Space Will Save Us

Future EarthIt’s not about wanting to go individually. It’s about running out of ideas about how to expand the human race, running out of energy and resources, and generally needing a new frontier to expand into. We’re stagnating as a civilization.

Space is full of things we need both for up there and down here: energy, metals, water, air, organics, heat, cold, vacuum, zero-G. We can bring a lot of new wealth to us down here and we do a lot up there that isn’t easy here. But it’s more important than resources.

We need a place for the wild wild west to play out over and over. We need to try new ideas in government and society. Down here it’s too easy for these experiments to be swamped by external influences before anything useful is learned. People are too “comfortable” in the sense of “comfort zones”. We need to shove a bunch of people into a new pool and make them swim or die, honestly. It’s what we’re FOR as a species, and it’s what we’re good at. We’re wasting our intrinsic talents down here and we’re wasting away because of it.

Think about this. The population is thousand times or a million times what it was in the time of the original discoverers of most of our basic understanding of government, society, the physical world, human discourse, law, mathematics, and many other subjects. We have, therefore, thousands or millions of geniuses to those eras’ one. Why aren’t we making fundamental progress on such things?

We’re limited by our comfort zones. Capitalism, while powerful and definitely most of the reason we’re all here and alive and eating and housed today, isn’t the last word in solutions to the problems it was evolved to solve. Nor is democracy. Nor socialism, nor Christianity, nor Buddhism, nor Islam, nor American way of doing things, nor are lots of things.

Nobody is trying anymore. Because the cost of trying is just way too high. Natural selection, natural experimentation, evolution – they’ve all stopped in the world of ideas. That is, until there is a crisis or a war or a disaster. Then we might dabble a bit to fix what we think might have been the cause or recover from the devastation. But we don’t have to fix things most of the time.

Did you know the world is getting richer and there are fewer poor people today than ever per capita?

Some countries are emerging from poverty. Education is on the rise.

We’re all to be blamed for not realizing the truth, actually. But our sources of news are driven by economics, which means they have to live and die by their ability to sell newspapers, magazines, online eyeballs, advertisers’ products, or whatever. This leads to what Nicholas Kristof calls in this op-ed piece a true selection bias that leads directly to a corresponding bias in public opinion.

We’re making progress in our quest to uplift all of humanity. It’s just not considered real news to report that this is the case. And it isn’t, really. The process has been been a slow, painful climb whose progress isn’t exhilarating so much as it is tedious to watch. Except, of course, by those who benefit from that progress: poverty stricken countries, decaying inner cities, and moribund agrarian populations that couldn’t make any progress against commodity market price reductions.

The idea of farming, mining, and other ancient and labor intensive jobs as ways of life is slowly dying and being replaced with automation, economies of scale, and higher technology solutions to creating society’s base materials. We’re now seeing populations whose leaders are forced to turn to other means to keep the gravy train going for themselves. Formerly ruthless dictators of countries filled with abject poverty are seeing the writing on the wall and inviting education and investment to enrich their countries so they can get even richer. This last bit is a negative side effect of this progress, and it will eventually have to be resolved. But for now it’s not such a bad thing that some asshole at the top of a poor country sucks a little of the oxygen out of the room if everyone else gets some too.

We need to see what’s true and not just what’s reported. It would be very helpful if world economic progress were something that was studied and encouraged actively rather than as a passive side effect of famines, forced migration, capitalism’s endless search for new markets, and the like.

Making profits is great as long as it isn’t carried too far on the backs of the wrong people. When those backs finally break and the profits stop flowing, there are those who seem to wake up and realize, “Hey. We could invest in those people just a little and get a great new cash cow out of it in a few years!”

Well yes. Let’s do that then.

Ursula K le Guin on The Future of Capitalism

Black adn white photo of Ursula K. Le Guin

Ursula K. Le Guin

Ursula K. le Guin is a top science fiction writer and has been for decades. This article on her call for sci-fi writers to write more about alternatives to capitalism caught my eye.

Precisely! We live in the age where we must adapt our traditions for new realities that appear as a result of those traditions. Adapting is what humans do. But sometimes we also do wars and other stupid stuff before we finally do adapt. Let’s not do that stupid stuff. Let’s just adapt when the time comes, shall we?

My stories to this point all include, as a central theme, a world run by alternatives to capitalism, although capitalism is what gets my first book’s characters into their life-long struggle. I am writing more. I hope someday to inspire someone to do something positive in the real world – not because my vision was accurate, but because it led them to think about what the accurate vision would be.