I read an article today that summarised a book titled Dark Skies: Space Expansionism, Planetary Geopolitics, and the Ends of Humanity by Daniel Deudney. The book (and the article) makes the case that we should be slowing down our expansion in to space. In particular, the article is commenting on the plans of both private and public entities to put humans on Mars. As a caveat, I haven’t yet read the book, though I intend to, and will likely do a longer post and video about it. But for now, I want to share some thoughts.
The article is quite critical of Elon Musk and SpaceX, mostly for their desire to put boots on Mars as soon as possible without thinking enough about the consequences, which include the possible weaponisation of space. Carl Sagan had long warned about the possible weaponisation of asteroids through the development of asteroid deflection technology (see also my take on this).
I’d like to add a concern of my own, relating to wild-animal suffering (please see this for an introduction to the concept). If you accept the premise that many wild animals and insects experience so much suffering that they have net negative lives, it would surely be bad to fill an entire new planet with them. And yet, that’s exactly what some people are proposing to do with Mars as part of or after a terraforming process. I’ve talked about this here. Given the enormous consequences, we should really stop and think about whether terraforming Mars is the right thing to do. Too many people in my field seem to assume it is definitely good to colonise and terraform Mars.
The article goes on to discuss some of Deudney’s critiques of some of the arguments people make for space colonisation, which includes ensuring the survival of humanity in the event of a catastrophe affecting Earth. I note that the article’s presentation of this case is rather strawmanned. They made it seem like people making this argument are only concerned about the death of our sun in several billion years, rather than the myriad of other X-risks such as artificial intelligence, pandemics, nuclear warfare, asteroid impacts and supervolcanoes, some of which could affect us tomorrow.
The article (and I can only assume the book also) seems to be making the case for slowing down space expansion, rather than halting it all together, which is a view I share myself.