ItsAConspiracy t1_je5iiuh wrote

For the orbital ring? Not geostationary. Lots of little rings, say 10 meters wide, with attached solar panels, hanging stationary just 150 miles up, cabled to the ground. They're held up there by the momentum of the iron chunks, circling the earth at faster than orbital speed, each one deflected by the electromagnets of each little ring so it doesn't shoot out to a higher orbit.

Here's a video but that's a more advanced version that's actually solid all the way around the ring.


ItsAConspiracy t1_je593kl wrote

Spider silk is really strong but not as strong as the nanotube cable would be, and not quite strong enough for a space elevator.

With the orbital ring, you only go, say, 150 miles up. You have a ring in any circular orbit around the planet. This ring does not have to be solid; the key is a bunch of hunks of iron, moving at faster than orbital speed. Those are electromagnetically deflected by passing through rings, which are cabled to the ground. The deflection pulls the rings upwards.

Getting to 150 miles altitude is just like a space elevator. After that, you use the momentum of the orbiting metal to launch you to orbital speed. You have to keep accelerating the metal chunks, so you need a bunch of solar panels.

All this can be done with today's technology for a few billion dollars in launch cost, you'd effectively get lots of space elevators instead of just one, and it could get payloads to orbit for $0.05/kg. But you'd need all the countries along a great-circle path around the planet to work together on it.

Before doing all that though we could do a launch loop, same basic idea but it's just a couple thousand miles long, and instead of the metal orbiting the planet it travels in an arc and back along the ground.


ItsAConspiracy t1_je4vg6o wrote

Imagine everyone living for 250 years. Personally I'm not willing to sacrifice an extra 150 years of life just to kill a few billionaires.

Society would not collapse. Anti-aging could actually save us from an upcoming demographic crash. As populations urbanize, birth rates go down, and most advanced nations are way below replacement rates.

Meanwhile, between cheap solar, probably fusion (see my other reply), and cultured food production, our per-capita impact on the planet could well shrink by a lot over the next fifty years.


ItsAConspiracy t1_je4ujk1 wrote

We don't have a cable that can reach to geostationary without breaking under its own weight. It's theoretically possible with nanotubes, but we'd need to mass-produce 7cm nanotubes, line them all up parallel and glue them together, and we're not there yet.

We do have cables that could get to LEO, which would let us build an orbital ring. That'd arguably be even better than an elevator, but it'd take more coordination between countries.


ItsAConspiracy t1_je4u6q7 wrote

At this point fusion is probably more like ten years in the future.

Fusion progressed exponentially from 1970 to 2000, at a faster pace than Moore's Law. Then 35 nations threw almost all their fusion money at ITER, a giant reactor in France that won't actually run before 2027, and hopes to attempt fusion in 2035.

But technology moved on. We have new superconductors that let us build a reactor like ITER but ten times smaller, and several companies are doing it. We have supercomputers that are way better at plasma simulations, letting us design new types of fusion reactors that are smaller and cheaper. Lasers have advanced exponentially too; the NIF project technically got net power from fusion last year, but used giant lasers that are less than 1% efficient; we have lasers now that can do the same thing, but they fit in a small room, are over 20% efficient, and can fire once a second instead of twice a day. We have way better power electronics.

Startup companies are taking advantage of all of this. Zap Energy is attempting net power this year, CFS in 2025, General Fusion in 2026, and Helion is attempting overall net electricity in 2024 with a mostly-aneutronic fuel.


ItsAConspiracy t1_je4t85y wrote

Flying cars are more practical than you think. Read the book Where Is My Flying Car?

General aviation, i.e. small private planes, used to be a much bigger thing than now. Back in the 1970s there were about ten times as many Cessnas and similar planes flying, and about that many more small runways. It was working out fine, and then the FAA threw such a heavy load of regulation on top of the industry that it collapsed.

Among other things it became really difficult to develop new aircraft and get them approved. This did not improve safety; it worsened it, as people had to rely on old technology.

Contrary to common fear-mongering, people with pilot licenses are perfectly capable of flying small aircraft without crashing everywhere, and many "flying car" designs are easier to fly. Decades ago we still would have needed serious training, but today, automating a flying car is way easier than automating a ground car, and we already have computer-controlled flying drones.

The big advantage of flying cars is speed. The book argues that you get a big jump in economic productivity when an average person can travel further in an hour. With flying cars, that one-hour range could be several hundred miles.


ItsAConspiracy t1_je0js7a wrote

In fairness the article also talks about meter-thick solar panels, and concludes that it's easily worth it that way. And in most scenarios it's talking about partial coverage.

A meter seems like a reasonably fair estimate, if you include things like power transmission equipment, factories and spaceships for replacing panels, etc. Doesn't matter if you can go even thinner, since a meter thick already works great.


ItsAConspiracy t1_jdv527c wrote

You don't need conscious awareness to beat me in chess, and maybe you don't need it to beat all of us and take everything.

So what worries me is not that we're copyable, but that maybe we're not. We can't prove whether another person or an animal actually experiences qualia. What if the machine doesn't, but wipes out all life anyway? Then the light of consciousness would go out of the world.


ItsAConspiracy t1_jctyfgi wrote

If each of those EV batteries is a 100 kilowatt-hour Tesla battery, and your lunar base uses just one kilowatt like an average American house, then sure, three batteries will last for (almost) two weeks since there are 336 hours in two weeks.

But Rolls-Royce is talking about a reactor that can provide megawatts. If we need a megawatt of power instead of a kilowatt, then we multiply our battery requirement by a factor of a thousand.


ItsAConspiracy t1_jacuwuk wrote

> we would need more energy than the energy previously hold in all that burnt fossil fuel

That would be necessary if we had to split all the CO2 into carbon and oxygen. But we don't have to do that; we can inject the CO2 into deep basalt formations, where it will turn into rock.

So we just have the energy cost of concentrating the CO2 from the air and pumping it underground, which is a lot less.


ItsAConspiracy t1_ja44alv wrote

Yes, but people in business tend to get a lot of emails, and if most of them resort to text summarization then the nuance is lost anyway. And it's mostly lost if the recipient skims.

Also, many senders of email aren't necessarily great communicators conveying valuable nuance anyway.

Ultimately, it's a cost-benefit calculation: get occasionally-valuable nuance on a bunch of emails, or keep emails simple and do something else that might be more valuable?


ItsAConspiracy t1_j9okjp5 wrote

People in businesses will write out some bullet points and an AI will expand them into essays.

On the other end, people without the time to read much will have an AI summarize those essays in bullet points.

After a half century or so, everyone will get it through their thick heads that this is stupidly inefficient and just exchange the bullet points.


ItsAConspiracy t1_j9k1oww wrote

Eventually, population will start rising again if the anti-aging tech is good enough. But in that eventual higher-tech future we might also have cheap fusion, cheap space travel, and really compact food synthesis, so we'll be able to support much larger populations. We're making progress towards all of these things.