Re: poly: Re: Why interest rates may stay low

From: Robin Hanson <>
Date: Mon Mar 23 1998 - 10:55:16 PST

Peter McCluskey writes:
>>1) Amoritized mass of systems to mine, build, energize, and launch probes.
> I intended to include all these in my Mprobe variable. ...
>>3) It takes time to colonize a new system, making mass useful there. ...
> I'm assuming that molecular assemblers will be good enough to make the
>time to accomplish this small compared to the travel time.


>>4) Mass and energy at our and nearby solar systems can become a bottleneck
>> resource, and so worth more (and priced higher) than mass far away. ...
> Can you think of a better way to compare value between the time before the
>first probe launch and the time when much of the galaxy is colonized than
>to treat mass as the most stable value? ...
> I don't forsee much trade between the leading edge and areas substantially
>behind, so I don't know how to compare value between regions dominated by
>bottlenecks to those with few bottlenecks.

You don't need physical trade to get market comparisons. Near earth I can
sell my asteroid for cash and then buy passage on a probe and the rights
to a certain fraction of the system at the other end, if we survive.

> I see some similarity between the situations faced by the first wave of
>probes launched from earth and those using other solar systems for leading-
>edge launches that will produce somewhat comparable bottlenecks throughout
>the leading edge.

The big difference is the relative volume factor, far leading edge situations
being nearly one-dimensional.

>If you have something relevant in your "Burning the Cosmic Commons" paper,
>I've given up (at least for this week) trying to follow that because the
>number of arbitrary one-letter variable names exceeds what I can keep in
>my head. How about replacing letters like U with names like Value for which
>I already have some relevant mapping? I can understand why people writing on
>blackboards or scarce dead trees are tempted to use one-letter variable names,
>but in electronic documents, I find them as evil in mathematical analysis as
>I do in source code.

The usual reason for short variable names in math has little to do with
scarcity of paper or chalk. It's the desire to see a larger math context in
a single view. Why programmers tend to have a different preference is an
interesting question.

I'll try to add an appendix listing all the variables and what they signify.

> A probe that is launched at to reach a peak speed of 0.9999c a year
>before the 0.99999c design becomes available will fall behind the leading
>edge after about 11000 light years. I've assumed that the designs will be
>improving fast enough that most of the galaxy will be colonized by those
>that wait for the faster design.

Are you also assuming that those better designs are only available here?
If not, then Carl's altered mass ratio argument applies.

> Does your use of the term "efficiency" above refer to something other than
>maximizing speed and/or probability of survival to destination?

There is also the amount of mass/energy/etc. need to produce any level of
speed and/or survivability.

>>What if they started bidding up the price of mass and energy for probes in
>>anticipation of future improvements in probe technology, and hence later high
> Started bidding them up when? I thought my numbers implied that people
>should have already started to devote large fractions of their income
>towards this kind of investment if it is to produce the effects you claim.
>If both you and Carl missed this, there must be something wrong with the
>way I presented it. ...
>>...What if ... fought for solar system mass sources, ...
>> Would >70% of world income then be devoted to these first fights? ...
> I can't follow what you are trying to say here. Please rephrase.

We seem to be confusing each other. It seems we both agree that a large number
of projects with huge returns later should induce huge investment now in rights
need for those later returns (like near-solar mass). So the lack of much
investment in this now (far below anything that would "test this upper limit
of investment supply") suggests investors don't anticipate such huge future
returns. From which I conclude that such huge future returns are unlikley.
What do you conclude?

Robin Hanson
RWJF Health Policy Scholar, Sch. of Public Health 510-643-1884
140 Warren Hall, UC Berkeley, CA 94720-7360 FAX: 510-643-8614
Received on Mon Mar 23 18:58:29 1998

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