> Eliezer S. Yudkowsky wrote:
> > I'd like to endorse Greg Burch's question as being extremely
> > important, and add this followup:
> > Is there any form of predesign or preplanning that could be done *now*
> > which could realistically shorten the amount of time, or decrease the
> > number of people, needed to convert assembler technology to at least one
> > self-sustaining settlement in Earth orbit?
> You bet. A large fraction of the project (maybe 75% of the lead time and
> 10% of the money) could be done before the assembler breakthrough. If we
> had a firm date for the invention of the necessary nanotech we could
> schedule the whole project around that to optimize our chance of success.
> Since we don't have such a date we should a) start work early and b) make an
> effort to develop better nanotech projections.
> I think that preliminary work like locating a viable launch site, dealing
> with the local government and working out preliminary hardware designs
> should all begin a good 5-8 years before anyone expects to see a
> general-purpose assembler. Working out a good colonization plan is
> something we could start doing now - it doesn't take any much money at all
> and it will be critical to a successful project.
Yes, something like this would be *very* useful indeed. We certainly won't improve our chances of making it past the Singularity just by talking about it. This "space program" to create at least one offplanet habitat which could sustain a group of, say, 100-1000 people (depending on the interest in this project) long enough for them to transcend could be part of a greater "Ascension Initiative" (or AI for short), which might also include:
-An uploading node, along the lines of Joe Strout's
-A "survivalist" node that prepares one or more "nuke-proof" shelters
which could do the same as the offplanet habitat in case of a
severe society-crippling, non-nanotech war or disaster (a fully
self-sufficient cryonics facility should always be included, for
-A nanotech research node as, which might, among other things, try to design some basic software for replicators to make tools, structures, food etc. which will be needed for the creation and maintenance of viable space habitats. -A financial node to (partially) fund all of the above, and anything else that may be necessary.
Needless to say, all of this would by no means guarantee success, but at least we could say that we've *tried*.