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Fix capitalism with floating cities on Venus says Charles Stross

Brit SciFi author feels Mars colonies or fusion reactors lack ambition

Concept art showing lightning strike on Venus. Credit: J Whatmore

As an economist, Charles Stross might just make a very good science fiction writer, because he's just suggested colonising Venus is a fine way to ensure the continuation of the species while also solving the crises effecting capitalism.

In a post challengingly-titled The prospects of the Space and Freedom Party reconsidered in light of the crisis of 21st century capitalism, Stross offers a response to Thomas Piketty's Capital in the 21st Century, a tome currently generating lots of buzz around the world for its suggestion that capitalism makes the rich richer but doesn't offer much chance for advancement because capital never quite trickles down as advertised.

Stross suggests overturning that state of affairs with really big projects that divert capital into projects so colossal they'll make a big difference and create new capital, but in the long-term rather than the shorter periods of time investors generally prefer.

His first candidate is fusion power, but he rejects that idea as too small as it only needs “will plausibly soak up $25-50Tn and take 10-30 years to roll out while needing 30-60 years to break even and start to provide a return on the capital investment”, sums he deems “small beer”.

A project he thinks can really crash through capitalism's crises is colonising Venus. Or at least Venus' atmosphere, a region where he says “... the pressure drops to between 1.0 and 0.5 that of the Earth's atmosphere at the surface, and the temperature declines to between 30 and 70 celsius.”

“A balloon or Zeppelin full of human-breathable air would actually float as well in the troposphere of Venus as a hydrogen balloon does on Earth,” he adds, presumably imagining floating human colonies.

“Let's just say that my money would be on a million people living in the clouds of Venus being both cheaper and faster to achieve than getting a million people living on or below the surface of Mars,” he says, before finishing with the following challenge:

“So. Should we encourage the custodians of the shitpiles of capital that are damaging our global social fabric to atone for their sins by offering them huge long-term investment opportunities in colonizing Venus and rolling out commercial thermonuclear fusion reactors? (Both worthy(ish) projects that demand a fuckton of money and time which, in our current circumstances, the shrunken machinery of government simply can't afford.) Or should we try and take their hoards away via some other means? And if so, what?”

Or what indeed, dear readers. ®

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