Remark inserted 2000-05-09

The text below was written spontaneously some months ago and leaves out many important aspects, but it may still be of some use as a source of inspiration. I plan to come back to these matters. However if you, the reader, is active in some scientific context, be it military or civilian, I urge you to try to imagine a future world, maybe 5-10 years hence, in which our priorities are such that our imagination rather than the economy is the main obstacle as we expand civilisation outwards from the earth. If people begin to seriously consider such an option, their resulting creative processes may soon become the major driving force behind continued economic growth for centuries.

Arguments for an ambitious space exploration program
Preliminary version - written 2000-02-05

One reason for writing this is that I beleive it is necessary to create a migration from present-day military antagonistic schemes to a world-wide cooperative scheme. Where science is largely an open activity, not hidden in classified projects. I am convinced that one reason for the difficulty of achieving that kind of cooperation is that there are many careers as well as profitable investments that depend on the existence of the antagonistic scheme of things. In order to achieve the necessary changes, it is therefore necessary to offer attractive alternative careers for all key persons in all the worlds military systems, including the intelligence agencies, as well as more profitable alternative projects for the big investors money.

Another reason for writing this is that I beleive there is a need for worthy challenges. If a sufficiently ambitious space exploration program is commensed, there will be an abundance of great challenges, of problems to be solved. And there will undoubtedly be many spinoffs. If such a world-wide cooperative scheme would attract the best researchers from the military side as well as the most powerful and influencial individuals from the military, it would be possible to drag a reasonable proportion of the worlds enormously oversized military spendings to the space exploration program. It is absolutely necessary, that there is a redistribution of resources from the military to the space exploration program and not just another parallel branch of world-wide government spending in addition to the military one.

The reason why this is so important is that, during the post-war period, the military have shown that they cannot be trusted. Something which is being discussed in other documents on this site. After the war, when the military had a lot of goodwill after having saved us from the fascists, they were so influencial, in both east and west, that they were able to keep and increase their spendings instead of finding ways of decreasing the antagonistic tensions.

Some people even suggest that the cold war was a creation of the intelligence agencies on both sides. I don't know if that is true, but I am sure that they didn't do everything they could to bring down the tensions. Since the military are not to be trusted, they are a danger to all on this planet and they don't offer a protection for us. Instead they make the world more and more inhuman in ways that I don't need to discuss here since it is treated in other documents. The military should be viewed as a single world-wide problem complex to be solved and not as something strictly tied to any nation. Armies need enemies. Military technology provides solutions. And needs to create problems where they can apply these solutions.

There are a lot of good people working in the military if you bring it down to the individual level. They are like the rest of the people of the world. They need a job, a career, colleagues and some bright future prospects, some stability. Generals as well as beginners. I am not a pacifist in the sense that I don't beleive in unilateral disarmament. ( If I recall correctly, the USA is one of the few nations who have ever scrapped new battleships. In the 1920's. I don't think there was any reciprocal action taken from the military in other countries. ) It is absolutely necessary to have a world-wide agreement to bring down the spendings to a reasonable level. And in order to bring about such changes there has to be a strong competition for the resources. The suggestion I make above would lead to that kind of competitive situation.

What is meant by an ambitious space exploration program?
Tentatively, I suggest to have the resources divided equally among the two competitive sides. Both the money and the personnel. No hidden black accounts. Everything shared. And a suitable portion of the best researchers and the most powerful and influencial people in the military and the intelligence agencies migrating over to the space program. What can you buy for half the worlds military spending? I haven't compared numbers and I don't really know how far it could take us. Instead I will talk about the technical side.

One great challenge is to build instruments much larger than those existing today. Not just 10 times bigger. Why not make them a 100 times bigger or more?

Observation is necessary, since the theories are not likely to be correct on the large scale. Theory doesn't fit at all with experiment on scales much larger than the Solar system. ( Although physicists continue to pretend they have the general equations, the truth is, they haven't got the faintest idea of how to explain known facts on the large scale. And this means there may well exist totally unforeseen ways to travel. It is time the old guys admit that there isn't any solid theory and that the field is open for entirely new ideas. )
In order to make investors happy, we have to create industries out there and power-plants. If they are built sufficiently far away, we don't need to worry too much about environmental hazards. You could do things on a scale that would be impossible on earth. For a sufficiently ambitious program it would be possible to begin making big profits. I beleive one obstacle may be psychological: that we don't dare to think really big, because it seems presumptuous, or because we are afraid we couldn't master it and it would fail.

The worlds economy cannot continue to expand at the present rate indefinitely unless we begin to move outwards. Radial expansion in a manner of speaking. Some people speculate that there will be mass death when the supplies of fossile fuels have been exhausted. And there are many warnings about environmental catastrophies if we continue at the present rate of economic expansion. This however, is built upon the assumption that the activities take place down here in the thin foil of air that covers the little droplet Earth. There is plenty of room for expansion out there, if we dare to think big.
I remember reading a book 'The next ten thousand years' from 1974, which discussed such things. Among other things the author was discussing ways of building a so called Dyson Sphere around the Sun. The method suggested did not seem realistic to me. But it gives me an excuse to give another reference, namely to an interview with the physicist Freeman Dyson, who gave birth to the idea. In this interview he shares some of his wisdom with us regarding various futuristic topics. (I don't claim that its content, can be used to give weight to the suggestions I put forward in the present document.)
  1. Berry, Adrian. THE NEXT TEN THOUSAND YEARS: A VISION OF MAN’S FUTURE IN THE UNIVERSE. N.Y. 1974. Factories on the moon. The colonization of the ‘hellplanet’ Venus. The breaking up of Jupiter into thousands of smaller worlds, each in turn orbiting the sun. .......
    I think this was the book I read.

  2. Freeman Dyson's Brain ..Alternative link
    Stewart Brand talks to the deepest futurist alive - and the most trustworthy.
    "..We've got to wait for the biotechnology. Anything you do with conventional spacecraft and space suits - all this living in tin cans - is uninteresting and far too expensive."
End of digression.
I expect that some people will be appalled by this talking of making big profits as a major motive for space exploration. And further, most people would probably prefer to do the spending down here, where it is best needed. (On social welfare etc). The idea of undertaking large scale adventures in space probably seems like madness to many. I wouldn't disagree too much if it weren't for the fact that there have always been wars. Another kind of madness. Destructive competition among humans. I accept human nature. That there will always be some powerful actors who want to make profits. And the antagonistic scheme that the worlds military provide does create profits and unleaches a lot of creativity and enthusiasm among the imaginative and inventive people. If the hunger for profits can be used to redirect that kind of human creative energy towards more constructive ends, I don't mind.

There is another motive for space exploration. The earth is just a tiny droplet hovering in empty space, and is totally unprotected against hits from meteors, a popular theme in catastroph movies. A fatal hit threatening our existence is very improbable in the short term. But in the longer perspective, it seems natural to try to spread out our habitat a bit, to make us less vulnerable.

Yet another motive. In biotechnology, the scientists are on the road to eliminate death, or at least to prolong life. They try to keep a low profile about it, so there isn't much talk about it. But if and when they succeed, where are we going to live? It's already a bit crowded. Space seems to be the obvious alternative. You can speculate about some kind of cyber future, where we no longer need bodies, but I think people are rather conservative about having bodies. So they would probably want to keep their bodies anyway.

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