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The Business Model of SpaceX is a Quintessentially American Fraud

June 6, 2017 19 comments

I have been meaning to write this particular post for a few months now, but was not sure how to compress into something that can be comfortably read in one sitting. On the other hand, aiming for too much optimization and perfection is probably not helpful for getting things done and posted. So here it is..

The main point of this post, stripped down to its absolute minimum, is that the business model of SpaceX is a uniquely american-style fraud. Note, I am not saying that corporations like SpaceX are incapable of making a profit someday in the future. My issues with their business model concern the many claims made by them about their future prospects, especially about their advertised potential for future growth, profit and services.

To be fair, the business model of SpaceX is Elon Musk‘s second largest fraud- after Tesla Inc. FYI- My criticism of the business model of Tesla Inc is not based on whether electric cars are practical or viable (they are both). It has to do with the claims made by Musk about how electric cars will displace internal combustion because the former will become somehow cheaper or more functional than the later. But that issue is best left for another day.

It is an open secret that Tesla Inc market capitalization has no link to the number of cars it can sell. How else can you explain a corporation selling less than 80 thousand automobiles a year being considered more valuable than one that sells 10 million a year. As you will soon see, the public image of SpaceX’s future potential is also largely based on a combination of extremely wishful (ok.. highly delusional) thinking and silly valley-style optimism. Along the way you will also see why I say that it is a quintessentially american fraud.

So let me list the many ways that SpaceX’s business model is based on a public relations-led fraud.

1] Everything SpaceX has achieved to date is based on half-century old research funded by the american government. Yes, you heard that right! SpaceX’s launchers are based on technology and fundamental research done by the public sector decades ago. Furthermore, unlike the older corporations comprising United Launch Alliance (Boeing, Lockheed etc), it has not really invented or discovered anything more innovative than making the lower stages of their rockets land vertically and streaming HD videos from them.

SpaceX’s business model is based on PR promoting themselves as innovative while being dependent on decades old research as well as direct and indirect government largess. It certainly helps that there are enough idiots in the world who will buys flashy hype. In other words, the business model of SpaceX is very similar to Tesla Motors and pretty much every single corporation (startup or otherwise) in Silly Valley. As I will show you in the next couple of paragraphs, their claim of being the cheapest space launch system is based on a gross misrepresentation- on many levels.

2] Elon Musk’s is trying to sell the dream that it is possible to build a few dozen launchers and then simply refuel and fly them over and over again for say 10-20 times before building new ones. To put it another way, he wants you to believe that it is possible to make space launch systems that are more like commercial airliners than conventional space launch systems. There is just one problem with that idea.. it is based on what can be best described as optimistic bullshit.

Rocket engines, you see, are rather different from most other types of engines in that they work under conditions of extreme heat and pressure and with a very tiny margin of mechanical safety. They have to so because of the conditions necessary for their operations and the need to keep weight down. While it has been possible to build potentially reusable Kerosene-LOX engines of the type used by SpaceX for decades now, there haven’t been any takers. Even the ex-USSR, and Russia, preferred to use new engines rather than reuse engines even when they knew that the later would OK after refurbishment and testing.

But why? Why did countries like the ex-USSR which made them in tens of thousands prefer to use new engines than use ones they knew could be reused. Well.. it comes down to a cost and risk calculation. Rocket engines, even the most simplified and robust ones, are always one tiny defect away from blowing up. It is easier to be certain about the lack of tiny but fatal defects in a newly built engine than a refurbished one. Moreover the cost of a refurbished engine blowing up once in a while exceeds the cost of using freshly built engines. Also refurbishing and testing used engines can get almost as expensive as building new ones from scratch.

3] The launch costs of a spacecraft, especially a satellite or space probe, are often the smallest part of the program budget. Yes.. you heard that right, launch costs for satellites are often significant lower than costs of designing, building and testing them- not to mention ground support for the next 10-15 years. My point is that launch costs for a satellite or any spacecraft (which is not a disposable transport vessel) are usually less than 20% of the “Total Cost of Ownership” for that particular spacecraft program. In other words, launch costs are not a particularly big concern to organisations whose primary operations require reliable and long-lived spacecraft. And this brings us the next point..

4] Even if we assume that SpaceX is actually cost competitive, who will use their launch services? Here is a hint- almost nobody outside the USA. Here is why.. Countries such as Russia, China, India and Japan are going to use their own launch systems for a number of reasons such as ensuring national security, keeping their own scientists and engineers employed and maintaining national pride. Also, vertical integration of spacecraft and launcher programs create far more cost savings than using somebody else to launch your spacecraft using slightly cheaper launchers.Even European countries are unlikely to use SpaceX over their own ESA launch systems- even if they are a bit more expensive because it is about technology, jobs and security. Furthermore, countries other than those listed above are also unlikely to use SpaceX since countries like China already offer very competitive packages covering everything from satellite design and launch to post-launch support.

5] Even in USA, the launch business for commercial and military satellites is an oligopoly- one long dominated by well-known players such as Boeing, Lockheed-Martin and Thiokol. Did I mention that those corporations have much more money, and many paid lobbyists, than SpaceX? To make a long story short, Space X is unlikely to become the dominant player in the area of launching american spacecraft (at least in dollar terms) unless the other larger players screw up very badly. This is not to say that SpaceX cannot make a decent profit on launching some spacecraft for the american governments and USA-based corporations. SpaceX will run just fine as long as it is run as a conventional launch business.

My point is that SpaceX is bluffing and lying when it claims the ability to “disrupt” the space launch business or become the dominant global player in that sector. What is especially sad to see is the number of otherwise intelligent people who are willing to treat the press releases of that company as holy gospel. Then again the USA is full of self-delusional types who are confident of becoming multi-millionaires within the next decade. To summarize, the long-term (and even medium-term) business model of SpaceX is a confidence scam based on rosy and polished presentations combined with exhortations to positive thinking. And that is why I called it a quintessentially american fraud.

What do you think? Comments?

The Interesting Origins of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 Campaign Slogan

June 4, 2017 5 comments

A few months ago (before the 2016 american presidential election), I came across an interesting blog post which traced the origin of Hilary Clinton’s now infamous “I’m With Her” campaign slogan. The short version of the story is that it is almost the ad verbatim translation of the slogan for Paul von Hindenburg‘s 1932 campaign for the German presidency. For the record, Hindenburg won that election against Adolf Hitler. Paul Hindenburg died at age 86 in 1934 and the rest, as they say, is history.

FYI: “Mit Ihm” = “With Him” or “I Am With Him”.

What do you think? Comments?

My Opinion about the ‘Ancient Astronaut’ Theory: 2

Towards the end of the previous post in this series, I wrote something to the effect that mythical accounts suggesting sporadic, transient and accidental contact between extraterrestrials and human beings are far more likely than those which claim purposeful, extended and prolonged contact between the two. To put it another way, the Sumerian or Babylonian myth of Oannes is far more likely to be evidence of an extraterrestrial visiting earth than, for example, the construction of Giza pyramid complex or any other large bronze-age (and earlier) buildings and structures found in Egypt or other parts of the world.

One my major issues with people such as Erich von Däniken, Zecharia Sitchin or Giorgio Tsoukalos are their attempts to pass off large man-made ancient structures as evidence of extraterrestrials helping human beings, even when it is pretty clear than humans built those structures by themselves. Much of the willingness, among their audience, to believe such bullshit comes from the still prevalent general belief that all people in previous eras (especially in bronze-age and pre-bronze age times) were stupid, primitive and generally incapable barbarians. However, even a brief look at modern archaeological evidence show that was not the case.

It is clear that even pre-bronze age human beings were quite capable of exploring and manipulating the world around them- even if they did so in ways that are not immediately familiar to us. For example: The indigenous people of central america were able to selectively breed an otherwise barely-edible grass known as Teosinte into Maize almost 10,000 years ago. Similarly, the selective breeding of a number of edible plants from potatoes to wheat and rice- all of which occurred before the bronze age suggest that human beings in those eras were just as clever as those living today.

The domestication of certain livestock species, such as cattle, from problematic wild ancestors such as Aurochs also occurred before the bronze age (or very close to its start). Of course, not all species of livestock were that difficult to domesticate and some such as pigs and goats can easily revert to their wild phenotypes. My point is that we should not underestimate the intellectual capacity and ability of human beings from previous eras- even if their mental model of the world around them was rather different from ours.

Moreover there is evidence that technologies were often discovered and then lost in the pre-printed book era. A good example of this is Concrete, which was made and extensively used by Romans only to be lost and then rediscovered almost 1,500 years later. Or take the Antikythera mechanism which is a , pretty complex, geared astronomical calculator made over 2000 years ago. Even fairly large and complex technologies like those behind the sanitation and drainage systems of the Indus Valley civilization can be lost for thousands of years. The mere presence of seemingly advanced technology does not, by itself, prove that extraterrestrials were interacting with or teaching human beings in the past.

And this brings us to the next issue: Is it possible to group instances of alleged historical extraterrestrial-human contact into categories based, perhaps, on their likelihood of being based in fact? After giving this problem some thought, I have come to the conclusion that the best way to categorize alleged instances of extraterrestrial-human contact cannot be binary (as in ‘yes’ or ‘no’) since the classification too much certainty. A better way to classify them would be as follows: high unlikely, ambiguous and somewhat likely.

The highly unlikely, aka basically impossible, category is the largest of the three. It contains ancient mega-structures such as the Giza pyramid complex, the Megaliths at Baalbek, Moai on Easter Island, Stonehenge in UK, other Megalithic structures and complexes in Europe, Mesoamerican pyramids and pretty much all of the very impressive structures built in the stone- and early bronze-age. Note use of the words “pretty much all” rather than “all”. We will come back to that in future parts of this series. The common feature of all objects (mostly structures) in this category is that they appear mysterious only because so many people today think that people in the past were totally stupid savages.

Based on more recent archaeological finds such as the massive and long-used religious complex at Göbekli Tepe, we know that even stone-age humans were far more organized than even “experts” had previously imagined. Let us also not forget that certain parts of the world with the potential for rich archaeological finds such as the Persian Gulf and coastal areas of the Black Sea were above water during the last ice-age which ended about 10-12k years ago. To put in another way, what we consider as “human civilization” very likely began at least a few thousand years before the dates given by conventional historical guidelines.

It is therefore not surprising that humans around the world had the capability and organization to build large stone mega-structures much earlier than is popularly believed. This is why I am very skeptical about those who want to interpret any ancient stone mega-structure as evidence of extraterrestrials interacting with and helping human beings. The case for extraterrestrial assistance or inspiration in building such structures would be stronger if they were built of materials other than stone or were built in hard-to-reach locations where they did not serve any obvious purpose.

In future parts of this series, I will look at examples of physical evidence that is ambiguous or somewhat likely.

What do you think? Comments?

The Genius of Kathy Griffin’s Intentionally Inflammatory Photo Shoot

May 31, 2017 18 comments

More than a few of you might have (by now) come across news, photos or video clips showing the controversial photo shoot by Kathy Griffin holding what resembles a bloody severed head with vague resemblance to Donald Trump. Predictably many on the right have blown their gasket or are pretending to be offended. A few like Mike Cernovich, aka one of Thiel’s butt boys, are even celebrating making CNN say that they won’t have her on their new year show. Frankly, I find all of this funny and predictable. But that is not the real story..

The real story is how Kathy Griffin, an otherwise forgettable but clever celebrity, has played the system like a maestro.

Not sure what I am talking about? Let me explain. Kathy Griffin, you see, is no newcomer to the entertainment and celebrity scene. She has been in the entertainment industry with a high degree of regularity since at least the early 1990s. Her career longevity is even more remarkable when you consider huge premiums on youth and looks in the entertainment industry. My point is that she is very good at playing the game of getting hired and remaining relevant. So you can be sure that she has done her homework before doing yesterday’s controversial photo shoot.

So why did she do a photo shoot which was certain to raise hell and result in some temporary setbacks? What is she trying to achieve? What does she hope to gain? And how is she playing the system? Well.. let me explain.

1] Kathy Griffin understands her real employers very well. She know that pretty much everyone with any real hiring power in the entertainment sector detest Donald Trump as a president. She also knows that those same people also have nothing but contempt for all those flyover country rubes who voted for Trump. In other words, the people with real hiring power in that sector are not going to boycott her. If anything, her little controversy is going to elicit their admiration and support behind closed doors resulting in more employment- not less. Face it, she just did what many of them would have loved to do in person but did not or could not.

2] She also understands that her core audience, and major source of income from performances, live in affluent coastal states who vote heavily for democrats. Once again, she put into her photo shoot what a majority of her audience already think and say behind closed doors. While she might lose a few gigs in flyover country, the number of gigs in coastal states will not be affected except perhaps in the very short-term. Once Trump does a few more stupid and unpopular things, nobody is going to care about the offensiveness of that particular photo shoot.

3] Her photo shoot went after the most controversial and generally unpopular president in living memory. You might remember that many more people have marched against Trump after he was elected than have attended his inauguration. Furthermore, the USA as a country is more polarized and divided today than at any time in living memory. Also, many hardcore democrats are aware of how republicans encouraged similar gestures against Obama when he was elected in 2008 and 2012. Consequently, Kathy knows that she is not going to lose the majority of her loyal audience. In fact, it is likely that she will become more popular and richer because of that stunt.

4] Republicans living in flyover country do not count for much (if anything) as far as their discretionary income is concerned. Consequently their disapproval or willingness to boycott is largely meaningless. People in the entertainment sector are far more concerned about antagonizing sensibilities of consumers in China than of those living in flyover country. We can certainly talk about whether this is fair or not, but we cannot deny that those living in flyover country no longer have power to influence the course of popular culture in USA. They just have not accepted it yet.

To summarize, Kathy Griffin recent controversial photo shoot was a clever and calculated move. She knew exactly what she was doing, where it would lead to, what short-term problems would arise from it and how it would improve her long-term prospects. She played the system, especially internet outrage from the alt-right types, like a pro. You do not have to like somebody to appreciate the quality of their scheming, cynicism and deviousness.

What do you think? Comments?

Attempts to Implement a Beef Ban in India Will Backfire Badly

May 30, 2017 5 comments

A few of you might have heard about recent attempts by the right-wing-ish ruling party in India to implement a ban of people eating beef through a number of laws and rules. While I seldom write posts about events in India, especially nowadays, this attempt to implement a beef ban in India is very likely to generate a particularly nasty and systemic backlash against that party.

First, a bit of background. See.. many of you think Indians don’t consume Beef and worship Cows etc. However that is not true, especially in certain parts of India. Most Muslims in India, which has the second largest Muslim population in the world, eat Beef. Perhaps more importantly, non-Muslims in certain parts of India such as the North-east, Kerala, Goa and much of the west coast of India, large Metropolitan areas do eat Beef- even if they might not cook it in their homes.

Furthermore, the livelihood of many hundreds of thousands of people in India is linked to butchering and processing cattle for meat, leather etc. More problematically, many of those people belong to certain religions, castes and ethnicities- the reasons for which will become clearer later in the post. Then there is the problem of collateral antagonism from such actions. Anyway, I think it is best to list all the reasons why this Beef ban has an extremely high likelihood of backfiring on the ruling party.

1] Imposing your dietary beliefs, especially if they are based in religion, onto other people is likely to generate an especially harsh backlash. Have you ever wondered why previous national governments in India never seriously tried to ban butchering cattle? Here is a hint- they wanted to rule, and steal from the people, in relative peace. The simple fact is that India is not (and never was) a mono-religious or mono-ethnic country. Functional governance of such a diverse country requires the accommodation of populations with conflicting beliefs aka being pragmatic.

2] Most people who profess Hinduism in India are not especially religious. I would go so far as to say that making money is (and always has been) the real religion of India. Consequently, most Hindus do not see butchering cattle as inherently problematic, as long as they are not the ones doing it. It is no secret that most dairy farmers in India love the money made from selling older cattle to slaughterhouses for meat. Let us be realistic, why would dairy farmers keep on feeding livestock cattle who no longer serve their main function?

3] Butchering and handling dead animals has, for some fucked up religious reasons, been traditionally seen as lower-caste professions in India. Then again, jobs which involve honest and useful work are usually seen as low-caste in Hinduism. The end result of this belief system is that those involved in the whole business of butchering and processing animals are from the so-called “untouchable” castes or Muslims. Did I mention that those belonging to those castes and religions have no interest in being good Hindus? Also they do vote, in very high percentages.

4] The ruling party trying to push the Beef ban, known as the BJP, has historically been seen as the party of reactionary small businessmen from certain castes. In other words, most people in India have a less than favorable opinion of that party. The two main reasons why the BJP came into power in mid-2014 was the collapse of the previous ruling party and the current prime minister being able to project the image of being a competent and fairly secular manager. In other words, the ability of BJP to win any future elections depends on it being able to provide secular, as opposed to religious, goods and services.

5] The current prime minister (Narendra Modi) and his underlings have, so far, been able to provide competent and relatively scandal-free governance. They have been able to approve and speed up many important infrastructure projects, reform government rules and regulations, improve government transparency etc. To put it another way, the first three years of their five-year term have been reasonably good. However over the last three months, they have started dabbling into areas that are not linked to providing secular goods and services.

6] Some of their dabbling into non-secular areas, such as trying to make muslim divorce laws fairer towards women, have been generally well received. However that particular (and still ongoing attempt) at such intervention is largely seen as beneficial in secular terms. In contrast to that, immiserating and impoverishing millions of people via a Beef ban is likely to some up against very determined and prolonged opposition. Also, unlike attempts to reform muslim personal law, such laws will be perceived as religious discrimination.

7] While most muslims in India are fairly moderate and not that religious, it is likely that laws which discriminate against and impoverish them will lead to prolonged civil agitation- to put it mildly. At this stage it is also worth mentioning that many of the so-called “untouchable” castes, who are also involved in the business of processing animals, will likely see this as an attack on their identity and livelihood by a party made up of middle-caste small businessmen Hindus. It is not a good idea to piss off and motivate 20-25% of your population against yourself, especially if the reason for doing so are minor.

8] The popularity of Narendra Modi in India is largely linked to his ability to, so far, efficiently deliver secular goods and services. His administration has also, so far, been able to avoid major civil disturbances and breakdown of governance in most of India. In other words, the popularity of him (and the BJP party) are contingent on providing increasing prosperity AND security. It does not take a rocket scientist to figure out that any legislation which would create prolonged civil disturbances would not be helpful for improving public perception about internal safety and security.

9] But perhaps most importantly, most Hindus (especially in the more affluent parts of India) have little interest in inconveniencing themselves over something trivial as butchering cattle. Also certain states in India have enough people who consume Beef or depend on cattle butchering as a livelihood for such legislation to make implementation of such legislation very problematic- to put it mildly. Furthermore, the majority of Indians have (for very good reasons) a pretty unfavorable view of government rules and regulations. My point is that trying to push such laws and rules will encounter much more determined resistance than support.

In summary, this attempt by the BJP to target muslims and certain so-called “untouchable” castes is a remarkably stupid idea- especially from the point of maintaining political power. The best case scenario is that they will soon read the writing on the proverbial wall and cut their losses. The worse case scenario is that they end up creating conditions for prolonged civil disturbances in addition to losing power in 2019. Either way, the BJP fucked up with their attempt at banning Beef.

What do you think? Comments?

My Opinion about the ‘Ancient Astronaut’ Theory: 1

May 27, 2017 6 comments

In the previous post, I wrote about my thoughts on why tv shows about “ancient astronauts” are still popular and what that says about the popular mood in the west. The main point I was trying to make is that belief in “ancient astronauts” is the secular version of belief in existence of traditional gods and other mystical/ mythical beings in a previous era. But what about the central question.. you know.. is the “ancient astronaut” theory correct or even feasible?

My short answer is: Yes, but with certain caveats.

The longer version is a bit more complicated and will not make people on either side of the issue happy. But then again, I do not write this blog to make people happy. I simply give you my opinion about issues- whether it is about how to use escorts, the nature of “civilization” and human beings or some recent controversial event. Also unlike many others (especially credentialed morons) I explore a number of alternate possibilities in a systematic manner- even if I do not care about them.

Let us start by trying to answer the first major question: Do extraterrestrial species capable on interstellar travel exist?

The answer to the first major question starts with estimating the likelihood of life (of any kind) on planets other than earth- either in our galaxy or in neighboring galaxies. If you regard life as a series of complex chemical process which can arise under some set of environmental conditions and with a certain probability, then our galaxy (and the rest of the universe) is full of planets which harbor life in some form or the other- even if it is largely in the form of single-celled organisms.

I am not, therefore, claiming that the universe is full of planets hosting life forms with self-awareness and the ability to travel between star systems. Having said that, it is very likely that given enough time, a small minority of planets harboring life (in any form) will go on to host more complex multi-cellular and differentiated forms such as those seen in fossil record of earth.

To make a long story short- if you believe that life is a chemical process based in probability, given sufficient time a small (but not insignificant) number of planets will eventually host intelligent and self-aware species. If we take this idea to its logical conclusion, it is almost certain that there have been multiple independent instances of self-aware species attaining levels of technology which make it possible for them to travel between stars.

Provided they do not subsequently destroy themselves through war, ego or greed- such species could end up becoming very long-lived. It also goes without saying that extraterrestrial species capable of interstellar travel would also have the technology to be basically immortal- for all practical purposes. In other words, extraterrestrial species capable on interstellar travel are an inevitable consequence of life being a chemical process whose creation and evolution are governed by chance and probability.

But would such extraterrestrial species want to visit earth and chill with human beings or somehow influence our evolution?

This particular question has two parts. Firstly, would they explore or visit earth or other planets in the first place? Secondly, would they take a special interest in human beings to the point of deliberately interacting with them or influencing their evolution?

It goes without saying that any species which has developed the capability for interstellar travel will use it to explore their stellar neighborhood. Over time, such species will end up exploring a larger and larger volume of their (and our) galaxy. It is almost inevitable, given sufficient time, that one or more spacefaring species will come across the solar system and discover earth.

Now, this could have occurred 2 billion years ago or it could happen tomorrow morning. My point is that, the discovery of earth by such spacefaring extraterrestrial species is also almost inevitable. Also, my hunch is that such a discovery is far more likely to occur via indirect means (space probes) than direct ones (actual visits).

But would they want to intentionally interact with human beings or influence their evolution or technological development?

Well.. let me ask you a counter question. Would you try to communicate with termites in some termite hill you came across when you were on vacation in some exotic part of the world? Sure, you might take a few photos of the mound and perhaps even briefly study a very small percentage of its inhabitants. But at the end of the day, you simply wont’t care about some species on the other side of your world that poses no challenge or possibility for genuine interaction with yourself.

Similarly, it is very unlikely that extraterrestrial species capable of interstellar travel would demonstrate serious interest in human beings unless we reach a technological level where worthwhile and genuine interaction is possible. This is not to say that there would be no interaction whatsoever. However it is very likely that such interaction would be sporadic and somewhat accidental rather than sustained and methodical.

In other words, accounts of extraterrestrial contact which fit the sporadic and accidental contact pattern are far more credible than those which recall extended contact between extraterrestrials and human beings. So the Sumerian myth of Adapa is much more likely to be based on an actual instance of such contact than extraterrestrial being involved in building of Giza pyramid complex. The description of Vimanas in ancient Hindu and Buddhist texts are pretty close to what one might expect for spacecraft capable of landing on, and taking off, from planets such as earth.

It is also worthwhile to note that instances of non-natural objects flying in a controlled manner in the sky have been reported since the 2nd millenium BC. More than a few of these accounts contain details that are just too peculiar to be explained as natural phenomena or hallucinations. Moreover, these accounts document sporadic and very brief contact with appear to be probes capable of flying in the atmosphere.

To summarize, I think that extraterrestrial species capable of travelling between star systems are almost inevitable. Furthermore, if such species exist (very likely) they are almost certainly aware of the existence of earth and have likely visited it in some manner on more than one occasion. It also likely that some instances of such brief visits or encounters have been documented, albeit in a distorted form, within the mythological narratives of multiple tribes or nations. I am however very skeptical of accounts which suggest extraterrestrials making extended or systemic contact with humans.

What do you think? Comments?

On the Continued Popularity of “Ancient Aliens” Type TV Shows

May 24, 2017 7 comments

A couple of months ago, I decided to write more posts about things other than current political developments. Well.. as many of you can see, so far, I have not been too successful with doing that for a number of reasons- some of which have to do with a lot of developments in the political arena of many countries including the USA. So let us get back to the topic at hand.

I first considered writing this particular post about 3-4 months when flipping through channels on my TV sometime very late at night. While not a fan of most TV channels or their “programming”, the less conventional ones can be sometimes interesting. Anyway, while flipping through all those channels I came across yet another rerun of some episode of “Ancient Aliens“. While I don’t remember the specifics of that particular episode, it was produced sometime in 2015.

A look at the imdb webpage of that show revealed that this show was being still produced and had completed 12 seasons in 7 years. The next thought that came to my mind was.. why? Why was a show like this still in production? And why are people still watching it? Have we not had enough of shows based on people looking for monsters, ghosts, spirits, bigfoot etc? The answer to one of those questions came rather quickly when I looked at the content on other channels. Let me explain..

The idea underlying this series, and other similar ones, is that intelligent extraterrestrial species visited earth in the past and interacted with human beings- aka the Ancient Astronauts theory. While “skeptics” and other assorted credentialed morons who take scient-ism too seriously might want to believe otherwise, the idea that intelligent extraterrestrials species might have visited earth in the past (including human pre-history) is an idea that is highly feasible as well as more likely than not.

More than a few scientists, including people like the late Carl Sagan, have seriously entertained the possibility that a small percentage of the weird stories found in traditional religions might be a distorted account of encounters with extraterrestrial intelligence visiting earth. I mean.. unless the evolution of life and evolution are somehow unique to earth, it is virtually guaranteed that there are more than a few intelligent species capable of inter-stellar travel in our galaxy alone. My point is that the idea underlying that series is highly feasible and likely.

But coming back to that series.. Why do so many people still watch it? Aren’t most episodes of that show full of really tenuous and speculative stuff. Then again, why don’t we ask that question about all those “crime procedural” shows or sitcoms full of outlandish characters and situations? How many viewers of popular sitcoms from Seinfeld and Friends (in the past) to BBT and HIMYM (now) believe that are based on anything approaching reality? What about “reality” shows? How many actually believe that “Real Wives of insert name of some large city” or some “survival” show believe that they are watching something real?

My point is that connection to reality has nothing to do with the success of a show, whether it is on TV or the Internet.

But this still does not explain why people watch such a show in the first place. Let me explain that point a bit more clearly. See, some people watch sitcoms because they like the story or somehow want to identify with one or more of the characters. The appeal of ” reality” shows is based on their ability to titillate and grab the viewers attention- kinda like watching the aftermath of a really bad traffic accident. But what about a show like “Ancient Aliens”? What emotional need does watching such a show satisfy?

The answer to that question can be best understood by posing a counter question- why were such shows not successful in the era between the 1950s-1990s? There are a few factors behind that. The media market, for one, was far more of an oligopoly than it is today. The cost for entry into the field of producing show for TV etc was also much higher than today. But there is a still bigger reason..

The west, especially USA, was a far more hopeful place as late at the 1990s.

But was does hope for a better future have to do with the lack of general interest in shows about aliens visiting the earth during human pre-history? To better understand what I saying, ask yourself the another question- Why were shows and movies based in science fiction so popular during that era and why were they hopeful instead of gritty, dark and dystopic? We,.. for one, this was also the era when the application of science and technology provided massive increases in the quality of life as well as making affordable what can previously considered luxurious.

Since then.. things have not been going too well in the west. Today science and technology is associated with corporate abuse, social atomization, decreasing standards of living, neoliberal technocracy and scient-ism. It is worth noting that the actions and behavior of scientists and academics have also contributed to the rather dismal public image of science. To put it another way, science and technology are no longer connected to hope for a better future and there is no traditional religious bullshit to fall back on. Moreover many other entertainment options, from traditional sitcoms to “reality” shows, contain reminders (direct or indirect) about how the world around you is generally shitty and becoming more so with every passing day.

In such an environment, shows which promote the idea that human ancestors once interacted with space-faring aliens is uniquely positive. Furthermore these shows also promote the idea that human beings, too, could one day in the future become another universally affluent and comfortable space-faring species. As you might have noticed, that particular belief was once the focal point of many successful and optimistic sci-fi shows and films as late the mid-1990s. Then neo-liberalism assumed its full form (after the demise of USSR) and things simply have not been the same since that time. To summarize shows like “Ancient Aliens” are popular because they fill the gap left by the demise of a hopeful future based on science and technology improving the lives of average people.

What do you think? Comments?