Didn’t attend ETech this week, but thanks to a Twitter pointer from Gene Becker, I did take a few breaks to participate in a collaborative future forecasting experiment at the event, organized by Institute For the Future / Signtific Labs. The general idea is to enlist game players to offer Twitter-like short notes with outlier ideas regarding a scenario under discussion, in this case the consequences of inexpensive ($100) 1kg microsatellites (“CubeSats”) capable of high speed networking and remote sensing. The same game framework could be used for any scenario, though. Bonus points are awarded to “Super-Interesting” ideas and ideas that result in additional discussion, which helped me out on the scoreboard.
Some of my favorite future forecast contributions from “What will you do when space is as cheap and accessible as the Web is today?” (slide summary here):
Jurisdiction-free data haven built with csats full of rad-hard flash memory, hbase-style distributed replication across multiple nodes. Subpoena-proof anonymizers, for better or worse. Alternative, universal internet currency evolves, outside any government’s central bank control. Following forced disclosure of banking client list, Swiss government recognizes anonymous cSat net IDs, followed by Cayman, Bermuda etc.
CSats deorbited in vacant areas of oceans as impulse input to passive sonar imaging. Oceanographers get great maps, submarines lose stealth. Depending on how accurately you can drop a CSat, you can effectively “ping” a region and listen to the return signal through existing arrays. This really messes with strategic deterrence since now subs are vulnerable to first strike. But CSat deorbit is cheap WMD for all. On the positive side, detailed acoustic propagation data leads to new insights on ocean dynamics – bathymetrics, thermoclines, currents, etc. A similar version of dropping CSats on land might yield useful seismic imaging. But these would all be surface impulse, not at depth.
Csat data networks circumvent the Great Firewall of China and other govt access controls, leading to broader/safer citizen engagement online
CSat operating interface is marketed as a toy, like Tamagochi. Recharge, collect interesting data, avoid mean csats, team with friends. Organizations might post cash prize/rewards for things like locating missing ships, oil/trash dumping at sea, smokestack emissions, etc
Commodity traders are early adopters of CSat operator networks. Looking for crop yield data, mine production volumes, freight shipments etc. Among other things, CSat observations could give a more accurate estimate of “floating” oil parked in tankers as well as ongoing demand. Similarly, you’d get a decent idea of iron ore production by watching BHP’s railway in Australia, and the demand side in China, Korea etc. CSat data could improve the market visbility into supply/demand. But one might start creating Potemkin mining/farming operations etc… Sadly, credit derivative risk is not observable via CSat.
Ubiquitous, near real time satellite surveillance. No more privacy outdoors. But really good Google Maps. Ultra high resolution terrain maps of the world synthesized from multiple satellite passes/viewing aspects. Long term studies of effects of erosion, farming, development, earthquakes, flooding, drought, etc. Insurgents, militias, and terrorists get real time tactical data feeds, make use of homebrew UAVs, sensors, and in-field dispatch from afar. Turf wars among poppy and marijuana growers who now know where each other’s fields are. All vehicles – car, truck, rail, container, airplanes, etc – get a sky-facing ID plate. Maybe these should just be really big QR codes with an authoritative registry to foil car thieves from painting on bogus “plates”.
Now I need to figure out how to collect that lab coat.