One of the dominant forces driving conflict in our time is scarcity – scarcity of resources, scarcity of land, even scarcity of attention and affection. Throughout most of human history, conflict could be resolved by cultivating new resources and settling new lands. If you didn’t like your neighbors, you could establish a new home elsewhere. If your fields were going dry, you could cultivate new fields. This time has passed. At our current epoch, humans have occupied all the habitable territory on Earth. We don’t cultivate new resources or land; we haggle over existing resource sources, we trade land back and forth by leveraging military or financial power. We do this while understanding that the resources on this planet are finite, and that the consequence of not reaching beyond our one habitable Earth are, eventually, inevitable mass death, not only for our species but for every species on the planet and the planet itself. Deep space colonization is necessary.
As nihilists, we see mass death as a problem insofar as it does not improve the ride and does not advance the cessation of suffering. Perhaps even more importantly, we desire to have the cosmos open to us to further our exploration in our quest for meaning in our lives. Indeed, throughout most of human history, exploration has been a source for meaning in the human experience, but outside of our oceans, it only exists on this planet any longer as a consumer activity, purchased readily from any number of travel and tourism services.
Out in the infinite cosmos, there are resources and habitable space beyond our wildest imagination; we need only cultivate the technology to access them. This begins, in our time, with the financial incentives to pursue asteroid mining, which provides sources for rare earth minerals used in high tech computer and robotics parts, as well as comet mining which can provide massive sources of water and other useable elements. We know that the moon can be occupied and that launch facilities can be built there, where its low gravity can serve as a convenient travel hub for deep space exploration. We know that both Mars and Venus can support space colonization, human development and that their unique environmental challenges can be met. We know that Titan, most likely, falls into the same camp as Mars and Venus; that if its temperature can be overcome, its surface can support space colonization and human development. Mars, Venus and Titan may not be suitable places for the mainstream population to colonize, but as development projects for scientific research and resource gathering, they present incredible opportunities.
Deep Space Exploration, even aside from its implications with regard to the reduction of scarcity and the resultant cessation of suffering, has wide reaching implications on our global culture. Currently, the vast impetus for technological innovation is militarism – war and defense. So many of our technologies are downwind of defense spending, it is impossible to list them all: the internet, drones, automated vehicles, commercial aviation, ready made meals, the list goes on almost infinitely, and stretches back throughout history. Even the rocketry used in our initial attempts at reaching into space were downwind of military priority; our rockets fired at the moon were derived from the technology used to create accurate, long-range ICBMs. Unfortunately, this model, wherein militarism is the top priority for research, by its very nature, prevents world peace from occurring. Because innovation is reliant on continued threat and escalating tensions, those catalysts will be manufactured even when they are not naturally occurring. As our species craves and relies on increased technological progress, the demand for the military spending, and by extension the demand for continued conflict, cannot subside unless a different apex of innovation can be substituted.
However, if the industrial complexes of the military and of space colonization & exploration were to be flipped in importance, the military’s importance could be lessened or increased over time as necessary to meet external, material challenges, while our external need to explore the endless universe would never lessen in importance. The technology downwind of deep space exploration is of equal or perhaps even greater use to the mainstream population of the world.
The rocketry used to perfect low Earth orbit spaceflight could reduce travel times from the US to Beijing from 19 hours to 3 hours, more greatly connecting the physical world than ever before. Additionally, as our existing aviation transport system is made obsolete its price and access will drop and what millionaires currently enjoy – private flights to wherever they like, on demand, may become accessible to the lower classes.
High yield hydroponic grow pods necessary for space colonization to sustain life on Mars will be eventually repurposed to household appliances that deliver nutritious produce of a higher quality than the supermarket system and without the added costs of distribution or the need for harmful preservatives. Low income households will see their food budgets eat up less of their income and thus see an increase to their disposable income, as well as an increase to their health outcomes.
3D printing of advanced materials for spacecraft and rapidly produced living quarters off-world will expand into architectural breakthroughs that provide cost-efficient shelter to whoever needs it without the added costs of human labor and, additionally, the lattice-like building methods of AI-guided 3D printed construction projects will increase the safety, functionality and creativity of high tech living spaces at much lower cost.
One of the most important advancements – terraforming and geo-engineering technologies necessary to make hostile worlds habitable or to adjust near-habitable worlds to meet the needs of the human animal will solve our global warming crisis on Earth now and forever into the future.
The resource distribution technologies necessary to cultivate off-world resources will increase the efficacy and efficiency of our existing distribution methods, thus lowering functional scarcity and impacting many of our global challenges, from poverty to malnutrition to deaths from preventable illnesses and beyond.
Advanced communication systems will increase the speed and efficacy of our information networks on Earth. Cryogenics, automated medical technologies, high speed propulsion and so many more can be derived from investing heavily into deep space exploration and yes, those technologies even have obvious applications in militarism and defense.
The importance of advancing our priority in Deep Space Exploration above militarism is not to eliminate defense from our world, but because having militarism be our highest priority for spending worldwide creates perverse incentives for us to fight amongst ourselves and increases the likelihood for conflict.
In order to put the human race on a path towards peace and oneness, as well as provide a better life for all its people (and thus, more freedom and opportunity to pursue meaningful experience), flipping the global priority from military spending intended to control the distribution of ever-dwindling resources and space on this planet – a death spiral – to Deep Space Exploration spending intended to create the opportunity for cultivation of the infinite resources and space of the cosmos (thus eventually eliminating scarcity, and all the resultant conflict surrounding it, completely).