I was answering a couple of questions on Quora lately, and I quickly came to realize that I wasn’t answering much at all. That’s because the answers to so many questions go something like this:
So how much is this project going to cost? No idea.
How is it going to be built? Uh, I don’t know.
How will other nations react to it? Haven’t the foggiest idea.
Where do you intend to place it? Not a clue.
When will it be “move in” ready? Beats me.
In fact, the only question I could give a definitive answer to was “What exactly do you know?”
The answer to that is simply “Not much.”
Is this because I’m completely clueless? Kinda. You see the simple fact is that most of these answers–whether for me and this project or for any project of similar scope and size–are just not going to be possible to provide until much closer to the time of actual launch. The cost, for example, simply can’t even be legitimately ball-parked. Why? Well, because of LED lights.
The cost of lighting a vessel of this sort, calculated eight years ago, would be vastly incorrect today due to the advent of super-cheap, super-efficient LED technology. The same goes for solar panels, batteries, and a hundred other techs that were either emerging but not available at that time, or available but ridiculously expensive. In my mind, especially for a project of this scope, it’s foolish (and mentally suicidal) to try to calculate for technology that you’ll probably use but either isn’t yet available, or can’t be accurately measured for cost until closer to the time to put it to use.
Carbon nano-tubes. Ever heard of them? Perhaps you have, but not much…yet. And if you have, you know the miracles such technology promises, but you also know how outlandishly expensive it is today. The same goes for spider silk. These are just two examples out of many.
Cost-analyzing with these things in mind would require a bigger calculator than I’ve got on my desk, and more mental and emotional fortitude than I care to muster. And this is for technology that we know we’re probably going to utilize, that is already in development. How about those things we have yet to invent, to solve problems we’ve yet to identify?
Anyone who tells you they know the hows, whens and what-fors of a project like this, at anything more than a year or two before true production/launch, is either pulling numbers out of their fantasy-filled noggin or they’re trying to sell you something. A dream, perhaps?
We want to sell you a dream, too, but we aren’t going to lie about it. We aren’t going to minimize the colossal scope of it, or puff up our knowledge and “expertise” just to get you onboard. We–specifically, I–cannot declare expert status. Nobody can. There are tons and tons of people out there with more practical knowledge, education and training, experience, even general foresight than I have. In the coming months and years we’ll tap that knowledge, trying to find these answers. We’ll take what we learn and build the best possible colony for the least amount of money we can, and we’ll develop technology of our own to aid in that effort.
Until we’re closer to being ready to offer that product up to the public, though, my stock answer is going to be some variation of “Beats me”, because I truthfully have no idea.
Beware nay-sayers and snake-oil salesmen who tell you they do. It is no more possible for them than it is for me.