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Who Should Explore Space: Robots or Humans?

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Should humans explore the depths of space? Should we settle on Mars? Should we become a “multi-planetary species”? There is something in the ideal of human space exploration that stirs the soul, that speaks to a primal instinct, that plays upon the desire to explore and test ourselves to the limit. At the same time, there are practical reasons to want to take the giant leap. Space is filled with resources (energy, minerals etc) that we can utilise, and threats we must neutralise (solar flares, asteroids etc).On previous occasions, I have looked at various arguments defending the view that we ought to explore space. Those arguments fall into three main categories: (i) intellectual arguments, i.e. ones that focus on the intellectual and epistemic benefits of exploring space and learning more about our place within it; (ii) utopian/spiritual arguments, i.e. ones that focus on the need to create a dynamic, open-ended and radically better future for humanity, both for moral and personal reasons; and (iii) existential risk arguments, i.e. ones that focus on the need to explore space to both prevent and avoid existential risks to humanity.For the purposes of this article, let’s assume that these arguments are valid. In other words, let’s assume that they do indeed provide compelling reasons to explore space. Now, let’s ask the obvious follow-up question: does this mean that humans should be the ones doing the exploring? It is already the case that robots (broadly conceived) do most of the space exploration. There are a handful of humans who have made the trip. But since the end of the Apollo missions in the early 1970s, humans have not gone much further than low earth orbit. For the most part, humans sit back on earth and control the machines that do the hard work. Soon, given improvements in AI and autonomous robots, we may not do much controlling either. We may just sit back and observe.Should this pattern continue? Is space exploration, like so many other things. . .

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News source: Philosophical Disquisitions

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