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scepticus

Mars One Project And Capital

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Let me begin by saying that Mars One isn't going to happen, both technically and psychologically**. The point I wish to raise is not about that.

What I do think is interesting is the degree of interest it has raised globally and the amount of money they have already raked in despite not having done anything besides what we call in the engineering trade as 'Imagineering'.

I don't doubt for a second that if the project were more sensible yet still highly appealing to the general human spirit that they could pull it off.

In general large mega projects have been difficult because the required capital formation is very difficult to achieve. Various studies have for example linked previous transitions from societies with low potential for capital formation to societies with greater potential to the advent of sensible central taxation. Ultimately, doing big things with many people is about concentrating large amounts of money or, less sustainably, creating some kind of collective dream such as Nazi Germany.

The thinking goes that if equality is high and money widely and fairly evenly distributed then achieving large pools of capital dedicated to a particular project has been very difficult. The inequality (both within Britain and between Britain and its colonies) inherent in the British Empire is actually what allowed it to do so much. Small amounts of money in many hands means many minds to convince to donate capital or invest, whereas large money in few hands is a lesser barrier to getting investment, given a sensible project.

Anyway, what strikes me about this media-cum-engineering project is how Mars One is essentially showcasing a new method for forming capital from widely dispersed capital. Simply come up with something with mass social appeal that resonates at a deeper level that mere 'capitalism' and bang, job done. Because the money raised is small per donation, who cares really whether it pans out or not?

It would be interesting to seriously consider what more tractable big 'human glory projects' might be funded by similar means.

** Not to mention that all the Mars One staffers and founders are glamorous yet seemingly insubstantial persons fresh out of some Dutch university undergraduate course!

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Happening with smaller projects such as the Ubuntu phone. We might argue such a thing isn't viable but sufficient numbers of people want a Ubuntu phone so why not?

Can see TV/film projects going this way too. Star Trek or Doctor Who, or Breaking Bad get cancelled and the fans raise the money for the cast, scripts and productions. Its not just money but talent too. Look on Youtube and you will see plenty of trailers, content. special effects that match anything mainstream production units can do.

We are certainly moving in an 'open source/crowd funded direction.

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The thinking goes that if equality is high and money widely and fairly evenly distributed then achieving large pools of capital dedicated to a particular project has been very difficult. The inequality (both within Britain and between Britain and its colonies) inherent in the British Empire is actually what allowed it to do so much. Small amounts of money in many hands means many minds to convince to donate capital or invest, whereas large money in few hands is a lesser barrier to getting investment, given a sensible project.

It depends on the size of projects that need doing. Megaprojects inspire awe, but they are not necessarily the best use of capital. At the moment the UK would probably benefit from large scale housebuilding carried out by a large number of small firms to prevent the creation of soulless swathes of Barratt boxes. Highly concentrated capital is probably not the best source of funding for a large number of small projects.

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This is not capital "formation".

This is capital collection.

The formation happened before it was pledged to the project. Capital is formed by excess from production..ie, savings.

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This is not capital "formation".

This is capital collection.

The formation happened before it was pledged to the project. Capital is formed by excess from production..ie, savings.

Nah, 'capital' comes from a printing press, get with the program...

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Let me begin by saying that Mars One isn't going to happen, both technically and psychologically**. The point I wish to raise is not about that.

What I do think is interesting is the degree of interest it has raised globally and the amount of money they have already raked in despite not having done anything besides what we call in the engineering trade as 'Imagineering'.

I don't doubt for a second that if the project were more sensible yet still highly appealing to the general human spirit that they could pull it off.

In general large mega projects have been difficult because the required capital formation is very difficult to achieve. Various studies have for example linked previous transitions from societies with low potential for capital formation to societies with greater potential to the advent of sensible central taxation. Ultimately, doing big things with many people is about concentrating large amounts of money or, less sustainably, creating some kind of collective dream such as Nazi Germany.

The thinking goes that if equality is high and money widely and fairly evenly distributed then achieving large pools of capital dedicated to a particular project has been very difficult. The inequality (both within Britain and between Britain and its colonies) inherent in the British Empire is actually what allowed it to do so much. Small amounts of money in many hands means many minds to convince to donate capital or invest, whereas large money in few hands is a lesser barrier to getting investment, given a sensible project.

Anyway, what strikes me about this media-cum-engineering project is how Mars One is essentially showcasing a new method for forming capital from widely dispersed capital. Simply come up with something with mass social appeal that resonates at a deeper level that mere 'capitalism' and bang, job done. Because the money raised is small per donation, who cares really whether it pans out or not?

It would be interesting to seriously consider what more tractable big 'human glory projects' might be funded by similar means.

** Not to mention that all the Mars One staffers and founders are glamorous yet seemingly insubstantial persons fresh out of some Dutch university undergraduate course!

Yet the moonshot was done at a time of high equality.

I'm not convinced of the hypothesis. We have an unusual situation today of having lots of 1st generation billionaires, who by their nature might look at interesting projects, such as asteroid mining or the like.

But once we see multi generational wealth (think the British aristocracy), where those who get it have done nothing to earn it, theu tend to focus on preserving what they have in a very conservative manner. Sustained inequality like that can effectively squash innovation. The British empire could be an example - there was a burst of 1st-generation wealth leading to innovation and perhaps the industrial revolution, but once it solidified we lost the edge. Perhaps there's a proper theory there..

As far as mars one goes.. I suspect that in energetic terms, going to mars on a one way trip is not much harder than going to the moon and back. It's the return journey that would make things seriously hard. The real problem is the need to sustain a constant stream of missions for a decade or two until the colony becomes more self sustaining.

At some point it would start to pay for itself - it's easier to put something into orbit around Earth starting from Mars, and satellite bases on the Martian moons would make excellent waystations for Asteroid mining. Of course, the GoldBugs of the world might be upset by that..

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http://www.thebubblebubble.com/south-sea-bubble/

As South Sea Company shares bubbled up to incredible new heights, numerous other joint-stock companies IPOd to take advantage of the booming investor demand for speculative investments. Many of these new companies made outrageous and often fraudulent claims about their business ventures for the purpose of raising capital and boosting their stock prices. Here are some examples of these companies’ business proposals (History House, 1997):

For supplying the town of Deal with fresh water.

For trading in hair.

For assuring of seamen’s wages.

For importing pitch and tar, and other naval stores, from North Britain and America.

For insuring of horses.

For improving the art of making soap.

For improving of gardens.

For insuring and increasing children’s fortunes.

For a wheel for perpetual motion.

For importing walnut-trees from Virginia.

For making of rape-oil.

For paying pensions to widows and others, at a small discount.

For making iron with pit coal.

For the transmutation of quicksilver into a malleable fine metal.

And the most outlandish (and cunningly clever!) of all:

For carrying on an undertaking of great advantage; but nobody to know what it is.

On reading what is being proposed I immediately thought of the above for attracting capital.

I agree it's highly unlikely to happen, one way would be a huge problem unless they were going to continually expand the colony.

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Yet the moonshot was done at a time of high equality.

I'm not convinced of the hypothesis. We have an unusual situation today of having lots of 1st generation billionaires, who by their nature might look at interesting projects, such as asteroid mining or the like.

But once we see multi generational wealth (think the British aristocracy), where those who get it have done nothing to earn it, theu tend to focus on preserving what they have in a very conservative manner. Sustained inequality like that can effectively squash innovation. The British empire could be an example - there was a burst of 1st-generation wealth leading to innovation and perhaps the industrial revolution, but once it solidified we lost the edge. Perhaps there's a proper theory there..

As far as mars one goes.. I suspect that in energetic terms, going to mars on a one way trip is not much harder than going to the moon and back. It's the return journey that would make things seriously hard. The real problem is the need to sustain a constant stream of missions for a decade or two until the colony becomes more self sustaining.

At some point it would start to pay for itself - it's easier to put something into orbit around Earth starting from Mars, and satellite bases on the Martian moons would make excellent waystations for Asteroid mining. Of course, the GoldBugs of the world might be upset by that..

Can't be bothered to look it up or do any sums but the energy budget for a one way trip to Mars with a sof landing should be less than the energy budget for a one way trip to the moon with a soft landing.

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Guest unfunded_liability
Mars One Project And Capital Most impressive example of capital formation in history

Shades of:

"A company for carrying on an undertaking of great advantage, but nobody to know what it is"

- South Sea Bubble

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The thinking goes that if equality is high and money widely and fairly evenly distributed then achieving large pools of capital dedicated to a particular project has been very difficult. The inequality (both within Britain and between Britain and its colonies) inherent in the British Empire is actually what allowed it to do so much. Small amounts of money in many hands means many minds to convince to donate capital or invest, whereas large money in few hands is a lesser barrier to getting investment, given a sensible project.

Not convinced by that - doesn't Ferguson argue (fairly persuasively as I recall) that it was Britain's more sophisticated banking system which enabled said capital formation? So the large money in few hands was in banker's hands? What is so different about today?

The reason you can crowd source Mars is that there is no potential nimbyism, unlike any large infrastructure project you'd care to name.

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Raise the money (it could be £$trillions) then it would be far cheaper to form a cast and just film the Mars landing etc somewhere on earth - along with some real time interaction at the time of the launch/landing. For the audience it could be as good as the real thing. The reality of modern movies is pretty good.

Some of the high definition gloss would have to be taken off the movie but that's a minor problem. Think Blair Witch Project standard of production

;)

Edited by billybong

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Raise the money (it could be £$trillions) then it would be far cheaper to form a cast and just film the Mars landing etc somewhere on earth - along with some real time interaction at the time of the launch/landing. For the audience it could be as good as the real thing. The reality of modern movies is pretty good.

Some of the high definition gloss would have to be taken off the movie but that's a minor problem. Think Blair Witch Project standard of production

;)

Already been done -

http://m.imdb.com/title/tt0077294/

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Already been done -

and it's reported about $25 billion was raised to fund it.

A practice run? Then there's all the other planets and moons etc as time goes on.

Edited by billybong

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Not convinced by that - doesn't Ferguson argue (fairly persuasively as I recall) that it was Britain's more sophisticated banking system which enabled said capital formation? So the large money in few hands was in banker's hands? What is so different about today?

The reason you can crowd source Mars is that there is no potential nimbyism, unlike any large infrastructure project you'd care to name.

Up until around 1820's / 1830's the UK banking system was split. In England and Wales the only large scale joint stock bank was the BoE no other bank was allowed to operate as a joint stock one and bank's were limited to 6 partners so you have lots of regional banks which essentially was the local grocer etc... acting as a bank on the side. This it was argued made the English / Welsh banking system inherently unstable.

Scotland it was seen to have a far more robust banking system as it had more joint stock banks, I think the oldest two were the Bank of Scotland and Royal Bank of Scotland. Although with recent events there recent managed lacked the management acumen of it's predecessors.

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Hi

maybe the subscribers think of it as an opportunity to send Other People on a one-way ticket to Mars?

Indeed, if I could name the person(s) I might well chip in a few quid?

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People say that the future is unsustainable given our current levels of consumption.

This is not so if we expand into space.

We can either waste resources fighting each other down here. Or expand into the limitless greater universe.

Sooner or later this decision will be made, because it will be the only thing left for us to do.

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Hi

maybe the subscribers think of it as an opportunity to send Other People on a one-way ticket to Mars?

Indeed, if I could name the person(s) I might well chip in a few quid?

You may think that this is a good idea. But when Nick Clegg returns having formed a 'coalition' with a sect of genocidal Martians determined to exterminate all human life on our planet ('I hope to be a moderating influence'), we'll blame you, ok?

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This is not capital "formation".

This is capital collection.

The formation happened before it was pledged to the project.

Wikipedia defines two uses of the term "In a much broader or vaguer sense, the term "capital formation" has in more recent times been used in financial economics to refer to savings drives, setting up financial institutions, fiscal measures, public borrowing, development of capital markets, privatization of financial institutions, development of secondary markets. In this usage, it refers to any method for increasing the amount of capital owned or under one's control, or any method in utilising or mobilizing capital resources for investment purposes. Thus, capital could be "formed" in the sense of "being brought together for investment purposes" in many different ways."

The second usage just refers to the total stock of capital that exists, or its change over time.

Capital is formed by excess from production..ie, savings.

That can't be right in terms of finance capital because as we know savings and debts sum to zero. I have pointed out before that the economy as a whole doesn't save anything at all, except the actual inventory of unsold and un depreciated assets (like cars in a sales lot).

Since finance does sum to zero, what matters about it is its distribution and concentration. Concentrated capital is required for a mars trip. Some concentration is also required for a new open source SW project, but the difference is the magnitude!

Prior to the advent of electronic media and electronic money this type of capital formation mooted by the mars one project would have been impossible without switching a nation to war preparation mode.

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You may think that this is a good idea. But when Nick Clegg returns having formed a 'coalition' with a sect of genocidal Martians determined to exterminate all human life on our planet ('I hope to be a moderating influence'), we'll blame you, ok?

OK, I'll plead to it then.

But your scenario is completely ludicrous.

(That is, not so much the "genocidal Martians" as suggesting that Nick Clegg would make a decision.)

Edited by dryrot

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Yet the moonshot was done at a time of high equality.

high equality within the US yes, though the equality gradient between the US/West and everywhere else was much higher then. Also there is the factor of competition between superpowers I would have thought.

in any case I think the moon landings were funded by US taxpayers. That is why I said that the advent of effective centralised taxation is a key moment in the history of capital formation, for any given nation.

But once we see multi generational wealth (think the British aristocracy), where those who get it have done nothing to earn it, theu tend to focus on preserving what they have in a very conservative manner. Sustained inequality like that can effectively squash innovation. The British empire could be an example - there was a burst of 1st-generation wealth leading to innovation and perhaps the industrial revolution, but once it solidified we lost the edge. Perhaps there's a proper theory there..

I think that's probably right. The system gets rigid and can't adapt. I think that point is somewhat orthogonal to the point about capital concentration being needed though.

Even a very dynamic system with significant class mobility would still need concentrated capital to do big projects.

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You may think that this is a good idea. But when Nick Clegg returns having formed a 'coalition' with a sect of genocidal Martians determined to exterminate all human life on our planet ('I hope to be a moderating influence'), we'll blame you, ok?

You forgot the part where just before he was launched into space, he signed a pledge saying he definitely wouldn't return to exterminate all human life on Earth.

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You forgot the part where just before he was launched into space, he signed a pledge saying he definitely wouldn't return to exterminate all human life on Earth.

:) Acknowledging a much better reply than mine!

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People say that the future is unsustainable given our current levels of consumption.

This is not so if we expand into space.

We can either waste resources fighting each other down here. Or expand into the limitless greater universe.

Sooner or later this decision will be made, because it will be the only thing left for us to do.

Or, alternatively. The human population will peak by 2030 and begin to contract at an exponential rate. The world economy will fall into a long deflationary slump. Material progress will stop and reverse. The wilderness will reclaim the world from industrial civilisation once and forever.

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Or, alternatively. The human population will peak by 2030 and begin to contract at an exponential rate. The world economy will fall into a long deflationary slump. Material progress will stop and reverse. The wilderness will reclaim the world from industrial civilisation once and forever.

Interesting that neither the optimist or the pessimist cases consider the possibility of a plateau in population.

To see an analogous ecological event (and humans are nothing of not an ecological event), see the 'great oxygenation event':

800px-Oxygenation-atm-2.svg.png

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Oxygenation_Event

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