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