Why would anyone want to go to other stars? Why would it be beneficial to humanity?
Those of you who have wondered about my absence from my normal haunts online, including the “night DJ” job at Instapundit, wonder no more.
I’ve been at TVIW, which I’ve attended for its last three sessions. TVIW is the Tennessee Valley Interstellar Workshop, a gathering of scientists, professionals and crazy people (like me) who dream in fiction, and who think it’s important – nay, imperative – for humans to leave the cradle of the Earth and colonize different worlds around different stars.
For more on this year’s session, go here.
You’ll see there is meaty stuff there — for example, how to do a flyby of Alpha Centauri and look at the extra-solar worlds we’re most likely to be able to reach. There’s discussion of how to find signs of life without actually going there. There’s discussion of what a habitable (by us) planet might be. There is also some rather silly social science and someone who seemed to think that Sweden (which was practically offering prizes for people to have babies, the most fundamental form of “voting on the future” there is) is a “stable” society, or that to make a society stable you must make it multicultural. It’s enough to make you wonder what they’re teaching kids these days — except you know, and I know.
But leave aside the fact that there is all sorts of meaty, interesting stuff there, including how to organize world ships.
So, are we ready to go to the stars now?
Ah. I’m among those people who think that worldships are a fascinating concept, but that before we are ready to build one and use it to reach the stars, (or any form of slow ship to the stars, actually), there will be another solution available to us.
But that doesn’t matter. If we don’t talk about the means to get to the stars, if we don’t make it an explicit objective, if at least some number of us doesn’t engage the subject, and dream the dreams, we will surely never get there.
And that would be very bad.
Look, guys, it is quite typical of the left to be against “colonialism.” This is sort of like being against “being alive.”
Sure, there are bad ways for humans to colonize other humans. For some reason, the Spaniards seemed to use far more fire and blood than almost anyone else, but no one can beat the horrors that mad King Leopold inflicted on the Congo.
Notwithstanding which, there is nothing that justifies being against “colonialism.”
All life forms colonize. Life forms that stop colonizing, that get comfortable and well adapted to a niche, eventually get extinct when that environment disappears.
We know it is possible for the Earth to turn very inhospitable, suddenly. We know it is possible for a meteor or volcanism, or probably a hundred things we don’t even anticipate, to destroy our world and us.
Sure, let’s colonize the solar system. That gives us a measure of safety from planet-ending events.
But there is more to it than that.
There is more to safety and to adaptation and to species viability.
In this increasingly connected world, it is quite possible not for culture to homogenize, precisely, but for a world response to crisis and challenge to develop; for us to ossify into a certain way to deal with certain things. All the world – maybe all the solar system – responding to crisis the same way.
This makes it imperative that we go as far as we can, that we fling the spores of humanity as far as we can into the universe, that we conquer as many planets as we can under alien stars.
Of course. The further we go, the greater the variance, the more chances that out there one human civilization will survive.
I’ve heard the same objections to this that you have: it’s crazy, it’s impossible, it’s too expensive, “we need to learn to care about this planet first,” and also: “we need to take care of people in this world.”
And that’s precisely why we should go. It was once quite crazy to think of colonizing other continents, which Europeans weren’t even sure existed or were habitable. And they had poor people to take care of, and in fact, they had no idea how to take care of their continent. (Though I’m sure they had their own self-satisfied goofballs who thought they did.)
In the end, it was leaving Europe behind that not only allowed people – by knowing other environments – to figure out how to “take care” of Europe, but also allowed the poor and misfits of Europe to go elsewhere and create a few pretty decent countries and ours, which is, frankly, a great country.
It allowed us to experiment with different and revolutionary ways of governing ourselves, some of which were even an improvement on the older ones. (Ours again.) It allowed us to find new compounds, new ways of work, new technologies.
In retrospect, humanity as a whole has reaped an enormous reward for the investment of Isabella of Castile’s crown jewels.
Yes, even for those populations that were colonized by Europe. Which is why the descendants of those populations can complain about cultural appropriation on computers and often in English.
There are, out there, on those different stars, opportunities we’ll never find on Earth.
Sure, I’m not going to lie to you. There are a lot of dangers too. Some worlds we get to won’t have the right proteins, and people will starve. Some worlds will try to organize like Sweden and won’t reproduce. Some colonies will just disappear, and no one will ever know why.
But some will survive and thrive, and discover, create, invent things we can’t even imagine while we’re here and limited in this world and in this world’s modes of thinking.
Out there, waiting for us, are amazing opportunities, amazing new lands.
And sure, we’re not ready to do it right now, but we can almost see it from here, provided we discuss it, we dream it, we research it, we create it.
We’re done with the ocean. Sure, they say the tidal pool is dangerous, but think of the opportunities there. And beyond that, think of the limitless continents. Or in this case of the stars, in – for all intents – an endless universe. A universe where our children, our grandchildren, our great-grandchildren can thrive and live more gloriously than we can even imagine.
Your ancestors braved the unthinkably distant and inhospitable not only once but many times. They reached for better, for different, for unlimited opportunities for their offspring. And you can too. You will too. If humanity is to survive and thrive.
Let’s get out there and colonize.