believe, in this feeling that this whole operation was a “Cold War” publicity stunt – a very expensive one – that didn’t “build” much of anything, in structural engineering terms at least – although it contributed to the production of any number of groundbreaking technological breakthroughs argued for in hindsight as justification of the expense, and quite rightly argued considering the impact of those things – in spite of the lack of interest in “near-earth industrialization” by the parties in question.
Nikolay Agapov: I would say that the “Space Age” tropes that both derived from and guided these somewhat odd goals have themselves become codified, leading to impractical implementations (or as we’ve suggested above, a lack thereof) and also a “monoculture,” where what began as nebulous goals, have become codified by science-fiction fanatics, films, and television – so that all interest, popular or industrial, is centering on rockets and journeys beyond our sphere which are very exciting – but a little ineffable as to their purpose relative to the building of things.
JBZ: Most of us at the Transhumanist Party are believers in technocratic solutions, even some beyond the 20th-century or early post-industrial models of today – and I am one of those. The principles of technocracy and automation-centered policy making would do quite a bit to solve these problems in private and public space initiatives.
Nikolay Agapov: Modernized countries share a technocratic approach to their organization.
JBZ: Yes, it’s odd to me that so many in the USA view technocracy as an ugly word. I regard myself (and all those involved in the “Futurist New Deal” do as well) as an “economic populist”, but I view this tendency to criticize technocracy as something to be viewed with skepticism, a “false populist phenomenon,” that derives from what is sometimes called in the USA “know-nothing”-ism, a set of anti-science and low-information cultural values that poison, well, many, if not most, earnest efforts in public policy and the ordering of a civil society.
Nikolay Agapov: Yes, and your “futurists” would be doing the right thing in trying to counteract this other failing in thinking about technology and progress.
JBZ: How expensive would your space elevator be? What’s the cost of the most expensive or extravagant elevator or orbital ring you’d like to build, since I know we’ve discussed a few with cost in mind?
Nikolay Agapov: Incorporating the existing but non-operational space stations described in my prospectus into the design, using a tether with a specialized design using Kevlar, carbon fiber, or polyethylene materials designs that could sustain the tether and a series of relatively small additional payloads, a little smaller than a human at first – as I’ve described in our prospectus.
JBZ: Yes, I was imagining a bunch of little “Roombas” scooting up there to the space station to then be boosted off to the moon and do some work.
Nikolay Agapov: Yes, these types of remotely controlled or semi-autonomous devices should be among the easier parts of our “work order” to fulfill. And as the system is judged to be stable, more tethers would be built, a number of these which are stable would perhaps allow for very low-cost space tourism, travel from Earth to the space station in a matter of days at that time shortly after the initial stabilization of the tether, but it is quite likely that other materials designs for tethers would be required, delaying the tourism part, which I regard as the smallest part of this undertaking compared to getting “robots” out in earth’s orbit fixing and building existing and new infrastructure, respectively, and traveling on to do so on the Moon as well.
Using materials costs from the Eurasian markets and including the estimates of existing but underutilized space infrastructure and present-day tether materials (despite their payload limitations), I would put the total costs at 100 – 500 million dollars. This 500% variation in costs would be due to the uncertain nature of building in orbit and the problems with constructing and maintaining the tether, as well as market uncertainties for the materials needed.
JBZ: That’s 100-500 million right? Millions, 1 and six zeroes, 1,000,000? Is that what you are saying?
Nikolay Agapov: Yes.
JBZ: That’s many billions of dollars lower than any of the prospecti I’ve seen, some of which push up to a trillion dollars.
Nikolay Agapov: Building systems for space tourism would be a lot more than a few hundred million dollars, as those systems are built and rebuilt to higher standards, but by that time there will occur an immense economic impact from making better use of building in orbit or on the Moon and the ways that they would impact existing markets, with cheaper and better satellites, new energy developments in solar and other renewable energies, and the appeal and benefits of industrializing in earth’s orbit and on the moon. As a result, those significant added costs for stronger elevators would be happily undertaken by those industries.
JBZ: I am still a little taken aback with this “low” budget. That is a number that Elon Musk, Peter Diamandis, or many of these guys could fund based on their companies’ valuations just by diverting some portion of funds from other space companies.
Nikolay Agapov: Maybe. Your question about the most expensive project I can think of – I don’t think is a serious one. The “most expensive design” is to continue building rockets if operating cost and environmental impact are no concern.
JBZ: Fair enough. Your prospectus states that you could have this design completed and financially self-sustaining in 3-5 years. Do you stand by that?
Nikolay Agapov: Yes and no. If the project was fully funded and international cooperation and many other political factors were dealt with independently – then yes, absolutely. I think that the cooperation of U.S. and Russian space agencies and associated corporations and entities may be enough to accomplish this.
JBZ: It would take a mighty fine group of statesmen and women to accomplish such a thing.
Nikolay Agapov: Maybe, maybe not.
JBZ: If such a project could be built so cheaply, why hasn’t it been done yet?
Nikolay Agapov: I would answer “politics” more than “design”, but I would also include with that concern, the lack of motivation and the focus on these “popular imagination” and “sci-fi-genre media-driven” goals we spoke of, resulting in the “rich guys with big rockets” and tourism over industrialization. Industry is a more controversial design principle because it is perceived as being more “invasive” or “less ecological”, although in practice the opposite is true; rockets have been and still are much worse. Irony.
JBZ: The design like the one that I had been sharing with others was to build out an entirely new orbital ring with a “PBO”, also known as “Zylon” tether and with a $10 billion total price tag. That’s the “Low Cost Design for an Orbital Ring” by California engineer David Nelson, I believe, and published July of 2017. I should say it’s possible he’s a bit of a shy character; after a few attempts I’ve not been able to actually identify him (his writing has been republished, and Dave Nelson is an extremely common name in the U.S.) nor contact him for comment. It’s also a design that requires a 10-plus-year build timeline.
Nikolay Agapov: I’ve read all about this design, and he’s done a lot of good work, but I think we can do a lot better with a smaller, more industry-focused orbital ring. The option of using the decommissioned space station as a counterweight is a major selling point for us, but it, too, requires international and national politicking, as well as the business acumen of my organization and other private space companies.
JBZ: Therein lies the rub, but it starts with getting people excited and having these conversations outside of the typical bluster of these discussions as nationalistic or symbolic endeavors. If I had 100 million dollars, I would be investing that money into this today, and to that end I hope we can link to your outline at least, for our readers, here.
Nikolay Agapov: Yes, that is fine, but bear in mind the full prospectus is written in Russian, and this outline of concepts was also written in English, but there remain a few proofreading concerns, so please be patient. This outline at the time of its publication had not had the benefit of a translator, as this interview has.
JBZ: But feel free to comment and discuss with us,;we will be happy to engage with you. The function of such a thing is to answer questions and bring in new ideas and hopefully get a working space elevator built soon.
Nikolay Agapov: Yes, thank you for your time.
I often ask myself, “Why do wealthy and/or influential people seem to support spending billions of dollars on weapons and exploring outer space, when, with their massive wealth and resources, they could help reduce human suffering and dramatically improve the quality of life for billions of people?”
And this question takes me back to a discussion I had last year with gerontologist Aubrey de Grey, during which he recounted to me a meeting he had with an ultra high-net-worth (UHNW) individual. The purpose of the meeting was to raise money for aging and life-extension research, and the UHNW individual refused to donate to SENS Research Foundation, or even to get involved, stating something to the effect of, “It won’t happen in my lifetime.”
That response perplexed me. Here we had a very successful and intelligent person, who, rather than help ensure his own children (as well as others’ children) could live a healthier and longer life, refused to do anything, for the simple reason that he did not believe we could make much progress on reversing aging in his lifetime.
While this is indeed a selfish way to look at things, it is by no means uncommon. In fact, I have been racking my brain recently, trying to figure out why the people who are best-equipped to do something about life extension and aging, do not do so (or do not do enough).
To be fair, there are a few wealthy and influential people who support research into aging and life extension, the most notable being entrepreneur Jim Mellon. However, they seem to be the exception rather than the norm.
Indeed, why do people like Jeff Bezos, Richard Branson, and Elon Musk, who possess incredible resources and influence, choose to spend money and time on attempting to colonize hostile, uninhabitable planets hundreds of millions of kilometers away, especially considering that they and their loved ones (if they are lucky to live long enough) will die of aging-related causes such as heart disease, dementia, and cancer?
While I cannot speak for the aforementioned people, I believe there are several reasons why people in a position of power or wealth refuse to do much about supporting research on aging.
The first reason is that aging and death have been considered inevitable. Indeed, even though we have been able to put a human being on the Moon, we have been unable to prevent a single human being from aging. Enormously wealthy and successful people tend to be quite pragmatic, and so I imagine that they would not want to fund an endeavor or be a part of something they believed had no chance of success. However, we have evidence that we are making progress on this front, or at the very least, that reversing aging and implementing life-extension technologies are worthy endeavors.
In fact, in 2005, MIT Technology Review organized a panel of world-renowned experts (including molecular biologists) and offered a $20,000 prize to anyone who could disprove the SENS research program and demonstrate that reversing aging is not worthy of consideration. However, none of the contestants were able to do so. On the other hand, there is no evidence that human life is sustainable on any other planets in our solar system (while human life is perfectly sustainable on Earth), and by most professional estimates, it would take incredible technological advancements and financial resources to even enable people to temporarily stay on a planet such as Mars. We should also consider the fact that there have been no studies performed on the massive changes that would occur to the human body as a result of living on another planet.
Thus, it actually appears more realistic to work on reversing aging than it would be to work on colonizing other planets. But even if we are not able to completely reverse aging, what if we were able to slow aging? Wouldn’t it be desirable to have an additional five to 10 years of healthy life? Any progress we could make on life extension would be worth it, given that it would directly add healthy years to a person’s life. One thing is for certain – doing nothing ensures that very little will change, and that humans will more than likely continue living this average lifespan of 79 or so years (with very modest improvements over time), with much of it in the later years being in sickness and poor health.
Another reason for the refusal to fund aging and life extension research may be a rather pessimistic one. It is entirely possible that billionaires and governments are hedging their bets in the event that climate change or some other scenario causes wide-scale suffering (the likes of which have never been seen before) and a potential destruction of the planet, along with the rapid extinction of the human species. If that were the case, and Earth was about to be destroyed, it would make sense to pour resources into colonizing other planets. However, I think the likelihood of something like this occurring, at least in the near future, is extremely slim. Further, we have much evidence to support the fact that the planet could sustain a larger population and that technological improvements, as well as renewable energy, and seasteading, can prevent such an apocalyptic scenario from occurring. In fact, despite the challenges we are facing in terms of sustainability, we are making good progress, and it seems unreasonable to me to give all of this up, throw in the towel, and chase a pipe dream of living on another planet (when the one we have now is perfectly suited to human life). Also, given that we have the technology to save our planet from being engulfed in chaos and destruction, but do not currently have the technology to live on other planets, wouldn’t it make sense to save Earth first, rather than attempting to embark upon costly journeys to other planets, especially journeys that have little guarantee of success?
Yet another reason may be that many people, including those in a position of power, have bought into the idea of an afterlife. However, if we are completely honest with ourselves, there is no evidence that an afterlife exists, whereas there is evidence that we are making progress with reversing aging, even if that progress is arriving at a pace that is slower than we would have liked. With that being said, I would never want to deny anyone the right to believe in whatever they want. The question is, however, whether it is beneficial to adopt a zero-sum attitude to this matter. The fact is, believing in an afterlife and contributing to aging and life-extension research are not mutually exclusive. One can have any religious beliefs one likes, and subscribe to the idea that there is an afterlife, while also contributing to the beauty of existence here on Earth.
Finally, working on a cause such as reversing aging appears to not be as exciting as the prospect of exploring Mars, which is why people would rather update their LinkedIn (or Tinder) profile with “Entrepreneur” or “Swashbuckling Adventurer” or “Arms Dealer”, even, rather than “Gerontologist”. In all seriousness, though, I have always found the idea of exploring faraway lands, as well as other planets, to be exciting. But if human beings are excited about exploring the unknown, shouldn’t we also be interested in exploring a process as complex as aging, especially given that there is much we still do not know about it? Also, the implications of making advancements in this field are huge. This is because the un-sexy work that gerontologists are doing will lead to us living longer, healthier lives, and so this very important work should not be ignored. In fact, it is a massive waste of resources to try to colonize uninhabitable planets at the expense of ensuring good health and longevity, when all of humanity battles with disease and death. It would even be more noble to focus our efforts on eliminating poverty (something that the Chinese government, for instance, has dedicated its efforts to).
I do not wish to dissuade anyone from exploring outer space, but neither should we avoid doing what needs to be done on our planet. I only wish to ask whether spending billions on space exploration is the best use of resources at our disposal, considering that there is still much work to be done here on Earth.
As mentioned previously, it should not be a zero-sum game. In an ideal world, we could dedicate resources to both aging research and space exploration. However, when the budget for NASA is $21.5 billion and the budget for aging research at the National Institute on Aging is $40 million, one has to start asking questions. Actually, one could argue neither budget is large enough, especially given that the U.S. Department of Defense budget is $686 billion.
Why do we spend hundreds of billions of dollars on missiles and bombs to combat a highly-exaggerated threat, when there is the absolute certainty that billions of people will suffer and then die, many of them prematurely, due to aging-related diseases such as heart disease, cancer, and dementia?
What makes exploring outer space so much more important than ensuring that billions do not die prematurely from aging-related diseases? Will picking up and holding red dust on a hostile, uninhabitable planet be more fulfilling than holding one’s child or loved one in one’s arms?
What does it say about our society when we are content to allow friends and family members to perish in undignified ways, while we dream about stockpiling as many weapons as possible, reliving fictional fantasies inspired by comic books and movies, and ignoring challenges here on Earth?
These are questions we must ask ourselves, and, more importantly, must demand those in power to ask themselves. At the end of the day, if we as a society are comfortable with the tradeoffs and decide en masse that dealing weapons and exploring outer space are more important than working on curing disease, reversing aging, and ensuring that everyone on Earth lives a dignified life, then we can rest assured knowing that we gave this most important of topics much consideration.
However, given the facts, I do not think we have reached that point yet. We have, however, reached a point where there is promise that we are making progress in fighting aging, and it is irresponsible and reckless to ignore these gains while entertaining fantasies of living on other planets. It makes little sense to try to live in a dignified manner on a dangerous, inhospitable, isolated planet that is not suitable for human life, when we are having difficulty living in a dignified manner here on Planet Earth (a planet that is perfectly suited to human life). The solution is not to dream about moving to Mars while leaving the elderly and unhealthy here to die. The solution is also not to increase defense funding, when we already have more weapons than we know what to do with. The solution is to help our brothers and sisters here on Earth live longer, healthier, more fulfilling lives. And thus, this is a call to action for those of you who are in a position of power or wealth and who can dedicate resources to ensuring that your loved ones, and everyone else’s loved ones, can live better.
One thing I would like to ask UHNW individuals and politicians is, what will you do with the great wealth, status, and power you have accumulated? Will you play golf and remark that “it won’t happen in my lifetime”? Or will you actually do something to ensure that your children won’t be doomed to a short life, during which they will suffer from debilitating disease and eventually die?
Arin Vahanian is the Director of Marketing for the U.S. Transhumanist Party / Transhuman Party.
“Happy New Years” by Ekaterinya Vladinakova
Left-click on the image for a fuller view. You can also download this painting (3265 by 5000 pixels) here.
Happy New Years – indefinitely many of them! As we celebrate the arrival of 2019, we can find great inspiration in this painting by Ekaterinya Vladinakova. May we someday stand on worlds such as this distant cratered planet and observe nebulas like this one in glorious color.
Editor’s Note: The U.S. Transhumanist Party is home to many innovative thinkers who offer more forward-looking and far superior policy solutions than those pursued by either of the major political parties in the United States. This brief article by Alex Lightman, Campaign Director for the California Transhumanist Party, is an example of how even a few constructive, inspiring, big-picture ideas by transhumanists could revolutionize politics for the better and help us construct the next era of our civilization. What could Donald Trump be focusing on instead of his brinksmanship over an unnecessary border wall? Mr. Lightman explores the alternatives here.
~ Gennady Stolyarov II, Chairman, United States Transhumanist Party, December 24, 2018
I am stunned by this Presidency. If I were President of the United States, I would be obsessively focused on:
1. Space Migration – Setting up permanent bases and thriving colonies on the moon (for Helium 3, one shuttle load of which could cleanly power the entire US for a few weeks) and Mars (as a base for jumping off to other worlds and mining the asteroid belt).
2. Intelligence Increase – I would focus on raising average IQ from what I believe to be 87 to over 106, equal to the highest national average in Asia. IQ can be raised by 19 points within six weeks.
3. Life Extension – Average life expectancy in the US has dropped three years in a row after 114 years of steady increase that DOUBLED life expectancy. The USA ranks in the 25-50 range in key health measures, including infant mortality. I think a smart Presidency could boost average life expectancy by 5-15 years.
4. Acceleration of Innovation – just implementing the 200-page national innovation plan I was paid to write by the Obama White House would do this. It’s ready to implement and there is nothing comparable to it ever tried by any nation in history.
5. Smart Green Augmented Cities – I can’t understand why Donald Trump, real-estate developer, doesn’t use some of the $20-25 trillion he has to play with during a four-year term to create a novel, brilliant, beautiful, state-of-the-art city that sets a new high standard and serves as an archetype and living laboratory for all future cities.
Instead, the Border Wall is where his head is.
If I were him, I would ask someone like me, “Why are the people from Mexico and Central America coming? What can we do to make their countries successful?” I spent $300,000 or so of my own money figuring this out, and I shared the results with Mexico’s Secretary of Agriculture, Secretary of Energy, and Director of Sustainability, and they all said my plan made sense.
My point isn’t that I am the only one with a plan. When you are the US government, you can hire thousands of people like me and have them come up with thousands of possible solutions and then implement these solutions.
Trump claims that his art form is the art of the deal. A deal that helped Mexico and Central America be successful would be easy to strike with Democrats.
Alex Lightman, Campaign Director for the California Transhumanist Party, has 25 years of management and social innovation experience and 15 years of chairman and chief executive experience. He is an award-winning inventor with multiple U.S. patents issued or pending and author of over one million published words, including the first book on 4G wireless, and over 150 articles in major publications. He chaired and organized 17 international conferences with engineers, scientists, and government officials since 2002, with the intention of achieving policy breakthroughs related to innovation. He is a world-class innovator and recipient of the first Economist magazine Readers’ Choice Award for “The Innovation that will Most Radically Change the World over the Decade 2010 to 2020” (awarded Oct. 21, 2010, out of 4,000 initial suggestions and votes over 5 months from 200 countries, and from 32 judges). He is the recipient of the 2nd Reader’s Award (the posthumous recipient announced 10/21/2011 was Steve Jobs). He is also the winner of the only SGI Internet 3D contest (both Entertainment and Grand Prize) out of 800 contestants.
Social innovation work includes repeatedly putting almost unknown technologies and innovation-accelerating policies that can leverage the abilities of humanity into the mainstream of media, business, government, foundations, and standards bodies, including virtual reality, augmented reality, Internet Protocol version 6, and 4G wireless broadband, open spectrum, technology transfer to developing countries, unified standards, crowd-sourcing, and collective intelligence, via over 40 US government agencies, over 40 national governments, and via international entities including the United Nations and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
Political credentials include a national innovation plan entitled “The Acceleration of American Innovation” for the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, work for U.S. Senator Paul E. Tsongas (D-MA) and on several state campaigns and U.S. presidential campaigns for Democratic candidates (Gary Hart, Richard Gephardt), presentations to the United Nations, and advisory services to the governments of Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, New Zealand, Australia, Philippines, Japan, China, Korea, and India, as well as to the U.S. Congress, the White House (via the Office of Management and Budget), the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Defense Information Systems Agency, and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Mr. Lightman is trained as an engineer at MIT and as a prospective diplomat and policy analyst at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.
“Mountain in the Jungle: Habitable Exomoon” by Ekaterinya Vladinakova
Left-click on the image for a fuller view. You can also download this painting (5000 by 2636 pixels) here.
The terraformed surface of an exomoon – another illustration by Ekaterinya Vladinakova of the lush worlds that can be created as a result of our species’ colonization of the cosmos. Let humanity venture forth to both discover and create such splendid new environments!
Biogerontology Research Foundation
IMAGE: These are ways to reduce health risks from space radiation during deep space travels. Multiple approaches from medical selection of radioresistant individuals to gene therapy may be proposed.
Editor’s Note: Below is a press release by the Biogerontology Research Foundation which features a roadmap to enhance radioresistance for space exploration and colonization, published by an international team of scientists from NASA, Health Canada, Canadian Nuclear Laboratories and many other organizations. This press release was originally published here.
~ Dinorah Delfin, Director of Admissions and Public Relations, U.S. Transhumanist Party, February 22, 2018
An international team of researchers from NASA Ames Research Center, Environmental and Radiation Health Sciences Directorate at Health Canada, Oxford University, Canadian Nuclear Laboratories, Belgian Nuclear Research Centre, Insilico Medicine, the Biogerontology Research Center, Boston University, Johns Hopkins University, University of Lethbridge, Ghent University, Center for Healthy Aging, and many others have published a roadmap toward enhancing human radioresistance for space exploration and colonization in the peer-reviewed journal Oncotarget.
“Our recent manuscript provides a comprehensive review of radioresistance for space radiation. Currently there is minimal research being done for radioresistance against HZE irradiation. The importance of these types of studies will be to reduce the associated health risks for long-term space exploration and allow for the development of potential countermeasures against space radiation. In addition, the synergy between understanding aging with radioresistance will allow for further benefits for humans in long-term space missions and allow for reduced health risk. This review sets the stage for the potential research the scientific community can do to allow for safe long term space exploration” said Afshin Beheshti, an author of the paper and a Bioinformatician at NASA Ames Research Center.
The roadmap outlines future research directions toward the goal of enhancing human radioresistance, including upregulation of endogenous repair and radioprotective mechanisms, possible leeways into gene therapy in order to enhance radioresistance via the translation of exogenous and engineered DNA repair and radioprotective mechanisms, the substitution of organic molecules with fortified isoforms, the coordination of regenerative and ablative technologies, and methods of slowing metabolic activity while preserving cognitive function. The paper concludes by presenting the known associations between radioresistance and longevity, and articulating the position that enhancing human radioresistance is likely to extend the healthspan of human spacefarers as well.
“This paper explores the foreseeable means by which human radioresistance could be biomedically enhanced for the purposes of space exploration and colonization. It also aims to elucidate the links between aging, longevity and radioresistance, and the ways in which research into enhancing human radioresistance could synergistically enable human healthspan extension, ultimately highlighting how ongoing research into the very well-funded sphere of aerospace research could galvanize progress in biomedical gerontology, a massively under-funded area of research despite the grave economic burden posed by demographic aging” said Franco Cortese, an author of the paper and Deputy Director of the Biogerontology Research Foundation.
The publication of the paper in Oncotarget this week is timely, given the test launch of the Falcon Heavy, SpaceX’s largest rocket to date, just last week. Interest into space exploration and even colonisation has been mounting for a number of years. Less than one year ago Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX, unveiled a roadmap toward colonizing Mars, outlining the ambitious goal of placing a million people on Mars within the next 40 to 100 years. If interest in space colonization continues apace, research into methods of enhancing radioresistance to protect against the various forms of space radiation that spacefarers would be subjected to needs to be accelerated accordingly.
“In linking ageing and radioresistance and tying together research into enhancing the radioresistance of astronauts with the extension of healthy longevity, we hope to have shown how aerospace research could be used to leapfrog the massive funding deficit surrounding the clinical translation of healthspan-extending interventions, in order to brave the storm of the oncoming Silver Tsunami and prevent the looming economic crisis posed by demographic aging” said Dmitry Kaminskiy, an author of the paper and Managing Trustee of the Biogerontology Research Foundation.
The roadmap highlights the need to converge and accelerate research in radiobiology, biogerontology and AI to enable spacefarers to address both the healthcare challenges that we are already aware of, as well as those that we are not.
“Sooner or later we’ll have to do it – leave Earth and wander into deep space. Such travel, taking one or more years outside the Earth’s magnetosphere, would take a high toll on astronauts’ health due to exposure to cosmic radiation. So it’s better to start thinking now about how we are going to cope with that challenge. Luckily, current knowledge from such fields as radiobiology, aging research and biotechnology in general, with the wealth of recent advances in gene editing and regenerative medicine, allow for the drafting of conceptual roadmaps to enhance human resistance to cosmic radiation. This is exactly what this work is all about. It was fun and a pleasure to partake in this theoretical project with such a diverse international team. We were just throwing ideas on the table, some being quite ambitious and futuristic, and then examining them carefully for feasibility and assessing their potential. The work laid out several interesting directions and concepts that can eventually pay off. Last but not least, I think it is also very important to attract widespread attention and interest to this topic” said Dmitry Klokov, an author of the paper and Section Head of the Radiobiology & Health section at Canadian Nuclear Laboratories.
Furthermore, given the massive amount of funding allocated to research into facilitating and optimizing space exploration and optimization, the researchers hope to have shown how research into enhancing radioresistance for space exploration could galvanize progress in human healthspan extension, an area of research that is still massively underfunded despite its potential to prevent the massive economic burden posed by the future healthcare costs associated with demographic aging.
“This roadmap sets the stage for enhancing human biology beyond our natural limits in ways that will confer not only longevity and disease resistance but will be essential for future space exploration” said João Pedro de Magalhães, an author of the paper and a Trustee of the Biogerontology Research Foundation.
The paper, entitled “Vive la radiorésistance!: converging research in radiobiology and biogerontology to enhance human radioresistance for deep space exploration and colonization”, can be viewed on Oncotarget here.
Citation: Franco Cortese, Dmitry Klokov, Andreyan Osipov, Jakub Stefaniak, Alexey Moskalev, Jane Schastnaya, Charles Cantor, Alexander Aliper, Polina Mamoshina, Igor Ushakov, Alex Sapetsky, Quentin Vanhaelen, Irina Alchinova, Mikhail Karganov, Olga Kovalchuk, Ruth Wilkins, Andrey Shtemberg, Marjan Moreels, Sarah Baatout, Evgeny Izumchenko, João Pedro de Magalhães, Artem V. Artemov, Sylvain V. Costes, Afshin Beheshti, Xiao Wen Mao, Michael J. Pecaut, Dmitry Kaminskiy, Ivan V. Ozerov, Morten Scheibye-Knudsen and Alex Zhavoronkov. Vive la radiorésistance!: converging research in radiobiology and biogerontology to enhance human radioresistance for deep space exploration and colonization, Epub ahead of print. Published online 2018 February 09. doi: 10.18632/oncotarget.24461
About the Biogerontology Research Foundation:
The Biogerontology Research Foundation is a UK non-profit research foundation and public policy center seeking to fill a gap within the research community, whereby the current scientific understanding of the ageing process is not yet being sufficiently exploited to produce effective medical interventions. The BGRF funds and conducts research which, building on the body of knowledge about how ageing happens, aims to develop biotechnological interventions to remediate the molecular and cellular deficits which accumulate with age and which underlie the ill-health of old age. Addressing ageing damage at this most fundamental level will provide an important opportunity to produce the effective, lasting treatments for the diseases and disabilities of ageing, required to improve quality of life in the elderly. The BGRF seeks to use the entire scope of modern biotechnology to attack the changes that take place in the course of ageing, and to address not just the symptoms of age-related diseases but also the mechanisms of those diseases.
Left-click on the image for a fuller view. You can also download this painting (4846 by 7000 pixels) here.
Tranquil and contemplative, this painting of an alien moon seascape by Ekaterinya Vladinakova evokes worlds that humans could one day discover or create through terraforming. The vivid colors and stunning imagery of Vladinakova’s work inspire us to strive toward a future where the exploration of these worlds could become a reality.
Editor’s Note: In this video U.S. Transhumanist Party member Adeel Khan offers his thoughts regarding how settlements on Mars and other planets without atmospheres could be constructed in a resilient manner, using R. Buckminster Fuller’s geodesic-dome concept. The U.S. Transhumanist Party encourages its members to think creatively about future applications of technology and how they might improve the human condition and expand our species’ reach, including onto other worlds. Mr. Khan’s video is being shared as an example of the scientifically informed and imaginative approach needed to bring such technological applications to fruition.
~ Gennady Stolyarov II, Chairman, U.S. Transhumanist Party, November 1, 2017
Read Mr. Khan’s companion article to this video, “The Seven Stages of Space Exploration and Colonization“.
Adeel Khan is the founder of Experiant Labs, an information technology company that focuses on enabling art and expression through technology.