Sunday, May 23, 2010

the singularity is coming all over my space

I was talking with a colleague about mankind's destiny in space. At least I think I was. He has a heavy accent. As I said before, I don't like to use real names here, so I'll call him by an unrecognizable fake name. Hey Escobitch, here's what I was trying to say before we were distracted by that ninja attack.

The question is as old as time: How much money should NASA get for fiscal year 2011, and of that, how much should they spend on manned space missions, as opposed to space probes and other kinds of real science? More simply, how important is it for mankind to colonize space? Most people don't worry about this issue, for a good reason: It's a red herring. The real issue is our need to invent a self-contained life support system. It doesn't matter whether we put it on a space ship, under the sea, or in Arizona.

As far as I know, there are two arguments in favor of colonizing space. The first is that it would be good for the human spirit. Whatever. The second is the need to protect the ourselves by getting our eggs out of the one basket. But as with most problems in the world, there are cheaper, better solutions that don't require launching anything into space. In order to spread into space, we must first invent that self-contained life support system. And once we do so, space won't be necessary. We can park it in any empty lot, and it'll still protect us from every kind of planetary disaster. Global warming? Nuclear holocaust? Doom virus? All minor inconveniences when you live in a metal box and don't need anything.

You might say that launching the box into space would make the human race a little bit safer (or a lot, in the long view), and you would be right, but there's no argument in that. Once we do invent these boxes, we will launch some of them into space. You don't have to worry about that. We've already got the rockets. It'll happen.

There's one argument I can anticipate, and I fucking hate it: "But missions in space are just the thing we need to stimulate ourselves to invent the box. You know, like how the space race paid for itself with those spin-off technologies." Repeating a happy accident is not a vision for the future. It is wasteful, obscure, unguided, roundabout bullshit. A vision needs clarity. It needs sense. It needs spirit, too. But spirit isn't a crutch for nonsense (nonspirit?).

Summary: People who talk about space are weird.