Timothy Jones on 3 Mar 2017 10:48:57 -0800
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- From: Timothy Jones <email@example.com>
- To: "Philadelphia Linux User's Group Discussion List" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
- Subject: Re: [PLUG] "Nearby"
- Date: Fri, 3 Mar 2017 13:48:51 -0500
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A. Kennedy wrote about this in a paper in the Journal of the British Interplanetary Society in 2006 (yes such a journal exists!) where he derives a "Wait Equation" that assumes a growth in speeds of our best space vehicles that parallels world GDP growth models. By his calculation, it is best to wait about 800 years from now before launching an interstellar mission. Launching anytime before that means that somebody could beat you to the destination and build a giant wall keeping you out if they launched in any following year up to that 800 year sweet spot, whereas after that sweet spot if you were to wait just one more year, somebody who launched the year before you would beat you to it. The model is flawed in that it would predict we exceed the speed of light roughly 1000 years from now, and ignores the fact that as we approach the speed of light the energy needed to go just a tiny bit faster increases towards infinity, but I think 1000 years allows for some poetic license in imagining technological progress. Kennedy and the JBIS may not be conventionally academics, but it is a fun concept in any case.
The concept invokes the early-adopter paradox for technology. Suppose it is 2008 and you really really really want an iPhone but you can afford just one iPhone every five years, is it better to buy the first model the year it is released or wait until the next or third iteration which will have substantial improvements. At what point does the value loss by sticking with a dumb phone and not having an iPhone begin to weigh more than the value loss from not waiting for the next generation iPhone and then having to live with an inferior product for x years? That answer differs for each person depending on how they value the two, but I can imagine for many folks it might be best to wait for the second iteration of the product that hashes out many of the bugs from the first and have that phone for the remaining four years, than it would be to have a buggy first iteration for the full five years. If you absolutely hated the dumb phones in 2008, then buying the first iPhone was your best option. If you felt it was worth the wait for 3G technology then you were better off waiting longer. Essentially we all have our own "Wait Equation" for new products, but the same underlying concept of an 'incentive trap of progress' that Kennedy applies to interstellar travel applies.
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