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starship-design: Moore's Law & Vinge's Singularity

On Saturday, November 15, 1997 2:59 PM, David Levine 
[SMTP:david@actionworld.com] wrote:
> Heh, you're right - I didn't even realize my first statement "10 in
> perhaps 10 years" was pretty much the same speed as my predictions for
> the distant future when I saw Moore's Law kicking in.  Oops.
> The second statement, though, of "100 in 50 years" is definately slower
> than that, though.  If it was the same rate, it would have been "10 in
> perhaps 10 years.  100 in 20 years."
> An order of magnitude every ten years for fifty years is, of course,
> 10^5, or 100,000 times cheaper than today.  That would be pretty cheap
> access to space - it would cost $0.10 - $0.20 per pound to launch into
> orbit.  Cheaper than an airline flight, in fact.  Perhaps in a few
> centuries...

Perhaps, but let's think this through. If we are going to do what we say 
(or need) then we must have commonplace, quick, easy, cheap access to orbit 
within twenty years. Okay fine, two orders of magnitude will cover that. 
But at thirty years we need to be able to reach the Moon as easily as 
London. Now we need three orders of magnitude to _orbit_ in order to 
realize two orders of magnitude reduction in cost to the Moon. 
Extrapolating the trend, at forty years we should be able to reach ANY of 
the inner planets, asteroids, etc. as easily and cheaply as we were getting 
to the Moon ten years before, which means ANOTHER magnitude cheaper just to 
get to orbit. Finally, at fifty years, the jumping off point to the stars 
we must have at least begun thoroughly exploring the far reaches of Sun 
Space so we need yet another order of magnitude reduction in cost.

Now there is a way to shortcut this equation. At some point, heavy lift 
access to the surface of the Earth becomes irrelevant. Space based 
industry, once established can produce far superior products than can be 
manufactured on Earth and probably do it for less money given the 
availability of almost free power. So it may be sufficient to level or 
taper off at two or three magnitudes reduction in cost for planet to space 

On the other hand, with the materials available to us in this stellar 
system alone, unless we have EXTREMELY cheap access down and back, with no 
ground side support, there is really very little reason to colonize planets 
around other stars. There will not be ANY economic incentive to do so. 
About the only thing that planets can provide that can't be duplicated 
outside of their gravity well is luxury foodstuffs.
> On another note, the real Moore's Law says - what?  Computing power per
> unit cost doubles every two years or something like that?  Of course
> that means computing power per unit cost increases by 32 times every
> decade, right?  At least our Space Moore's Law is a little more
> conservative, hoping that (whenever it kicks in - IF it ever does) space
> travel would become 10 times cheaper every decade.
> I've read one thing about Vinge's Singularity that fascinates me:
> assuming no limit anytime in the near future on Moore's Law, imagine a
> computer is developed that is as capable and as advanced as a human
> brain... Then what comes two years after that?  How about two years
> after THAT?

Until several recent announcements from IBM, I was beginning to get worried 
we had hit the wall already...

Nevertheless, some scientists are already saying that they can see the wall 
coming. Of course that is what they said about the speed of sound too.