October 2, 2017

BECOMING A MULTIPLANET SPECIES: Stephen L. Carter: Elon Musk Wants Mars. We All Should. An interplanetary mission may be a balm for our cynical times.

The 1969 moon landing capped an era of enormous optimism about what humanity could achieve. Norman Borlaug was saving hundreds of millions from starvation. Integrated circuits heralded a digital revolution. The campy innocence of the original “Star Trek” dates from those years. So do the Jetsons. People actually believed that science was the endless frontier.

Since then our species has turned its vision inward; our image of human possibility has grown cramped and pessimistic. We dream less of reaching the stars than of winning the next election; less of maturing as a species than of shunning those who are different; less of the blessings of an advanced technological tomorrow than of an apocalyptic future marked by a desperate struggle to survive. Maybe a focus on the possibility of reaching our nearest planetary neighbor will help change all that.

As I’ve suggested elsewhere, the lack of an open frontier promotes factionalization and zero-sum thinking.

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