We should decide together that humanity’s 2000 year goal is to be interplanetary
When was the last time you got into your car, turned the key, and began driving off without having the faintest idea of where you wanted to go?
When was the last time you pulled out a knife and began to chop vegetables without having a clue of what your dinner would turn out to be?
Humans, rather than relying on a set of genetically mapped behaviors, use our minds to plan our futures. This is a good thing.
What is concerning is that we, as a species, have no plan.
We plan our own movements in detail. We orchestrate our days, our years, our retirements. We plan the fate of our children, our towns, our companies, even our nations. Yet in all of this we rarely seem to think about what larger goal that everything is moving towards.
What is our long term, say 2000 year, plan as a species?
I believe it should be to expand humanity into space.
Our current short terms goals raise some difficult questions
There are great many clever and dedicated people tackling all kinds of issues around the world right now, climate change, poverty, and homelessness, just to name a few. Even as they attack these problems though the lack of a bigger picture goal creates some obvious, but difficult to answer questions.
How sustainable must we become?
What is the point of continually growing the world economy?
Why should we continue to raise the standard of living?
Selecting a 2000 year goal helps answer these questions
In order to answer to these questions and many others we need a big goal.
Just like starting to drive without a destination, or starting to cook without a dish in mind, we have no way of knowing if what we are doing is useful in the long term.
There is no shortage of thinkers who have rubbed their brains up against these questions, and broadly speaking, we seem to have one universal goal:
Humans need to survive the next 2000 years.
That's the big one. Even if not everyone is will to say "all humans" must survive or if some people want to put polar bears and the American chestnut tree on the need to survive list we all seem to be in general agreement.
The question is, how do we do it?
Over the next 2000 years two options seem to exist:
- Grow off Earth - carefully use the existing resources, political, social and economic systems to leave the planet and colonize other worlds.
- Shrink to fit Earth - shift our current growth mentality, and limit population and/or resource consumption to ensure we can sustain human life on this planet alone.
As a 2000 year goal growing off Earth makes a lot of sense
Of these two long term options only option 1 seems to guarantee the longer term survivability of the human race. If we choose option 2 now we will either need to accept our inevitable perishing in the death of our sun or full scale nuclear war, or face the decision again later.
We are already well geared toward option 1 with our largely capitalist economy and history of rapid expansion. To stop now and begin to retract our population, our consumption, and our expectations for growth would be a gigantic about-face for most of the population of the world. Growth off the planet is the natural next step in a pattern of human behavior which started when we first defied the rain by raising a roof over our head.
This is not to say that we should drop all thought of sustainability, open ourselves to unbridled economic growth, or stop trying to even out the standard for all people. Building an interstellar human empire is an undertaking beyond anything we have ever achieved. It will require incredible resource management. It will require all of our technology and more. It will require us to put aside our petty conflicts. It will need the best of 8 billion healthy, productive, driven man and women.
2000 years of work starts now
Space colonization is not the top item on the global agenda today.
Today's global issues include peace in the middle east, combatting global warming, steering the world economy away from collapse, all much nearer term issues which rightfully demand attention. Our future in space deserves a place on that agenda. Without it, what is the purpose of the actions we are taking today? A common, human goal gives purpose to these actions, unites people and puts smaller issues in perspective.
This is the time to make this decision. It has been nearly 400 years since Europe set out to establish a New World on the "virgin" shores. Since then we have grown and changed. We have broken away from our kings and queens, split the atom, and launched our first vessels into space. Now we are beginning to stagnate. Beginning to grow too comfortable with our supposed achievements. Now is the time to use what we have learned to push out into the great unknown.
We once stared across a vast ocean and committed to making a home on a far-off shore.
Now we must look into the sky and do the same.
So what do you do?
There are many things, depending on who you are and what you do for a living, but here is a general list.
- Discuss those options for a long term species goal — where do you stand? Are there more?
- Examine your own life — are you working toward one of these goals?
- Subscribe to space news.
- Lobby your politicians to put space exploration and colonization on the agenda.
- Buy into commercial space as it becomes available.
- and, of course, you can click the 💚 below so other people will see this here on Medium.