Is Elon Musk a Visionary or a Crazy Person?

Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla and Space X, has some bold, and daunting visions of the future. Among other things, he (as well as I), believes that humans need to become a multi-planetary species to ensure our continued survival. This is a statement, and prospect, that requires multiple levels of thinking and consideration. There are far more questions than there are answers on this topic as of yet, meaning that the most pertinent portions of this discussion are the most immediate ones. In particular, we should look to root causes of the (proposed) necessity to expand our colonization beyond our home planet. There are a bevy of causes; but overpopulation and environmental deterioration are chief among them. Although an argument can surely be made for either one being the preeminent concern, I would argue that degradation of the environment is the more pressing issue.

There are sections of the Earth that seem — and are overpopulated to the point that it significantly affects the quality of life for the people living there. Much of India is an excellent example, as well as portions of China. We can see the effects of overpopulation manifested in forms ranging from institution of governmental policy to direct loss of life as a result of the conditions surrounding various situations. While these circumstances are both tragic and compelling, they do not usurp the implications that continued abuse on our climate carry. While overpopulation is something that is inevitable so long as we retain the ability to sufficiently feed a growing population (which is a dubious insinuation), the Earth becoming practically inhabitable by current standards is a significantly more dire proposition. The juxtaposition, essentially, is humanity reaching a “cap” on its population versus humanity being decimated and its population resetting. A hard reset — a mass extinction event (which is more common than it may seem) — is most certainly a more persuasive argument for reaching the galactic milestone of colonizing neighboring celestial bodies.

As for the plan itself, it is in the initial stages of development. Elon Musk has made a proposal that puts the initial costs around $10B. According to Musk, the first voyage carrying human passengers could embark by 2024 — if the plans go on without a hitch. This of course is an unlikely caveat, but the shorter-than-anticipated timeline is promising. Musk also estimates that a colony on Mars would take between 40–100 years to become fully self-sufficient.

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