The Knowledge Ore

Is the Gravity Well worth the cost?

To move beyond the Gravity Well and create those human outposts beyond the Well will take a combined effort by nations, our own government, and private industry, with an annual bud- get of about $30 billion. This is a great deal of money, even in an economy worth $18 trillion. The amount NASA needs is comparable to someone with an income of $60,000 spending $100 on space. This is still serious money. Besides that, the effort itself constitutes enormous risk to human life.

If we limit our discussion to economics, however, most economists will tell you that a fully funded space program is eminently worth the price. But that misses even more important benefits. The technology required to send people and robots into space creates a huge amount of knowledge that can be used for other things. I call this expanse of knowledge—technology that can be extracted and used by private industry—“knowledge ore.” In terms of future wealth, it’s the equivalent of gold or oil, only with information.