Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Network Government

Instabastard, in his HackCentralStation form (Form 3, Second Most Powerful of his Four Evil Glenn Forms), discusses NASA's new approach: grants by prize! Sayeth the Evil Glenn, Form 3:

"In a way, though, what's really revolutionary isn't this stuff -- people have been talking about, and, in a small way, working on, Solar Power Satellites for pretty much my entire lifetime -- but the way it's being done. As some of us have argued for a while, a prize program like this one has a lot to offer.

Instead of going for a massive Apollo (or worse, Space Shuttle) sort of program, NASA is attacking the problem incrementally, and it's getting other minds involved. The way the prize program is structured (contestants get to keep their own intellectual property) encourages people to participate, and the goals get more ambitious over time."

Here is the grist for Glenn's demonic mill. It's Alan Boyle from, the Space Editor (my, how I woud like to edit space). Here describes the program thusly:

"Although the space agency will put up the prize money, the contests will be administered by the Spaceward Foundation, a California-based group that started planning the contests last year.

'We are thrilled with our partnership with NASA, and we're excited to take the Tether and Beam Power challenges to the next level,' said Meekk Shelef, president of the Spaceward Foundation.

Shelef and her colleagues at the foundation hope the contests will advance the concept of a space elevator, which proposes using climbing robots powered by light beams to carry payloads into outer space. Such elevators would travel on tethers extending tens of thousands of miles above the surface of the Earth. If feasible, such a system could dramatically reduce the cost of access to space."

This is smart in a number of ways. First, it creates real competition, and allows the competitors to keep their intellectual property. You get a ton of sporadic R&D research from a ton of different sources, which is likely going to produce all kinds of results to reverberate through the aerospace industry and related prive market. Second, it builds the paradigm of "network government", a concept that collapses the role of government from doing governance and actual government to one of meta-governance. What? Let me break it down for you. Three models of government. . . 1) Traditional. Government finds vision (meta-governance), government makes policy (governance), government implements policy (government). 2) Contracted. Government finds vision (meta-governance), government makes policy( governance), contractor implements policy (government). Various perversions of 2) involve contractor working at the vision and policy stage. 3) Network. Government finds vision, provides funding (meta-governance). . .the rest is done by whoever! Private sector! Educational institutions! Churches! Regular People! Doesn't matter.

That's what the Spaceward Foundation and NASA's partnership is an example of. And with technology, or any research and development for that matter, it's a model of infinite possibility.