Advanced Questions FAQ
Q: How long will it be before the technology to build the sea colonies is available?
A: With the exception of large-scale open-cycle OTEC, all of the technology needed to build Aquarius and other sea colonies is currently available. Large scale open cycle OTEC technology is the exception because very large rotor blades would be required and the R&D to build them has not yet been done.
This does not, however, preclude the construction of large closed-cycle OTECs. Closed cycle technology is presently ready for commercialization, and is relatively insensitive to scale. The U.S. Dept. of Energy has spent approximately $700 million perfecting closed cycle OTEC. DOE now believes that the technology is commercially viable and should be developed further by the private sector.
Sea Solar Power, Inc. is a company proposing to build a 100 MW closed cycle power plant in the immediate future. Whether SSP can get financing for their project is unknown, but the technology is not a barrier.
Other technologies like the accretion of sea cement are at a similar phase of development. Wolf Hilbertz, the godfather of this technology has been developing the process for decades, and is now attempting to commercialize it. Large scale mariculture operations have also been extensively researched and many types of shellfish farming could be undertaken with today's knowledge.
Other key technologies, like the extraction of magnesium from sea water, are already mature. Virtually all commercially produced magnesium is derived from sea water. The technologies necessary for anchoring and maintaining large floating structures are already highly developed for off-shore oil platforms.
Some technologies need additional development. The proposed data utility could not be built as configured today, but it depends only on an extrapolation of prevailing trends in computer design, storage media, and chip architecture. A more modest central computing utility could be built with 1995 technology if for some reason that were necessary.
The bottom line answer is that sea colonies like Aquarius could be built using only today's technology. It is already possible, from now on it just gets easier
Q: Is more scientific research needed before Aquarius and the other sea colonies can be built?
A: Yes. Although the enabling technologies all have solid underpinnings, each of them need to be demonstrated separately, and, more importantly, integrated into an interactive system which takes advantage of the many synergies available. OTEC for example is a moderately promising solar energy technology if constructed on a large scale, but it is a fantastic technology if integrated with systems which take advantage of the spin-off benefits derived from pumping large amounts of cold sea water to the surface. These include: fresh water production, cold storage and air conditioning, cold-bed horticulture, and large scale mariculture. These co-products then share many synergies with other aspects of the sea colony. Shellfish from the mariculture operation, for example, provide a necessary source of calcium carbonate for magnesium production.
Although each of the technical components of a full fledged sea colony could be built as stand alone projects today, virtually nothing has ever been done in terms of integrating all of the interactive systems to create one unified process. This is what really needs to be done at this juncture, far more than research on any individual parts. Integrating all of the elements required to build and sustain a human civilization on the oceans, and later in space, is what needs to be done now. This is one of the primary functions of Aquarius Rising. Once this first prototype colony has been built and operated we will be able to replicate the system; not only for our later colonies, but as turn-key projects for governments and industries around the world.
Q: How long will it be before Aquarius and other sea colonies are actually built?
A: If all goes according to plan, we will see the development of sea colonies within 15 to 20 years. The First Millennial Foundation plans to have a land based prototype sea/space colony-Aquarius Rising-built and operating by the year 2000. Within five years we will have addressed enough of the technical, social, and financial issues to undertake the second phase of Aquarian development. This will involve construction of a floating structure inside a tropical lagoon. The reef will serve as the breakwater and provide a place to construct land based support infrastructure, airfields etc.
Construction of a larger colony on a floating structure in a more remote location will enable us to work out many problems prior to taking the final step. After five or ten years experience with a floating colony sheltered inside a lagoon, we will be ready to move out into open waters and begin construction of Aquarius itself. If all goes well, Aquarius will be under construction by 2015 and completed sometime before 2025. After Aquarius has been built we will be able to begin replicating her and growing new sea colonies. Ultimately there will be thousands of marine colonies the size of Aquarius scattered about the vast expanse of the tropical seas.
Q: Is The Millennial Project a feasible plan or is it written only as a hypothetical solution?
A: The short answer is yes it is feasible. It's feasibility, however, depends on the level of detail one wishes to take it to. In it's broadest outline the question is: Is it feasible for humankind to leave its home planet and establish life and civilization in space? Absolutely! If the question is then: will mankind accomplish this by first colonizing the oceans and then gaining large scale access to space where we will ultimately build habitable ecologies? The answer becomes: Probably. If the questions then narrow to issues of particular technologies: Will ocean colonies be accreted from sea water? Will we gain cheap access to space with magnetic mass launchers? Will we inhabit zero-gravity space colonies? The answers become: Maybe. No matter what the question though, the answer is never: Impossible!
Q: Would the United States government need to be disbanded for this plan to be completed?
A: The United States Government-and all other national governments for that matter-is virtually irrelevant to the plan envisioned in The Millennial Project. Although we would be happy to receive any research grants the Feds are doling out, the plan does not depend on government sponsorship for its ultimate success. This is a project which depends solely on the collective will of a tiny percentage of humans. If enough of these people are willing to see the plan brought to fruition, then it will happen. It is a far more democratic proposition than an undertaking like the U.S. space program which depends on the IRS to confiscate people's money and give it to NASA, whether that's where people want their money to go or not. If someone believes in what First Foundation is trying to accomplish then they put their sweat and treasure into the process. If they don't believe in it they pass it by.
I don't think the governments of the world will obstruct the colonization of the oceans or space. As long as we are not treading on their turf they will be largely blind to what we're doing. Only when the Aquarian League has attained the stature of a nation in its own right will we be even visible to them. There is no motive for them to stop us. If we are helping to address the problems of the world, this can only help their own vested interests in the long run. In short, national governments are unlikely to be of any help to us, but correspondingly, they are unlikely to be much of an impediment either.
Q: Is there any evidence that people would want to populate such colonies?
A: People will always seek a better life. Now they scale walls and stow away on freighters to reach countries where they think they will have a better future. All space colonies, beginning with the sea colonies, will represent a better life and more unlimited future to people, just as the First World represents these hopes to people of the Third World today. Even people who have very high standards of living will be motivated to emigrate to the sea and space colonies. The sea and space colonies, like the frontiers of the past, will beckon with the promises of increased freedom and opportunities. Even without these allures, many people will choose life in the colonies because it represents movement along the path towards the dream of our ultimate destiny among the stars. Rare and valuable as true pioneers are, there has never been a shortage of people willing to pull up stakes and move to a new frontier. I don't think that has changed, and if anything, there is a great pent up demand for new horizons. Finding people willing to live in the colonies will never be the greatest of our problems.
Q: How many sea colonies would be needed for the plan to work?
A: The Millennial Project can be carried forward with as few as a half dozen sea colonies the size of Aquarius. Once we know how to build them, however, and have demonstrated the economic viability of life at sea, it is likely that a large number of sea colonies will ultimately be built. How many and how large they grow is a matter of speculation.
The tropical seas provide an area suitable for OTEC of approximately 70 million square miles. This is larger than the combined land mass of all the continents. Every acre of this vast region is perfectly suited for this sort of development. Limitations due to ecological and energy concerns are the controlling factors. If sea colonies were found to require as much as a thousand square miles of ocean each to mitigate these concerns, the tropical seas could still accommodate over 70,000 of them. If a population of 150,000 people is determined, on average, to be the most desirable size for a sea colony, then the Aquarian League might eventually be home to over 10 billion.
Q: How would Aquarius be defended?
I don't think the risk of aggression from nations is very high, and danger from other sources like pirates is a remote possibility. There are numerous examples of tiny wealthy nations with big powerful neighbors who have virtually no means of defense. Monaco for example has nothing more than a small police force. It is very attractive real estate and contains an intense concentration of wealth, but no one invades Monaco. The situation of Aquarius will be more precarious because we are relatively isolated in the mid ocean, but even so, we can look at the republics of the central Pacific as an example. They are isolated, but aren't invaded. I'm a hopeless optimist, but I really think that the bad old days of naked national aggression are pretty much over.
It will require some deft political maneuvering on our part, but I think it will be feasible to have ourselves covered under whatever blanket treaties are maintaining peace in our preferred part of the world, ASEAN, for example. Or perhaps we can have ourselves declared a protectorate of some small country which has treaty relations with major maritime powers. Through some such linkage we might be able to put ourselves under the broad umbrella of the U.S. Navy, without putting ourselves under the thumb of the U.S. Congress.
The world being the violent and unpredictable place it is, however, we will still need to make provisions for our own defense. I think a very credible defensive arsenal can be put in place at a tiny fraction of the cost of conventional forces. One of the main defensive measures I have in mind is the "FOG bank". FOG stands for "Fiber Optically Guided". The optical fiber is spun out from the projectile as it flies along and guidance information is sent from an operator who is safely ensconced in a bunker up to ten miles away. FOG missiles and torpedoes can be directed to their targets with great precision, since they remain under the direct control of a human operator right up until the moment of impact. It would be utter folly to pit a squadron of $40 million dollar fighter bombers against hundreds of cheap, fast, lethal FOG missiles flown with absolute fearlessness by 14 year old Nintendo jockeys.
Defending ourselves against nuclear threats will be as futile in Aquarius as it is in Chicago. So we will just have to hope for the best on that score, and avoid giving anyone a good reason to put us at the top of their targeting roster.
Defending against lesser threats like criminals and terrorists will require a citizen defense force along the lines of that in Switzerland. Essentially every capable adult who is willing to do so will be given training in emergency medical procedures, fire fighting, damage control, and police duties. These people will go about their normal business until there is a problem. Each of them will carry redundant communications devices that will tie them instantly into the emergency services network of the colony. When a problem arises, these people will be alerted and will take the appropriate action. It is not unreasonable to expect that 10 or 20% of the colonists will be available for response to a variety of emergent situations. This system will not only dramatically reduce the costs of emergency services, but will also make the colony a far safer place to live.
Q: How will we handle the question of nationhood?
A: This is a potentially thorny problem that must be handled delicately. As we grow, the sea colonies and later the space colonies will have the potential to appear quite threatening to the existing political order. Laws of the sea already forbid any nation from declaring sovereignty over part of the ocean. We must conduct our affairs so that we do not spark a confrontation between ourselves and existing nations or organizations like the UN
This can be accomplished rather easily through an ingenious expedient that was originated by one of our members. His suggestion is that Aquarius remain a ship. The colony is started by a seed ship which provides the initial source of OTEC power. Rather than beginning by accreting separate structures, we will begin by accreting onto the ship. The ship will then become subsumed within the structure of the growing island. From a legal standpoint however, the colony never at any time ceases to be a ship. Somewhere at the top of the highest radio antenna at the peak of Aquarius will flutter a little tiny flag of Panama or Liberia, or some other flag of convenience. The entire colony will then rest comfortable under the aegis of centuries of legal precedent in maritime law. We are no threat to anyone's sovereignty, and we maintain our identity as a political entity that everyone can more or less understand. This solution solves many problems and also gives us a framework on which to build our social structure. Being a ship establishes a preexisting body of precedent that provides a social framework while still allowing enough latitude to build a novel and hopefully better society for ourselves.
Q: What is the approximate time table for the Millennial Project?
A: The best way to envision it is imagine each phase of the project requiring roughly twice the time of the previous phase:
- Aquarius Rising Phase - Present to 2004: We will build and operate Aquarius Rising, a land-based prototype sea colony on the island of St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
- Pre-Aquarius Phase - 2004 to 2008: We will build a floating sea colony inside a lagoon in either the central Pacific or Indian Ocean.
- Aquarian Phase - 2008 to 2016: With the technologies we have perfected in the prototype colonies we will go off shore and build Aquarius as an autonomous floating city situated in international waters.
- Bifrost Phase - 2016 to 2032: Financed by the wealth created by Aquarius and its sister colonies we construct a low cost launch system-the Bifrost Bridge or something like it. With cheap access to space, we build orbital colonies.
- Avallon Phase - 2064 to 2125: Building on the mining infrastructure established to construct orbital colonies we terraform lunar craters for human and animal habitation.
- Elysium Phase - 2125 to 2250: As humanity expands in the solar system we begin the terraformation of Mars. Completion of this process will take many centuries, but it will be well under way by the end of this phase.
- Solarian Phase - 2250 to 2500: Growth of a large scale human civilization throughout the solar system. At an average sustained rate of growth of around 2%, the overall population of the solar system will be on the order of 500 billion by the end of this phase. This is by no means a full-fledged K2 culture, but it is a hundred times the present human population and should be ample to at least begin building starships.
- Galactic Phase - From 2500 to 3000 - By the beginning of the Fourth Millennium, there should be human colonies out to a distance of 40 or 50 light years. This will form humanity's toehold on the galaxy and will be the tap root from which springs the rest of galactic civilization.