Transcendental Bloviation

Politics, Space, Japan

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Talk and Action

On the Space Generation Talk mailing list, there's an interview with an SGAC member, Iole-Michela De Angelis, and the concluding Q&A echoes a persistent problem in space activism:
What question would you like to ask other SGAC people?
Why do we spend so much time talking instead of doing things?
This message came hot on the heels of calls for more information about internships ("Give us something to do!"), and a forwarded plea for work leads from Robert Goehlich, who would seem to be as employable as any young person in alt.space. Before that, there was a debate over space property rights and global equity for lunar resources that included Michael Mealing, who started RocketForge with the idea that open source processes might be applied to the problem of cheap access to space. An early conclusion of the discussion of the raison d'etre for that site was that doing open source for hardware was harder, because hardware is harder. (And rocket science involves some pretty hard hardware.) I note that RocketForge seems increasingly concerned with a futuristic horizon that many erstwhile space activists have drifted into discussion about: the Singularity, the coming of super-intelligent AI. Which at this point, like cheap access to space, is mainly just talk.

Why is there so little to do except talk? I'm reminded of a gritty reality: nothing happens until you make a sale. Before that, the best you can do is build something you hope you can sell.

SGAC is about youth input to UN space policy. Which is to say, all it has for sale to its "client" is talk -- and talk that's about what to talk about at the UN. The only forms of payment are (1) the satisfaction of being listened to, and (2) the satisfaction of seeing the UN adopt SGAC recommendations. The SGAC "sells" to members the promise of becoming influential. But if its influence only on how others talk, its ultimately not fruitful influence.

Within its limits (and while trying to push those limits), I think the SGAC should focus as much as possible on what benefits of space could be sold directly to the citizens of the UN member states. That's the UN's ultimate constituency, and thus SGAC's as well. Those benefits should be as visible and tangible as possible.

It's not an easy problem to address, I'll admit. As one wag had it, "If God had intended us to go into space, he would have given us more money." And a great many of the UN member states are poor, so the question of what to sell into a market with little purchasing power only makes the question more difficult. But there is hope.

We want space to be important. We want to be important in developing it. We want the benefits to be felt widely -- globally, in fact. The challenge is to make more of the people of this world feel like they can be an important part of developing space. Anything else will mean either losing people's attention, or never getting it in the first place.

It's nice to be listened to, but actions speak louder than words, and effective action commands more respect. Let me rephrase the problem in more concrete terms: what would you take into a developing-world town that would (1) make the benefits of space tangible and visible for the residents, and (2) offer them the opportunity to contribute actively themselves to bringing the benefits of space closer?

11 Comments:

At 11:52 PM, Blogger Linda Johnson said...

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At 11:53 PM, Blogger Josh Harding said...

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At 12:36 AM, Blogger jimvolp said...

Hi Michael,

I have two comments to make.

Firstly, the reason why we talk so much and not do is I think simple.

Do not forget that we are trying to do things with people being very remote from each other. Writing (many) single email(s) is in such a condition much easier than doing something because doing requires co-ordination (which requires communication) and commitment . A lot of co-ordination and a lot of commitment. Of course one also needs money for the implementation phase. Ok, it doesn't have to be a lot of money, but still some is needed which on all kind of levels, be it for a volunteer based organisation such as Space Generation up to Governements is often not easy.

Second point I want to make is with regards to you claim that "SGAC is about youth input to UN space policy. Which is to say, all it has for sale to its "client" is talk -- and talk that's about what to talk about at the UN."

In principle you are right that SGAC has as main customer the UN vis-a-vis space policy. Of course we are trying to become influential also in other organisations, for example national or regional space agencies.

But SGAC is more. As written on our website: www.spacegeneration.org under the section called people:

It must be said that the most important part of any organisation or network are it's people. And even more so for Space Generation because we have a unique qualifier: we are young.

And this is an unprecedented advantage that many of you will not be aware of.

Since we are young, we are unbounded by 'experience'. We are allowed to daydream still. Or ask questions. Sometimes the most simple questions in fact are the most challenging to answer.

Besides we generally are so enthusiastic that this often is a source of inspiration to many professionals that interact with us. We indirectly give them legitimacy for what they are doing and often naturally challenge them to deliver faster, better, cheaper, but in the right way, because we are impatient for progress and results.

And so we have to cherish this aspect of our people, and make use of it where we can, often being invited to participate.

And so this is why we are building up our network. Over time we gain more and more momentum. Join us and help us change the world.

 
At 12:38 AM, Blogger jimvolp said...

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At 7:29 PM, Blogger TS said...

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At 5:12 AM, Blogger Michael Mealling said...

Well, I'm actually 'doing' but I just don't blog about it on Rocketforge because I've been to busy doing the "doing". ;-)

The two most interesting things are that Masten Space Systems (the rocket company I work for) had some successful engine testing over the weekend. See Water-cooled Vernier Test Engine. I'm also getting ready for the XPrize Cup Expo later this week which means putting together all sorts of marketing and trade show materials in a very short amount of time. If you are going to be there be sure and stop by.

 
At 8:35 PM, Blogger Greg said...

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At 9:28 PM, Blogger markgibson05867505 said...

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At 7:49 AM, Blogger crishunor7450 said...

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Between talk and action lay a thousand oceans...

 
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