Walking home tonight under a clear sky with an almost full moon, I looked up and had no desire to leave this planet.
At first I thought this for myself, but I realize I think this for our species.
My favorite genre of writing is generally science-themed fiction, and I enjoy scientific and engineering minded people. They think big, they think new, and they are generally focused on problem solving.
So I was surprised to realize I have no interest in space exploration, for myself or anyone else, and see it as a premature distraction from the real problem we should be trying to solve.
Neil DeGrasse Tyson and the scientific community he so eloquently represents, the private wealthy group that just hit the media with their project to take mining to asteroids, I agree with their premise that challenges and new frontiers inspire invention, creativity, and innovation.
However, what problem does exploration of this new frontier solve? Through evolution, creation, or whatever, we sit on a planet that we are perfectly suited to, surrounded by sufficient resources and beauty to create a paradise. We don’t understand a fraction of how it all works, where it came from, or where it’s going. As a playground this place is fantastic, for those without curiosity who simply want to enjoy the amenities, and for those who want to question and explore everything.
The problems that we face on this lovely rock are social, and zero progress has been made on this front. We mismanage our resources, but more fundamentally, we mismanage each other.
Think of all the historic examples of exploration, flight, or however else we have framed, “leaving our current place to look for an easier source of “x”. Call it fleeing an unjust ruler, manifest destiny, war, or crusading. They all trace back to a social sickness that, rather than focus on and correct, it is easier to abandon, flee, and replace with a new project.
Our species hasn’t figured out how to stop murdering, warring, or even how to govern ourselves efficiently. Communism, Socialism, Democracy, Republic, Monarchy, these are the best we have come up with. Jail and capital punishment are the best we have to offer the mentally ill or socially inept. Larger and more catastrophic weapons are our “fix” for war, our best and utterly stupid idea of deterrents!
We don’t need more precious metals. We don’t need to fabricate a challenge for the species. We’ve got a great big one, right here, that comes in two parts:
First, resist the ingrained urge to run away from this problem, and find something to distract ourselves.
Second, figure out how to fix the social creature we claim to be. Let’s explore here, let’s fix the cancer on the planet that we have, that is PERFECT for us.
When that’s all taken care of, if folks want to run off into new, hostile environments to see what they can see, that sounds like fun.
Of course, the other side of this presumes failure, that there is no chance of the human race improving, and the race is on to get a sample of ourselves as far away as possible before we destroy ourselves. Or at best, we need to at least hedge our bets.
Sitting here this evening/morning, with the moon no longer in the sky, I think and believe that if we can’t fix ourselves here, we shouldn’t be preserved.