"Wæs þu hæl" is an Anglo Saxon toast meaning "be thou hale" ("be in good health"). The toast, if not the customs which the term has come to be associated with, is thought to date from the early eleventh or late tenth century, at least.
There are two kinds of Wassailing - the first of which has come to be closely associated with Christmas and carolling. Wassailers call at people's homes then offer a song and a drink of warmed, spiced ale or cider from a Wassailing bowl (or cup) to the answerer in exchange for money or gifts.
The second originates in the South West of England ("the West Country"), where apple orchards were already providing cider for the thirsty population by the time our Roman invaders arrived.  Today the UK drinks more cider (by that I mean what North Americans refer to as Hard Cider - not mere apple-juice) than anywhere else in the world with the beverage being produced not just in the West Country but also in places like Herefordshire, Worcestershire, Kent, Suffolk, Norfolk, Buckinghamshire, and Cheshire, as well as in Wales and Northern Ireland.
Apple Howling and Apple Wassailing may once have been two distinct practices that have become entwined and conflated over the years. The former was once most commonly performed at New Year and was described by the American naturalist Henry David Thoreau in his 1862 essay "Wild Apples" as follows:
A troop of boys visited the different orchards and, encircling the apple tress, repeated the following words: -
"Stand fast, root! bear well, top!
Pray God send us a good howling crop:
Every twig, apples big;
Every bough, apples enow!"
"They then shout in chorus, one of the boys accompanying them on a cow's horn. During this ceremony they rap the trees with their sticks". 
Apple Wassailing on the other hand most commonly takes place on Twelfth Night (which on Today's calendar is January the 17th). Though the "Stand fast, root" incantation and the rest of the Apple Howling custom often forms a part of the Wassailing, there is a lot more to it.
Though it varies not just from county to county, but from village to village, the basics of Apple Wassailing are as follows: The Wassailing party gather in an orchard bringing plenty of cider with them. Toasted bread is soaked in the cider and pieces of it hung from the branches of the trees as an offering to those beneficial spirits which reside within the orchard, and also the birds which might peck at the new buds in the spring. The group gather around the largest, oldest apple tree and a Libation of cider is poured upon its roots. The leader of the party then fires a shotgun into the branches of the tree to scare away any malevolent spirits (and presumably birds, once again). Toasts of cider are then drunk to the tree and a Wassailing Song is sung.
Norton Priory in Runcorn, Cheshire (about ten miles East of my home in Liverpool) was founded in 1134 AD. It was home to an Order of Augustinian Canons and saw several phases of building and rebuilding, culminating in 1391 with its elevation to Abbey status. The Abbey met its end in April 1536 during the first phase of Henry VIII's dissolution of the monasteries. The buildings and estate were bought by the Brooke family who lived there up until the early twentieth century.
Today, much of the original layout of the buildings - the cloisters, church, refectory and dormitory can still be seen. There is also an intact 12th century undercroft. A two and a half acre Walled Garden has been recreated as it would have been in Georgian times. There is an orchard, a trained fruit garden, a vegetable garden, various ornamental borders and the beautiful Rose Walk. 
This year Norton Priory held its first recorded Apple Wassail on the 17th of January. Archaeologist, folklorist, historian, storyteller, and bagpiper Tom Hughes is the man responsible for bringing the custom to the priory and he was good enough to answer a few questions about it for me.
First, I asked how the whole thing came about.
I'd personally been involved in wassailing at Stretton Watermill in Cheshire for the past four years when I was working there. Some of the Norton rangers and gardeners had come along to that and when I started work at Norton Priory on a project to develop a new museum they asked me if I would help get a wassail going there. I was only too pleased to do so! There is a nice association as well as the mistletoe we managed to get established on the apple trees at Stretton Mill came from berries in the Norton Priory walled garden.
Next I asked Tom to take us through the Appple Wassail as it occurred, step by step.
We decided to gather at 4pm so that by the time we got to the trees it would be getting dark and we'd enjoy the atmosphere of the lantern lit orchard. We'd arranged a workshop for families just before, so they could make their own willow and paper lanterns. The wassail was arranged as a thank you to our supporters and volunteers, around eighty people in total, most of whom had never encountered a wassail before, though several had heard one on The Archers omnibus that morning! We began with getting together in a straw bale building beside the Georgian walled garden and enjoyed mulled cider and spiced apple juice. We also passed around the wassail cup. With it being Old Twelfth Night we enjoyed a mummers play*, then I told the story of the Apple Tree Man**. The group then picked up drums, rattles and tambourines and set off on procession through the gardens to the orchard. I led the way, playing the tune of our wassail song as we went.
When we arrived in the orchard inside the garden we had baskets of toast for people to hang in the trees to encourage the good spirits, we have twelve or so apple trees there, mostly old Cheshire varieties, but people got quite carried away and so plums, quince and medlar trees also benefitted! We then sang the Apple Tree Wassail to the oldest tree. The version we used has a tune very similar to the old Cheshire song "Miller of Dee", the words were the version
"Oh apple tree,
We wassail thee,
And hope that thou shall bear.
For the Lord doth know where we shall be,
to be merry another new year.
For to bear well, and to share well,
So merry may we be.
Let every man raise up his cup and shout health to the old apple tree."
We then poured cider on the roots and then made lots of noise with the rattles and drums and several blasts of a shotgun through the branches.
Then we processed back to the straw bale building, this time I played the tune of the Gloucestershire Wassail. We finished with more cider, potatoes baked in the cob oven, and some more storytelling. Everyone was demanding we do it again next year.
Finally, I asked Tom what inspired him to bring what is usually considered a West Country tradition to Cheshire, and what it means to him personally.
Although apple tree wassailing is best known from the West Country, it did take place all along the Welsh borders, up through Shropshire and into Cheshire. Heading along to Norton is perhaps straying a bit east, but we felt the wassailing of the Cheshire variety trees and the use of the local tune made it as much part of our heritage.
I don't know that apple tree wassailing is a very ancient tradition, perhaps 19th or maybe 18th century. Maybe it's older, but I haven't seen proof. I feel it's one of those traditions that folklorists used to want to push back to "pre-Christian" times, rebirth of the seasons and all that, like the old books of the 1970s used to say of morris dancing and mummers. We'd tried to be true to images of older wassails along with taking the best bits of revivals. In the past decade I've enjoyed wassails at a community orchard over in Cambridge and the huge wassail festival at Chepstow. What works best is its way that it brings a community together in the depths of winter and I can imagine that was always the point of it.
I'll raise a cider to that!
* Mummers Plays are seasonal British folk plays, performed by troupes of amateur actors known as mummers or guisers (or by local names such as rhymers, pace-eggers, soulers, tipteerers, wrenboys, galoshins, guysers, and so on). Tom is himself a member of the Jones' Ale Soul Cakers - a group which started out in 1970, taking their name from the Jones' Ale folk club in Chester where they were regulars. The play they perform is taken from the Alderley Mummers script which supposedly dates from 1788.
** The Apple Tree Man is a folktale from Somerset. The Apple Tree Man is the spirit of the oldest apple tree in an orchard, and in whom the fertility of the orchard is said to reside. In the tale a man offers his last mug of mulled cider to the trees in his orchard and is rewarded by the Apple Tree Man who reveals to him the location of buried treasure.
 Marc Alexander, A Compendium of Folklore, Myths & Customs of Britain, Sutton Publishing 2002
What's the end game of late-stage capitalism? What provisions are The Powers That Be making for the Coming Collapse; for Climate Chaos and other Catastrophes? This is the Plutocratic Exit Strategy. In this series we'll see how they plan on making their getaway, and how we can work to steal the future back.
I'll be straight with you, trying to serialise a book about a plan in motion to covertly exit a doomed planet is a challenge. I'm not just trying to hit a moving target, but create a narrative for its entire trajectory. At the same time, though, there's no better way to test out & update a thesis as it's being written. To my surprise and dark delight, each new press release from SpaceX and Tesla, each revelation of the eco crimes committed with complete foreknowledge of their consequences by the Big Oil Cartels, and various plans announced by national governments are only confirming my argument, and giving me more details to work with and through.
The mainstream media are even beginning to pick up on this - Newsweek ran a heavily sanitized version of the Plutocratic Exit Strategy as 2015 closed out.
So in our second week of 2016, as the year ahead kicks into gear - and we hopefully collectively resolve to chart a new course for the world into an era of prosperity, building through the ashes of the Collapse - it seems timely to take a look at just what's been going on since our last update. There's a bit to work through here, but we'll be joining some more dots in the process and adding more data points to the scatter graph to find further connections in the future.
— m1k3y (@m1k3y) December 29, 2015
Along with Elysium, the fictional (factional?) Firefly universe helps create a timeline to illustrate just what I'm positing has been going on, and where things are leading. Like a distant future in another solar system, with its own civilisational mythology, where everyone speaks English and Chinese (and Russian). We'll come back to Serenity in a big way in a future installment (so maybe put it somewhere on your to-watch list), but swap out the USA for the Plutocrats and you've got a glimpse at what's to come if nothing is done to change or redirect things as they appear to be unfolding.
Earth that was could no longer sustain our numbers, we were so many. We found a new solar system, dozens of planets and hundreds of moons. Each one terraformed, a process taking decades, to support human life, to be new Earths. The Central Planets formed the Alliance. Ruled by an interplanetary parliament, the Alliance was a beacon of civilization. The savage outer planets were not so enlightened and refused Alliance control. The war was devastating, but the Alliance's victory over the Independents ensured a safer universe. And now everyone can enjoy the comfort and enlightenment of our civilization." ~ Serenity
Russia knows exactly who their rivals are; it is after all a autocratic kleptocracy being led by a spook, so it's no big surprise they're keenly aware of those opposing their agenda. And it's not the nation of the United States of America, but the corporations based (for now) within it:
"Dmitry Rogozin, deputy prime minister [of the Russian Federation] in charge of the country’s defense, said that while his country is seeking ways to make space exploration cheaper, Elon Musk’s SpaceX is proving to be a roadblock."
Here's where things continue to get interesting... while Elon continues to make grand statements thin on details about his planned Martian colony, Russia has just made public the plans they've been working on for some time to establish a permanent presence on "the eighth continent", Luna:
The Lunar Strategy, Detailed
Over the course of 2015, Russian engineers quietly devised a moon-going strategy including 41 launches of Angara rockets to support the nation's lunar program during the next two decades. According to this grand plan, beginning in 2023 seven Russian crews would fly the new spacecraft, and five of them land on the moon, concluding with the establishment of a modular habitable moon base.
Here is how the Russian moon-exploration program would proceed, according to the latest schedule:
- Unmanned flight testing of the new spacecraft in Earth orbit would start in 2021, followed by an automated docking at the International Space Station in 2023. In the same year, the first crew would fly the new ship to the ISS.
- In 2025, the new Russian spacecraft would be ready to make its first flight beyond the Earth's orbit without crew. The year later, the lunar module designed to take cosmonauts from the lunar orbit to the lunar surface would also make an unmanned test flight. By that time, a pair of Russian robotic landers, currently under development, is expected to pave the way for human explorers.
- By 2027, the first Russian crew is scheduled to venture into deep space and reach the lunar orbit, matching the feat of NASA's Apollo 8 mission in 1968. Finally, in 2029, the first Russian cosmonauts would land on the Moon. Four more expeditions would follow through 2035. From the outset, each manned landing would be preceded by the delivery of a habitable module to the lunar orbit and then to the lunar surface.
The level of detail, and its grounded nature - "lunar expeditions to be blasted by four smaller, cheaper Angara boosters, which could pay for themselves by delivering commercial and military satellites in addition to flying cosmonauts" - are a shot across the bow to SpaceX, practically daring Elon Musk to trump them by finally actually revealing how he'll get his ass to Mars:
Early in 2015, Musk hinted that he would be publicly disclosing his strategies for the Mars Colonial Transport system sometime in late 2015, but then later said the announcement would come in 2016.
“The Mars transport system will be a completely new architecture,” Musk said during a Reddit AMA in January 2015, replying to a question about the development of MCT. “[I] am hoping to present that towards the end of this year. Good thing we didn’t do it sooner, as we have learned a huge amount from Falcon and Dragon.”
And learning they are, very visibly so, with the Falcon 9's successful re-landing of its first stage rocket late last year catapulting the company to the head of the space race, proving they can make LEO and beyond a much cheaper territory to penetrate.
Elon is a 'net guy - not just a digital native, but a digital elder - he doesn't need to issue big press releases, just casually drop a photo like this on Instagram with a choice caption to send another round of shock waves through the space industry.
In doing so, with a click of his smartphone aimed at his billion dollar baby, solidifying his position, confirming SpaceX's success in surpassing all predecessors; public or private. The company has leapfrogged the space capabilities of all the nations of the world; NASA of course has been a big help, lending it's expertise and being de-funded by the economic machinations of other players in this game.
There's a reason we keep using the plural of Plutocrat: there are always factions within factions.
Jeff Bezos' company Blue Origin had earlier made a much more modest test of their own implementation of a controlled vertical landing. Those crazy Taiwanese animators perfectly captured the nature of the rivalry between these two dueling Plutocrats with this video:
All this is, of course, just a sideshow. It's the tentative union of China with the Russian Federation (comprising of the remnants of the USSR, now with extra Crimea) that pose the real challenge to Elon Musk and his allies. These two factions are building out the infrastructure for two very different futures.
Elon → build out a robust, post-carbon proto type1 civ energy/transport infrastructure. Russia→ nah, nuclear empire! https://t.co/uqP0GH9uyr
— m1k3y (@m1k3y) January 10, 2016
— Ariana Gic Perry (@ArianaGicPerry) January 5, 2016
Russia has been quietly establishing a very different post-carbon vision of the future, and bringing in a great many nations under its fold in the process. A good, old-fashioned twencen nuclear power base with spooky characteristics:
With its ploys in Ukraine and Syria coming largely unanticipated in Western eyes, Russia has cultivated a tendency to pursue foreign policies that are not immediately obvious to surface-level observers.
While these bold military adventures have attracted much attention from investors thus far, a more stealthily conducted Russian energy strategy might hold equally major implications: the establishment of Russian nuclear power in vital strategic countries across the globe.
In consideration of the post-Fukushima stigma towards nuclear power, the notion of constructing a global nuclear empire might appear as initially bound for failure as invading a European nation like Ukraine in the 21st century. Yet, Russia’s under-the-radar ambition to become the global provider of nuclear power appears poised to be successful and — as was also the case in Ukraine — largely unchallenged by the few major players capable of insisting a different course.
Ariana Gic Perry helpfully highlights for us just how this is going unchallenged by the other more traditional factions of potential opposition.
— Ariana Gic Perry (@ArianaGicPerry) January 5, 2016
Of course, by saying "traditional factions" we mean other nation states or blocs of nation states - and I say "traditional" given our sense of the status quo according to our human mental models of time keeping. It might be informative at this point to go read about the mercantile adventures of the Dutch East India Company in the 17th Century, for instance:
a powerful company, possessing quasi-governmental powers, including the ability to wage war, imprison and execute convicts, negotiate treaties, strike its own coins, and establish colonies.
You know the chorus to this by now: "All this has happened before."
As I've already hinted (just read the title) Elon & Co. are continuing to develop the technology that will lead to nothing short of a Type 1 Civilisation on the Kardashev Scale. Its latest incremental development towards that soon-to-be post-global state is a vehicle that will come when its beckoned.
First baby step in Tesla Summon capability now downloading over-the-air with V7.1
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 10, 2016
Tap your phone or key and your car will open the garage door, exit, close the door and come to you. Will do same in reverse for unsummon.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 10, 2016
In ~2 years, summon should work anywhere connected by land & not blocked by borders, eg you're in LA and the car is in NY
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 10, 2016
As Techcrunch and others just reported, Telsa have continued to inch their way into the future firmware update by firmware update:
...it released version 7.1 of its software for the Model S and X that includes a “Summon” feature that enables the car to drive itself without anyone inside.
More specifically, using their key fob, Tesla owners can now direct their cars to park themselves in a spot within 39 feet, and to drive themselves into and out of their parking garages.
In a nod to safety concerns, the company has also now restricted its Autosteer technology on residential roads and roads without a center divider. When Autosteer is engaged on a restricted road, Model S’s speed will be limited to the speed limit of the road, plus an additional 5 mph.
The world of fully autonomous vehicles comes ever closer.
Interestingly, one of the few roadblocks it has faced has been in Hong Kong (Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China). Proving that the future can be just as easily disabled over-the-air, as it is automatically enabled, was a frustrating experience for local drivers of the luxury vehicles last November:
Tesla spokeswoman Alexis Georgeson confirmed Thursday the company was compelled to remove the software in Hong Kong.
“The Autosteer and Auto Lane Change functions in our recent 7.0 software update are still pending approval from Hong Kong’s Transport Department,” said a message sent to local Tesla car owners. “To ensure we comply with the country’s regulators, we will be temporarily turning off these two functions on all Model S in Hong Kong effective immediately.”
Some Tesla owners were not happy with Tesla’s wireless intervention backing them out of the future:
“So today Tesla did a software update on the sly,” said “Lerxt” on the Tesla Motors Club forum, a popular venue for fans of the luxury electric cars, in a message posted Wednesday. “I expect the Communist government to do stupid things but I'm not particularly impressed with Tesla changing my software without my approval.”
Something that may see them looking across the various show rooms for other options. Volvo was keen to show off its new connected car at CES:
— Volvo Car USA (@VolvoCarUSA) January 6, 2016
But if it's full Bright Green Breakaway Civ transport you're after, go no further than the solar powered Ecco concept car:
Ecco’s silhouette cuts back on wind resistance with its elongated profile making the entire thing soar close to the ground. A PV cell-studded membrane cover folds out similar to an accordion, sucking up more solar power while Ecco is parked in lurve machine mode. Another characteristic feature of the membrane roof is that it as well repeats the role of a camper pop-top, thereby expanding to house a sleeping loft. Its interior has been graced with a beautiful living area, a kitchen, and a toilet.
I'm really not sure how you can drive this piece of overtly conspicuous consumption across a ruined planet and survive, unless of course you're one of its last survivors, and you've salvaged it in some Fallout-esque mission to acquire a piece of prototype tech to facilitate your survival in the wasteland.
OR... you're surrounded by an armada of drones that can tackle any adversary... not just from the air, but also underwater:
Go go Bond Villain Tech!
Now, less you think SilVal and its various allies are focusing purely on the renewable energy realisation of a Type 1 Civ, you should be aware that there are elements funding the implementation of another of the technologies that have, until now, dangled tantalisingly just over the science-fictional horizon; fusion power. Sam Altman at Y Combinator is going all-in on the Californian Ideological Dream:
Altman is hunched over a spiral notebook with about 50 to-do items written in a tiny chicken scratch while he talks to David Kirtley, CEO of Helion Energy, a YC–backed startup. Helion is special to Altman. The company is attempting to build a commercial nuclear fusion reactor—a long-sought-after ambition of scientists that could simultaneously end our dependence on fossil fuels and dramatically lower the cost of energy production. Funding a fusion company is as close Silicon Valley has ever gotten to betting on an invisibility cloak manufacturer, and it’s part of a push by Altman to seed more ambitious technology companies. "The areas where it is possible to have a fast-growing company have expanded dramatically," Altman explains later. Ten years ago, YC’s model only worked for two kinds of businesses: consumer-facing websites and enterprise-software companies. Now, Altman says, the plummeting prices for computer hardware and the increasing importance of software in all areas of life have caused YC’s scope to widen to include what he calls "hard technology" companies. Over the past year, YC has seeded a driverless car company, 20 biotech companies, and two nuclear energy companies.
Investors have responded somewhat ambivalently so far. Helion, with a team of just seven full-time employees and $1.5 million from investors, has already built a functional prototype that can heat plasma to more than 50 million Celsius, but it hasn’t managed to raise additional funds. Altman’s funding pledge will be a stretch for him, but he believes that jump-starting Helion and its promising tech is worth it. "Shame on Silicon Valley for not funding this company yet," he tells me that evening.
Should they be successful in this venture, in what amounts to creating incubators of Breakaway Civilisation technology, this will obviously be another front on which the Plutocrats will be challenging the nation states of Russia and China for dominance across the globe, and beyond.
As is clear from the series of companies he has now created, Elon Musk has one clear vision: that of a solar-electric energy/transport infrastructure. Not that it would be that much of a challenge at all to have his network roll-out also plugged into a fusion-powered grid. Given past comments, I'm sure he'd really have no problem sharing the load of such a vast upgrade to the planetary power infrastructure. Speaking purely about the powercell operation, and the new Gigafactory his company had constructed to produce them, he noted that it would meet a bare fraction of the required worldwide need to fully upgrade the world to a post-carbon infrastructure:
The Gigafactory is like the least bad solution we could up with, honestly. I think it's actually pretty cool the way it's worked out, but we're just faced with a simple problem of: if we want to make electric cars we need enough batteries for the electric cars, and last year, all Lithium-Ion battery production combined was 30 GWhs, approximately. That's nothing, okay, or at least, it's nothing when you consider if you want to make half a million electric cars a year, that's how much you need. There are a hundred million new cars made every year. There are two billion gasoline or diesel cars on the road worldwide. So, just do the basic math, you don't just need one Gigafactory, you need like 200 Gigafactories, just for new car production and that means you're only going to replace the fleet at the existing rate which has it refreshed every 20 years."
Elon being Elon, he probably has half-drawn plans somewhere in a drawer for a Gigafactory Factory. One can already envision them being delivered to strategic locations worldwide by a sub-orbital version of the Falcon 9 Heavy - the vast rocket calmly landing at the factory site and depositing the fresh Gigafactory ready-to-go; like the invisible hand of some unseen SimCity player. He did after all, in the same interview, casually drop the additional piece of game changing, post-carbon infrastructure; electric airplanes.
I've been sort of toying with the design for an electric supersonic vertical take-off and landing electric aircraft for a while, I'd love to do it, but I think my mind would explode. It'd be like, brain's worn out, ya know. I'm pretty saturated working on electric cars and rockets." [transcript via ShitElonSays]
Credit where credit is due, he's always kept his end goal in mind - rolling out everything required to not just get to Mars, but prototype the technology the colony will require here on Earth. Remember, there's no coal on Mars. (There is methane though. Which is something of a Curiosity.) But the plan has always been the build the best of all possible worlds on the Red Planet. The proposed Martian Colony is, after all, the ultimate in model cities. Nothing but the best will do for the %.001 planning to make it the end result of their Exit Strategy.
And the tech being rolled out is nothing short of something out of a montage from Elysium:
— NBC Nightly News (@NBCNightlyNews) January 8, 2016
As we keep repeating here, all the tech being developed and, crucially, the direction in which it's being implemented, would be far better deployed in the service of repairing Earth first, and then beginning the Grand Extropian Adventure.
In a recent TED Talk, Lucianne Walkowic made the argument perfectly:
All the while, work on the technology required for a Martian Colony continues. Scientists at Northwestern University have developed and tested a mechanism to construct concrete from Martian soil, using liquid sulfur instead of water.
Moving our way back into Earth's gravity well, Bigelow Aerospace have released an image of their orbital habitat:
Concept of an outfitted Olympus. 2250 cubic meters of habitable volume. pic.twitter.com/0tMnxVr9IC
— Bigelow Aerospace (@BigelowSpace) January 7, 2016
And, not to be left out of the Plutocratic Space Race, Virgin "Galactic" are back with images of their second SpaceShipTwo under construction:
The future is looking up, for those that will be able to afford it.
As the for the rest of us, left behind to deal with the consequences... we can only hope that Bright Green roll out extends further than the privatopias sure to be first on the list.
If you want to know just how the Elite will be living from now on - within their local instance of the Breakaway Civ, the heavily guarded, automated, post-carbon gated communities - look no further than the description of the new Californian planned city, Quay Valley - nothing but the very Brightest in Green Tech, complete with Hyperloop terminal:
...Quay Hays of GROW Holdings is laying out the plan for Quay Valley, the city he hopes will be a model for California’s future. It sounds, at first, like any other affluent California community: retail space, resort hotels, a winery, a spa. Where Quay Valley stands out is its plan to be solar-powered with extremely low water use. With a town of 26,000 networked smart homes and apartments built green from the ground up, Hays hopes to give 75,000 residents the eco-friendly lifestyle that critics of clean energy say is impossible. “There have been advances in green design and smart growth over the years, and the idea was, put all these things together in one place,” says Hays, a former publisher and film executive whose first job was booking punk and new wave acts for the Greek Theatre in the 1980s. His first attempt to launch Quay Valley was thwarted by litigation over water rights and the financial crisis of 2008; the new plan is to break ground on the site, a 7,200-acre expanse halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco, sometime in 2016. When that happens, the world will be watching, and not just for the promised sustainability—Quay Valley also plans to feature the world’s first working Hyperloop, built by Hyperloop Transportation Technologies at an estimated cost of $100 million to $150 million.
Is there a better place to wait out the construction and deployment of the Martian Colonial Transporter fleet? Continuing to loot the planet all the while...
...never suspecting that the gates they hide behind might just as easily be reprogrammed to permanently shut them in, leaving them under house-arrest by an Eco Fascist Counter Revolution. There's factions and then there's FACTIONS. Mars too might make a great prison planet (wrote the author from Australia.)
But what if all this talk of Mars is nothing but so much misdirection? At the very least, a distraction, meant to keep our eyes from paying careful attention to what's happening above us, in our earthly skies? This statement actually has several interpretations, and I have much more to say, as you'll soon enough read, on another more conspiratorial version...
But right now, we want to listen to the words of Catherine Austin Fitts, speaking on the Space Based Economy from last year's Secret Space Program conference:
The key point she makes is that there's far more activity crucial to the unfolding future going on in LEO (Low Earth Orbit) than we've been made aware of. Nothing less than the end of the space-based dominance of the United States over the Earth. The dwindling of their Empire that's been facilitated by having exclusive control over key technologies that our personal, smartphone futurepresent are ever more dependent on. Such as GPS.
Even the US's key allies, Europe, are in the midst of developing their own alternative. Galileo though is still in development, with only 12 of the needed 30 constellation of satellites in orbit. It's expected to be fully operational by the end of the decade. If you want to know what 2020 will look like, there's a hint.
But there isn't a coming war for control of the skies in the works, it's already here! Catherine's talk helps explain just what's actually been going on. Why everyone is so freaked out over China's repeated tests of its "killer satellite capability". It hints at what the true purpose of the US Airforce's secretive robotic space shuttle, the Boeing X-37 might be. And why so many other nations are rushing to belatedly join the space race being run by nation states.
Interestingly, India are openly modeling their own reusable space plane on that confirmed piece of the known unknown secret space program. Whilst South Korea plan on making their own way to the Moon, bootstrapping their way there, with some help from their major ally:
South Korea plans to develop the orbiter and the ground station independently with its own technologies, the ministry added.
It will also seek cooperation with overseas researchers, such as the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), to develop payloads.
For the second phase of the project, the ministry will send a landing vessel to the moon with its own developed launch vehicle.
The ministry added it will make efforts to utilize its prior experiences in developing satellites.
Why this sudden space rush? For starters: MORE MINING MONEY.
There's a great desire to spread mineral extraction to the eighth continent - especially if fusion energy is going be a real factor in the planetary power network:
Last December, Moon Express became the first private company to successfully build and test a Moon-capable robotic lander -- the MX-1 -- here on Earth. By 2016, it plans to land on the Moon itself in a bid to claim the $20 million (£13m) Google Lunar XPRIZE for the first private lander to successfully travel 500 metres along the surface and transmit high-definition imagery back home. In October, in partnership with Nasa, it was on track to launch a shuttle to retrieve experiments from the International Space Station.
"On return it will land with ten-metre accuracy," Jain says. "You could land it in your backyard. This is the same kind of system we can use to bring back cargo from the Moon."
Cargo such as helium-3, an ideal candidate fuel for nuclear fusion. Formed in the Sun and carried through space on solar winds, helium-3 is extremely rare on Earth, thanks to the protection of the planet's magnetic field. The Moon, however, has no such shield and is estimated to have absorbed enough helium-3 to meet global energy demand for more than a millennia.
"We know it's there in tremendous quantities, from all the surveys and lunar meteorite analyses of the past 50 years," Jain says. "Even a relatively small quantity could power this planet for generations."
So add Duncan Jones' Dark Green Dystopia film Moon to your watch list too, I guess. As WIRED notes, there's plenty of corporations joining up with the nation states in the great reboot of the space race. And if fusion power wasn't enough for your science-fictional, Breakaway Civilisation, add nearly fully automated infrastructure IN SPACE to the wishlist that is being fulfilled in parallel by the various Plutocratic factions:
Others are already looking further afield. Virginia-based Deep Space Industries and Washington-based Planetary Resources have both set their sights on near-Earth asteroids, the original source of much of the Earth and Moon's precious metals.
"Space travel isn't about distance," explains Planetary Resources' president and chief engineer, Chris Lewicki, who was also former flight director for Nasa's twin Mars Rover missions. "Everything is measured in terms of the amount of rocket fuel that you need. Asteroids have no gravity, so going there and bringing stuff back requires as little fuel as docking with a space station. There are almost 4,000 asteroids that we know of which are energetically closer to us than the surface of the Moon."
In June 2013, Planetary Resources, whose investors include Google co-founder and CEO Larry Page and Virgin Group founder Richard Branson, launched a Kickstarter, raising $1.5m towards the funding of their first asteroid-prospecting craft. The 22cm ARKYD optical telescope is set for launch into Earth orbit by the end of 2016. Because asteroids are mostly the same material throughout, analysis of ARKYD imagery will give the company indication of which ones would be candidates for mining, Lewicki explains. "We can use optical spectra and the light reflected off these asteroids to tell the difference between metallic asteroids, carbonaceous asteroids with water and those that are just boring rock."
As with the Moon, a major draw to asteroid mining is the abundance of rare Earth metals found throughout space -- in particular, the platinum group, used not only in jewellery but in the manufacture of everything from catalytic converters and smartphones to cancer treatments. Access to an abundance of these, Lewicki suggests, could have a similar impact on technological development as the discovery of how to extract aluminium from the Earth's crust...
Iron, nickel and cobalt, the base metals needed for spacecraft manufacture, are also abundant throughout space, where zero or low gravity will allow for the creation of entirely new chemical compounds and alloys that would be impossible under the Earth's pull. "There are pharmaceutical drugs, for example, that could only be developed in space," Jain says. "The chemicals will crystallise very differently in something like Moon gravity."
Future spacecraft, 3D-printed with in-space resources, will never need to undergo the violent forces needed to escape planetary gravity, allowing for constructions of currently inconceivable size and delicacy. "This is going to create the spacecraft envisioned by science fiction," Lewicki says. "Engineers will be working with an entirely different set of constraints than they have today."
Given that humanity first landed on the Moon 47 years ago, why is the exploitation of space's bountiful resources only just getting started? The answer, according to Jain, comes down to increasingly powerful off-the-shelf technologies, making space a much more appealing investment proposition to private enterprise. "Four years ago, the LiDAR used to measure our location and descent would have cost us $1.5 million; three months ago we bought it for $1,500. Space-certified cameras used to cost hundreds of thousands. We're using modified GoPros," he says. "Earlier missions to the Moon cost billions of dollars. Now we can do that for $50 million, and costs will continue to come down."
And there you have it, the mythical ever increasing acceleration of technology enabling corporations and nations to leapfrog from LEO to the Moon and on to the Asteroids - and then surely Mars and wherever else they choose. Which sounds like the dawn of a new Golden Age of Humankind for anyone that hasn't been watching the gritty space opera, The Expanse (or read the books) for hints on how this will actually play out.
NASA, who not just lent their expertise to SpaceX, but funded Elon's long term mission to Mars with their contracts for it to supply the ISS are getting out of the way, looking to the Moon and the Asteroids themselves; leaving LEO to become a domain purely for the Corporations and any other nascent space powers that can hitch a ride:
"We're going to get out of ISS as quickly as we can," Gerstenmaier [NASA's chief of human spaceflight] said... "Whether it gets filled in by the private sector or not, NASA's vision is we're trying to move out." The agency has no choice but to leave low Earth orbit (LEO) behind, because it can't afford funding both projects at the same time.
NASA is apparently hoping for the private sector -- the same space companies ferrying supplies to the ISS -- to take its place in low Earth orbit. But since the agency can't help or force them to make an ISS 2.0, it's now telling companies to take advantage of microgravity research while it's still shouldering most of the costs of sending studies to the space station. NASA Administrator Charles Bolden is even trying to convince the government to give tax incentives to companies that ask them to test materials or products in zero-g.
Exporting our problems out to deep space and on into the future just seems like a recipe for an unending cycle of misery. Something that would only be amplified through the application of a selective filter for the future evolution of humanity that operates purely on the strength of one's back account, or willingness to aid such people, that's been generated through profiting on the destruction of Earth. That seems like the worst possible outcome, nothing less than the long delayed realisation of the Nazi Agenda. That it's no coincidence that Wernher von Braun served both the Third Reich in devastating England etc with the V2, then went on to head NASA. Which is a theme I will pick up somewhere else in a later update...
Until then, be careful out there in the smartphone future present. Do the math and you'll realise - especially after watching Catherine Austin Fitts' presentation - that it's mighty spooky that Google and Facebook are building their own global networks so that one will never, ever be offline no matter where they are. As Natash Lennard wrote for Salon, it's all looking rather NeoFeudal:
Drones in particular serve as smooth vectors for neoliberal expansion. Local infrastructure development is not even required; unmanned satellites can do the job. Just as drone technology has enabled a reshaping of war and military lines, Facebook drones suggest ways in which U.S. corporate interests can find new terrains across which to gain global footholds. The sky is literally the limit.
And while it was the fits and starts of Cold War-era market that propelled the West to bring technologies like the building of dams to less developed economies (a vector of liberal-minded capitalism that has been controversial, to say the least), nowadays a pretext of “need” is enough. As Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg commented on the drones proposal, “It’s easy to take for granted that most people have access to the Internet, but only one-third of the world, 2.7 billion people, currently have access to the Internet … We’re not on a path to connect everyone right now, unless something dramatic changes.”
An inescapable net around the world, where every subject is nothing more than their Facebook profile.
Let's not forget that SpaceX is also a potential player in this space, pitching its own network of low-cost satellites as another revenue stream to fund his Martian expansion plans, and prototype the tech need for such an off-world colony in the process. Elon has a plan, alright:
Whoever creates the first huge global network of internet satellites, cheap and fast web access would only be the start... you could trick out the satellites with cameras and scientific instruments, helping meteorologists create a live global weather map, for example, or law enforcement officials track down criminals. You could also build a similar satellite network around Mars to get the first Martian colonists online.
That's your grim future, of unlimited and inescapable internet connectivity in the midst of the end of the world - whichever flavour of climate chaos you're privileged to experience.
As I've said before, "what's happening to Syrian's will happen to everyone", and it's been long reported that refugees fleeing that failed state ditched their smartphones before making their escape so that militias or soldiers were unable to force them to log in and execute them based purely on their Likes. A thought echoed just the other day by Bruce Sterling in his annual State of the World post:
Internet Counterevolution doesn't mean a return to the status quo ante of the world before the Internet. Globalization goes on, it just loses its glamour; where there was spreading prosperity there is offshored exploitation, where there was free-moving discussion there are cyberwar trolls, where there was your happy face in a Facebook there's in instant police dossier that you foolishly built yourself, where nobody knew you were a dog you are now branded-and-sorted Stack livestock, and so on.
Twenty-teens globalization looks less like jet-set free-spending yuppie tourism and more like hordes of illegal Syrians arriving via Facebook support groups. The wanderers are mostly Moslems, because the effect of the digital "Arab Spring" on their somnolent societies was catastrophic. It's amazing how badly that harmed them, and they show no sign of getting over it; on the contrary. But refugee life is for anybody, now. Rich or poor, they can all be fleeing, at a moment's notice, if they get a sudden deluge of Greenhouse rain. People everywhere are afraid of immigrants now because they see their own face in that mirror.
If you want a preview of life on such a prison planet, Elysium again provides a helpful illustration (and is why I've nicknamed it "Escape From Earth", and consider it the unofficial sequel to John Carpenter's Escape From NY & LA films):
Learning to live off-line, and build the seeds of a better world as everything collapses... that seems like a better selective filter to me. That's the future of humanity I want to be a part of.
Maybe all this has happened before, and the rich will leave - like the Overlords of Arthur C. Clarke's Childhood's End - never to return and this period of chaos will end and the post apocalyptic survivors can adapt the technology and infrastructure left behind to mend the planet, and thrive again until the next metaphorical harvest in another ten thousand years.
To my mind, it's a good time to learn to become one of the Invisibles. Peace.
Thanks for reading!
If you're interested in more such science-fictional meditations on finding a path through the end of the world that leads to a reborn planet and a galaxy full of wonders, you can sign up for my newsletter at the (De)Extinction Club. If you'd like to support the full set of my output, which includes a podcast frequently featuring conversations with other Blackhat Futurists, and get early access to new material like this, please head over to Dark Extropian Musings.
We're gonna win.
The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria or Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham is a Salafi jihadist militant group that adheres to an Islamic fundamentalist, Wahhabi doctrine of Sunni Islam. You know who they are. They used to be called ISIS, (sometimes ISIL, sometimes just Islamic State), but now (for reasons Greg Taylor so brilliantly summed up here) we call them Daesh. Isis, the Egyptian Mother of Life, the Crone of Death, the Goddess of Magic, worshipped more than three thousand years before the Prophet Mohammed was born, venerated by the Romans and Ancient Greeks alike (and still worshipped by some today), has had her name taken in vain for long enough.
It was 2014 when Daesh began a systematic campaign of destruction of cultural heritage sites and artefacts. Something the Taliban did before them, making headlines with the dynamiting of the 6th century Buddhas of Bamiyan in 2001. Daesh claims that the targets, bulldozed, bombed, and smashed out of existence, are being destroyed because they represent “an erroneous form of creativity, contradicting the basics of sharia”.  The videos they make of the destruction are also great propaganda tools, guaranteed to get airplay and media attention across the world. The BBC won't show a beheading but it will show a temple exploding, a sledgehammer taken to an ancient idol. Even as we all grow numb and weary from the daily onslaught of horror we see on out televisions, computer, and phone screens, those images retain the power to shock.
People are being driven from their homes, enslaved, tortured, raped, murdered, and worse by Daesh every day. It is relentless, horrific beyond comprehension, so we cease to comprehend it. We cease to be able to process it all, to take the scale of the horror on board. The ultra vivid reds of the bloodshed, the blinding ballistic star-bursts; all the hyper-real HD livefeed horrors beamed directly onto our eyes merge like mixed Play Doh into a muddy brown mess which our mind tries daily to squish back into a too-small pot whose hastily scrawled, peeling label simply reads POST 9/11 TERROR. If we can even begin to imagine the horrors our fellow humans are being put through by Daesh, if we can put ourselves in their shoes, we can't do it for long. Not all day, every day.
Somehow, moments like Daesh's seizure of the Museum of Mosul in Iraq in February 2014, and destruction of artefacts therein, manage to cut through that dreadful, guilty, terror fatigue. We get a jolt - maybe it's of anger, outrage, sadness, powerlessness, or of all of the above - because instead of simply "fear us", all of a sudden Daesh seem to be looking directly down the camera and saying "fuck you". Fuck who? The western infidel, naturally. Any who dare oppose them or their ideology, of course. Just about any innocent unfortunate who happens to be in their proximity, tragically. Yet also, they're clearly delivering a big fat fuck you to a host of ancient deities. A poly-blasphemy. A campaign of desecration.
There's a story in that. The kind of story my brain starts to tell itself whether I want it to or not. It starts at a randomised point, some seed of an idea which might form any part of the story, it falters, it restarts, it gets a little further, it falters, it restarts. It runs in the background like a disk defrag on a hard drive and I hardly even notice it. It's not a story I'm going to write (at least, I don't think so) but there are enough scraps to lay out here; bits and pieces of fact and associated ideas. None of it is original, I'm sure. There must be thousands of others who have made the same connections I have, unmysterious and obvious as most of them are.
The pop cultural associations are evident; few people can have seen the images of Deash destruction of historic archaeology amid the desert sands and not made a connection with the Northern Iraq dig scenes of William Friedkin's 1973 classic The Exorcist. The statue of the dog-headed king of the demons of the wind, Pazuzu, stood defiantly on ... Read More »