October 31, 2004

O Brave New World II

Back to the question. I had, at some point, broken down Treknology into three components: Information, Energy, and Manufacturing. Applying those categories to transporting today's technology, information is the most easily solved. Energy? Assuming it's available, as mentioned last time, I like the notion of building a petroleum industry in situ since that's what we know how to use. Note to self: LNG as well? I'm not averse to heavily seeding solar and green/renewable energy systems, especially off-grid solutions, for indiviudal buildings and settlements! However, the main problem we have today here on Earth is not so much getting energy as it is storing and moving it. This is why petrol is such a sweet spot. Other than capital-hungry cabling, electricity is really hard to move around, and damn near impossible to store in large quantities without utilizing kinetic solutions like dams.

For fixed base needs (town grids, facility grids, etc.) electrical power should certainly be as green and renewable as possible. Wind power, solar furnaces, hydroelectric if we can site ourselves near some, tidal if available, geotherm, all the stuff we know how to do now. The caveat: maintenance has to be doable with minimal tech. If we do lose resources or contact, we want our power supply to be as rugged as possible, or at least as decentralized as possible (ideally, both). Wind is good for this. If we had good fuel cell tech, that might be a good way to utilize the petrochem we're extracting and moving about, without the hassle of internal combustion generators or the moving parts of steam turbines...although, of course, cogen furnaces are a good thing.

Moving on, we come to manufacturing. Here's where it gets severely complex, and I cheerfully admit I don't know the first damn thing. Machine shops are a known tech. I don't know the limits and requirements of a machine shop that can operate without a full computer industry behind it. I don't know the limits of a machine tools industry that can be 'self sustaining.' Those would be interesting projects, perhaps. At what point do machining systems become von Neumann complete? Along with them, of course, comes more resource extraction - metal mining and refining. While a hundred thousand tons per FedExtra load sounds like a lot, one 'smallish' petrol tanker is more steel than that. I don't know if it would be possible to have full-on metal extraction industries until there's functioning local transportation and energy infrastructure, of course.

I would guess (purely a guess) that for the first several years, most manufacturing will be modular work done on Earth, parts shipped. We're pretty good at flatpacking buildings, bridges, etc. to ship to faraway places. When it comes time to build manufacturies on site, what will we need? How much will it cost? No idea. Here's where my wild-ass-guessing, even, breaks way down.

Posted by jbz at October 31, 2004 1:11 AM | TrackBack

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