People who like the gold standard, how do you feel about asteroid mining? What happens when we bring 100,000 tons of gold and silver back from a space rock? What if we just bring 1,000 tons? Does this ruin the scarcity argument?
Ahahah I was JUST talking about this yesterday. It wouldn’t happen that they “just bring back 100,000 tons” of processed ore.
Suppose commercial asteroid mining DOES take off (lol) in the next few decades. How many companies and distinct crews do you think will actually be among the first wave of space prospectors? Honestly even today a space shuttle launch is still “a big deal” - the average citizen is still a little a mystified over what is perceived to be a relatively momentous occasion; space travel hasn’t become much of a way of life yet. Most of our launch-related action has to do with unmanned satellites, and even our manned crews still orbit the planet.
So my guess is that the first extraplanetary flights will also be lauded as a pretty big deal, especially if they’re done commercially (i.e., privately). I’d go so far as to say that the crews would even be seen as celebrities, having their fame in the media before the “fateful” journey to find new worlds (asteroids) ripe for the picking. The journey would take months, if not years, and don’t forget they’re still only strapped to an explosive propulsion system hurling them through space toward a destination of nothing but massive rocks - better hope they stick the landing!
I think you addressed it with the second point, “what if we just bring 1,000” tons? I think this would be the more likely scenario. The first (possibly only) commercial crew finally returns home safely and with cargo. I don’t think anyone is coming back with a massive heap of gold. But it could play out in so many different ways;
First we could see another ‘49 Gold Rush - the tiny specks of gold found in the initial cargo (even 100 tons) would be enough, I think, to provide incentive to the rest of the private space industry. Companies which previously manufacture launching rockets might consider expanding into the manned-flight sector (I am literally talking out of my ass because I why wouldn’t these industries be merged to begin with, I am just trying to illustrate a picture of industrial expansion, really). New companies would form up; seeing this gold - everyone would want a piece of what’s out there. You’d see it all over the media, stargazers and dreamy-eyed prospectors and entrepreneurs … everyone would want to go to the asteroid belt. The wealth coming back would trickle down immensely, as the booming space-faring industry would be competing to create the best, fastest, most efficient cargo and mining vessels. Leaps and bounds made in science and technology just to fuel the passion for gold.
Of course…the other thing which might happen: the Spanish Empire experienced similar circumstances when they visited the Americas. They were bringing back so much gold that they eventually destroyed their economy. It’s possible that we could see the same here. But as you already pointed out it’s definitely going to hinge on: how much and over how long. Bringing back the wealth won’t be a problem, creating wealth never is. But concentration of all that wealth invariably leads to economic disaster through devaluation. I’m excited though; I don’t think we’d see a Spanish collapse. I think the rise of the space-faring industry would create such an economic boom world-wide, that humanity would enter into a new Golden Age of wealth and prosperity. Like the industrial revolution with modern medicine times 100.
I think my overall point is that it’s stupid to think that gold is ultra-scarce or that it can’t be debased or is safe from supply inflation and value loss.
To address your other points, I think the main focus will be on bringing the rock into our orbit and leaving it there so it will be only a day or two away from Earth and smaller quantities would be mined and then that particular asteroid would be released once it’s been exhausted and we’ll wait for the next one.
Here’s a decent interview with Neil deGrasse Tyson and Peter Diamandis (X-Prize and http://www.planetaryresources.com/) on Asteroid mining. They discuss the science and even the economics of such endeavors.
Personally, I don’t care what our money is made, so long as it’s safe from debasement and functions as a global facilitator of trade.