Steps to Colonizing Space

The third technological revolution which I see coming is the expansion of life's habitat from Earth into the solar system and beyond. This revolution may take a little longer than the other two. Perhaps it may take as long as a hundred years from now. In charting a possible course for this revolution, I take as my guide Ben Finney, an anthropologist at the University of Hawaii who has made a detailed study of the Polynesian navigators and their voyages of colonization from island to island across the Pacific Ocean. The Polynesians did not travel {282} alone but carried with them as many helpful plants and animals as possible. And we shall too. Only for us, bringing life for the first time into a lifeless wilderness, the bringing along of a sufficient variety of plants and animals will be even more essential.

Finney and his friend Eric Jones wrote an essay with the title From Africa to the Stars, surveying the course of human history in the past and the future. Jones is not an anthropologist. He is a space scientist at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. Finney is an expert on the past and Jones is an expert on the future. They condense the whole of human history into four big steps. Step 1 was taken about four million years ago in East Africa. It was the step from the trees to open grassland. The new skills required for the change were walking and carrying. Step 2 was the move out of the warm, sunny climate of Africa to the more varied and generally hostile habitats of the remaining continents, Asia and Europe and America and Australia. This step began about 1 million years ago. The new skills required for it were hunting, firemaking and probably speech. Step 3 was the move from land out onto the open sea. This step began three thousand years ago and was taken first by the Polynesians, with the Europeans following hard on their heels. The new skills required were shipbuilding, navigation and science.

Step 4 is the step from Earth to the stars. This step is beginning now and will occupy us for at least the next few hundred years. The new skills required are to some extent already in hand: rocketry, radio communication, observation and analysis of remote objects. But Step 4 is a bigger enterprise than our present-day space technology can handle. Step 4 is the permanent and irreversible expansion of life's habitat from Earth into the cosmos. It will require other new skills which are not yet in hand. It will require genetic engineering, and probably artificial intelligence too. Genetic engineering to allow colonies of plants and animals to put down roots, to grow and spread in alien environments. Artificial intelligence to allow machines to go out ahead of life and prepare the {283} ground for life's settlement. This is not to say that Step 4 cannot begin until the genetic engineering and artificial intelligence revolutions are complete. Step 4 is already in progress in a preliminary and tentative fashion. We are already started on our way to the stars. But this step, like the first three steps from trees to grassland, from Africa to the world, from land to sea, will not be finished within a century.


Folksonomies: space colonization

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Artificial intelligence (0.913291): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Space exploration (0.881147): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Pacific Ocean (0.875357): geo | dbpedia | ciaFactbook | freebase | opencyc
Polynesia (0.856222): dbpedia | freebase
Europe (0.793587): dbpedia | freebase | yago
Polynesian navigation (0.772492): dbpedia | freebase | yago
Revolution (0.750423): dbpedia | freebase
Life (0.709730): dbpedia | freebase

 Infinite in All Directions
Books, Brochures, and Chapters>Book:  Dyson , Freeman J. (2004-07-22), Infinite in All Directions, Harper Perennial, Retrieved on 2012-04-25
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  • Folksonomies: religion