Newsletter TDF 1-2006

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The Tourist of the Infinite

by Adriano Autino

The best and the worst 2033

The government of terror (terrocrates)

And what if we were not afraid?

TDF for the Aerospace Industry

The first international convention of Technologies of Frontier

Dear Co-planetaries,

At the beginning of 2003, in TDF, we proposed a questionnaire, asking visitors to forecast the future, with a 30 year time horizon. We asked you to imagine the best future and the worse future in 2033.

The best and the worst 2033

The 2033 that I dream of, and that all sincere humanists, I believe, dream with me, sees the philosophy of the open world in full development, the space economy soundly on its way, with a perspective of practically boundless growth, the planetary conflicts moving towards solution and the environmental problems at least lightening, thanks to a progressive decrease in pressure on the ecosystem of this planet, since we will have begun to transfer elsewhere the weight of our growth (see A millennium of growth of the civilization).

The worst 2033 is, instead, an apocalyptic scenery: the world remaining closed, economy with neither space nor resources to expand, all conflicts worsening, authoritarianism and barbarity progressively regaining their positions, and our civilization entering an irreversible, regressive vortex. I also wrote: in a closed world, with a human population of around 8 billion, the economic, the social, and the energy problems, (both of resources and environmental) will drown us; the economy will fail, and we will no longer have the money for space. But, also, we won't have the imagination, the necessary cultural freshness, to expand into extraterrestrial space. The time window favourable for the first footsteps of our civilization toward the stars, opened in the 50’s of the last century, would be closed, perhaps irreversibly. It would be difficult even to imagine if and when this regressive process could change direction. (see The victory of the closed world).

Reading those lines again today, with only two years distance, brings shivers to me.

The price of oil, our main source of energy, reached very high levels, and, beyond economic fluctuations, everything makes us think that it will keep increasing on a wave of rising demand, due to Asian development (see the Alberto Cavallo's article). In general though, the global economy is stagnant, missing lines of strong new industrial development, and is restrained by the narrowness of the energy and material resources of our (currently) only planet. The conflicts multiply and worsen, rather than finding solutions. And the cowardly attacks in Madrid and London (four years after September 11th in New York) testify the impotence (and incredulity) of advanced societies in the face of the most primitive slaughter binges of our kind. The natural and the global disasters follow each other with an impressive rhythm. In the space of just one year we had: the Asian tsunami, that claimed hundreds of thousand of victims and brought the economy of a whole subcontinent to its knees; hurricane Katrina, that destroyed New Orleans; the earthquake in Pakistan, that killed 50,000; other hurricanes; Rita, that raged on Texas, Wilma, that threatened (and miraculously missed) the gulf of Mexico. And, last, the avian influence, another apocalyptic scourge impending on our present, transmitted on the wings of wild birds, in spite of all our technology. In the case of the hurricanes of last autumn, it was not the economy of a so-called developing country to be forced to its knees, but the first economy of the planet. Some colleagues, participants of the IAF Congress, held in Fukuoka (Japan), October 17th-21st, reported the declarations of some of NASA’s exponents: that 200 billion dollars, targeted to the reconstruction of New Orleans, would be in alternative to the new US space program.

Is the worse 2033, therefore, already here? Are we already forced to choose between expansion into space, (provided such an option was really proposed as a strategic choice, and unfortunately it is not so) and a continuous series of emergencies?

It would be more than legitimate to loose heart: our political leaders were not able – even before – to see space as more than an easy expedient to tap money from tax-payers, ready to tune up for other "responsible, reasonable and sustainable" songs, following fashion and popular emotionalism. We don’t need professional pundits to prophesy that space would quickly drop to the tail of the priorities list, long before emergencies imposed any drastic choices. Anyone seeing the frequency of contractions of the pregnancy of Mother Earth, pregnant with a Baby Solar Civilization, likely near term, would very probably expect – as with many underweight childbirths (and still nowadays, in less lucky areas of the planet) –tragedy for the mother, or for the child, or for both.

A slogan of Greenpeace comes to my mind, recently seen in the media: "Decide. Either you defend the planet, or it will defend itself alone." A firm stigmatization of the tone, almost apologetic towards natural disasters, and rather threatening towards the victims, it is obviously mandatory, for us humanists. To such a slogan, sad and gloomy, I would like to oppose with another one, much more effective and that, above all, doesn't foretell death and destruction, but on the contrary life and human solidarity:

"Decide. If you don’t defend your kind, nobody will defend it."

The government of terror (terrocrates)

The situation in Italy surely doesn't suggest optimism. In this country they come to the stage, usually late, only caricatures of the great revolutions that we saw in other countries. Here we have the most retrograde environmental movement on the planet, which obstinately fights both roads and railroads, equidistant in refusing both dumps and combined heat and power plants, denying the substantial differences between nuclear fission and fusion; it is even opposed to wind power (it would deface the landscape!). Here we had for five years a government in which many had given trust, believing in the promises to modernise bureaucracy, to liberate the economy and the market from the very many barriers imposed by economic and political potentates. A kind of Thatcherian therapy, but we saw nothing of that kind: another five lost years, a missed revolution, the balance of which must not be delayed (please see a brief reflection on such a subject, to be issued soon).

In Italy, like in the rest of the world, the terrocrats seem to keep on ruling. As we saw there are several reasons (real or presumed) in our society, to maintain a state of fear, which induces the people to keep on supporting governments that are more and more incompatible with strategies of true development. Before the fall of the Berlin wall the terrorising function was covered by the ideological enemy, beyond the wall, and by the threat of nuclear holocaust. Following a short period of disorientation, after the wall’s fall, the void was filled by various environmental threats, by the terrorism of Al Qaeda, by immigration and by the so-called confrontation between civilizations. All such threats are anything but scientifically proved (the environmental ones), and surely not resolvable by the logic of an eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth (the terrorist ones). As for the avian influence, according to government experts, shoudn’t it have exterminated 16 million people in Italy last autumn? Obviously I don't mean to minimize the danger, it could be that worse has still to come, so don’t stop taking reasonable precautions. However we owe to observe that, up to today, we didn't have cases in Europe: or we became suddendly very good in prevention (unlike thing), or somebody overdid.

In general terms we are living a situation in which some prophetic words of Pope Woytila, often repeated and written by Him in the last years of his pontificate "don’t be afraid", they sound dangerously subversive! His successor, Pope Ratzinger, in full accord with Cardinal Ruini and the more conservative Roman Catholic clergy, already has corrected this aim. From the Sunday balcony of San Pietro square we don't listen anymore to condemnation of the war, but concepts dear to Mr. Bush, to the neo-con (or terro-con , or what the heck they are called!), and to all the terrocrats of the planet: that we can defend peace by sending soldiers all over the world. Not a word on the killings and on the ordinary barbarity perpetrated by allied troops in Iraq today, as yesterday in Kosovo: when one is afraid, he shoots before trying to understand. This is the stuff we teach to our twenty year-old boys, sent around the world, armed to the teeth: to be afraid and to inspire fear, thus feeding (and not opposing) the general state of terror.

Some clean ideological separations appear more and more evident, having nothing in common with the old oppositions of the past century. On one side, the legionnaires of the authoritarian ideologies of the last centuries: fascism, stalinism, religious fundamentalism. They light social and ethnic conflicts with violence, sowing hate and producing new social feuds: in Paris, Bologna, Baghdad, Palestine, to name just a few. On the other side are those (unfortunately very few) that try to use reason in social situations, however this is made very difficult by the mafia and bureaucracy of these last years (like Rome), to find good solutions without hurting anybody. Maybe if the newspaper writers were more careful, and they learned to also make news with positive stories, we would perhaps also find many reasons to have some trust in the future.

And what if we were not afraid?

And if we gave attention to the old Pope, and we stopped being afraid, how many and what things could we do? A good question, for the crucial forthcoming year, 2006! Let’s think, even when fear is justified, surely it is better to control our fear, and work as if we were fearless (perhaps the best definition of courage J), if we want to increase the probability of saving our own lives.

A tourist, exploring the unknown, can allow terror to paralyse himself if he focuses for too long on his own lonely littleness, or instead he can enjoy the wonders that he goes on discovering... to govern in a mature way his own feelings and emotions, keeping in the background his ability to get scared (as a safety system, to warn us when we are really under threat), and to enjoy the wonder, the novelties, the discoveries, the evolutionary horizons that are progressively disclosed.

Science and technology immediately lose the devil’s horns, tail and clogs if we are not afraid, so we regain trust in our abilities to experiment and to govern the risks, and to expand human civilization.

The Infinite

by Giacomo Leopardi

I was always fond of this secluded hill

And this hedge which hides from my view

So large a portion of the farthest horizon.

But sitting and musing here, I picture to myself

Interminable spaces beyond the hedge,

silences beyond the human grasp,

and stillness so profound

that my heart is alomost frightened.

But the moment I hear the wind

rustle through these leaves,

I compare that sound with infinite silence,

and I call to mind the ethernal,

the dead seasons and the present

alive with all its turmoil.

In such immensity my thought is drowned,

and it’s pleasant to be shipwrecked in this sea.

[translation by G. Singh]

Even an asteroid that would strike our planet in a space of about 30 years could be seen as an opportunity if we are not afraid (see Stephen Ashworth’s prophetic words!: A 10-km asteroid). It is a challenge, sure, but thirty years is a long enough period to face it: remember we reached the Moon in less than ten years, 40 years ago! In order to divert the stone that would fall upon us, and maybe to use its raw materials to build the geo-lunar infrastructure, we need to enormously accelerate the development of Astronautics. Technologies exist, know-how and motivation also. All we need is to find ways of channelling enough capital: a problem of financial engineering, a mere banality if we had a socio-political management able to think about development, rather than terrorising people to not leave their chairs.

Politics should help young people to become aware and mature people, and adults to gain greater degrees of freedom, sovereignty, and social promotion, but, generally, it does the contrary. Luckily politics is not the only resource of civilization, even if it makes it arduous for other resources to succeed in working and making a contribution, when faced with a politics that acts and thinks like a demolition ball, rather than as a booster.

Looking in other directions, an apparently frivolous matter that emerged in the chronicles of the last quarter of the past year. There was a quantity of news about drugged VIPs, caught in their underwear, and/or in shameful situations. Each of us reacts to such news with indignation or resignation, but we don't perhaps think enough on the fact that those who take drugs, and fill roles of government, or those who work in cultural production, pollute and poison the culture of our society. Blade Runner proposes an interesting reflection on such a matter (see The drugged culture).

In another part, and in order not to make this newsletter too heavy, I propose a small meditation exercise that some of our editors defined (ironically) as a Zen Story (J ). Nothing like Zen, but only a modest invitation to think about how much our culture and our way of thinking could change, once many of us humans become settled out of the gravitational well of this planet.

TDF for the Aerospace Industry

Technologies of the Frontier believes greatly in the perspective of Astronautics, and in the absolute urgency of giving birth to the space economy, thus we aim to work ceaselessly for its realization.

This summer we registered our title at the court. TDF is now fully renewed, and it will still change in the next months, to pursue a greater usability for all those who share our spirit and our goals. Among other things we have launched a strategy targeted to the enterprises of the aerospace sector, and to any enterprise or commercial subject interested in Space and Astronautics. Yes, you understood well: we don't ask for any pedigree, or specialistic degrees, from anybody! We are interested in the relationship with whoever, firms, small enterprises or individuals, researchers or not, who see their future, in full or part, related to Space and Astronautics. We offer space is in our magazine, for your articles, description of your projects, or also your feelings and opinions about the perspective of geo-lunar space industrialization, and on any themes connected to space tourism, be they scientific, technological or commercial. We offer to put your business logo on the TDF home page (visited by 150-300 visitors per day, for the most part belonging to the space international community), with a link to your site. We also offer to make common initiatives, specialist forums, search for collaborators and offers of collaboration, in the aerospace sector.

The first international convention of Technologies of Frontier

Starting from today to April 1st 2006, you will receive this newsletter with a greater frequency, compared to the one we were accustomed in these past years. April 1st 2006 is the date of the first international convention of Technologies of Frontier, that will be held in the Media Mediaeval eval Castle of Moncrivello.

It is a not a conventional convention. We planned it as a fusion between vision, science and art. From 9.30 am to 22:00 pm, we will have talks on philosophical themes, economics, technologies, and artistic interventions: visual artists and musicians (both jazz and classical) will present their projects inspired by Space and Astronautic.

Subscribe quickly!: the castle is not very big, and places are limited!

The registration is possible on the web site web of the convention.

For the complete summary of this number, please see the editorial by Jacopo Cordero, our manager of the heading.

[English version was revised by Ben Croxford]

[029.AA.TDF.2005 - 28.12.2005]