back to article Fix capitalism with floating cities on Venus says Charles Stross

As an economist, Charles Stross might just make a very good science fiction writer, because he's just suggested colonising Venus is a fine way to ensure the continuation of the species while also solving the crises afflicting capitalism. In a post challengingly titled The prospects of the Space and Freedom Party reconsidered …

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Interstellar economics is the core

plot element in one of his rather good novels, actually.

I tend to the Metric fucktonne which is quite a lot.

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Joke

Just make Venus the ultimate tax haven

But only if you actually live there, and then have all the greedy fat-cats see how they like clouds of sulfuric acid. As a side effect, that might encourage them into terraforming Venus very quickly

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"may make a good sci-fi writer"

Well technically the merchant princes was sci-fi, though i still see it more as fantasy. El reg gets a few mentions in his books too (Mostly in the laundry files iirc)

Trying to read halting state at the moment. Who the hell writes in 2nd person?

"you adjust your blouse?"

i do? so.. i'm a woman? or maybe i just like their clothes? I've never been a woman, this is strange

"you see jenny"

who the hell is jenny? do i like her?

"och aye i fookin hate you jenny" you say

oh so i hate her, but apparently i'm also scottish.

I've never given up on one of his books before, and i've read a lot of his stuff, but reading as THREE separate characters in 2nd person is horrible.

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Re: "may make a good sci-fi writer"

"Halting state" is written in the second person. It didn't bother me that much. It's the sort of thing that authors do as part of being creative. I wasn't convinced it added anything compared to the conventional mode of narration, but I didn't find it hard to process.

Have you ever tried Iain Banks' "Feersum Endjinn", in which one of the narrators is dyslexic? Or (the book) "Clockwork Orange"?

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Re: "may make a good sci-fi writer"

Halting State was written in 2nd person singular because it's about gaming. How did the original computer games describe what was going on?

"You are standing on a road. There is a cottage to your right. There is a fork in the road.

> Take fork.

You pick up the fork."

The sequel, Rule 34, was also in 2nd person singular, but for a different reason that also made sense when you realised why.

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Re: "may make a good sci-fi writer"

I have rule 34 sitting waiting for when i finish halting state, so trying to ignore the multiple-character 2nd person stuff

Sorry if my rant made it look like I don't like his stuff. I really do, just not the 2nd person stuff. I was intrigued with it as a concept but it just distracts me too much, especially when introducing characters who i supposedly already am.

I much preferred the merchant princes and the laundry files series, i can't wait to grab the next one due out, that's where he shines

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Re: "may make a good sci-fi writer"

I have NOT read Rule 34. But the most obvious reason to use second person would be:

1) You don't want to use third person, because you want the sex of the person in question to remain ambiguous. Especially if cross-dressing is involved, you might want to pull some cheap-ass trick on the reader, a la The Crying Game.

2) You can't use first person, because the person in question dies at some point.

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Re: "may make a good sci-fi writer"

You can't use first person, because the person in question dies at some point.

There are novels written in first person in which the narrator dies. I am hesitant to name any, lest I release the dread spoiler, but I know I have two on the same bookshelf in the other room right now.

If the narrator's already unreliable, what's a little demise going to hurt?

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possible B Ark?

nuff said

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Oh no, we can't possibly think of colonising the Americas

They be full of dragons and stuff.

Pusillanimous poltroons - I'm off to Venus!! Who's with me?

erm ... anyone ...?

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Finding ways to spend other peoples money is also my pastime, that said I love these ideas, the only future I can see for humankind is a hi-tech one.

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Re: "solving the crises effecting capitalism"

Capitalism caused by crises? Interesting thought… …. Symon says

A more interesting notion and virtual reality and practised actuality, Symon, is capitalism causing crises, in order to have the masses otherwise otherworldly engaged in not thinking about their condition and how it is arranged.

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Re: "solving the crises effecting capitalism"

Out of the mouths of incorrect homonyms....

Perhaps Mr Sharwood is a Schumpeterian.

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Investment?

I am a fundamentalist evangelical and orthodox believer in the manned space exploration and I would like to see a city floating in Venerealusian clouds as much as anyone, but...

Spending a lot of money on building something big does not in itself make an investment. It will all be wasted unless the asset you build generates income and to do that such a cloud city must produce something of value.

So, the key is not to find three g'zillions of dollars of capital but to understand where the return on investment will come from.

Initially, it can be something as simple as tourism and sales of living space to ultrarich retirees and ousted dictators but will it be viable long term? It has to generate new cash constantly, otherwise it will just fall apart and sink to the surface one day - a familiar fate for a lot of "flagship" government-funded projects all over the world.

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Because the alternative, progressive taxation, is just too hard.

Politically. Compared to building floating cities on Venus.

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Re: Because the alternative, progressive taxation, is just too hard.

Progressive taxation? We already have progressive taxation, haven't you heard? And it has already reached the max limit of what it can ever be. What then do you actually propose?

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Re: Because the alternative, progressive taxation, is just too hard.

> Progressive taxation?

Yes.

> it has already reached the max limit of what it can ever be

Of course it hasn't. It's at a historical low, and decreasing. The continuing dismantling of progressive taxation is the reason we're starting to see massive money-hoarding at the top.

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Re: Because the alternative, progressive taxation, is just too hard.

People will never accept having to give away half or more of what they personally earn (in fact, they already give away more than half if you count the NI and indirect taxes but it does not count quite as much psychologically). The higher you put the tax rate, the less tax you will collect.

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Re: Because the alternative, progressive taxation, is just too hard.

>People will never accept having to give away half or more of what they personally earn

In the USA, the top rate under Roosevelt was 90%, although few people hit that rate. That's the beauty of progressive taxation, if you don't earn much you don't pay much, and if you earn vastly enormous sums you pay enormous sums. The rich still come out ahead, but you don't get the "mountains of gold" effect seen in the USA and UK right now.

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Re: Because the alternative, progressive taxation, is just too hard.

People will never accept having to give away half or more of what they personally earn

Except that they did accept giving away more than half.

90%, as it happens.

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Re: Because the alternative, progressive taxation, is just too hard.

"Except that they did accept giving away more than half."

LOL! No, they didn't - which is why the system had to be changed. When you are taxed that much it becomes better to risk the consequences and evade tax than to pay up.

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Re: Because the alternative, progressive taxation, is just too hard.

Us poor bar stewards who, in the UK, use a system known as Pay As You Earn, and actually can't avoid paying tax, and if you are in the 40% tax band, then you pretty much pay 50% anyway, when you include National Insurance, (That's the tax that was supposed to pay for the NHS and Unemployment Benefit) Go over £100K and it's worse, and there is very little you can do about it, other than become self employed.

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Re: Because the alternative, progressive taxation, is just too hard.

And if you add the VAT (20% of most things you buy except food and books) - you are actually paying closer to 70%-75% if you are in the "additional" tax band.

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Re: Because the alternative, progressive taxation, is just too hard.

> Go over £100K and it's worse

But over £1M and it's easier again, and total tax pressure dips to 30%. Can't punish CEO's and bankers, you know, they are after all the basis of the UK economy now.

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Re: Because the alternative, progressive taxation, is just too hard.

"But over £1M and it's easier again, and total tax pressure dips to 30%."

Where did you get that from?

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@ Vociferous .... Re: Because the alternative, progressive taxation, is just too hard.

This is something which might be of interest and comfort to you, Vociferous ......... "Mansion Tax" Coming To New York, Compliments Of Mayor de Blasio

PS ... Any chance of reinstating the time and date stamp of posts, El Reg, in order to make references unambiguous. Such was a very fine feature which told so much else about posters and their habits and/or strengths and/or weaknesses and servers.

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Re: Because the alternative, progressive taxation, is just too hard.

> Where did you get that from?

For instance here

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Re: Because the alternative, progressive taxation, is just too hard.

Well, thank you. That confirms my point rather nicely, doesn't it?

Better avoid or evade than to pay a silly-number tax, even if that costs your tax lawyer's fees or carries a slight risk of a claim from HMRC.

Look at the French and their mighty NapoleonHollande - I have not heard of any Frenchman, who falls into their upper tax band, paying nearly as much as expected.

You have to remember that this ultra-high tax bands are there not to actually raise revenue for the Treasury but to score a populist PR point for the respective Government.

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Scientology?

Didn't L. Ron Hubbard spend quite a bit of time on Venus and head off there when he became immortal?

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Solution for what?

This guy seems to think that spending a lot of money on high-tech space exploration would somehow trickle down money from the very rich to the middle classes and the poor. Sorry to break it to you - but such big risky projects are ALWAYS government projects, as no sane investor wants to invest in something that might eventually turn in a profit long after he is dead. So it's not the very rich, but the tax-paying middle class whose money is spent. And the money is going to top-grade engineers and high-tech companies. How is this achieving any of the stated goals?

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Re: Solution for what?

The entire point of the proposal is to _force_ private interests to invest, recognising that they won't do so voluntarily. The problem is that neither public nor private institutions are prepared to invest in truly long term projects today and he's arguing we need to change the rules so that these investments are viable. One option, for example, would be to require investors to invest $1 in long term projects for every $10 they invest in anything else. Such things are possible through government regulation and proper oversight. Any such effort would have to be international of course.

Many of the economic institutions of today, such as a central bank and income tax, are quite recent inventions. Just because it hasn't happened before doesn't mean we can't do it, and people born in 50 years time may be surprised to discovered it was ever otherwise.

What we would need would be widespread buy-in that it is necessary. That's what we don't yet have. Hence, I presume, why this idea has been publically proposed now.

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Let's go all the way ...

... and build a Ringworld.

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Re: Let's go all the way ...

I would suggest a.....Discworld!

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Fuckton

I like the term 'Fuckton'. I hadn't heard it before. The result of sheltered life, no doubt.

Now that billions have become commonplace, I propose that we make this wonderful term standard in the world of money.

"Over the last 30 years Bill Gates has spent several fucktons of money developing the world's first fusion power'd interplanetary Zeppelin service. The success of Nokia after Microsoft's takeover has suprised even Gates and without the immense popularity of the smartphone Vista 8.1, this project would have been merely the dreams of economists and science fiction writers.

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Re: Fuckton

It's a nice idea, but unfortunately doomed to become outdated. Once trillions become commonplace (and they will) the term fuckton for a piddling little billion will seem ridiculous. For this reason, the word cannot be pinned to a specific amount. It could however be pinned to a relative value, for example a set percentage of that country's GDP. The advantage of this system would be that even though an American fuckton would be worth a lot more than a Peruvian fuckton, owning a Peruvian fuckton while living in Miraflores would be just as impressive/abhorrent as owning an American fuckton while living in Beverly Hills.

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A brief restatement

Surely what he is trying to say is that we might as well try and get rich people to pay for balloons on Venus as try to get them to part with their cash in a bid to solve the crisis in capitalism. That crisis being, as it as has happened before, that the poor are now so poor that nothing can make a profit for the rich. This is usually resolved by the banks collapsing or the stock exchanges failing so that the rich get financially slaughtered, but this time the banks and exchanges got propped up by governments so now the Fat Cats are now even more fatter and harder to support, while at the same time even more reluctant to allow their wealth to be used to support the economy they feed off.

Basically the only solution is for them to be the first against the wall when the revolution comes! Don't believe the propaganda put out by the wealthy that redistribution of wealth stifles investment and closes factories. It does exactly the opposite. A prosperous middle class is more likely to invest, save and purchase goods than the impoverished masses we have today. Small businesses flourish when they don't have huge multinationals undercutting them, doing backdoor trade deals and dragging them through the courts to protect their profit margins. Small local businesses also PAY TAXES unlike some companies I could mention. We need to stop listening to the threats made by the rich and bite the bullet with radical tax reforms. With over 50% of the country's wealth held by only 10% of the population there has to be a point where the system will collapse, either in revolution or anarchy. The alternative is to wage a war on your neighbours, just look at what Putin is doing!

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Anyone else think "Golgafrincham" while reading this?

Send all the rich tosspots off to another planet, cut all communication with them and then spread their wealth around the rest of us back here on Earth!

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Re: Anyone else think "Golgafrincham" while reading this?

I'm afraid I thought of pretty much the opposite, as written in Kornbluth's "The Marching Morons". (Classic SF from the 1950s - I think it actually predates me).

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@Nigel

We're just glad you're not 11

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What crisis?

There is no "crisis in capitalism", the crisis is in the perversion of the so called "free-market".

The actual crisis is in allowing politicians to fabricate vast swaths of magic money out of thin air to finance their vote buying - and their supporting the banks to be allowed to do the same.

Being a banker isn't a license to print money - mere mortals need to print money, bankers and politicians pluck it straight from their imaginary fractional reserve money trees. That is why they get richer - if you are allowed your own private money tree, after harvesting as much as you want and then lending your imagined money to other people it's pretty hard not to get richer.

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A new frontier

Up until the beginning of the 20th century, the world still had room to expand, new places to go, gain great wealth, and abuse the natives. The masses, at least in the west could always look forward to new and exotic lands, they had hope. In this enlighten age we have none of that, we are stuck with what we have. A major move into space, would primarily revive the hope of untold wealth in the far flung solar system, though it's doubtful that it would be real. Sure we would incur lots of debt, but debt is only a problem if it catches up with you, which happens when you stop growing. For governments and corporations to start pushing into space, they need to generate demand, make people want to go and live on Venus, or Mars, find high value minerals, produce low gravity products, and buy stuff from Earth. Mars looking dodgy, ok lots of Nicke/Iron in the asteroid belt, plenty of water to generate fuel, and so on. I suspect the engineering challenges of building for Space would generate a whole raft of products we didn't know we needed, like Teflon or Velcro. Think of the entire economy of the world as a giant Ponzi scheme, which in a way it is.

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Mayday, Mayday, Mayday .....

”Or should we try and take their hoards away via some other means? And if so, what?”

Yes …. we should, and are, … and by every and all means possible and likely probable, and that is what is spooking them, and more than likely having the smarter ones in their crowd fearing realistically for their future lives, for they realise that they are not near;ly clever enough to stop such actions as are being taken, with its virtually anonymous and autonomous and astute proaction/HyperRadioProActive IT Methodology.

The smarter ones though, will be the ones to make a sweet sticky deal with those who are more intelligent than them and who are able to save them from all manner of pain and retribution from mobs who are easily advised of the architects and hosts of their afflictions. Failing that simple course of action, will primitive nature just take over and lay waste to what is destroying quantum leap progress into futures which are beyond one’s wildest dreams and fab fabless fantasies …… where Venus rules and Mars servers her every insatiable XSSXXXXual desire with addictive pleasure to be experienced to be believed and remotely captured as a willing slave and lifelong fan …… AI LOVER …. Advanced IntelAIgent Live Operational Virtual Environment Rover.

:-) I Kid U Not :-)

Happy May Day.

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Re: Mayday, Mayday, Mayday .....

And if one knows and can realise/virtualise the global money system as a not necessarily physical cyber system ..... and Neil Stansbury uncovers it beautifully succinctly here .....

There is no "crisis in capitalism", the crisis is in the perversion of the so called "free-market".

The actual crisis is in allowing politicians to fabricate vast swaths of magic money out of thin air to finance their vote buying - and their supporting the banks to be allowed to do the same.

Being a banker isn't a license to print money - mere mortals need to print money, bankers and politicians pluck it straight from their imaginary fractional reserve money trees. That is why they get richer - if you are allowed your own private money tree, after harvesting as much as you want and then lending your imagined money to other people it's pretty hard not to get richer.

.... the following is what needs to be implemented ... BUT .... the system will collapse if it is systemically flawed and a rigged inequity still pursued to deliver unfair considerable advantage to .... well, the problem to be dealt with and removed would be the likes of Bank of England Monetary Policy Commissioners which have conspiring counterparts in every governing national bank ....... for their subjective decisions are what creates the difficulties and debts which the world and its billions of native inhabitants suffer, because of their love of paper money and the command and control which its withholding supplies to supposed wise folk who would think to be ruling over everything from behind a big fancy desk in a city/the City.

In cyber systems, the distributed nature of the system poses serious difficulties in maintaining operations, in part because a centralized command and control apparatus is unlikely to provide a robust framework for resilience. Resilience in cybersystems, in general, has several components, and requires the ability to anticipate and withstand attacks or faults, as well as recover from faults and evolve the system to improve future resilience. The recovery effort and any subsequent evolution may require significant reconfiguration of the system at all levels—hardware, software, services, permissions, etc.—if the system is to be made resilient to further attack or faults. This is especially important in the case of ongoing attacks, where reconfiguration decisions must be taken with care to avoid further compromising the system while maintaining continuity of operations. Collectively, we will label this recovery and evolution process as “reconstitution.” Currently, reconstitution is performed manually, generally after-the-fact, and usually consists of either standing up redundant systems, check-points (rolling back the configuration to a “clean” state), or re-creating the system using “gold-standard” copies. For enterprise systems, such reconstitution may be performed either directly on hardware, or using virtual machines.

A significant challenge within this context is the ability to verify that the reconstitution is performed in a manner that renders the cyber-system resilient to ongoing and future attacks or faults. Fundamentally, the need is to determine optimal states of the cyber system when a fault is determined to be present. ..... http://cryptome.org/2014/05/cybersys-reconstitution.pdf

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Radiation

It's an interesting thought that a breathable atmosphere might be sufficient to keep a blimp in the part of Venus' atmosphere where temperatures are reasonable.

But that still wouldn't make Venus suitable for colonization; it gets more radiation from the Sun than the Earth does. At least on Mars, the temperature doesn't prevent you from placing colonies underground, where they are also protected from radiation.

But Mars is sufficiently short of nitrogen that Martian resources wouldn't be sufficient for terraforming it. So Martian colonization indeed can only go so far by itself.

Gerard O'Neill's idea of not wasting the energy it takes to go out into space by going back down another gravity well seems to make the most sense. At least you can get water, methane, and ammonia from comets, Centaurs, and Pluto. So you've got a good start on biomass. Mind you, since asteroids wouldn't have all those nice geological processes that separate out elements on Earth, perhaps colonies on Mars would be needed too, for potassium, phosphorus, and stuff like that.

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Re: Radiation

> it gets more radiation from the Sun than the Earth does

Yes, but it has a thicker atmosphere. Radiation isn't the problem, but trying to base an economy solely on gas will be (it'll be very difficult to mine the surface, with it's extreme pressure and superheated sulphuric acid atmosphere).

> At least on Mars, the temperature doesn't prevent you from placing colonies underground

The martian atmosphere is thin, but sufficient that radiation on the surface isn't a significant problem there either. Any base on Luna, however, needs to be under ground, as the radiation on the surface is half of that in open space, and if there's a solar flare the radiation on the surface is lethal.

> Mars is sufficiently short of nitrogen that Martian resources wouldn't be sufficient for terraforming it

Yes. Mars can never become Earth, it will always remain very dry and cold. That's not a serious obstacle to colonizing it.

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Re: Radiation

At least you can get water, methane, and ammonia from comets, Centaurs, and Pluto

I don't care how much you feed a centaur, you'd still get more methane and ammonia from a cow. No need to go exotic.

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Having spent far too many hours on internet forums

I am far from convinced that "continuation of the species" is a desirable goal.

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Re: Having spent far too many hours on internet forums

Oh it is. We just need to grow up and start taking responsibility for things like our reproduction.

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Re: Having spent far too many hours on internet forums

Oh it is.

Why?

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