Project Star Net

Tony Belding (
Tue, 14 Apr 1998 11:39:40 -0600

I am proposing an idea, and I would like to see if there's any enthusiam for
it among extropians. In short, Project Star Net (PSN) would aim to establish
an interstellar communication network. Right now PSN is still in the
"thinking about it" stage, and I want to see if there's any interest in
forming an organization to pursue this worthy goal.

Nothing is written in stone at this early stage, but I do have a certain
vision that can serve as a basis for discussion.

I'm assuming there will be no sci-fi FTL stardrive. I've heard attempts to
describe how such a drive might work, but they leave me unconvinced. Even if
theory allows something like that to exist, the engineering difficulties are
overwhelming. I'm not aware of any technology on the horizon that will let us
conjure up quantum singularities or magnetic monopoles.

So, I reckon the fastest and most efficient form of interstellar communication
and travel will be via the EM spectrum. I envision a station (or node) in
each stellar system with powerful transmitters and receivers, thus allowing
data to be relayed to a specific destination, or propagated through the
network as a general broadcast.

A major goal would be the translocation (or "faxing") of persons across the
network. So, if you wanted to visit Alpha Centauri, you could fax yourself
there in four years objective time, or zero subjective. This would obviously
require some advanced technology to deconstruct the traveller and to recreate
him at the destination -- based on what I know of nanotechnology, it seems
reasonable that this could exist in the near future (i.e. within 50 years or
so). If the technology proves impractical, the Star Net would be much less
useful, but still worth establishing purely as a communication device.

Because of the sheer size of the network and the associated netlag, it could
not be centrally managed. In fact, once the first node is established, the
Star Net should automatically manage and maintain itself, and launch "seeds"
to establish new nodes, thus replicating until it ultimately spans our entire
galaxy. This will require a certain level of artificial intelligence.

(BTW, I feel AI and nanotech are symbiotic fields of technology: they will
feed one another. My view of PSN hinges on concurrent advances in both

Now you have the general concept. If we assume this may become feasible
sometime in the next 50 years or so, then it may not be too soon to start
planning and organizing to make it happen, and to be sure it's done right.
If PSN becomes a going concern, one of the first orders of business will be
studies to answer some important questions:

* What is the most efficient way to launch "seed" probes across
interstellar space? Also, how small can such seeds be made?

* What types of star systems should be candidates for
establishing nodes?

* What part or parts of the EM spectrum are suited to our use.

* What are the practical limits of data throughput across
interstellar distances?

* What are the data requirements of transmitting a person? What
if the traveller is enhanced with extra memory -- do you charge
by the gigabyte, or have a fixed rate for everybody?

* What other types of data might be transmitted? Free news,

* How can access to the network be allocated fairly?

* What is the most likely way to finance the project?

* How will the network respond if it "bumps into" an alien

* If a star system is over-populated, can its inhabitants tell
their station to refuse any new arrivals? Are there other
situations that could justify this option? And what happens
to the traveller who the station doesn't accept?

* What kind of data security is required on transmissions?
What degree of encryption, error correction, and redundancy
is desirable?

Well, I could ramble on, but I expect I've posted enough to get some debate
started. I really look forward to seeing opinions and ideas on this subject,
but most of all: Does it makes sense to form an official organization at this
point in time?

   Tony Belding <>