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Future of space: great promise, but many challenges yet to be solved

Dick Pelletier

Ethical Technology

November 27, 2012

Will living in offworld space colonies ever be embraced by mainstream humanity? Of course, no one can accurately predict how the future will unfold, but by examining today’s knowledge, we can create plausible scenarios of how space development might take place during the 21st Century.


Complete entry


Posted by Kennita  on  11/28  at  12:51 AM

“... it is easy for this writer to believe that by the end of the 22nd Century, more humans will live in space than on Earth.”

Um?  Not likely, unless global catastrophe kills off most of the people here.  Even if we discovered a veritable Utopia in space, it is difficult for *this* writer to believe that we could offload four billion people there in 100 years.

Unless we mess up Earth’s biosphere much more majorly than I project, I would guess that the vast majority of people will want to stay here, in familiar surroundings.  I would guess that even given faster-than-light travel, we’d have a hard time getting more people off Earth than live in, say, New York City.

Posted by SHaGGGz  on  11/28  at  03:09 AM

@Kennita: In all likelihood you’re right, barring the relatively dubious scenario of a Kurzweilian hyperintelligent ring of omnicomputroniumization expanding outwardly at the speed of light being achieved within a century.

Posted by Dick Pelletier  on  11/28  at  07:29 AM

Hey people, it sounds like you’re trying to place today’s crude 2012 world 188 years into the future. Fortunately, that’s not how time treats us.

For example, if we compare today with 188 years in the past, the year 1824, things are definitely not the same. We now have automobiles, airplanes, and telephones, TVs, computers, the Internet and much more. In fact, it’s difficult to imagine what life would be like without all these conveniences.

Similarly, what might the next 188 years bring us? Today’s information-loaded Internet is growing exponentially along with the NBIC group of technologies. It may take a David Brin-type creative expert to dream of all the magic in store for humanity in this fast-approaching future.

I remain convinced that by the end of the 22nd century, 188 years from now, more humans could live in space than on Earth. In fact, I’ll take this a little further. Within a half millennium or so, it is possible that no humans would be left on this third rock from the sun. We could evolve into a digital-only species requiring no matter of any kind; or maybe we’ve found paradise in an alternate universe.

Wild; of course! Possible; maybe.

Posted by SHaGGGz  on  11/28  at  08:24 AM

Ah yes, 188 years, not 88 years. The distribution will definitely significantly be tipped more in your favor by then, though the extent seems to be radically uncertain, given how far out it is and the unpredictable consequences of singularity. By then we might have the means to create computronium or something approaching it (fully achieved in ~250 years, at today’s Moorian rate, iirc), and for the purposes of this scenario we can consider computronial mass to be proportional to the amount of human-analogue intelligences. The relevant question then becomes: do we send out seeding probes to other planets to have them convert them to computronium to remain there, or is the added benefit of having a bigger, concentrated Earthbound brain enough to outweigh the costs in mass-energy to transport it back to Earth from the other planets? The consolidated brain may have certain qualitative tradeoffs versus a peppering of the solar system and beyond of separate planet-brains that are currently beyond our ken.

Posted by Christian Corralejo  on  11/28  at  10:27 AM

There’s also the fiscal cliff to be worried about (  If you ask me if it does happen it would greatly delay most of the technologies we hope for.

Posted by SHaGGGz  on  11/28  at  10:35 AM

@Christian: If you mean the intentionally-inflicted power grab posing as a “crisis” by regressive oligarchs, then yes, that is one of the multifarious monkey wrenches thrown into the epistemic black hole that makes a mockery of our attempts to grok from this side of the event horizon.

Posted by Intomorrow  on  11/28  at  10:47 AM

SHaGGGz is correct, Chris; the cliff is a scare tactic.

Posted by Marti  on  12/17  at  05:51 PM

Great article and I fully agree with it.

Look back to the last 188 years and America had a little population of 9 million, compared to 300 today

New York did not free its last African slaves until 1829 and it took decades and a bloody war until the last slaves were free, today there is a black president.

If we told good folk of science the world in 2012 back in 1829 of women and blacks in the white house, men and women living in space on a perm basis and planes that regularly fly faster than the speed of sound, they would have laughed as fantasy.

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