Elon Musk is coming up with big ideas again. It’s not A.I. or green cars this time, it’s a one-million strong human colony on Mars. Sound unlikely? Well, he’s hoping to achieve it by 2040!
The aim behind his pursuit is to ensure the “long term continuation” of the human species, something that a growing number of thinkers believe that we have to do.
In order to understand why Musk wants to do this we have to understand, as Jordan Bates in his excellent article on High Existence puts it, “the meaning of life” from the “perspective of the universe.” In a nutshell, this involves a tendency and preference for ever-increasing levels of complexity.
Once you accept this basic premise, it follows that we are in a uniquely strange and unstable position as a species. The issue is that, given that this “cosmic tendency” has already resulted in a rich and multifaceted species in the form of human beings, it’s important that we don’t sever that branch of evolution. As we tend towards greater complexity, our abilities and achievements will become all the greater. We now have enough nuclear warheads to wipe out the entire human civilization and may also fall victim to an increasingly fragile global ecosystem with limited resources. There are also other potential threats like asteroid collisions.
This position isn’t without its objections of course. Some argue that Musk has hugely underestimated the task of settling a colony on Mars, while others see it as a potentially gross waste of resources. Other groups, like the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement, have their own contrary motives.
Any which way you look at it, there are interesting arguments on both sides. One thing, however, is certain. An inter-galactic civilization of human beings, however long that might take, is an incredibly exciting idea.