Diaspora (to the stars)
“Earth is the cradle of humanity, but one cannot live in the cradle forever.”
Watching Interstellar recently, away from the hype and debate of its opening, a couple of things struck me: how close this film is to a masterpiece, and how important it is. The masterpiece question is by the by here, but the films importance is beyond question: it shows us a past that rings true, a potential present that is coming true and a possible future that could be the truth if, as is mentioned in the film a couple of times, as a race we can be the best we can be.
As both a kind of wish-fulfilment/waking dream/poetic ideal/fantasy/fantastic voyage and a practical answer to the question of how the human race will survive into a deep future, colonisation of the solar system and beyond is a matter of prime importance.
We have to get off this planet within a matter of generations if we are to have any chance of realising the far reaches of human potential. The earth cannot sustain us in our present numbers and with our current behaviour. Humans (at our very best in terms of physical and mental capabilities) are so adaptable, understanding, resilient, and deeply social that it is in our nature to push frontiers on and on, and we can see that this instinct (for good and bad) is closely
linked to survival.
In this case, the survival of our species.
One project, the 100 Year Starship, is an effort to “ . . make human interstellar travel capabilities a reality within the next 100 years.” This would provide the means to (as they say) “take the next giant leap forward.” Poetic, radical and pioneering, socially nonpartisan, this projects ambition exemplifies the spirit in which this effort ought to be undertaken.
The Long Now Foundation is a project that philosophically echoes the diaspora and is an inspiration. The sort of long-term thinking that the long now espouses is a necessary state of mind if humanity is to seriously tackle colonisation.
The eclecticism of the Planetary Collegium in the emergent arts (integrated with science,technology and consciousness research) in telematic, interactive and technoetic media is well ahead of any college except MIT, and shows us a way that cultural/innovation considerations could influence our journey to the stars.
The NASA Ames Research Centre with the national space society runs an annual contest for young students to design notional space settlements, which can act as an introduction to the thoughts considered in the Stanford/NASA Ames space settlement studies of the 70s.
The Space Settlement Institute is an association that sees private industry as the way to lead colonisation and is a perspective worth examining.
This recent article offers an overview of the current state of thinking on the subject.
Lastly, this film is worth watching, if only for the fact that its heart-wrenchingly beautiful.
If we look at human endeavour as a collective, long-term effort, an argument could be made that everything leads to this—certainly, if the species is to survive any number of potentially devastating events, and beyond that, to thrive in ways we can’t foresee, then the diaspora is our way towards realising the unknown breadth of humanities potential for experience and understanding.