Said E. Dawlabani, author of MEMEnomics: The Next-Generation Economic System and Chief Operating Officer of the Center for Human Emergence Middle East, offered his insights on Golden Spike’s (GSC) proposal to market transportation for manned lunar missions to government science agencies in the Middle East. In addition to offering the prestige of planting their flag on the moon, GSC proposes to use lunar missions to provide a jumpstart for STEM education and research in the region, just as the Apollo missions provided for the US 50 years ago. Dawlabani says the idea has lots of potential if the size of the local purse is not the initial driver. Rather, to make this work GSC will need to find places where the local culture can embrace the full range of modern scientific values (Orange in MEMEnomics terms to get the same meaning as the US got 40 years ago.
Dawlabani suggested Saudi Arabia’s KAUST (King Abdullah University of Science and Technology) as a focused target based on promising signs of indigenous potential. KAUST is building an ecosystem that is becoming the MIT of the Middle East, housing an IBM Shaheen, one of the world’s fastest computers, and taking the lead in solar powered desalination. Such endeavors will help make the Middle East a partner with the rest of the world as oil dries up.
The political model for the West sees Middle Eastern development is broken. The modern (Orange) view is to to extract natural resources and do physical development of the infrastructure. That era is over. Instead there is a need to develop human capacities, to grow the invisible institutions and nurture knowledge and the scientific paradigm. With an approach that champions economic policies that add to humanity and a partnership instead of exploitation, wealth can be spread. The Saudi King understands the challenges facing the Middle East’s future and is pioneering the use of science as the fundamental catalyst to “to rekindle and spread the great and noble virtue of learning that has marked the Arab and Muslim worlds in earlier times”. US STEM programs could take a lesson. Teaching the local culture what going to the moon is about will give justifiable pride in the creative process such projects can unleash. The Middle East is ripe for something like this to be done that could alter how the future emerges and how the West begins to view the Middle East.
The West can no longer approach the Middle East as a place to exploit. Money for resources is not the modern model. That era is over. Without a new approach the West can’t grow either. The social effect of American arrogance and greed reflects in our actions of extracting resources while insuring that dictators stay in power to safeguard the passage of these resources to the West. These same dictators killed thousands of their own people while we looked the other way. This has to come to an end. Orange values have long been a catalyst for change that help cultures emerge to higher values. A new level of business conciseness in the West sees you can only exploit and ignore for so long. Partnership in development is a mutually beneficial objective. This is an ideal project to support a superordinate goal for Arabs to become scientists. GSC can help Arabs appreciate the goal of inspiring all humanity to land on the moon and support technological growth at the same time. If their own people can do it, they can be empowered by what can be next. In the process, the entire region can begin to develop beyond extractive economies that that are not sustainable.
Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson has said that wanting to go to the moon or Mars leads to a creative process and an enormous investment in science that is on the cutting edge. Although the military in the past took leadership in creating new technology, after military use the technology becomes a catalyst for human use. For example the laser which was part of the cold war is now in the price scanners in every supermarket. There is an unseen benefit to exploration and scientific inquiry, although we don’t know what it looks like now. It will eventually become a consumer product that will improve the lives of people. The Apollo landings were with extremely primitive technology. When we went to the moon it was mesmerizing. The entire world was in awe.
From a Wired Magazine article the 1973 development of the first prototype cell phone took about 90 days, building on a Bell Labs concept started in 1947. GSC can use 40 years of technology developed by NASA and its contractors to do a similar quick start. Dawlabani expects that tomorrow’s lunar expeditions will find many things that Apollo’s primitive technology could not detect. Indeed, orbiters with sophisticated spectrographs have detected volatiles, so scientists are sure this will be so. This gives an incentive for the Middle East to be on the cusp of understanding these new materials, new technologies, new circuit boards. Sharing such technologies could lead to development in a more equal partnership, perhaps with places like KAUST taking point and putting science on the map again in the Middle East. The GSC idea offers a promise of peaceful development, both human and technological, that should be explored.