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Re: Engineering Newsletter

Kevin to Kelly
> Actually most companies only spend about %5 on research and development.  The
> rest goes to manufacturing. So I don't expect a big saving there.

What about the management overhead?  Most of the effort I ever saw in a 
company was the bean-counters and the vp types bucking for position 
getting in everyones way. I'll take the example of a bare-bones circuit 
board (it's what I know)  If the job is to make a million of the same 
thing, then you have this big pyramid structure, but if the job is to 
only make one or two of something, and then be able to switch to a 
different board, then I say that a complete (waste recycling included) 
operation could be built in 20m by 20m by 3m and run by two, or three 
people.  say another 20 by 20 by 3 for the computer chips, (I'm assuming 
truely standard things like resitors are stored in hold) and perhaps 
another 4 people for stuffing and testing, and any circuit board could be 
repaired or replaced.  If you tried to run a company like that here on 
earth, you'd be eaten alive because on earth, the name of the game is 
profit. and the cheapest most reliable, easily replaced and quickly 
programable machine, is a human being.  I can show you a million of them 
living in Mexico Citiy That would be fully functional as a worker in a 
PCB (Printed Circuit Board) factory inside a week.  But on a ship like 
the Asimov, the name of the game is self-sufficiency and space-economy.  
In that environment, a Human being requires too much overhead (air, food 
water) and many jobs that are done by poeple on earth would be better 
done by robots on board the ship.  Light bulbs can be re-made, and if 
they all have the same size and shape, (or only two or three kinds) then 
it's quite simple for one person to operate the equipment needed to 
clean the glass fragments, re-melt the glass, re-shape the bulb, apply 
the phosphor, attach the ends and fill it with sodium vapor.  don't 
expect more than a few bulbs a day, but then, how many do you expect to 
burn out?  Part of the reason we need 260 million people to support our 
industrial society, is because we have 260 million people who all need 
computers and light bulbs and a million other things, but if there are 
only a few hundred people, and the things they need are standardized, and 
there is little incentive to constantly upgrade (to a new and improved 
deoderant), then it can be done.  Look at the Shakers, the Ammana 
Colonies, any of the _real_ communes in the sixties (some of which are 
still going quite strong) yes, the people lived at a lowered standard of 
living, but that is Tim's point I think.  Look aropund your apartment.  
Many of the things you have, you could do just as well without.  (if you 
are anything like me, that is)  

One of the Good things about places like Biosphere II is not what we will 
learn about closed-sytem ecologies (which will be argued no doubt), but 
what they teach us about our consumer society. What we learn to do 
without and what we find indispensible 

> Later in this letter you mentioned this idea again and suggested if systems
> were designed to be maintained they would require less replacement.  To a
> degree true.  But after a couple decades everthing wears out; and the reason
> we got used to throwing away things rather than repairing them, is its
> cheaper and takes less effort.

yes, this is true, cheaper and less effort. but repair is not impossible.  
And when the Nearest Wal-mart is billions of Kilometers behind you, and 
the weight of all the possible spares you will ever need.  Is prohibitive, 
repair is the only rationale alternative.  making a re-fillable pen, 
taking the time to make _every_ chip in a computer plugable (so they can 
be removed and re-seated with ease, instead of with a soldering gun) 
These things will allow us to drastically cut down the numbers of people 
needed to maintain the ship.

> Well you have to call and end to it sometime.  I figured a couple years in
> systems would be all we could manage.  Maybe a bit more than 3 years, but
> certainly not anywhere near 10.  We need to keep the crews round trip time
> down below 30 years subjective (and not much more than that real time).  I
> was also expecting a maximum ship service life of about 40 years.

With a 1g thrust there and back (don't ask me how) the subjective one-way 
trip time is 5 years.  Another 5 years for return trip, and that leaves 
10 - 20 years for exploration.  The Earth time is 37-47 years, and that's 
just too bad for earth, there's only so fast a man can go (with current 
physics model)
> Yeah, I'm begining to think we're doing this more out of habit then anything.
>  Maybe thats why Dave can never seem to get around to fixing things on LIT.
>  (I just got an E-mail from a new guy who wanted to join the newsletter and
> saw my name in the on-line archive and asked what the status is.)
> Maybe we should work up a conclusion reprt or something.

You can quit if you want to, But I'm never going to stop.  This group has 
been a God-send to me.  I've dreamt about this ever since I was 10.  I 
intend to find a way.  Expense is not a problem.  Any cost can be 
justified if the reason is good enough.  Finding strong evidence of a 
life-bearing world (one of the opening assumptions)  would be just the 
reason to go, spare no expense.  I could think of no better Heaven than 
to have these ideas used.  

"To have our design go where no one has gone before."  

"You may say I'm a dreamer, But I'm not the only one."  

(with thanks to Gene Rodenberry and John Lennon)