"'Cause it's next. For we came out of the cave, and we looked over the hill, and we saw fire. And we crossed the ocean, and we pioneered the West, and we took to the sky. The history of man is hung on the timeline of exploration, and this is what's next."
I personally don't care that these billionaires are spending their money on vacations to orbit. It's how we get to the moon and Mars and how we survive as a species. It's what's next.
Musk, for all his flaws, started an actual rocket company with new and frankly insane tech.
Bezos and especially Branson's ventures feel much more like personal vanity projects than something that will actually push space exploration.
I mean Blue Origin has been running for 20 years and the best we have from them is flights that were accomplished in the Cold War?
SpaceX has been around for two years less and has accomplished orbital missions. Lumping them all together feels like we're giving out participation trophies.
I'm not sure why people feel this need to draw this weird line in the sand and say that SpaceX is okay because Musk built a business, but Blue Origin and Virgin are bad because... reasons?
Technology advances for all sorts of reasons. Lamborghinis exist because a farmer was pissed at Ferrari. Motorolla made the first cellphone to steal the thunder from AT&T. Hell, the first space race back in the 60s was basically done to flex on the USSR.
If this is all a massive dick measuring contest, I honestly couldn't care less. It's advancing space exploration and providing competition in the space. Even Bezos and Branson stopped right now, they've still proven that it's possible for a company other than SpaceX to put a man in orbit and dumped billions of dollars back into the economy.
When I hear people complain about this being a vanity project like that somehow taints the accomplishment, all I can think about is a particularly on the nose quote from the TV show Community. "Who cares if Troy thinks he's all that? Maybe he is. You think astronauts go to the moon because they hate oxygen? No, they're trying to impress their high school's prom king."
Even Bezos and Branson stopped right now, they've still proven that it's possible for a company other than SpaceX to put a man in orbit and dumped billions of dollars back into the economy.
That's not to say that neither is impressive. They are definitely impressive. But they're also just carnival rides for Billionaires, and that's what gets on peoples nerves.
Since you've edited your post, I'll respond to the rest.
> But they're also just carnival rides for Billionaires, and that's what gets on peoples nerves.
If Bezos or Branson had sent someone else up in their place, does that really change anything?
Sure, it's expensive and only the super wealthy can afford to go into space right now, but there are plenty of technologies in our past that only the wealthy could afford at first, but as time went on, they became more affordable.
Orbit is a little bit of upwards velocity and a whole lot of sideways velocity. They only did the much simpler former.
These sub orbital flights are just barely over the line into what can be called space travel, and do nothing useful except letting them brag that 'they went to space'
The delta-v differential between sub-orbital and orbital is tremendous, though.
At least cheaper than going to actual space and longer than using parabolic flights in planes.
Well, ICBMs are very useful, and only require sub-orbital velocities, though I don't necessarily want Bezos or Branson to get those.
ICBMs can be converted to carry a human in a tin-can on top into space, if you happen to find yourself in a space-race.
Some of the space launchers today either started life as an ICBM turned dedicated launch vehicle (Proton) or are decommissioned ICBMs turned launch vehicles (Minotaur)
I think the deltaV's needed to place a warhead on the surface are significantly less than those needed to put a satellite into low-earth orbit.
The other nuclear powers did not like it and it was scrapped. Not to mention that even if you might get the first shot this way, there will almost certainly be retaliatory strikes back on you.
And I think if they'd sent up other billionaires instead, it would have made no difference. The truth is that a lot of people are hurting badly, and to watch others do extravagant things that don't make a difference for the bettering of humanity now just pours salt on the 'wound' of poverty. For many people, it's visible proof of the gaps getting wider and wider.
I hear you there, but I don't understand why Musk gets a free pass then? He's just as rich as Bezos and just as out of touch with what the needs of average American.
I don't think any of the three are bad, but I do think there is a gradient in terms of ambitions/successes that puts Musk well ahead of Bezos (at least until New Glen launches) and Bezo ahead of Branson.
While Bezos/Branson's priorities seems slightly backwards to me, it isn't wholey unreasonable to take that stance that making spaceflight available to more people will increase the level of interest in spaceflight (even if the timing seems a bit tone deaf for that goal.)
Suborbital flight only requires 3,700 mph (6,000 km/h)
Highly recommend playing kerbal space program if you'd like to get a better intuitive understanding of the difference: suborbital flights are your second or third attempt - pretty easy, orbital flight will probably take you a dozen flights or so to figure out.
The only thing it may make cheaper is suborbital flights, which are essentially useless. You can't even launch satellites that low. So there's essentially no practical purpose for their tech, and their companies, besides bragging rights for rich guys.
A lousy metaphor we could use here is that in a world of automobiles, Bezos and especially Branson decided to research horses. It's not a very good metaphor - maybe a better one is someone trying a new entrant in the floppy disk category in 2021. Much like "Zip Drives" were able to make contemporarily larger floppy drives in their day (100mb instead of 1.3mb), you likely could make very good "modern" floppies in 2021, measuring in hundreds of gb, but they would still possess the fundamental flaws of the medium (being so easy to damage), and you simply couldn't get away from that. We abandoned it as a technological dead end for a reason.
They achieved something we already have the tech to do; the only thing that's special is that they paid for it all by themselves.
Musk, on the other hand, has two feathers in his cap - the first is that they're working on tech that's already fundamentally useful and "has room to grow" in incremental improvement. Getting to orbit is fundamentally useful (it's the tipping point where you can start to do satellites, and even extra-terrestrial trips); and pouring R&D into making that cheaper is very helpful for humanity.
The other feather he's got in his cap is that the company he founded didn't just do some piddly "incremental improvements" that shaved a little bit off the cost of launch. We'd all be cheering if they'd shaved, oh, 10% of the cost away. That would be really good for humanity.
They went so far above and beyond that it's absolutely daffy duck. They won the lottery. They didn't roll a natural 20; they rolled a d20 and the dice face on top said "50 million".
They invented reusable rockets - which everyone, including all the government space agencies, had written off as permanently impractical. The cost comparisons are just nuts — The cost of a space shuttle launch is something like 0.5-1.5 billion dollars. A similar launch from space x is something like, pessimistically, a few hundred thousand. It's like FIVE ORDERS OF MAGNITUDE. This is my first "allcaps" on HN, but it needs the emphasis. The thing that Musk's company (really; folks like Gwynne Shotwell deserve core credit here) did was a quantum leap that honestly - nobody else might have had the political capital to do. We might have gotten this a century earlier than an alternate timeline without him precisely because of the stupidity of "allocation of funding" - there's no practical reason why a government agency couldn't have done this; it's all social dynamics and groupthink.
It singlehandedly makes a lot of crazy, impractical things (like solar panels in space to solve terrestrial power problems) tip from pure fantasy into "gosh, maybe we could actually do this?" He's already rolling out Starlink, but there are an awful lot of really helpful things for real, contemporary problems on earth that "cheap space launches" could solve.
"One of these is not like the others."
Sending rockets to space is still very prone to failures.
Failure rates for unmanned rockets where lower 40 years ago than they are now if you look at the trailing 10 year failure rates. Around 1 in 20 unmanned mission fails.
Failures for manned missions are less frequent, however noone can guarantee you, that the rate is lower than 1%.
Do you have sources that indicate fabrication has not started?
I believe I was recalling another video tour, probably from last year, where they said "And this is where the assembled rockets will be stored" and the factory floor was empty. It's pretty cool that they've made so much progress since then!
It is true that reaching orbit is much more difficult than reach space but Branson has another company called Virgin Orbit that did reach orbit.
From https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virgin_Orbit :
> The first successful flight was on 17 January 2021, which delivered a payload of 10 CubeSats to low Earth orbit (LEO)
It uses an unusual strategy. A boeing 747 carries the rocket under its left wing. So, it does not need a spaceport and can can be pre-aligned on any orbit.
Bezos is also trying hard to reach orbit with the New Glenn space rocket. But this one had a lot of delays.
As for the founders. Meh. They're circus show men, but at least Musk comes from an engineering back ground, I guess? But the difference in mission is important.
That's kind of a silly argument in my mind. Tesla started out making electric sports cars that cost $100,000+ each. Just because a company focuses on high margin products for the super rich when they are starting off, doesn't mean they aren't making significant technological progress that can benefit the world.
> In keeping with a fast growing technology company, all free cash flow is plowed back into R&D to drive down the costs and bring the follow on products to market as fast as possible. When someone buys the Tesla Roadster sports car, they are actually helping pay for development of the low cost family car.
Not only was that the plan in 2006, you'd expect them to lose a bit of money as long as they have available funds, in order to get to mass production faster.
Yeah, the reality is that the big car manufacturers are going to be the ones to commoditize it because they are experts in commoditization and manufacturing processes that Tesla still struggles with today. That may have even happened without Tesla. But I am confident that Tesla has accelerated the adoption of EV and I think it's fair to say that in this sense, yes, Musk absolutely is "bringing EVs to the masses."
This is the crux of your argument, and it's the core disagreement. Blue origin does nothing to advance space exploration just by virtue of existing. They are not competitive.
> you can't employ that many people and spend that much money without advancing the industry.
I'm (jokingly) saying I definitely could.
I don't have a position one way or the other, it just sounded like you were missing the argument of the post you responded to.
And how did they do that? By wasting earthly resources and real human lives on pointless rocket launches.
The disgusting part isn't that they are going to space. The disgusting part is that ONLY they get to go to space. They are pushing the worst conditions here on earth (forcing shit hours and trash work conditions) so that they can go fly in a rocket.
I mean I get it that it seems extravagant, but if you just think about it as another test launch that they risked their lives to ride along with, it’s less troubling.
It's because they know exactly what it really means if they cut SpaceX off at the knees and include them. It reveals what they're really saying they want to do. And that's just too far in polite company.
With Blue Origin they think they can chop them down and use them as an example and it's ok, because it doesn't imply a desire to return to the stone age and the crushing of technological progress. Blue Origin is a convenient example in other words, for now. If they use SpaceX, it would go too far in making them look like a luddite, lusting to dial back centuries of progress.
They apparently think it's possible to preordain from the word go which company will be the successful one. It's a product of centrally planned thinking, centrally planned fantasy. Such that it was okay for Musk to be doing what he was with his great wealth back when he had $100 million, and not if he crossed some arbitrary wealth line. It was ok for SpaceX to fail over and over and over again, and to burn through a large sum of money trying to get the Falcon 9 flying. It's just not ok for anybody else to fail trying. It's ok to take N time to succeed at $N money, but not ok if it takes more time and more money. Funny little needle the central planners want threaded.
When Bezos had $20 billion, nobody cared much about him. You'd very rarely see his name eg on Reddit or HN or Imgur or anywhere else outside of the business press. He'd occasionally pop up on HN in an Amazon story, it was rare though. Few people actually knew his name or who he was. That's ~2012, he had been a billionaire for about 14 years by that point and had been working on Blue Origin for around 12 years. So now he's worth $200 billion, everybody knows his name, zillions of people apparently hate him, people post vicious shit about him 24/7. They're all lying. They don't know Bezos anymore today than they did in 2012, what they know is his name is at the top of the rich list now, and the mob loves nothing more than to chop people down. The exact same thing happened to Gates once he took the rich list title.
What you're witnessing is mimic-based mob behavior in action. That's why it's so irrational, so emotional, so very much not thought-out. It's very predictable, most people that join in likely struggle to control their urge to mimic and join the rage mobs, and it goes after anybody that pops their head up too far. It's what social media is largely filled with today, ignorance and rage mobs. It's probably genetically wired in behavior for some people and then amplified depending on the culture and context.
You had an agenda and a point to make. You likely were going to get your anger across no matter what evidence you had to use.
I’m pretty sure at least half the people on HN knew who Jeff Bezos was a decade ago. That’s like saying people on HN don’t know who Jack Dorsey is. Sure he’s not going to be known by name to the average person but that’s not what HN’s crowd is
Is your point against society at large, who don’t fit in with defending Musk and attacking other space billionaires because they don’t really care or know what’s up. Or HNers who as said above, don’t work with what you’re saying.
> What you're witnessing is mimic-based mob behavior in action. That's why it's so irrational, so emotional, so very much not thought-out. It's very predictable, most people that join in likely struggle to control their urge to mimic and join the rage mobs, and it goes after anybody that pops their head up too far. It's what social media is largely filled with today, ignorance and rage mobs. It's probably genetically wired in behavior for some people and then amplified depending on the culture and context.
The vibe given off thru the post and ending with this is hard to distinguish from trolling or inebriated anger posting. Sounds like an exaggerated smartest person in the room take - Vs the rest of us sheep proletariats being too stupid to know right from left.
In defense of Branson his other space company Virgin Orbit now does orbital launches also, and has cool capabilities that genuinely differentiate it from other providers. We'll see if Bezos catches up, he's personally focusing on it more now and may make faster progress on New Glenn etc.
A public space race of billionaires is exactly the kind of thing we should all be hoping for. They can leverage their relatively small funding to push much larger government funding in productive directions. They're better than most government administrators and don't have as many constraints, so they can take more risks and pay experts what they're worth on the open market.
The public should be calling for more of this kind of thing across all major areas of civilization. Let's get a public race among billionaires for curing cancer, HIV, and poverty.
If it feeds their egos, all the better. Almost all progress is connected to selfish goals, even among the greatest and most "pure" scientists. They want to win a Nobel, for the money and the recognition. Or they're doing science because it's just extremely pleasurable for them, which is not a selfless reason at all. The sooner people realize that base motivations aren't a sin the better we'll all be. And in reality, motivations are always a mix of (mostly) selfish and selfless reasons.
Motivations aren't what matters. What matters is making progress that can (eventually!) benefit everyone.
Imagine thinking that having to beg fief lords for what should be yours by right is a good thing...
The fact is that governments already spend far more than billionaires are able to spend and are relatively ineffective. No one has ever suggested they stop doing their part. Billionaires lending their expertise and money is not a substitute for government work, it's just a proven accelerant.
See Bill Gates' work in Africa for an example. He has leveraged his fortune to help find effective opportunities for his money and government money. He has has saved millions of lives that no government would have otherwise saved, even if he had donated all of his money to the U.S. treasury.
The end state of these things is still government provided utilities: space equivalents to roads and busses
The main benefit of billionaires doing this is that republicans love giving as tax money to rich people, so it can actually be funded, and the funding is what really decides whether a thing will be done
There's a reason capitalist-America has led technological progress for 100+ years. The USSR had almost purely governmental funding and their administrators were almost universally terrible at genuine innovation.
> Sarah Scaife's causes were family planning, the poor and the disabled, hospitals, environmental causes and various good works in and around Pittsburgh. Her most famous gifts, in the late 1940s, were to the University of Pittsburgh – $35,000 to equip a virus research lab. In that lab, Jonas Salk discovered his polio vaccine.
I'd rather see them paying fair wages and taxes. It's hugely inappropriate that they make billions while their workers struggle to pay rent.
It's only possible, because those poor people are too worked out to protest and do something about effectively being slaves.
These rockets seem more like modern day pyramids, only difference is that they will not last 3000 years.
Unless you're in the "billionaires must not exist" camp, which we could argue about, they'll still be very rich, given the scale and success of their businesses. A net worth of $50 billion vs $150 billion doesn't change all that much, for the U.S. treasury or Bezos.
> It's hugely inappropriate that they make billions while their workers struggle to pay rent.
There are many thousands of Amazon workers making six figure salaries. Thousands that making millions per year. These people are not struggling to pay rent. Amazon has also saved millions of low income people money through their services, not to mention the billions of taxes generated by their businesses. They're not some purely predatory business, like cigarette and alcohol companies. Billions of people benefit from Amazon.com and AWS-powered services every day of their lives.
The fact that low skilled jobs pay crap is in no way unique to Amazon, they just happen to employ more than any other single organization.
I'm fully onboard for a UBI policy in the US and I doubt Bezos or Musk would object for reasons of greed. The caricature of these guys being extremely greedy is fairly ignorant. Greediness is not what made them so rich.
> These rockets seem more like modern day pyramids, only difference is that they will not last 3000 years.
There's some other major differences, like they can actually make humanity space-faring, multi-planetary, provide world-wide high speed internet to poor villages, move toxic industries off-world, etc.
Even the pyramids were not all bad, although the best you can say about them is that they were jobs programs, and a better use of human resources than fighting useless wars.
They should be okay with $10 million. Average worker will never be able to accumulate even $1 million during their lifetime.
> There are many thousands of Amazon workers making six figure salaries.
Amazon has 1,298,000 workers. The 1% you are referring to, does not make Amazon a good company. Furthermore, given how much money Bezos was able to skim, the six figures are still laughable.
> The fact that low skilled jobs pay crap is in no way unique to Amazon
Yes, because we don't have proper regulation - like making sure highest pay is no more than 10x of lowest pay or linking minimum wage to company global revenue (with a minimum threshold).
> and I doubt Bezos or Musk would object for reasons of greed.
They would object, because people on UBI wouldn't have to work in their sweatshops.
> like they can actually make humanity space-faring,
Corporations are not motivated by humanity
> provide world-wide high speed internet to poor villages
To help with surveillance, data mining and control.
> move toxic industries off-world, etc.
Only if it is profitable. More likely they would move banking off-world to shield themselves from paying taxes.
Like this?: https://kstp.com/kstpImages/repository/2021-07/richard-brans...
I honestly don't think it's something bad to praise when only a handful of organizations have ever done it.  Thousands of people have climbed Everest, but it is still a commendable achievement.
> Blue Origin has been running for 20 years and the best we have from them is flights that were accomplished in the Cold War?
Plenty of other nation-states have been working on spaceflight longer than that and accomplished less.
You mean "countries", right, or are you trying to make some point about nationalism?
They would report to but be independent of government ministers, and likely span multiple governments.
'State' is what was meant. (Country, nation, fine; bit less accurate perhaps? But I wouldn't have batted an eyelid.)
Spaceplanes are also interesting tech. Maybe not the best choice for earth but could prove useful on other planets with different atmospheres.
In 1963 the reusable X-15 broke the same 330,000f (100km) barrier at 353,200 ft using a nearly identical approach, 3 aircraft 199 flights, zero crashes. Blue Origin only nominally beat that at 367,490 ft, but was optimized for altitude rather than extreme speeds of the X-15 @ Mach 6.7.
Blue Origin is an awesome amusement park ride, but not particularly interesting in terms of space exploration. Air launched anti satellite weapons for example are actually the most common approach. The main issue with air launching is scaling problems as you need to support the weight in multiple directions.
"On 15 November 1967, U.S. Air Force test pilot Major Michael J. Adams was killed during X-15 Flight 191 when X-15-3, AF Ser. No. 56-6672, entered a hypersonic spin while descending, then oscillated violently as aerodynamic forces increased after re-entry."
What blue origin is doing is vastly simpler.
1. Building a rocket company
2. Being a billionaire
3. Going on a flight on a rocket your company built
The issue stems from how the optics of these 3 lumped together appears to the masses.
To the people who are struggling everyday to make a living, it says: "Hey look at how much of a baller I am, I just went to space and you didn't"
Obviously, investing many personnel hours, pain and billions of dollars into a venture just for a "personal vanity project" is absurd and key driver behind these ventures is probably a desire to build the future.
However, most people don't have the luxury to worry about building the future when they're living paycheck to paycheck.
It is difficult to explain how the pie grows and everyone is better off (even if the inventors are the best off) as we invest in technology. The only solution to prevent public backlash to innovation is to make everyone well off enough to want to invest in building the future (and better PR, Jeff Bezos shame on you).
If a person has a billion dollars it does not exist in a vacuum. It interacts heavily within the economy in which it exists and more importantly with the people who participate in that economy.
Think for example the amount of people employed to do work in order to service a billionaire. A vast estate requires 24 hour staff, a sports car fleet requires thousands upon thousands hours of labor to produce. The logistics of a private jet demands a lot of effort from a lot of people. In order to service a single individual we require, in aggregate, countless of human lives spent toiling.
I am not arguing that the effect of increased economic activity and employment are not desirable. And one can make a decent case that a billionaire's time is incredibly valuable which to an extent may justify spending larger resources in service to this lifestyle. I just think the idea of many humans spending their lives in order to satisfy a single human is absurd no matter which societal model organizes this arrangement.
It can be argued that the people who service the billionaire are better off having found employment within or in relation to someones billion dollar estate. Though I think it is even easier to argue that we can find many hypothetical arrangements that are far more just and moral for these people.
There is also an argument to be made about the large amounts of undemocratic power that a billion dollar in private wealth entails. If the billionaire holds majority stakes within prominent industries we are delegating important decisions to opaque power with unknown agendas that we can not hope to influence in meaningful ways. As I firmly believe that a moral society is actively democratic this feels deeply wrong.
With that said, I do not have any good quick fixes. Because the reasons I outlined I feel that the presence of billionaires reveal that human society has yet to reach its moral potential. I have no illusions that reaching that goal will be either a simple or fast process. I prefer billionaires to having a nobility class. Though I hope that we as a species recognize that deeply inequitable social arrangements is something we want to move away from.
First, you seem to conflate being a billionaire with conspicuous spending or otherwise inefficient use of their capital. Once again this is a generalization and many billionaires don’t have these sports cars and estates that you describe.
Secondly, you state “I just think the idea of many humans spending their lives in order to satisfy a single human is absurd”. This seems extremely blind considering that your iPhone was probably made the same way, and the food you get at the restaurant and literally anything you pay for. Countless humans have toiled to sustain your life too.
You also state that “If the billionaire holds majority stakes within prominent industries we are delegating important decisions to opaque power with unknown agendas that we can not hope to influence in meaningful ways.”. Yea it’s a risk, but it’s absurd to say with complete certainty that all billionaires use their power to influence the world in nefarious ways. What if they use it in moral ways that benefit us all? Does that make the billionaire a better person than the rest?
There is nothing to be fixed here. Your sense of deep equity is a feeling that’s born out of some kind of primal sense of fairness. In reality, there is nothing inherently amoral about billionaires.
Try applying all the arguments you have above from the perspective of someone with lesser means than you, with your relatively wealthy position being that of the billionaire.
Do you benefit from the labor of others? Check.
Do you have more influence on the society than the other person? Probably, check.
Somehow these add up to you being an immoral person. It’s pretty absurd bro.
>First, you seem to conflate being a billionaire with conspicuous spending or otherwise inefficient use of their capital. Once again this is a generalization and many billionaires don’t have these sports cars and estates that you describe.
Of course there might be some modest billionaires that lead relatively normal lives. Obviously my arguments do not apply to billionaires that sit idly in their wealth. I could try to make a different case for why that is an issue but I do not have major moral quarrels with that type of individual and have no interest in picking this fight. Though I assume you agree with me that this type of billionaire is a rare one.
>Secondly, you state “I just think the idea of many humans spending their lives in order to satisfy a single human is absurd”...
Excellent point and I can not stress enough how much I agree with you. To be clear, I am not arguing that the principle of the division of labor is bad. Obviously some people need to be software developers and other line cooks. But I am deeply bothered by the fact that I will average 40 hour weeks affording me a great deal more leisure than the person who assembled my laptop, farmed the bananas I eat and sewed the shirts I wear.
This does not mean that the solution is for me to live in the forest and sustain myself on berries. I recognize that this inequity is the result of different economies being in different stages of industrialization. My participation in the global economy will most likely help rather than hurt countries in earlier stages of development. I expect my global peers to join me in a relatively painless and happy life full of leisure as developing countries reach a more mature economic stage. If you tell me that this will never happen and this inequity is permanent, I might have to seriously re-examine my personal moral beliefs.
I have the same attitude towards billionaires. I recognize the historical trajectory that brought them here and for the cheap access to information and technology enabled by the industries that minted the latest set of tech billionaires I consider the deal to be quite good. I can still hold the belief that its morally wrong to have a billionaire class while not advocating for violently dismantling the current societal structure. I want society to become more equitable but I think the more realistic time-frame is in the span of hundreds of years, just as most social progress over the last millenia.
>You also state that “If the billionaire holds majority stakes within prominent industries we are delegating important decisions to opaque power with unknown agendas that we can not hope to influence in meaningful ways.”...
Good point. It can be argued we are better off due to undemocratic decision taken by key industry leaders. By democratizing every decision growth would likely be stifled. But there are middle-grounds. I for example would like some democratic influence over google without necessarily nationalizing it or forcing it into a co-op. Google is the de facto information aggregator for the half the worlds population that has internet access. This is a good thing and is due to decisions by democratically unchecked business leaders. However, its model for delivering information is highly incentivized to maximize ad revenue rather than providing the highest quality information. Philosophically, I believe that when something becomes ubiquitous to a large group of people, those people should have a say in that thing. I think a more democratic google is a moral necessity here which will likely be in detriment to the profit incentives of the shareholders. What this entails in practice is something we could probably argue about for a long time. (I understand that Pichai is not a founder nor a single majority holder of google and barely a billionaire. I choose google to highlight the drawbacks and advantages of democratic vs undemocratic power. Our discussion is about billionaires and not corporate decision making though I hope you can see how my reasoning would apply to undemocratic yet helpful decisions made by billionaires. )
Finally, I would like to state that my desired end goal is not complete 100% mathematically verified equality in all measures. I'm not a Pol Pot-esque collectivist who does not believe in the individual or individual differences. I actually believe a degree of inequity to be necessary for a dynamic society. A billionaire is a different beast than a multi-millionaire. I'm not advocating for a revolution to topple the billionaires. I'm advocating for a conversation about how extreme wealth might undermine the health of our society.
Branson is more likable but does seem like he's just trying to defend his title of being the eccentric billionaire, rather than thinking too hard about the future.
I thought that too, but apparently the BE-4 engine uses LNG :/
Isn't is an amazing coincidence that Elon was able to find so many rocket engineers with ideas just as NASA was being starved of funding? Just lucky I guess! anotherwinformilos.gif
SpaceX is a privatization that enjoys plenty of easy funding from the government, it's just that spaceflight staff aren't paid via the federal HR department anymore.
Frankly, I don't see the benefit of Elon getting any of my tax dollars.
Blue Origin's is reusable. That's a huge difference.
C'mon. Blue Origin has a proper rocket, it seems very capable. They even land the booster like SpaceX does. To be unimpressed with their achievements seems like sour grapes.
Carlin says something similar to what I was going to say, but he's better at saying it.
" The phrase sour grapes does not refer to jealousy or envy. Nor is it related to being a sore loser. It deals with the rationalization of failure to attain a desired end. In the original fable by Aesop, "The Fox and the Grapes," when the fox realizes he cannot leap high enough to reach the grapes, he rationalizes that even if he had gotten them, they would probably have been sour anyway. Rationalization, that’s all sour grapes means. It doesn’t mean deal with jealousy or sore losing. Yeah, I know you say, "Well many people are using it that way, so the meaning is changing." And I say, "Well many people are really fuckin’ stupid too, shall we just adopt all their standards?" " 
- George Carlin
Blue origin landed it's first rocket in 2005. It was a tiny rocket and a tiny flight and purely for testing.
SpaceX landed it's first rocket in 2015. It was an orbital flight delivering real value.
Would it have made sense for SpaceX to stop because blue origin already flew a reusable rocket?
Also, since SpaceX did it already, in less time, should others just close the shop and not try to do the same?
And if they didn't get government contracts, then where would they be right now? If those contracts had landed in the lap of other companies, maybe they'd be the more successful ones?
I’d be interested to see more progress made toward long term space habitats. You don’t need reusable rockets when you don’t plan on coming back anytime soon.
"I'll encourage journalists to say nice things by letting them believe there's a chance they'll become insanely rich if they do."
... Such a cynical move.
He deserves ostracism rather than recognition.
there's nothing that spacex has done that's "new tech". VTVL rockets were worked out in the 60s and the 90s
spacex does a good job of making it seem like what they're doing is new, though.
I also believe that Blue Origin had VTVL working before space-X
in the early 2000s there were one or two other scale VTVL projects that were working, I can't find info on them now.
also Masten: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A5b9LnzjGgU
I find it extremely weird that people are banking on a (almost literal) moonshot for the survival of our species. Isn't trying to stop/lessen the damage we're doing to the place we currently live and which can sustain us better and more optimistic proposition than hoping a metric shitton of things go perfectly after probably millions of man-hours and trillions of dollars in order for a privileged few to go live on Mars in underground settlements with artificial everything to sustain life there? Ffs, all the rocket tests create enormous amounts of CO2 emissions, among other things, actively helping to make the Earth less habitable.
I think that's the gripe. We all wish to ensure our long-term survival, but worrying about becoming a multi-planetary species today —as we're polluting the earth at an unsustainable rate, as we're still fighting wars, as we loose millions a year to disease and as the possibility of higher education remains a privilege for few— sounds like making the wrong investment.
It's not the wrong investment. It's a different investment.
Other billionaires are working on some of the problems on your list, too, if that makes you feel better. The most prominent one being Bill Gates. He's working on the "we lose millions a year to disease" portion of your list. Do you hate on Bill Gates because he isn't solving world peace ("fighting wars" on your list)?
Space dominance is a multi-generational thing. It's something that will take a LONG time to figure out and perfect. If in 150 years we see an unavoidable rock hurling towards earth, there won't be time to figure out how to keep our species alive. We need to push forward now to have a chance.
Relying on the goodwill of billionaires is a problem.
>We need to push forward now to have a chance.
We need to get our house in order now to have a chance. I don't know how that isn't obvious.
Focusing on one thing solely doesn't necessarily make it even faster to solve due to diminishing returns.
You can argue against any action, any person does that you should be helping the poor and hungry instead --- or build sustainable energy. Are you constantly helping the poor, diseased and the hungry? 24/7 of your time?
Isn't that part of my point? You're expecting billionaires to spend their money on what you think is most important. I'm not.
For example would you divert Elon Musk to start solving one of the problems you mentioned and still do that with similar passion? Would you expect that to help the situation?
And also this type of investment is diversification.
But I agree that it's important to make planetary colonization a priority now rather than waiting. We can -- and should -- develop the technology and expertise needed to build a settlement on Mars while simultaneously trying to arrest and reverse some of the damage we've done to Earth. The latter is unfortunately largely a political process, not as much a technological and scientific one, so it will take a lot more time and effort than it should.
I do believe, however, that it will be at least a couple hundred years before a colony on Mars will not only be self-sufficient, but capable of flourishing, if some extinction event were to befall Earth. That doesn't mean that we should give up or stop working on it right now, but I think the reality check is important.
Isn't the Terra-forming technology that we will have to develop to make Mars habitable, basically aligned with what we will have to learn to repair/manage our relationship with the Earth's environment?
The issue isn't "messing up life", life will be fine. The issue is that we're knocking the supports in the forms of ecosystems out from under ourselves. Not to mention the human cost, e.g. potentially hundreds of millions of refugees. The potential for war, and the possible destructiveness of war, is immense.
Besides, starting "afresh" where there are no such supports to begin with, without Earth to be supported by initially is still facing same issues, but worse. Depending on that of all things saving humankind is like hoping a child "might" save their parents from their troubles 5 minutes after being born.
> Isn't the Terra-forming technology that we will have to develop to make Mars habitable, basically aligned with what we will have to learn to repair/manage our relationship with the Earth's environment?
Here too I see it the other way around: our civilizations not collapsing in massive wars over scraps is what is needed for civil space missions to go on, and the sustainability -- materially, socially individually -- which we would need to avert that from happening is also what we would need for space colonies to both come into grasp and to not turn into the wrong end of Star Trek episodes. You know, where we're not the visiting crew, but said crew shakes their heads in horror at.
No, Mars or Venus are as hostile, more hostile probably than what would result if we screwed up the earth utterly. Radiation, lack of atmosphere, lack of sufficient gravity, lack of the resources that millions of years of life give. These aren't small problems.
Humans are extraordinarily dependent on the conditions of life on earth. That might be changeable in the long term but sending rockets into space isn't really related to such change. Extreme revolutions in biology and materials are whats needed.
It’s not extremely clear to me. Why is long term survival more important than making life better for more people? Wouldn’t it be reasonable to prefer to belong to a species that took care of it’s entire population and lived in harmony with the environment than one that avoided extinction, no matter the cost?
Also, why would space be the best way to survive an extinction event? Wouldn’t some good bunkers do the trick?
Even if we want to, it’s not safe to say people in the future will. Any truly significant impact we’d have would occur so far in the future that it isn’t safe to assume that our progeny will be recognizable to ourselves. They may have evolved significantly different values and goals.
The chances of being wiped out by a super volcano or asteroid impact over the next 500 years until we solved the sustainable energy problem and a stable ecosystem are rather small.
We might not have the option in 500 years, even if nothing big wipes us out till then, there could be less serious catastrophes destroying our ability to do spaceflight damning our descendants to inescapable destruction.
I don't think that working to towards colonization of mars and working to counteract global warming are antithetical or even orthogonal.
You need to block about 0.3% of the sunlight hitting the Earth to counteract global warming.
About 80,000 km of mylar at L1 would do it.
On Amazon, that much mylar would cost you on the order of $100B and weigh 7 million metric tons; SpaceX would charge around $40T at today's prices to lift it to orbit.
Obviously it's more complicated than that, and that solution is potentially unworkable for a variety of reasons, but that's roughly the scale of the problem.
There are all sorts of ways that the resources and energy available in space can make the scale of these challenges more feasible. I don't expect that is we will see those benefits for several decades at a minimum as we are a long way from industrializing space at the scale necessary for it to matter.
In the short term the only practical benefits we can expect to see is cheaper satellites that will help use understand how the planet is changing as it heats up.
This is different than humans polluting and crushing the whole ecosystem for it's greed. It will be better for other species if it try to reverse at least what it can instead as we are the cause. Humans are the literally the worst thing in universe. It will also be better for all species if humans die out asap.
Where's your anger when it comes to movie development, international tourism, stadium construction, the cosmetics industry, and the rest of the endless list of nonsense that is more wasteful and less beneficial than allocating a tiny proportion of Earth's resources towards rocket tech?
I hope to hear this cynical take when the next Spiderman is announced! (I'll be holding my breath, though)
I don't think people are against space exploration.
When a dude alone can finance a space program it creates two moral issues:
1. How come a guy who make people pee in bottles have enough money for this?
2. Should space exploration be privatized this way.
Of course, you can see no evil here, but that's different from caricaturing legitimate arguments.
2. Yes, definitely. Government should step in and run the show only when there's market failure.
If instead of something like capitalism we taxed people until they wouldn't have left over money to start new businesses, how would new businesses even be brought to life? How would you go about organizing group of people to work on a single goal that would not have immediate benefit and especially when a common lay person would think it's a complete waste of time? In such world where wealth was divided equally and 99% common people who don't understand the subject or potential gains many years down the line.
Would we use some sort of voting system in such a world on what we should build if that something would require 100B worth of resources to build?
I think if you managed to earn that 100B in the current system, it's evidence of your ability to use money wisely, to make something out of nothing, enough of it for it to provide more than 100B worth of value to the world, I think I would trust such person to make good decisions on next businesses and start ups as well as opposed to people collectively voting and trying to organize on what the next innovative attempt would be.
In the end worrying about him having 100B, just seems like envy out of ego rather than pragmatic thinking to me.
> In 1896, the newspapers were filled with accounts of flying machines. Wilbur and Orville noticed that all these primitive aircraft lacked suitable controls. They began to wonder how a pilot might balance an aircraft in the air, just as a cyclist balances his bicycle on the road. 
> The Wrights' serious work in aviation began in 1899 when Wilbur wrote the Smithsonian for literature. Dismayed that so many great minds had made so little progress, the brothers were also exhilarated by the realization that they had as much chance as anyone of succeeding. Wilbur took the lead in the early stages of their work to solve the problems of flight, but Orville was soon drawn in as an equal collaborator. They quickly developed their own theories and, for the next four years, devoted themselves to the goal of human flight. 
Human flight was one massive innovation born not out of "necessity", but out of the curiosity of two restlessly brilliant men seeking to make a technological breakthrough for its own sake.
Even in the link you posted, it mentioned that immediately after creating a viable flying machine, the Wright brothers approached militaries worldwide trying to sell it to them.
Basic science and pure math research do exist, and I'm sure loads of people push for advances in tech without any eye towards profit or power, but basically any real-world product or system was engineered with a specific goal in mind.
It's generally: nuclear war, asteroid strike, super volcano bioweapon/plauge and possibly malicious AI.
Malicious AI would almost certainly affect the moon or mars more heavily than earth, since on earth you can survive without high tech solutions
They do have the benefit of being air gapped, though.
There are lots of people working on that problem in parallel.
It's worth exploring multiple solutions.
Also, even if we stop damaging the Earth, the sun will damage it in a few hundred million years. We will at some point need a new home.
We have serious issues down here right now, if we don't solve them we most likely won't even last another 100 years.
Also, an extinction level event for a single planet species is a binary thing.. and there's not much you can do after it happens.
Humanity sits atop a food chain that is going extinct, right before our eyes, and it's long past time to stop hiding from it. Human life on Mars is neither feasible nor imminent. We aren't getting level 5 autonomous vehicles or AGI or androids or flying cars or time travel any time soon either. These are ideas we run to when facing the absurdity of our existence becomes too much to bear.
Why not both?
The best we can do is to create general knowledge which allow us to better combat future challenges. Climate change is a potential problem but not existential and not something we can't handle with our current technological understanding.
The idea that humans can somehow survive or progress without an impact is IMO missing the entire premise for human survival if that is in fact what you want.
While I agree climate change is not "existential" (at least not for humans, possibly for many other species and societal structures) it is definitely more than a "potential" problem.
> and not something we can't handle with our current technological understanding.
I think the degree to which our current technology is able to "handle" the amount of warming we have locked in is highly debatable and depends entirely on what you consider acceptable costs/loses in handling it.
The way we combat that is not to minimize our impact on the planet but maximize it by creating general knowledge which can be used to come up with even better solutions that we have today.
We have never been as safe from the climate as we are right now. The number of climate related deaths have plummeted the last 100% years.
This is done through the use of energy and technology which is responsible for saving many more lives than killing them. In fact most people wouldn't be around here today if it wasn't for our use of energy and impact on the planet.
So we could ask the same question back. How many current lives are those who want to stop our current impact on the planet ready to let die in return for speculative issues in the future where we would be much richer and have even better technologies to handle any issue.
I think far too many people haven't actually sat down and thought this through but are mostly caught in short term thinking while telling themselves they are telling long term.
Climate change is not existential to humanity, but it is existential to human civilization as we know it.
Human civilization has never been as robust as it is now and we have never been as safe from the climate as we are now.
Figuring out how to solve pollution on Earth is also doable with modern technology. We can terraform Earth to be more habitable as well, we could melt the antarctic icecap and colonize it. Maybe even make a new civilization there without as many problems [government/bureaucracy as we have in the rest of the world?
I mean, even if 99.99% of all humans on Earth are killed, there will be several orders of magnitude more people left on Earth than in the colony on Mars, and they will have a lot more resources to play with.
The British colonized America in 1607 and 170 years later those colonists were calling themselves "Americans" and waged war for independence. What's it going to be like when that happens on an interplanetary scale?
Once sustainability is achieved, exponential growth seems implicit (even if the base of that exponential growth is close to 1.)
Full, long term Sustainability is probably centuries away (at a bare minimum and assuming some very significant technological advancement.)
Ironically, the very technology (manufacturing, sealed stable ecological design, etc) that would allow a fully self-sufficient mars colony would also significantly reduce that set of possible civilization ending catastrophes on earth.
These billionaires made many billions on covid, while you got a 1400 dollar check so you could survive. These billionaires pay their workers minimum wage every day. People can't get toilet breaks at amazon warehouse without being harassed.
This guy is a world class parasite. There is nothing "we" about what he is doing. We are not with him. He doesn't care about any of us.
They made billions from excellent businesses on which the world relied during a time of crisis. What would people have done without the likes of Amazon and fast delivery of nearly everything?
>These billionaires pay their workers minimum wage every day.
No one makes minimum wage at Amazon.
>People can't get toilet breaks at amazon warehouse without being harassed.
Citation needed. Individuals out of a population of 1,000,000 diverse people choosing to do things is not a trend.
>He doesn't care about any of us.
I don't care about him either. It's a business transaction that benefits both parties, nothing more, nothing less.
You're building an argument atop the assumption that if Amazon didn't exist, nothing else would be available. Amazon's strategy is to spend money that no other company can spend (by forgoing profits) to be the fastest / cheapest option available. Bezos' innovation is not the "fast shipping" or "broad range of products" Amazon offers, his innovation was the foresight to understand how to dominate the market and the gumption to do it.
A single business that owns the sales and distribution of goods is one possible solution to the problem you describe, absolutely, and it's pretty clear that Amazon is doing the best job at that solution... but it's not the only solution, it's one of many.
>You're building an argument atop the assumption that if Amazon didn't exist, nothing else would be available.
I cannot be making this argument because Amazon exists and we have many other options. We also had many other options before Amazon. Despite this, Amazon became an e-commerce powerhouse. Why? I suspect it's because Amazon is by the far the best option for consumers and others are only close because they adopted many of the same guiding principles like fast free shipping and easy returns.
>Amazon's strategy is to spend money that no other company can spend (by forgoing profits) to be the fastest / cheapest option available. Bezos' innovation is not the "fast shipping" or "broad range of products" Amazon offers, his innovation was the foresight to understand how to dominate the market and the gumption to do it.
He dominated the market because he offered those things. How else would Amazon be able to overtake its much larger competitors? Amazon is not operating at a loss with external funding like many startups, it simply reinvests in itself because it makes incredibly impressive use of its resources. Other companies could do the same but as it turns out, it's quite difficult to repeatedly leverage your profits into bigger and better outcomes. Apple and Google sit on a pile of cash because they don't know how to best make use of it despite a history of successes.
>A single business that owns the sales and distribution of goods is one possible solution to the problem you describe, absolutely, and it's pretty clear that Amazon is doing the best job at that solution... but it's not the only solution, it's one of many.
Nothing stops me from shopping elsewhere and I frequently do. Best Buy gets much of my business for certain products because they've been quite good ever since their early 2010s turn around. eBay gets all of my business for used products. Walmart, Target, and regional grocery stores (not Whole Foods) get the rest. And I shop online mercilessly and don't have a particularly strong taste for Amazon (despite my countless comments in this thread would suggest -- I'm simply arguing for principles) so I'm as decent of a gauge for the state of things as anyone.
Bezos is not 1 million times more productive than other human beings. He just managed to create a system that exploits people in a massive scale. That's not what I call excellent business.
Bezos has unambiguously produced 1m times more than what most humans have.
To make it simple.
Would you live in a village where you have 1000 people with 1 apple to eat, or 999 people with 3 apples to eat and one guy with 1000 apples, because he was able to find a way to grow many more apples per day?
Jeff Bezos has added enormous amounts of value to the world.
I guess you will probably say something like, "but I would like to live in a world where this person must give away most of those apples, until he maybe has only 6 apples per day and others have 4". Would this person have still been as motivated to take a risk - which entrepreneurism is all about? Especially knowing that maybe 5% of the start ups will succeed.
In such world, no one will take risks and everyone stays with 1 or 2 apples per day. There's a reason US has so many successful unicorn start ups.
It takes skill, talent, passion, resources and massive amount of luck to pull of what Jeff Bezos did. In a more socialized version of this system, it would have not happened.
The more you tax potential returns and reward, the less risk or resources would people be willing to put in to create something new.
Almost noone argues that we should take all his apples away but I think there is a lot of room before he has to feel like his risk is not worth it anymore.
The only issue Amazon would have in a more socialized society is that it would be way harder to exploit poor people that have to take up with their working conditions and wages because they rely on those jobs. And if your business cannot survive without exploitation it should not exist in the first place.
If there's 1000 to 3 ratio, the things small group of people could organize to build would be far off what individuals could start with today.
If a single individual who has a good idea, they would have to convince many more people that the idea is good in order to be able to proceed with it.
Also, why does it even matter that much what Jeff's net worth specifically is? Unless he's wasting that money or using that to purposely destroy the world, it just exists as a number and if it was divided between people, it would only increase prices of everything and we probably would be back where we started. And it would only benefit the world if the people the money was divided with would use the money more wisely as opposed to Jeff.
If they can't get over 1000 to 3 ratio or certain ratio, because of the taxes, why would those folks just not rest on their laurels?
I am also not arguing for 1000:3 or any other specific ratio. The only reason I brought his net worth up is to show the ratio that we have right now (not even including the ratio compared to amazon workes which would be even higher). And even if he doesn't do anything evil with his money its money that other people dont't have. People that could use that money to provide for their families or put their kids through school. People that could have the potential to create something new or come up with new ideas who never get to do it because they barely make enough to get through the month. For Bezos it is indeed just a number but for others it could mean a lot more.
For all of those people it suddenly doesn't matter how hard they work or how skilled and talented they are. We do not live in a meritocracy and its probably impossible to achieve that so the only answer can be a more socialized system.
You are right in that it would not help to just split the money up my point is that we should not allow this to happen in the first place. As for prices increasing - If our system only works if a few have a lot and a lot have very little I think we should think about the sustainability of this system. If we do nothing things will get out of hand sooner or later (if they are not already).
People wont stop investing or taking risks just because they cannot reach bezos levels of wealth. Bezos has absolutely no reason to aquire another dollar but he still keeps going. Again I am not arguing for 1000:3 the number can be a lot higher but there needs to be an upper limit.
I wonder if there are any economic simulations done that would represent the actual world most closely to have something to toy with.
I don't think Bezos would have had the same amount of success with Amazon, if he had to do everything himself without hiring any other people. I believe most successful achievements were achieved through the work of many people. In the villagers and apples example, if the one man was able to produce 1000 apples by himself, I agree that the one man should be able to keep all 1000 apples to himself. However, if the one man was only able to produce 1000 apples with the work of others, I think that the workers should be receive a "fair" share of the produce. I don't have an idea or definition of what "fair" would be but 266,666 to 1 apple doesn't seem very "fair".
I don't see Bezos as being bad or evil but I see the fact that his workers don't get payed more as unfair. It's kind of like the "thank you essential workers for keeping the society functioning during the pandemic" phase that America had last year. We call these workers "essential" but their pay doesn't reflect that title. Some of the work that these "essential workers" do might be simple unskilled labor, but it is necessary work. Even if the work itself might not be of something that demands better pay, I believe the fact that the work is necessary is something that demands better pay. And if one person has 266,666 apples, I think there are enough apples to go around to pay the "essential workers" more. I just don't think it's "fair" that some "essential workers" who are earning close to minimum wage will never have the same opportunities that others in more lucrative fields (e.g. software engineering) will because of financial limitations.
Amazon already pays the most for this type of work. So how much should they pay?
>We call these workers "essential" but their pay doesn't reflect that title.
The work is essential but the workers are easily replaceable, with the exception of medical staff whose pay is appropriate.
And yes, the work is essential and workers are easily replaceable because the work is something practically anybody could do. My point is that because the work is essential, the easily replaceable workers should be payed more. Regardless of who does the work, whether it is some random civilian off the street or Bezos, somebody has to do the work. That's why it's essential. The work itself is valuable so I believe whoever does the work should be payed based on the value of the work.
Maybe I'm just too immature and ignorant but the fact that Bezos can start his own space expedition while Amazon workers have to pee into bottles and get paid $15 per hour just doesn't seem fair. And paying people the minimum amount simply because they are replaceable makes it seem like people are treated as if they were resources. Maybe in terms of logistics people can be seen as resources, but my opinion is that people and their lives are not resources. I don't think people go to work and spend a good chunk of their life working just to be a resource for someone else to take advantage of.
The median US household pays an amount of tax each year equivalent to about 8% of their net worth, so that would be an obvious rate for billionaires to pay on their wealth.
Funny, I do too! That's why I don't want all the wealth and power in the hands of a few oligarchs, and that's why I want everyone to be properly compensated and rewarded for their work and their creations. Capitalism, especially in its current flavour, prevents this.
> their employees that did not take on any risk
If a business fails and closes down its employees will be out on the dole, and that's the best case scenario. They lose their health care, possibly their homes and other possessions. Capital risks what, materially? One less luxury auto? One less vacation across the globe this year? Probably not even that.
I confess I never really understood all that talk about "risk".
>If a business fails and closes down its employees will be out on the dole, and that's the best case scenario. They lose their health care, possibly their homes and other possessions.
No, best (and most likely) scenario is that they find a job elsewhere a few weeks later while they collect unemployment. The business owner who likely had no savings because everything was reinvested into the business is actually screwed. You keep thinking every owner is Jeff Bezos but there are millions of small to medium business owners who risk it all for the chance to make it big. It's not "one less luxury auto". It's their entire livelihood.
Since you think that employees should share in the equity when a company is as successful as Amazon, I take it you also agree that employees should have all of their past wages clawed back when the company goes out of business, right? It's only fair. If they helped take the company to success, then they must have also brought it down to failure as well.
That's the point: Bezos didn't get a loan from a bank, he just raised money from other rich people. He never had even the risk of repaying a bank loan, for Christ's sake! Most people who want to start small business are a much more precarious situation, and that's why they don't start businesses as easily as you want.
You must be kidding that Bezos took any risk... The only risk he had was that he wouldn't continue making money from his well paid Wall Street job. He was already well off when he started raising other people's money to found Amazon. So, no, he didn't take any risk to justify all this money. Only the very deluded think he did anything of great risk. He is an oligarch who exploit others, and doesn't deserve even a fraction of that fortune.
The only counter-argument I can think of is that SpaceX might have run out of money if Elon "only" had $1 billion to pour into it, but I believe he started the company with just a $100 million investment of his own money.
I'd also accept people being able to funnel billions into non-profit foundations which they control, as long as those foundations have goals which vaguely benefit society, such as "making humans a multi-planetary species".
They've been rewarded enough already. Sometimes enough is enough, it's obscene.
If I own a mom-and-pop sandwich shop worth $1 million, and I take a $50k salary, I imagine most people would be fine with that.
If I grow this sandwich shop into a national franchise worth $1 billion and still take a $50k salary, I still am in possession of just as much spendable cash, but suddenly I'm a billionaire on paper. It seems incredibly immoral to strip my own business from me because it's been too successful, and that type of ownership expropriation seems extremely likely to stifle entrepreneurship.
Tax people when they sell stock. Tax people's income. Tax collateralized assets. Tax the hell out of them if they're making boatloads of cash. But to wrest ownership of someone's creation from their hands because they've done too good a job creating it seems like a recipe for disaster.
It's very unlikely that you personally, singlehandedly would be able to build your sandwich shop into a billion dollar franchise.
The value of Amazon is not a trillion dollars because of Jeff Bezos alone. He helped get it there, sure, and he deserves to be rewarded for that, but so did 800k other people. Can an Amazon driver afford a house, 2 cars, and to put 2 kids through college on a single income today? My dad could working for UPS for 30 years starting in the 80s. He's retired now with a pension. Why can't Amazon provide that kind of life for their workers? They're certainly richer and more profitable than UPS ever was. One key difference is that UPS is unionized, and then you start to realize why Amazon really, really, really, doesn't want their workers to unionize.
Bezos' wealth is not a problem in a vacuum. It's a problem in a world where he's using his wealth to fly to space, while others (even people who work for him) are being evicted from their homes during a global pandemic, and there are more than enough homes to house everyone. That's the backdrop for all of this outrage.
IMO an example of what would be incredibly immoral is if your ownership stake in your national sandwich chain reaches $1 billion, and your workers aren't making a living wage that can cover rent, food, and healthcare for their families. Yes we want to encourage entrepreneurship, but we cannot do so at the expense of workers. I think we've gone too far in one direction and now the backlash is forming.
The roadblocks to these laws is that they don't come for free, and loads of businesses would either no longer be viable or would be able to hire less. This is one of the ways that Amazon is building out its moat to prevent challengers (note that Amazon has had a $15 minimum wage for years). Of course there's a happy equilibrium somewhere in there, but this is not the role of Jeff Bezos (or my hypothetical sandwich shop) to figure out.
I expect my government to determine the rules of how society can function, and I expect businesses to be as efficient as possible within the bounds of those rules.
As an aside, though, none of this has to do with the concept of someone being forced to give up their own company. If a company needs to act a certain way, then the law should force the company to act that way for sure. If a company was following the law, though, the backlash for crappy outcomes falls firmly at the feet of that law.
Workers should share in ownership. If the value of the business goes to zero, their ownership stake goes to zero, just like the founder.
I think you should be mad on your govt, not Bezos.
Free market ≠ Capitalism ≠ Post-80s Neoliberal Capitalism
"Excellent businesses" that are modern day slave labor, in the case of Amazon.
Their employment is predatory to the maximum, optimized around the ridiculous churn rates. Blocking unions from forming the same way Musk and others do is really just the smallest part of that at this point.
This article below touches some of the insane practices one should keep in mind while watching Bezos thank his employees and customers for paying for his cowboy space ride.
>You have equal access to the same infrastructure. Feel free to start a trillion dollar company.
And this is such a lazy cop-out that ignores that Bezos had parents who funded his company (to the tune of half a million in today's money) during a time where he was in the right place at the right time. It insane how ignorant people are to how much luck in one's situation plays into their success. I'm not saying he isn't a talented businessman, but that alone is never enough to reach his level of success.
And that's a good thing! But I think higher earners should have more money taken than is currently the case. Wealth and income inequality are largely a result of luck and opportunity, not raw talent. An equitable society should find ways to mitigate those effects, which have only gotten worse in recent decades, not better.
That he did proves he owes others for his success as much as his own wits and hard work.
Or maybe that's not correct.
If they’re the interstate highways, then the gas tax pays for most of that. And Amazon buys a LOT of gas.
That's mostly a subsidy from passenger cars to larger vehicles, because road wear goes up much more rapidly with vehicle weight than fuel consumption does (IIRC, the former with roughly the fourth power of weight, the latter sublinearly.) Since Amazon mostly isn't using passenger cars as part of its delivery fleet, its actually being subsidized by gas tax, not paying its way.
Amazon e-commerce is not all that profitable. Most of Amazon's value comes from AWS.
AWS represents 43% of net profit, per the most recently posted quarter. It used to be on the order of 75%, but pandemic-related demand for physical products changed all that.
Retail is back, baby.
Ummm...the people living in that community pay for the schools in that community. I’m not sure why you think Amazon is responsible for paying school taxes in some location where they have no offices.
Also: neither VA not DC want retrocession and you can’t force a state to change its borders. So no, the answer is DC statehood, which is something Congress can do. It’s long past time.
Also I like DC. Why do I have to choose between living in the American city I like and having a vote in Congress?
The person who literally sends the money according to the law is not the same as the one who pays in the economic sense.
For instance, you could transfer the legal obligation to the other party, but that would change the negotiating position between the employer and the employee.
Similarly, you can add a sales tax to some product, and make the company that sells the product collect it and forward it to the government, but that doesn't mean that the company is worse off the that amount. The pie is split according to some negotiating position.
That's what I'm saying. The piece that's added or removed is negotiated over, it doesn't just belong to whoever has their name on it.
(i) Amazon wouldn't exist without all the technological and societal advances made in the past 4 millenia. It wouldn't exist without Aristotle, Plato, Jesus, John Locke, Adam Smith, Montesquieu, and thousands of other thinkers. It wouldn't exist without the Watt engine or the Caravel or Gunpowder or thousands of other technological breakthroughs. It wouldn't exist without the millions of workers who build roads throughout the world, who drained the swamps, who cultivated the lands. All of this is hidden, but it's there!
(ii) Amazon also wouldn't exist without the direct collaboration of 100,000s of people and the indirect collaboration of millions.
The things in (i) are the common heritage of all mankind, which no person can claim more than another. The things in (ii) should be fairly compensated, but they're not because of the coercive and violent system of capitalism which compels the workers to surrender most of the value they produce to the owners of capital (capitalism ≠ markets, cannot stress this enough).
My nephew works at an Amazon warehouse. Makes like 15 bucks an hour for the first 40, and then 20 more at double the rate (his choice to take the extra hours). He's very happy, and nothing suggests he feels taken advantage of.
It matters, I think. Because if people are only getting relatively poorer when compared to the top 1%, it’s not as bad as if they are losing their standard of living.
There are other issues about how excessively rich people can distort our society, but that’s not so much about the redistribution but the distribution, which is an ancient story.
Last year incomes went up for the lowest earners. When less wealthy people get more money they tend to buy material, mass market goods. Large corporations tend to be the main suppliers of those goods. Thus, increasing buying power at the lower end of the income distribution results in companies earning more money.
I guess the point is these corporations need to be taxed at higher rates so low earners aren’t being shafted by our broken economic system.
How do you differentiate these? If you have 100 dollars, distributed evenly among 10 people, and then you print 100 more and give them all to Jeffery, then you have redistributed the wealth even though you only printed new money. He went from 10% of the power to 55%.
He may have a higher percentage of available wealth, but it’s not like other people have lost their money.
And the standard of living is being lost when the people with stagnating wages are being priced out of the housing market, with renting or sharing being the only reasonable alternatives. Renting itself is a redistribution of wealth from poor to rich in many a case.
Not to mention that tax policies (like Trump's tax cuts for example) tend to disproportionately benefit the wealthy far more than the middle class, and the poor. I can't think of a more clear cut example of redistribution there.
The typical HN user is likely to be on the higher end of the scale and less exposed to issues like this (after all, many of us software engineers get a yearly payrise by switching job), but I find it hard to dismiss things like this when looking at my own country's politics.
Those who create wealth aren't redistributing it, they are capturing a small portion of what they create for others.
American people had the most generous COVID response of any country in the world, including the Superdole.
By purposefully built, I literally mean that the unemployment web services infrastructure was designed to fail at scale. Not to mention dark pattern roadblocks, insane eligibility requirements, and authorized self-sabotage.
The core fallacy is to assume whatever made Earth less than ideal will not follow us to the new destination. To assume our survivability as species only depends on the locale, not what we will eventually turn that locale into.
This happened with every new frontier. The romanticism of "it will be better in the new place" is baked into our genes probably because of the explore/exploit mechanism; it is natural for any animal to want to wander off when resource/danger ratio in a place isn't ideal. What we omit is that the most important layer of our habitat is the anthroposphere; us and our artifacts. We will drag the best resources and worst dangers with us anywhere we go.
> that their money is better spent here at home reminds me...
What that money represents is an agreement on commanding other humans' goods and services. As such, how much can that be "theirs" if we are taking a plant scale perspective? Don't get me wrong, I am not trying to inject a purely collectivist perspective here; money works great at certain scales, but for entire-humanity-scale issues it is a rather useless construct to think with.
To me a more accurate perspective is "smart but ultimately single person, thus bounded in their rationality, somewhat exploits the imperfections of our value representation/abstraction layer to redirect tons of goods and services of humanity into what is ultimately a useless vanity gesture that will generate no insight into humanity's perennial problems".
there are plenty of existential risks which can't "follow" anything, or happen to more than one planet simultaneously.
does living on two planets eliminate all existential risks? no, and nobody has claimed that.
If the most salient risk was a large meteor striking Earth, you would be right, changing locale would have solved that. But almost all of our current existential risks are anthropogenic, and specifically risks based on our current lack of ability in being do multi-agent coordination at scale. Without solving the game theory of the entire class of those problems, they will follow us to any planet we go just fine.
> does living on two planets eliminate all existential risks? no, and nobody has claimed that.
Your implication of a strawman is a strawman itself. I am not arguing on the basis of a two-planet-solution's non-exhaustivity.
I am arguing that assuming a change of locale as the principal solution to our inherent perennial problems is not a risk-free position. In fact I find it actively harmful as it distracts us from proper root cause analysis and makes us chase after old men's peter pan dreams instead of our need for growing up.
Bats and pagolins, now are public enemy #1. In general animal reservoirs for viruses and species jumps can't possibly happen on Mars because there are no animals and no other specie. So we have eliminated that risk right?
But....that also means no food, no ecosystem, no biosphere, basically absence of everything. So the benefits provided by bats , poultry, bovines etc. outweigh the negatives of a pandemic every 100 years or so
Even an Earth ruined by supervolcanoes, mega asteroid, nuclear war and climate change all at the same time..is better than Mars.
The only cases in which Mars comes out on top are a huge comet impact and a Gamma Ray burst which strikes the Earth but somehow misses Mars.
Bezos is right saying that we have to go to space to save the Earth, then we can talk sci-fi type things such as mind uploading ourselves in silica, and once that process is complete than Mars and the Earth will be equally valid to host us. But that ship won't set sail for a long while.
Right. But you have to start to be able to reach that point. And sooner you start - the sooner you will arrive to it.
It’s so insane to me that people honestly believe that we need billionaires to fund all their hedonic desires in order to achieve anything good and useful as a society. It’s provably false and frankly an absolutely pessimistic view of society and humanity.
Once upon a time you needed nation state sponsorship in order to sail across the ocean.
It's absolutely insane to me that people don't see that a billionaire can do as a vanity project something that was ~50yr ago only the purview of superpowers as an obvious sign of societal progress.
Why compare this "single man's power" to a state from 50 years ago? It's disingenuous.
And it isn’t because it’s such a good opportunity only they have a chance to succeed on, or we’d see plenty of large companies or a few unicorn startups trying as well.
That doesn’t mean they will never get some revenue, maybe recoup their investments, or even see real profits. Space
X is on a trajectory in that general direction. But it isn’t what motivated them.
Musk/Bezos/Branson are making space travel a paying proposition, which makes all the difference.
And is a good example of creating negative externalities, lots of ground based astronomy (a field that has contributed immensely to our collective scientific knowledge and pushed technology advancements forward globally) extremely difficult due to those same satellites that create interference. Yes, global internet is good, but funnily enough this satellite network creates the need for more astronomical observations be done from space/orbit.. Handy that he is in the business of selling that service as well..
So while I agree his rocket technology is a great advancement and has spurred others to create similar reusable first stage rocket tech, these efforts were already underway. Musk might have accelerated this through risking his personal wealth when creating SpaceX but this was not a one man effort and people should spend less time attributing these advancements to one person.
Hoping "competition" in this space returns to helping orgs like NASA achieve scientific goals (rather than private joy rides), but that would require convincing govs to spend more tax money on these organizations..
In particular, I do hope the reusable technology benefits people first and then science. I sometimes wonder about how many Einsteins are born and die without ever learning to read. First and foremost, I hope we use this technology to benefit people and science second.
You could have erased any person in SpaceX and SpaceX would have happened anyway. Erase Musk, and no SpaceX. Musk was the lynchpin to making it happen. He provided the vision, the impetus, the funding, and the leadership.
That's why he gets (and deserves) the credit.
It's just like Apple. Apple floundered with CEO after CEO, winding up 90 days from bankruptcy. Then Jobs became CEO, and Apple became the richest company in the world.
With the same staff.
Blue Origin is up to ~$10B already and hasn't even gone orbital yet.
Also, the economy was considerably smaller in those days, and so the Apollo program took up a much larger share of it.
Isn't that what adjusting to today's dollars essentially does? Those $28 billion were back then what $257 billion are in today's economy.
To make it more obvious, a town council spending $1 million on a project is a much bigger undertaking (for them) than a country spending $1 million. It has nothing to do with inflation. I.e. consider it as percentage of GDP.
The purchasing power of a dollar has grown ~8.5x over the past 60 years.
The US GDP has grown about 38x in that same time.
And it doesn't matter what the rest of the economy was doing if we've converted it to today's numbers. The argument you were making was that government was intrinsically bloated, but from my view these private orgs are barely keeping up with 1960s .gov.
Even if we needed big corporations, we still do not need billionaires.
If you take the limit of concentrating wealth, you get a dictatorship. They don't seem to do much. It's hard to believe in democracy and insane wealth concentration at the same time.
Large investments are not the same as risky investments.
Government need to get a job done, but they also need to appease voters and play politics to be able to achieve long-term goals. Businesses self-select for efficiency in the long-term, because those that aren't efficient go bankrupt or get overtaken by a more efficient upstart.
I think PG has spilled a lot of ink about this in the context of VC investment, but the same idea doubly applies to government funding because their time horizons are even longer term. If all you do is optimize for next quarter, next year, or even the next 5 years, you're going to miss the things that at first seem innocuous or useless, but then in 30 years blow up into something huge.
NASA has been beholden to the latest administration’s whims and inconsistent budget allocation for decades.
I think the great challenge of our generation will be a way to come together with such single minded focus to tackle problems without trying to exterminate each other.
Except that's never happened, not even close. Ironically, the modern activists are busy trying to force businesses into getting involved in politics unrelated to their business. This smacks of foolishness to me, as in be careful what one wishes for.
> It's hard to believe in democracy and insane wealth concentration at the same time.
Wealth in a capitalist country is created, not concentrated.
You also seem to completely abandon your previous statement: "Countries without billionaires are mired in poverty. Billionaires can make high risk investments. A million people won't." Additionally, you've responded to arguments I haven't even made about forcing businesses to be involved in politics.
Your ideas seem like a loose collection of conservative talking points and fail to make any sort of coherent argument.
Caesar gained power through running a business providing people with wine?
> You also seem to completely abandon your previous statement
Not at all. It is obvious that people who became wealthy through force of arms or using taxation to line their pockets are in a different category.
If you look at historical rankings of wealth, by far the richest people were leaders of great empires. They were so wealthy that it's silly to put it in modern terms (1) & (2). Caesar Augustus controlled the entire output of Egypt which was the breadbasket of the Mediterranean world. His person wealth is estimated to be in the $5 to $10 trillion range.
More recently, how rich was Stalin when he could literally do anything with an economy making up 10% of global GDP? It's even unclear how much Putin is worth with credible accusations that he recently built a $1B palace (3) and has a wealth in the $200B range.
It is only our recently invented democratic institutions that enable billionaires who profit from non-violent sources. I sincerely hope you develop a sense of how important these institutions are.
This is my last comment btw, I hope you feel like you've learned something.
Stalin didn't buy his way into power. He took power by force, then used that power to make himself rich.
This is not capitalism. As I pointed out, people who take money through force are in a quite different category.
> I hope you feel like you've learned something.
I'm dumbfounded that you believe that Stalin, Caesar, etc., were free market capitalists gaining their wealth through running a successful business.
> It is only our recently invented democratic institutions that enable billionaires who profit from non-violent sources.
None have yet turned that into running the country. Note how billionaire Bloomberg's presidential campaign failed miserably. As did Ross Perot's. Rich people in America have not had much of a track record of buying themselves into office, though elected representatives have a tendency to get very rich while in office. Hmmm...
And if you want to argue that billionaires only became so wealthy by exploiting people... well, yes, and? Their wealth already exists so the options are 1) they spend it on stupid stuff like more yachts and mansions, 2) they spend it on humanity-advancing things like space exploration (Musk/Bezos) and philanthropy (Gates), or 3) we have bloody revolutions to claw it back and hope for the best.
This ignores the fact that extreme and worsening inequality is the sociopolitical issue people are talking about. That's literally a problem between where the money is and where it should be. Billionaires becoming billionaires by extracting value from the bent backs of workers is actually a problem that can be addressed by just moving money around.
If Bezos built a penis rocket _and_ fed and clothed and cared for the homeless until he only had even 1 billion dollars left, or if he shared his profits with his employees until he only had even 1 billion dollars left, nobody would mind the rocket (though people would still make fun of it for looking like a penis), and 1 billion dollars is still incredibly obscene.
>3) we have bloody revolutions to claw it back and hope for the best.
The structure of modern society, wealth and finance looks to render this option extremely pyrrhic and more or less impossible. Moreover, I kind of reject that "Their wealth already exists so" -- their wealth is an idea created within a much larger system. It's also kind of crazy to consider that "what to do with it" is actually a very deep consideration.
The wealth that is held by, say, Bezos* (I'm going to define Bezos* as any very wealthy individual for the purpose of the thought) is predicated only by its possible use in society. The money he can use isn't in bills or bullion, but is some kind of leveraged asset like stocks, real estate, insurance, or other investments and the like. The value in it lies not in what it is, rather in projected stock prices, capital for use in other financial prospects, etc. If you took that away with a wand,(and you would need magic for this) it would render him as just a bald guy with a boat.
To grok the way Bezos* can access his absurd billions largely tax free (and they do) is to first recognize that money isn't a real thing like rice is a real thing. The facts of fractional reserve banking and investments mean you have value that you can exchange for untaxed credit, loans, or other endeavors that will add to it. You don't need to get a dollar bill to use a dollar bill if you are a Bezos*, and anyhow these people aren't thinking: "Man, if I can just get another 0.7million prime subscribers, I'm gonna be able to buy this really great suit!" They don't need it to buy medical care. They don't need it for that at all. I think of this whole thing as the Xaro Xhoan Daxos principle.
They can leverage their assets for loans and other instruments which are untaxed, with deductible interest, or trust schemes, and use the proceeds for increasing the value of the process. The wealth-credit that is generated can be used to finance any endeavor, or just buy a jet or a yacht. The jet or yacht is also probably something that can be used in this way, but in general assets like this are that which generate profits (probably incorporated to reduce tax burdens) and feed the self-beneficial cycle.
In the event of a worker revolt or some kind of economic coup, there isn't any cash to steal because it is fiat and will probably be drastically devalued and also exists solely in a computer. Insofar as there even is any gold to reclaim, that won't be particularly useful because that isn't something that works in the economies that we are habituated with and has its own problems aside. Reclaimed art or designer goods, maybe that is ok, but with the economic system so drastically changed, it will be of extremely limited utility in the short term.
In my mind that leaves things like the means of production. Industrial, production, storage, transportation goods and straight up food will be really desirable, but with the finance system crippled and devalued it will not have the continuity of paychecks to maintain their operation. It is entirely possible that the general supply chains will degrade and halt the flow of fuel and medical capabilities, among many other things. This generally dissuades this sort of activity in the US.
The only way I see that it could happen is a drastic political turn, but at that level Bezos* has very much power. The Xaro Xhoan Daxos effect is strongest politically, officials are reticent to act against these kinds of figures in the US today.
The money powers simply have a lot going for them, for example just by owning real estate. This alone is difficult to touch, because of the convoluted nature of this kind of ownership, nobody at all seems the least bit interested in addressing that. Despite the constant hand-wringing about housing crisis, no progress is being made because of how many Bezos*, corporations, and people have interests in how the system works to benefit them today. The best solutions are to build more and finance individuals. I think these kinds of thing are spelled out largely by Chomsky's "Manufacturing Consent" project.
Part of why these kinds of things generate so much rattling is this: We're living in a society mediated by mostly false views of life its self. It is extremely difficult to engage with society at large without being drawn into varieties of false dichotomies, us-vs-them, incorrect views of life such as social media influencer crazes with rented Gulfstreams. Mass media, "social media", doesn't respect or promote thought like that, it will quickly direct users to whiz-bang-wow stuff, side-hustle culture, scapegoating hate, straight up pornography... It is pretty plain to see.
I don't think its an unwashed masses kind of thing, its more that we're inhabiting something like Debord's reality. Even the wealthiest paragon of Bezos* is trapped by perceptions like these, and you can read the language in every discussion: "Billionaires have created so much value for society that they deserve their fabulous lifestyles!", but their lifestyles aren't loving family dinners, self actualized personality traits and an active social life. Increasingly, nobody's is.
The Bezos* reality is children raised by workers and bought the best connections, para-pathological obcession with "business", and completely alienated, probably paranoia-inducing interactions with people who want their influence and of course, stuff.
 - https://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Characters/GameofThro...
 - Excerpts: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tTBWfkE7BXU
 - https://libcom.org/files/The%20Society%20of%20the%20Spectacl...
Really good book. I won't spoil it too much, but think it offers a powerful challenge to the techno-utopianism of Mars Colony obsessives. The Martians cannot escape their terrestrial ideologies, because those ideologies are still rooted in the old world that they rely on for survival, and because they carried over those ideologies in their own minds.
We fund science and technology research because it improves expected outcomes in the future, for everyone. The idea that we can't fund research until everyone is fed is an oxymoron, we would never be able to get there without funding research.
Endless money and effort has gone into trying to solve world hunger and misery, yet they still exist. Yet inventions like GPS and other technology that came out of the space race has probably had more impact worldwide.
I’m starting to come around to the idea that this kind of thinking is exactly why we have poverty and hunger in the USA. We allow individuals to accumulate endless wealth even when that money could be used to help those who need a helping hand.
I’m not saying we necessarily have the government tax them, as I’m more in favor of workers collectives and union power where more of the profit accrues widely across all workers instead of narrowly to the top.
But the problem with billionaires thinking they can solve the worlds problems is they want to create more and more tech to solve our problems, even though we already have great solutions. We could design our cities around trains and bicycles but instead every person drives a car. That takes vastly more resources to produce and operate than a bunch of bicycles. I spent 15 years in Silicon Valley and the whole place is pretty hostile to bicycles even though it’s all flat!
I think when you have $100B your mind comes up with big industrialized solutions to problems when the real solution in my mind is to reduce our resource utilization (which we can do without reducing quality of life).
Bezos built Amazon along with the help from thousands of workers. It is only a trick of our legal system that he was able to hold on to all the wealth that the company created. And it should be noted that Amazon draws a lot of profit (presumably) from millions of cheap plastic objects from overseas which will break and end up in landfills in some poor country. Or think of the millions of overseas workers caught up in abusive labor arrangements , paid pennies per day, who helped create the goods that are sold on Amazon.
I really don’t see Bezos as a hero, but as a complex figure who got more than he deserves. America is chock full of poverty and Bezos is directly opposed to the growth of worker unions which I think could help ease a lot of that poverty.
"we pioneered the west" lmao.
"how we survive as a species" wtf lmao
op is heavily romanticizing technology and throwing humanity under the bus without even realizing it.
So you're saying he's found a way to make carbon sequestration profitable at scale? Maybe he is a hero.
So no, I am not saying that.
By purchasing oil to turn into plastics, manufacturers are in competition with buyers who intend to simply burn their oil-derived products (fuels). This increased competition must cause some (small) increase in the price of oil that has to be paid by the oil burners, making it marginally less economically competitive in comparison to renewable energy sources.
The effect might be negligible, and I obviously haven't modelled whether this leads to a significant reduction in oil burning (especially relative to the carbon pollution of the container ships, as you say), but it is an interesting thought experiment.
The oil isn't turned into plastic, the petrochemicals used in plastic don't compete with fuel, it is a byproduct of the oil extraction and fracturing process mostly from the lighter natural gas components I believe. The effect is likely the opposite of what you imagine it to be in your example.
Keep in mind that the price of fuel isn't the same as the price of crude, as the fuel is a separate commodity whose production is tied to refinement of crude, which is the primary commodity.
In fact, using this industrial byproduct to create plastic will reduce the cost of oil extraction. The transportation of the packaged good which are enabled by this ubiquitous packaging technology will now drive demand for transportation, in turn raising the price again. The cheapening of fuel and plastic packaged goods incentivizes further usage and investment, and so the wheels turn on ...
It gets much more complicated from there and also involves some missiles and ground-based radar systems.
 - https://inbound.teamppi.com/blog/oil-to-plastic-a-lesson-on-...
 - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ethylene
However, if there were a bioplastic that did not degrade or a process to reclaim atmospheric co2 into plastic stock, it would be a great way to sequester carbon so long as it does not break down and is piled up somewhere forever.
This is unbelievably pessimistic. You're literally saying that Earth is beyond repair and the only way for humans to survive is to move to a rock in orbit that we've spent a total of 3 days on in the past 70 years, or to a planet no one has visited that has radiation that makes life essentially impossible for us.
Assuming that's true, let's run some numbers. Assuming we can get to 3 launches per day (weather, launch sites, Mars being in the wrong place, etc are limiting factors), and we get 100 years of launches before everyone dies, and we can fire 100 people in to space at a time, that means the future of the human race rests on slightly more than 10 million people. The other 6,990,000,000 of us will perish with the rest of life on Earth.
Damn. If you're right then humans are going extinct.
It's not pessimistic, it's realistic. It's just that what the parent poster means by "how we survive as a species" and what you mean are...different things.
Going to the moon, going to mars, are necessary for the survival of our species...on a 100,000 year time horizon.
At some point, something catastrophic may happen to earth. An asteroid impact, or a Gamma Ray Burst, or some other unexpected cataclysm. If a GRB happened to hit earth in 10,000 years, we only survive as a species if we're self-sufficient on other rocks by then.
If your time-frame of "how we survive as a species" is the next 100 years, then colonizing the moon or mars isn't on the list of potential solutions. I know of very few people who advocate that the moon and mars are the solutions to our climate change issues. Climate change is a crisis that we have to confront within the next 100 years. It's extremely unlikely that any moon or mars base would be self-sufficient within that time frame.
To survive as a species, the human race has to eventually be able to survive a fatal blow to earth and keep going. Hell, eventually we have to be able to deal with a fatal blow to this entire solar system.
>It's not pessimistic, it's realistic. [...] on a 100,000 year time horizon.
It has been 65 years since Sputnik was launched, so you are projecting out 1,565x that duration into the future. I'm sure you picked a nice, big, round number, but I think it's really important to grapple with how immediate all of space travel has been against how long our horizon is as a species is.
The first record we have of homo sapiens is from 300,000 years ago - so 3x your time horizon. The founding of civilization could be pegged around 4,000 years ago with the founding of Babylon. 100,000 years is about 25x the duration of the existence of civilization.
So I agree that space exploration must come at some point, but I actually think the most "realistic" approach would be to *ban* space exploration until climate change is under control. Fixing our impact on our own climate has fewer technical barriers and is a larger limiting factor to human survival than space. If the time horizon is really 100,000 or 10,000 years, then addressing climate change would be a blip on that timeline.
Edit: accidentally a word
I agree about the time-horizons. Dealing with climate change is an immediate and urgent priority, whereas the time-horizon for becoming multi-planetary and (eventually) multi-stellar are much longer.
That being said, it's all probabilistic, so it's not like there's a bright line when we need to be multi-planetary. A planet-killer could hit earth tomorrow, and the human race would be extinct. So, if we delay becoming a (self-sufficient) multi-planetary species by 200 years we increase the window of risk by that much time.
And there will always be current challenges that we face on earth that we could address before investing resources in becoming multi-planetary. And becoming multi-planetary itself will take a long time.
To me, climate change seems more existential than our other challenges. The reason we can use earth as a base for interplanetary exploration is because the environment is favorable to us. We are putting that at risk.
The only other problem that feels similarly serious is nuclear way.
Talk about cutting off one's nose to spite one's face. If we're going down this road, why not take it all the way:
* Ban climate change research until hunger is under control
* Ban efforts to curb hunger until war is under control
* Ban efforts to stop war until disease is under control
Hunger and war and disease all have the potential to make furthering space exploration impossible. For example, we just had a pandemic that impacted a lot of people?
However, in general, all of those problems have existed for the entire span of human history. I am not concerned about any of them damaging the earth's ability to be a base for launching humanity as an interstellar species.
Climate change is different. It's especially different because of our inability to face it so far. If we had done the sensible thing and reacted to projections in the 70s by ramping down fossil fuel use, I'd consider is less severe. But we have not.
 save nuclear way ofc
The real criticism I have is that it's a false dichotomy. We need BOTH exploration and exploitation. Both greed and fear. Both mutation and rote replication. A species can't survive without a balance of both.
For fictional yet science based scenario see this Orions Arm article:
The biggest problem is actually not to lift all the people out of Earth's gravity well, but where to put them afterwards...
The Earth is fucked. Not by humans, just by itself. It will be fucked within a few hundred million years simply because the sun is going to get bright enough to boil away the oceans.
If we want any hope of our legacy to carry on in the universe, we need to begin exploring the possibilities now, because we have the scientific knowledge and technological capabilities to begin that exploration process.
It is stupid to be cynical of rich people spending money on productive ventures, yet I don't buy the idea that spending on getting the hell off of Earth is the best way to save the species. It might be...which is pretty damned depressing in my opinion.
What are the alternatives? On a long enough timeline, it won't be possible for life to survive here. And even on shorter timelines, trusting in untested asteroid deflection plans seems pretty risky, as well. Seems that diversifying ourselves in multiple locations as soon as possible is the best way to guarantee survival of the species (or whatever derivative species we become).
Much as choosing to stay on earth is guaranteed suicide for humanity, on a long enough timescale. I would hate to see all of our eggs in one basket.
I mention it because the premise is that a meteorite hits the earth off the east coast of the United States and what the after-effects of such an event would be. It's horrific. A slow death at first that rapidly increases over a period of 50 years. It would be paradoxical because the immediate effects would be cold but the long-term effects would be a planet so hot that it couldn't sustain life.
Our global response to COVID has proven that we wouldn't be able to handle such a thing. How would you convince people that, sure, it's cold now but it's going to get hotter in 3-4 years? A LOT hotter. We can't even get these people to not freak out over having to wear a tiny piece of fabric in Costco!
We know something like this is going to happen. It's just a matter of when. Spending money to get off the earth could very well be the best way to save the species.
The point is we have a huge, open continent. At the present moment there’s absolutely zero demand to colonize it. Why? Because it’s inhospitable and hard to get to. But it’s a hell of a lot more hospitable and accessible than Mars. So, honest question why would we expect anyone to move to Mars if they can’t even be bothered to move to Trinity Peninsula?
"It's the way things are" are perhaps in all seriousness the 5 most dangerous words in the English language.
And this is the most optimistic scenario, assuming no gamma ray bursts, bolides, or super-volcanoes strike first.
The US life expectancy dropped one of the largest drops ever (1.5 years) and instead of facing the actual real-life disasters happening, "science enthusiasts" are quoting TV shows about science fiction disasters that might happen in 50000000 years... while the scene outside the window literally looks like this: https://abc7news.com/why-is-the-sky-orange-sf-yellow-califor...
Do we really have 50 million years? Very unlikely. Do we even have 150 years? I'd take odds against, we've just come way too close to all-out nuclear war recently and international relations are not trending in a promising direction.
If we send humans out to the stars, our civilizations will diverge. First there's a hop to Mars, then Titan, then then next solar system over, then a galaxy or two. Soon enough you've seeded the universe with human civilizations that have no concept of what Earth was like. Maybe they've heard stories, seen videos or pictures, but what will they really know about Earth in 100k years?
It's not like we're going to be one happy galactic human family. We can't even do that here on Earth, how are we going to maintain peaceful relationships across the universe? So now all you've done is seed the entire universe with a race of petty, greedy, selfish, war-prone primates; living on barren planets, underground or in habitats; who have stories about a mythical homeland filled with a breathable atmosphere, rivers of drinkable water, abundant lifeforms that roam the surface freely, where no one has to live like hamsters (what even are hamsters?) in a habitat. What if they start talking about a better future for themselves on another planet, and they come right back here to conquer it?
I guess what I'm saying is, if all we're doing here is using science fiction to project out millions of years into the future, why are we only projecting positive scenarios where humanity heads to the stars and saves the human race from obliteration? What if instead of inventing the United Federation of Planets, all we do is invent the Reavers from Firefly, and we end up the authors of our own demise?
Mars won't ever be even as habitable as a thoroughly fucked up earth. It is a huge waste of time and resources that could be better employed on more immediate problems.
If we want to keep the earth habitable by humans over long time-scale then we absolutely need to learn how to do minor terraforming. Much better to experiment on the moon or mars than the earth.
It’s cousin to the famous phrase, “why do we climb the mountain? Because it is there.” It’s not a rational thing but it is a very real part of being human nonetheless.
To rephrase it: “we need to shake things up! I propose we do so by stopping to change”.
I'm not convinced that exploration is such a self-justifying good that we should look past the very real and very urgent problems that are aggravated precisely by the people "leading the way" here.
Ultimately, however, these billionaires are not contributing to reaching beyond. We've been to space before -- in fact, the first space pioneers went further into space than any of these billionaires. Over half a century ago.
Their money would have been better spent on putting together new space telescopes or probes to look further afield, actually reaching for what's next, rather than reaching for familiar ground and taking themselves to the edge of the Earth's atmosphere -- to say nothing of the fact that it was largely for the sake of PR/spectacle.
Musk less so -- as another poster has said, SpaceX seems well-intended and useful.
But all these places are desolate of life and not even resource rich, so there is little point to go there. Mars is like this as well. It's not like you are colonizing a rich continent like America.
1. I don’t think we should be looking towards “what’s next” when we have plenty of more pressing issues to solve here and now. I’d rather we more equitably distribute resources so everyone has food, healthcare, and housing before we start trying to colonize mars.
2. I would rather the money be spent in a more democratic way. I don’t want to let a few people decide “what’s next” for me, let’s redistribute that wealth and let the public decide what’s most pressing.
The moon and mars are both ridiculously unsuitable for human life.
Why on earth would that possibly be an option rather than making even a cursory attempt to slow or stop the destruction of our perfect planet?
It's a ridiculous idea. How could anyone think this was a worthwhile endeavor?
and they have already taken tax payer dollars
The survival of our species depends on us being able to keep ecosystems running, and we can do that on earth.
The problem with the West Wing, was that it added a pompulus romantic sheen to subjects that arguably didn't deserve it.
We won't get to Mars with a bunch of private-money capitalists competing. Much like in the 50s and 60s, it's going to take a concerted effort of government sponsored and driven research.
this is like saying a book store on every corner should replace libraries.
We already did that. Why not just support NASA?
Government is good when the public externalities are large, the private benefit is small and there's an extremely large capital requirements.
This is not the case any longer for rocket tech, and so it makes zero sense to have the government do it. It'd be like asking the government to make smartphones, which is an obviously ridiculous proposition.
I don't think anyone is proposing that government employees (or politicians) actually design the rockets themselves. The question is, can governments oversee and fund the development of innovations like VTOL rockets? And the answer to that question is "yes".
As for why innovation in that field stopped, and had to be picked up again by private companies, I think it's worth asking whether large companies have undue influence over the sorts of projects that governments choose to pursue.
What? That makes no sense. We already had a reusable vehicle for space flight. We've had it for decades now. It's called the Space Shuttle. NASA developed it in 1981. Just support NASA and science for the public good. Do you really want a handful of billionaires in control of space exploration? They do it for their own benefit not ours.
Even if we assume everyone is rational and the system works as-designed, NASA must work to keep each state and even district within that state happy. That means hundreds of small contracts and explosions of complexity in order to do some of the work in each state.
NASA's mission designs for the last 50 years have been a mess of complexity and ridiculously expensive, and rarely happened as a result. Only now with the commercial contractors are things starting to change.
The west was already fully populated.
Mars is a barren rock that is less desirable for human inhabitation than even the most remote land regions on Earth (such as the middle of the Sahara desert and the middle of Antarctica). Mars has no atmosphere, its mean surface temperature  is about the same as the average daily low temperature in winter at the south pole , its surface gravity is about 38% of Earth's  which can lead to muscle and bone atrophy, and it receives about 44% as much sunlight as Earth  which makes it harder to grow crops and can cause seasonal affective disorder.
In other words, if it were desirable to live on Mars, people would already be living in the middle of Antarctica.
What about mining resources from Mars? The problem with that is that it's prohibitively expensive due to the fundamental laws of physics. Getting stuff (e.g. equipment) to Mars requires escaping the gravity well of the Earth ( is a nice visual), which requires 225 kilograms of fuel per kilogram launched . Sending things back is cheaper, and things like fusion engines would help, but it still takes a lot of energy and it's always going to be cheaper to mine on Earth.
Computers have gotten exponentially better over the past few decades because we've learned to make them smaller and more energy-efficient. Space travel hasn't because there are immutable requirements in terms of how much energy you need to do it.
Planet Earth is by far the best place in the universe for the human species, and I don't see that changing in the next millennium. It's really tailor-made for us (or rather, we are tailor-made for it). The best use of resources right now is towards making life on Earth more sustainable.
And you say:
>I personally don't care that these billionaires are spending their money on vacations to orbit.
See, that's where the whole problem lies. The problem is precisely that our current economic system allocates massive amounts of power to these people, and therefore allocates massive amounts of labour and resources to their vanity projects. The problem is that it concentrates power in a disastrous way. Like it allocates talented engineers to ad-tech and yacht-buliding rather than water purification projects or renewables. Like it allocates thousands of people to staff 5-star hotels to serve the whims of 10 or 20 billionaires and saudi princes, which could be serving 10000 children at daycares or 10000 seniors at nursing homes. Etc etc.
I guess what I mean to say is this, and I apologise for the off-topic tone that my comment took: the insane thing to me is how you simply take this very arbitrary, very non-natural way of organizing economic activity and production, and accept it as completely inevitable, in fact you don't even stop to be critical or skeptical of it, hiding it beneath the simple phrase "I don't care how they spend their money". The true triumph of neoliberal capitalism seems to be making itself look as natural and inevitable as the air we breathe.
> And we crossed the ocean, and we pioneered the West
You really, REALLY aren't selling this the way you think you are by calling it the natural continuation to Europeans "pioneering" the Native Americans, especially given current events . Let me put it this way, selling Mars exploration as a repeat of one of the world's most famous genocides (a blueprint for the holocaust no less ), really doesn't resonate with me lmao
No, it's not we. It's them: billionaires and their friends. Other people will never go to the moon and mars because billionaires are using their money to lobby politicians in order avoid taxes and get more subsidies at our expense.
Oh, they will. Someone should build the colony. Someone should do the work to maintain and grow the colony, etc.
Having said that, I'm totally okay with billionaires spending money on such activities as it puts money back in the economy. The more the better.
That's the rich people hoarding cash theory.
They don't hoard any cash. All of it is invested in the economy. Even "cash" deposits in the bank are, as the bank loans out a multiple of those deposits.
Instead they spend it on lobbying politicians (or becoming politicians) to pass laws that make it easier for them to make money at the expense of everyone else.
If we can't make it work here and end up destroying the ecology of Earth, upon which we depend, there's no reason to think we'll survive on the moon or Mars.
Really? Which billionaires personally funded the Apollo program? The progress of our species shouldn't have to rely on the fickle preferences of one person, their enormous wealth should be taxed and the money should be used for programs like NASA and its benefits which help all of us.
In the past few years we've seen SpaceX get reusable boosters working, a mission to the ISS, etc. Though people like to diminish blue origin's accomplishments due to not hitting orbit they were able to land their reusable booster on the first try too.
In a short amount of time we've seen tremendous progress in bringing down the costs of launching. It's frankly inconceivable NASA would do the same.
I have a few friends that have spent years at JPL and the amount of bureaucracy, waste, and red tape they had to deal with all went away when they started working at SpaceX and then Blue Origin.
Private space exploration has brought us innovation at a pace NASA could have never delivered because it always had to be pessimistic and scared of funding cuts if anything ever failed.
You can blame whatever you want, but at the end of the day - they're failing.
It's only inconceivable because we refuse to fully fund NASA.
Also I'm curious why you think that a government is better suited at spending money. From what I've seen this leads to lobbyists doing all they can to curry favor and secure contracts despite the fact that they deliver a sub-par product.
OTOH the US Government, with programs run by publicly paid employees: went to the moon, built a ton of dams, including the Hoover and Grand Coulee, electrified the Tennessee Valley, built the interstate highway system, etc.
Suppose Constantine never converted to Christianity. Suppose Genghis Khan had been injured before conquering Asia. Suppose Louis the XVI had reformed the French government. Sure some other ruler would probably have embraced Christianity or some other ruler would have conquered Asia but history is fundamentally a sequence of events and minor changes, like a strong ruler in one place or another, can have massive downstream impacts.
What about the changes in wider Roman society that allowed for Constantine's conversion to have a large impact?
>Suppose Louis the XVI had reformed the French government.
Would those reforms have been carried out by the nobility? Would it have been enough to satisfy the peasants?
Focusing on "great men" is a far too simplistic view of history and it ignores the impact that each of us have on history as individuals.
The government has had first dibs on space for a very long time, and they've done nothing with it. Talk about taxing billionaires until you're blue in the face - whether you do or not has no effect on NASA. There's plenty of money to put towards it now, and it's not a priority.
I'm glad that billionaires are taking up an important cause for the future of our species when our government is failing to do so.
Likewise, NASA has always chosen "buy" over "build" where applicable (like contracting out spacesuit construction to major textile manufacturers). If they'd done everything in-house, that means fewer resources where it matters. Public-private partnerships make NASA more effective, not less.