Tuesday, April 12, 2011
50 years ago
Our future as a global technological civilization lies in space exploration. The metals and light elements essential to maintaining and expanding our technology base exist in the asteroids of our Solar System on a scale that dwarfs the dwindling amounts that remain reasonably accessible to us on Earth. Ideally, one day the operations of industry will take place in orbit, using resources and power extracted from stony celestial bodies and solar radiation.
Additionally, our continued existence on Earth depends on learning how to live in space.
Specifically within closed systems and robust habitats that will allow us to survive as societies and as unique cultures when our home world and the cosmos throw catastrophes on a mind-numbing scale at us. While the chances of a black swan event like a super volcano eruption, dinosaur killer asteroid, or power-grid destroying solar storm on the scale of the October 1859 event are slim in any given year, the occurrence of such events remain only a matter of time. Adapting some of the technologies and methods of life off-Earth to life on our native planet will allow us to not only live more efficiently, but prepare us to live through many of the worst case scenarios that we will face in the long haul.
I also believe that the future of the human mind waits at least in part in space. The adaptive pantropic biotechnologies required to let us live in environments radically different from those that we evolved in will push us to continue the development of the human body and mind. This will come not just from the expansion of existing capabilities, but also the creation new ones, the sum of which will take us beyond the scope of what we call human nature--this beta version mode of being shaped by the contingent legacy systems of our brains and biology as originally adapted to a world of hunting and gathering and tribal socialization.
Don't get me wrong. I like human nature, and I hope that we not only conserve its best aspects, but that there will always be individuals who chose to stick with its original format, out of sheer stubbornness if nothing else. But it would be a better and infinitely more interesting universe if human nature was only the root of something larger and more wonderful. Certainly something more durable on the timescale of our universe than the brief and flitting existence as a species that we are currently faced with.