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Re^11: "Practices and Principles" to death

by dragonchild (Archbishop)
on Mar 05, 2008 at 15:28 UTC ( #672195=note: print w/ replies, xml ) Need Help??

in reply to Re^10: "Practices and Principles" to death
in thread "Practices and Principles" to death

I have studied physics. Having lived in several countries, I have a reasonable appreciation for international law. Sure, my economic theory is a bit shaky, having only really studied Adam Smith. Yes, I am a hardcore libertarian and I make no bones about it. I have read up on the "well documented limitations of the markets" and, frankly, I am not convinced (more later). I have come to a grudging respect for the role of a strong court with the ability to enforce its decisions. I have also come to an appreciation for the economic creative power of a peaceful region that can predict conditions in the near- and medium-term futures.

As for limitations of the market, please read and let me know if I'm missing any limitations. In lieu of that, I will assume that this is a reasonably complete list and move forward.

The first skew in assumptions between your POV and mine is that you are discussing countries and I am discussing companies. They're not going to behave the same, so to extrapolate the behavior of corporations based on the existing behavior of countries is, imho, an exercise doomed to failure. Additionally, I am assuming that the majority of orbital things are going to be corporate-owned rather than nationally-owned. This is the underlying assumption to my entire chain of reasoning. Additionally, whenever I propose a set of numbers, please take that to be indicative of a concept, not as an actual hard proposal.

Instead, I would argue that the behavior of corporations in existing similar markets should be examined. Such as, for instance, the ocean. There are thousands of ships, large and small, moving through the oceans on any given day. There are well-defined shipping lanes that didn't arise as a result of international law. They arose through the natural flow of the markets. (Yes, I did some research on this.) Mimicking that would be a good start (and, I suspect, is what has happened).

The point behind the registry is that it's a claimstake. This idea arises out of the early settler days. If there was a problem between two people, the local circuit judge would come through and see who had the best claim (based on various criteria). His ruling would give the winner the right to shoot the loser for trespassing. Seems like a good plan to me. At worst, you get into a corporate war which the shareholders quickly shutdown as being bad for profits. (When was the last time a country stopped shooting at someone because it was bad for profits?)

As for assuming space-stuff wants to stay in an orbit ... I don't mean to give the impression that I'm assuming that. Maybe it's better to talk about registering "flight plans" or somesuch. You go ahead and declare "My thing is going to describe this motion over the next 5/10/20 years." That can be an orbit, a Moonshot, a lunar orbit, or even "I'm going to trail the Earth by 1M miles." If you require an accuracy of 10km in these plans and give everyone a 5kmx5km box to live in, that should work pretty well. Doesn't give much response time for humans, but computers would be ok.

It is difficult right now to remove junk. It was also really really difficult to store data on a disk in such a way as to retrieve it very quickly. The markets solved the latter problem and I am almost positive that, given sufficient pain, they will solve the former, too.

Pain, as I see it, is the pain of people who have the purchasing power to get someone else to fix it. Yes, it sucks that minefields are in places where the residents cannot pay to fix it. When I have a billion dollars, I'll gladly help out. But, you'll notice that most of the people with the funds don't consider it to be a big problem. Very few companies consider it a problem worth attempting to solve. If that land was worth something, then it would be solved right quick. In other words, if the residents on that land found a way to make it worthwhile to clear, the mines would be cleared. Yes, it's a horrible thing to say, but it's the truth.

I hope that I have demonstrated that I can continue to carry my side of this extremely fascinating conversation. I am more than willing to read any link you give me and continue researching on my own. But, as of yet, I have not seen any specific deficiencies in my arguments. You have said "DC doesn't understand the fundamentals." and left it at that. I'll gladly learn these fundamentals.

My criteria for good software:
  1. Does it work?
  2. Can someone else come in, make a change, and be reasonably certain no bugs were introduced?

Comment on Re^11: "Practices and Principles" to death
Re^12: "Practices and Principles" to death
by tilly (Archbishop) on Mar 05, 2008 at 22:46 UTC
    You provided a link on market failures and then apparently didn't read your own link. Here is the description of an important type of market failure:

    A free market can work effectively only where the full benefits of goods and services go solely to the purchaser, and cannot be enjoyed free by anyone else who does not pay for them. Unless this condition is met, the producer cannot obtain payment for all the benefits he creates for others.

    Here is why that matters here. Any given piece of space junk is a minor inconvenience to any given satellite operator. After the junk has been removed, there is no way to charge everyone who benefits from that junk being removed. Having no junk in near Earth orbit is therefore a public good. It is extremely well documented that markets are very poor at provisioning public goods.

    This is the point about economics that I have been making over and over again. You keep on ignoring it. You keep on telling me that I just need to trust that the free market will work it out. You keep on telling me that corporations can figure things out. But it is utterly obvious to anyone who knows what a public good is that free markets can't solve this kind of problem.

    Until you demonstrate that you know what a public good is, and understand why I keep on saying that this is a problem with provisioning public goods, you are missing a truly fundamental point of extreme importance.

    About physics. If you have a physics background, then feel free to review my response to BrowserUk and review my evaluation of the solution he presented.

      It is extremely well documented that markets are very poor at provisioning public goods.

      Stonehenge has paid me on several occasions to make improvements to my CPAN modules and only that. They're not the only company to have done so. I know many other OSS authors who have been in that situation. FOSS is very obviously a public good. How would MySQL, RedHat, and other such companies exist without such a public good?

      The point that I keep making over and over that you are ignoring is that the direct benefit to the purchaser (their satellite not getting smashed) is so large that the cost is worth it, regardless of the inability to obtain full payment for the benefits created for others. Yes, this doesn't work in all cases. It works in this case.

      As for your evaluation of Buk's solution, I think you're wrong. By your admission, the slightest change in orbit can have great overall effect. So, if you were to approach at an angle of 0.1 degrees relative to the motion, you could probably put the debris into a spiral that, over a month or two, would lead it into the earth's atmosphere. You wouldn't have to have it in a ground-ward trajectory. All you need is one where you either bounce off the atmosphere and leave LEO or you burn up enough to keep it going downward. That glancing blow could be done with a parabolic deflector, kinda like a skater going through a half-pipe. Yeah, it would require exquisite timing and positioning. Sounds like a job for a computer, to me.

      My criteria for good software:
      1. Does it work?
      2. Can someone else come in, make a change, and be reasonably certain no bugs were introduced?
        Let me address the physics first. To very high accuracy, any satellite will follow an elliptical orbit. There is no natural spiraling orbit that you can take advantage of. (Except for the spiraling caused by atmospheric drag.)

        The spiraling effect that I was talking about is achieved by arranging that a satellite's orbit is going to get repeatedly boosted by tidal effects. So you aim it so that it gets one boost. You then make a very small adjustment so that the orbit will get another boost. And another small adjustment so that the orbit will get another boost. And so on. The energy needed for these adjustments is far less than the size of the boosts, so you manage to move the satellite from one orbit to another with far less input of energy than flying there directly. But aiming a satellite so that it gets a series of those boosts without readjusting is impossible. Generally each one leaves you not quite lined up for the next. And even if it might, aiming it precisely enough to actually hit a sequence of boosts is an act of precision far beyond our capability. (I would not be surprised if it requires knowing position and momentum below the limit of the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle.)

        Also I note, again, that if you get your garbage satellite to the junk, it is much simpler to just give your satellite a garbage can, and put the junk into it. The real cost here is the effort of maneuvering your garbage satellite.

        Therefore this effect can be used to move a satellite to the space junk. (Albeit very slowly.) It can't be used to easily send the junk on a collision course to the Earth.

        Now let's move on to economics. You're right that public goods can be provisioned in some special cases by public markets. As I pointed out in my first post (with examples), and as is discussed at great length in The Logic of Collective Action, public goods get provisioned by free markets when the benefits to some individual or small group of provisioning them outweigh the costs. (They also can get provisioned through organizations in a variety of ways, which inevitably involve some form of coercion. For details go read the book.)

        Given the extremely low cost of distributing software, the cost threshold of providing software to the world is very low. It furthermore turns out that there is no shortage of potential returns for an individual that justify contributing. And the result is that the public good of open source software is provisioned amazingly well. All of this fits perfectly with the economic theory. In fact I remember noticing a passage in the book which describes this state of affairs and correctly says what would happen, but then goes on to say that it is extremely hard to imagine a public good where this would be true. (Do remember that this book was written back in the 1960s.)

        However software is a very unusual case. And your experience with open source software should not mislead your intuition about the problem of space junk. That has far higher costs and far lower benefits to whoever deals with it, with very predictable consequences.

        About the benefits of removing the junk. You claim that you've repeatedly pointed out that they are high (loss of satellite) and I've ignored you. That's a blatant lie and I'd like an apology. Please read Re^8: "Practices and Principles" to death and search for it is easier to just avoid stuff. Go to Re^10: "Practices and Principles" to death and search for Junk is individually easy to dodge. That makes this the third post in a row where I've pointed out that the real cost of any particular piece of space junk to any existing satellite is that the satellite might have to make a maneuver. Once. (The odds of any particular piece of junk and satellite having 2 potential collisions is ignorable.) Which is a capacity that all satellites have.

        Let me emphasize the logical consequence. Since I've brought this point up multiple times, and its importance has not yet sunk in, I'm going to make it big and bold in the hope that this time it won't sail over your head.

        No satellite operator will pay more to remove a specific piece of junk than the cost of maneuvering their satellite out of its way. Which is orders of magnitude less than the cost of removing that piece of junk by any technique known to man.

        Meaning that nobody will ever choose to remove that junk. And, of course, if nobody ever removes any piece of junk, then all of the junk stays there until it is removed by natural causes. Which usually means atmospheric drag - a process that generally takes centuries.

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