The Mars Society Parallel Computer:
An Organizational Scheme for Solving the Problem of Getting to Mars
Rocky Mountain Mars Society
With some organizational adjustments, the Mars Society can become a distributed parallel computer which could be used to effectively solve the problem of putting humans on Mars. Chapters and task forces, while maintaining autonomy to experiment with new solutions, can serve as sub-processors. Headquarters, with reasonable coordination and database management, could fulfill the central processor role: polling and compiling all the contributions.
First, we must determine the critical variables. This would involve speculation, then supporting research, on the various characteristics that a permanent human presence on Mars might have, and any necessary constraints. HQ would collect the documentation, and a short list of most-favored scenarios would be created and disseminated to the chapters.
Second, we must learn how to control those variables to reach the desired outcome. The role of HQ would be critical, as the lessons from each sub-processor would need to be shared with all of them so that the learning can be accelerated. The integration of all of the lessons learned by the sub-processors could lead to the revealing of a rule or set of rules which governs each variable (analogous to curve fitting many points of data to determine a function).
The third step, breaking down the problem, would probably occur naturally as each sub-processor finds it can only address parts of the whole. HQ, looking at the situation from the top down, could streamline the process by suggesting a set of goals that each sub processor could contribute to, as they are able.
Solving the problem, if the other three steps are done properly, should be relatively straightforward, if the sharing of information is properly done. HQ would serve the function of integrating the solutions, coordinating their implementation, but with tactical decisions left to the sub-processors.