March 05, 2021

A Trend I've Noticed

Scott Lowther links to a particularly silly hit piece on Elon Musk over at the Atlantic

It ends with this line: 

To laugh at Sagan’s words is to miss the point entirely: There really is only one true home for us—and we’re already here.

Lowther does a good job dismembering Shannon Stirone's twaddle,  finally  using this for an epic finishing move...

There was only one true home for us… the Olduvai Gorge. Until it wasn’t.

Yep. That's a 'fatality', and that should put to bed this particular nonsense. 


This seems to be a big "thing" in academia right now, and has been percolating since Musk began looking like he might actually pull it off. The arguments I've seen have ranged from environmental concern trolling like this. Safety concern trolling like this and others (to my surprise including Kim Stanley Robinson) and the idea put out by Daniel Deudney and Phil Torres that allowing people off earth is itself an existential threat as people living off planet will develop with different priorities, become different cultures and there will therefore be no alternative to war. (I wish I was being silly, but that is their argument).

I'm not a big fan of terraforming for other reasons (I'm in the Gerard O'Neal/Dandridge Cole camp) but Musk and Zubrin make a good case that the benefits of the tenuous atmosphere and myriad other resources make Mars a very attractive place to do one's crawling, standing and baby steps as humanity gets out of its cradle.

I'm pretty sure that is why there is now such a visceral reaction to this amongst upper class academe and those who the idea of the cosmos being sullied by the great unwashed plebians. 

Providence has provided those who would micromanage our lives, via vacuum and hard radiation, a natural barrier to prevent people escaping their attentions that's far more effective than the Berlin Wall.  They do not want an alternative or counterexample to the homogenized, post-discontent society they envision. The U.S. Australia, Canada, and a few others provided such safety valves in times past. To have a similar escape route unexpectedly open, just as these can taste their triumph over the human spirit must be rather disheartening.

So, while I think the more rational course is to move on from Mars to space habitats like the Stanford Torus, or O'Neil's Cylinders I do find myself willing to consider an exception to my skepticism against terraforming in the particular case of Mars. It's technically doable. (Hell, people have worked out the math on terraforming the MOON) It would be quite the scenic vacation spot and would represent a middle finger to the culture of the Handicapper General by the Culture of Excellence and Striving for Greatness and Arete. Baring the existence on Sol4 of something more advanced than a Volvox, it would harm nothing of consequence while creating vast benefits and stand as a profound testimony to the potential of Humanity and a meaningful inspiration to the children of future generations.

I'll take the future of Olaf Stapeldon over that of H.G. Wells any day of the week. Those of the opposite opinion need neither suffer nor trouble themselves about us. They can sit in repose, lords of their cradle, smugly secure in the knowledge that we deplorable fools could not possibly have survived our folly. 

And perhaps many of those who go won't. It is quite true that this is an objectively wild-eyed and potentially tragic endeavor. Space is cold, (when it's not evaporatingly hot), dark, radioactive and has, to be frank, rather poor toilet facilities and ventilation. It is not for the faint of heart or the stupid or the incompetent. It's gonna be a frontier where you have to make you own fricking air. It will take years to make it safe and generations to make it comfortable and pleasant. But it will be something of real, lasting value, and that is worth risking a lot for. 
It is, as they say,  the truly great ones who plant trees for their descendants that they will never walk in the shade of. 

There is nothing WRONG with not wanting to go into deprivation for a noble dream. In fact it's sensible. However, while I don't begrudge anyone who doesn't want to go, I'm alarmed at the surprising putch of articles demanding that this endeavor NOT BE ALLOWED. 

I really fear that these people in academe and positions of societal power will do everything they can to stop this from happening, using every tool in their legislative and cultural quivers. This is a real issue and needs to be addressed.

Don't block the safety exit. 

Posted by: The Brickmuppet at 08:11 PM | Comments (1) | Add Comment
Post contains 782 words, total size 7 kb.

1 I prefer Bishop Rings myself, but it'll probably take a while longer to start mass producing those.

I agree that keeping the pressure-release valve closed is stupid, but we're discussing people who think Marx was on to something, so "stupid" should be taken as a given.

Posted by: jabrwok at Tue Mar 9 19:17:08 2021 (T4WaI)

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