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Space Colonization: The Survival Argument

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Robert Heinlein sold me the moon; Ray Bradbury sold me Mars. Because of this, I love the idea of space colonization. This is a trait I share with Elon Musk. But unlike Musk I am willing to look critically at the arguments for (and against) investing in such colonization. One good argument for colonizing Mars is the survival argument. As many others have pointed out, humanity is a one-world species: we have all our eggs in this one basket. So, if all the humans on earth are killed, then that is it for humans. But, so the argument goes, if we colonize (for example) Mars, then the odds of humanity surviving increase significantly. While this argument has some appeal, it needs to be considered in a bit more depth. For a space colony to provide that second basket for survival, it would need to meet (at least) two conditions. First, it would need to be isolated from earth extinction events. Second, it would need to be self-sufficient (or not reliant on earth). In terms of the first condition, the reason for this is obvious: if the colony would be extinguished by the same extermination event that ends humanity on earth, then the colony would not allow humans to survive. There are, of course, extinction events that a space colony would be isolated from. One example is the killer asteroid: unless a second asteroid is on its way to the colony, a space colony would be unaffected by the earth getting hit by a big space rock. One concern about spending resources on a colony for this purpose is that one could argue that spending the same resources on survival on earth would save more people. The clear exception would be a strike that would kill everyone on earth, no matter what we did in terms of such things as survival bunkers and other preparation. Another example is environmental collapse on earth.  This would not directly impact the colony since it would be on another planet (or elsewhere). A concern with this example is that almost any plausible environmental disaster would. . .

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News source: A Philosopher's Blog

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