October 10, 2007

Frank Stratford: Tapping humanity's potential through space exploration

From Frank Stratford's Space Review article, "Our potential in space":
So why would humans want to explore or live in such places? The one argument that has often been glossed over or ignored is, in my opinion, the most important, and many others are beginning to see this. This motive for sending humans into space comes down to rediscovering the importance of realizing our potential as a people. If scientific discoveries and resource utilization or spin-offs are not enough to get our governments and businesses interested in investing more in space, perhaps it’s time to take a different approach
When I think of what the colonization of space could achieve for us I only have to look at what we have achieved here on Earth to understand what could be our future in space. Yes, we will always carry the negatives with us wherever we go. There will still be problems here on Earth as long as we exist, but growing onto new worlds and new horizons is in our genes. All societies that ceased to look outward have ceased to exist, from the records we have of great civilizations of the past. When apathy, internal politics, and agendas take over, that’s when we lose sight of our potential for greatness.
Read Stratford's entire article.


Nato Welch said...

"This motive for sending humans into space comes down to rediscovering the importance of realizing our potential as a people."

We have many potentials, some of which are distinct from space exploration, some of which are mutually exclusive with it.

"Growing onto new worlds and new horizons is in our genes."

Is genetic engineering in our genes, too? Citing genes as immutable destiny only works so long as genes are immutable destiny.

"All societies that ceased to look outward have ceased to exist"

And not all societies that did look outward are still with us today.

This is where I revisit again the classic problem of "who's we?" We have to face the prospects of change, and, in so doing, the prospect of changing so much that "we" lose the sense of "us". "Our" society doesn't well resemble "our" society of a few centuries ago; as such, somewhere along the line, our forebears become "they" instead. So "we" should bear in mind that our descendants are those "we" may not think of as "us" down the road.

Nato said...

I wonder, with what potentials does space exploration conflict?

As for the gene comment: it is perhaps ill-advised to ascribe a fundamental aspect of being human directly to one source amongst many of human nature. However, I'm not sure that was the intent; it may have been a colloquialism in the vein of saying we have exploration "in our bones." I do think exploration in *some* sense is a fundamental human trait and that an organism lacking said trait is not fully human. This is not to say that space exploration is a prerequisite for the continual-becoming-that-is-humanity, but I can see why people view it as the "natural" progression.

Personally, I think that the impetus to start over anow, to found something utterly different than what came before will drive some few at least to undertake veridical colonization, once it becomes easy and painless*.

As for "we" I think "we" have been and will be always human** in the most important respects because those respects appear to be stable "solutions" game-theoretical dynamics presented by all societies with limited resources. Some might argue that societies will some day be unlimited in their resources for all intents and purposes, but I think this is a mistake, since social capital is always limited.

Finally, what are the chances that there's another "nato" commenting on here? Meanwhile, I just moved to a place on "Natoma" street, containing my nickname, as a friend pointed out to me after I'd already moved in. Crazy coincidences.

*For example, hardware humans who intend to break from the rest of humanity need not worry a whit about the long transit from one solar system to another, since they can set a timer to "wake up" after ten years, ten thousand or ten million and it sill still be a subjective second between departure and arrival at their adventure.

**Or "people", if one prefers a more neutral term or wishes to distinguish (I do not) between homo sapiens and others sharing the same broad cognitive features.