Follow-up-question to this scenario:
~ 2750 A.D : Quite a few asteroids/celestial bodies have been move to a stable earth orbit and are beeing mined for ressources. I am currently designing the economy (cycle).

The economic situation in orbit:

  • Gold-rush style (deregulated, hypercapitalistic 'wild west')
  • Freelancers and a wide range of corporations mine the asteroids.
  • At the same time there is a big supporting industry for the miners. (from my research the safest way to get wealthy in the historical Gold-Rush)
  • The orbit is connected to earth by a number of industrial space elevators. There are many orbital facilities and production sites.
  • Much of the orbital resources are needed on earth.
  • Food is synthesized via modified algae and stem cells (for meat). Basically full taste, no environmental impact and optimized nutrition and can be produced in orbit, too.
  • With the availability of fusion reactors, even in micro-size (in the range of today's stove), energy is cheap.

Question: What commodity will be capable of competing when produced (or refined) on earth? Why does the orbital economy still need the earth? (economical, not for gravity and so on)

  • $\begingroup$ Just an idea but I think that marketing would try to make peoples believe that gold mined on earth is better for your soul than the gold mines on asteroids. "organic/natural gold" or something like that. Even if you are mining gold on asteroids some peoples on Earth might try to push the 4km mine depth limit - not because it would maybe be more economical but for the fame of being the first to get so deep in the planet.ie: it would be pretty normal to mine asteroids, but mining gold directly from earth core would be a fate that would put you into history books. $\endgroup$ – Mystra007 Aug 18 '15 at 13:44
  • $\begingroup$ If you want detailed informations on why digging deep inside the Earth is extremely difficult compared to mining asteroids read up on the issues with the Kola Superdeep Borehole. I personally think it's very interesting that we know more about galaxies billions of light year away than about what's under our own feet past the 4km mark. $\endgroup$ – Mystra007 Aug 18 '15 at 13:52

Organic Strawberries

While regular miners and their daughters might well live on that tasteless kelp and vitamin/protein rations you dare call food, rich folks will want strawberries, olives grown in Italy, Spanish wine and Argentinian beef.


With billions of people to pick from, odds are the best artists, the best writers, the best casinos, wildest safaris, and the most happening bars will still be on Earth. Space is just like working on an oil rig. You don't spend your money on the rig, but in the nearest port.


Again with billions of people swarming around, there's bound to be a smart one or two. Put those in a lab, make them whip up IP for you. Most of the technology will still originate on Earth, as will some of the most advanced manufacturing plants.

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  • $\begingroup$ Nice, so basically manpower (of sophisticated nature). Thanks! $\endgroup$ – user6415 Aug 18 '15 at 15:34

What commodity will be capable of competing?

Basically, anything that is very short-lived and cheap. Even with very cheap energy and highly efficient transport, i assume that moving things on the surface of the planet, for example via rails, will still be cheaper and simpler than moving things via the elevators.
What exactly: Well. Think about clothes pegs, paper clips, pencils, paper. What else: Consumables that can be produced cheaply and will be shipped in bulk. Whice it could be conceivable to manufacture bicycle tyres in space, i have the impression that producing them on earth and shipping them conventionally should be simpler than producing in orbit.
And lastly: anything that requires a lot of real estate. Using a safely inhabitable place, like a planet, should make a lot of things easier and cheaper than building a structure in space.

Why does the orbital economy still need the earth?

That should be simple: you cannot have an economy without someone who buys your stuff. So, you need consumers.
While your orbital miners, manufacurers, caterers and such are consumers, living on the planets surface is still simpler, cheaper and safer.
So i think it is safe to assume that the majority of the population will still live on the planet, and will require food, energy, commodities, and jobs to pay for all that.
These have to be jobs that can be reached, so they have to be within reasonable travel times from the (surface) homes, meaning they will most likely be on the surface, too.

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  • $\begingroup$ One Note: This is FAR future, not sure if they still would use bicycles or paper :) But that was just an example of yours, and I like the answer. $\endgroup$ – user6415 Aug 18 '15 at 9:45
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    $\begingroup$ @openend I think he meant space bikes. $\endgroup$ – PyRulez Aug 18 '15 at 13:25
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    $\begingroup$ We are the the 21st century but we are still using batteries as they were made in the 19th century by Carl Gassner (the so-called zinc-carbon "heavy duty batteries"). I'm sure bicycles would exist in one form or another. $\endgroup$ – Mystra007 Aug 18 '15 at 19:26

What commodities are being mined. Advances in technology are driven primarily by War and need for Food. Arguably a more recent 3rd reason for energy. You seem to have covered the later two.

"Food is synthesized via modified algae and stem cells (for meat). Basically full taste, no environmental impact and optimized nutrition and can be produced in orbit, too. With the availability of fusion reactors, even in micro-size (in the range of today's stove), energy is cheap."

That being said, wars are started for some sort of economic gain. With such cheap availability of energy and food the population is likely to explode exponentially like china in the last century or so.

If no interstellar travel is available or at least no other colonies in our solar system like the moon or mars then I would say LIVING SPACE would be the number one resource EARTH would have that the colonies wouldn't. Perhaps cities have grown even higher and more populated. Maybe earth is building space stations to send into orbit for more living space. Maybe a giant ring/halo, you get the idea.

The other necessary resource would be WATER. Water is life. Do these asteroids have it? Maybe fresh water has become scarce and your economy has switched over where a gallon of water is now the base currency rather than the "dollar."

The orbital economy would need earth for the living space and for the water to survive. Meanwhile earth would need the colonies for the energy and mining resources to continue to prosper. I foresee a war rising between factions, either corporations or countries. People would be stressed without "freedom" of personal space.

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  • $\begingroup$ Awesome. I am totally going to take take water as currency. Or is there a way to easily get a lot of water in space? The wars (small scale skirmishes within the asteroid fields) are the primary topic of the project, so I got that covered, but I need the economical backdrop first. Thanks for that answer! $\endgroup$ – user6415 Aug 18 '15 at 16:08
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    $\begingroup$ Giant tankers/space ships. Perhaps freezing the water. Perhaps you have "glacier miners." Also maybe their are "high risk" adventures who go out into space to find water sources to bring back. You could create a stock market for this. Think of the 15-17th century with the age of exploration and colonization. People would fund voyages of ship captains in return for a "stock" of the goods/spices they brought back. Same thing. You will need to also look at desalinization technology and address that as well. $\endgroup$ – Dynas Aug 18 '15 at 16:11
  • $\begingroup$ There is no shortage of water in space. As the miners have some kind of drone tug bringing material rich asteroids into orbit, one of the materials brought in would be ice. Hydrogen and Oxygen are going to likely be needed in great quantity for a multitude of purposes anyway. Hardly a substance to base a currency upon. More likely just an abstract medium of exchange than something which would suddenly flood the market whenever a new object is brought in. $\endgroup$ – pluckedkiwi Aug 18 '15 at 17:04

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