In school, we sometimes get group assignments. Someone always becomes the leader of the project group, and it’s usually me.

It’s always an organic process – there’s no election, or special “Boss” hat that I seize by force. But when the teacher says, “Team leaders, come to the fornt and sign up for demos”, everyone always looks at me.

The person who ends up as team leader is not the most charismatic, or the smartest, most hardworking student. The don’t have any special “leadership quality” that they’re born with or acquire through demonic pacts. They are just the person who has a clear vision, a sense of direction, and most important, the willingness to take responsibility for the project, whether it succeeds or fails.

That’s usually me. I don’t know how it happened – back in high school no one even invited me to join their project groups. I was the kid who ended up doing the essay option instead of working with a group. Something changed along the way, and I think it was when I gained a sense of direction. Now that I know what I want to do with myself, I’m very aggressive in pursuing my goals.

However, when it comes to space, it’s tougher. I want to get out there, I want to help other people get out there, I want to make money off it and at the same time I want to make everything as open-source and egalitarian as possible. My head is a mess of contradictions, and though my desire is strong, my vision is vague and muddled.

I’m looking for a strong leader – not a charismatic, clever person, but someone with a clear vision, and the willingness to take responsibility for success or failure. Eventually it might be me, but right now I’m looking for someone else.

Space Is For Whatever You Want

Robert Zubrin has asked, how much is an astronaut’s life worth? The answer according to NASA turns out to be about 5 billion dollars. That was the justification for deciding not perform some repairs on the Hubble that would extend it’s life for another 10 years or so.

To clarify – the Hubble cost 5 billion dollars. The total price of all the training and other investment that NASA and the US government have put into the 7 person crew that could repair it, was around 67 million. But they were worried that the astronauts would be lost, and so it wasn’t worth it

In the comments on Hacker News, people point out that NASA is a political agency, and if they go around blowing up astronauts all the time, they will become very unpopular. That makes sense.

Fortunately, measuring human life in dollars is what massive corporations are best at.

We have to get business into space. People who are against space travel frequently say that there is no scientific value to be gained from putting humans into space. As if that ends the discussion, or something. The whole point of science, though, is to benefit humans. EIther by satisfying our curiosity, or more important, by improving our lives.

Going into space for the sake of science is ridiculous. It’s the other way around: science is for getting us into space.

Space is for making money. No, that’s wrong. Space is for doing whatever you want! 12 miles offshore is international waters – no government can convict you out there. Space is like international waters, but with better weather, no seasickness, no pollution, no gravity, unlimited free solar power, and an entire universe full of resources, so long as you’re the first to get to them.

Yes, you could make money. You could also make unsafe rocketships and fly them very, very fast. You could start your own nation based on your theory that money is evil and trade should be based on makeout skills. Whatever you want. Space is opportunity.

A Business Model For The Music Industry

Suppose an artist records an album and makes it available for free, under Creative Commons. People will share it, remix it, whatever they like. The artist won’t make any money.

But, if people like it a lot, they’ll want more. So to get the next album, they can pay. The artist’s website will have a payment button and a picture of a piggy bank. When the piggy bank is full, a new album will be released.

If the artist can’t hold up their end of the deal and come up with 10 more songs, they can consider it payment received for the first album. Eventually people will stop giving them money, and that’s all the cash they will ever get for that particular work.

Ideally, this model will allow an artist to produce albums and make enough of a profit to live a standard middle class lifestyle, and copyright concerns will no longer be a part of the picture.

It will also encourage them to make more albums while they are young and angry, and to retire when they become old and lazy.

I know SOPA was last week, but I’m still thinking about it. I just watched this. People at Ycombinator are talking about killing Hollywood, and I’m thinking about that too. I’d rather offer solutions than complaints, so here’s mine.

The Most Interesting Thing About Me

We were doing some stupid networking exercise in school the other day, and I guess I decided to be kinda mean, and kinda have fun with it. I put a guy on the spot, barely talked to him once before that day, and said, “What’s the most interesting thing about you?”

He said what people normally say when I ask them that – “I dunno, I’m not that interesting I guess…” That answer is normal and expected, but I’m still disappointed when I hear it. So I gave the only logical response, and called him a fucking liar. We’ll probably be good friends, next time I run into him.

I realize it’s a pretty mean thing to do, putting someone on the spot like that. So here’s my answer, and, by the way, the RIGHT way to answer the question, if you ever get it.

It’s tough to answer that when I’m on the spot like this. Different people are interested by different things, so it’s hard to say. But here’s one thing that you may find interesting.

When I was 18, I decided to buy a motorcycle. I didn’t have a license, hadn’t so much as sat on a motorbike before then, but it seemed like a good idea.

A friend drove it home for me, and another friend showed me how to turn it on. The first time I rode it, I made it about 20 meters in a straight line, then tried to turn.

I was not successful. I rammed it into a brick wall.

This is the way I do things, though – bite off more than I can chew, attempt things I’m not capable of, break stuff, hurt myself, keep trying and eventually succeed. And THAT may be the most interesting thing about me.

So, I had this idea that even though I’m not an engineer or an expert on anything at all, maybe I could do a blog about space travel, and inspire something. It’s a ridiculous idea, it will probably come to nothing, and it may make me look like a foolish blowhard to any future employers who stumble across this blog.

But right now, it’s all I can do, and hopefully anyone who reads this will be able to understand my passion, and why it is so important to get off this planet. If I hurt myself and break stuff in the process, it’s an accepted cost.


Earth Sucks

I think life on earth is just about played out. There all these people working in boring jobs so that they can afford to buy shit, and all these companies trying to produce more shit so they can sell it to the boring people. I’m not interested in buying shit or selling it, so where’s  my place in this world? I don’t think there is one.

My dream is colonies on the moon and mars, with new governments that are struggling to survive, so much that they don’t have time to interfere in people’s lives. There are a billion opportunities out there for people who weren’t born lucky in the first world.

Every company, every start up wants to figure out what the next big industry will be. Like the computer industry, or the car industry before that, they want to be the next Apple in a field that doesn’t even exist. It’s obvious that it’s space, but the only company pushing it right now seems to be Virgin. That’s just not enough. The problem is, the risk is so silly big and so unknown that everyone is trying to avoid the obvious solution.

Think about this: you can’t download space. No really, you can’t. Software is the big thing right now, but the world only needs so many payroll and inventory systems. iPhone apps, for gods’ sake – I can’t believe anyone is still making money at that. Entertainment – no one wants to pay for it anymore. These things all keep chugging along, but I don’t know how…

But getting into space is hard. You need a spaceship. Costs money. You need crew. Money. You need supplies, money. There’s money to be made at every step of process, even if designs are stolen, even if patents are violated. My job right now is finding out what companies are into space, besides Virgin, which ones are the farthest along, which ones will take me with them.