For the last twenty years, the human species space program has languished. NASA is full of plodding, uncreative bureacrats. Our primary use of space now is for cell phone and television satellites. Our advances in outer space have slowed to a trickle of what they once were. Is this a problem? Consider the following:
For as long as man has existed, we’ve had all of our eggs in one basket: Earth. If something happens to Earth, we could face complete extinction. One rogue asteroid, powerful disease, nuclear/biological/chemical war, catastrophic climate change, loss of breathable atmosphere (from an anoxic event or destruction of the ozone layer), and on and on. We are sitting ducks for extinction.
Not only do we have these external threats, but we have threats coming from our own lack of knowledge. Did you know that when the scientists of the Manhattan Project tested the first atomic bomb, many of the scientists believed there was a good chance that the nuclear chain reaction would start and not stop until it had consumed all available fuel (i.e. the Earth)? Right now, physicists are building massive particle accelerators to collide particles and see what happens. The physicists have lots of theories, but since nothing has been proved yet, we don’t know what will happen. Think of how ironic it would be if they switched on the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland (created to find the Higgs boson particle- often dubbed the God Particle) and a fraction of a second later humanity was completely destroyed. I think this is an extraordinarily unlikely scenario, but how many thousands of such experiments are going on all the time and what is the chance that something could go seriously wrong? I don’t think we should slow the advance of science, but we MUST find backup plans. The human species needs to diversify as soon as possible (colonies on other planets and in other galaxies). Nothing else should matter until we can do so. All 6 billion of us should dedicate our lives to doing so. As individuals, we may contemplate suicide, but as a species our biological imperative demands that we survive.
Part of the problem is that our outdated instincts are pushing us to go in the wrong direction; imagine if all the brainpower and creativity in the porn, entertainment, war, video gaming, and financial industries were redirected towards getting mankind off of this planet? We’d have a massive colony on Mars in three years and be light years further in ten. Prepare yourself for a leap forward soon in evolution- this inefficiency will be corrected the hard way.
If I was world dictator, I would rearrange incentive structures so as to give people the most possible motivation to get off planet. Every industry except the space industry would face high taxation and all of that tax money would be put into massive “reward” funds to be granted to the first company to achieve certain goals. To date, we have spent $455 billion dollars in the war in Iraq. Imagine if we put all of that money into a fund and said we’d give it to the first company to establish a self-sufficient colony on Mars with at least a 1,000 people populating it? Boeing would make a joint venture with Google and we’d be there in no time. Or one of the thousands of their competitors would reach it. We would require them to share all technology (since they’ve already collected their profit). Once one goal has been reached, we set an even loftier goal and start building a new fund. Harness the power of the market and unleash it for the good of mankind.