Tagged: Space, Advocacy
Smith's Amazon.com review of James A. Vedda, Ph.D.'s book "Choice, Not Fate"
The subtitle "Shaping a Sustainable Future in the Space Age" lead me to believe that this book would be more along the lines of a guide to reframing environmentalist desires to put Space work in a positive light ala Cockell's "Space on Earth". Actually, you may find the book a better companion to Hickman's "Reopening The Space Frontier".
This is not to say that Hickman and Vedda are just saying the same things or that the final recommendations are the same, but that both of them are not happy-trails rants from geeks who think getting humans working profitably in Space is as simple as better marketing, more letters to congress or getting the right man in the Oval Office.
Both 'Choice...' and 'Reopening...' give historical perspective on the workings and dysfunctions of our government not only in Space but in any major-money task and are quick to point out with pretty good effect the problems Big Picture endeavors truly face.
Dr. Vedda takes a bit more time in his presentation than Mr. Hickman and it seems fitting to me that his major point is that "Things Take Time". It's not a point that many of us want to hear, but since we've not gone very far in the past decades it seems to hold up. Those of us who have personal recollection of the "glory days" close to Apollo are now grey and thinking that one big push is really all it takes (and Hickman believes that that is probably the way things will end up happening... but only as a reaction to an outside force), but this book urges understanding of the true need being a push for our leaders to get around to Long Term Thinking in general rather than the Space Stunting which just gets us another two steps forward followed by decades or longer stuck one step back.
"Choice Not Fate" has a number of parts that are good even for folks only partially interested in Space. For instance, Chapter Three is a clear explanation of what Congress does... and the reasons why. Not the academic, black and white constitutional reasons, the real-world reasons. For me, with years of Space Activism, I thought I had this stuff down because of all of the meetings and rallies and marches I'd been involved with. But I got new "Ah-Hah" moments from this chapter. Plus, at one point I was so interested that I started reading it aloud to my wife (a senior management well-educated borderline geek, but not a huge raving Space Fan). She kept listening and when I finished the chapter she told me to send a copy of the book to her Kindle so she could read it herself. That says a lot. There is learning here, not just Spacenick Rah-Rahs.
That said however, while reading it the second time and taking notes as I went in order to do a presentation, I got a worrisome feeling starting at about the third chapter. I can only describe it as the same was I felt when my goal was to be a better manager in the 1980s and I got hooked on Nightengale Conant business audio... there came a time when I started going so much for the Win-Win and greater good that I started losing my competitive edge. I mentioned this to my mentor and he said that he knew exactly what I meant and that that potential danger itself was a lesson to be learned. Sometimes being big about everything and becoming a person who believes that all good things will come about in good time naturally is NOT the way to see things get done. Sometimes there has to be a loser to get a win.
Luckily, aware and wary of this I pressed on and noted that Vedda moved from the implication of 'relax, they know what they are doing' to re-raise the indications that things are off-target and people, even regular people, DO need to get involved in order to make a positive correction in the course.
Space is complicated. The book puts a big nail in the coffin of any thinking that 'all it takes is getting the money' BUT don't let it end up leaving you thinking that all of the complexity that is currently part of the system is correct and acceptable just because the book will make you more fully understand it. Chapters three and four should Not be the ones you stop on.
1) Cruising To Utopia - Or not. News from the future: a call to action (or depression) / Globalization: the problem of the solution / Space development under a globalization paradigm / Trying to remain an optimist
2) Searching for a Vision of the Future. Expectations of a baby boomer / Prophets or Dreamers? Learning from early space futurists / National expert panels attempt to plot the future / The Emperors new spacesuit
3) Muddling Through with a Short-Term View. Futurism vs pessimism / Systematic barriers to innovation / 'Incentivizing' Congress / The president as futurist / Keeping up with the news
4) Bureaucracy: Best Hope for the Future? Bureaucrats as good guys / Needed: opportunities to excel / Differing views of the government's role in space / NASA's evolving role
5) Astropreneurs: The Real Vision or Just a Dream with Special Effects? How big is space as a business venture? / Risks and (sometimes) rewards oof today's space commerce / The birth of business movement / The government responsibility to "encourage and facilitate" / A history of hype and hope / Vision or fantasy?
6) Be Careful What You Wish For. Lessons learned (hopefully) / Thought experiments / Do we really want to live forever? / The longing for sci-fi tech / Back to reality
7) Earth as an Open System. Wrestling with rationales / National prestige / Science / Technology spin-offs / Inspiration / Destiny / Economics as a primary rationale / Survival as a primary rationale / Framing the rationales / Priorities and choices
8) The Century Perspective. Changing our thinking / The core resources / A mid-century scenario / Enabling the future with power from space / The role of the space community from a century perspective
9) Commitment to the Future.
Plus a good bibliography broken apart by chapter.
BTW: Note that Vedda is one of the few recent Space analysts who mentions the 1960s futurist Dandridge Cole (searching for works by Cole was actually how I came across this book), and he does a very nice job both giving that master cudos and honestly pointing out some of his, and other Space Age leaders, weaknesses. Plus, if you are interested in Space Based Solar Power there is an amount of information here. Because this book is from 2009 the data and information on various topics (including the politicals and economics up to and into the Obama Administration, including the "crash' of 2008") is still mostly current, or at least mostly contemporary and so useful for considerations for us here in 2012.
Buy it from Amazon.com