Monday, November 28, 2016

Competing Visions (2)

Most of us would agree that exploration is a positive human activity. We are a curious species, and our tendency to go "out there" to learn more about the unknown is almost taken for granted. Of course, we do that, right? There is even speculation that we carry an "explorer gene" that can be activated in the right circumstances.

Exploitation is a bit more problematic, though. It is also a human tendency to exploit the resources that we find surronding us, or that we discover through exploration.

 There are times when this exploitation seems benign enough, and times when it is downright destructive.

When we look back at the great ages of exploration on Earth, especially the 15th through 18th centuries, the picture is truly mixed, from an ethical point of view. Finding "new worlds" exerted great impact on the European countries from which the sailing ships departed, and surely played a positive role in supporting the Enlightenment, which broke old modes of thought and led to new concepts of humanity and our role in the world.

However, the colonial worldview of the explorers represented nothing short of disaster for the Indigenous peoples they encountered in their journeys. As we look back at the great age of European exploration of the planet and the settling of the American West, we would certainly like to have a "do-over" based on a different philosophy of exploration and exploitation.

(To be continued)

(c) Copyright, Frank White, 2016, All Rights Reserved

The Overview Effect: Space Exploration and Human Evolution is available at and 

Monday, November 7, 2016

Competing Visions

For some time now, I have been urging that we develop a "philosophy of space exploration and development." As it turns out, two of the main players in the commercial space sector actually have embryonic space philosophies, and they have begun to reveal them.

As it also turns out, the perspectives offered by Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos are radically different, and this is really important to our future. Why? Because both of them are visionaries, committed to their cause, and both of them are billionaires, able to turn their visions into reality.

Let's take a look at these two competing philosophies, how they lead to contrasting visions for space exploration and development, and the implications for the rest of us.

First, Elon Musk has said that he wants to put a million humans on Mars as a "Plan B." Essentially, he is making the logical point that an extinction event brought on by climate change, an asteroid strike, or something as yet unforeseen will wipe out humanity unless we become a "multi-planet species" and a "spacefaring civilization." Ultimately, he cannot be contradicted, because we know that the sun will eventually go supernova and wipe out all life on Earth. (Of course, this would wipe out all life on Mars as well, so it is an argument for interstellar, rather than interplanetary, travel.)

Then there is an alternate vision that is being offered by Jeff Bezos, another billionaire who made his fortune because of the "technological Overview Effect" that is provided by the Internet/World Wide Web. Bezos harkens back to an earlier era in the history of space exploration and development, the late 1970s and early 1980s, when Gerard K. O'Neill started the Space Studies Institute and offered a new perspective on how humans ought to expand into the solar system.

(To be continued)

(c) Copyright, Frank White, 2016, All Rights Reserved

The Overview Effect: Space Exploration and Human Evolution is available at and