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Richard Branson space flight: should billionaires be going to space? | Ticker VIEWS

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As billionaire Richard Branson welcomes humanity to “the dawn of new space age”, we are left to wonder if now is the time to leave earth

In the early hours of today, Richard Branson joined fellow billionaires Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos as a competitor in the new age space race. However, should we be celebrating the possibility of a future where the extremely wealthy can afford space getaways?

The last few years have been catastrophic for planet earth. The escalating climate crisis has seen wildfires ravage through Australia last year, and more recently in California. Global tensions continue to rise with escalating conflict throughout the Middle East and a widening political divide. The Covid-19 pandemic has become not only a health crisis, but also an economic and political one.

With this in mind, billionaires going to space as the world burns feels slightly out-of-touch. In many ways, the entire concept feels like it could be pulled from the plot of some dystopian blockbuster. As the world burns, the uber-rich get to escape in their personal space jets. However, these same men (and they are all men), insist that their escapades beyond earth are inherently philanthropic.

Last year, the UN’s David Beasley implored billionaires to “step up” and help fund the fight against hunger worldwide. Beasley also took to Twitter in June to specifically encourage action from Bezos, Branson and Musk.

And yet, it seems this is the exact moment the space race between Silicon Valley’s elite is heating up. Aside from Branson, Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos also have space travel firmly in their sights with SpaceX and Blue Origin.

Will space travel be accessible to all, or only the rich?

Traveling to space must be “more accessible to all,” Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson said during a news conference following his successful space flight. However, the sentiment feels rather hollow when you look at the hefty cost of space travel.

Although the $250,000 price tag to go to space with Virgin Galactic may seem excessive, it’s a bargain compared to what other companies offer. A ticket aboard a SpaceX mission costs about $55 million, and a seat on a spaceflight next to Jeff Bezos costs about $28 million.

Even Virgin Galactic’s offerings for relatively cheap space travel cost about the same as the US’ medium house price. Thus far, the company says at least 600 people have made reservations for future Virgin Galactic flights, at a ticket price estimated to cost as much as $250,000.

Space Connector Christina Korp has over 12 years managing former NASA astronauts and says although Branson, Bezos and musk are fuelling the cash and ‘billionaire space race’ angle… it’s just a natural progression to take space to a commercial market.

“I heard their intention is to hopefully begin to do flights once a week or possible once a day (to space)”

Space Connector Christina Korp

Korp says NASA astronauts want to share their perspective of earth and believe more people should be able to also experience space.

“We’re here to make space more accessible to all,” says Richard Branson.

For his part, Branson has committed to reducing ticket prices. Although, he hasn’t specified when we can expect cheaper flights, or how cheap the tickets could become. Of course, many analysts say that space tourism flights will naturally become less expensive as technology continues to develop.

Space travel isn’t the only new technology that has a price tag too large for the average person. During the early days of commercial aircraft, a plane ticket was far out of most people’s reach. Now, over a billion people travel internationally every year (albeit this statistic was prior to Covid-19 restrictions).

“The price point is high, but that’s just like any other early adopter,” said Ann Kim, managing director of frontier tech at Silicon Valley Bank.

Are billionaires using their money to go to space, or is going to space making them money?

At the core of each of these discussions is a central component: money, and lots of it. Experts anticipate that space tourism will represent an annual market of $20 billion, as a competitor to long-distance commercial flights.

The billions of dollars pouring into private space companies represents “a high level” of capital formation, UBS said. Even though space tourism is still in its early days, UBS said they believe the sub-sector “will become mainstream as the technology becomes proven and cost falls”.

With so much money at stake, it leaves you to wonder whether the mission of these billionaires truly is to provide for humanity. And if so, why would they not direct their philanthropic endeavours closer to earth?

This isn’t to say that improving space travel technology won’t be beneficial to humanity. However, you’d be kidding yourself if you saw space technology as anything other than a capitalistic investment.

Let the record say: I’m not opposed to space travel, or investing in the development of space technology. However, perhaps billionaires should be using their astronomical wealth to contribute to social causes closer to earth.

Authors

  • Keira is the front-page editor at Ticker NEWS. She's previously worked at Reuters in Jakarta, and ABC in Australia. She has a Bachelor of Journalism, specialising in international politics. Keira is particularly interested in writing about politics, technology and human rights.

Keira is the front-page editor at Ticker NEWS. She's previously worked at Reuters in Jakarta, and ABC in Australia. She has a Bachelor of Journalism, specialising in international politics. Keira is particularly interested in writing about politics, technology and human rights.

Tech

Big tech giants could be held to account for vaccine misinformation

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Social media giants are about to be held to account for vaccine misinformation

As COVID-19 cases see a rise in the US, Democratic senators are planning to introduce a new bill that would hold social media giants accountable for public health misinformation.

The new bill would strip away Facebook and other social media platforms’ Section 230 liability shield if they promote harmful public health misinformation.

The Health Misinformation Act, introduced by Senator Amy Klobuchar and Ben Ray Luján would create a carveout in Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act and make social media platforms like Facebook accountable for hosting some dangerous health misinformation.

The bill directs the Health and Human Services secretary to issue clear guidlines on what exactly is “health misinformation.”

Basically, the new rules would only apply in situations where online misinformation is related to an existing public health emergency like the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

How does it work? – It would only open a platform up to liability if the content is being algorithmically amplified, not through “a neutral mechanism, such as through the use of “chronological functionality.”

“For far too long, online platforms have not done enough to protect the health of Americans.”

Senator Klobuchar in a statement said “The coronavirus pandemic has shown us how lethal misinformation can be and it is our responsibility to take action.”

Section 230 protects platforms from liability for illegal content hosted on their platforms — but misinformation is not illegal in itself.

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Business

Snapchat is growing faster than it has in years

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Snapchat announces new climate plan

Snapchat’s parent company has continued to see record growth – and profit – of the platform

Just a couple of years ago, there were concerns that Snap, the parent company of Snapchat, wouldn’t survive as a standalone company, but the social media platform is growing faster than it has since 2017.

The camera-based messaging app stated it added 13 million daily users during the second quarter of this year – a 23 percent increase from the same time a year ago.

That means 293 million people use Snapchat every day around the world, up from 173 million this time four years ago.

Snapchat’s revenue has also soared 116 percent to $982 million – making it a faster growing business than Twitter or Facebook

Snap CEO Evan Spiegel has said he expects the app’s user base to actually grow faster as pandemic lockdowns end, since Snapchat is designed to be used out and about with friends.

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Business

Why businesses should be tapping into the world of eSports

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Gaming has run a parallel race with tech businesses for years now with many industries embracing the competitive advantages.

CARLOS ALIMURUNG EXPLAINS THE PERKS OF MOBILE GAMING

It’s no secret that eSports is an area that many gamers imagined thriving since the early days of couch multiplayer – Businesses are now witnessing the momentum first-hand with companies such as ONE eSports acting as a vanguard to this new era.

CEO of ONE eSports, Carlos Alimurung was able to shine some light on the industry looking to explain the benefits for players, sponsors, and streamers.

Mobile gaming, whilst often considered “beneath” many traditional gamers have seen exponential growth with the power of smartphones and mobile devices increasing significantly, and eSports teams have noticed the potential of the games on offer and the convenience with which the platforms contain.

Celebrating the narrative of content creators and players within the industry is another area boasted by ONE eSports as they encourage and promote the players, seeing them as no different to athletes seen on a field, court, or even the Olympics. Though as Carlos explains “eSports doesn’t need the Olympics” – A wonderful expression of confidence for a passionate group of gamers desiring to be taken seriously.

Balancing a traditionally male-dominated industry can be a challenging task for a lot of big businesses which look to make a difference.

Articles outlining the struggles of female employees within game development are rife and deeply troubling, with major developers coming under fire for their response to the traumatic experiences inflicted upon women in the gaming industry.

INCLUSION IS PART OF THEIR INDUSTRY MISSION

They seek to enable and uplift players, streamers, and content creators of all genders to succeed – a breath of fresh air in an otherwise tainted space.

The numbers of female players look to increase with nearly 47% of gamers already being female there is plenty of room to see growth within eSports. (It doesn’t matter what gender you are when you’re on the business end of a no-scope trick shot in the arena!)

carlos alimurung gives insight into the business branding within esports

With brands like Netflix looking to get involved in the gaming industry, it is no longer a question of how but when other major companies will look to plug in and play.

Brands will also need to get smart about how their marketing will be presented to a younger more active audience (without hitting players over the head with it) Games like the basketball simulator: NBA 2K21 integrated unskippible advertising during loading screens which saw fans upset with being force-fed content onto their screens.

And whilst some could argue this made the game more authentic as advertising of course coats the sporting space, there are definitely more clever ways to do this… the spectacle of an esports arena for instance and the opportunities available have untapped potential, again the key is to be clever with the integration of marketing to Gen Z.

EXPANDING REACH

eSport will continue to expand its traditional reach from North America and Southeast Asia through onto Australian shores the question again, is not how but when this will occur as many Aussie gamers go without representation and limited faculty on home soil.

With the pandemic and vaccine rollout yet to play out in full there is a great opportunity to expand the digital market and competitive gaming space worldwide.

For the full chat with Carlos and more gaming goodness check out the rest of Ticker Gaming

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