Do people care about the future of the Human race? Is it something to which intelligent people give thought?
Now, one would think so. One would think that no concern could, ultimately, be greater, for those who are intelligent, than that the race of which we are each but one, individual member, should have a long-term future. Yet, such supposition might be in error.
Yesterday, I found myself in a conversation with a number of professional men, in their thirties and forties. They were in respectable demanding jobs in such areas as finance, marketing and public relations. They were, therefore, considered to be intelligent, given the responsible and sometimes complex nature of their work. They were all, also, financially successful. Somehow the topic of the colonization of other planets came up. I spoke in its favour. To my surprise, EVERYONE THERE was against
"Why would anyone want to go to Mars?" said one scoffing professional.
"Well, because if all of mankind lives on one planet, eventually something will happen, and we will become extinct."
"I couldn't care less.", he retorted, somewhat harshly, his eyes seeming to mock me for caring about something so unimportant as the future of the Human race.
Seeing my way forward blocked in his unmoving eyes, I turned for support to the man standing next to me, a financier of some kind.
"If we don't colonize other planets, there is no chance of mankind surviving long term."
"I couldn't give a f*** about the human race!", he said, his face a little too close to mine, his voice rather aggressive in holding such an opinion.
I couldn't believe it. Here was a body of men who cared nothing for the future of the human race. One other, who did not speak directly to me, looked on, throughout, laughing each time I spoke of the need for Man to spread into space, to ensure its survival. I was surrounded by profound skeptics regarding the worth of Mankind.
I tried to explain it to them in simple terms. "It is just like anything else." I began, quietly, but firmly. "You don't put all your eggs in one basket. Thus, you can't have all of Mankind on one dirt ball...just like you wouldn't put all your money with Madoff
." I added, mindful of the financial background of more than half of my audience.
The one who couldn't give a f*** about the future of the human race then scoffed: "Just give me one reason why anyone should go to Mars."
Well, economic arguments are something these people are likely to understand, I thought. "Well, it is much easier and more economically feasible to mine the asteroid belt using Mars as a base, than Earth. Then you could ship a huge amount of metals to Earth."
"Why would you want to do that?", he persisted, no reason being good enough for him. "We already have a huge amount of metals and no-one wants them. Have you seen the prices on the commodities market?"
Again, his thoughts were limited to money as the only justification for anything.
"That is a temporary economic situation. You could use the metals to make things."
"So you could increase the productive capacity of the Earth." he noted.
"What would you make?"
"Well, you could make lots of spaceships and spread outwards...", I said, somewhat deliberately, so as to challenge his world view, perhaps to needle him a little.
"We have a different viewpoint.", he concluded, trying to end the discussion.
I had one final point.
"You could use the materials to build solar power stations, giving cheap energy, much more energy than we presently have."
"For where?", he said, not caring about anywhere else but: "For Earth?"
"I think we use too much energy already."
"This would give us lots of cheap energy."
At this point, one of the others chipped in. He was involved in marketing.
"Have you ever been to Hawaii?", his eyes peered intently at me, like a cat waiting for a mouse to come out of its hole.
He seemed gratified: the mouse was out.
"Well, if you had, you wouldn't want to go to Mars. It is just beautiful."
"I didn't say I would go...but I think some people should. It should be colonized."
"What would they do there? Living in a bubble."
"They would terraform it. That would be their job."
He wasn't convinced.
"How would they do that?"
"Well they could release CFCs
into the atmosphere this would cause global warming, which would promote the release of CO2, as the caps melted, which would promote more global warming and so on."
"And you are going to grow forests?", he mocked ever so sure of his position.
"Not at first, but eventually. You would have to start with lower life forms."
"Lichen." he acknowledged.
"Yes. That would start the process of making oxygen."
"Who would want to go to Mars?", he doubted.
"Lots of scientists would love to go."
"That is the problem." He said with a strange certainty, since I couldn't see any problem at all.
"Plenty of science has been done on this. The science is there...but the political will is not."
"Thank God for that." he said, a little louder, gratified.
I wasn't going to argue this one, when surrounded by a room of skeptics - but I was glad to have raised the topic, for it gave me an appreciation of a problem that I had not known existed: those who think about the long-term future of the Human race will be faced with opposition from a seeming majority of people who JUST DON'T CARE about the future of the Human race. That surprised me.
Having considered it, I would say that it is a property of a mature human mind, that such a person should be concerned about the long term future of both the Earth and the Human race. Absence of such a concern indicates, to my mind, an immaturity of mind - for the level has not been reached at which the person is thinking beyond their own needs and concerns, the level at which they think beyond the narrow confines of their own life and lifetime.
This group of professional men had not reached the level of inner growth that would allow them to be concerned about the long-term future of the Human race. They were still stuck on the immediate concerns of their own life (indeed, almost exclusively on the question of "How rich am I going to get?")
I hope, for the sake of the future of the Human race that such short-sighted attitudes as I encountered yesterday are rare. Even if they are not, such uncaring attitudes should not be allowed to influence policy. Major decisions affecting the future of Earth and the Human race should only be made by those who value the continuation of both.
Mankind needs to colonize space if it is to survive. It won't do so, as long as the short-term thinking I encountered yesterday predominates. Nothing could be more important to us all, than that the human enterprise endures, as long as the Universe does. We should, therefore, take all steps necessary to give Mankind such a chance to endure. The colonization of space is one such critical step.
I, for one, hope that it occurs in my lifetime. I would like to know that Mankind was not captive on one planet and at the mercy of its fate.
Thus, I look forward to what is to come: the Space race between the USA and China, to return to the Moon and to go to Mars, beyond that (at least the USA intends to visit Mars). I only hope that they stay when they get there. There is a world to build. Americans have done it once...why not do it again?
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Labels: Bernard Maydoff, ethics, lack of care for others, Mars, Moon, selfishness, short-sightedness, skepticism, Space race, The future of the Human race, USA, value system