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Paul Krugman's 1978 Theory of Interstellar Trade 173

jerryasher recommends Paul Krugman's blog at the NYTimes, where he introduces a paper he wrote, The Theory of Interstellar Trade, with tongue very much in cheek. Some packrat academician was kind enough to send him a scan, because "back then academics did their work with typewriters, abacuses, and stone axes." Abstract: This paper extends interplanetary trade theory to an interstellar setting. It is chiefly concerned with the following question: how should interest rates on goods in transit be computed when the goods travel at close to the speed of light? This is a problem because the time taken in transit will appear less to an observer traveling with the goods than to a stationary observer. A solution is derived from economic theory, and two useless but true theorems are proved... This paper, then, is a serious analysis of a ridiculous subject, which is of course the opposite of what is usual in economics."
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Paul Krugman's 1978 Theory of Interstellar Trade

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  • by Protonk ( 599901 ) on Wednesday March 12, 2008 @03:00AM (#22725810) Homepage
    Just some thoughts:

    On a note, I recall reading that section of the book. It comes at the end of "island in the Sky", a remarkably sober book about colonizing space (sober in light of crazier scifi/colonization books). For some reason I read it first and the pessimism of the article stuck with me, setting the tone for the whole book. That's not bad--our views about space travel and the future need pessimism, but I felt that it was the overriding theme.

    In the end, there is no free lunch. While you could predict that interstellar travel would change time preference for some, there are a few caveats to make here:

    1. Perhaps travel is so expensive that the change in time preference for some doesn't impact the market as a whole. If you have a vanishingly small group of people pushing the discount rate down, does it affect the prevailing rate? You could argue that the income effect of the billionaires of the world might be analogous. While Bill Gates may have the latitude to spend more money on small purchases than they might be worth to him systematically, that does not do much to change the price I pay for those same products.

    2. Travellers will face a STEEP opportunity cost. There isn't any other way to describe it. They may (as the article in "islands in the sky" suggests) spend their wealth ENTIRELY on acclimating themselves to a radically different world or insulating themselves from that new world. In other words, this would be like taking a trip from ancient greece to the Soviet Union. You don't speak the language, you don't understand the culture, the medium of exchange, almost everything. You would be lucky if you weren't put in a circus or a museum.

    3. In the longer term, risk dominates. Inflation risk and default risk historically rise to 1.0 as time marches on. There are vanishingly view equity or debt instruments that are still valid from 200 years ago. they exist, most notably in the low countries and england, but they are few and far between. What happens in the event of hyperinflation, panics or fraud (although the last one could be accounted for given a persistent third party overseer)?

    4. Adverse selection. This is a corrolary of the risk argument. What bank would be likely to write a contract to make an astronomical payment in the far future? A bank that is likely to be solvent that whole time (assuming the bank knows with certainty) might, but would be FAR less likely to do so than a bank who might default on the contract.

    5. Explicit cost. While this might eventually become a non-issue, we have to be real about what is at stake. A long term space voyage is basically one way in the eyes of the company chartering the craft. Unlike a 767 from NY to London, when the space ship returns, it will be obsolete, or at least at the end of its viable life. Each trip presents a large fixed cost for the charter company. This may not translate directly as a large enough cost to a consumer if the flight manifest is big enough, but it isn't trivial.

    Just some thoughts.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      That's why instead of massive colony ships you will send out small robots weighing 100 grams. You build the robots using nanotech, so they can be more sophisticated than any 20 mile long spacecraft we could build with conventional means. They would have the ability to bootstrap themselves in new environments to manufacture ecosystems from raw materials on site. Thus, we colonize other planets with Earth life by sending only a database and a universal nanotech constructor.
      • by Moraelin ( 679338 ) on Wednesday March 12, 2008 @06:01AM (#22726314) Journal
        Well, that may even be insightful -- in a wishful thinking kind of way, because nanotech won't work like you assume -- but it still solves the wrong problem entirely.

        (And even then it doesn't necessarily solve it completely. A colony of robots can still spend most of its energy and resources just repairing the robots and building new ones, so that cost can still remain. Or worse yet, it may need more goods sent from Earth than some colonists would, because such robots would presumably be high tech and require lots of energy and a lot of different factories to produce. So it might still be cheaper to send a 20km ship full of colonists, which only need a couple of farms to live there.)

        But, anyway, the thrust of TFA isn't "how do you build a colony for your people", but rather "how the F-word _do_ you make a profit out of it? Is interstellar trade even viable?" Even with robots, and without having to pay the crew or the producers anything because they're robots, you still face some non-trivial problems there.

        E.g., ok, you put an order for, say, uranium from that far far colony. How do you know that you'll even still need it by the time you get it? How do you know that the price will still be OK?

        If your colony is at, say, 10.5 light years away on Epsilon Eridani, or 12 light years away on Tau Ceti, and if you travel at half the speed of light average (accelerate to nearly C half the distance, then decelerate the other half), that's 31.5 and 36 light years respectively from the moment you sent the order by radio to the moment it lands on Earth. (10.5 or 12 years respectively for your signal to get there, 21 and 24 respectively for the ship to travel here.) That is, if they already have the mine and the surplus of that resource and everything. Otherwise you might have to wait more.

        For farther away colonies, even more.

        Historically there have been massive changes in demand within less time. Cloth went from a massive money-maker good to being "meh" to being outsourced to third world countries to produce. Coal was once _the_ fuel for any navy, and sometimes even (explicit or implied) military threat was used to open up markets to buy it from and coaling stations. (See Perry's expedition to Japan.) It took less than 30 years for everyone to switch to oil in their ships, and coal became of much less importance. Or once whale oil was the main lighting fuel, then some guy goes and discovers the light bulb. Grain was _the_ thing to have for millenia, and the wealth and military power of, say, Poland throughout the middle ages was based on being able to produce and export lots of it. Buggrit. Then it took less than a century for the bottom to fall off _that_ market, and nowadays the only countries which still have an agriculture are those who subsidize it. Etc.

        It becomes even funnier if you want to build a colony for the explicit purpose of getting some goods from there. Let's say unobtanium wishalloy is the latest rage, you spot some unobtanium in the spectral line of a far away star, and plan to make a living out of it. Now you have the round trip increased by building those robots and waiting for that ship to get there, build the colony, get mining, and some time after 50 years or so you get your first shipment of it even for the nearest stars.

        Will it still be needed? Will your company even still exist after so much time? What bank will give you a loan for that kind of thing?

        And will your investors want your head rolling for that? Today's capitalism is obsessed by short term results, and thinks in quarters and years. (Maybe even justifiedly so.) Proposing to blow a huge chunk of money, with compound interest (one way or another: even if you have the money and don't take the loan, it must be judged against the interest you'd get if you just put that money in a bank and started _getting_ interest on it) on something which _might_ make you the big bucks in 50 years, will get Wall Street screaming for blood.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Eivind ( 15695 )
          Worse yet, if the deprecation-rate is 5% a year, will $1 invested towards bringing unobtanium from that distant star bring more of it than investing $11 here on earth, or in this solar-system ?

          Deprecation means that if something takes a long time, it must be VERY productive to pay off.

        • by epine ( 68316 ) on Wednesday March 12, 2008 @09:48AM (#22727504)

          Then it took less than a century for the bottom to fall off _that_ market, and nowadays the only countries which still have an agriculture are those who subsidize it.
          This is a most curious argument, not that you are the first to make it. The statement seems to imply that if Canada, say, ceased to hand out agricultural subsidies and thereby terminated our agricultural industry, we'd be able to import the food cheaper than we were previously growing it ourselves, and further benefit by eliminating loss-making (subsidized) agricultural exports. Does that make any sense? Or the asymptote: that the world would be economically better off if the world ceased food production altogether?

          I was just reading a piece on economics which termed 1000BC to 1800AD "The Flintstones" and 1800AD to the present "The Jetsons". It's only been a relatively short time period where the economy has grown (hence *changed* in material respects) so rapidly that 50-year investment cycles are hard to fathom.

          Yes, it turns out that some forms of economic activity are hard to justify as we charge toward the looming technological singularity [wikipedia.org].

          something which _might_ make you the big bucks in 50 years, will get Wall Street screaming for blood
          Isn't that interesting? We have the attention span of an ADHD mayfly for raising capital, but we're happy to sit on our liabilities for hundreds of thousands of years.

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yucca_mountain [wikipedia.org]

          At some scale, common abstractions break down, such as your broad-brush of "subsidy" to the whole of global food production above. Some human endeavors are larger than the greed-loop in a Wall Street tycoon, who is, after all, merely engaged in a culturally shaped manifestation of his underlying biological drives.

          The solution, obviously, is genetic engineering. One must first genetically alter the human population with biological drives compatible with 50-plus year investment cycles. In 50 to 100 years, a suitably modified humanity would support any length of transgalactic investment cycle you might wish to contemplate.

          If you started with some Wikipedian root stock (barely qualifying as human as it stands), you could even set things up so that people compete for the opportunity to deliver your goods for free. Just be sure to suppress the "crow" complex, or they'll bring you back a cargo container filled with shiny lumps of carbon.
        • by Monty Worm ( 7264 ) on Wednesday March 12, 2008 @10:00AM (#22727622) Journal
          In the end, if you want to run an operation like this, you end up doing something like the Qeng Ho in Vernor Vinge's excellent "A Deepness in the Sky".

          Your fleet *is* the company. From what little information you gather, you take things with you that are probably tradeable at destination, and as well you take tools that can work on a wide variety of raw materials, in case you have to do this work yourself (if the locals aren't friendly, aren't at the right tech speed, or just aren't). If you're running to and from a base in the middle, you'll end up having to work out what home base might find useful when you get back from extrapolation of your current trends, while being aware that commodity consumables probably won't cut it.
          • by Moraelin ( 679338 ) on Wednesday March 12, 2008 @11:12AM (#22728346) Journal
            Actually, that's just a travelling colony so to speak, with the added cost of being able to also bring it all back.

            I mean, take the two following scenario:

            1. We send a bloody huge colony ship there, and it all stays there. Then all it sends back are some smaller container ships with the ore they want to export.

            2. We send a bloody huge colony ship there. But on the way back we have to carry the ore _and_ the same bloody huge colony ship, with all the people and the life support and everything.

            Scenario 2 doesn't just involve hauling a lot more weight on the way back (hence bigger engines, more fuel, etc), but also hauling a bigger ship on the way there. Since, you know, it has to also have some space for the ore.

            But at the very least, that way back is what really sucks. The same big colony ship which would normally be a one-way trip, now has to do the trip back too.

            I also don't think it solves the problem of fluctuating prices. In fact, methinks it makes it worse. Let's look at two scenarios again. Let's say, Tau Ceti in both cases, and as I was saying, an average of half the speed of light for the whole trip, just as example values.

            1. Ordering a shipment of unobtanium from a colony. You send a radio signal, it takes 12 years to get there, it takes the container ships 24 years to come here. Total: 36 years.

            2. Your corporation-ship "sails" off to find unobtanium on Tau Ceti. The ship takes 24 years to get there, and another 24 years to come back. Total: 48 years.

            In the second case, you now have to predict what the prices will be in 48 years from now.

            And the whole point was that extrapolation of current trends sometimes doesn't cut it. You can look at the steadily increasing price for some resource over a whole century, and think "man, this thing will be worth a fortune in 48 years." Then you come back and discover that somewhere in the middle of that interval, someone discovered something that made your resource dirt cheap.

            Think cloth and the introduction of the powered looms in the 19'th century. You could look at a graph of the prices throughout the 18'th century and think, "man, by 1848, the prices will be sky high. Let's buy the biggest container ships available and go bring some cloth from Tau Ceti." And you'd be wrong, because by the middle of the 19'th century, the price had dropped a lot.

            Or look at Aluminium. In 1884 it was selected as the material for the capstone of the Washington Monument because it was a very expensive metal, more expensive than silver. An ounce of it cost more than a worker's daily wage. In just 2 years after that, and actually before that monument was finished, a new production process hit and caused the price of aluminium to collapse. It's just the kind of thing I'm talking about. That was a forecast for the next four years: that when the monument is finished, aluminium would still be, pretty much, a precious metal and a whole capstone made of it would be a thing that makes people go, "wow!" It only took 2 years for that to turn out wrong.

            And nowadays it's a bit over a dollar per _pound_. So by the same comparison with a worker's wage, what was once worth a whole day's work, nowadays won't even hire someone for a minute. (Going by the federal minimum wage, anyway.) How's that for a price drop?
            • by Sloppy ( 14984 ) on Wednesday March 12, 2008 @02:48PM (#22731072) Homepage Journal

              In the Qeng Ho business, there's no "ordering" and not necessarily a trip back. If a trip takes 24 years, then you only need to predict prices 24 years into the future, not 48. You load up your ship with things that you think are going to be valuable at the destination. You go. Then, when you get there, you make decisions about what to trade and where to go next.

              And yeah, if your ships are full of stuff that the destination doesn't consider valuable, you're screwed.

              Though in Vinge's stories, there are some points in your favor:

              You're just as likely to be trading technology as commodities. Your destination might have all sorts of raw materials (e.g. they're not particularly interested in buying Uranium) but not certain technologies or the industrial base to build the things they want. Earth 1700 has all the raw materials needed to build spaceships, but can't actually do it. Sell spaceships to Earth 1700. Earth 2008 is probably a great market for nanotech. And so on.

              Vinge's stories suggest the existence of a higher level social science than we have right now. People know how to abstractly summarize entire civilizations. (e.g. "That civilization is a typical tyranny, and that group of solar systems is a Class 2 Perversion.") Perhaps practitioners of this science can make better guesses than we can imagine, e.g. "I bet those guys have great surveillance nanobots for us to buy, but low genetic tech so we can sell them text-to-DNA fabs."

              In addition, there's likely a bio market everywhere. Assuming all colonies are founded by earthlings, then everyone probably has roses and cattle. But Tau Ceti does not have Centauri's fungus lifeforms or anything based on its interesting secretions. And Romulan Ale is valuable everywhere; it's made from grains and hop-like-things that you just can't get anywhere else. Also, even when seeds/DNA/etc get shared, environmental conditions (soil, weather, and so on) make it hard to really copy the other guys' stuff. Take some DNA-identical Tettnanger hop rhizomes from Germany and grow 'em in America, and the resulting hops just don't taste and smell the same. Some things contain subtleties that keep them from ever really becoming commodities. Tau Ceti will probably always want Northwest-America-grown Cascade hops. :-)

              Damn, I totally have beer on my mind right now.

              Hmm.. but I think I see where I'm going with this: for intersteller trade, don' deal in commodities. Deal in very unique things. Somebody on Tau Ceti might pay quite a fortune for the bragging rights of having the only Van Gogh painting on the whole planet.

              • by Alsee ( 515537 )
                If a trip takes 24 years, then you only need to predict prices 24 years into the future

                No, because you are assuming knowledge of the current conditions at the destination. At best your information on the destination is lightspeed out of date. So you're still looking at prices 40 years out (randomly assuming 0.66c average travel speed).

                You're just as likely to be trading technology as commodities.

                In general physically transporting technology is pointless as well.
                The significance of technology is in the infor
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by vertinox ( 846076 )
          (And even then it doesn't necessarily solve it completely. A colony of robots can still spend most of its energy and resources just repairing the robots and building new ones, so that cost can still remain. Or worse yet, it may need more goods sent from Earth than some colonists would, because such robots would presumably be high tech and require lots of energy and a lot of different factories to produce. So it might still be cheaper to send a 20km ship full of colonists, which only need a couple of farms t
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Protonk ( 599901 )
            This is a pretty optimistic assessment. I mean, just look at what goes in to mining and extraction of resources on THIS planet in order to make them viable. How much infrastructure is required to turn iron in the ground into HY-80 steel? I'll answer: a shitload. That's even assuming the iron is good enough in the first place. The "mine it yourself" idea works great on Gilligan's Island and Star Trek but doesn't make any sense when you REALLY think about it. How would you design a probe short of magic
            • by HTH NE1 ( 675604 )

              How would you design a probe short of magic to extract, refine, test and smelt an arbitrarily large number of metals without those pieces taking up a significant portion of the payload?

              Really big space-borne electromagnets to assist in or directly to pull it out of the gravity well into orbit, tethering to a large natural satellite (or suitable relocated asteroid) as a counterweight.

              Or just rail-gun it into orbit. Then divert it to your near stellar orbit refinery to take advantage of that natural furnace, then rail-gun it back out to your fabrication platform.

              If dealing with a substance that doesn't impel well with magnetism, encase it in something that does.

        • by skeeto ( 1138903 )

          E.g., ok, you put an order for, say, uranium from that far far colony. How do you know that you'll even still need it by the time you get it? How do you know that the price will still be OK?

          Let's say we know that the colony will be needing lots of uranium: say its going to be using nuclear fission for power and that's not going to change inside of 100 years. I think for some far-off space colony that wouldn't be an unreasonable assumption.

          Now, for some reason, you want to sell them uranium, and for some reason they need a lot of it because they use an enormous amount of energy (an American colony I guess). Pipeline the process! You send shipments periodically, such as every month. After

          • The funny thing is, you're not going to just transfer money at the speed of light. Sorry.

            Money is just something that mediates transfers of goods, so to speak. You can buy something from Japan for dollars, only because Japan then plans to (eventually) buy something back from you and pay with those dollars.

            If you can't sell as much stuff as you buy, the value of your coin drops until you reach equilibrium. It's a kind of supply and demand. And if you don't sell anything, the value of your money is exactly ze
            • by HTH NE1 ( 675604 )

              How do you know what to buy from that colony?
              The first thing is to buy part of the colony so that you have a local outpost that can negotiate in local currencies and build local capital. Populate it with people who would be valuable assets there but redundant and a drain on your resources back home.

              The third thing you do is profit.
        • by sidb ( 530400 )

          how the F-word _do_ you make a profit out of it
          Easy. Step 2: ????.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by jollyreaper ( 513215 )

        That's why instead of massive colony ships you will send out small robots weighing 100 grams. You build the robots using nanotech, so they can be more sophisticated than any 20 mile long spacecraft we could build with conventional means. They would have the ability to bootstrap themselves in new environments to manufacture ecosystems from raw materials on site. Thus, we colonize other planets with Earth life by sending only a database and a universal nanotech constructor.

        Except that we'll suffer some sort of world-wide catastrofuck like a world war, plague, asteroid impact, Windows release, etc, and spend a hundred years clawing our way back from the brink. The old probes will have been forgotten, only for them to either a) return and try to conquer Earth, having mistaken their definition for "serving man," b) they'll have colonized planets and developed their own civilization at this point and declare war on us when we stumble into their territory or c) will have built up

      • Nash Equilibrium: The only winning strategy is one that is good for the group as wellas the individual. Thus, the interest rate cannot favour anyone.
      • Thermoeconomics: The theory that economics holds to the same general principles as thermodynamics, thus the second law must apply. Goods suffer entropy. By putting more energy/effort in, you must increase the total entropy, you cannot decrease it.

      Assuming these to hold true, and the first is the basis of all modern economic theory (and socialism), then tra

      • by Protonk ( 599901 )
        Neither of those positions need to be true. And the first point is completely false. The Nash equilibrium of a specific game is unique to that game. It may be the best outcome for the group as well as for the individual, but it usually isn't--that's where the meat of early game theory was (prisoner's dilemma, tragedy of the commons, cournot doupoly).

        The second point is probably true in some sense but is functionally meaningless for most cases
  • by Protonk ( 599901 ) on Wednesday March 12, 2008 @03:03AM (#22725824) Homepage
    Just flush them out now. Mark me -1 flamebait for this, but this post will bring out the people insisting on the strict superiority of gold over other forms of investment. While in this case, gold in a safe place (or any other precious metal) would be a better choice over a possibly unmanaged and eventually insolvent investment fund, THAT DOESN'T MEAN that gold is always better or what not.
  • This has already been posted on a blog about economics specifically (aside from the freakonomics blog. Here [marginalrevolution.com] is the link.
  • But... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Paltin ( 983254 ) on Wednesday March 12, 2008 @03:12AM (#22725862)
    What does this have to do with the price of tea on Trantor?
  • by Dahamma ( 304068 ) on Wednesday March 12, 2008 @03:46AM (#22725928)
    I just got nailed with an interstitial ad when trying to go to this article!

    Wow, maybe I have been lucky before but that's a first for me. Also possibly the beginning of the end as a /. reader for me.

    Bad, BAD /.! Please don't go that route...

    • I got the ad too! If they keep this decision I may just stop coming to this site. :-( Aren't there already enough ads?

      Companies often forget how important it is to invest in their image... please /. think twice about this.
    • First for me as well.
    • Ditto, I'm usually logged in so I never noticed them, but I'm on my father's laptop now, and holy crap, it's ridiculous! The "D2" system SUCKS! PLEASE /., get rid of the interstitial ads and the D2 system: they make it almost impossible to enjoy the discussion.
  • Plural of abacus (Score:3, Informative)

    by seifried ( 12921 ) on Wednesday March 12, 2008 @03:55AM (#22725958) Homepage
    "Can we agree that the plural of abacus is abacii?" Bonus points for where this quote comes from (or else hand in your geek card!).
  • by CrazyJim1 ( 809850 ) on Wednesday March 12, 2008 @04:01AM (#22725970) Journal
    Buy lots of antiques. Travel someplace while lots of time passes for everyone else. Then your antiques are older and worth more. Of course the big risk taken is if someone invents a time travel device and starts dealing in antiques while you're traveling through space.
    • You could probably get a better return off trading cultural information, such as famous plays or novels. Data doesn't take up much space, so you could use a relatively small, robotic ship and get a pretty big return. Or just use a really big communications laser and hope someone is listening.
  • As a budding economist, let me try to look at it objectively.
    The theory of general relativity clearly proves that my sole experience on a hot stove even if for a minute can seem like an hour, while a friday romping with my GF those wonderful 30 mins would seem like 1 minute to me.
    So, an external view and perspective of time is essential to calculate interest and charges.
    The crew can think it took them only 1 day, but the the parties involved it meant waiting 11 days.

    Take my example for instance: i thought m
  • check the references (Score:5, Informative)

    by greenrom ( 576281 ) on Wednesday March 12, 2008 @04:42AM (#22726092)
    There's another subtle joke if you look at the dates on the references. I almost missed it.
    • And in the title of the referenced paper as well.

      (As a physicist who took a *lot* of undergraduate courses, and has maintained a continuing interest, in economics I found this paper hilarious.)
  • Cargo hold load: 0 tons.
    Local investment: -long-term investments in variety of domains and countries, 100% of the capital.

    Go there and back, collect percentage.
    • I am not a physicist (which I think I'm about to make painfully obvious...), but I do follow popular science. Time dilation has always made me think that in the future all the rich people will live close to the speed of light, orbiting a black hole or somesuch. They will leave the rest of the universe to get on with discovering things, generating cultural works and making stuff for them, and they can collect their profit by the century for every one of their subjective days.

      Assuming I don't have my physics
      • by bucky0 ( 229117 )
        This is kind of a variation on the Twin Paradox [wikipedia.org]. Basically, in your scenario, the rich people would be the twins that accelerated really quickly, and the way the math works out, their clocks run really quickly so that 60 years in their inertial frame appears like 1 year to humanity. Humanity would see them aging really quickly.

        But, if we could somehow build a spaceship full of computers, we programmed those computers to 'solve all of humanities probblems' and accelerated them really quickly, then they would
      • There was an old Isaac Asimov short story about a man who steals a bunch of money, and then goes into the future so the statute of limitations runs out. The punchline is "A niche in time saves Stein".

        And, of course, in "The restaurant at the end of the universe", by douglas adams, in which patrons pay for their extravagent meals by depositing 1 penny at compound interest before travelling billions of years into the future to the restatrant.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by SharpFang ( 651121 )
        The "Ender's Game" series, all beyond book 1. Ender is obscenely rich thanks to multiple interplanetary travels.
      • I am not a physicist (which I think I'm about to make painfully obvious...), but I do follow popular science. Time dilation has always made me think that in the future all the rich people will live close to the speed of light, orbiting a black hole or somesuch. They will leave the rest of the universe to get on with discovering things, generating cultural works and making stuff for them, and they can collect their profit by the century for every one of their subjective days.

        The "rich" are those with large w
  • 1. Specific elements/particles according to supply and demand.
    2. Knowledge of what can be done with said elements.

    When you have post human super AI and nano-tech then the cost of making things is zero once the elemental materials and energy are accounted for, that folds into just elements because energy is derived from elements (fusion or fission feed stock)

    Knowledge can travel at light speed, or perhaps faster if quantum coherence becomes usable over interstellar distances, then the coherence of particle p
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      Knowledge may be able to travel the speed of light, but stupidity travels way faster - which is why we can never escape idiots.
  • by elrous0 ( 869638 ) * on Wednesday March 12, 2008 @10:51AM (#22728102)
    Since being an interstellar delivery boy would basically mean leaving behind all your friends and loved ones (as they aged and died and you didn't) only the worst losers would be willing to take the job (unless you were going to pay them and their families a king's ransom). Your recruitment pool would basically consist of orphaned slackers, lazy out-of-work robots, one-eyed mutants, alien doctors with no discernible human skills, and grad students. How on earth could you build a delivery service with just that to choose from?
  • This proof has been for a special case; but the proposition is in fact relatively general. (The reader must, of course, be careful not to confuse relative generality with general relativity.)
  • Lenders make the rules. They are they only ones that matter. They only care about their own time.

    I don't care what you do with the goods or how much you age in the time I age. If I loan you money, all I care about is that the payments are in my bank account regularly according to my time.
  • Asimov's idea of agriculture worlds feeding Trantor or however it was spelled, the city-world Coruscant ripped off, that always struck me as absurd. Look at how expensive space flight is, look at the distance, and we're to expect the world imports its food? Preposterous! But then again, what's the cost of space travel? In Asimov's setting, it was as relatively cheap as ocean transport today. We eat food produced halfway around the world. In the not so distant past, only the rich could afford the extravaganc

Ignorance is bliss. -- Thomas Gray Fortune updates the great quotes, #42: BLISS is ignorance.

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