Battles of the bulge

In the past couple of weeks the ever-growing sphere of trans-rights activism has intersected with the public consciousness in three particular battles; one new, one old and one on-going.

The old battle has been the final conclusion of the British Columbia tribunal hearings, brought by Jessica Yaniv against beauticians unwilling to provide waxing of her genitals. The case hasn’t exactly been a towering success for Yaniv, with paragraph 109 of the judgement openly saying that the motivation for bringing the cases was personal financial gain and racism.

The battle that’s been rumbling on for a while surrounds abrasive and abusive cycling champion, Rachel McKinnon. Several sources were ratio’d to hell when they reported her winning a world record spring time in women’s cycling.

The new entry came from across the Atlantic, from the New York Democrats. A rule that required districts, electing two members of the state committee each, to elect one man and one woman, was changed to a requirement for two people of different genders. This rule was proposed by 20-year-old Emilia Decaudin, who came out as non-binary 3 months ago and was, as many people noticed, very happy to be there.emilia-decaudin-1-twitter-1024x1024

In each case public opinion wasn’t so much against trans ideology as genuinely flabbergasted that any of this was being taken seriously. And yet, still, trans-rights activists leapt to the defence in all cases. Even racist scammer, Jessica Yaniv, was defended by prominent trans-rights activist, Morgane Oger, who blamed lawyers in the case for digging up dirt on Yaniv.

Why defend these cases? Nobody hearing about these issues for the first time this week is likely to think that Yaniv is a nice person or that McKinnon, who is well off the pace for a man of her age, setting world best times in women’s cycling is fair, or that a political party electing two white men, one of whom dresses unconventionally for their sex, is increasing inclusivity. Why not accept some battles as lost, move on, and try to win the war over public opinion?

The answer is “Trans women are women” – the “Four legs good, two legs bad” of trans-activism.

Trans women are women – TWAW – isn’t just the slogan of the trans-right movement, it’s its most fundamental and axiomatic core. Should trans-women be allowed into women-only spaces? Yes, because trans women are women. Should trans-women be allowed on women-only shortlists? Yes, because trans women are women. Should trans-women be allowed to define feminism? Yes, because, etc.

As bedrock goes, it is feeble. The assertion doesn’t stand up to the slightest scrutiny. The only hope that it has of supporting not only a movement but also huge and sweeping social changes is for it to be unquestioned. By design or by accident it has almost succeeded. You can easily get yourself called any number of hurtful names by saying that trans-women are not women. Any attempt to pick at the logic of the statement which, coupled with the push towards uncritical and uncontestable self-identification, does literally say that men who have uttered the magic words “I am a woman” are women, will have you added to block lists and, if you’re an actual women, bullied and vilified.

TWAW must be sacrosanct, or else the house on which it is built falls, and it cannot be so if it has exceptions. If trans women are women, except in sports, then why not also except in bathrooms? If trans women are women, except when they’re forcing women out of politics, then why not also except on all-women short-lists? Trans women are women is a fabric woven of desire and fantasy, any exception is a frayed edge, which can be pulled to unravel everything.

NO exceptions, Robin!

So, instead of any sort of constructive efforts to deescalate the increasing tensions between the gender-critical and the trans-rights activists, we get the latter fighting ridiculous battles, to support the most extreme edges of their movement. Then, to justify this, the same extremism has to be projected onto the gender-critical movement. Women who have been fighting to overturn gendered expectations and make sure human rights apply to all for decades are accused of wanting to erase trans people and of being either fascists or in league with them.

So divergent from reality is this projections that the only way it can be maintained is to stop women speaking about gender-critical issues; to protest when they meet in public, to hide them away behind bans and block-lists on social media, to lobby when they hold roles with any public voice. Women are silenced to support a lie, built upon a fantasy, shored up by a nonsense slogan.

As Orwell warned us, once the sheep have learned your chant, and you can defend the indefensible, then the war is over. When women have been silenced or cowed into submission, when their rights have been taken, when they have been pushed out of politics and public life, well, that’s when you can say, “Four legs good, two legs better”.

History: As it happened

batten title

Pre-history (before 55AD)

This was the time of druids, before proper Britain, when blokes had long hair and wore dresses and were into new-age shit, like stone circles. Best not to think about it too much.

The Roman Invasion

The Roman invasion was, technically, a bunch of foreigners coming over here and taking over, but they were the right kind of foreigners,because they were white, had smart haircuts, spoke Latin and didn’t have any problems with nailing hippy beatniks to a cross, to teach them a lesson. They also built a big wall, to keep foreigners out, and had no stupid health & safety laws about what food you could eat.

The Romans were generally a good thing for Britain, as we can see by the historical record, which shows that the only person who opposed them was some mad woman called, if I remember the documentary I watched correctly,Boobica.

King Arthur times

The golden age of Britain, where the rule of the King was absolute,and the king was picked by seeing who could pull a sword out of a stone. It’s amazing to think that our current Queen, long may she reign, is a direct descendent of Arthur and could still, at the age of 93, heave a sword out of a rock, if someone found one lying around.

Battle of Hastings (1066)

The beginning of the end. The French came over here and killed our king – and they’ve never apologised for it, ever! They brought over a load of French people, from nobles right down to plumbers and fisherman, who put native Britons out of work and stopped English being the lingua franca.
These French people had no staying power, so after the crusade (sort of Gulf War: The prequel) most of them stayed in France on the way back, making Britain properly English again.

The Magna Carta (1215)

The first, and most important, law. It established parliament, made all Englishmen free, legally made your home your castle, guaranteed free-speech, enshrined the power of a citizen’s arrest and granted decent men the vote.

This law was so important that it remained in force until the EU and treasonous Tony Blair conspired to have it revoked by the Maastricht Treaty.

Chaucer (1300ish)

A great English writer, famous for The Canterbury Tales of the Unexpected (also known as The Pilgrim’s Progress). Nobody really reads his stuff anymore, because it’s a bit shit and he wasn’t great at spelling, but that’s no reason not to feel proud of him for being English!

Battle of Agincourt (1415)

The stupid French hadn’t expected us to plan our revenge for King Harold for 349 years, but we did, and defeated them in what is widely regarded as the greatest military victory of all time, and with an absolutely smashing speech at the start of it.

Everything that’s happened in Europe since then has been part of France’s revenge plan for the absolute trouncing that we handed them.

Shakespeare times (1600-and-something)

Few Englishmen, other than maybe Winston Churchill and Albert Einstein, can be mentioned in the same breath as Shakespear. He was such a great writer that he made every English person born since better, just by association. Whenever foreigners get uppity, we can just remind them that we’ve
got Shakepeer, even if we’ve never read any of his books.

Birth of America (1975)

The United States, which was originally owned by England, decided to go it alone, rather than being ruled by an overseas government that they didn’t elect – the most laudable of goals. They founded a nation based on the rights enshrined in the Magna Carta, plus some sensible measures to prevent foreigners and people from bad religions ruining it for everyone. Thanks to the statesmanship of President Abraham Lincoln and Prime Minister ‘Lord’ North the split was amicable, and England and America have been best friends ever since. A friendship signified by their decision to almost use our language.

Napoleonic Wars

(Most of the 1800s)

Europe’s first big attempt to take control of Britain, which was,
thankfully, seen of by proud Englishmen, like Nelson, the Duke of Wellington
and The Scarlett Pimpernel. Britain utterly routed Europe (even though it was
us, alone, against all 27 European states), which would take 100 years to get
around to trying to take over us again.

The Industrial Revolution (1850-)

When we weren’t fighting Napoleon, we spent the second half of the 18th
century showing the world that we didn’t just have the best writer, we also
had the best engineers, the greatest visionaries, the most impressive designers and the fewest scruples about letting pre-school children work themselves to death in filthy factories. Because of this greatness we ruled the world, and had the Victorian Empire, which is universally regarded as a great success and something to be proud of.

World War I (1914-1918)

Germany’s first attempt (of three) to rule Europe. Nobody else put up
much of a fight so, as usual, we had to win the war all by ourselves. And
were the foreigners grateful? Were they bollocks! We freed Spain from the Hun
and all they gave us in return was flu! That’s how much Europe hates us!

World War II (1939-1942 [1st leg], 1942-1945 [2nd

The Krauts’ second attempt at controlling all of Europe, and the 2nd
time we had to beat them back, while the French and the Belgians surrendered.
Because Hitler had been building his army with EU funding, he was much stronger than us, and might have beaten plucky Britain if our great friends in America and Russia hadn’t helped out. This underlines how important it is that we side with those true allies, rather than Europe.

June 7th, 1975 – June 23rd 2016

The darkest period of British history, between the time England’s great peoples were tricked into voting to join the EU up until the glorious day when they were finally allowed to break free. Our glorious history, of which every born Englishman can be rightly proud, must never be surrendered to the Europeans!

Call me a doctor

I enjoy a good debate/argument/slanging-match on Twitter as much as the next person, but recently I’ve been feeling a little under-endowed in these intellectual intercourses.

Because of my serious medical condition (bone-idleness) and my religious beliefs (that homework is a sin) evidence of my formal education extends only as far as half-a-dozen O-level certificates and a trail of teachers who’ve been through mandated anger-management training.

Normally I don’t let my lack of qualifications bother me. I don’t dribble (much) when I talk, I can use a knife & fork and even make a half-rhyme work, but when I’m debating against people who are doctors or even professors I do feel that I don’t measure up.

Hence, I’ve decided to award myself a PhD.

You can just print these things off, apparently

Since floating the idea I’ve discovered that so-called “real” doctors are hateful bigots, who discriminate against people who want a clever title, by acting as gatekeepers. They throw around big book-larnin’ words, like “accredited institutions” and “thesis” and “misrepresentation” in a shameful attempt to protect their turf from doctors like me, what is probably just as clever as they is.

This bookological essentialism serves to show how little these PhDers actually understand what they claim to hold so dear.

Scans have shown that there’s no chemical difference between the brain of a so-called real PhD and me, who has to look up which letters are capitalised in PhD every single time. In fact, taxi drivers who have studied The Knowledge have the most advanced brains[1].

Also, PhDs are entirely social constructs. Many indigenous peoples in Africa, the Americas, India and Scotland had no word for ‘doctorate’ before imperialist white colonisers arrived. If you’re insisting on the definitions of ‘educated’ or ‘literate’ that they imposed on those minority groups then you’re no better than they were, which in part explains why so many people with a post-graduate education are far-right Nazis[2].

We even know that the world is not split into a simple binary of having/not having a PhD. There’s very much a spectrum, ranging from “Learning your letters” through to “Having letters after your name”. The existence of this spectrum automatically means that anybody can place themselves anywhere on it[3], and nobody has the right to question them.

Anyway, I think the important thing is that other people with doctorates educate themselves (see above) and support me in joining their ranks (which is really quite a compliment, when you think about it[4]). Me declaring myself their intellectual equal doesn’t take anything away from people with a “real” PhD, and all I’m asking is that they don’t make fun of me when I don’t “pass”, by not knowing long words…and also that they don’t exclude me, by talking about academic subjects that I don’t understand…and that they never, ever suggest I don’t have a real PhD, just because mine is printed in black & white, because I was out of yellow toner…and that they make room for me on their grant applications…and that I’m considered equal to them when jobs professorships are being handed out.

So, really, it’s just a little bit of give and take from all sides.

I’m really thrilled to be joining the ranks of academia/the educated, and look forward to high profile interlectuals supporting my cause (hint, fucking hint, Professor Roberts). I’m sure this is going to be a learning experience for all of us.

[1] Sure I saw a programme about this
[2] Somebody on Twitter said so, et. al.
[3] Well, it just makes sense, dunnit?
[4] As long as you don’t think about it too hard or too long
[5] Fucking get me!

We can do better

do better

“Do better” is the fucking worst.

“Do better” is a conclusion without a debate, an argument without facts, the enforcement of an agreement that you never signed up to.

“Do better” is pomposity itself, astride its highest horse, telling you that your opinion is worthless.

“Do better” is “Be more like me” wrapped in a cliched ‘inspirational’ poster to hide that it’s blushing from the sheer fucking effrontery of claiming to be the arbiter of absolute moral truth.

“Do better” is “Right side of history” for right now, by people who think they get to decide which way history twists.

“Do better” is “You’re shitty” for people who will, at the end of the day, pat themselves on the back for building people up, instead of tearing them down, then lull themselves to sleep with the thought of what a good person they are. Don’t trust anyone who’ll flat-out lie to their own fucking face like that.

“Do better” is condescending, patronising, self-serving double-think for those who’ve learned to stop their train of thought before it leaves comfortville.

“Do better” is the “Wouldn’t it be lovely if we could all just be nice?” where the speaker defines “nice”…and probably “all”.

“Do better” is what those who are doing nothing say to those who are doing something.

“Do better” is the motto of the dogmatic, the bête noire of reason.

“Do better” is the fucking worst.

If you can’t do better than “Do better” then just do one.


Roll-on, Roelofs

This is a response to this piece, by Luke Roelofs, which turned up in my TL this morning, hailed as “One of the best things I’ve read […] on why GCF arguments are both bogus and conservative”.

It’s certainly a lengthy work, running to more than 10,000 words. I’m not a professional philosopher, so I’m going to try to keep my reply under 1,000 words – in the hope that people will actually read it.

Goddamn it, don’t get distracted now! Only 899 words to go!

Roelofs’ novella has three threads of investigation:

  1. Do trans-people reinforce gender stereotypes?
  2. Are people being pressured to transition?
  3. Does admitting trans women make women’s spaces less safe?

Roelofs helpfully tells us in the title of each of these sections that the answer is “No”.

I’m going to tackle the sections out of order, to suit my own, warped, gender-critical agenda.

Actually, I’m going to dismiss section 2 entirely, because it’s an area I freely admit to not knowing much about. As Roelofs spends most of this section talking about diagnosis of gender dysphoria and having to live for a period as your assumed gender, both barriers that GRA reformers seek to remove, then presumably he does know much about it either. Indeed, given his verbosity, spending a mere 1,500 words on the topic is presumably his version of “No comment”

Section 3 barely takes more dealing with, as he doesn’t even attempt to answer the question that he himself raises. Instead of proving his own assertion that, no, admitting trans-women to women-only spaces does not make them less safe, he instead argues that the topic is not worth debating because enforcement is impractical.

If there is no enforcement of sex segregated spaces then predatory men can freely enter them, and if there is any sort of official or unofficial enforcement then we enter some Orwellian nightmare, where people always have to carry their papers when they want to pee. Anyway, he argues, if there’s enforcement then women will feel that they have to present as feminine in order to use those spaces, and other women will force them to do so, by reporting anybody who isn’t girly enough and making them suffer the indignity of having their papers or pants checked (yes, he really does argue this).

I don’t know much about professional philosophy, but I’d always kind of assumed that the line between it and hand-waving lunacy was wider than appears to be the case.

Anyway, we end section 3 not with the conclusion that no women were harmed in the making of this self-identifying bathroom, but rather that there’s no solution, so we gain nothing from discussing it.

And so we reach section 1, and the argument that I enjoyed the most.

In summary, he battles against the idea that gender-identity is based on the boys-like-blue/girls-like-pink stereotypes. The bad feminists get the blame for this idea existing at all. They complain about trans-women radiating “male energy” (by which I assume he means observations that some men who claim trans-womanhood don’t even bother to shave their beards off), and they joke about the appearance of non-passing trans-women.

These hurtful comments drive trans-women to feminise their appearance, which then opens them to accusations that they see feminism only in terms of stereotypes.

The core of his argument is that if gender-critical feminists argue that women shouldn’t have to behave or appear in a manner which conforms to their gender then why should trans-women have to?

The only philosophy I know anything about is the kind that turns up towards the end of your sixth pint of Foster’s, but here Roelofs seems to have overlooked a huge philosophical point – if womanhood isn’t defined by biology, and isn’t defined by behaviour and dress, then what is womanhood?

The gender-critical view, that women are born into second-class citizenry, because of their biology makes logical sense, but I can also understand the logic (albeit regressive) in saying that if you look like a woman then you should be treated like a woman. What I can’t see is what womanhood means if it’s neither of these things.

The non-biological, non-gender stereotype kind of woman that Roelofs is arguing is the ‘natural’ state of trans-women does nothing other than render the term ‘woman’ meaningless.

In fact, all a man seems to gain by declaring themselves a woman is that access to women’s spaces…and apparently we couldn’t stop them doing that anyway.

OK, enough philosophy.

Green Nature Garden Grass Background Beautiful
The squirrel has gone. You should have chased it while you had the chance

The title of the blog is, Dear Philosophers, You Can Trust the Feminist Consensus: Gender-Critical Radical Feminism is Bogus, and there are two final comments to make on this.

In the title, and in the body of the piece, Roelofs states that the majority of feminists are accepting of trans-women, but makes no effort to support this assertion. Given that he counts himself as a feminist perhaps he just has a particularly wide definition of the term.

Speaking of terms, ‘bogus’ is also worth a look. As he himself says:

I decided to believe what seemed like the consensus among feminists, that GCRF is bogus, even though I had trouble articulating why clearly to myself. I trusted the judgement that seemed to be held by the great majority of people I knew and respected for their views on this sort of topic.

And he even helpfully defines exactly what ‘bogus’ means:

‘Bogus’: both intellectually valueless and hateful. They’re saying that rather than gaining something from engaging with it critically, we’ll actually lose something: debates about gender are made worse by having this perspective represented.

In other words, underneath all of the philosophical highfalutin and engorged word-counts there’s just another woke man, pulling ideas out of his arse to justify his desire to tell women to shut up.

Great work, Luke Roelofs, take a seat with all the others.

981 words (including these ones)

Bikini by-line

Out in British Columbia a lone Twitter account, @goinglikeelsie, (account locked at time of writing) is covering three linked cases being considered by the province’s human rights tribunal.

The plaintiff in all three cases is ‘JY’, and the tribunal has ruled that coverage of the cases may not reveal JY’s identity, or provide enough information to allow JY to be identified.

The identity of JY is, nevertheless, widely known. They are male-born, but since starting to identify, at least part of the time, as female they have become infamous for bringing legal cases against 16 female beauticians who have refused to provide them with genital waxing services. It is JY’s contention that those who have refused to provide the service are guilty of discrimination on the grounds of gender identity, a protected characteristic with regards to the provision of services under Canadian law.

Elsie is tweeting her notes on three of these cases, that the tribunal are hearing as joined, with a single decision that the end.

You can read the story so far here

With no disrespect to Elsie, she is not a journalist. Her notes are confusing, as she tries to navigate the restrictions around what can be made public, she has to back-track and correct herself and even complains that she has no notes at one point because her pen had run out.

Yet she is a hero.

She’s a hero because, without her, nobody would know what was happening, or probably even that the hearings were going on.

These hearings are a first step in determining if there is a hierarchy of human rights. Can a man’s right to say that he is now a woman override a woman’s objection to intimate handling of a male body? Does it override a woman’s right to assert that her religious or moral beliefs say that she shouldn’t be touching a man in that area? Does it override her professional concern that she is not trained to provide a potentially painful and injurious service to somebody who has male anatomy?

In short, Canadian law has said that everybody has the right to decide for themselves whether they are male or female, and it must now decide whether that also gives them the right to be universally believed, irrespective of the beliefs of others or evidence to the contrary.

And there’s nobody from the press covering the case.

What seems even stranger at first glance is that yesterday a trans-rights activist called on other activists to mass-report Elsie’s Twitter account, to try to get it closed down.

When she’s simply reporting – without editorial comment – the events of a tribunal which is fundamental to the rights of trans people in Canada, you might think that they’d want her voice amplified, so that the world can watch.

They don’t because they don’t want the world to hear about JY because, according to them, JY doesn’t exist.

JY doesn’t exist, because the cornerstones of their argument for an easier path to gender recognition in the UK are that it doesn’t cause any problems, men will not abuse easy self-identification of gender, that men choosing to transition aren’t motivated by fetishism, and that the rights of women are not diminished by trans rights.

My god, JY must be embarrassment to them.

Aside from the 3 cases being considered together, JY has brought numerous similar cases, either being paid off by beauticians worried about expensive legal cases, or backing down themselves if the defendants have obtained legal representation.

JY also has a well-document fetish related to tampons and has, in the three cases presented, asked if genital waxing will be possible while they have a tampon inserted. The tribunal has already ascertained that JY has male genitalia, and does not also have female genitalia. They appear not to have questioned too closely where JY is planning to insert the tampon. This may be for the best.

The tribunal has also establish JY’s pattern of approaching the female service providers initially from their social media account with a male photo, then asking for the same services from accounts with female profile pictures (not of JY).

In his view, JY is fighting for LGBTQI+ rights, a campaign they pat themselves on the back for even when composing fake threats to themselves.

jy threat

In the cold light of a court it looks a lot more like JY is using the law for personal gain, both financial and reputational, and mainly to bully women, especially minority women. Fighting in court to push back their personal boundaries as to what they believe, what their religion permits, what they are qualified to do.

JY is standing there, living proof that self-identification is enormously problematic, and that the rights it affords aren’t a game where everyone can win and nobody loses. JY is a man playing the system for their own gratification and amusement, and the world needs to see the problems.

Instead, we’ve got a single, brave, woman, tweeting her imperfect notes while trans activists attempt to tear her down.

We need to listen to her.

Mine crafts

I recently did a Twitter thread having a bit of a go at Aaron Bastani’s forthcoming book, Fully Automated Luxury Communism: A Manifesto,

Because it was Twitter thread I mainly poked fun, rather than look in depth at any of the futurology he was spouting. Some of it seemed iffy – his proof that “information wants to be free”, which is a cornerstone of his argument, is the growth, and reduction of price, in hard-disk storage and the ever increasing speed of Internet connections, for example.

bastani interview
“One day soon, love, hard-disks will be so large, and so cheap, that all intellectual property laws will just vanish. A real scientist told me that.”

Really, though, it was space I wanted to talk about.

I’m no expert. Hell, I’ve never even been there, but I am interested in it, and his argument that we could end scarcity of materials by mining Near-Earth Objects (NEOs) seemed to need a bit of work.

Bastani waffles on about rockets getting cheaper, 3D printing of rockets, private companies trialling their own rockets, etc., as if making rockets cheaper or reusable makes everything else about getting into space a technicality.

It doesn’t of course. Space isn’t very far away (if you live in, say, London then space is closer to you than Birmingham is), but it takes a huge amount of energy to lift off from our planet and, so far, we don’t have a better way of doing it than burning massive amounts of rocket fuel.

The reason that the fuel costs are so high is a bit like Zeno’s paradox of the tortoise, where Achilles can never overtake a tortoise in a race, because by the time he has run to where the tortoise was it has moved on a little further, and when he’s run to there the tortoise has moved further still, and so on.

So it is with rockets. If we want to launch a payload into space then we need a certain amount of fuel, but then we need extra fuel – to lift the fuel that we need to lift the payload. The we need more fuel, to lift the fuel that we need to lift the fuel that we need to lift the payload, and so on. This is called the tyranny of the rocket equation and, more than anything else, is why we haven’t found a cheap way to get into space yet.

To give you an idea of just how big a difficulty this is; if we were planning a mission to Mars, more than 30 million miles away (at its closest), then half of the fuel costs would be getting out of Earth’s gravity, less than 0.01% of the trip.

There are other ways to get there, in principle at least, ranging from the sane, but not yet possible (such as space elevators, which would work wonderfully, if we had an unbreakable rope, long enough to reach the Earth from a geostationary orbit – 26,000 miles up) to the downright crazy sounding (detonate a nuclear bomb, and ride the shockwave into space). Some of these may come to fruition but, for the moment, we’re stuck with burning lots and lots of fuel…which fits poorly with the heavily green policies in the rest of Bastani’s book.

Then you hit the problem that real space, and real physics, don’t work like science-fiction does. You can’t just point your rocket at a NEO, fire up the thrusters and fly there. Well, you can, but then you arrive at it way too fast and either sail straight by it and off into the darkness, or you crash into it at insanely high speeds, destroying all of the stuff that you wanted to send there in the first place.

Nor can you take up enough fuel to slow you down, because of the rocket equation, so you have to take an indirect path to your NEO. The lander, Philae, which touched down on a NEO in November 2014, took 10 years to reach its destination…and then didn’t deploy its landing anchors correctly, rolled into a patch of permanent shade and powered down forever.

Philae was one relatively small lander. To set up a full automated luxury mining operation on a NEO we’d be looking at multiple, much larger, craft, with each one being a roll of the dice as to whether it successfully reached its target, landed in the right place, or just smashed into all of the previous stuff you’d sent up, setting the project back to square one. The long lead-times, high start-up costs and enormous risks make this project even shakier than Labour Live.

Assuming we did get tonnes of autonomous, or semi-autonomous, machinery landed; drilling equipment, solar cells, processing equipment and got it all linked up and working, then what?

Let’s say it digs up 500 tonnes of iron ore, what does it do with it? Launching something from the micro-gravity of a NEO is much cheaper than launching something from Earth, but, again, we can’t just point our payload in the direction of the Earth and fire the rockets.

Anything heading towards Earth is accelerated by Earth’s gravity-well to escape velocity, which is around 30 times the speed of sound. A 500 tonne lump of iron ore hitting the Earth at that speed would impart the energy of a nuclear bomb exploding.

“I told you it was a mistake to put the Bastaniosaurus in charge”

Incoming space-craft have heat-shields, to use the atmosphere as a brake, slowing them enough to deploy parachutes, so that they can splash-down at non-lethal speeds and be recovered. Potentially, our mining operation could have a supply of enormous heat-shields and parachutes, but we’re talking about a situation where an error made by an autonomous system, millions of miles away could see the equivalent of a nuclear strike at a random location anywhere on Earth.

Or, in theory, we could have a fuel-producing station on, say, the Moon. Mining water-ice and using solar power to split it into hydrogen and oxygen, to use as fuel. It’s conceivable that our incoming lump of iron ore could be intercepted, slowed down and dropped more gently into the Earth’s atmosphere…where it would sink to the bottom of the ocean, because iron ore doesn’t float.

That would also still leave the possibility of a lump of iron ore not being intercepted properly, which would put the whole world back on Russian-Roulette alert, or of it being intercepted and then something going wrong, potentially seeing the Earth being hit at high velocity by 500 tonnes of iron, loaded up with huge quantities of liquid hydrogen and oxygen.

These may be one-in-a-million risks, but to match current, Earthbound, iron ore extraction rates we’d have to receive more than 65,000,000 of these 500 tonne packages every year.

None of these problems are insurmountable, Mankind has proved itself to be an ingenious species, and off-world mining is almost certainly going to be essential if we’re to expand our species off Earth, and onto other planets, but the post-scarcity world isn’t imminent…no matter how cheap rockets get.