A few thoughts on SpaceX Mars Colonization

When discussing futurist technological concepts, one of the key areas rarely spoken about is the intersection between science/technology and economics. For example, from a purely technological perspective a hypersonic airplane which allows travel over the Pacific Ocean in a little bit over an hour made from a body of titanium sounds great. Titanium is light and highly durable material which can withstand the high temperatures experienced at hypersonic speeds. But from an economical perspective, titanium is a very expensive metal which if used to make a fleet of such hypersonic vehicles would put upward pressures on the price this rear resource which is equally need in aircraft engines, power generation turbines, and a host of other applications.

In the same way, even though the explanation of how SpeceX plans to get to mars has gaps (e.g. how the crew would survive in space environment on the way to mars and how they plan to survive once they arrive) and a lot of technicality are unanswered, next to nothing is said about the economic aspects. The scope of the program and the size of the vehicles required to make this feat would involve a lot of resources which are equally needed in other areas.

As things stand, it’s usually governments who have these kind of resources. But from what Elon Musk said, he want to make it a public-private partnership. Key questions need to be asked about the desirability of such an approach. Whenever industries or ventures are subsidized or support, in many cases, resources are being diverted from efficient industries which are genuinely meet a consumer demands to industries who in many cases have no consumer demand and can’t survive without such subsides. Furthermore, when solely private resources are dedicated towards such endeavors, profits needs to be made to keep such going. This incentivizes a level efficiency and thinking outside the box which might not exist in such public-private partnerships.

With all the raw materials and resources required for such a feat, resources would be bided away from areas in which they are currently employed most efficiently for the most pressing human needs. This creates scarcities, upward pressures in prices, and humans being forced to forgo some more pressing consumer needs. Thought it might be more difficult, SpaceX should go the route of using solely private funds. Under conditions in which the venture must return a profit, efficiency would be emphasized. As a side effect of efficiency being supreme, SpaceX might even come up with inventions or process which have benefits outside space exploration.

Humans have always had, and will always have, the desire to explore and build things which outlast ourselves and whose benefits might never be fully reaped by those who envisioned them. But in doing so, effort should be made to make sure resources are used effectively. From human experience to date, market processes of gathering resources have proven to be the most efficient route and have brought humans to where we are today. If SpaceX wants to get to mars, this is probably0 the best way to go which would give the best results even if it has more difficulties and challenges and takes more time.

 

A few comments on driverless trucks and cars

Personally, I don’t buy into the current hysteria of automation in areas which humans once worked out cause mass unemployment in the long run. One of these areas which seems to be on the chopping block of automation are cars and trucks. In many ways this is a great development which is needed.

Currently, driverless cars are being tested by a number of tech companies such as Tesla, Google, and Uber. Thought a few fatal accidents have happened, the technology seems to be progressing smoothly and such technology seem like a reality in the near future.

One of key reasons for automation is to allow humans to embark on other task. With driverless cars, when people are on daily commutes to work they can have the ability to attend to office task such as checking messages and handling other office documents before arriving so upon arrival they can hit the main task for the day. Or, if a driver feels tired on a long trip, rather than consuming caffeinated drinks and struggling to stay awake, the autopilot can take over till the driver gains more energy and a sufficient attention span.

The case of the trucking industry is interesting and in many ways defies the logic of luddites. Rather than causing mass unemployment of truck drivers, driverless trucks would be very much welcome because the industry currently has a driver shortage in excess of 30000. This would bring efficiency gains and make an industry which is currently going through great difficulty more efficient.

The development of driverless cars and trucks are examples of automation making life easier for humans and increasing efficiency. These two development should be enthusiastically welcome as they promise to make life easier for humans and allow us to focus on other things.

 

The Importance of Being Unique

In this era of mass media, popular culture, and group think, individuality is snuffed out of people and deemphasized. People tend to mostly follow what’s in fashion and strive to live up to societal expectorations. But only a few make the concerted effort to develop their uniqueness and keep on to it.

The popular misconception is that honing uniqueness is an act which is socially destructive and must be avoided at all cost. But nothing could be further from the truth. Ones uniqueness might be in a special area or talent which special effort and time is put into developing and which eventually benefits others.

If anything, developing ones uniqueness is one of the most social things which can possibly be done because everything humans have achieved depend on the uniqueness of individuals and what they can contribute towards others. For example, the ability to play an instrument with great ease is the ability of some people to attend an orchestra or musical show on their off day and forget about their most pressing worries. Or an individual developing their scientific aptitude benefits people they would never know through contributions and progress in the sciences.

If we want to live in a world in which people feel fulfilled, and don’t feel like the task they do are out of expectation or force, people should be encouraged to be unique and develop those areas which are their special gifts. Through allowing people to develop such areas, others would be able to benefit through their interactions with them. Far from people being encouraged to be unique causing tension, it brings together a harmony of interest and creates a society in which people are truly brought closer together.

Problems with the Educational System

The first clue that the current educational system has issues is given off in the word “system”. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, a system is defined as “a group of related parts that move or work together”. But the reality of life is that its individuals who comprise the educational system who have their preferences and talents and what works for one individual might not necessarily work for all.

The key to solving my of the educational problems in society is to recognize that everything begins with individuals and all school going kids are different. Thus, more effort should move in the direction of tailoring educational efforts towards the need of every kids. For example, if its discovered that student has a high aptitude in one area at an early age, all efforts and curricula should be designed for the student in that area. Kids who have the ability to absorb material fast should be allowed to move fast and have material tailor to their needs while kids who can’t absorb material fast should be given special attention and also have material tailored to their needs.

Ultimately, the aim of the educational system, as stated, is to make sure that students who go through the K-12 system and also college become productive members of society who add value. More should go towards vocational training to make sure kids have practical skills and more should also go toward the practical. A situation exist, in which kids are put through classes which bore many and talk about issues in the abstract. More should be done towards making sure that in one way or another, something practical is done. It’s usual through doing and seeing things that people are able to understand such concepts rapidly.

Ultimately, the future of education, in this country, and even around the world, lies recognizing that its individuals who make up the system with their subjective preferences. Thus more needs to be done to cater to this. It’s ultimately in recognizing this fact that the society would reach its true potential.

How an Engineering Education helps with Tech Startup Formation

In the engineering education sequence, all courses taken during the freshman, sophomore, and junior years lead to the senior design project (which in many cases actually begins in the junior year) which are done in the senior year. In the senior design project, senior select an engineering topic or problems to work on. They set a series of hypothesis to test for a long with goals and specifications. Research is done on the topic and seniors learn how to conduct engineering experimentation and designing. In the senior design teams, different people and subgroups are delegated different task and people learn how to work with each other.

In many ways the founding and formation of tech startups into a fully functional companies with a business model which works has similar parallels. The founders set out to solve problems, they do research on all issues related to the problem, and set a series of hypothesis (usually embodied in the business model) which they try and test. Along the way based on feedback from customers/market, changes are made to the business model till the correct fit is made. Just as with a junior/senior design team, members of a tech startup learn to work with each other and learn how to solve any conflict. But usually, one crucial difference exist, most startup founder usually know each other well and this helps in forming comradery in startups.

Thus, more should be done do to bring even more people with engineering backgrounds outside software development or computer science into the tech startup echo system. Their experience in senior design and other design projects could be bring in always needed finesse into the industry. Also more should be done to sensitize engineering students into the possibilities of turning their design projects into tech startups and viable businesses.

The Importance and Power of Coding

About 8 years ago, I commented in a conversation with a sibling that one day just as people are encouraged to learn a second language (e.g. Spanish or French), one day people would view knowledge of coding just as we view learning a second language. That day is here! With the proliferation of free online courses and even YouTube video courses, anyone with a sufficient level of focus can learn how to code proficiently within a few months. With such knowledge, people can easily get coding jobs which require no expensive college degrees. Today over 1 million unfilled jobs in the area of software engineering and coding which require no college degrees or certification exist. If more people understood the importance of coding and took online coding courses, these jobs, which are high paying jobs, could easily be filled up. This could help in improving the economic lot of a lot people, especially in an era of students coming out of college with high levels of student debt and begin saddled with jobs which can barely pay off student debt.

“Software as Capital: An Economic Perspective on Software Engineering” by Howard Baetjer, is a far-sighted late 1990’s book in which Baetjer uses capital theory of the Austrian School of Economics (Austrian school, is the only economic school which does not see capital as a homogenous variable and puts special emphasis on its role in economic growth and development) to develop a thesis in which he convincingly argues that software development is just like capital formation in which capital begins with the most primitive tools and evolve into to the most advanced tools/machinery over time which has contributed to the world being wealthier and standards of living greatly increasing.  Baetjer then goes on to discuss the development of evolvable software through the use of modularity; a parallel with capital having the ability evolve with time and increase in efficiency.

With the increased focus on emerging technologies like artificial intelligence, machine learning, deep learning and hysteria of how “software is eating up the world” and automation is a threat which would cause mass unemployment, this proves Baetjer’s theory right. All that is going on is the elongation and advancement of the capital structure, which is making different processes more efficient in the process. But what is rather profound about this process is that in traditional Austrian School text on capital, it is implicitly assumed that capital is tangible and involve huge amounts of sunken cost. But in the capital formation of the 21st century, one does not need huge investment and it’s within the reach of almost anyone to advance the capital structure. Buying a laptop for a few hundred dollars and coding on such a platform is a great start. That is why we live in an exciting era in which the possibilities for the average individual to be a creator is simply amazing but the potential is not fully appreciated by many.

 

Vision

“Where there is no vision, the people perish.”

-Proverbs 29:18

 

As I’ve grown up, one of the things I’ve come to fast discover is the large number of adults who lack a life vision or an articulated set of principles. This is not to say they are irresponsible adults who are adrift in the sea of life and have no bearing. Rather their lives are one of living by the set standards and expectations of society and not daring to be different.

With an articulated life vision, one knows where to focus ones energy and focus. Whatever task or job one does, one does not see it as an end in itself but sees it as a path towards achieving something bigger. For if one’s life vision is to contribute towards a healthier world, one does not see that study of medicine and its practice and an end in itself but rather a means towards an end. If one does into business to gain resources and have a platform to promote certain ideas and values, the business in itself is not seen as the end but rather a means.

Furthermore, with a life vision, one puts their attention and energy towards what matters and what will count in the long run when all is said and done. That’s why with many in society viewed as “filthy rich” and who have the means to acquire highest luxuries in the world, in many cases, though not always, material and immediate pleasures does not really bother them. Instead they put their energy into trying to solve societal problems and trying to figure out where society is headed in key technological fields and offering solutions. Ultimately their goals is to build and offer solutions which would outlast them.

Statistically, not everyone will be Elon Musk or a Bill Gates. But it’s in within everyone’s ability to develop a life vision and mission which brings meaning to one’s life. Such could be solving challenges in one’s community and it could even be as narrow as helping ones family and those who we love. Coming up with a vision and mission for one life is not something which happens in one day but is a challenge which happens over time and arguably never ends.  If more people in the world articulated a life vision towards which they worked, the world would be a much different place for the better.

 

The Power of Ideas

The more I study how things work and how the world works, the more I have come to the conclusion that what drives the world are ideas and human creativity/imagination; everything else logically follows and falls in place.

Take a look around you (let’s say a 1-3 meter radius), everything from the laptop or device on which you are reading this blog to the books and pens around you to the plastic and textiles arounds you are all derived from flashes of imagination in people’s minds at different points in time. Some might counter that such would be impossible without the natural resources being available to make the listed possible. While partially right, it misses a salient point. Up to a point in human history, those resources used in making the listed products probably had no value to humans and were seen as useless. But somewhere down the line a person or group of people had a flashes of imagination after probably making observations or testing a hunches and discovered that those resources had value and found ways of transforming them in a manner which would benefit all mankind. Even after those initial discoveries, different people kept refining these ideas and found new ways of using them. Take for example, petroleum. Though it’s been used since ancient times, its uses have evolved through the ages and this became even more profound especially after the advent of the industrial revolution and the invention of technology such as the internal combustion engine, aviation, and even the derivative petrochemical industry.

If we aim for a better world with greater human flourishing, abundance, and possibilities, it must be realized that the flourishing of ideas and their implementation is what will make this possible. Towards that, humans must be given the greatest scope of freedom possible so they can experiment and see what works and does not work and even come up with unintended but positive results in the process.

 

My Story

Ever since I have been a kid, I have always asked questions. I would always bother my parents about why XYX is the way it is. In many cases, tapping from their knowledge, they would give me straight and easy answers and in others they would not necessarily have answers. The full or partial answers I got would lead to thinking about even more questions; little did I know at the time that a thinker and observer of events going on around him was being nurtured.

With the passing of time and maturity, the pestering nature of my inquires and questions outwardly subsided but took on the form of reading books, publications, newspapers and watching documentaries  and doing my personal research. Among adults, I became known as the kid who always had something profound to say and was always drawn to having conversations with adults of issues of the day and other things considered “adult talk”.

With an insatiable appetite for questioning many issues, conducting research, and making observations and connections, I have developed a multidisciplinary mind which understands that events don’t occur in isolation and to varying degrees events are interconnected. For example, I am an aerospace engineer by training who has deep and penetrating knowledge and insights into tops like history, contemporary events and economics.

Knowing that no matter how much deemphasized or evaded, economic events and phenomena play a central role in human life and affect different decisions we make, I have developed an ongoing rigorous study of all major economic text in the past 250 years. Through my study so far I have come to fast conclude, that that these text are not money making guides, though key insights can be deduced, rather they give insights into human organization/relations and the very nature of human existence.  When done with this self-study (I might even begin before I finish and do it in parallel!), I plan to begin a self-study of advanced aerospace concepts not covered during a typical undergraduate education. By the time, I am done with myself study, I would probably be an economist without credentials!

There has always been a side of me which has been drawn to the creative and transformative power of entrepreneurship. Growing up also being fascinated by ideas and wanting to be an aerospace engineer, at different times I saw all these interest as being in conflict with me having to eventually choose one someday and foregoing the others. With time, I came to discover that all could work for me in harmony. The key I came to discover, is to use entrepreneurship to branch out to the two others. By going into entrepreneurship and using it to branch off, I could use it to implement ideas which I have while getting the opportunity someday to do or go into something aerospace related.

At the end of the day, when fundamentally examined, entrepreneurship is not primarily about monetary value but rather value of ideas and knowledge used to serve others; ideas when individuals have a spark of imagination in an instant and knowledge as they plan purposeful actions to gain better insights into their ideas and the nature of whom they serve.