Elon is at it again.
The worlds least hated opportunistic capitalist is again, pushing for the uprooting of humanity from this rock. From this rock to, another rock that lacks such important attributes as . . . an atmosphere.
But enough of that (well, for now . . . ). Let’s see what the man has to say.
In the event of World War III, the only way for humanity to survive is to colonize Mars or the moon, according to Elon Musk.
Well, at least he didn’t bury the lead. Straight to the point. If we don’t get to the moon or mars soon, we’re FUCKED!
“I’m not predicting that we’re about to enter the dark ages, but there’s some probability that we will, particularly if there’s a third world war,” the SpaceX and Tesla founder said during a question and answer session at the South by Southwest (SXSW) Conference in Austin on Sunday ahead of President Donald Trump‘s possible nuclear talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
“We want to make sure there’s enough of a seed of human civilization somewhere else to bring civilization back and, perhaps, shorten the length of the dark ages,” Musk continued during his chat with Jonathan Nolan, the co-creator of HBO’s Westworld.
The new dark ages.
The time period sometime between now and down the road that horrified me some 7 years ago. Yet now, a time period that I have grown almost accepting of in recent years. Partly on a misanthropic front, particularly when in a sour mood (my speech has psychopathic tendencies when guppies (moronic idiots) get under my skin). But mostly on a mental stability front. Being terrified of some ambiguously dated and defined future event that it is questionable that ANYONE could prepare for only serves to rob you of the present, the time that matters. Come hell or high water, you could get hit by a truck tomorrow. So make it count.
It may be cliche. But it is more or less how I have dealt with the whole all-encompassing “We are SO fucked” macro conclusion that comes with having a sharp mind in these days of late-stage capitalism.
As for people like Elon Musk that push the Mars/Moon/other planet colonization narrative, I can’t help but think it is the same thing at play. Like many others within our species, they see the writing on the wall, and it’s hard to digest. However, unlike most people, they have the unique access to billions of dollars that they figure can help them actually contribute to a solution to this macro-level problem.
There are many that write and contemplate ways out of our predicament, many of which amount to be mere temporary stopgaps to the inevitable. For example, the efficiency paradox (slightly varied from the Jevons Paradox).
Using non-renewable resources more efficiently only means kicking the inevitable right-hand slide down the bell curve down the road. Something that wouldn’t be all that important if these resources were mere building blocks in the human progress machine. But since decades of greed have made these resources the bedrock from which our entire societal mechanism is built, we find ourselves in a conundrum. The right side of the bell curve is approaching for MANY of these bedrock resources and we’re still stuck in a “Nothing can replace the power of fossil fuels!” mindset. God help us all if you are correct, guppies.
Admittedly, efficiency is just one technological trap that we fall into on this front. Crowdfunding websites are chalked full of Green solutions to all of our problems (for example, solar roadways). Don’t get me wrong, it’s good that some people are looking into these things. However, it’s important to see these things in context. It may make one feel good to develop or support some project such as solar roadways, but feelings won’t do anything in the face of climate chaos. Or for that matter, the turbulent market fluctuations of a world economy running out of fuel from which to continue its perennial growth.
There are many forms of hopeium to be had on the saving the species front (to quote a friend of mine with strong opinions on this topic). However, the only way to truly begin that journey is to accept the big picture.
Elon Musk has brought an interesting twist to this conversation, however. Usually, this dialogue involves humanity running from climate change and other self-inflicted (yet delayed) chaos. However, WW3 and direct human conflict is the given reason for the exodus.
This leads nicely into my next critique of this mindset. Call it the pragmatic misanthrope argument.
If history is good for nothing else, it is a brilliant portrait of what it means to be a human being. generally speaking, we are not wired for peace and tranquility. Though civilization has helped to tame much of the violence of past homo sapiens, we’re none the less not immune to participation in this violence. It’s just by proxy. When democratic nations continually nominate and elect leaders with a strong bent towards military intervention, you see the same dynamic as our ancestors. Were just paying someone else to do it for us.
Given this, it is surprising that many (most?) world leaders can be placed on the psychopathy scale?
Whether it be here on earth or on the Moon, Mars or any other planet, we bring these traits with us. Everything that has led to the predicament that we find ourselves in now, remains the same. We may tell ourselves that this will be different. But I still have doubts.
In the short term, I don’t really doubt that one can keep it up. Having an incident fresh in the rear view serves as a good horizon. However, as years and generations go by, will we stick to these principals?
My worldview is largely filtered through a lens of perennial cynism. As such, I don’t hold much hope for humankind to grow out of its current embedded behaviors. In fact, I take this conversation to the level of ethics. That is, is it ethical to propagate and populate other planets and celestial bodies when we will likely not leave them in any better state than the one we currently inhabit?
I answer “No” to this question. But I know I am in the minority with this response. Even if I know FOR A FACT that many people going the other way are reacting strictly emotionally, there are still many more of them than me. So . . . good luck?
Your future generations are going to need it.
“It’s important to get a self-sustaining base ideally on Mars, because Mars is far enough away from Earth that [if there’s a war on Earth] the Mars base is more likely to survive than a moon base,” he said. “But I think a moon base and a Mars base that could perhaps regenerate life back here on Earth would be really important.”
Musk’s remarks—which you can watch below—are similar to comments made by theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking, who also thinks that humanity needs to colonize Mars, the moon or other planets in order survive threats such as climate change.
Interesting contemplation on the part of Musk, here. We have to get as far from earth as possible because even the moon is not out of the range of our potential need for mass suicide on a gargantuan scale.
The first thing that comes to mind is, see my last paragraph (is this REALLY worth saving?!). The second is, if someone of this species is determined to destroy ourselves, few places will ever be safe. If some rogue nation (or a formerly developed nation overcome by a plague of reactionary populism) is hell-bent on the destruction of all, nothing is untouchable.
It is interesting that the author would directly link Musks self-destruction hypothesis with that of Stephen Hawking. Yes, they are similar in that they are both directly attributable to our action, even if the ramifications show up in a very different timetable. But that is where the comparison should end. I may have issues with the Hawking hypothesis, but at least his is based on somewhat uncontrollable events. We fucked up, so now we need to find a solution.
The war hypothesis is a different beast altogether. Such a situation will likely be caused by a small handful of individuals. None the less, they would not have access to such godlike power without having been put there by the vast majority.
Musk said it will not be easy for the first people living in space.
“The moon and Mars are often thought of as some escape hatch for rich people, but it won’t be that at all,” he said. “Really it kind of reads like Shackleton’s ad for Antarctic explorers … difficult, dangerous, good chance you’ll die, excitement for those who would survive.”
Uh . . . yeah.
It’s interesting that he uses the phrasing escape hatch for rich people. Followed by it will not be that, at all. Bullshit. When the going gets tough and the civil boundaries that keep law and order within the worlds nation states begin to buckle under the pressure of climate (or conflict) driven chaos, it won’t be the working or middle (let alone, lower!) classes hitching a ride to the new frontier. Maybe a few (maids and such to do the dirty work), but certainly not all.
If there is one bright spot in this picture, it’s that they will most likely abandon all but the most utilitarian minds to the abyss. These minds can keep things running and humming, but they generally aren’t great at predicting future ramifications.
This shortcoming has had fairly few consequences for our species up until recently (the age of oil), and even then, the earth was a fairly forgiving force to be reckon with. But an unforseen Whoops! may well have very big consequences in a world with a much smaller population, and far less freedom of mobility.
Once the space settlers are established, the billionaire visionary envisions a “direct democracy” for Martian colonies, “where people vote directly on issues instead of going through a representative government.”
But of course. Easy to imagine when you are one of the privileged few that is most likely to see this new world if ever it materializes.
No, I do not envision martian colonies as being an oasis of altruism and equality. What I envision equates more too, Dubai.
However, he admitted this interplanetary project, like many of his other grand plans, could be a little too ambitious.
“People have told me that my timelines historically have been optimistic, and so I’m trying to recalibrate to some degree here.”
Just a little, Elon. Just a little.
While far more is wrong with your quests than just the timeline, it’s a start.
Elsewhere in his wide-ranging interview at SXSW, Musk spoke about the threat of climate change and why there must be a price on carbon.
“Anything that pushes carbon into the atmosphere … has to have a price,” Musk said.
I don’t disagree. Unlike the grand schemes involving somehow transplanting from one planet to another, this is not an unrealistic goal. If it takes greed and capitalism to push the world in a more sustainable direction, then so be it. We’re going to be paying for it eventually anyway.
In conclusion, me and Elon Musk don’t see eye to eye on many things. Though he is generally regarded positively by the media and society (much like most big names out of silicon valley), I am not so easily persuaded. Many modern tech and tech-related firms hide more traditional labor practices behind a shiny progressive veneer. Dig a little, and you will find a bit of this in Tesla’s recent history.
Dismissing the cult of rich pseudo-progressive windbags aside, it’s not all bad. Given the right focus, I think people like Musk may not just be helpful in terms of mitigation of damage already done, but possibly even aid in reversing it. It’s a gargantuan task to contemplate. But so is starting fresh on the moon, or mars.
One thing is for sure, nothing is permanent. If a permanent existence is a goal, then we need to be looking much further than even Mars. Because at some point, the sun will swallow that up. Bringing an end to billions of years of continued flourishing, or permanently erasing almost all that we touched in our heyday.
It’s hard to imagine in this millennium, where even our near earth orbit is littered with our garbage (let alone what is left on the moon and mars). But none the less, all but a few spacecraft flung out of our solar system will be what remains.
You can escape planetary conflict and consequence, but you can never escape entropy.