Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Builders Wanted!

Photo from "The Martian"
Space is a perfect industry for a rebirth of old ideals. Today software is king. Computer scientists, programmers, and entrepreneurs work to find the next silicon based solution to any problem. In space, information technology is important but not the end-all-be-all. Space is going to require people with practical knowledge who are willing to get their hands dirty. Mechanical engineers, mechanics, technicians, farmers, laborers, etc are going to be the careers in demand as space travel, and particularly, colonization begin to take off.

The reason software careers are so prevalent today on earth is because much of the infrastructure has already been created. The fiber has been laid, the computer production has been automated, the software engineers' houses have been built. Space does not have this physical infrastructure that allows information systems to operate. There is no way to created a more efficient habitat using an app on Mars if there is not an existing habitat.

Students who are in high school today, or even professional engineers currently, need to wrap their
head around the opportunity coming their way. People who build things are going to be needed. From the launch to the landing. Schools can also encourage this slightly by realizing that being a farmer or builder will have a future.

All this stuff that has to be created also is going to be entirely new. It will require new techniques of manufacturing, new design methodologies, new materials. When outfitting a lunar home you can't simply go to Ikea and grab a few coffee tables, though this may happen if a crunch arises.

Now, software will still be needed. Space will be highly robotics based. Unmanned system may prepare sites and build structures. This will require a huge amount of information technology and the programmers that go with it. But robots have their limits. And when it comes to creating things they are highly limited. (Yes the Singularity will likely change that but lets not go down that rabbit hole at the moment.) And there is still the issue of building the bodies of the robots that must perform these tasks.

Space is a frontier. In order to conquer a frontier "ideas" and "apps" are not enough, something must be built. And since this frontier is entirely new entirely new things must be built. Students and professionals might consider preparing just a little for the onslaught that will arrive in about a decade when space travel will be gaining speed. A smartphone cannot plow a field and a robot, currently, can't design furniture for a space station. In order to be a big part of space you will have to build something tangible.

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