Carl Sagan is lovely. Erik Wernquist is lovely. Together they are a vision of curiosity and imagination run riot. The narration is Sagan’s, the visuals Wernquist’s. Sadly, as might be familiar to many lovers of liberty out there, Wernquist has removed the Sagan narration, almost certainly due to copyright infringement, because obviously his use of that Sagan recording magically prevented anyone else from using it. Maybe right there is some of the pettiness we need to let go before we can explore the universe in peace forever. Below is a YouTube rip of the video with the narration intact. What an age we live in, in which technology gives us freely copyable media resources, and the forces of darkness even now fight to hold us back with insipid regulations.

 

 

Of course, it could also be said to be a terrible age, in that we have to break the law to live free. That is utterly bizarre considering no libertarian means anyone else any harm. We are a pretty tolerant bunch, after all. Whether it be smoking a particular type of plant as opposed to another or offering haircuts without a government certificate saying you can handle a pair of scissors, the forces of stupidity loom tall and implacable. Agorism is the only way to go. That has relevance for space exploration in a wonderful way, though one I don’t know that we’ll see in our lifetimes.

I am a big believer in free market solutions to the world’s real problems, like that identified by Elon Musk whereby we currently remain a one-planet species. His prescription is apt; colonise Mars. Indeed, setting up and supplying a colony on Mars is pretty much the main aim of his company SpaceX. It struck me that if a cost-effective way could be found to build massive seasteads way out in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans, right on the Equator, that they would be ideal sites for star-ladders ( usually described as space elevators ) for cheap transport from Earth to orbit or beyond and vice versa. That would be entertaining to witness.

The difference in principle between the star ladder concept and that of a space elevator is the former is like a vertical magnetic levitation railway, while the latter is basically just a tether with an elevator wrapped around it that alternates between ascent and descent. The advantage of the star ladder over the elevator is capacity. Multiple transports can move either way at the same time without getting in each other’s way. Any problems? Well, all the projects currently on the drawing board are for space elevators for the prosaic but vital reason of cost. The tether, after all, needs to be something like 40,000 kilometres from sea level to its zenith, at which altitude a capsule can simply be let go and trusted to escape Earth’s gravity on its momentum alone.

If we imagine away the problem of cost – say it comes down to just 100 billion dollars (at February 2015 spending power) and some rich capitalist doesn’t care about the chance of losing all that money – and such a star ladder is built atop a modular, ever-expanding seastead on the Atlantic equator, who would be the first customers of the operators of this star ladder? Probably a combo of mining companies sending robots to Phobos, Deimos and the Asteroid Belt, and exploration companies running mixed survey and passenger tour missions. This would be the death of government-led space exploration, and the birth of an age of human flourishing amid the stars.

Would companies like Sprott Asset Management find opportunities funnelling investor’s money into new and innovative mining and survey missions? Would a fully-automated Law Merchant reign in a blockchain stored onboard every space-bound mining robot and manned spacecraft? Would the promise of super-cheap raw materials brought down to Earth via the ladders be realised? Would all physical resources collapse in price so utterly as to render comfortable, spacious, leisurely lives available to all? Would work hours drop to the 5-or-so a week seen in The Jetsons? Would computers exceed the lowest-achieving humans in intelligence? Would work begin on a functional Alcubierre/White warp drive to speed humans to the farthest reaches of the universe?

Food for thought, non? This would all be fun to watch happen. It would be even more fun to be involved in, of course, but I’m neither an engineer nor filthy rich, so over to any multi-billionaires reading. Maybe in a few decades this can be achieved? The foremost challenges as I see them are, first, sustainable seasteading, presumably by building lots and lots of fairly standard rigs and tethering them in a massive ring, then building a barrier system to absorb currents so that the main seastead in the centre won’t move horizontally so much as an inch. All this is challenging and troublesome, and we who love liberty deserve to lose sleep trying to figure out a solution.

The waiting cosmos won’t wait forever. There are reasons to become multi-planetary, and they’re all horrifying. Hell, government seems a pretty good one. Our escape from tyranny lies in the realisation of out-sized ambition. Let us play, in whatever new ways we can, and let us be happy.