"There will always be people who feel that colonizing space will only transport our problems elsewhere. We prefer to be optimistic. The first colonists to arrive at Mars will look down on a world where not a single bullet has been fired, where not a single bomb has ever fallen from the sky. We think early colonists will be very aware of this. They might well prohibit such weapons entirely. Of course, a human being can always kill with their hands; that will not, we think, be solved. And a human being can make a weapon out of nearly any object, or even construct weapons in secret. But in a pristine world, we think, people will be determined not to repeat old madnesses, and they may be extremely intolerant of even the seeds of division, violence, and waste. In ancient Iceland, murderers and other criminals were banished to the wilderness, where life was nearly impossible. Similar rules may be enforced by early off-Earthers. And if things grow the wrong way on Mars--just as they might grow wrong on Earth even if we someday achieve universal peace--there would remain the solution that has been used by various human groups on Earth for millennia: social fission. In many cultures, it has been customary to relieve tensions by splitting up, an option almost impossible on Earth today. The science fiction writer Robert Heinlein wrote that "When things get so crowded that you need an ID, it is time to move. The great thing about space travel is that it has given us somewhere to move." For a long time, Mars will offer large landscapes for expansion; places to go if things turn badly.
And, of course, Mars is no end; one of our points in this book has been that human space colonization cannot be though of as an end, like landing on the moon nearly 50 years ago. Rather, it is a beginning. Eventually, people of Mars might want to move farther on; in fact, considering what we have learned about humanity in this book, that seems natural and inevitable, while challenging it seems unnatural. We feel that other places in the solar system, and eventually the galaxy, and eventually other galaxies, will all be explored, and some settled. Humanity, by this method of continual expansion, will have aligned itself with the nature of the universe, which is change. There is no utopia, because conditions change, and humanity itself changes. If there is a constant it is change and the evolution itself that adapts to that change. But for humanity to engage with this reality, we have to begin somewhere, and we argue that we should begin now. There will never be a best time to begin; it will always be argued that we have more pressing immediate concerns. But to focus on those immediate concerns could, in the end, cost us everything. In our daily lives, we invest heavily to protect our future, by buying insurance and minding our doings. Colonizing space will be nothing less than an insurance policy for our species and civilization. It is worth the cost and effort."
(c) 2011 by Cameron M. Smith