Comment on Telescope prices and sharing

What YOU Can SEE Through a $1 Billion, $32,000 and an $800 Telescope!

There are many countries with LOTS of people where $800 is more than the median annual income. And many more countries and many more people where $800 is more than monthly income. So here you are, posting a video that could be seen by the whole world that includes these countries and people, talking about methods most cannot afford.

Please try to find things that help everyone, not just those with much disposable income. At least find ways to share telescopes and data from them with everyone – lossless image data that covers the whole sky for everyone. Your video might be tongue in cheek for entertainment and click purposes. But you can also think of real needs. Why do people need to see the sky? Why do they want to? What can the human species gain from studying anything like this? Why do people with telescopes not share? What does NASA still post most of its pictures of “stars” and “galaxies” in lossy formats just as eye candy, rather than seriously try to share with everyone? I know you have serious intent as well as being flip and cute. A lot of people subscribe and listen to you. Try to see that what you post in the Internet ought to be for everyone who uses the Internet. Right now that is about 4.8 Billion people and another 3 Billion with no access at all. A telescope that cost a billion dollars, and a billion people can get and use all the data it produces is a good deal. It might cost a billion dollars to share, but that is still better than a billion people paying $800 each to maybe once in a great while – something interesting. So I think your comparison lacks something critical – who pays those dollars, who benefits, who sees at all? Isn’t most of the telescope data in the world hoarded by the people who buy the telescopes? Or the people who run the facility, regardless of who paid or what justification?

Now, an $800 telescope where there is clear seeing might benefit one person. But a $32,000 telescope could benefit millions, if everyone gets access to everything that gets seen and recorded, and the seeing covers a regular selection and where people can vote on favorites. Is someone pays to see something special, and they share with everyone, that can help more people. That kind of thinking. Again, trying to serve 7.8 Billion not just a handful. Would you say, this data from this American, Russian, Japanese, … telescope is only for those people from the associated country. And anyone from a poor country who cannot afford a telescope – too bad? Or, you can only use this data if you are from a rich university, and only you can see what you pay to look at? Then any use of this publicly funded telescope is only for those who can afford to do pay or have certain credentials, or backers? No one but a few people can choose what gets looked at and for how long? And the only thing “shared” is a few lossy photos?

Policies and sharing on the Internet, for the whole of the human species, is different than “every group for themselves”. Or every investigator who can garner support and funding for themselves. It is not hard to share, but it takes much more thought and effort than anyone on the Internet is trying. Those online “look at all the stars” sites are only accessible by a tiny fraction of Internet users. On the Internet, one in a hundred thousand is 48,000 and that seems like a lot, but it is not enough. “We served 10,000 people last year” sounds good at a fund raiser, but is only one in 480,000 on the Internet. Smart people can figure it out. It is not hard, someone just has to try.

Yes, I did like your video. I just think you could go a bit deeper.

Richard Collins, Director, The Internet Foundation

Richard K Collins

About: Richard K Collins

Director, The Internet Foundation Studying formation and optimized collaboration of global communities. Applying the Internet to solve global problems and build sustainable communities. Internet policies, standards and best practices.

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