Accelerating Future Transhumanism, AI, nanotech, the Singularity, and extinction risk.


Stanford Torus

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  1. This image really belongs on something like the Paleo-future website. The Stanford torus comes from the 1970’s view of the early 21st Century, along with predictions that we would have become “immortal” by now. For example, read F.M. Esfandiary’s vision (published back in 1981) of life in that far-off, future year 2010:
    “Up-Wing Priorities”

  2. Man, who has to mow those lawns?

    I wonder how space colonization will affect a person’s long-term psychological and physical health. We see a higher rate of suicide in places that don’t experience as much sun and poor weather. There is also SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) and a dozen other conditions in which environment effects health and behavior.

    A person taken away from the natural routine of weather and planetary cycles might experience some negative side-affects (Of course, Earth-like routines can be simulated.)

    Another interesting question: will those that are born in a place like Stanford Torus be susceptible to these conditions? Maybe spacer children will have a hard time adjusting to earth like conditions.

  3. Mark, I know. As I’ve said earlier, I doubt that there will even be much of a need/desire to move into space, but in the context of most worldviews, a toroidal space colony is interesting, feasible, and desirable in this century. So why not post an image of it? 95% of readers of this blog will be unfamiliar with 1970s futurism anyway. Yes, I know you are, along with other older cryonicists. I also know you are disappointed with the incongruities between the vision then of what would happen now, etc.

    But, because they predicted it back then, and it isn’t reality now, that means it is now insignificant, retro, or will never happen? Paleo-Future is for stuff that looks silly today, and the Stanford Torus, well, doesn’t. Except, building it from material launched from the surface would bankrupt the global economy many times over, so this is a “far future” vision.

    Other things that took a significant amount of time between when they were conceived and created:


    Note that I often just post interesting artwork and am not trying to make it fit in with any overarching message or using it to make a statement. Nor am I making a statement saying it will happen in 30 years, etc.

    From reading your blog I see that paleo-futurism is a pet issue of yours, so I guess you’re entitled to make a comment, though. Anyway, I read your mailing list posts as a teenager and thought all about it then. I decided that many of the old futurists were overenthusiastic, but not all, and by thinking carefully, we can avoid their mistakes.

    One of the ways I avoid it is that I don’t really care how soon “The Future” (dun dun dun) arrives. I like my current life, with our current technological base, and am not an escapist. I am in no hurry. I view technologies on an individual basis and not as part of some “grand vision” that will come together where everything will be great. (Pretty non-Kurzweilian, huh?)

  4. I hardly believe that this (as the one about AGI etc…) really was a seriuos, scientific prediction, and not just propagated by the media or some drunken students. Does anyone know?

    I think you have to differentiate between the technological and the political feasability.
    We may be able to do that now, as we could have moon bases and flying cars (except AGI – that’s still a bit complicated) and so on, so the technology is out there. But if the society says: “We don’t want no flying cars” or the holy idol MONEY instructs us to say “The moon is too expensive if you can’t demonstrate your domination over Russia and the rest of America…pardon, world” then, well, we have to wait for the next century to see a new / the first application of those technologies available for years. (Yes it’s too simple, but you get the point. I could mention the more rational arguments against it, but it is now time for a commercial break – *censored*)

    Just because we don’t broadly use technology or develop it further doesn’t necessarily mean we are technically unable to do it. You can say that often enough when people start to wonder about no cars flying anywhere.

  5. I still think space colonization a genuine concept that we should take seriously. It is also something that I still think will happen, regardless of whether or not the futurists of the ’70s were off on their predictions.

    Even with all of the wonderful virtual worlds we will create in the next few decades right here on Earth, throughout all of human history, people have been fascinated with the stars, planets etc, and have dreamed about visiting them since time began. That dream will not just simply vanish because of new worlds we can create ourselves. I still think humans will want to go out into space anyway, if for no other reason than plain old curiosity.

    There are plenty of advantages to space colonization, particularly orbital colonies. I read somewhere on the lifeboat foundations website, in Al Globus’ profile I believe, that a single asteroid, Ceres, can house human numbers approaching 1 trillion, if all of the mass were turned into colonies. This idea alone makes space colonization attractive, at least to me, because it will provide sentient beings with more than ample living space in the solar system, away from good ol’ Earth.

    Cost will be a problem, sure, but I think this is worth it. Space colonization can provde a great “backup drive” for civilization if nothing else. So if something happens to Earth in the future and it becomes inhabitable (war, climate change etc.) we still have the colonies to help continue civilization. It might even be easier to adapt to orbital colonies than it would for planets like Mars and our own Moon.

    Therefore, maybe we shouldn’t be so quick to sell space colonization short. It just might save us one day. Also, just because a technology didn’t arrive by the magical year 2000, doesn’t mean it won’t ever arrive. I still have hope for those flying cars, too!

  6. Well I doubt human beings as we see them today will be in Orbital Colonies. Maybe some transhumanist augments or posthumans. Orbital Colonies or any other large construct would be a good stepping stone to other parts of the solar system or at least a good experiment in large scale construction prior to solar expansion from earth. I still like O’neill 3 cylinders more. Too bad Dr. O’neill isn’t still alive :(

  7. I agree with Michael Allen, space colonization would be the practical “next step” to preserving human civilization. Consider that many of the Earth’s natural resources won’t last forever (primarily fossil fuels and petroleum based products), and at the present rate we’re consuming those resources we’ll run out.

    Space objects like asteroids, comets, even our own moon, can be mined for metals, fuels, and other natural resources that can be used. Though it will be spendy to build colonies in space, it’d be well worth it in the long run. It would be alot easier to establish orbital colonies and lunar bases were these resources can be processed more cheaply as compared to bringing them down to Earth from space. And should something happen to Earth (like hit by a monster asteroid or something equally damaging), space colonies would ensure that humanity would survive.

  8. Thanks so much for the memory! That image was on the cover of a Tom Swift paperback book when I was about ten (~1980) and I bought the book solely for that reason. I was mesmerized by the suggested magnitude of that extension on what I had previously seen in Kubrik’s 1968 film.

    I must have spent as much time scrutinizing the cover art (which was considerably smaller, of course, than your great digital image), and mulling over the concepts it suggested, as I did reading the book. Particularly intrigued was I by a thought that, in such a structure, people living on its forested floor might simply propel themselves in the direction opposite to its rotation and be weightless for a while, should they feel like taking a little break from ‘gravity.’ I was as naive then to the publishing game as I was to physics, so I expected the Tom Swift story to take place in that space station and explain in detail what was pictured on the cover, but unfortunately the book’s content was unrelated to the eye-catching art.

    I haven’t seen that picture for the decades that have passed since then, but I never forgot about it. As I revisit it now, I am reminded of something that may bear upon this discussion of orbital space station feasibility: tourism. Noting that the pictured ‘torus’ features an internal environment largely, if not exclusively, oriented toward human leisure, I am confident that I, for one, might give every penny ever earned and then work largely for free in order to spend some time at a place like that if such existed. In the 1990s I stayed for an austral summer at the Amundsen-Scott South Pole station doing hard (rather cold) labor for a pittance, just so that I could be there, and I was not alone. During the months of my own tenure there, a few dozen well-heeled tourists occasionally showed up at the Pole for visits lasting not more than two hours, and I heard it said that they had payed on the order of $30,000 each for those exotic, Twin-Otter boondoggles.

    Of course not everyone would exchange so much to follow fancies of curiosity to extreme environments, but isn’t it safe to speculate that there may be enough at some point to generate sufficient capital for space tourism to orbiting stations? Maybe even large, Vegas-style ventures, if relatively cost-effective technolgy ultimately were to evolve? I can imagine that this possibility could last beyond such time as that pitches for scientific research grants to fund orbiting stations have all finally exhausted their credibility.

  9. The “1970’s predictions” only underestimated the vision and the will of successive generations to colonize space.

    A 1975 NASA study placed the cost of a Stanford Torus style colony at $190B, $766B in 2009 dollars. So for the cost of TARP, we could be a spacefaring civilization.

    This estimate is based on 1975 launch technology (which unfortunately is the same in use today) and lifting materials from Earth. It does not reflect recent launch concepts (tethers, newer ssto vehicles, laser propulsion, etc.) and it does not allow for getting raw materials from the moon.

    Tourism (as PasserBy pointed out) and lunar resources would be big business and would likely pay that cost off in 20-30 years, not including revenue from ancillary industry.

    Will it happen? Nope. Not because we can’t… just because we won’t.

    More nice images to drem over:

  10. Hello just thought i would let you know something.. It is 2 times now i have landed on your website inside the last 3 weeks hunting for completely unrelated things. Odd or what?

  11. Interesting conception, I do see many design flaws but I can enhance it and use a picture such as this in my next SciFi adventure ‘Sivad & Chorn’. The first of the series ‘The Adventures Begin’ is already out on Amazon and Barns and Noble. Not sure who owns the copy rights to this picture yet.. will need to find out.

  12. The idea of colonizing space and/or mining for resources on other planets is wrong-headed. We need to learn to live sustainably and equitably within the resource limits of our own planet. We need to “colonize the vast spaces” of our own hearts and imaginations to do this. This requires a metaphysical breakthrough of the human soul. It is a spiritual imperative.

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