“The Future Does Not Come Gift-Wrapped” By Jeff Greason

“The Future Does Not Come Gift-Wrapped”

By Jeff Greason

I use social media mostly to connect with a small group of friends, but I have noticed a rise, even among that group, of a certain form of magical thinking that I believe is misinforming our cultural view of the future and how we link our actions today to that future.   That growing disquiet was triggered when I saw, in a discussion about recent policy debates, the phrase “We NEED renewable power, we NEED space colonization”.

“All right”, I thought, “Go right ahead and get those things.  I’m not stopping you.”

But of course, that wasn’t what was meant.  What was meant was that someone else should simply deliver those things.   We obviously don’t “NEED” these things – I daresay the author of those remarks is still on this planet, days later, ‘needs’ still unmet.  But we may indeed want them.   I certainly would like to see renewable power, and space colonies.   I’ve even gone so far as to devote the last 20 years of my life to trying to bring such things closer, so I daresay that I want them a lot.

But how do we get the things we want the future to provide?   There is no store at which to buy them.  There is no stockpile of them through which, from force of arms, we might take them.     And except in rather trivial cases, it isn’t even possible for the government to compel our fellow citizens to provide them for us through conscription or taxation.   And yet for the last several hundred years, a better future has indeed arrived.   Because people had to BUILD it.  They had to MAKE it.   There is nothing new in the realization that civilization is enjoyed by people who themselves do not make the sacrifices to create and sustain it – see Kipling’s “The Sons of Martha” if in doubt.  But I sense that such attitudes are growing; that as fewer and fewer of our fellows have farmed, or fished, or mined, or cut timber, or built houses, or paved roads, or built computers, or written software – that they are losing touch with the fact that the gifts of civilization do not come from some cornucopia, delivered to those who claim their need the loudest.  They come from US.  And if we don’t provide them, they won’t come at all.

I think science fiction holds a mirror to that attitude as well, in our vision of what the universe will hold.   Two generations ago, Heinlein could write of how we “retch at the swamps of Venus”, or how “Along the Grand Canal still soar the fragile Towers of Truth”, and expect his audience to follow without disrupting their enjoyment of the story – for as far as he, or they, knew, such things might well be.   We have expected to reach out in to the universe and find friendly planets, just waiting for us.  The theme of the Precursors is widespread in science fiction – those who left us the ancient artifacts, ideally the ones which conveniently provide us with star travel.   And of course we search still to find other intelligences, other life, which might provide us with the answers we have struggled for, the knowledge we have not yet earned.   And no one can say with certainty that such things might yet be.

Or not.

I think too little of our community, indeed, our civilization, reacts to the challenge of the future as I think they should – with rolled up sleeves and determination.   Take a moment and face the alternative.

We desire more abundant energy with less impact on the Earth – we know where to get it.  We know that trillions of Earth’s worth of energy is wastefully flowing out in to interstellar space from the Sun, sunlight and solar wind; there for the catching.   Do we bemoan the consequences of the energy we collect today?  Or do we instead attempt, by force or fraud, to make someone (someone ELSE) consume less of it?   Or do we go out and get it?

We face a cosmos in which we look longer and harder, and what do we find – not (yet), fields, forests, cities, and friendly aliens with pointed ears and quizzically lifted eyebrow.   But not emptiness either.   Planets around our star, metals, oxygen, every resource one might desire in mind-boggling quantity.  Not enough?  What would make it easier?  Water on the Moon, perhaps?  Very well, you can have that too.  Still too hard?  What would you like NOW?  Water on Mars?  Very well.   Methane on the Moon?  Fine, you have that too.   What now – you want your habitat volume pre-built for you, too?  Very well, there they are, lava tubes on the Moon and caves on Mars, waiting for you to move in.

But the stars are far, are they?  What would make that easier.   Fusion fuels, yes, of course.   Where shall we put them?  Out in the outer solar system, positioned for future starships?  Very well, we shall find that the richest source of deuterium and helium three will be Neptune, just waiting for use.   Not enough?  Planets around nearby stars?  How about planets at Proxima Centauri, literally next door.

I don’t expect any more that we will cross these gulfs and find planets “just like Earth” but different enough to be interesting.   I expect we’re going to have to work at it.   What I don’t understand is how many find that disappointing.  I find it exciting.

That would mean that it’s all up to us, folks.  That WE are the precursors.  WE are the ancient aliens, the Preservers, who seeded life throughout this spiral arm.   We are the ones who terraformed Mars, and built the ancient cities found below the surface of Luna.  It is OUR artifacts that archaeologists will unearth, puzzling at how life came to be, all in one eyeblink of Galactic history, spread so widely.

Is that harder than if the hard work was already done for us?  Of course it is.   But what a glorious place, and purpose, for humanity that would be – will be.   How unforgivable it would be for us to turn away from that challenge, to pass up the chance that the full, dynamic, Galactic Empire of the future will one day be.  If that were all done for us – it wouldn’t be there for US to do.

Neither in the big things, nor in the small, were we ever promised that the future would be delivered to us, gift-wrapped, under the Christmas tree.   All we were ever given is the change to go out and make it with our own hands.    No one likely to hand us the future we want.  To borrow Heinlein again — “You can’t buy it – learn to MAKE it”

126 responses to ““The Future Does Not Come Gift-Wrapped” By Jeff Greason

  1. THIS.

  2. I can’t recall ever not recognizing that it came “Some Assembly Required” — and that there were sure to be a few additional tools needed and several parts likely to be damaged or lost in transit.

    Worse than Heathkit, better than Ikea.

    • And sometimes you have a pile of lumber and a table saw. Or scrap from old pallets – finally got around to building some quickies to reorganize my desk for using a workstation instead of the laptop.

    • Nah. “”The future is something which everyone reaches at the rate of 60 minutes an hour, whatever he does, whoever he is.” C. S. Lewis

      And, of course, with no promises, let alone guarantees.

      • Some assembly required. Specialty tools may be required. Instructions only appear to be intuitive. Parts may need to be ordered in a language unfamiliar to you. Cash only. (You’re on your own here, buddy.)

        • I would say it was more a free set of Legoes. Everyone gets ’em, but what you get out of them is another matter

  3. If God had intended us to travel through space then He’d have given us a moon.

    • And maybe a Space Corp
      “As part of its version of the 2018 Defense authorization bill, the House Armed Services Committee voted late Wednesday night to create a sixth branch of the U.S. armed forces: the U.S. Space Corps, which would absorb the Air Force’s current space missions.”
      https://federalnewsradio.com/defense-news/2017/06/house-panel-votes-to-split-air-force-create-new-u-s-space-corps/

      • Christopher M. Chupik

        I can’t wait for all the Space Corps Directives.

        • Fobbits are salivating…

          • FlyingMike

            And just imagine what incredible flavor of pretend-camoflage uniforms the United States Space Corps will choose for everyday hide-machinery-stains uniforms.

            Of course for the dress uniform, it should be black with gold piping and berets, with ship captains berets in white.

            Since it’s being split off from the USAF, instead they’ll get another blue business suit uniform, maybe with different collar devices.

            • My understanding is that Space will come under the Secretary of the Air Force.

              • FlyingMike

                Similar to how that other DoD Corps, the USMC, is positioned under SECNAV and has been since 1834, but the Marines don’t organizationally report to any admirals – the USMC and the USN are sister services, where the USN is the elder sister (est. 1794) that gets shiny new nuclear carriers and jets, while the USMC is the younger sister (est 1797) that traditionally gets hand me downs and old stuff that nobody else wants.

                The most recent direct parallel with the Space Corps is how the United States Army Air Corps first emerged from the Army Signal Corps during WWII, then became the US Army Air Force, and in 1947 split completely as a distinct branch.

                Back to uniforms: Note that the USMC’s dress uniforms are basically a blue version of the older-format USN dress uniforms (compare the high collar and overall cutof the USN officer dress whites vs. the standard dress USMC collar and cut). When the USAF split off as a completely separate service, the Air Force uniform was intentionally designed to be very, very different than the US Army uniform of the time, thus sky-blue and a much more modern style.

                I’m not sure which way the new Space Corps will go – stay traditional or go very different. If it were the cyber corps, I’d bet on shorts, t-shirts, and knit watch caps for all ranks, but space, I dunno…

                • I have sometimes joked that we’ve held up development of a space force for years because the obvious uniform colors are black and silver, and no one wants that for the unfortunate historical parallels….

                  • BobtheRegisterredFool

                    I think I’m stealing that for a project. See, after the mass murders of the mid twenty first century world war, nobody cares much about the optics of resembling the NSDAP.

                • Being a navy veteran, I see space as a ocean, not the air force extend sky.

                  • Actually there’s been a fair amount of debate in the professional journals on which institutional invest would be the best fit for actual and anticipated space operations.

                    I tend to agree with you – the Navy mindset evolved in eras of independant command seems to me to be a better fit than the Air Force’s fighter-direction background, especially if we eventually get missions going out into the black where instant communications with higher are not possible.

                    • ^Invest^ shouldabeen ‘mindset’ – and I have no idea why autocorrect made that change.

                    • There is a much stronger reason why the Navy ought to be the traditions from which a Space Corps is drawn. The details of technology are quickly overcome, but culture changes slowly. The nature of air power is that the mechanism for operations is to establish air supremacy over the theater, and then proceed to other priorities. The nature of sea power is that naval vessels can always sortie out, but only one power or group of powers can effectively protect their naval commerce from enemy operations; that is what sea power is. In space, there will *always* be adversary assets present. “supremacy” is not in the cards. But we do need to protect our commercial operations and, in the event of a conflict, we need our assets to be the ones left standing. That’s very much in line with the doctrine and traditions of the naval service. So even before we reach manned ships where independent command is or is not a factor, I’d like to see more involvement by the Navy.

                    • There’s an argument that an orbital near-space-supremacy force could rhyme with the USAF culture and traditions, but it could also be argued orbital stuff is just a gator-Navy analog, and anything out past GEO seems to map straight into the blue water Navy traditions and culture of the USN.

                    • Let’s compromise and put the Coast Guard in charge. 😛

                    • We really should have a Space Guard dedicated to detecting and moving dangerous asteroids and comets.

                    • Leslie Fish’s Sentries is relevant:

                    • Personally I think a mix of both might work. The space-‘air’ force takes commands from the ships they launch from…

                  • One of the brightest minds in space policy has been advocating a “coast guard” model for space for at least 15 years; here’s one of his articles on the subject. http://www.thenewatlantis.com/publications/proposing-a-coast-guard-for-space

            • Space pretend camouflage should be pure black with scattered stars.

              The true field uniform should be powered EVA armor with cold gas MMU, radar absorbent and multi-spectral chameleon emission cloaking.

              I’m sure the Space Corps will give it a boring acronym like SBU, Space Battle Uniform.

              • Christopher M. Chupik

                I am informed that there is no stealth in space. While I instinctively distrust dogmatic statements, there might be something to this one.

                • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                  The Romulans would disagree with the “no stealth in space”. 👿

                  • Christopher M. Chupik

                    Propaganda from the cloaking device industry.

                    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                      Well, the “no stealth in space” idea is Propaganda from the Roddenberry Foundation.

                      They don’t want Humans to have “cloaking devices”. 😈

                    • Anachronda

                      Are you saying Gene Roddenberry was in the pocket of Big Cloak?

                • I believe there can be more stealth than the other side is willing to pay for detecting, which is as good as you can get anywhere.

                  • How?

                    The thing about space is that it’s EMPTY. You’re going to stick out like a sore thumb.

                    • But the other thing about space is that it’s BIG.

                      A needle looks nothing like straw. It isn’t the camouflage that makes it hard to find.

                      We’re still finding new asteroids on a regular basis that pass within a few hundred thousands miles of us. And scientists and amateur astronomers alike have been looking for them like their lives have depended on it for a couple of centuries.

                      With sufficient technology to reach our Oort Cloud, an alien race could easily and precisely drop a rock into the gravity well with our name on it. The odds of us seeing them do it, or seeing it coming before it is much too late, approach zero.
                      Or they just catch a ride on a comet for the trip in, if they’re feeling peaceful. Hiding behind a chunk of ice does wonders for concealing radiant heat, not to mention the outgassing interfering with our sensors. Drop off in the shadow of Jupiter, and we’d be none the wiser.

                      Even if we manage to colonize the inner planets AND maintain cooperation between them AND expend a great many resources looking outward, there are still going to be huge holes in our sensor net.

                    • The bigness of space combined with the inverse-square law mean that stealth is very much a thing in space: The difference in detection range between a white corner reflector and a similarly sized faceted (or strategically smoothly curved) black box coated in radar absorbent material are very, very different, with the faceted RAM box being able to get a lot closer than the reflector box before any sensor picks it up.

            • I fear that you are right on this. No sartorial imagination at all in the Services.

      • Christopher M. Chupik

      • Great. We needed that like another hole in the head.

        USAF Space Command barely exists in the first place, but keeping that going will be a tiny part of the bureaucratic overhead as all the swivel-chair generals at the Pentagon scramble for new positions.

        What they should have done was de-fund the financial sinkhole of NASA, which has never overcome its cost-no-object origins, and given its funding and mission back to the USAF. The Cold War is over, we don’t have to pretend NASA’s main purpose is spy satellites any more.

  4. Great perspective on trying to get our species to stop at lazing around and just do it. Thanx Jeff!

  5. I must have been fourteen when I first got involved in the university astronomy club. I think they were responsible for getting me to read Asimov’s non-fiction, and certainly for introducing me to Fermi. But when I looked at the equations (printed in one of Asimov’s books) for likelihood of space-faring life arising, and plugged in what I thought were reasonable numbers, I got results of only one space-faring species in the galaxy at a time.
    If we don’t conquer c, it doesn’t matter anyway: if some of us find aliens the rest of us won’t know. But there aren’t very many, at least I haven’t found them, tales of people finding FTL and getting out there and finding no aliens. Or no life.
    I suppose people generally prefer the idea of us finding other people, for mentors, friends, enemies, and aliens often seem to take the place of humanities tribes and clans in science fiction.
    What is our duty if Earth is the only planet on which life was created?

    • “What is our duty if Earth is the only planet on which life was created?”

      Obviously to spread it to the rest of the planets.

      Unless of course you are “Greener” who believes that human life is a disease. Then you think our duty is to quarantine Earth at all costs and exterminate human life. Strangely they always want to be the administrators of such extermination, rather than volunteering to lead from the front.

      • It’s hard not to rephrase that as something like “Be fruitful, and multiply; fill the cosmos and make it a place to live”

      • If someone were to believe that human life is a disease, shouldn’t they want to “go out there and inhabit everything”? After all, isn’t spreading from one host to another the very basis of existence for a bacteria or virus?

    • Our duty to Earth is the same as it has always been: to be good stewards and managers, if possible to leave our little patch a bit better than we found it, and to move out of the house once we become adults and strike out on our own.

      We just need the moving van (or interplanetary pick-up) to arrive.

  6. If we NEED renewable power, why do they keep tearing out dams? Hydroelectric power is practically the definition of renewable power. It certainly is the most feasible at current technology levels.

    • Because “pristine stream” and “it’s manmade kill it, kill it, aieeeee!!” [said in same tone of voice as I use for large spiders indoors and MomRed uses for cockroaches] Neither of which are necessarily accurate arguments for the removal of hydro-power dams.

      • Also does a lot of damage to fishing runs.

        Just like windmills do to birds and bats.

        • I think the “fish ladder” arrangements can help mitigate that damage, and I’m much more in favor of building those than tearing out dams.

          Though we do need to do something different about Glen Canyon Dam, because of its impact on the Colorado River through Grand Canyon. More surge releases, or some sort of warming and silt injection technique, or something, otherwise the sandy banks will continue to disappear and the flora and fauna will continue their rapid shift.

        • True, but not on all the streams that the activists want de-dammed. Some were never good spawning streams, as best we can tell from what records are available.

          Dam removal is one of those things that makes me twitch because so many of the people demanding their removal have not looked at the short and medium-(and sometimes long-) term results. Sort of the inverse of the wind-turbine fanatics (“So what if its inefficient and kills birds and bats? It’s not coal so it’s saving the Planet!!”)

          That and the sign at the local protest today blaming the president for it being summer. *SIGH*

          • Dam removal is one of those things that makes me twitch because so many of the people demanding their removal have not looked at the short and medium-(and sometimes long-) term results. Sort of the inverse of the wind-turbine fanatics (“So what if its inefficient and kills birds and bats? It’s not coal so it’s saving the Planet!!”)

            You mean they ever look at anything beyond their own self-gratification? The “I fixed it” feel good, even if they made things worse?

            The ones who are advancing the most in renewable energies and its’ applications don’t really make much noise about it. They just do it, and the tech slowly filters into their common populations from there. Some of the stuff I hear being developed / is in use in Japan from Housemate’s friends in those industries is frankly awesome. On the other hand, their dying population may just mean we’ll lose those advances as well.

          • … the sign at the local protest today blaming the president for it being summer.

            That sign I will accept, as under President Hillary we would have experienced unending winter (but no Christmas.)

          • That and the sign at the local protest today blaming the president for it being summer. *SIGH*

            *record scratch sound*

            WHAT

            • Patrick Chester

              I’m going to take a guess and presume it’s another one of those “high temperatures = global warming” types and since Trump isn’t getting on the environmentalist bandwagon he’s to “blame” for it.

              • Exactly. Because it has never gotten *GASP!* over 100 in June before. Except in 2011, 2016, and 2008, and 1998, and 1995, and . . .

                • I live in the Sacramento area, and you can pretty much put every year going back to the start of record-keeping—and we’re not Redding.

              • I’ve been entertaining myself by showing Housemate some of the crazy. He’s torn between ‘there is no way they’re serious/for real’ and -more funny for me- wtfing. It is a sight to behold.

        • Considering that most of the dams were built around a hundred years ago, and salmon have a four year lifespan and spawning cycle… I think the majority of the damage has already occurred. Kind of closing the barn door after the horse has already left.

          Fish ladders help, and of course we used to raise a lot more hatchery fish but now we don’t do that as much, because they aren’t natural (actually they don’t seem to be as hardy, so they do have sort of a point). And as TxRed points out, quite a few of them were never significant spawning streams in the first place.

          I have had enough dealings with the bureaucratic idiocy, outright lunacy, and blatant lying of the US Fisheries people that I’ve no doubt I go overboard the other direction, I automatically assume anything they claim is false, unless there is good evidence proving it true. But frankly I don’t believe that tearing out dams will significantly improve the fish runs from what they currently are, and frankly I view renewable power as more important than the good feelz garnered by destroying the source with little to no positive upside to doing so.

      • Just try asking one of them “exactly what wars the pristine condition of the stream 1000 years ago? ” Some student tried figuring out the original river course of East Coast streams and rivers, and discovered it can’t be done. The first people to reach a river would discover a shallow ford- then place big rocks in it to get across with dry feet. And they soon discovered fish liked stillwater. So throw a bunch of rocks in to back up the water and make a stillwater area. And- THE BEAVERS! They’ve been hard at work for millennia changing stream and river courses.

        • The history of mill ponds has done a lot to make the streams neater than they used to be. Time was they heavily resembled swamp.

          • Rambunctious Garden by Emma Marris is interesting on the topic.

            • Oh, a book on a topic I always wanted and didn’t know existed! Alas, my budget!
              Thank you, Mary.

              • Be warned that it is distinctly — well, not eco-freak, but leaning that way.

                Which does make its concessions all the more remarkable.

        • THE BEAVERS! They’ve been hard at work for millennia changing stream and river courses.

          Yeah, well, trying to point out that human beings aren’t the only ones to build dams for their own benefit only results in REEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE

  7. kenashimame

    Didn’t someone once say, about going to the moon:
    “We chose to do this, and the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.”

    • Some crazy far-right winger, no doubt… }:o)

      • If it is who I think it might be, he was also tax-cutting extremist and war-monger.

        • kenashimame

          There are quotes where he distinctly eschewed the term “liberal.”

          • Wasn’t he a member of a far-right religious cult whose leader — called “The Papa” — denys women autonomy over their own bodies, even to the extent of not being permitted birth control, much less abortion?

            • kenashimame

              I’ve heard that rumor. I’ve also heard he held to certain rules of that cult very losely…

              very

  8. This gets into why I like Minecraft so much.
    Because, in a damn near infinite universe, there is you and what you can build. No hand-wringing about misuse of resources and terrorizing the landscape, no external goal. Just you, and what you can make.

    • I’m with you there! Although the son tells me I’ll have to get a rather extensive mod pack to mess around with the really cool stuff like antimatter.

      Be nice if I could just hang stuff in midair in RW, though.

    • *grin* We have a server with some add-ons. Survival mode. Whenever I want to de-stress I log into there and farm for a little while, or try to get some of the spellbooks to enchant stuff via fishing.

      • I miss it terribly. @_@ But my issues are having a one-year-old and not having my own computer anymore, neither of which is permanent, so… hopefully? Eventually?

        • Just let me know when! Oh and the wee princess is 1? Do email me a pic so I can see, please?

          I have fond memories of sitting with Vincent on my lap while playing. Aff discovered that Vincent loved kabooms and funny sounds; and thus was back in the Philippines. So Vincent would say, ‘Blow up that sheep, Uncle Aff!!!!’ To which Aff would give an enthusiastic ‘You got it!!!’ Surround sheep with TNT and booom! Toddler giggles in delight.

          Then there was the time I was farming in an area we thought had been made safe… sssssssssBOOM!!! I screamed this bloodcurdling scream that had Rhys and Aff rushing in… turned out there was a cave not immediately visible just above and it was spawning mobs. ~_~

          I think Rhys gets more entertainment out of my reactions than the game ^^;

  9. paladin3001

    One day. Hopefully soon. All the wealth we need is just sitting there for the taking.

  10. Huzzah! Huzzah! Huzzah!

  11. One of the reasons I did so much SCUBA when I was in the Pacific was I was hoping to get picked up on a maintenance contract in orbit. So there I was, practicing rigging and mechanics in, if not a null-gee, a neutrally buoyant environment in all manner of outre attitudes. Sadly, such contracts did not materialized, and I’m afraid the ol’ ticker would now prohibit such activity for me hereafter. But maybe my nephew . . .

    • Oh, I hear that! One of the reasons I picked electrical engineering as a career path is that I noticed all the SF stories had engineers and radio techs and computers, so I reasoned (back when I was 6) that there’d be plenty of jobs for electrical engineers on the space frontier. I did *NOT* expect to have to also build the ships first, but if that’s what it takes….

      • Geology. Why can’t I get out there and check out those rocks? Apart from being too fat and too old . . . I need to revive an old personal project of mine, an asteroid mining study.

  12. And i disagree. Signs point toward there being other worlds that would be very earthlike, and that there is now reason fully sentient tool using life would not have evolved before (or after) us. It also means that there isn’t going to be someone who has been around for longer that is worse than us, or better than us.

    Otherwise, its an awful waste of space.

    • *no reason

    • At the moment, the most we can say is that some planets appear to be able to have liquid water.

      And at most we can say we know of no reason why there is not other fully sentient tool-using life out there.

      As for awful waste of space, I suspect God might have His own reasons for it not having to do with life.

      • Christopher M. Chupik

        Of course, our nearest neighbors could still be using tools of stone or bronze and we won’t detect them for a long, long time.

        • Yeah, but absence of evidence is indeed evidence of absence — albeit not very good evidence in this case — and we have NO evidence of presence.

        • alternately, they could be using entangled quantum transmission and teleportation. Or they could live entirely underwater and not use RF transmission for long-distance communication.

          • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

            Well, if we’re looking for “high tech” civilizations, IMO they are unlikely to be created by species that have to spend their lives underwater.

            For one thing, such a species would have an extremely difficult time “forging” metal tools. 😉

            • Christopher M. Chupik

              James Cambias’s A Darkling Sea. The aliens in that one were trapped because they lived in a sea under the surface of a frozen world until humans and their allies showed up.

            • I was recently reading about potential alternative chemistries for life, and one speculated about the possibility of silicon dioxide as a solvent, replacing water. I can’t help but think that any sapient species arising under such conditions would have trouble with both metallurgy (they *might* have tungsten to work with) and electronics (how much of our electronics are based on metal, and glass, and eventually doped silicon dioxide?)…

              How are we supposed to make contact with life that can neither make rockets nor make radios?

        • Keep in mind that complex life takes a long time to develop.
          Single celled life is all the Earth had for over 80% of the time since the oldest rocks formed. It took roughly 95% of the Earth’s age to get to dinosaurs. Austrolopithicus? 99.9%

          Those beautiful cave drawing in Europe? Only since the last 0.001%.

          I won’t say that intelligent life isn’t inevitable, but finding a planet that has also had enough time to get there would be quite astonishing. And I wouldn’t expect that last 0.001% to have somehow exactly matched ours, in technological advancement.

          • Yes, this. And that older stars may well have planets, but they can’t have the elements we do, because those weren’t available then. So first generation stars can’t have life bearing planets.
            They’ll be great for refueling if we use hydrogen, though.
            Of the planets and moons we know, only one is known to certainly have life. It doesn’t seem all that common judging from our solar system

            Though, Draven, why would it be a waste if the only purpose of all the rest of the universe is to be beautiful and inspiring?

            • “why would it be a waste if the only purpose of all the rest of the universe is to be beautiful and inspiring?”

              Or to give us plenty of room to expand and colonize.

        • Homo Sap and its predecessors have been making and using tools for going on a quarter million years. And for the most part stayed at that level until a couple of centuries ago.

  13. (Applauds)

  14. BobtheRegisterredFool

    Yes it does, if you want war.

  15. Old RPM Daddy

    Was discussing this with my eldest daughter the other day. To hear some people tell it, attaining renewable energy (our whatever else) is merely a matter of political will, when it’s mainly a technological and economic challenge. But if all you’re able to think about is politics, then everything is a matter of politics.

  16. “We need….” of course actually means;

    “I want. And you must drop whatever you are doing with your unimportant life and provide it for me, because I am an Intellectual. Even though I was too fucking bone idle to actually get a degree that meant anything.”

    “We need renewable energy!”

    “Fine, sweetheart, hold out your wrists for the manacles and I’ll take you to your treadmill.”

    “But, Renewable!”

    “Oh, it is. We’ll let you mate with your fellow slaves at night!”

    *sigh*

    Schofield’s iron law of Alternative Energy; ‘Alternative Energy’ will always mean any form of electrical generation that is in no immediate danger of being practical.

  17. “We NEED renewable power, we NEED space colonization”.
    “All right”, I thought, “Go right ahead and get those things. I’m not stopping you.”

    I’m sure a few of you have heard of a gent named Elon Musk*. Elon Musk wants to go to Mars. He decided the best way to go about this was to amass a huge amount of money in a way that indirectly started building the technologies he’d need. So he started a car company, which helped to split off an energy company, and he got enough money to work on a space company on the side.

    I personally don’t know enough about the man or his beliefs to know whether I’d like him on the whole, but you have to admit, that’s the right sort of attitude. He might actually make it (and not suffer the fate of D.D. Harriman.)

    *That name would never fly in a science fiction novel. Too unrealistic.

    • BobtheRegisterredFool

      Alternatively, he’s a crony capitalist whose technical ambitions slightly exceed his ability to ensure safety.

      • Feather Blade

        As long as the test pilots sign a waiver and he provides generous compensation for their families in case of tragic equipment failure….*shrug*

        • BobtheRegisterredFool

          The thing that bugs me about his designs is the car stuff. Which a political faction is trying to ram forward.

          The other drivers on the road didn’t sign a waiver for that hazard.

    • I’d like Musk better if he didn’t seem to be depending on the Federal Government (aka taxpayers) to fund the car company and energy company so he can fund the space company.

      • Old news as far as I’m aware. The car subsidies are sunsetting and his are still selling. As for rockets, if the government is launching things it may as well pay him as pay ULA.

        It isn’t as if road construction crews or park maintenance are taking advantage of government. They provide a needed service.

        • BobtheRegisterredFool

          Selling enough to keep the company going?

          The energy company may be another of those ‘green energy’ boondoggles that will go bankrupt as soon as the subsidies go away, and the Obama subsidies are uncertain. Musk seems to have thought he could cozy up to the new administration and get subsidies, but his leaving over the Paris accord subsidy issue may mean he no longer thinks so.

          • We’ll see what happens with Tesla’s release of their Model 3. It’s priced at $35K before the tax credit. If sales remain strong after the credit finally sunsets, Tesla and Musk are likely in good shape. If not….

            • BobtheRegisterredFool

              They have a new one? I’ll be interested in hearing about how they manage service, the security architecture, and road safety.

  18. I am reminded of The Guy I Almost Was (http://electricsheepcomix.com/almostguy/) specifically this:

    I thought back to 1978…If I had been so obsessed with the future, why hadn’t I planned it better?

    Why hadn’t I started saving money?

    Why hadn’t I planned my finances and my college career?

    Answer: Because I didn’t think there was any need to.

    Somewhere the seed of fatalism had been planted in my young mind.

    The Future wasn’t something I would have to plan or build or work for. I believed the future was going to be created for me by benevolent corporations…

    All I had to do was stay alive long enough to inhabit it.

    I think that is close to half the people my age and younger.

    Change corporations to government and you’re well over half.

    I also think this was intentional. People used to hard work to create their own future are harder to control. People who like running things via big organizations want control.

  19. Alert! I don’t know whether there will be a post here today – but there is one by our beloved hostess over on PJ Media. Above the “fold,” even! https://pjmedia.com/lifestyle/2017/06/30/becoming-american/