Friday, January 16, 2004

Venezuela Moving to Decriminalize Drug Possession

His supporters may be pretty thuggish towards their right-wing political opponents, but the government of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is apparently liberal on at least one score: decriminalization of drug possession.
Under the article, people caught with 'personal dose' or 'maintenance dose' amounts of illegal drugs will face no criminal sanction....
The proposed reform would also address penalties for drug trafficking and manufacture, creating a system of sentences based on weight rather than the current system, which subjects all trafficking and manufacturing crimes to the same harsh set of sentences.
Under the proposed new Article 383 of the penal code, 'A personal dose would be understood to be the quantity of the drug that does not exceed the average five-day personal consumption; and a maintenance (or supply) dose would be the quantity of the drug used by the average person (as determined by experts) for no more than 10 days.'

Class-Baiting Bioethics

An article attacking the lack of bioethics attention to global justice issues by Canadian bioethicist Leigh Turner in the British Medical Journal is a classic in class-baiting:
Researchers looking for the next big thing are shifting toward the study of 'neuroethics' and genetic 'enhancement technologies' supposedly on the verge of propelling us into a 'post-human future.' In contrast bioethicists rarely address urban poverty and inner city violence, even though poverty and violence raise important issues related to health....bioethics risks becoming a source of entertainment and spectacle in wealthy societies whose inhabitants overlook the poverty and suffering found throughout most of the world....

Perhaps one reason bioethicists are reluctant to address global ethical issues related to health, illness, and poverty is that bioethicists are deeply embedded in a global economic system that depends on the continued existence of impoverished societies... Many jobs are shifting from developed nations to poorer countries with low hourly wages, few work-place benefits, minimal health and safety standards, and patchy environmental regulations. Many of the goods enjoyed by citizens of wealthy nations are available for consumption because of the continued existence of massive economic disparities between wealthy and poor nations.

Most of us would prefer not to confront the incredible disparity between living as a professor or clinician in a smart apartment in Manhattan and eking out a living in one of China's rapidly industrialising districts or a shantytown in South Africa... many bioethicists continue to see these questions as macrosocial economic issues falling outside the proper scope of bioethics. And yet questions of health and illness—and ethical issues related to health systems, social institutions, and economic policies—are connected to global markets and financial institutions.
Hey Leigh! You can be concerned about our posthuman future and global equity and health at the same time. Nor is the posthuman future simply of concern to people in the developed world.

Responsible Nanotech Has a New Voice in the Blogosphere

Our friends at the Center for Responsible Nanotechnology have just started publishing a blog. Definitely check it out.

Invitation to get involved with the European Social Forum

The email / leaflet below about the upcoming European Social Forum in London, England later this year is intended for very wide distribution. The ESF is intended to be a very broad-based conference (of a sort) for progressive and radical social movements of all kinds - and if the perspectives of democratic transhumanism have not been very much in evidence in previous Social Forums, perhaps that is all the more reason for us to put in a presence this time! If any readers in or outside Europe feel they might be interested in organising an activity of some kind at the ESF, please get in touch.

After all, if we say we have something in common with other progressive and liberationist groups - feminists, transgender activists, libertarian socialists - the ESF and other Social Forums like it are just the kind of place to build those links. It is also an opportunity to bring a critical eye to what otherwise might be rather one-sided presentations on biotechnology (and maybe nanotechnology). And of course to increase our visibility and to show that "tech-positive" doesn't have to mean "TechCentralStation". Finally, we cannot get past the "getting lumped with Raelians" stage, to put it bluntly, without increasing our visibility and demonstrating that our concerns matter - and that means in all relevant forums.

To address two key concerns with the ESF: Although it is rumoured that the ESF faces severe financial challenges this year and therefore might not go ahead, there is going to be some money contributed by trade unions and local government, which together with scaled registration fees will hopefully make it viable after all. Also, for those who are suspicious or distrustful of the makeup of the organising committees (campaigning NGOs, trade unions and Trotskyist Marxists are all strongly represented, in some cases by the same people representing both NGOs and Marxist groups!), there are likely to be some "autonomous zones", as at previous events, with less hierarchical structure and hopefully therefore more potential for dialogue - rather than the more "educational" or "lecture" style of many of the debates and workshops, where speakers from the front predominate. (Not to say that is a bad thing per se, but it has its limits.)

--- Email begins below ---

European Social Forum Programme Group,
c/o World Development Movement
25 Beehive Place, London, SW9 72R

Dear Friend,

We want to inform you of the chance for your organisation to be involved in
an extraordinary and far-reaching event later this year. The European Social
Forum (ESF) is an opportunity for trade unions, community groups, anti
racist organisations, women's groups, lesbian and gay groups, the anti-war
movement, campaigns around the environment, privatisation, health,
disability, asylum, housing - everyone trying to create another world - to
make vital connections with people organising on the same issues across
Europe and internationally.

This, the third ESF, will be held in London in November 2004. The previous
events in Florence in 2002 and Paris in 2003 brought together 60,000 social
movement, community and trade union activists from across Europe and the
world. These inspiring three day events included workshops, debates,
seminars, cultural events and rallies united by the theme: Another World is
Possible!

What makes the ESF special is that the themes for debate and the seminar and
workshop topics are decided by campaigning, cultural and political
organisations across Europe. We are writing to you on behalf of the UK group
co-ordinating the programme of the ESF and to encourage you to get involved
in this process. The Programme Group is one of several groups set up to plan
the ESF in London. See details overleaf of how you can find out more.

The European Social Forum is part of a global movement for change and social
justice. It was inspired by the World Social Forum (WSF) which came out of
the belief that protest by itself is not enough. Movements for social change
need the space and the international exchange of ideas and experiences to
develop alternatives to the free market madness which dominates mainstream
politics and our daily lives. Social Forums, global, regional and local, are
attempts to create opportunities to exchange information, learn, be
inspired, think aloud about future visions and strategies and plan joint
international action, all in an atmosphere respectful of diverse opinions
and experiences. A sign that this idea is one whose time has come is that as
we write, tens of thousands of people are gathering for the 4th WSF in
Mumbai (formerly Bombay), India.

In the WSF spirit, the organisation of the ESF in 2004 is intended to be
participative and egalitarian. The Programme Working Group is made up of
reps from around 30 trade union, campaigning, political and cultural
organisations. We come from many different parts of the left and labour and
social movements. But we are all united in wanting to organise an
international event which will be of real practical use to men and women on
the frontline of resistance and alternatives to environmental devastation,
privatisation and war. Public sector workers demanding better wages and
conditions for the vital work they do, asylum seekers fighting for the right
to work and against destitution, detention and deportation; black and
immigrant people fighting racist attacks, single mothers or part-time and
low paid workers refusing to be sidelined, women organising against
subordination, rape and other kinds of violence, people with disabilities
and older people defending day care, transport and pensions, lesbians and
gay people active in all these movements, sex workers fighting eviction and
harassment, workers in manufacturing resisting redundancy and insecurity,
people taking action on international issues of war and peace, unfair trade
and third world debt - the list is endless but all these groups and many
more have a common interest in working together across Europe and
internationally. We want the programme to be strongly influenced by the
needs and ideas of all these movements and struggles.

As outlined above, the programme will include large debates (kept to a
minimum) seminars to debate strategies and propose action for resistance,
and smaller workshops dealing with practical cooperation and movement
building. Our job is to encourage the widest possible participation of
organisations in workshops and seminars- and to help them in whatever way
they need.

We are not asking you to commit to anything at this point. This is just to
sound out your views and ideas. Later this year there will be a chance
formally to register interest in organising specific workshops or seminars.
We will let you know the timetable table. There will also be a financial
appeal for the ESF and organisations will be urged to affiliate.

Don't hesitate to contact us if you have any queries. See e-mails and
addresses below. If you would like a speaker about the ESF then please let
us know.

We look forward to hearing from you and possibly meeting you at the first UK
Assembly for the ESF in 2004 on the 24th January, from 1.30-5.00 pm, at the
GLA, City Hall, the Queens Walk, London SE1 or Assemblies in the future. The
purpose of the UK Assembly on the 24th is to discuss the structure for the
organisation of the UK ESF. Future assemblies will also discuss the
programme.

All the best,

Alex Gordon (RMT), Hannah Griffith (Friends of the Earth), Jonathan Neale
(Globalise Resistance), Anna T (Crossroads Womens Centre), Dave Timms (World
Development Movement), Hilary Wainwright (Red Pepper)

---

How you can become involved in the ESF in 2004?

We hope you or a colleague will fill in the form enclosed, adding any
further comments.
Join the email list for information and discussion on the ESF.

We hope you will send a delegate to attend the next UK Assembly for the
European Social Forum on 24th January, from 1.30-5.00 pm, at the GLA, City
Hall, the Queens Walk, London SE1 to discuss the structure for organising
the UK ESF.

Send delegates to the next European Assembly, which will be held in London
on March 6th and 7th.

Yes, my organisation would like to make an input into the ESF programme

Form: Name of organisation:.........................................


Name and position of contact filling the form:


Main activity of organisation:


What issues would your organisation like to see on the ESF agenda?


Please give your three priorities.


Have you any suggestions about how we present these issues? What kind of
debates for example?

Would you be willing jointly to organise a workshop or seminar on any of
these issues?


Are you already part of a European or international network or does your
organisation have international connections?


What resources can you bring to the ESF ? Time? publicity? Help with
fund-raising? Access to rooms or accommodation - if you are based in London?




----------------------------------------------------------------------------
PLEASE RETURN THIS FORM BY POST TO:
ESF Programme Group, C/O WDM, 25 Beehive Place, London SW9 72R

If you are replying by e-mail, reply to afgordon[at]dircon.co.uk; findjonathan[at]hotmail.com
or newpolitics[at]redpepper.org.uk

More transhuman legal shock in Ohio

Link: An Ohio court has ruled that heterosexuals cannot marry if one member of the couple is a transsexual. In other words, in that district, you are defined for life by your birth genitals. Of course these couples are free to marry in about half of the rest of the US which recognizes heterosexual marriages of transfolk, but not their gay marriages. In those districts you are defined by your genitals-du-jour. Wacky huh?

Mars 2020 -- the real explanation

Of course, Bush's Mars expedition makes much more sense if evaluated as a policy initiative from the US Defense Department -- it's entirely consistent with his diplomatic track record to date:

  • We believe the Martians to posess weapons of mass destruction (heat rays, tripod death machines)

  • The Martians are believed to have repugnant political goals (suck Earthling blood)

  • Okay, all our reports on the subject of Martian policy come via the well-known journalist and foreign correspondent Herbert George Wells, but he's got no motive to lie to us about this, has he? (Besides, we've got a name in common, so he must be on the level, right?)

  • Despite repeated attempts to contact them the Martian government has refused to return our calls.

  • We have called upon the Martians to disarm, but they have maintained a stubborn, sinister, silence.

  • It is possible that Osama bin Laden is on Mars. (Image enhancement of the background to bin Laden's videotapes rebroadcast via Al Jazeera are suggestive of a boulder-strewn desolate wasteland. We know that Osama bin Laden cannot be found in Afghanistan, and Mars is also a boulder-strewn wasteland, so Osama bin Laden may indeed be on Mars.)

  • The Martian goal is to exterminate and subjugate the free peoples of the world. Osama bin Laden shares this goal. Working together, the Martians may provide Al Qaida with weapons of mass destruction. We have to stop this now, before it's too late!

  • Tony Blair has asked us to allow time for diplomacy to work, but the Martians have stubbornly refused to talk to the British Beagle 2 lander.

  • Nobody in the UN is going to veto our motion calling for the Martians to abandon their policy of supplying weapons of mass destruction to Osama bin Laden, on pain of invasion.

  • So let's go!

Thursday, January 15, 2004

Comment Feature Re-added

If you were wondering why Cyborg Democracy seemed to have lost its comments feature for quite a while, rest assured it was not due to any elitist tendencies. Merely a goof-up which has now been (belatedly) corrected. Readers should now be able to comment on any item by clicking on the comments link at the bottom-right of every item.

Kim Stanley Robinson on Science and Democracy

In an interview with Science Fiction Weekly Kim Stanley Robinson, the author of the now doubly relevant Red Mars, Green Mars and Blue Mars series, reflects on his new trilogy of near-future global-warming-themed novels. One theme is that science needs to move from being subordinate and supplicant to Washington policy-making, to being more directly influential
(the) scientific method is too good, too useful and just, for us to be able to afford to keep it out of the process of governing our affairs. But, of course, keeping it out is very useful for those pockets of irrational and unjustifiable privilege that in any scientific cost-benefit analysis would be revealed as parasitic on society at large, a suite of residual injustices from the bad old days that should be altered into a new system. So now, in that sense, science and the spread of the scientific method into governance should be seen as part of the resistance to injustice.
His novels contrast the life and worldviews of biotech entrepeneurs with National Science Foundation scientists, and Sci Fi Weekly asks:
Why don't science and capitalism constitute a productive combination?

Robinson: Well, nothing can constitute a productive combination with capitalism. It's parasitic by definition.

A worker population makes its nutrient goo (surplus value, life force, stuff) and has it extracted by a small minority with superior force at its command. Like ants with aphids. We pretend not to know this and we are very good at pretending. But the old hierarchies were never rooted out, they only liquefied. Things are more fluid now, everything can happen faster, but it's the same gross inequality. Capitalism is a sort of late feudalism, or ant-and-aphid arrangement, pick your image.

Understand that "capitalism" is not "creation of capital," which is usually a great thing, but the system of rules distributing and controlling that capital. And the system we live in now is wrong—unjust, unsustainable, against all religions and value systems. Its defenders (always privileged in the system) have to resort to bogus versions of nature "red in tooth and claw," or grossly distorted religious claims ("God meant us to be rich and you will be in heaven") to make it look OK, but it's guns ready for deployment that keep those lame justifications staggering along.

Say then that science is an attempt to move out of all that, a proto-politics or alternative politics in which ostensibly neutral values or methodologies are actually stabs at utopian spaces where justice rules. Rational inquiry into everything, in part to enable the reduction of suffering—it's a kind of ethics and so naturally capitalism is offended and tries to buy it, tries especially hard since science makes all the new toys. Maybe capitalism will buy science, maybe science will help the other justice movements to engineer capitalism into permaculture, as in some kind of institutional genetic engineering project (history). Anthropogenic mutation. We're in the middle of the story, part of it.
If all that wasn't provocative and wonderful enough he also goes into the contribution of Buddhism to his life.

Spamming the cosmos

One of my earliest solid memories -- I would have been four and a half years old at the time, but it's still vivid -- is of being woken up at a ridiculously early hour by my parents and taken downstairs to watch television. The TV (a brand new black and white one) was showing a blurry grayish landscape, and not much was happening. Occasional crackling voices; then a guy in a bulky white suit crawls backwards down a ladder, almost blocking the camera.

(For the next five years, I wanted to be an astronaut when I grew up. Then I unaccountably realised that this was going to be hard and re-focussed on being a science fiction writer instead. Weird, but I digress ...)

Thirty-five years older, and much more cynical, I find myself deeply conflicted over the whole "let's go to Mars" thing. We fragile multicellular organisms evolved under remarkably strict environmental conditions. We are, bluntly, Not Suited for the task of exploring the cosmos -- expose us to vacuum without protection and we invariably die in 100-1000 seconds. The environment is not fail-safe for us. While there are parts of the Earth's biosphere that are equally hostile, for the most part we can survive and even prosper in it. Whereas, as Bruce Sterling noted, Mars makes the Gobi Desert look like paradise.

There are other issues, too. One is philosophical, and as far as I know very few SF writers have ever addressed it (Greg Egan being a notable exception). We tend to confuse personal extinction with species extinction, and to act as if it is to our personal advantage to spam the universe with mutated copies of our own genome -- but is it, really? Individuals may like children, but I find no physical or intellectual solace in the idea that a thousand years hence human civilizations will exist throughout the solar system -- only the tenuous emotional sense of connectedness to the future. It is a sad thing to be forgotten, as Ozymandias reminds us, but is that sufficient justification for sending uncounted descendants into an environment to which they are fundamentally ill-suited?

Then there are practical problems. Space is big, and the energetic costs of shipping bulk matter around the place (for example, in sending canned primates to Mars) are huge. Should space colonisation actually take off, most people will end up living their lives in horrendously isolated communities, the costs of travel between regions being comparable to crossing the Pacific ocean by dug-out canoe. Sure, new propulsion technologies may mitigate the problem, but as we have discovered, transport technologies become weapons of efficiency in direct proportion to their kinetic energy. (Think 9/11, in space, with O'Neil cylinders instead of the Twin Towers and with light sail or ion drive spaceships as the airliners. No thanks ...)

And the political ones. Can you imagine growing up in a city state where there is no outside universe, to all intents and purposes? If the political culture was liberal -- in the sense of being tolerant of diverse opinions and lifestyles -- it might not be too oppressive, but I fear that there would be enormous peer pressure towards certain types of lifestyle conformity and draconian restrictions on privacy; if your neighbour's neglect of their house can actually kill you by letting the air out, you're unlikely to leave them alone.

The "keeping all your eggs in one basket" idea doesn't hold water either. Current developments in propulsion technology and astronomy promise to mitigate the threat of a random dinosaur-killer impact. The existence of a self-sufficient colony on Mars is scant comfort to me if there's an asteroid heading for my head; I want prevention, dammit, and prevention is actually cheaper than visiting Mars. (Oh, and forget the nonsense about the natural life-cycle of the sun rendering Earth uninhabitable in the distant future; that's several hundred million years away yet, and the life expectancy of the average terrestrial species is on the order of one megayear. We'll be long gone before that happens, unless it transpires that tool-using sapience is a stable phenomenon across geological time -- and all the evidence to this point suggests the exact opposite.)

I don't want to suggest that the idea of humans spreading throughout the comos is intellectually bankrupt, impractical, undesirable, or morally wrong. But there are very real problems with this vision that the gung-ho space cadet wing consistently fail to confront, and until we address them we're doomed to spin our robot wheels in the Martian dirt.

In the meantime, the robot probes are at least better adapted to the landscape than we are -- and who knows? If we crack the AI problem, or the mind uploading problem, maybe we can go there, and without any of the difficulties highlighted above (which emerge from our physiology rather than our psychology).

What I See...



Here's a newer and better pic of the red planet. You know, to you, it might just look like a buncha rocks. But I see direct democracy, absolute civil liberties, and the nan driven economy. We don't even need a basic income guaranteed because we're self sufficient in terms of housing and food and air. Plus, the nan bots kiss our toes and massage our neural pleasure centers. I also see a place where I can get laid and take relatively harmless drugs without getting arrested, although I do understand that you can get the really dangerous alcohols and cigs on the red planet's black market. I see cities named Metropolis and Gotham and Teen Town. I see them thriving 24 hours a day full of bazaars and festivals and mayhem. Everybody who works likes what they do. That's what I see. It's all a matter of perspective.

Then there's the Bush plan. I used to have these arguments with my right wing cousin Todd Jackson about how horrible American exploration would look if it was done under current "American" rules. An outer space where I wouldn't get health care and probably get tossed out of an airlock if I was found defective in any way or hated America. I wrote a story about it called "The Drear and Thoroughly Depressing Jackson Todd Continuum". In that story, I imagine an open sourced solution to gravity propulsion where the United States creates a Microsoft-only, slave labor space station and where the EU takes Mars and makes it a decent place to live.

Don't get me wrong. I think we should go to Mars, and I agree with my Better Humans editor Simon Smith that self-directed evolution would go a long way toward making the trip more beneficial. Does anyone recall the horror show that was Frederick Pohl's "Man Plus"?...That was just a bionic freakshow left alone on Mars. We could do all that stuff cleaner and smaller with an evolved form of biotech and nan. Another corporate horror show disguised as Solar system exploration would have to be John Barnes' "Orbital Resonance" which I once described as Anne Frank writing from a Brave New World.

But it's important that we get off the planet. Can't keep all of our eggs in one basket.



But, again, there's the Bush plan. By the time he's done it will look like a massive giveaway to the usual suspects. I guess space will be the fourth arm of this century's Iron Triangle. Dean has always had a plan to go to Mars by the way. I'm hoping that he does it the right way, which means turning the Pentagon's spending into peaceful, cooperative space exploration. This is the opposite of using space exploration as a cover for the military dominion of space, which is probably the true meaning of the Bush plan for space.



Wednesday, January 14, 2004

"The post-broadcast culture is a democratization of media"

Dan Gillmor has posted a great short column on Democratizing the Media, and More. His distinction between broadcast culture and the emerging culture of digital networked media is right on. Here’s a taste:

“The broadcast culture assumes that most of us are "consumers" of mass media. We are merely receptacles for what Hollywood, the music industry and even our local daily newspaper decide we should view, hear or read.

The post-broadcast culture is a democratization of media, and it comes at things from the opposite stance. It says that anyone also can be a creator, not just a consumer. There's a world of difference.”

The discussion section that follows the column is also quite good – throwing a few useful and cautionary notes into Gillmor’s rather rose-colored sketch. Still, it seems to me these critical voices help illustrate Gillmor’s larger point about the rich democratizing potential of network culture, even if many of the specific critical points they make are important, too.

Inner space, then outer space? Doubts on Bush's initiative

I'm a big supporter of the space program, and my initial reaction to Bush's initiative to put a settlement on the moon and Mars is enthusiasm. But there are many important questions. First, there are the legitimate political concerns about what kind of priorities the Bush administration has in proposing a hugely expensive program while they are pushing the US into massive debt with military expansion and tax cuts for the rich. Those fiscal and priority concerns drive the results of a recent poll which finds a majority of Americans opposing the Bush space program. Young people, whites, Republicans and men are most supportive, but even majorities of those groups opposed the program when the multi-billion price tag was mentioned.

But probably the most important fan is Bush's big corporate allies in the aerospace industries:
US aerospace groups were drooling over President George W. Bush's program to resume manned flights to the moon and build a base there as a "stepping stone" for manned missions to Mars and beyond. "As a company, we are very excited about the announcement," Boeing Space Division spokesman Ed Memi said of Bush's speech at National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) headquarters in Washington.

"Obviously, we are excited to hear the White House issuing this policy, which is likely to strengthen the space market," said Kimberly Campbell, marketing director at Spacehab, which furnishes resupply modules for the orbiting International Space Station (ISS).

"This is good news for the entire industry" said Evan McCollum, communications director for Lockheed Martin Space Systems. link
There are also some serious ecological questions being raised about the potential use of nuclear fueled rockets in the plan, especially the trip to Mars. Physicist, left-winger and transhumanist-inclined futurist Michio Kaku for instance weighs in on behalf of the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space.
According to Dr. Kaku, “Perhaps one of the greatest risks facing this ambitious program is the use of dangerous, unproven technologies which could backfire, eroding public confidence in the space program. One such dangerous technology is the nuclear rocket, which is now seriously being reconsidered after being rightly rejected for the past several decades. The nuclear booster rocket has gone through many stages of development in the past, and all of them have been cancelled with good cause.”
The nukes-in-space movement (or should I say, the front organization for whatever corporate interests would benefit from this technology) begs to differ. If we do develop a safe, clean, effective propulsion method then its a whole new ball game. Asteroid mining might then be cost-effective for instance.

The Space for Peace folks also see the effort to get a base on the Moon and Mars as a continuation of the US refusal to sign on to the UN treaties on the Moon and space, which forbid national or private property claims in the solar system. Also, there is a clear military strategic motivation, to counter Chinese plans to colonize the Moon and Mars. The Air Force Space Command's Strategic Plan, which has been online for years, is very explicit about the U.S. mission in space:
(The US Space Command's Strategic Plan says) Effective use of space-based resources provides a continual and global presence over key areas of the world ... military forces have always viewed the 'high ground' position as one of dominance. With rare exception, whoever owned the high ground owned the fight. Space is the ultimate high ground of US military operations. Today, control of this high ground means superiority ... and significant force enhancement. Tomorrow, ownership may mean instant engagement anywhere in the world.
Simon Smith, the editor of Betterhumans, weighs in this week with an anti-manned-spaced/pro-robots editorial. He argues that the spin-off benefits of the investment are too indirect compared to the enormous benefits to be gained from investing in anti-aging and intelligence enhancement research.
advocates of manned space exploration fail to point out just how much we'd need to alter the human body to make it suitable for exploring the cosmos. Surviving long-term exposure to space radiation alone would probably necessitate biological changes that would most efficiently be addressed through genetic engineering. Sending humans without modifications on manned missions would be completely impractical if genetic interventions existed. As an extreme and possibly unfeasible example, genetically engineering astronauts to photosynthesize would reduce the need for them to store large amounts of food...

Robots won't be the solution forever. Eventually, manned space exploration will make sense. But for now, we should let the robots explore outer space while we explore inner space and directly advance humanity. Instead of engineering for manned missions, let's work on engineering humans. Then, when we're smarter, stronger and longer-lived, and mature enough to handle the challenges and responsibilities of traveling the Universe, we can boldly go.
At any rate, Bush's proposal is only modestly funded so far, and phased in over decades, so he really isn't proposing anything but ideas. I like the ideas, but when we do expropriate back the stolen billions from the corporate robber barons I suggest we invest them in the human beings first and wait for advances in propulsion, nanotech, genetic engineering and so forth that would make colonizing the Moon and Mars practical. We may not have to wait long.

Simon's plugged into the mood of the people, since surveys this week also found that not only did majorities want to prioritize human needs over space right now, but majorities thought we should send cheaper robots to do our space exploration until we have served human needs on Earth a little better.

Postscript: An upside to the plan would, apparently, be closer cooperation with the Russian space program:
U.S. President George W. Bush's new plan to send men to the moon, Mars and beyond excited Russian space officials and designers, who voiced quick hopes Thursday for winning a lucrative share in the U.S. program and boosting the sagging status of Russia's space program. link

The Man Who Sold the Moon

I've just been interviewed for Wired News about George W. Bush's speech at NASA, which I'd watched an hour or so earlier. I was flattered to be asked, and I hope Charlie Stross gave a better impression of an SF writer who is clued up on all this space rockets stuff. Seriously, I don't follow space policy in any depth. I don't, for example, know if Bush's way of finding the money by shifting $11 billion worth of existing NASA priorities and giving the agency an extra $1 billion over five years is open-handed, tight-fisted, or cack-handed.

I do know this. Watching it felt like science fiction coming true, and in a good way. Complete the space station. Replace the Shuttle. Build a Moon base. Learn more stuff. Go to Mars. And then what? Worlds beyond. A human presence across the Solar System. And then what? 'Humanity is going out into the cosmos.'

A feasible beginning, a reasonable progression, and no prospect of an end. This what the Space Age was supposed to be like.

Monday, January 12, 2004

MoveOn Keeps On

The winning ads in MoveOn.org's "Bush in 30 Seconds" ad contest will be announced tonight, Monday, January 12, live in an awards ceremony at the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York City. The awards show is going to be hosted by Jeanine Garofalo and will feature performances and presentations by Margaret Cho, Chuck D, Al Franken, Moby, Michael Moore, John Sayles, Julia Stiles, and Rufus Wainwright. If you want to tune in, the event will be webcast live, beginning at 8p EST/5p PST. Winners will be announced around 10:45pm EST. To tune in to the webcast and view the winning ads after they're announced, just click here. MoveOn’s fabulous experiment in digital networked democracy continues to bear fruit, while top-down broadcast political formations continue everywhere to wither before our eyes.