At Nautilus, Phil Torres argues that we should think twice about colonizing space. His reasoning appears to be that as we spread throughout the universe, we will undoubtedly diversify into different species, and that those species may come to distrust each other, and eventually try to destroy each other.
Now, I’ve argued before that most of the urge to colonize space has problematic assumptions, at least in the short term. Setting up an independent self sustaining ecosystem in a space colony is going to be far more difficult than most colonization advocates realize. Any colony in the short term is likely to have a crucial supply lifeline back to Earth for the many vital things unavailable in its small ecosystem. Such colonies wouldn’t last long if human civilization destroyed itself.
And even if we did figure out how to set up an independent ecosystem, it would be far cheaper and less dangerous to colonize Antarctica, the sea floor, or underground. Yes, living in those locations would be difficult and expensive, but the difficulty and expense are a fraction of what any conceivable space colony might involve.
Of course, eventually the sun will force us to migrate somewhere else, but “eventually” is hundreds of millions of years from now. And even then, we might find it easier to alter Earth’s orbit than to relocate to another solar system.
But when we start talking on longer time scales, other possibilities improve the chances that some sort of interstellar colonies might be feasible. We should eventually be able to modify our biology to make the lifeline with Earth’s ecosystem unnecessary, transform ourselves into machine intelligences, or some combination of the two with machines and biology merging into engineered life. Which could make space a far less inhospitable place.
But worrying that eventually we might turn on each other? That does seem inevitable, but it also seems inevitable if we just stay on Earth. The difference is that a distributed humanity (or post-humanity, or whatever) seems far more resilient to stupid wars or movements than a humanity with all its eggs in one basket.
The issue isn’t that we shouldn’t leave that one basket, it’s finding a way to become independent of it, and taking care of it until we do.
Unless of course I’m missing something?