April 29, 2017
Space, The Boring Frontier

Suppose you randomly go 1 million miles somewhere away from our Sun. What will you find when you get there? With extremely high probability: Nothing!

Suppose you go 100 light years in a randomly chosen direction. It is exceedingly likely that once you get there you will find nothing. Space. Vacuum. Rarely any atoms. Nothing, really boring nothing. Space is a dull and boring destination. If we don't take something with us to make our visit to a space destination interesting then it will be boring.

Suppose we arrive at some place that is not just space. If some location has lots of mass it begins to have a chance of not being boring. But most pieces of mass out there are still either boring or deadly or both. Stars are deadly. Even as far away as Mars is from our Sun, unless you've got a lot of shielding your expected life expectancy goes down due to radiation. Living underground could give you a lot of shielding. But that's pretty boring and already done much more cheaply and conveniently on Earth. A small number of people do it out of necessity. Not many people want to move to Coober Pedy Australia to escape the heat with underground homes near mining operations. But it is an option that is far easier to do on Earth than on Mars.

Solar radiation isn't the only problem with big masses. Really big planets are deadly just from gravitational force. We are left with smaller ones as visiting or living options. But they can't be too small or else they'll be as barren as our Moon.

A spaceship is only interesting if it can go somewhere else where other spaceships show up. But if the other spaceships are full of humans they don't have much to offer in experiences with other humans that isn't already available in much greater quantities on Earth. So we need to have our spaceships run into alien spaceships to make it interesting. But there's a problem with that: hostile aliens that wipe out other species might have a large survival advantage over more peaceful aliens. So the odds of running into friendly interesting aliens (assuming we could even run into any aliens at all) are not good.

Today we are a long way away from interstellar travel. So any options for more interesting living through space travel are limited to this solar system. Well, in this solar system the only realistic options we have are boring and dangerous and expensive destinations such as the Moon and Mars. Once we get to them we will suffer large drops in living standards and a survival struggle much harder and dull and tedious than the lives we have on planet Earth.

The allure of space was sold by science fiction books, movies, and TV shows. The reality is boring, expensive, and very dangerous.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2017 April 29 10:53 AM 

James Bowery said at April 29, 2017 8:35 PM:

Give how many whites would gladly move to a reservation on a radioactive waste dump to escape from the current "culture" -- if they could believe the "culture" would leave them alone -- I think you may be underestimating the value of remoteness even if they're shitty places. Moreover, why do you think there's already incipient moral panic about Musk's proposals? What do you think the life insurance rates would have been on the first settlers in the New World? Not all of them were entirely ignorant of the risks.

Engineer-Poet said at April 30, 2017 2:00 PM:

Climbing Everest was and is expensive and dangerous.  But boring?  Obviously, nobody who's attempted it thought so.

Doing things in space, especially for the very first time, is going to be viewed by some as a challenge.

Lono said at May 2, 2017 9:22 AM:

[From FuturePundit: Do not use that fake domain in the URL field. First, people can't click it; Second, my spam filter service recognizes it as a spam indicator; So your comment gets put into the spam bucket for me to release it manually]

Space adventurism is really quite ridiculous for our species - particularly at this time. However - that being said - we'd be quite foolish to not at least get some infrastructure set up at the Lagrange points and on the moon - as we are far too vulnerable leaving everything here on Earth.

Eventually some moon and asteroid mining would bring substantial dividends - and only after we reach that point of technical sophistication - should we even entertain the idea of building any colonies on Mars.

The rest of the exploration should logically be left up to machines - which avoid most of the major obstacles of manned space travel.

Until then Humanity would do well to begin heavily investing in programs that raise the standard of living for its inhabitants - and to replace old tribal thinking with more intelligently designed, transparent, and accountable governments.

Manned space exploration is a childish dream that humanity should wake up from and address the more serious - and pressing - issues of cultural malaise and profound scientific ignorance amongst its populations.

James Bowery said at May 2, 2017 10:14 AM:

Give how many whites would gladly move to a reservation on a radioactive waste dump to escape from the current "culture" -- if they could believe the "culture" would leave them alone -- I think you may be underestimating the value of remoteness even if they're shitty places. Moreover, why do you think there's already incipient moral panic about Musk's proposals? What do you think the life insurance rates would have been on the first settlers in the New World? Not all of them were entirely ignorant of the risks.

Tj Green said at May 3, 2017 4:18 PM:

The Higgs field would prohibit Faster than light travel, so using robotic probes seems our only option.

Abelard Lindsey said at May 18, 2017 12:18 PM:

Other than James Bowery, you guys obviously have not read "The High Frontier" by Gerard O'neill.

dscott said at June 12, 2017 8:34 AM:

Boring...reminds me of the typical teenage comment, I'm bored. This is a euphemism for a lack of imagination, lack of vision and a lack of motivation.

Living in the midst of a wilderness on earth is boring, no movie theaters, no tourist traps, no monuments, no parks...

IF you are capable of making a habitat in space, you have created the means to expand the human race indefinitely. Is is far from boring to figure out how to sustain oneself outside of earth's protective shield. On the contrary, struggling to survive and prosper is the opposite of boring.

We stand at the eve of a new economic revolution, the colonization of space outside of earth. No matter how much AI and robotics advance, we humans can put all that to work off world and still employ billions of people because that is the unlimited potential of the new economic revolution that has started. It starts with off world mining as the ground floor of expansion. The spin off from mining/mineral extraction -> insitu construction -> mining outposts -> settlements -> cities.

The colonization of the New World was based on resource extraction of timber (for ships) and tobacco (European self indulgence), then sugar for rum. The initial resource extraction targets will be gold, platinum and other high dollar minerals. This then logically moves to value added improvements such as manufacturing.

JP Straley said at January 27, 2018 9:13 AM:

Oh, I think you could make a few credits by hauling back a few thousand tons of, say, platinum or palladium or ...or... from the asteroid belt. Done mostly by robots. Takes fifteen years, but the cash flow after that very interesting.

JP Straley

Lono said at April 12, 2018 12:55 PM:

A fine blog - I have enjoyed it immensely - and I have been both substantially educated and influenced by the thoughtful articles and dialog provided.

Thanks for the memories Randall!

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