The next revolution will take civilization off the planet and into space. This is made possible by robotics and artificial intelligence. While it is challenging for humans to live in space due to radiation, lack of gravity, and the costly need for life support systems, robotic machinery can be easily adapted to solve all these challenges. Robotic industry in space will create an unprecedented growth in economic productivity. Space resources are billions of times more abundant than Earth's resources. With unlimited material and energy resources, unlimited real estate in free space, and unlimited robotic labor (as robotic factories “reproduce” by creating more robotic factories without need for human labor to slow the growth), the industry is predicted to grow exponentially, dwarfing all of Earth's economic activity within just 50 years after it is initiated on the Moon and with asteroids. This will create unprecedented opportunity for human civilization.
This revolution is beginning now due to recent advances in robotics. According to Bill Gates in 2007, robotics "is developing in much the same way that the computer business did 20 years ago". A 2016 review finds “robots dexterous enough to thread a needle and sensitive enough to work alongside humans. They can assemble circuits and pack boxes. We are at the cusp of the industrial-robot revolution”. The sectors most needed for space industry are also the most automatable: manufacture of computers and electronics, electrical equipment, components, appliances, transportation equipment, and machinery are at least 85% automatable today. Mining companies are now adopting fully autonomous vehicles for underground mining, dozing, and hauling. Robotics is penetrating the construction industry, as well. Masonry buildings are constructed by robots that lay bricks three times as fast as humans. Robotic systems are being developed to autonomously construct steel beam buildings, including high-rise buildings. An example is found in this fully automated factory in Japan:
At this moment, in one of Fanuc's 40,000-square-foot factories near Mt. Fuji, robots are building other robots at a rate of about 50 per 24-hour shift and can run unsupervised for as long as 30 days at a time. When they stop, it's because there's no room to store the goods. Trucks haul off the new robots, the lights are cut, and the process begins anew. "Not only is it lights-out," says Fanuc vice president Gary Zywiol, "we turn off the air conditioning and heat too."
More of these “lights out” factories that use only robots without humans are now operating. They include machines shops, distribution centers, food production plants, and electronics factories. A Chinese factory making cell phone modules in 2015 illustrates how far this automation has progressed:
…all the processes are operated by computer-controlled robots, computer numerical control machining equipment, unmanned transport trucks and automated warehouse equipment. The technical staff just sits at the computer and monitors through a central control system.
These capabilities are set to revolutionize industry on Earth, but they are also rapidly changing our prospects for starting up space industry. Soon it will be possible to deploy robots that mine, extract chemical resources from the minerals and ices in space, create materials, manufacture parts, and assemble new machines. The less human intervention is needed for the robots, the more rapidly space industry can expand. This will become explosive growth after the in-space supply chain is nearly “closed” meaning most materials and parts can be made in space. The in-space supply chain will likely be built up gradually over a course of several decades beginning with several early business activities then evolving to more advanced industry.
Recently, several financial houses predicted how rapidly this space industry will grow over the coming three decades. Bank of America / Merrill Lynch published a report in 2017 predicting that space industry will octuple to become about a $3T (trillion) industry. Morgan Stanley predicts $1.1T over the same period, in substantial agreement. The United Launch Alliance, which operates the United States' Atlas and Delta families of rockets, has developed a roadmap called Cis-Lunar 1000. They predict space industry will grow to $2.7T by 30 years with 1000 people living and working in space.
This industry will grow because launch costs are being reduced by SpaceX, Blue Origin, and ULA, and because mining in space will provide cheap rocket fuel. Space industry will next draw revenue from the exploding demand for Internet data and telecommunications by constructing vast antennas in orbit using materials from asteroids and the Moon. This is the only known way to keep up with the data demands in the coming decades. Space industry will eventually build giant power stations in orbit beam cheap, abundant, clean energy to the surface of the Earth. The Internet and Energy sectors alone will be work many trillions of dollars, and moving these sectors into space will dramatically reduce the environmental burden on Earth. Resources in space will come from mining the Moon and asteroids and from collecting solar energy from solar cells made using the mined materials. Even as space industry is developing it will begin providing benefits back to the Earth. In order for it to solve the global challenges such as global warming, water shortages and abundant energy for economic growth in developing nations, it needs to start quickly.
Since space industry will grow exponentially, it can rapidly dwarf all industry on Earth, providing tremendous economic value to human civilization. This value will include most of civilization's computers, built and operated in space, providing for the ever-growing demand for computing while removing this entire sector from Earth's environment and thus removing the environmental impact from Earth. It is estimated there could be the equivalent of a trillion human intelligences (artificial intelligence) provided by computing by the end of the century, and these computer-based intelligences could “live” an a virtual world in hardware located off Earth. They will be performing the engineering and science to create ever-greater technologies to take civilization to successively higher levels of development. The economic value to Earth will also include items manufactured in space and brought back for sale, space tourism experiences, and more effective science and space exploration.
Many moguls are turning into commercial space explorers: flying as space tourists, building and launching their own rockets, and starting space mining companies. They do this because the technology to take human civilization into the solar system has arrived. Space colonization is now possible, and we can solve many of Earth’s greatest problems, too, by bringing the billion-fold greater resources of our solar system into our economic sphere.
Political and Social Justice Need for Expanded Ownership of In-Space Industry
One of the dangers is that this explosive growth of economic productivity in space may be owned by just few people, creating a vastly deeper rift between the “Haves” and the “Have-nots”. While the rift is already big today, it is seriously nothing compared to what it will be if such a future comes about. A possible cure to this is to expand ownership of space industry to include all people.
If ownership is to pass to great numbers of people globally, the solution will need to be developed by a person or group that wants to give it to them, and that develops it before anybody else does. That could be a crowdsourced movement where the crowd creates the industry and therefore already owns it. So, I became convinced the solution must involve educating/involving the citizens, creating a movement that understands, expects, and demands that we do the right things, since ultimately politicians respond to them.
A social justice goal of the Sheyene Institute is to address this issues. I hypothesized we can create inroads to space industry for the participants in our program through intellectual property rights. My project strategically includes people around the world, especially including those who are disadvantaged, as early participants and innovators in our space future, providing on-ramps toward ownership and high value employment.
Expanding ownership of space industry solves two problems. First, it will motivate people to act as pioneers, engaging their efforts and funds, making it possible for the industry to become economic. This has been a vital part of pioneering movements on Earth in the past but has been lacking thus far in space due to the biological limitation against pioneers surviving sub-economically in the space environment. Our program re-establishes the economic norms of pioneering through teleoperation of broadly owned robotics. Second, it will reduce economic and political disparity in the long run, as industry in space begins to grow exponentially and eventually dominates productivity in the human sphere. With appropriate messaging that focuses on an inspirational goal of establishing industry in space with all the benefits it will bring to the world, we can make space industry possible, desirable, mandatory, and real, while addressing the social justice problem by expanding global participation and developing a workforce for an automated future.
 B. Gates, A Robot in Every Home, Sci. Am. 296.1 (2007) 58-65.
 V. Wadhwa, From AI To Robotics, 2016 Will Be The Year When The Machines Start Taking Over. Tech Crunch.
 C. Null, B. Caulfield, Fade To Black The 1980s vision of ‘lights-out’ manufacturing, where robots do all the work, is a dream no more. http://money.cnn.com/magazines/business2/business2_archive/2003/06/01/343371/
 First unmanned factory takes shape in Dongguan City.