Asteroid Mining

From today’s news:

Google cofounder Larry Page and Sergey Brin, along with director James Cameron, have founded a new company: Planetary Resources Inc.

It’s mission: mine asteroids, “add trillions of dollars to the global GDP” and “help ensure humanity’s prosperity.”

Read more:

Ok here’s my take on this.

Mining asteroids:
Let’s say they succeed and find a movable rock that has a gazillion tons of nickel (or copper) and manage to park in one of the Lagrange points near Earth.
And are able to set up robotic (or drone) mining and smelting facilities to get the ore turned into metal.
Getting it down to Earth is relatively easy – it’s downhill all the way after all.

What’s the result of all this?
Well – the world price for Nickel (or Copper) will plummet because the supply in the sky will be much cheaper to exploit.
IF it wasn’t cheaper than there would be no fiscal sense to doing this.
So that means the terrestrial-based mining and smelting sectors for whatever they find will eventually be killed off. OR severely shrunken.

You might think: So what? Some rich guys take a beating?
Tamper with the wrong industry in the wrong way and we ALL suffer for it. Pension funds are major investors and many of us have a pension somewhere.
Industries are the engines that make national economies go. Knock out enough economic underpinning and nations start to slide.

I’m all for asteroid mining. I just think we should be prepared for the changes this will cause …


Tele Work

I’m participating in a thread on Facebook related to economic development (or lack thereof) and how that impacts the appearance and appeal of the town. Especially when it comes to potential home buyers (or potential business owners)

Our town. Grand Forks B.C., has a few industrial concerns and they regularly take heat from the eco/enviro section of the populace. Any way … someone referred to the ‘smog stick’ and someone else replied with a ‘what about those paycheques that smog stick generates’ type of reply.

I’d already posted twice to this thread and didn’t want to burden it with yet another missive … so I’m putting it here:

And there you go – pragmatism.

Many bitch and complain about the industrial concerns without ever getting close while those whose paycheques depend on them have to be as close as you can get on a daily basis.

Can they speak up here?
Would you when you know those you work with or for can read everything you say?
Easier to shut up or go Rah Rah Rah!

And those paycheques: those dirty, blue-collar, paycheques are the basic fuel for the drivers of the economic engine of community like this.

Take them away and what happens?
How long before the effects are felt in other businesses and areas of commerce?
And stores close – because there’s a drop in business because the families who depend on those jobs have to leave to follow the jobs.
And tax revenues drop because there’s a drop in citizenry and businesses.
So either taxes go up or the service levels degrade.

Of course not everything disappears … it just gets a hollowed out feeling after a while. Like you knew there was more here just a while ago and you can’t quite put your finger on just what has changed – what has gone … but something’s missing …

That’s the ‘big fear’ that lets big, industrial corporations get accommodation from small, rural, communities everywhere in the developed world.
Because that’s the model that these communities were built with. Resource development and exploitation on an industrial scale.

But there’s a different model that will come sooner or later.
And it might allow people to live where the quality of life is good and work where it’s not so good. Without ever leaving their home towns …

Supposedly this high-tech revolution will bring us the ability to tele-work. Sit down at a work station and operate a machine in a far off place.

Think Drones.
The drones that fly in Afghanistan are piloted by people in Wichita, Kansas. Or some other town back in the U.S.A.
While they are flying missions in a militarized zone on the other side of the planet they also get to go home at night to their families.

That same technology will eventually allow for the operators of industrial machinery, worker Droids, to be situated far from the workplace.
So rather than have a ‘call centre’ with people in cubicles doing tech support you get a ‘work centre’ with people at work stations operating machinery far away.

Any slum ridden, third world country with passable english can host a ‘call centre’ with the high-tech equivalent of McJobs.
If you’re thinking call centre for economic development then that’s your competition. Good luck with that.

A place with good living conditions that is first world, close to nature, and relatively free from big city crime problems where skilled tele-operators can work from might be a better future.
But if the job is in a place in the world where the pay / cost-of-living is lower than here … will the pay you get be lower as well?
Nothing is perfect …
As globalization inexorably grinds away at the fiscal inequalities of the world we all end up at some median quality of life / cost of living.
For those of us in the first world it might be a bit of a shock …