Would Space Colonization Be Good or Bad?

Daniel Deudney is a professor of political science and international relations who wrote a book called Dark Skies where he makes the case that colonizing space will increase the risk of human extinction.

Al Globus writes a rebuttal to Daniel Deudney, where Al analyzes the various risks mentioned by Deudney with or without space colonization.

There are some serious general problems that play a role in generating Deudney’s conclusions. These include:

1. For the six threats identified, Dark Skies does not compare a future with space settlement versus a future without space settlement. When this comparison is done it becomes clear that the “no space settlement case” is far more dangerous to humanity’s long term survival than is the space settlement case.
2. Deliberately-engineered asteroid attacks play an important role in four of the threats, but as weapons asteroids are far inferior to nuclear bombs, making weaponized asteroids somewhat superfluous.
3. The difficulty of weaponizing asteroids is substantially understated.
4. Nothing is quantified, ever. So much so that this author thought geopolitics might not quantify, but an examination of Introduction to Geopolitics by Colin Flint does reveal tables of numbers for various purposes.
5. Geopolitical analysis has always been on a more or less constant sphere (Earth). However, the spatial relationships among free space settlements and between those and planetary settlements are not on a sphere, or even close. For example, the physical relationship between free space settlements constantly varies due to orbital mechanics. Note that France and Germany always share a common border, but the distance between Mars and Earth varies from 54.6 to 401 million kilometers. There is little or no data or experience regarding the geopolitical effects of these unique spatial relationships on a space settlement society and Dark Skies makes no attempt to show how geopolitical theory must be modified (or not) to take this fundamental change into account.

Nextbigfuture notes that Deudney’s analysis could have been applied to changes in risk from the historic colonization of the America’s.

1. War (Geopolitical Malefic): strong tendencies towards interworld and interspecies wars. Catastrophic.

Nextbigfuture notes that it is basically the same people in different locations. When we colonize space it is the people who would have been on Earth in a different location. This is the same as it was when people left Europe to colonize America. Yes, the American colonies fought to get free of England. However, those same people would have been in Europe and could have fought in Europe. Europe had many wars before, during and after colonization.

Only generations later do the demographics and culture of the people who leave diverge from people staying together.

2. Deliberate Asteroid Attack (Natural Threat Amplification): weaponizing asteroids. Catastrophic.

Going great distances to get a big rock takes a lot of effort. Using the same effort or less other weapons can be created. Nuclear enabled kinetic weapons are feasible.

3. Weakening of Treaty Obligations (Restraint Reversal): abandoning the Outer Space Treaty, constraints on nuclear weapons, and treaty-like constraints on other dangerous technologies. Serious.yo

Nextbigfuture notes that plenty of treaties fall apart that have nothing to do with colonization of anything.

4. Totalitarian World Government (Hierarchy Enablement): pressure on Earth towards totalitarianism due to security threats from cislunar space. Serious.

Europe, Asian, African and Latin American countries that adopted Totalitarian governments were not impacted by whether they or anyone else colonized. Achieving complete totalitarian domination was made more difficult for Hitler and Stalin when there was more humanity that had to be conquered. Europe was nearly completely conquered in WW2. Having more humanity that had to be conquered reduced the risks of complete humanity wide totalitarianism.

5. Ubermensch (Alien Generation): human speciation as humanity moves out further and further from Earth. Existential.

Nextbigfuture notes we have genetic engineering and will have whole genome reading for embryo selection. The evolutionary speciation process is far slower than gene technology. Therefore, this point is meaningless.

6. Unknown and Unknowable Threats (Monster Multiplication): unknowingly triggering unknown disasters. Existential.

Nextbigfuture notes that this is Deudney saying he fears Boogie Men and shadows. The Boogie Men will not only come from the shadows and kill one person, they will come and kill everyone.

Colonization is Good

Nextbigfuture believes that space colonization is good.

There is billions of times more energy and resources in our solar system. We can increase the size of the resource pie by billions of times.

Spreading out in the solar system and beyond makes it physically and technologically more difficult to exterminate humanity. If humanity was only on two Pacific islands, then a moderate tsunami would kill everyone. There have been tsunami’s that have killed hundreds of thousands of people. Fortunately, we have billions of people and less than 50% are under any kind of tsunami threat.

If the people on the two Pacific Islands that held all of humanity debated whether it was good to spread out and colonize, then they could make similar points to Deudney.
There could be more war if there were thousands of colonized islands or even the larger continents.
Giant avalanches could be started to wipe out villages on an island.
The villagers on the two islands could have treaties. If people spread out and expand to thousands of islands then this could weaken the treaties of the two islands.
Spreading out to thousands of islands would put security risks on the two islands that would increase the likelihood of totalitarian governments on the two islands.
Humanity would spread out around the world and speciate and breed uber islanders.
There would be other unknown threats.

Tiny Pacific islands are similar in scale to the planet as the resources and capacity of the Earth relative to the solar system. Also, the physical advantages of spreading out from the planet is similar to the advantages of spreading out from an island.

A tsunami in the winter of 373 B.C. sank the island -Greek city state of Helike. It was a bustling city. Helike was the seat of the Achaean League, a collection of Greek city-states in northern Greece. After the tragedy, the former city-state became a tourist attraction for ancient Greeks and visitors from far away lands. With the city completely submerged by water, people would sail over it and marvel at the statues and remains of buildings. It is believed that the city-state may have been the inspiration for Plato’s Atlantis.

There are many reports where tsunami’s nearly wiped out people in a village on an island.

In 1783, a volcano killed 25% of the population on Iceland.

A Nova of the sun would wipe out the inner solar system. But the outer solar system would be ok. If we have fusion-powered space ships that could hold thousands of people, then they could easily escape pretty much any astronomical scale disaster. There is no space-related natural disaster that could kill such a technologically mature humanity.

The light showing that a massive solar anomoly had occurred would arrive in 500 seconds. Shockwave from a supernova is 8 miles per second would take over 10 million seconds (4 months) to get to 1 AU. Some matter ejected at 10% of light speed would take 5000 seconds or 1.7 hours. Island geopolitics or treaties are not more stable than global geopolitics and treaties. Similar global geopolitics would not necessarily be correlated or made more or less stable by a solar system spanning civilization.

If humanity develops Kardashev level 2 technological capability (use all solar energy with a dyson swarm) then any attacking force would need technology and an ability to mobilize resources sufficient to overwhelm an entire solar system. They would likely need the resources of 1000+ solar systems to successfully attack a Kardashev level 2 civilization on its home turf.

SOURCES- The Space Review, History Collection
Written By Brian Wang, Nextbigfuture.com

134 thoughts on “Would Space Colonization Be Good or Bad?”

  1. Being eaten by humans has been a successful evolutionary strategy for pigs and cows, so they have nothing to complain about.

  2. Yep, no pressing reason for leaving the sunny warmth of the inner Solar System in the short term (e.g. in this century). All our space settlements, either on planetary bodies or free floating in space can remain in that zone of abundant solar energy, with room to spare.

    But I think people will do it, as soon as they have the freedom to do so. To try something different from the old and tried belt/cis-lunar/cis-martian system and its politics, once the novelty of living in space subsides.

    But the times involved in this process can be very large. We aren’t in an exponential population growth anymore, and we won’t need the room.

    But scientific probes and telescopes have reasons to go very far from the Sun, and they will.

  3. Globus makes an interesting distinction, that geopolitics assume certain linear or static relationships, or “geopolitical spheres”, which in a space context gets thrown out the window due to orbital dynamics. Something that might be good for mars today, might not be good half a synod later, which has no direct terrestrial analog (maybe a similar analog would be time/seasons in the sense of resources/farming).

  4. The same people who make fur coats. We will adapt to each new environment we find ourselves in.

    People normally don’t dwell on it but we are living on borrowed time. We are one asteroid, one comet, one super volcano, and one massive basalt eruption away from extinction.

    We need to spread our wings and fly because the snake is climbing the tree.

  5. Continuing to confine human civilization solely to our planet of evolutionary origin would eventually lead to human extinction (natural pandemics, nuclear war, biological war, chemical war, asteroid impacts, comet impacts, homicidal human regimes, homicidal machines, alien invasion, etc.)

    The surfaces of the Moon, Mars, Mercury, and Jupiter’s moon, Callisto would more than double the land area that exist on Earth. And those hypogravity worlds, exist in environments where it should be relatively easy to utilize the regolith on the surface to protect human inhabitants and plants and other animals originating from Earth from deleterious levels of radiation. 

    O’Neill types of rotating artificial worlds should enable humanity to exist practically anywhere in the Solar System. And there’s enough asteroid material in the Solar System to accommodate of human population of at least 10 quadrillion people (more than a million times the current human population).

  6. Please don’t ignore O’Neill and Criswell, and then announce that they are wrong. Have you looked at the Criswell paper, read “the High Frontier”, or Janov? If not, I will ignore further responses by you, as I am not running a school here. Focus on O’Neill Settlements rather than Space Solar, ISRU, mining, etc shows you need to read the book!

  7. I can put some solar panels on my roof for a fraction of the cost of of a lunar solar power station. The annual maintenance cost is near zero. How much will it cost to maintain a lunar station? Economically speaking, anything you do in space, I can do cheaper, faster, and with less maintenance costs here on earth. And the bonus is I’m already here. I don’t need to pay $200,000 to buy a seat on a rocket to get to the moon.

    I think it would be helpful for you to consider the cost to build and maintain an O’Neill cylinder, say Island One for example. Now consider the USS Ford aircraft carrier which is 1100 feet long by 275 feet wide and weighs 100,000 tons. It cost the U.S. government $13 billion to design and construct it. Island One is several orders of magnitude larger. Its cost, including the transport of the building materials to the L5 point, would be in the trillions. And that doesn’t include the annual maintenance costs or the salaries of the people who perform it. Now build an economic model that makes the profitable.

  8. “commercial space: asteroid mining, solar power generation””All of them can be done here on Earth. And for much cheaper.” You are asserting that O’Neill is incorrect without apparent understanding that you are talking about O’Neill. Others complain that I should abandon O’Neill because people cannot understand his basic point, getting distracted by the 3rd generation Island 3 plan. I will, when they stop talking of Galileo as an important thing to know. O’Neill points out that Space Solar is the first thing to do with ISRU. The starting point of an expanding tech civilization is energy, then material. ISS is O’Neill, altho barely as no ISRU yet. Still, easier to do things like fiber optics in ISS than Earth already proven, not to mention the things that can ONLY be done in ISS. Is the surface of a planet, Earth for instance, the right place for an expanding tech civilization? For collecting Solar Power? http://www.searchanddiscovery.com/pdfz/documents/2009/70070criswell/ndx_criswell.pdf.html

  9. Okay, I’ll focus on the O’Neil cylinder. Although I humbly offer that it doesn’t matter what type of colony we discuss. The equation is still the same. Until people want to live there, no one is going to go there. And to want to live there you have to create conditions that are going to attract folks. Right now, the only place one can make a living, have a high quality of life, and not die from a myriad of harmful off planet health problems is good old earth. Could an O’Neil cylinder, or a Bernal Sphere, or a Stanford Torus work. Absolutely!!! In no way do I mean to imply they won’t. I’m simply pointing out that none of them are feasible at this point. Economics is the key factor. Whatever you build, it has to be economically viable. Otherwise people won’t move there because they won’t be able to earn a living. Until one can make money in space none of us are going anywhere. Think about the discussions ongoing right now about commercial space: asteroid mining, solar power generation. I’m sure there’s more I’m missing. All of them can be done here on Earth. And for much cheaper. When someone offers me a job on an O’Neil cylinder making 50k a year then I’ll think about it. But even then, why would I want to live on a 5 mile long cylinder breathing artificial air, when I can stay here and breathe the real thing?

  10. “Your pessimism stems from your assumption that we should live on planets in the first place” to quote the orig response to “Me”. Please do not continue to ignore the fact that Mars is a planet, and thus NOT what I promote! Have you read G. K. O’Neill “The High Frontier”? If not, please do. Mars is not part of the plan.

  11. Agree. I think you are alluding to the role of human ego, emotion, ideology, and perhaps most important, sense of self worth, in causing war and conflict. In a nutshell, I think we both agree that when “wants” are not fulfilled then conflict can erupt. In that light, while I support colonization of space, and given that all things are relative, in any human society there will always be winners and losers, and those that are “fulfilled” and those who aren’t. Colonization won’t end that type of scarcity as long as the ego exists. Perhaps the Vulcans were on to something : )

  12. I would offer that I’m realistic rather than pessimistic. I’m not saying we shouldn’t colonize or that it won’t happen. Rather I’m saying that right now Earth is a far better option than anything I can see on the horizon. Does anyone really want to live on Mars permanently and suffer the long term effects of low gravity and no ozone layer? There’s no doubt in my mind that humanity will colonize the universe, but I don’t see it happening until it becomes economically profitable and enjoyable in terms of quality of life. In the near term, I definitely see a permanent research station on Mars. It’s a good way to research the long term effects of low gravity and high radiation levels on the human body. What I don’t see is a 21st century version of Jamestown for many centuries, perhaps never if the harmful effects of the Martian environment can’t be overcome. People often appear to assume that all we need to do is get to Mars and the rest is easy. First time someone dies there due to lack of medical care, or broken life support equipment that can’t be fixed because the spare part is on Earth, and all the enthusiasm will melt away. Yes, we will colonize, but we have a long way to go before it’s truly feasible.

  13. so then we swing back full circle to the best business case to get the most productive people and tech out there at everyone’s earliest convenience, if only as a ‘work’ home. Again, who’s writing ‘The Business Plan of Space”.

  14. The vision of the “lost paradise” Earth that must be restored would make sense as a *goal*, if we could not leave. But that would be a desperate situation, and should not slow the leaving, rather support it. However, the Utopians don’t have leaving in mind. O’Neill is very counter intuitive and really helps to know astronomy etc to understand, so they see Space as a delay in the plan, not a solution that could actually get what they want eventually, Earth Nature Preserve.

  15. You are using a scarcity assumption that is not at all unreasonable now, but it is easy to get lost in the task of *doing* the Earth rationally or correctly or morally, whatever, and missing the larger rational BUT UNNATURAL choice of leaving the planet in every way possible as quickly as possible. Unnatural rational activity requires more enthusiasm than that which is already known, or which has obvious *good* outcomes, like saving the whales. Is the surface of the Earth the right place for an expanding tech civilization?

  16. it’s always interesting to try define the value (or the rational criteria for its continued existence) of a life, community, ecosystem, a region of many eco-sys, etc. Many actuary-types, gov’t agencies responsible for infrastructure, underwriters, etc., set monetary values, etc. But rationally. There are many interesting valuations of an entity (individual or system) that rates it on ‘complexity’ with increased complexity as being an ‘absolute good’. This naturally assigns intelligent life as the highest (questionably?), with very dense-complex systems such as rainforests and reefs as very high. I am not sure on the units or measure of such a concept – though maybe Entropy starts to get there… the point is that endeavouring to be rational in all decisions, though enthusiasm (or less desirable, passion) may be the fuel and starter, should govern.

  17. I’m much more practical than that. “assume most ‘wild places’ as having strong ‘right to exist as is'” is certainly the right assumption, but for life forms, *species* we are way too stupid to be destroying any. As to geology, I don’t really care as much, as it is easy to re create in O’Neill Settlements, as far as it matters to species, such as ourselves. Everywhere was “wild places” 70,000 years ago. Leave it alone and do your proposed improvements and manipulations in O’Neill Space, where the market for such things will be great. Extend life and the biosphere into Space, let it be natural here on Earth.

  18. I think we have to be careful at defining anything as ‘sacred’. Nothing is sacred, though everything should have the opportunity to justify its own existence (rationally) with the default as ‘leave it alone’. The reality is that whatever Nature has accomplished, Man can do better. Should Man do better? Hard call and the Most Important Thing to consider. I believe in selective conservation, but not ‘feel-good’ conservation – that is sentimentality. Should Man replace (as in substitute) the Amazon rainforest or Australian Reefs – if they have developed site-ready better versions? Maybe. Partially. What if we could genetically (from scratch per Ventner) create trees 5x times higher, more complex, more productive, more aesthetically pleasing than north California Old growth Redwoods? Substitute? Maybe. Partially. What if we created a grove on the east coast and 5x more people came, the ecosystem was 5x more complex, diverse, productive, and supported ecosystem with newer, better more interesting natural components? Academic value is a good reason for conservation. Tourism (not sideshow-ism) is a good reason for conservation. Distinct cultural important (hard to define) is probably good reason. That all being said, assume most ‘wild places’ as having strong ‘right to exist as is’ – which could be some or most of Earth, when other demands are lessened, in a due process, ideally.

  19. I have a nit pick about ISRU, as the wording is planetarian! “in situ” means “at the site”, but that usu brings the thought that you are on a planet, and have figured out how to use the stuff that is *there*. However, O’Neill idea is to use the stuff “in Space” but not get it *from* Space, which is a little hard to imagine w/o very advanced Physics. So, we are getting the stuff from asteroid or Moon, but not using it “in situ” when doing O’Neill. So, for me, ISRU is “In Space Resource Use”. Anyway, for the business side, I am a lifelong libertarian, so have doubts about gov in general. Given that people are as crazy as they can possibly be, however, I cannot let the perfect be the enemy of the good, at least in the short term or practical sense. Space Solar is a no brainer for “The Business Plan of Space”, as it is the biggest market, energy, solves global heating(!), so can get Carbon fee money (Carbon fee entirely libertarian if owner of atmos, me for example, benefits), and opens O’Neill Space, as it is huge project requiring robots and ISRU and even a few humans. And, of course, the biggest cash cow in history for the one who can beat Bezos at this. Hard to do if you don’t understand O’Neill.

  20. Yes, that is a big part of the initial problem, as the “big picture” is so counter intuitive, and so tech. Nature lovers such as myself are often repulsed at first, far more powerful than risk aversion from that point of view. I stopped too soon in the point above, and should have continued on to say that once the power addicts take over the “small World” problem, they are addicted to it! A solution such as O’Neill is an existential threat to their whole source of power, real or social, so to speak. And they are correct in some respect, as O’Neill does totally reverse the whole dynamic of “sustainability”, for example. Save as much as possible. Don’t make more but better stuff on Earth, make it in Space instead. Leave Earth to save it, starting with Space Solar. Earth natural area will be the most valuable thing. Who will want to visit an old strip mine when they come to see Earth Nature Preserve?

  21. I think you won the argument at point #1 – everything past is semantics and ‘suburban flavoured’ cultural stagnancy. space isn’t for everyone or most people. Colonization does not mean moving your 2.2 kids and spouse to a exoplanet suburb per Jetsons. Colonization, questionable overtones or not, can be just doing a residency, PhD, vacation, tour of duty, retirement, internship, retreat, career #4 of 6, co-op, sleep cycle on the way to Station X, or whatever brand of lifestyle cycle one is going through. Whether the space- or object-based colony resembles Hong Kong or a oil derrick is utterly a manifestation of the intention, business case, and the sum of its population. The winning idea is if the eventual space development leads to successful academic, business, and personal opportunity, which will be a self-motivating and self-perpetuating mechanism. Yay for taking on brave new things!

  22. Actually, way more fun to just say “in situ resource utilization”. But Point taken. But, can you define, plan, and execute such a process in advance – essentially being able to cost/ benefit before – thereby making the business case, thereby getting investors, thereby getting talent & resources – rather than just NASAing all over it by spending gob-tillions on a hyper-low-risk, over-engineered, over-tested ‘precious object/ plan’. I am all about having a NASA as part of the whole space ecosystem – but being cheap and first needs a bit of a different approach. “The Business Plan of Space” – please someone write that book.

  23. i would argue that it’s excessive risk aversion and inability to match ambition/strive to personal/group ‘big picture’ success

  24. “It won’t happen for millennia, if ever.” is pessimistic, compared to O’Neill, whom I assume you are familiar with, I hope! Both you and “Me”, the blogger, are plantarian, seems like.

  25. i think you are using scarcity solely in a life/death, essentials-of-life, deep needful way. Scarcity in the sense of not having all that makes an entity complete is what i mean. You don’t need a mate, but you crave it, often what the other guy has – scarcity. The inability to be fulfilled. Most of society was beyond living hand-to-mouth over the last several centuries, so by your definition scarcity would be near impossible these days. Its subtle and nuanced for sure as some might feel that not ‘having it all’ could be a kind of scarcity. Being an experienced MD but without a doctor job would be a reasonable sense of scarcity, even though you may be making over $150k and be otherwise ‘complete’. It may be better to think of it as the ‘lack of abundance’.

  26. Respectfully disagree that conflicts are primarily caused by scarcity. WW1, WW2, the American War of Independence, the Crusades, the War of 1812, the Civil War, the English Civil War, the Hundred Years War, etc. None of these were caused by scarcity. Power, money, ego, ideology, religion, civil rights, political control, conquest – yes. Scarcity – no. In fact I can’t think of even one. Perhaps in the neolithic era when hunting grounds were vital to a tribe’s survival, but certainly no war fought in the recorded history was driven by scarcity.

  27. I don’t see his comment as pessimism. To me he’s simply pointing out that colonization only makes sense if one actually likes living in said colony. Right now that’s not feasible. Even Maui in the Sky sounds more like a fun place to visit then anywhere I’d want to live permanently. I once was all for a Mars Colony. I’m still sure it will happen eventually, but even with terraforming it won’t be any place that people actually enjoy living for a long, long, long, long time, perhaps never.

  28. Concur. Low gravity, thin atmosphere, fatal levels of radiation. What’s the upside? I’ll take blue skies, lush green forests, and earth grav any day.

  29. Stop taking people for idiots by twisting the point. People are returning from space as wrecks and we are talking about multi generational living in space. You are also not offering any solid evidence that it will work. You have only made a claim that you will eventually have all the ingredients to sustain life in a healthy manner on a long term outside of a life sustaining planet using only a materialistic approach. That hasn’t been shown yet. Not the slightest. Altogether, you only coming in the name of something that has not been shown to work. I can make any case for something that has not been proven yet. Obviously you are not updated on the newest medical findings on the medical issues of the astronauts returning from space. I am not going to reference you, look for it yourself. And that they most due to lack of G is not a good enough answer for long term colonization. You are not to stop me in the name of materialistic science assertions. They have some value in describing known processes but they are very bad at predicting new outcome especially when it comes to the living world. Stop repeating your points like an autistic child in an attack so I will not copy my responses from previous posts.

  30. Once intelligence (whether in organic form or otherwise) escapes the confines of a single star system, I can’t really imagine anything, even in the impending collision with the Andromeda Galaxy and the subsequent collision of the central black holes, preventing some form of intelligence from persisting some place (and in many places) until the last stars start going out . . . at the earliest.

  31. As I recall, there was recently a bid for people who’d want to be on the first trip to Mars (presumably to stay for at least a while, IIRC). There were quite a few willing candidates.

  32. There are a couple of hellhole mining towns above 16,000 feet in the Andes, and one similar altitude monastery in the Himalaya, but not a lot of child raising, or food growing, goes on in either. People cross deserts like the Sahara, or the Rub al Khali, but they live on the periphery, or in oases, where there’s a little more water. Any of these places would be much less hostile than the Moon, or Mars – less extreme temperatures, wetter, more air, better gravity.

  33. My point is, if it is technically feasible, there will be some people willing to go there. There are people spending months on end on the oceans. There is a whole movement dreaming about seasteading. Maybe not a large one, but it exists. I think there even are or were a few underwater stations.

    Likewise, there’s a whole movement dreaming of living in space, and a few people actually do live there – and like it, apparently. If you personally don’t want to go, and don’t get the appeal, nobody’s forcing you. But others are and will be interested.
    (edit: IOW, don’t project your personal preferences on everyone else.)

  34. “My “assumption” that we “should” live on planets in the first place is not an assumption at all”. Azimov dubbed it “planetary chauvinism”. G. K. O’Neill asked in 1969: “Is the surface of a planet the right place for an expanding technological civilization?”, with Earth as the example. He published the answer in Physics Today and then “The High Frontier”, by the mid ’70s. Galileo was a good start on O’Neill’s full understanding of the nature of life in Space. I invite you , and all, to check it out!

  35. Who’re the first people who have to take that ugly trip to benefit a species? Who on earth will dump in the resources to avert our hypothetical destruction? Who’s gonna make all those baby spacesuits? There’s no GAP in space.

  36. It’s not about density. It is a fact that most of the planet is not lived on. Let’s go live under water first. Give that a try. At least you can hit the 7/11 for nachos at midnight.

  37. Not pessimism, just a dose of reality. My “assumption” that we “should” live on planets in the first place is not an assumption at all. Could you list ANY species currently living in space or originating there? It’s not a choice. We are terrestrial beings. I think it’d be great to visit and have weekend stay, but the shear cost is ridiculous. Would you really choose to go live in gerbil cage just to get a view?

  38. Last I checked it was all but free or set up camp in a forest or to move to a desert. Launching into space, getting food and water, fuel, clothing, healthcare etc are not at all feasible for a few adventurous souls wanting a better view of the sunrise. As for your last sentence. Most of planet earth has no people living on it. Yes, people live near things, but don’t live at the very peaks of mountains and last I checked there is no HOA at the poles.

  39. Stop taking people for idiots by twisting the point. People are returning from space as wrecks and we are talking about multi generational living in space. We haven’t found what we were not allowed to look for and integrate to our scientific knowledge.

  40. The fact is, for an advanced civilization capable of traversing the distance between stars, the concept of ‘2+2=4’ wouldn’t be colonization, imperialism, or any form of racism, it would be basic arithmetic… https://pjmedia.com/news-and-politics/paula-bolyard/2020/07/08/orwellian-teacher-blames-western-imperialism-colonization-for-concept-of-224-n614048

    Given the conduct of the American left, especially the younger generation, “Idiocracy” is just around the corner.

  41. No, we have very solid evidence that humans can live in space.
    What we haven’t found any evidence for is an unknown force or effect of the sort you claim exists.

  42. Utopian – the base of the word means “no where”. Thus they are chasing a dream that can not be. An imaginary place that as you pointed out can not be defined.

  43. To perhaps state the obvious, the easiest *tipping point* to spot will be the first unit of mass that is ISRU. We go from linear cost (launch) plus exponential decay (deorbit, etc) to exponential growth in an instant. This is done if someone forgets to turn the machine doing the ISRU off, and it does it again, without further launch.

  44. “mis-guided/simplistic with ‘fix the earth first,” I call them “small World” as they don’t see Space as anything but a cash drain. Not unreasonable for the casual observer at this time, but just plain untrue. The problem is that, once they get (start with, actually) the idea, it (falsely!) logically requires ultimate effort to “save” the Earth/World, as the “pale blue dot” is all that there is! With such a *life or death* duty to perform, normal limits to power are removed, because everything dies otherwise. The problem is then further that, being gifted with this knowledge, the “small worlder” is the one who is in charge of running this effort, to save everything. The power addicts flock to that, and the worse ones will rise to the top, if they have not already. Thank Galileo for O’Neill!

  45. The population density isn’t the same everywhere, sure. In some places it is even zero. But if you look at the types of possible human habitats, you’ll probably find at least a few people living in every possible type.

  46. The question is not stupid in context that *the* book is firmly AGAINST Space. As Al Globus points out (I have not read the book) the author does not compare the two alternatives, so his conclusion is questioned, by the question!

  47. What if G. K. O’Neill is correct, and no intentionally created Space Habitats are to be as inherently hostile as the Earth, let alone Mars, to individuals? Thinking moving off the Earth will not affect the survival chances of the human race would seem to require some response to the post’s points, no?

  48. Your pessimism stems from your assumption that we should live on planets in the first place, as anything but hunter-gatherers competing with other animals. Once we get tech, we should live in Maui in the Sky, as Bezos proposes. Of course, you are right that the business should come first. But doing Space Solar cash cow makes the fun stuff easy, once the ISRU is set up.

  49. well. as someone who gave up most leftist values years ago (the hypocrisy and mis-match with today’s-effort-vs.tomorrow-goals), they are not as self-controlling so much as mis-guided/simplistic with ‘fix the earth first, then go play in space’ and such. Of course, they never define ‘fix’, which is an incessantly and arbitrary moving target that never seems to approach despite endless investment and measurable goals reached never being enough. It is troubling and they will be an obstacle, which is all the more reason that private investment/ entrepreneurship, and a do much of it cheap off the taxpayers dime will go a long way.

  50. You are also not offering any solid evidence that it will work. You have only made a claim that you will eventually have all the ingredients to sustain life in a healthy manner on a long term outside of a life sustaining planet using only a materialistic approach. That hasn’t been shown yet. Not the slightest. Altogether, you only coming in the name of something that has not been shown to work.

  51. i’m not convinced that there would be a ‘leftist’ society in space, so much as planned-hierarchical-communal vs. self-supporting-libertarian-ish flavours – i.e unitard station-dwellers vs single-asteroid-owning-get-off-my-grass fogeys. As with all: scarcity defines the factions. My optimistic-indulgence is that when we get smart enough (with AI) to live for months out of LEO, double our life span, and have integrated AI for all decisions, we will be ‘above’ religion and politics (possibly in space first). Your skills and affinity-at-the-time for community will be the biggest influence on your world(solar)-view-lifestyle choice – likely changing occasionally.

  52. What a STUPID question. This guy has to be a leftist as only someone of that political persuasion could take something so wonderful and positive and see it as terrible. Why would the left hate colonization of space, because it becomes harder to control a people on a frontier.

  53. ..following an existing infrastructure of moon/asteroid mining colonies, institutional outposts, regular travel/circulation routes, and a certain minimal type of regulation, infill and expansion will follow. But what is the ‘cost-of’entry’? The point is that humanity is pre-wired for exploration and ingenuity given certain levels of support and opportunity. The idea that a home-bound earth will suffer catastrophic failure (90%+ population/resource loss) is probably just as likely as a catastrophic over-extension and ‘fizzling out’ of a far-flung space-culture with its own home world also self-destroying or starving/pandemic’ed out. The book is a sensational false dichotomy. The more interesting idea is what is the ‘tipping point’ of space development. What is the minimum required investment, technical expertise, entrepreneur/participant ‘sum value’ that will accelerate it either towards space development or toward exclusive earth and orbital ‘tenancy’; the harder the ‘dial’ is toward one or the other, the greater the acceleration in that direction, with the likelihood that space development develops everyone. Annihilation is of questionable discussion value either way. Once the future pandemics’ threat, asteroid impact, and a few other existential threats have been brought to an even smaller fraction, all else is regional and we can focus one way or the other. It may be reasonable to ask what %of space nation GDP would be required to hit each different level of acceleration.

  54. The cause of nearly all conflicts, divisions, and ultimately, bad decisions, in the world is due to scarcity – whether it is due to space, money, skills, jobs, mates, whatever. Scarcity. Outer space offers both ultimate abundance and crushing scarcity. It is the people, tech, and essentially ‘the Plan’ that will determine whether we stay in LEO, inhabit cislunar, inhabit/ exploit asteroids and the inner solar system, and/ or go beyond. A business plan. A loose vision of techno-doers. An investment plan – whether it be one entrepreneur, multi-public-private entity, religio-hive-collective, national, multi-national, etc. Like any endeavour it is a balancing act of cash+design-build-ecosystem+will vs political forces, whether regulatory, special-interest, or force-majeure-distraction (virus, etc). I am mildly pessimistic of a pre-2100 ‘push’ due to the stalling of 1970s to 2010s of any ‘development’, but!: the push for cheap and ubiquitous craft, satellites, and communication, combined with (for better or worse) multiple national space programs has provided increased confidence. But how? As with city growth, it is best done organically by allowing various parties resources and autonomy (gov’t, private business, private owner) and then integrating the self-reinforceing networks. Recall: free parcels of land for the mid-west 200+ years ago with evidence of effort and tech. If we can create a institution, private ,and individual ‘jump-off’ hub from LEO with some basic support…

  55. There are plenty of uninhabited places on earth, and none of them are anywhere near as hostile or remote as outer space. Near Earth orbit might be different – you can reenter anytime – but that’s hardly gong to affect the survival chances of the human race.

  56. You would’t weaponize asteroids anyway. You’d weaponize Kuiper belt objects. Takes much, much less delta V to set them on a collision course with anything in the inner system, they’re practically impossible to keep track of until they’re in the inner solar system, and when they do arrive, they’re moving fast and there’s not much time to react.

    The only downside is that you’d have to do it a lot further in advance.

  57. Just how far do these magic emanations project? Apparently to ISS and the moon, since people have gone to those places and did not drop dead, and to the extent they have health issues those are fully explained by known conditions in space – radiation and less gravitational effect, etc.

    So maybe the rays go all the way to Mars as well? Possibly the whole solar system is inundated with these mystic waves that will keep us alive until we try to head off to Proxima Centuri? Maybe they come not from Earth, but from the “life giving” Sun?

    Point is – you don’t know, because you have no idea what they are, how they work, and truly don’t even have any evidence that they exist. You just want them to, or perhaps have been told they do by someone you feel you must believe – parents or a guru.

    My bet – once people have been successfully living on the moon and Mars or rotating habitats for long periods of time, your guru or other source will begin explaining that those places have their own magic emanations after all, or that the Sun is the source of all life and so we’ll certainly start running into trouble once we get out past Mars, etc.

  58. You are very sharp. But I will not define that thing as it is not at the realm of science at this moment but mystics are speaking about it and anything that I say is too vague, has several versions and will not stand a scrutiny here, but what I wrote in my previous response suffices, it is a statement that can be argued scientifically as we stand now, this is what the focus should be on and this is all what I had in mind from the first post. Leaving Africa to colder climates is not comparable in magnitude and context as it all happened on planet earth.

  59. Different people want different things. Adventure, work, science, getting away. Why go live in the desert or in a tundra? Why leave all the conveniences of modern life and go live in a hut in a forest? Or go tend a farm somewhere? Others will ask how can you even bear to live in a city? Historically, if we can live somewhere, someone will live there.

  60. Now you are moving the goal posts. Your original claim was that we cannot colonize any of the planets (or moons) essentially because they aren’t enough like Earth. I’ve pointed out that we can use technology to adapt, including (if necessary, eventually) going to large rotating habitats to achieve simulated Earth gravity.

    But now you seem to be waving toward some non-materialistic ‘thing’ that Earth provides that humans can never recreate. Except now I’m going to ask you to define what that thing is, and how that thing impacts our physiology, psychology, moral sense or whatever, such that we could not possibly survive without it.

    So far as I can see, you might as well be arguing that primitive humans could never survive outside the environment that spawned them – there was “just something” that they got there that a desert or tundra or even a temperate zone with drastically varying seasons could never provide, and no amount of clothing or artificial dwelling or new agricultural techniques could ever replace. Except we thrived.

  61. Yes, that one would be, even harder than this one Earth , perhaps. But I doubt all thousands or millions of Settlements would be. I know this one Earth IS. (edit: you are making the exact islander argument)

  62. We’ve seen groups of effete selfish spoilt brats suddenly find themselves in real life-or-death situations before.
    It is not unknown for them to pull themselves together, wake up to reality, and turn into survivors, and sometimes actual heroes.
    Maybe after the worst of them have been culled by the new reality.
    eg. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/King_and_Country_debate

  63. We redefine scarcity to the limits of what we have available.

    Meaning that at a Kardashev Level 3 stage people will be whining that there aren’t enough supermassive black holes to go round.

    And the only reason they, personally, have to make do with the output of an ordinary star is that they are being discriminated against because of their isotope ratio (or whatever the fashionable cause of the day is.)

  64. A space habitat already has a wall built around it. In 3D.
    It would be more difficult to escape if bad people controlled the few exits and/or only source of spaceships.

  65. Nope. Rotating habitats and other materialistic compensations for the conditions in other celestial bodies that are not capable of sustaining earth life will never add up to the total of living in a life sustaining planet.

  66. Agreed. There is plenty of “room” within Earth’s orbital path, or even between Earth and Mars. It’s all a matter of how much personal space you want. If you want the personal volume to blow up an H-bomb every other day for fireworks, then you should probably be pretty far out there so you don’t bother the rest of us.

    As far as resources, I’d wager that with all the planets and the asteroid belt, we’d find plenty of raw materials to do whatever we wanted.

    I don’t see much point of going out 10X past Neptune, other than to say you did it. Even with advanced fusion propulsion, that seems like a long way to go for nothing.

  67. I get the business angle of going to space, but not the colonizing side. Why leave a perfectly good planet to live on Mars? This is fantasy TV and wishful thinking. It won’t happen for millennia, if ever.

  68. You limit yourself to planets. This is natural. Is the surface of any planet, for instance Earth, or any combination of such, the right place for an expanding tech civilization?

  69. I just mean that if we are stuck on planet Earth, we cannot escape control, but even thinking of O’Neill Space is liberating. Creating it would be liberation.

  70. Do you mean as opposed to living on large space stations or within a Dyson sphere, etc? Or am I missing a philosophical point? I did only sleep two hours. >_>

  71. Though it will inevitably happen whether people like it or not (stating this as fact is just more fun for me, even though we could get great-filtered before we have our first off-world colony), weather or not it turns out to be “good” is an interesting thought experiment.

    This will depend largely on the volume, the number of people living on x number of worlds for y length of time. How long do we survive on other planets? Do we terraform them completely to our current standard of human evolution, or just partially? Does modern home sapiens sapiens continue on as it is, now, or do we evolve into something different? A very enjoyable thought experiment [to me] can be found in the novel “The Left Hand of Darkness” by Ursula K. Le Guin.

    Does humabity have mostly a singular empire with central control, or does it branch out and form smaller empires? This depends on how fast we travel between worlds. “Citizen of the Galaxy” by Robert Heinlein is also a fun read in this vein.

    Planets can be an awfully long distance form one another. Colonies, depending upon our travel capabilities, may not see much of each other even though we may gain the ability to instantaneously communicate. This means “good” and “bad” would be relevant per planwtary cultural ecosystem.

    Now, the issue of whether or not humanity metastasizes a la ita current incarnation, making itself into a cosmic vacuum cleaner, that’s another story.

  72. As a long ago International Relations major, I’d like to point out that treaties only last as long as both sides deem them beneficial. So the Anglo-Portuguese treaty of 1383 is still basically in force; but nothing else comes close. France pulled out of NATO militarily after only a few years; the Soviet Alliance with the original (pre-Breton Woods) United Nations collapsed with the Empire of Japan at the end of the war. To say that treaties will be weakened is the political science equivalent of stating the Second Law of Thermodynamics. Political systems will arrange and rearrange themselves over time to balance competing entities interests. What the author omits to state is that new treaties will be made strengthening shared political interests in response to the weakening of earlier treaties.

  73. All eggs in one basket, not good. Our long term survival would be enhanced by spreading as far out into space as we can.

  74. Any leftist society in space would collapse within a few years. At least using current Western standards.

  75. The people who advocate against big government are not the same people who control the institutions.

  76. Correction: A Dyson Swarm (using all the energy available from a star) is Kardashev Level 2, not 3.

  77. I imagine sending all the social justice warriors to colonize the asteroid belt… the STEM nerds can colonize Mars… the rest of the sheep can stay on Earth.

    It’s an Expansive vision.

  78. Small note, a K2 civilization harnesses a star system worth of energy, while a K3 harnessee a galaxy.

  79. By treaty, the word “colony” is not to be used for this concept, whether to planets or created Space Settlements. NASA follows this, I think, or should. Most of the Earth does not see colony as a good thing. Even in US, the fact that we seem proud of being colonies is a little misleading. We revolted to stop being colonies!

  80. Advanced thinkers will see that possibility. Most will go with the notion that is minimal to represent two countries and all the war and etc talked about, which it clearly is. (edit: Indeed, the distance to Mars is given as a property of Space Settlement)

  81. Yes, you are talking about wanting magic planets where Earth life can survive out in the open. Those don’t exist in this solar system and it’ll be a miracle if we get to any within the next 1000 years, magic secret space program vehicles or no.

    But that does NOT, as you claimed, mean we cannot colonize the planets and moons we’ve got, which are often more desert-like than Earth deserts. IMO, we’ll colonize either the moon or Mars or both, which will give us a lot more of the in-space infrastructure and demand for in-space resources we will need to get us mining low-gravity moons and asteroids and doing in-space manufacturing.

    At that point we will begin to shift to rotating habitats – small ones at first, then larger, always with some economic effort supporting the construction, but increasingly with a desire to create more Earth-like environments while still being able to tap the riches of solar space. We’ll build our own inside-out magic planets – someday.

  82. (Minor correction – entire energy of 1 sun is level 2, not 3?)

    Selling goods and services to NASA might be adequate – providing NASA invests in a decent sized long term base and contracts out pretty much everything and quickly supports any company that can cut costs for them. The downside is that the NASA base would need to operate for quite a while – decades at least – before the ‘colony’ might expand enough to become mostly self-sufficient and independent of NASA’s money. MAYBE NASA can do that for the moon, but probably not for Mars.

    That’s a good reason to hope that Elon Musk succeeds in getting a Mars colony boot-strapped, that exists to continue existing and expanding. It would have a lot more pressure to make things locally rather than importing from Earth, so it could advance more quickly toward self-sufficiency and a viable local economy.

    A major question for an independent colony – especially all the way out on Mars – will be how to attract lots of colonists. An offer of free specialized training (which the colony will need them to get anyhow) could entice smart and ambitious ‘kids’ too poor for advanced schooling, but they won’t be able to pay their own way. Still, they might be brought in hopes that by expanding the colony fast enough it will attract ambitious colonists who can afford to pay their own way.

  83. It’s far easier to move small asteroids than big ones. The big ones are easier to mine in situ. The small ones would only destroy a city if misplaced. But we’re pretty good at those calculations.

    You’re also assuming we stay confined to Earth, which is wrong. The more we develop our space capabilities, the more we’ll spread out beyond Earth. The tech to move a large asteroid is the same tech to move a large spaceship. It is primarily this spreading out that will reduce existential risks.

    As Brian noted, our own genetic engineering is much faster than any natural mutation. Then there are non-biological modifications. Both of these will happen regardless of space development (though space does give an extra reason). We have been enhancing and modifying ourselves with technology since ancient times: cooking (enhancing our digestion), tools (enhancing our hands), transportation (enhancing our legs), medicine (enhancing our immune systems), writing, computers, and internet (enhancing our communication and brains). Enhancing and modifying ourselves is a big part of being human; and we’ll continue to do that regardless of space. Future humans will be unrecognizable even if we stay on Earth.

  84. Generally speaking, you start with selling services to the existing market, and use that to develop and deploy enabling technologies that enable the market to grow. Rinse and repeat.

    Currently, the market is mostly NASA, but also the various satellite operators. Early enabling technologies are cheaper launch, orbital refueling, space tugs, Lunar water mining, and fuel production. Then various maintenance, manufacturing, assembly, and other industries.

  85. I am not talking about desert planets, but about what is available for us right now, the moon, Mars, Europa and their likes. These are not planetary bodies bodies that can sustain and nourish us on all levels of our being for a life time and this is hardly a question of technology. I am talking about living on planets that can sustain and support earth life naturally on all levels as a premise to allow for true colonization. They are out there, not in the Solar system and our secret programs space vehicles are already scouting for them.

  86. “antsy philosophizing” could deny the existence of good or bad, only natural or unnatural. Humans’ unnatural organizational and cleverness skills are now understanding humans’ unnatural organizational and cleverness skills, self reflection by Science. The evil driver of this, repression, can now be removed, leaving the natural benefits of our resulting brain.

  87. Of the listed risks, I’d say #3 (weakening treaty obligations) is the most realistic threat – though not one due to space settlement but by the potential military/economic value of space settlement.

    One or several nations might decide that, to be safe, they must monopolize access to space – so they decide to try ‘closing the border’ to space by launching weapon systems that can destroy existing satellites and launches they don’t like. Obviously other nations are going to object to that, which would likely mean war.

    However, missiles launched to intercept and destroy orbiting weapon systems should be cheaper/easier than weapon systems that have to get to orbit and remain operating there for long periods. In fact, this is probably part of why no nation has decided to try this – none have a sufficient technology gap on the others to make it work.

  88. You have to see the path early, then it is easy. Being able to deflect asteroid means being able to capture smaller one, so looks like a good place to start!

  89. We have just glimpsed the many things that could be made with the Sun and good, cheap humongous mirrors in space.

    Enormous habitats and spaceships that move themselves between and around the celestial bodies, just with the force of sunlight. And many other contraptions heating things up, melting ores, vaporizing stuff to make way to habitable spaces. 

    Or that use sunlight just for staying in place or roaming at will, as you say. The spaces around the Sun are so vast and the resources for this are so low, compared with the available mass, that we can barely imagine how many such human activities can be placed in this Solar System alone.

    Trillions of lives can fit within such volume, with room to spare.

    And the sheer amounts of sunlight can power more exotic things, directly or as energy source. Light-sail starships, black hole production, etc… but I’d leave those things for a more enlightened era.

  90. Wiping our tears in post-scarcity, if it turns out our antsy philosophizing says it’s bad.

  91. I agree as I see space increasing the possibility of human level extinction events rather than decreasing it. Living in space is so much different than living on earth that it can only increase the rate of genetic mutation and could possibly alter human evolution to the point we don’t recognize as human from today’s point of view. Think of something like space mining where a future society determines it’s most efficient to park a giant asteroid in orbit to extract resources. Only that the scientists were off on their calculations a hair and now the giant asteroid is barreling straight towards Earth! I don’t think this will or should stop humans from exploring space, but I think the idea that living in space will protect us from extinction level events is flat out wrong.

  92. Magical thinking will not colonize space, even a free launch service to LEO will not colonize space. A viable business model will, the only ones I’m aware of all involve selling goods and services to NASA.

    If humanity develops Kardashev level 3 technological capability (use all solar energy with a dyson swarm) then any attacking force would need technology and an ability to mobilize resources sufficient to overwhelm an entire solar system. They would likely need the resources of 1000+ solar systems to successfully attack a Kardashev level 3 civilization

    That or just seed a hegemonic swarm of mass drivers in the Oort cloud of all your systems. Stone age, here you come.

  93. An Asteroid following an exact path that will at some future time intersect with the Earth can easily be knocked into some other path that doesn’t happen to intersect with the Earth in the future. There are a zillion paths that don’t intersect with the Earth and we don’t care which one it’s on, but only one very precise path that does intersect. So weaponizing Asteroids to make them hit the Earth is vastly harder than deflecting them to protect the earth.

  94. Sure – because we have no ability to use technology to adapt to environments we can’t otherwise live in.

    Unclear why you think we have to plant ‘in the open’, or why a desert-like planet can’t nourish us at ‘all levels’. Probably the first humans to migrate from tropical to temperate zones with snow had analogous thoughts – but they found technological ways to adapt.

  95. It depends.

    If you hate humans and life overall, it is a bad thing.

    If you consider life and in particular human life and spaces for it as good things, then it’s good.

    I prefer the second outlook.

  96. “But the outer solar system would be ok. If we have fusion-powered space ships that could hold thousands of people,” In the early days, K. Erick Drexler claimed that, with 10% of the Settlement mass, his simple light sail design would support the weight of the Settlement against Solar gravity, supply light energy and heat, and allow *some* movement, anywhere in the Solar system, in any direction from the Sun, up to ten times the distance to Neptune, out. If you need more room, you can go artificial fusion.

  97. Exactly, it is a threat because people in colonies will try new ways to make society work which they will have no control over. On the earth these people control how society works. They own the media they have all the money and power. They have contained the way society works so that it works to their own benefit. When they tell us that they don`t believe in Big Government what they really mean is they don`t like democracy and equality.

  98. “If humanity was only on two Pacific islands”, sounds similar to being only on two tiny planets, Earth and Mars.

  99. We should not wait for any of these, before doing the ones we can now. We must do Space Solar right now or global heating will get really bad, and doing Space Solar will advance the others, by opening Space wide.

  100. The notion of not living on planets terrifies power addicts. Like telling them the Berlin Wall is physically impossible. And talk of leaving the planet terrifies them NOW, as we see light at the end of their insane control of us.

  101. How would space colonization increase chances of human extinction?? Is this guy watching too much Star Wars and thinks we are going to build Death Stars laser beams in the future….

  102. These are the people who will try to shut down New Space for the betterment of humanity.
    Their true objective is central political control of industry. They already control the institutions.

  103. I’ll contemplate if space colonization is good or bad from the comfort of an O’Niel cylinder…

  104. I actually agree that space will probably increase the chance of extinction level events for the human species rather than lower it. However I don’t think that will stop us. I think it’s in our nature to explore the unknown.

  105. In the long run, we will only be able to colonize planets that we can plant our gardens on in the open, planets that can sustain and nourish us on all levels of our being, planets that we can connect with, like earth, not toxic atmosphere radioactive dust ball inappropriate gravity planets.

  106. Agreed. This type of whining also comes up when it comes to genetic engineering or longevity.

    I always think, imagine 500 years from now. Hundreds of years after we’ve developed the technology to enter space, change our genomes, or extend our lives. Eventually the ability to do these things is as far back in the rear view mirror as stage coaches. We can’t avoid it by starving the research budget of these areas either, because other enabling technologies will eventually fill in the gaps. These things will be easy and even greater things will be achievable. Is it even remotely feasible to imagine that for hundreds of years, all of humanity in its billions will just look at these abilities and go, “Nah, I don’t feel like it,” ? That we’ll keep saying that until the end of time?

    It becomes pretty clear, sooner or later we’ll bite the bullet, taking charge of our forms, environments, and lives. So it isn’t worth arguing whether or not we should. All that’s left to talk about is how, with a pinch of when.

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