food chain

20070308 JEDCline

Historians write that mankind grew up as a hunter-gatherer that for eons was not yet top predator among life forms that have to eat other life forms to exist, a phenomenon called "the food chain." With that kind of roots, perhaps the present-day strife ought to be no surprise. History of wars and other kinds of violence against his own kind, seems to follow the pattern.

With an ancient and long term background of requisite predatory behavior, can mankind really have hope of peace?

History also shows that mankind has often created forms of symbolic warfare, that may help divert the violent urges to fight. Symbolic warfare, such as our football games, where one's home team invades the neighboring town and engages in symbolic territorial disputes in the football stadium; the winner "warriors" are given honor and other rewards for their successful symbolic conquest, the attractive cheerleaders dance suggestively for the hopeful winners. By the rules. No bloodshed. Only the turf got stomped upon. Egos got fully exercised, people got to yell loudly, and all go home a bit livelier after the symbolic cathartic experience.

Such symbolic group warfare may have been created to prevent the need to rebuild after the massive destruction and injuries of the all out havoc of warfare. And also to hone the team assault skills symbolically, thus better able to do the real thing with neighbors, if such an eventuality happens. Yet, a step away from war.

Key to strife at both levels, is the identification of who is us vs who is not us.

"World peace," then, might mean that people would consider all people as "us." Nobody to fight; we are all family, one and the same.

Those who solve things by fighting, seem to have a different vision of "world peace": that of themselves conquering everybody else making it so the others cannot fight back. The analog principle of "fighting fire with fire" implies that if everything is burned down, fire will have to cease since there is nothing left to burn. So warfare is applying this principle, with the intent that there will be something left at the end, which will belong to themselves. "Peace' is obtained by breaking "the enemy" so badly that "the enemy" can no longer have strength to do the same thing back to you. And by the way, the "winner" gets the goodies that still remain undamaged, nice reward to reinforce the assaultive behavior. The "law of the jungle" of "eat or be eaten" kind of thing, still playing out in another way.

Mankind's immense brain is capable, however, of other kinds of thinking, the kind of thinking that has built civilization, despite the tendency of having frequent regressions into the mode of assaulting one another.

Again, the symbolizing of the warfare and performing it per the rules as a public spectacle, such as in football games, may be a compromise step in a peaceful direction. The urge of people to "show off" so as to attract the attentions of possible mates for reproduction, also gets symbolized in non-combative sports such as track, where one's person's performance is compared with the other's, while the admiring possible reproductive mates look on. Television's "soap operas" occupy the mind with symbolic strife, visions of winners and losers of lots of kinds of struggles.

The ability to provide for nurture and safety of progeny, also is a mate attractor; thus display of wealth and possessions potentially for sharing, also become symbolic of that aspect. Even birds do this, taking over a potential nest site and forage area, then advertising with loud chirps for a mate to come share and breed.

More efficient and convenient, agriculture makes a nice handy forage area for a farmer. It also is made more specifically for the nutritional needs, by what kind of seeds are planted; thus less forage area is needed for adequate supply. The farmer works hard to provide for the plants and animals there.

The farmer learns responsibility for the welfare of the forage area that is the farm.

And therein perhaps lies the key for survival of civilization.

That agriculture consists of life forms that are built on each other's consumption, the crop vegetation and the farm animals, whose lives are then sacrificed so as to appear on our dinner tables. Purchasing food at the grocery store takes most of the sting out of the process to us. Eating at a restaurant even more so, the path of the food before it got to the dinner plate less obvious to the dignified eater. Yet, it all was living creatures, not long ago. To be aghast at this awareness will bring starvation, however.

We have to get used to it. Is the same true for the predatory behavior of warfare, the lack of peace?

Historically, when reproductive success has filled the local forage area capacity, it is time to go exploring to see what is on the other side. As life has been at it for a very long time here, we usually find there is already something living on the other side, sometimes even people. People with their farms and sharing groupings of bazar and craftsman, all already there. Is there room for the newcomers? Will there be warfare over possession of the developed forage area?

Notice that the process tends to bring life to where there had not been life before.

Science fiction writings extend the belief that there will be lifeforms on the other planets we can see with our telescopes; and write fantasies of adventures encountering these other mysterious life forms and their very strange environments. Yet, as we send space probes to our neighbor Moon and further into the solar system nearby, we find no trace of life. We keep looking, however. Are there other beings over there who might object to our moving in some day? Are they out there maybe thinking of moving in on us some day? Or, have they already done so in some way, and that "we" and "them" are now "us."

The assumption that there will be objecting entities who will contest our expansion into "their" forage area territory on other moons and planets, has been fading as we inspect ever closer those other places.

Meanwhile, the potential "forage area" on those other places, has not had the benefit of eons of life forms having modified the place, to make our potential living easy there. Yet the farmer capacity in us is familiar with the concept of working over the land so as to make it able to host the lifeforms that are our food. We work to support the food chain of which we are top predator. What will it take to do such a thing to the surface of other places out there in the solar system? The planet Mars has been suggested as the most likely place for such colonization by mankind and the myriad of other lifeforms which host his/her life. We have been to our Moon, and its reality looks tough indeed to farm; yet it does have lots of stuff from which to build; and has sunlight, but its day-night cycles are 28 or our days long. The farmer takes on challenges with cunning, prowess, and knowledge.

The great cost of energy and materials to get to such places, makes it far too costly in resources to even get there, for even a few people. Same goes for the machinery that could make life possible in those other places. Rocketry has a huge price, when used to get up off the Earth's surface and reach distant space. Thus few people could have the opportunity to go to, say, Mars, to begin a colony there, even with the adequate technology equipment along with them.

People are so familiar with the incredible spectacular fiery roar of huge launch rockets leaving the ground, just to deliver a few people to space, provide the belief system of what it takes to go to space.

However, figuring out technology that would provide for the transportation off of the Earth into space, that has an energy efficiency and throughput capacity to lift and sustain a sizable portion of humanity, is a way to approach the problem.

Instead of the Moon, Mars, asteroids as the only places to set up shop, another option was widely thought about, back in the mid-1970's, when Moon landings were a reality fairly frequently. These would be large living spaces entirely built by and for man and his many farm critter friends, growing up where sunshine is ten times as abundant as is typical here on the ground. You just have to take all your camping stuff with you. All of it. Several detailed designs for such self-sufficient man-made cities in space were created back then. Gerard O'Neill, a professor at Princeton, had his students do an exercise of designing such space floating habitats, and found a new focus for human endeavor. A NASA sponsored summer workshop at Stanford in 1975-6 produced very detailed plans for mile diameter self-sufficint space settlements to be located in places in space above the Earth, with earth like living conditions in them for 10,000 people apiece. (See online for details; also see )

So the problem now is this big first step, getting up out of Earth's planetary gravitational well, so as to get somewhere else. To do it with reliability, low cost including energy cost, and sufficiently abundantly to do the job. A million times or more than what rockets are doing. The actual energy costs of lifting payload up there are not severe, about the same as that of a jet trip coast to coast. It is just that the rocket is so incredibly inefficient for that particular job, throwing away millions of times the energy in the process, in the fiery blast and rumble of just lifting its own fuel for the trip.

Historically, when a city is established across a wide river, ferries ply the river water path to swap people and goods across the gap. Eventually, although it is more difficult to build than ferry boats, bridges are built, and people then carry on with commerce across the bridges almost as if there were no obstacle river to be crossed thereafter. Equivalent structures have been envisioned for the gap between ground and high earth orbit, too. The expense, hazards of construction, and difficulties of building a bridge across deep swift river waters, has not prevented the construction of the many great bridges around the world that are now taken for granted by the millions of users daily. So perhaps also can the lifting bridges to space be.

These lifting bridge structures to space could have at least two basic forms, as defined by the mechanisms for supporting their huge bridge mass across the gap. One is that of a tether, lightly anchored to the earth surface, that is balance supported by the centrifugal force of a counterweight out beyond GEO, all swung around by the planet herself in the 24 hour a day rotation. The tether material must withstand the stress of supporting its own weight across the gap, so its strength to density ratio is critical and hard to achieve. The other basic form creates its own centrifugal force through a loop of material that encircles the whole planet, spinning fast enough around the planet so that its weight is offset by its outward centrifugal force.

Both of these potential transportation mechanism have potential for providing an adequate transportation capacity for extending mankind's forage area at least up to that orbit where things stay stationary over the planet's equator, called GEO, where our communication and weather satellites are located already: we have been there and done that so let's get on with the big job next. We could build those Stanford Torus 10,000 person each cities there in GEO, the first few out of materials lifted from the ground; and use reinforced water ice for their non-rotating passive shielding. Given that a success, most of the materials for lots more of them could then be gotten from other places up there, some from our Moon, some from asteroids and the as yet lifeless moons of the outer planets. We can bring life to where life has not gone before.

Wouldn't that be more fun and interesting than beating up on our neighbors for goodies? Even if that activity is far less familiar to us than bashing others?

Just beware of the gladiator types that are compulsively striving to drag us back down into the pit with them for their sport. Like some kids, they just don't seem to know any better.

To most of us, war is grievously ugly and horribly messy. Alternatively, life expansion activities are fun and have endless possibilities for variety and accomplishment to be displayed, to attract those prospective mates.

We can make the whole food chain fully honored and dignified, from lichen to turkey to taco, integrated and satisfying lives for all of them, up there where we can intelligently build from scratch. Amazing, that we now have the choice! Now, do we have the right stuff?

Jim Cline



Perhaps I (from the Asperger's socially-inept viewpoint) am learning to understand more about the "normal" (non-Asperger's) person's obsession about craving to observe conflict in action to the point of a winner and a loser.

It may have to do with the concept of a "franchise."

This means a title to exclusive business of a specific kind within a specific area. For example, a taxicab driver somehow obtains a franchise to pick up passengers within a specific area of town. No other taxicab is allowed to pick up passengers in that area. That way, the taxi cab driver is assured of a livelihood there, since no one else is allowed to operate in that territory.

So, maybe "conflict" is about acquiring and protecting franchise. It is fundamental to a person's ability to do business to make a living. "Business" here is meant more generally as a life sustaining activity.

Thus, the acquiring of a college degree can be seen as acquiring a franchise to do business in that field. The "degree" might be presumed to imply learned associated skill; but more clearly it is a right, a franchise, to do business or be hired to do that kind of job. This protects the degreed person from competing with people who have learned the field by some other way other than formal degree-acquiring schooling, such as self-education and experience.

Such "franchises" are protected by social ostracization mechanisms instead of formal law enforcement mechanisms, making it the concern of every person, to righteously enforce franchises, so as to be in turn supported by the social system if somebody gets out of place and butts into one's own field of livelihood. Thus "conflict" is the activity of violation of franchise, and the resulting strife determines who owns the franchise thereafter. Seeing that the "good guy" ends up with the franchise, is fundamental to one's own sense of security in one's own franchised area of livelihood, a personal survival issue, demanding attention.

Thus, its critical importance. That produces the focus on conflict as being essential to one's own survival and maintenance of level of lifestyle.

If this is an accurate assessment, then it explains why my proposals for a non-conventional kind of technological transportation system configuration to be able to utilize nearby space to the great benefit of civilization and Earth's ecosystem too, have been incessantly treated with hostility and refusal to discuss rationally with me. Their livelihood is based on rocketry's aspects, a franchise for access to space, like the taxicab driver's franchise to a specific part of town. They saw me as crossing into their franchised territory, and they were repelling an invader, to their mind. And not just business territory, but also esteem territory regarding formation of broadly sweeping concepts for space access and utilization: their credentials gave them franchise to that aspect too, which they saw me as trying to horn in, without having passed up through the normal corporate or academia channels.

Missing from the franchise system's capability, is the fulfillment of the broader needs of the customer, who is stuck with whatever is supplied by whoever has the franchise for that kind of thing in that part of town, that franchised territory.

Thus the needs of the customer, human civilization in this case, for fully adequate transportation means to nearby space so as to enable adequate worldwide clean space-sourced electrical power, means for solar powered totally reprocessing toxic materials that would otherwise accumulate fouling the planetary ecosystem, and need for room for population to continue to grow and thrive abundantly, and new off-planet sources for some kinds of raw materials, has no way to get fulfilled; but the people do not see that, seeing only the apparent need for protection of franchise as the provider for sustainability of their livelihoods. Conflict is called for, protect their franchises from the intruder, save their way of life.

This understanding helps me feel more at ease with my life experiences in this area. It also gives me more respect for all concerned.

But, pity might be the bottom line for all of us. Since we "can't get there from here."

Or, they may be counting on taking over abandoned territory. Right of salvage, and all that. Maybe that way the new technological configurations can by possession implication be ascribed to themselves, become their franchised territory, and they then make it available to civilization... for a price. A really big price.


the last cookie

Back in 1997 I finally was able to formally present my technological concept that had the potential for giving humanity a way to greatly expand healthy civilization, and it would require the unified working together of the people of the whole world in united purpose, to make the wonderful thing physically happen for high value for them all. But to my amazement, I only received hostility from the very group who had their stated purpose of promoting just what my technological offering would finally enable them to do. While at the picnic that was the end of that year's conference, I learned that people would not attend a movie unless it portrayed conflict; this seemed to address what I was finding there, that my proposal would have required the end of conflict so that everybody could have a far better future. So, more important than a good life for all, was the craving for conflict. Thus started my search to find out what this "people's overwhelming craving for conflict" thing was that was blocking rational consideration of my proposal.

Today at church, there seemed to be some relevant material. The bulletin had text that might be summarized as "We crave the activity of conflict among our divisions and distinctions, so that our life will have meaning and the world will make sense." The service's scripture also seemed to contain lots of conflict related descriptions and wisdoms. Page 370 of the 1990 Book of Common Prayer seemed also to address this all in "... God of all power, Ruler of the Universe ... At your command all things came to be: the vast expanse of interstellar space ... our island home ... From the primal elements you brought forth the human race, and blessed us with memory, reason, and skill. You made us the rulers of creation. But we turned against you, and betrayed your trust; and we turned against one another... open for us the way of freedom and peace...." The problem seemed to have been rampant back thousands of years ago, and still carries on rampant. It appears that being blessed with "memory, reason and skill," has not been enough.

Or maybe it is the instinctual pattern playout of the mixture of the kind of males who assault the other males so as to be the only options left for the females at breeding time; and the females caring not which males remain to breed, their only concern is for their individual portions of the resources for bearing and nurturing the next generation.

What a tragic waste of the human potential. It is like two people fighting over possession of scraps, instead of joining together to convert the scraps into abundance for them both. I wonder about the rationality of that decision. Maybe it is rational, to grab while the getting is good; but what is missing is the wisdom. The operant factor seems to be the expression of "the craving for conflict." Is that just to be the one that gets the last cookie; or is it really so that life will have meaning and the world will make sense?