Dear Friend, your science is failing in the humanities.
This is a letter I wrote to a good friend of mine. He is an environmental engineer turned new economist. I now feel it’s important to share this with others interested in our exponential leaps in technology and our equally insatiable desire for more.
In your own right, you are a brilliant man of science. You believe that the answers to man’s problems here, lie somewhere out there. Specifically mining the asteroids for everything we “need.” So if you know me, you might imagine that yes, we disagree on this and on so many levels, I can easily find more and more everyday. Ranging from 10,000 years of misguided aggressive alpha male dominated philosophies to the very question of what a civilization “needs” to sustain itself. But, going in, I know I will contradict and counter myself often as that is the duality of the universe that I am only now beginning to understand. I do see your points and offer that, short of obliteration anytime soon, we will probably pursue your vision. What it leads to with regard to fixing (more likely replacing) the human condition, I seriously have my doubts.
Nature itself is the perfection of the “steady state” scenario as you describe in your abstract. (https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B5joGyDcUo_3UlJ5dm9PQ3RRWWc/edit) Long before men showed up, (And I do mean “men” specifically. A “council of elders” composed of women would probably not have led us down this path at all.) life on Earth took care of itself pretty well without “needing” to carve iron and gold out of an asteroid. In your abstract you use the word “need.” Need for what, Friend? Our technology? Our toys? A new car in the garage every 5 years? 240 volts for every home just idling away at the ready 24 hours a day? No Friend, those are wants. We “need” none of that to survive or thrive. So, the first question that needs to be answered is what does an equitable and just civilization really need? The only thing a healthy civilization needs, is to sustain itself in balance with nature with as little suffering internally and externally as possible. That’s it.
The whole quest for technology and invention has been based on one thing. Convenience. “I wish I could kill that Mastodon easier so I’d have more time to have sex with my mate.” Once we figured it out, soon enough there were no more mastodons. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mastodon) Yes, climate change helped to kill them off but what is our excuse now with climate change and the current extinction rate? Same shit different epoch. At every turn in our quest for convenience there is an equal turn of suffering somewhere. No matter what we do, chasing either a grand vision or small step (or a mastodon), there is someone or something that will be pushed aside and left to suffer. To be short, in going from human “being” to human “doing” we have raped our Mother in the process. You have said it yourself, Friend. Greater efficiencies just lead to quicker scarcities. We have become more and most efficient at killing and taking. Not so much at nurturing and replacing. You really expect that to change in some new golden age of space exploration and mineral extraction for the sole purpose of acquiring more technology? Who will reap the benefits? A few or all of us? There is much speaking of making things great again lately, but very little of who will acquire this greatness. History knows who will, and so do I. So do you. It won’t be The People.
It could be argued that the point of any economic system should be the equitable distribution of resources. We do not have that now and under your plan for invading and raping the cosmos, we will not have it then either. The only reason we will “need” to go off world for anything is because we are squandering it here now. The only reason we are squandering it here is because we are addicted to our conveniences and can’t imagine a more simple and natural life without them. Just the fact that we are communicating here now at a distance is a huge part of the problem. (http://spectrum.ieee.org/energywise/energy/environment/smart-phones-uses-as-much-energy-as-a-refrigerator)
Do we “need” to do this? Do we really need so many things to have a full rich life? Do we really need to perpetuate an economy that depends, now nearly solely, on the industry of a few mega rich psychopaths and their “charitable” contribution of “jobs” for The People, so that the entire universe may someday just be numbers in their cosmic ledger of “wealth?” In the process the rest of humanity turned into a writhing heap of technology? A massive interstellar or even interdimensional entity where the individual has been “absorbed.” In a word, yes, the Borg. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Technological_singularity)
On a macro scale, leaving this planet on quest for more stuff makes us more viral in appearance than a collection of sentient, compassionate and creative individuals. I prefer to remain the latter, thank you very much. So often the argument for exploration and leaving the planet is to “ensure” the preservation of the human being. I would argue that in finding a way to leave, now, in our current childlike and viral state, will be the quickest end to whatever lofty notion you and others may have that defines the “human being.” Anyone wishing to perpetuate humanity should first look at how to save us from ourselves. We must immediately begin a cultural retooling of how we define a need vs a want. We need a new definition for the word “wealth” and create a society where it is the birthright of all The People and not just a few brilliant and manipulative psychopaths.
Ken D. Orlich