Preparing Our Youth to become a Multi-planetary Species

Space is the final frontier. It’s expensive, dangerous, and difficult to go there. But we shouldn’t forget how far we’ve come since our ancestors first left Africa over a hundred thousand years ago and learned to survive and thrive nearly everywhere on Earth. Humans have consistently proven that we are exceptional at pushing the boundaries of progress. In the words of Neil DeGrasse Tyson, “Doing what has never been done before is intellectually seductive, whether or not we deem it practical.”

Exploring and traveling through the universe is perhaps the most impractical feat of all. Preoccupied by our everyday lives and earthly ambitions, it’s easy to forget we are living in a universe 93 billion light-years across. In the estimated two trillion galaxies in our observable universe, there are more stars than grains of sand on all the beaches on Earth. Think about that.

Last year alone, we saw many key highlights and progress in space exploration. Just recently, Virgin Galactic’s passenger-carrying spaceship VSS Unity has completed its seventh unpowered glider test flight. SpaceX has also announced an Interplanetary Transport System and has seen many successful test launches. Nasa’s chief scientist Ellen Stofan predicts that humans will be on Mars by the 2030s.

Given these trends, it’s very likely that children being born today will have the opportunity to live on a different planet. But are we preparing them for it? Are we equipping our young minds with the skills, values and mindsets to be a spacefaring species?

Empowering Cosmic Citizens

On February 14, 1990, as the spacecraft Voyager 1 was leaving our planetary neighborhood, Carl Sagan suggested to NASA engineers to turn the spacecraft around for one last look at Earth from 6.4 billion kilometers away. The picture that was taken depicts Earth as a tiny point of light — a “Pale Blue Dot,” as it was called — only 0.12 pixels in size.

In an inspiring monologue that followed, Carl Sagan points out that, “Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.

As Sagan outlines so beautifully, taking a cosmic perspective stimulates a determination to successfully resolve all the problems we have here on Earth and focus on the issues that truly matter in the big picture. Looking at ourselves from a cosmic perspective is known to inspire more compassion for our fellow human beings and all life. After all, from space, national boundaries and geographic differences disappear, and it becomes clear that at the end of the day, we are all fundamentally human.

But what does it mean to be a cosmic citizen? Well, we don’t have to necessarily move to a different planet to be cosmic citizens. Being a cosmic citizen is a mindset more than a description of the planet we inhabit.

A cosmic citizen is anyone who recognizes our place in the universe, the fragility of our planet, and the unimaginable potential we have as a species. At its core, the cosmic perspective is about zooming out and seeing the big picture. It involves acknowledging our place in the cosmos and stepping back and contemplating our purpose in the grand scheme of things. Becoming a cosmic citizen is a powerful awakening of the mind and a fundamental redefinition of what it means to be human. It upgrades our consciousness, our values, and the kind of ambitions that we set forward for ourselves, both as individuals and as a species.

For too long, multi-planetary beings depicted in popular science fiction, seemed to carry with them the same negative traits as the current state of humanity. Sci-fi TV shows, more often than not, tell the stories of intergalactic wars, conflict and destruction. Yet, it may well be likely that the future of humanity in the cosmos is one of prosperity, peace and transcendence.

However, we will not accomplish such a feat simply by building an interplanetary transport system or more efficient rockets — we also need to invest in developing the right set of intellectual values in our youth and among society at large.

Key Skills, Mindsets & Values For Cosmic Citizens

As Awecademy co-founder, Rohan Roberts, writes, the key characteristics we need to develop in our youth in order to empower them to become cosmic citizens broadly include:

1. Moving beyond being merely a global citizen and thinking of oneself as a citizen of the universe.

2. Seeking knowledge about the cosmos.

3. Being future ambassadors for planet earth.

4. Being aware of our connection with the rest of the universe biologically, chemically, and

atomically.

5. Taking a larger, cosmic perspective about life.

6. Being aware of the existential threats facing our species.

We need to remember that the “Mars Generation” will be faced with unique challenges like never before. In order to prepare them to become a multidisciplinary species we need to equip them with with a cosmic perspective, in addition to:

  • The desire to contribute positively to human progress.
  • The agility, adaptability and risk-taking skills to survive extreme environments and existential threats.
  • The grit and resilience to stay strong in the midst of potentially life-threatening, uncomfortable and radically novel environments.
  • The mindset of Intelligent Optimism, so that they remember the power of human potential in the face of grand challenges and cosmic threats.
  • The collaboration skills — along with values of kindness and compassion — to avoid interstellar and intra-planetary conflicts that could pose a threat to the survival of our species.
  • The creativity, imagination and problem-solving to be able to create entire worlds and societies from scratch — and to provide innovative solutions to cosmic challenges.
  • The existential awareness, and the emotional intelligence, that will allow them to better handle mental/internal and social/external conflicts.
  • The values and mindsets that will one day, make them the ideal ambassadors when they represent earth to other intelligent extraterrestrial beings.
  • The curiosity and sense of exploration to keep pushing the final frontier no matter what the circumstances.

If we are to become a successful interplanetary, and, possibly, intergalactic species, we need to instill these mindset and skills in our youth. We need to empower them to become cosmic citizens. It’s exactly why Cosmic Citizenship is a core focus area in the curricula and programs at Awecademy.

Ultimately, setting such grand and powerful ambitions for our youth and our species at large will instill an invigorating sense of purpose to become life-long learners and contribute to human purpose.