A conversation starter on why and how we should
build a 1 million member interstellar volunteer community
Possible development path of human civilization
inspired by Kardashev scale of technological advancement of extraterrestrial civilizations.
100 YSS and the global
We would like to find a way to amplify and
fund the collective efforts of the global
interstellar community. This is an open
draft. Everything in this presentation is up
for discussion. In fact, we’ve put this
presentation together specifically to enable
There are (at least) two ways
to think about this goal:
Road to K3
We can think in narrow terms
and focus our efforts on a single
goal: to see a star-bound ship
launched at the start of the 22nd
We can think in broad terms
and focus our efforts on
building out a cultural
infrastructure for K3 civilization,
where technological capability
is but one of the prerequisites.
Easy but dangerous
Narrow, single-minded focus produces results. We
can be almost certain we will be able to tick the
box on technological capability. Voyager 1 does
not have enough fuel to get to another star. But we
could probably send our first star-bound craft using
beamed sails in the next 5-10 years. It may take a
few thousand years to get to Alpha Centauri but it
will be possible. Unfortunately, technological
capability comes with no guarantee that it will be
put to good use. Case in point: What have we
done with our moon-landing capability over the
last half a century?
Narrow focus may be “easy” but it is also very
dangerous. All of us reading these words right now
may work very hard to get to star flight capability
by 2112 but die with that nagging doubt—will they
or will they not take it further?
Hard but safe
Road to K3
Broad, multi-track focus is hard. Especially, when it
needs to be sustained across people with
completely different interests (e.g., breakthrough
propulsion vs. global policy agenda) and across
generations. It’s messy because humans are messy.
It comes with a high collective action and
coordination tax. Without effective organization, it
may slow us down. Way down.
But if we don’t just create technological capability
but embed the interstellar dream deep in our
collective psyche, in our civilizational goals—then
we have a shot at something much more valuable.
We could make interstellar civilization inevitable.
All of us reading these words right now would work
very hard to lay down a solid foundation for K3
civilization and die with some degree of
confidence—it may take time, but human
civilization will expand beyond our solar system.
Road to K3
Find destination. Solve
propulsion problem. Design
starship. Design life-support
systems in space and for
destination planet. Engage the
public. Get funding. Build
starship. Recruit astronauts.
All that, plus:
Create a steady stream of identityexpanding, interstellar-dream-advancing
content (books, movies, TV series, games,
op-eds). Put interstellar on global public
policy and entrepreneurial agenda.
Catalyze industrialization of space, starting
with our solar system. Catalyze solutions
to a host of terrestrial problems, etc. etc.
any of them in the driver’s seat
will increase the risk of the mission.
governments can get side-tracked on other priorities
(and apparently even get shut down).
Businesses can confuse the mission (serving a
civilizational need) with the means (generating profit).
Billionaire philanthropists can change their minds.
The driver’s seat needs to be filled with
a force that won’t change course in the
face of adversity.
volunteers united by a common dream.
Volunteers who see the success of the
mission as their primary goal.
With the advent of online tools
that allow new forms of collaboration, as a civilization we are
now learning how to use more constructively the free time
afforded to us since the 1940s for creative acts rather than
consumptive ones. The cognitive surplus—the buildup of free
time among the world’s educated population—is now in the
order of magnitude of a trillion hours a year.
We are in the middle of Great Spare-Time Revolution.
There is a massive reservoir of volunteer time that we can tap.
Source: Cognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age, Clay Shirky 2010
Five decades of behavioural research shows that most enduring
motivations are not external but internal—the joy of doing
something for its own sake. We do things because they’re
interesting, because they’re engaging, because they’re the right
things to do, because they contribute to the world.
For people looking to contribute to the world, to be part of
something bigger, we can create an unprecedented opportunity
—contribute to the most ambitious mission
in the history of human civilization.
Source: Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, Daniel Pink (2010)
Almost 20 million people are registered as contributors with
Wikipedia (even though only a minority of them are regular
contributors.) All the articles, edits, and arguments about articles
and edits represent around 100 million hours of human labor.
Americans watch about 200 billion hours of TV every year.
More than 100,000 people have contributed
to development of open-source software.
So let’s assume there is availability,
will and precedents we can learn from.
What would this 1 million
Starfleet look like?
Opportunity to contribute
Design around opportunity to contribute. Membership benefits,
privileged access, etc. etc. are all secondary.
Structure Starfleet into discrete units with clear mandates—everybody
joins a specific unit. Break down each mandate into discrete missions
with different volunteering opportunities earning members star points,
leading to a higher rank.
Digital & physical
Maximize use of digital collaboration platforms but create ample
opportunities for physical meetups as well.
Human and lifesupport system
of solar system.
ENSIGN ACTIVITY REPORT
Ms. Edward Lu
Paid membership fee
Recruited 5 new ensigns
Wrote a blog on sailcraft
Gave a TEDx talk on black sky thinking
Created business plan for Interstellar Art Academy
TOTAL STARFLEET MILES EARNED SO FAR
Starfleet miles remaining to reach Lieutenant rank
Flat membership fee of $5-10 per month would be more compatible
with the volunteer ethos than multi-tiered schemes that promise higher
benefits in exchange for higher contribution.
Create sponsorship opportunities for no more than 2-3 entities each
year (creates scarcity). Offer temporary brand association and
opportunities for story-telling
We should seriously consider creating our own franchise based around
the interstellar quest, a version of future history that’s 50-100 years
ahead of reality.
Crowd-funding is now a
viable way to fund specific
campaigns don’t just
happen. They are heavily
produced. For crowdfunding to become a
serious source of funding,
we need to develop inhouse skills.
The volunteer organization could be launched and
run by a Federation of interstellar organizations (100
YSS, Icarus Interstellar, Tau Zero, etc.). They can
nominate the admirals running different units.
Volunteer contributions carried out for any Federation
organization would earn ensigns star miles and count
towards rank. Opex cost can be distributed to
different organizations based on strategic priorities
decided by Command.
Tap broader space
and science fiction
Use our science
franchise to create
the pull in the
Use our science
franchise to create
the pull in the
Building 1 million member volunteer
organization is not obvious
but it is possible.
Stars: the next frontier. These are the adventures of
Starfleet. Its hundred-year mission: to make the transition of
human civilization to K3 inevitable, to catalyze the necessary
scientific, technological and cultural breakthroughs—so that
one glorious day at the start of the 22nd century we can boldly
go where no human has gone before.
Before we get carried away,
let’s think about this together first.
We look forward to discuss these and other ideas
to advance the interstellar mission!
Advancing long-term thinking
What if we cared about the long-range future of human
civilization as much as we care about our own? What if these
two concerns became one? For Tyler, these are not rhetorical
questions. He rolls up his sleeves and builds organizations and
communities that pursue long-range visions: he kick-started
Singularity Summits and MIRI (Machine Intelligence Research
Institute), produced New Organ prizes for the Methuselah
Foundation. Tyler believes that embedding our interstellar
aspiration in an ambitious volunteer organization has the
potential to become a powerful transformational moment for
our culture—dramatically expanding our collective time
Instigating hyper-visionary ventures
Will human civilization have an unbounded future beyond
Earth? Erika does not like wasting time on speculations.
Instead, she spends her life doing everything she can to make
it so. She has co-authored a multi-media book “The Human
Project” where she put forward a long-ranging agenda for the
human species. Through her advisory work and public
speaking, she instigates hyper-visionary ventures—multigenerational ventures designed to advance human civilization.
She’s helped construct several 100 year business plans and
serves on advisory boards of several tech startups. In Erika’s
mind, the interstellar vision is a powerful organizing goal, a
fantastic springboard for hyper-visionary ventures across every
domain of human civilization.