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Tomorrow the Moon
We are about to go back to the Moon and then to the planets, and then to the stars.
Greetings to all readers and subscribers, and special greetings to the paid subscribers!
Please scroll down for the main topic of this newsletter. But first:
Mark your calendar! At the Terasem Colloquium on December 14, 2023, 10am-1pm ET via Zoom, stellar speakers will explore recent AI developments (ChatGPT & all that), machine consciousness, and the nature of consciousness. You are invited! Please note that a related issue of the Terasem’s Journal of Personal Cyberconsciousness (Vol. 11, Issue 1 - 2023) will be published in December. See the call for papers.
We have four papers so far, by Bill Bainbridge, Mika Johnson, Stefano Vaj and myself.
While writing mine (which will also be a chapter of my next book) I did a few days of full immersion into recent developments in AI, including of course large language models (LLMs) and LLM chatbots like ChatGPT, Bing, and Bard.
And now there’s another one! Elon Musk’s x.AI is developing and preparing to release a new LLM chatbot called Grok.
The term “grok” was introduced by Robert Heinlein in his science fiction novel “Stranger in a Strange Land” (1961). It means something like understand, but really really understand in a deep, intuitive, emphatic way.
As soon as the option is available to me I’ll subscribe to X Premium Plus and enjoy Grok.
I was about to post another early draft chapter of my next book but I decided to first read some very recently published book (e.g. 1, 2) that could give me useful input and ideas for the chapter. More soon.
I took this picture a couple of weeks ago. I call it “The Moon looks down.”
I guess the two workers in the picture have other things to do and don't spend much time thinking that we are about to go back to the Moon to stay. Perhaps they don't give a fuck.
But the thing is, the fact that we are about to go back to the Moon and then to the planets, and then to the stars, gives a cosmic flavor and meaning to whatever it is that they are doing, and to whatever it is that we (you and me, and everyone else) are doing. Enjoy whatever you are doing, because it is a small part of a big cosmic wave that will take humanity to transcendence among the stars.
Perhaps you weren’t even born on December 14, 1972, the last day humans have been on the surface of the Moon. We Apollo orphans, the space enthusiasts of my generation, may think that these 50 years have been wasted and lost. But it isn’t so. We’ve developed critical enabling technologies for new, sustainable waves of human expansion outward to the planets and the moons of our solar system, and then to the stars. This is the cosmic role that the universe needed our generation to play. And now the universe needs younger people like you.
We are going back to the Moon to stay. Then we’ll go to Mars and stay. Meanwhile we are developing new generations of enabling technologies like nuclear fusion and real AI. Then we’ll develop ultra-powerful technologies and advance farther on the cosmic frontier. Eventually we’ll become an ultra-advanced civilization among the stars and the galaxies of the universe, and perhaps beyond.
Here in the West, the regulators get too much in the way and there’s the risk that they could paralyze progress in our part of the world. But no big deal, because even in that case other people in other parts of the world will do all that and much more.
But I keep hoping that we in the West will continue to shape the future alongside the rest of the world. It seems that Elon Musk’s Starship could take off for its second test flight in only a few days. If so, I’ll be glued to the TV and hope for the best. Or the second test flight could be blocked by the regulators. But even if the second test is blocked by the regulators or is not successful, sooner or later Starship will take us to the Moon and to Mars.
Enjoy the beginnings of our cosmic adventure! The Moon and the stars are looking down at you.
The film is short, crisp, to the point, and professionally done.
“The rush back to the Moon has begun,” says the FT (Financial Times) summary. “The US and China are planning permanently crewed bases on the lunar surface. Billions of dollars in contracts are up for grabs as companies are launching ambitious new support projects, from growing food in space to a new lunar internet. The FT's Peggy Hollinger asks if the next great leap forward in space is a lunar economy?”
My answer is yes. Now that the possibility to MAKE MONEY $$$ on the Moon is beginning to materialize, the rush to the Moon will be difficult to stop. The film gives an update on what’s happening and what’s likely to happen soon, and elaborates on promising business models.
The film refers to the report “Demand Drivers of the Lunar and Cislunar Economy” (2020), produced by the Science and Technology Policy Institute of the Institute for Defense Analyses (IDA) for NASA. The report mostly covers traditional space business models (that is, making money as government contractors), but the film also covers more innovative and audacious business models for the lunar economy.
Starship test flight update: Elon Musk just posted: “Was just informed that approval to launch should happen in time for a Friday launch.”
In “Back to the Moon: The Next Giant Leap for Humankind” (2022), Joseph Silk envisions astronomical observatories on the Moon, including gravitational wave observatories.
The International Lunar Observatory Association (ILOA Hawai'i) is preparing to launch ILO-X, a precursor to the ILOA flagship lunar south pole observatory, ILO-1, at the beginning of 2024. I hope the ILO missions will open the way to large and ambitious observatories on the Moon, and I feel happy for our grandchildren who will have a chance to work on the Moon and be part of the new astronomy.
This is a good time to watch the short film “Tomorrow the Moon” produced by Disney in the 1950s. Walt Disney and Wernher von Braun appear in the film, with thoughts and visuals that excited the imagination of that generation. May the real thing excite the imagination of today’s young!
At the last Terasem gathering I met Ben Haldeman, the winner of the Martine Rothblatt Space Settlement in Our Lifetime business plan competition for 2023. Haldeman’s LifeShip website says: “you can be part of a space mission. Add your DNA to a time capsule of life from Earth launching to the Moon. You’ll preserve your unique blueprint, feel forever connected to your loved ones, and leave your legacy in the Universe… You also have the opportunity to include your personal story along with the DNA that makes you, you.”
I’ll certainly join LifeShip with my family. Who knows, perhaps some benevolent human or AI or alien will use our DNA, plus information gathered from the past with scientific time magic, to bring us back to life.
In “Profiles of the Future,” revised millennium edition [Clarke 2000], at the end of the chapter “Brain and Body,” Arthur Clarke anticipated this idea:
“I recently sacrificed some of my few remaining hairs, to be launched into space as part of the AERO Astro Corporation ‘Encounter Project’. If all goes well, they will leave the Solar System (after a boost from Jupiter) and the hope is that, maybe a million years from now, some super-civilisation will capture this primitive artefact from the past. Recreating its biological contents might be an amusing exercise for their equivalent of an infants’ class. Of course, I'll never know - unless the experimenters are both very considerate - and Masters of Time.”
Commentary from my book: It is easy to imagine that a super-civilization might be able to recreate a body from biological samples, but to recreate a human personality with memories, thoughts, and feelings, they would need to be Masters of Time with at least read-only access to the past. So it seems that Sir Arthur had in mind resurrection via time scanning technology plus mind uploading, aka “copying to the future.”