8/01/2006

Will we take our demons with us into Space?

Inspired by an important point raised in a message from Chris Phoenix, Director of Research at Center for Responsible Nanotechnology, I would like to mull over a principal issue. Chris says in a comment to the basic assumption of this blog:

"if we can't solve our problems on earth,and we take our problems into space with us, then although space access may save a fraction of humanity, it may be extra-bad for most of humanity."
I agree that in a desperate race for the escape hatch, we could face all sort of unpleasantries coming down on us. These might include (but not be limited to) world-destroying nanoformers run amok, interspecies war, human factions fighting over space resources, widespread social injustice, a disseminated society forever outside the rule of "International" law etc.

Seen in this perspective, the use of space travel as a means for surviving our inability to resolve the internal issues of Humanity actually constitutes a total faliure for the use of concepts like morality, law or decency for governing people. We should spend our efforts on learning to live with each other in pan-species harmony or at least in tolerable "cohabitation". While Chris is not argumenting for any kind of halt to space development, he does say that we should accelerate our problem solving right here. My point is, that a pragmatic way of solving our problems is to realize that many fractions of Humanity have insurmountable differences and their ways should part. Preferrably by emigration into space.

The pessimist would claim that the current events in Lebanon, Gaza, Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Pakistan, Iran, Egypt, Chechnya, Indonesia - all over the place, in fact - even in the heart of Europe, could be seen a precursor to a WW III between the western civilization and radicalized Islamic societies, with the conflicts powering radicalization.

An optimist (hard to find currently) would say, that the conflicts of the world will eventually force the world powers to solve the generations-old injustices brought unto the peoples of the Globe by colonialism and imperialism, and to solve them by peaceful, political means (including peacekeeper forces).

After getting that part of it together, and finally able to take on the stars as a unified community, we will spend one or some centuries figuring out how to protect our spacefarers against gamma blasts from dying stars, terraforming nanobots on steroids, more war (again, and now with much worse weapons), and how to get our bodies and minds to work in step with this new enviroment. Time will also be needed to ensure the proliferation of affordable space technology.

But the whole point of the message from this blog (summed up in the Novosolarian Codex) is, that we dont have the time required for that project available. I guess I am a pessimist. I think Good is more fragile than Evil, even if it is better seen from an universal perspective. As decribed in the post about the Dilemma of technological criticality, global technological and political developments are running faster into a ultra-high-risk-domain than we can imagine at the moment. Also I think that as long as anybody claims any values to be True or Everlasting or Ultimate, we will have conflict. Only an unlimited playing field will allow the civilisations to cohabitate, and direct the pressure away from the geographical and mental borders. Insisting that your adversary must deconstruct himself totally (like in the conflict between Hizbollah ind Israel) is not likely to result in cooperation. At least if unlimited space cannot prevent some people from speculating in conflict, at least it gives you the chance to run away.

I respect Chris's view, but I think we need to start thrusting both feet deep in the water right away - no toe-dangling. Then we can correct matters eventually, but the planet is just not big enough for all of us and our miserable onflicts. And 200 hundred years down the line, will this course of action result in a larger sum of accumulated unhappiness than staying here and fixing ourselves right before moving on?

I think not. The human capability of inflicting harm on other humans and to do so with great inventiveness is simply too mind-boggling to consider Earth an even moderately safe place for the next couple of centuries. As to speculations about who should/might/probably will emigrate, this will be a subject for a future post (I am writing it already).

Kickstarting space colonization will NOT be a walk in any park we can possibly imagine. The toll will be high and there is no guarantee of success. But we have to try it. It is our destiny, it is what we were born for, to explore, migrate, run away, conquer - call it what you like. And yes, also to live in peace and prosperity with our families in our community of choice, but right now it is getting increasingly difficult to do so.





Thanks to Chris Phoenix for valuable feedback on this post. Check out his blog at http://crnano.typepad.com/ to get updated on Nanotechnology, responsible use of.

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