Permanent Human Settlement of the Earth, Space and Ocean Frontiers

Monday, November 06, 2006

The Internet Fool’s Paradise

"For the dream comes through much effort but the voice of a fool through many words.” King Solomon

In that wisdom we find the folly of endless, effortless discussion in pseudo-scientific circles such as is found on many internet discussion groups. For example, I had the misfortune of actually answering the innocent question of a student on a Space Colonization discussion group last week. She wanted to know the amount of energy consumed by a single lunar settler. There was MUCH discussion, incredibly enough, even a few flames toward her for just asking the question and no hard facts from anyone save a lot of arrogance and feigned knowledge.

So I picked up the telephone and called one of NASA’s chief modelers of advanced life support systems. He told me that based on past experience with real space systems that they used one kilowatt continuous power requirement for every settler as a modeled power requirement. I dropped that on the discussion group as a real number actually used by the world’s most advanced modelers in real space settlement modeling. But alas, it was not enough, and I should have known better all along. The endless discussion engendered by the real number would nauseate a gutter maggot. In the end, I kicked myself for even entering the discussion in the first place. I felt like a half drunk Deacon wasting my precious time at a sleazy strip bar.

The point to be remembered here is quite simple. No matter how fancy or expensive the computer is, the brains to operate it properly is not to be confused with the ‘user friendliness’ of the device itself. And its codicil is just as important: high technology actually enhances the need for civility and manners, it does not diminish it.

No brains and no manners is a flammable mix. Instead of powering the cause of exploration, it is just as likely to burn it down. Fortunately, the fix is simple:

1. Education – learning about the subject matter before actually pontificating has always been a good rule. Further - actually publically admitting one does not know is the first step in actually finding out.

2. Listen – if more people went to the discussion groups to listen and learn instead of demonstrating their astonishing stupidity, the nature of the medium might change.

3. Ease Up – the depth of personal character is amply demonstrated in good manners – as is the lack of it. Even Conan the Barbarian had enough manners to limit his words as he said, "Enough talk", just before he killed the one with whom he disagreed.

4. Put Out The Flames – Moderated groups need to ban flamers ASAP. Unmoderated groups should be avoided. They are nothing but stupid people and SPAM magnets and they work very well.

5. Advocate the 50/50 Rule – activists should spend at least a much time actually doing something as talking about it. Go to college, take advanced classes, read technical manuals and actually feed the mind instead of spewing forth regurgitated nonsense. Yeah, I know it’s the nuclear option of true personal character, but it is also the only one that will ever make a real difference.

Wow! Computers are easy. Any fool can drive one. The key point to be added to these pair of profound truths is this: and it is immediately obvious who’s behind the wheel.