How long might it take to colonize the solar system - and how to make a mostly educated guess?
On one hand, we know that we are yet in the very beginning phase to develop technologies to make life in space sustainable.
For example, NASA's recently updated program on ISRU (in-situ i.e. on site resource utilization) has given grants to Blue Origin and others to explore how oxygen and methane could be produced on site for propellant production.
- ... the agency sought three areas of work focused on producing propellant and other exploration mission consumables using water from extraterrestrial soils and carbon dioxide from the Martian atmosphere.*
Realitic estimations require for at least several decades of technological progress, like here:
To make something actually practically useful, say, providing a constant supply of cells for an expanding space colony, would require at least several decades.
But then, there is the hypothesis about exponential pace of technological development, based not just on Moore's law but growing frequency of scientific discoveries and interaction speed. In the extreme case, technological singularity could take place technological singularity, i.e. a tipping point in human history after which we can't predict what happens.
From this follows that say a year in future might equal to a decade in the past in terms of technological progress.
This appears to me like a contradiction which I am not sure how to handle.
My question is how to formalize on this dilemma to make the choice on an argumentative basis or which sources to discussing it, because currently I think of the following and not sure of more solid argumentation beyond pure speculation.
- Option 1. There is no really exponential development proposed by Technical Singularity proponents, either it is stagnating due to limited of researchers and funds, maybe it is kind of pareto principle which will show more and more impact. (see image below from the book Singularity is Near) Note: the plot is a multi-plot from different sources.
Option 2. There is indeed exponential development and next years so many breakthroughs will come that what we think are several decades are actually just several years, and according to that interstellar travel could be even possible by 2050 (because, years 2045-2050 are kind of folded equivalent of say 1990-2030 for example). In this case, question is what could be the breakthrough path..
Option 3. As space colonization problem is exponentially complex, "several decades" is a linear timeline development resulting from exponential technology development meeting an exponential problem.
UPD I'm quite happy with the answers so far. The bottom line of the answer seems to be "the hypothesis about exponential development is not true because it is just a part of the logistic curve.