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Colonise space or perish ..

Posted: Tue Aug 17, 2010 1:08 pm
by brian livesey
In a recent TV interview, Stephen Hawking said that colonising space was the only hope for humanity's survival - faced with wars, population growth and ecological problems, etc.
This is ludicrous, if not supercilious, advice from someone of Hawking's scientific stature. To abandon Earth's problems for a life in space would be like leaving the tap on in an overflowing bath, while collecting the overflow in buckets instead of turning off the tap.
It stands to reason that, if humanity is incapable (which it isn't) of solving its earthbound problems, it will only be taking its problems into space to create new crises elsewhere.
The answer lies in creating a single world community based on conscious social-planning, but that's political - something Hawking has yet to catch up with. :wink:

Re: Colonise space or perish ..

Posted: Tue Aug 17, 2010 5:28 pm
by nealeh
brian livesey wrote:if humanity is incapable (which it isn't) of solving its earthbound problems
Sadly I don't see signs of humanity solving its earthbound problems. I feel the world today is much more vulnerable today than during the cold war era and its risks of nuclear disaster.

Posted: Wed Aug 18, 2010 7:07 am
by Davej
Hi Brian and Neale,
I agree Neale, I dont think that man will ever colonise space (just my humble opinion). There has been much talk for many years about colonising the Moon and Mars, these are on our doorstep compared to the hundreds of light years (possibly/probably) we would have to travel to (and light travel only exists in sc-fi) to find a suitable planet (to make a mess of ??). I'm all for exploration but I think that belongs to the probes (and even then the cost is massive).
Brian I know what you are saying about Prof. Hawking, I think what he is saying is true that we will have to move further afield to survive but I don't think it will happen given the amount of technology, knowlege, cost, etc. we will need before this planet gives up the ghost.
I think this is the interview in question Brian.

All the best.
Dave

Posted: Wed Aug 18, 2010 9:16 am
by joe
Putting on my sci-fi hat... :D

The colonisation of the Moon and Mars, if it ever happened, would involve travelling to and from those bodies, carrying crews, materials, etc. This is something that is imaginable in the near future. Colonising planets in other star systems would obviously have to be a one way journey, either with spacecraft designed to accomodate and support many generations of humans during a journey that would last hundreds, or thousands, of years or (more likely) with some form of technology that incorporates human DNA with robotics.

Personally, I don't regard Hawking's comments as ludicrous/supercilious and he is certainly not alone in saying them. He may after all agree with you, Brian, but has the opinion that it is unlikely to happen. I imagine that colonisation will always be on the agenda whether the Earth is doomed or not.

Posted: Wed Aug 18, 2010 12:55 pm
by brian livesey
Without wishing to sound messianic, some of us are highly optimistic about humanity's future on our planet, with or without space travel, and we are immensely proud of humanity's technical achievements down the centuries.
The doomsters, including Stephen Hawking, Martin Rees and broadcaster David Attenborough, lack a historio-political dimension in their criticisms of society. They blame the planet's problems on effects without recognising the cause, i.e the economic system we live under. This can be remedied by introducing a more advanced economic system.
Historically, we've lived under a variety of economies, from hunter-gathering to present-day Capitalism. Our current way of life isn't the final word and it certainly doesn't necessitate flying off into space to establish a more advanced economy than the one we've got!
Let's face it, a species that wrecks its home planet, deserves extinction, but this isn't going to happen. :D

Colonise space or perish ..

Posted: Wed Aug 18, 2010 6:41 pm
by nealeh
I think that the difficulty with technology is that it's all but impossible to truly imagine the future.

Would the world of 1910 recognise today? Or that of 1810 recognising even 1910 (let alone 2010).

Posted: Fri Aug 20, 2010 10:04 am
by brian livesey
We shouldn't try to "imagine" the future, Neal, we should make it. :wink:

Posted: Sat Jan 29, 2011 4:35 am
by uncleslam
well it only seems natural that if faced with extinction or a major catastrophe of some sort that humanity will have to travel to the stars. even at modest speeds, not talkin anywhere near lightspeed, we could colonize several star systems in only a few generations, as colonization is exponential.

personally i dont think we will do this, not for about 1000 years, if we even survive that long. as i dont believe there is too many habitable stars within reasonable cosmic reach. approaching 100 lightyears is more or less impossible unless we figure some loophole round physics

Posted: Sat Jan 29, 2011 9:54 am
by brian livesey
As a species we are new to the planet, and in social terms we've only recently stepped out of the Middle Ages. It's too early for the threat of extinction to be on the agenda.
Even all-out nuclear war seems highly unlikely, seeing that the perpetrators would destroy themselves, along with the "enemy". Limited use of nuclear weapons can't be ruled out, but that wouldn't make us extinct. It would probably lead to a ban of the weapons.
As for global warming and environmental problems in general, the "discomfort" they might eventually cause is more likely to spur us into reorganising society in harmony with the biosphere, rather than making us extinct.

Posted: Tue Mar 29, 2011 12:44 pm
by Tim Chamberlain
I think, given the vast technological advances made in our short tenure of this planet's lifetime (i.e. flint handaxes to the ISS - think opening sequence of Kubrick's 2001), anything is possible given enough time.

This thread rather reminded me of Asimov's Foundation novels - the later ones in particular with the quest to find the planet which was humanity's birthplace.

Interstellar travel may well end up being something we haven't yet been able to conceive of, let alone predict. It may not be the realisation of the fantasies depicted in Star Trek and Star Wars-type hyper- or warp- drives ... but then again, people used to think that if you sailed far enough you'd end up falling off the edge of the flat Earth! ... Who's to say where the next 10, or 100, or 1000, or 10,000 etc years will find us?

One thing is for sure: it is our species' boundless curiosity which has spurred us ever onwards, and I don't see that trait ever changing - it is who we are. Doom-mongers or eternal optimists aside, in my opinion, humankind will always be a curiosity inspired species.

Re: Colonise space or perish ..

Posted: Tue Mar 29, 2011 5:43 pm
by scarlet
nealeh wrote: Sadly I don't see signs of humanity solving its earthbound problems. I feel the world today is much more vulnerable today than during the cold war era and its risks of nuclear disaster.
I do have to agree with Neale.

I do think we will be our own end. Someone with a big red button & no respect for life wll do it.

(unless the volcano in Yellowstone goes - then that could well be it).

Posted: Wed Mar 30, 2011 9:57 am
by brian livesey
Some of us take the view that things sometimes have to get worse before they can get better.
History has shown that what almost always spurs people into action isn't an innate "spirit of adventure", but sheer social necessity ( or what we think is necessity) .

Re: Colonise space or perish ..

Posted: Tue Jul 26, 2011 1:59 pm
by lone77star
brian livesey wrote:It stands to reason that, if humanity is incapable (which it isn't) of solving its earthbound problems, it will only be taking its problems into space to create new crises elsewhere.
The answer lies in creating a single world community based on conscious social-planning, but that's political
This is a most interesting subject and worthy of a great deal of discussion (and action). I agree, Brian, that we need to solve our problems here so that we don't drag them into space with us. Sort of like Roddenberry's "Star Trek" ideal.

Politics is a highly charged subject, but I hope no one will take offense at my small offering. I see the value in a single world community, but a democracy of separate states has the value of keeping other states honest and non-totalitarian. It's an imperfect solution, granted. Perhaps by "single world community" you mean a more effective UN?

Perhaps a more compelling reason to colonize Mars and beyond might be that humanity's continuity of civilization would not exist beyond a large asteroid hitting Earth. Colonizing other, nearby star systems would be even better, just in case a small dust cloud (with chunks) happened to pass through the Solar system (hitting both Mars and Earth). But that would require either generational ships, nuclear engines, or spatial warp (new technology). And in a few million years, should humanity last that long, we would need to move to a new star system anyway, or rework this one, as the sun's output gradually increases from the changes in its internal chemistry. In a billion years, Earth would become uninhabitable from the increased insolation -- all of this before the sun leaves the main sequence.

Re: Colonise space or perish ..

Posted: Tue Jul 26, 2011 5:52 pm
by Northerner
brian livesey wrote:In a recent TV interview, Stephen Hawking said that colonising space was the only hope for humanity's survival - faced with wars, population growth and ecological problems, etc.
This is ludicrous, if not supercilious, advice from someone of Hawking's scientific stature. To abandon Earth's problems for a life in space would be like leaving the tap on in an overflowing bath, while collecting the overflow in buckets instead of turning off the tap.
It stands to reason that, if humanity is incapable (which it isn't) of solving its earthbound problems, it will only be taking its problems into space to create new crises elsewhere.
The answer lies in creating a single world community based on conscious social-planning, but that's political - something Hawking has yet to catch up with. :wink:
I have heard Hawking say this but I did not take the same meaning from his comments.
I thought he was simply saying that moving into space was the only sure way of guaranteeing the survival of humans. In other words making certain our eggs were not all in one basket (the Earth).
Of course a long time will pass before we are able to send huge ships, out of the Solar System, to explore interstellar space, but I believe that will happen and we have to start with our own System.
As "nealeh" said it is impossible to predict the technology of the future, but I suspect that the ships, going to the stars, will be self-sufficient, for very long time periods, and could be thought of as mini-earths.
Without starting a civil war I think your second paragraph is absurd. You appear to believe that because Hawking is advocating space travel he is actually suggesting abandoning the Earth.
If the first group of Homo Sapiens, who left Africa and eventually moved over almost the whole planet, had felt it necessary to solve every problem, facing them, they would never have left their relatively small corner of that continent.
I much prefer the views of Hawking to someone who advocates "successfully" adopting some kind of Utopian solution, to our problems, before we begin a proper exploration of the universe.

Posted: Wed Jul 27, 2011 9:18 am
by brian livesey
In the TV interview he gave, Hawking definitely expressed a deep pessimism about humanity's treatment of our planet, but he lacks an overall historical view and could only recommend flying off into space, as if this would have some sort of redemptive effect.
"Utopian" is a misunderstood term these days and has come to be synonymous with "impossible". Utopia actually means "nowhere", which is not the same as saying that something is impossible to attain.
There's no reason why we can't reorganise society on a different basis, afterall, we've done it many times in the past. This is outside of the natural sciences and requires conscious political action on the part of the majority.
Seeing that conscious majority understanding for social change doesn't yet exist, it's still utopian in the original meaning of the word.