Conscious Choice cover

From the press release: In this ground-breaking new history of early America, historian Robert Zimmerman not only exposes the lie behind The New York Times 1619 Project that falsely claims slavery is central to the history of the United States, he also provides profound lessons about the nature of human societies, lessons important for Americans today as well as for all future settlers on Mars and elsewhere in space.

 
Conscious Choice: The origins of slavery in America and why it matters today and for our future in outer space, is a riveting page-turning story that documents how slavery slowly became pervasive in the southern British colonies of North America, colonies founded by a people and culture that not only did not allow slavery but in every way were hostile to the practice.  
Conscious Choice does more however. In telling the tragic history of the Virginia colony and the rise of slavery there, Zimmerman lays out the proper path for creating healthy societies in places like the Moon and Mars.

 

“Zimmerman’s ground-breaking history provides every future generation the basic framework for establishing new societies on other worlds. We would be wise to heed what he says.” —Robert Zubrin, founder of founder of the Mars Society.

 

Available everywhere for $3.99 (before discount) at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and all ebook vendors, or direct from the ebook publisher, ebookit. And if you buy it from ebookit you don't support the big tech companies and I get a bigger cut much sooner.


Facebook gets out of satellite business; “sells” its employees to Amazon

Capitalism in space: Facebook has now apparently abandoned a project to launch its own communications satellites and instead has made a deal with Amazon whereby it sold its satellite division to the Bezos-founded company, where they joined Amazon’s Kuiper communications satellite project.

Over the past year, Amazon has revealed details about Project Kuiper’s antenna design, selected United Launch Alliance’s Atlas V rocket for the initial satellite launches, and acquired still more office space for Kuiper employees in Redmond.

According to The Information, the employees who came to Kuiper from Facebook in April are based in the Los Angeles area. They are said to include physicists as well as optical, prototyping, mechanical and software engineers who have worked on aeronautical systems and wireless networks. One of the employees, Jin Bains, was formerly Facebook’s head of Southern California connectivity and is now described on his LinkedIn page as a director on the Project Kuiper team.

The Information reported that Amazon paid Facebook as part of the deal for the employee switchover, but did not provide further details. “It’s not unheard of for big companies to buy groups of employees from one another, just as they often buy small startups to beef up staff in various parts of their business,” The Information’s Sarah Krouse and Sylvia Varnham O’Regan explained. [emphasis mine]

This deal reveals a number of immediate facts, as well as one long term troubling one. First, it indicates as mentioned Facebook’s abandonment of its space ambitions.

Second, it suggests that Amazon might finally be recognizing that the people running its Kuiper satellite project are taking far too long to get it off the ground. Though proposed approximately the same time as SpaceX’s Starlink constellation, Kuiper remains unlaunched with no launches even scheduled, while SpaceX has more than 1,500 satellites in orbit, has been providing test service to customers in selected areas, and is about to become operational globally. This difference is achievement might be explained by this fact: The person Amazon hired to run its Kuiper project was someone Elon Musk fired in 2018 from his Starlink project because that person was taking too long to get it built and launched.

The new hires suggest that Amazon might have finally recognized this issue.

Finally, the long term troubling fact.

The highlighted quote — where Facebook “sold” its employees to Amazon — reminds me too much of the early Virginia colony described in my new history, Conscious Choice, about the founding of slavery in that colony. There, wealthy plantation owners distorted the custom of indentured servitude, changing it from simply a model to train the young into a tool for getting years of unpaid labor from poor immigrants. The result was that in a few decades it became culturally acceptable to treat humans like cattle, to be bought and sold. This in turn made the buying and selling of slaves more acceptable, so that slavery soon became common in Virginia and throughout the south.

These “sold” Facebook employees obviously are not unpaid workers. They also have the right to get other jobs. However, that two big corporations now think they can treat they employees as mere “assets” to be bought and sold is quite troubling. These big companies have great power. The more their management wields that power thoughtlessly and with abandon, the more likely they will abuse it. We see that happening already in how the management at these same corporations have begun to clamp down on speech they do not like, silencing and blacklisting it.

What if these big corporations begin to run operations in space? Employees there will have far fewer options to escape ill treatment. What if the management of these corporations view their space employees as mere assets to be bought and sold, as needed? With no legal framework established to protect those employees rights due to the Outer Space Treaty’s limitations on sovereignty, I can easily see this as a path to tyranny, slavery, and serfdom. And we might be seeing the first signs of it now on Earth in this Facebook/Amazon deal.

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7 comments

  • David K

    It is fairly common to sell part of a company to exit a market just as it is common to buy a company or division of a company to enter or strengthen a position in a market.

    These are at will employees and can quit with two weeks notice. If they had a 5 year contract like some people do, then it would be more serious, but there is still always an exit clause.

  • David K

    I can also add from recent personal experience that in a transition like this, you are not automatically transferred to the other company.

    You are given an offer letter with the new company (usually with a significant pay raise) which you can accept, or you can look for a new job if you don’t like it for whatever reason.

    The main difference between this and just laying off everyone in the division and selling the assets is that the old and new companies work together to provide as little disruption to the employees day to day as possible – ie smooth transfer of email, health insurance, laptops, etc..

  • David K: Everything you describe about such buyouts makes perfect sense, and would be what we all would expect under U.S. Constitutional law. My point is that workers on other worlds will not have those protections, nor will they have many options. They will be prisoners of their employees, and without constitutional law to protect them they can easily be abused (as were the poor immigrants to Virginia). This action by Facebook and Amazon hints at that ugly future.

  • Dean Hurt

    Amazon and Facebook, hmm. Two of the biggest Big Tech censors of truth or as the Leftist call it, “misinformation”. All that’s missing is for Google to get in on the deal. This monopoly must be broken up. But it won’t happen as long as Chairman Joe is in office. This Department of Propaganda (Amazon, Google and Facebook) are today’s equivalent of the 1984’s Ministry of Truth.

  • I see your point, but the “classic” way around this is to spin the division off into a subsidiary then sell the subsidiary. All that really adds to moving the employees directly is money for the lawyers involved (and possibly subsidiary overhead – do they get a logo, letterhead, business cards, etc… before being sold off?).

    As a counter-point, the space-based Amazon employee has a great deal of leverage. There are not going to be that many people in space and it will be a long time before there is individually monitored and allocated resources (e.g. air). Space workers are likely going to be highly trained specialists, not space ditch diggers – and note that a “miner” in space is FAR more than a ditch digger.

    What is Amazon going to do if their guy in space refuses to work? They can stop paying him, but GoFundMe works as a micro-union for a strike fund, should the worker have a PR-winning issue. They cannot shut off his air – or they’ll kill everyone in the habitat. It’s very unlikely that there will in-quarters cooking for a long time (how do you deal with the fumes?), so while cafeteria privileges could be revoked, would the on-habitat folks support that? I’d imagine it is difficult to get meals for oneself while watching a coworker starve.

    They can send up a replacement, but that will take time, and that guy will know what he’s getting into. They cannot really force the other guy to come back unless there is a security force on-habitat, which will not be happening for a long time.

    It is certainly an issue, but I don’t see it as near-term. Once we have 100s of people on a single habitat, then these issues become critical. For ten folks in a can, it’s not.

  • markedup2 commented:” Once we have 100s of people on a single habitat, then these issues become critical.”

    And that, folks, is why we have sci-fi. This has all been explored. Thought experiments only, but one of the reasons, I suspect, folks on this forum get excited is that real-life is running headlong into what once was fantasy. It’s here. You can fill in the blank spaces with human history. We are, indeed, living in ‘interesting times’, and separating the ‘complainers’ from the ‘doers’.

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