"It is believed by some that modern society
will be ever changing its aspect; for myself, I fear that it will ultimately be
too invariably fixed in the same institutions, the same prejudices, the same
manners, so that mankind will be stopped and circumscribed; that the mind will
swing backwards and forwards forever, without begetting fresh ideas; that man
will waste his strength in bootless and solitary trifling; and, though in
continual motion, that humanity will cease to advance."
-- Alexis de Tocqueville --
An old NASA buddy, Rick Erickson, called me on the phone
earlier this morning. I knew Erickson when he was just a tadpole working on the
Freedom space station program back in the 1980s. Now he is director of
the Earth Space Alliance Lunar Colony Initiative, Inc.
"Were setting up a program to build a real lunar
colony," he explained. "The gist of it is that well be using telerobots
and nolos in Phase Two. Probes, seekers, miners, diggers, refiners,
constructionbots, the whole schmear. Launch costs will be defrayed by
subscription and time-sharing. The main objective will be to capture and store
oxygen, build underground tunnels, and look for water."
"Rick," I responded laconically, "LunaCorp has been trying
to do something like this since 1989. What makes you think you will succeed
where they failed?"
"Well, as they say in the business world, a good idea ahead
of its time is a bad idea. They knew that VR telepresence was the key, they
just didn't have the infrastructure then. And they couldn't find enough
investors for that reason."
"Why are you telling me all of this?"
"Well, we need someone to organize the colony."
"What youre saying is, you want someone to organize
people on Earth?"
"Thats a fools errand. Dictatorship
doesnt work very well any more, Rick."
"No, no, no. We dont want a director,
were looking for, well, sort of a mayor for a lunar city. For the
virtual lunar city."
"You have governments' approvals for this?"
"More or less. Were promising them a guaranteed
"Taxes, in other words. Despite that, you have
transnational corporate backing?"
"Oh, absolutely. $500 million at least, more on the
"Half a billion? Really? From whom?"
"Cant mention names. Lets just say that there
are corporations who want to try out some new AI and robotic technologies for
high radiation environments."
"Geez. I think this is how the Terminator timeloop
got started, isnt it?"
"Cmon," he pleaded, sounding desperate. "Im
serious. Were talking a salaried position here, benefits, everything. You
have the background. You even wrote your dissertation on colonial history,
"Ill think about it," I said.
The Wheel turns. The huddled splinters remain what they
have always been, and yet their pattern is always changing. They reflect each