Monday, April 27, 2015

Space Colonization? Of Course

The better part of a generation ago, our broadest thinkers on the human future -- Clarke, Sagan and Asimov (see below)-- were all clear in their support of the necessity for human settlement of new worlds for long-term survival. A more navel-gazing period followed, cynically and unimaginatively suggesting that the idea would amount to no more than transporting old human problems elsewhere, or was simply impossible (history should demonstrate how ill-advised the term 'technically impossible' has been to date). Today we can see thousands of exoplanets and know there are millions more in our galaxy alone. Of course, someone will eventually want to go to them, and today the thinnest end of the wedge is statements of 'great fancy', like those below by Stephen Hawking:

Of course we must address problems here at home, but we should also think in the long term; that's why I work with Icarus Interstellar on cultural and genetic issues involved in long-term space settlement. A billion puzzle pieces must be assembled to make such futures real, and this is how we starting!

You can hear more at my recent talk at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics or read about these ideas in my book, Emigrating Beyond Earth.

Below, Sagan weighs in:

Arthur C. Clarke in 1950:

There is no way back into the past; the choice, as Wells once said, is the universe—or nothing. Though men and civilizations may yearn for rest, for the dream of the lotus-eaters, that is a desire that merges imperceptibly into death. The challenge of the great spaces between the worlds is a stupendous one; but if we fail to meet it, the story of our race will be drawing to its close.

...and Isaac Asimov in 1974:

Unless we are willing to settle down into a world that is our prison, we must be ready to move beyond Earth. . . . People who view industrialization as a source of the Earth's troubles, its pollution, and the desecration of its surface, can only advocate that we give it up. This is something that we can't do; we have the tiger by the tail. We have 4.5 billion people on Earth. We can't support that many unless we're industrialized and technologically advanced. So, the idea is not to get rid of industrialization but to move it somewhere else. If we can move it a few thousand miles into space, we still have it, but not on Earth. Earth can then become a world of parks, farms, and wilderness without giving up the benefits of industrialization.

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