Outer Space Optimism: A Retro Perspective on Human Expansion that is Long Overdue

Humans have always been a migratory race, constantly on the move to find better lands for hunting, grazing, agriculture, and other resources. As long as humans were subject to natural selection, the human peoples had a tendency to evolve new cleverness, while keeping their absolute numbers within bounds.

In the face of the great human escape from natural selection — and the subsequent rapid proliferation of human populations — the quest for new resources is becoming more important, for the intermediate human future at least.

Dragon to ISS

The original Al Fin blog focused on a wide range of topics, including access to outer space. Due to time constraints, in this blog we are forced to focus more narrowly, leaving coverage of many important topics to more prolific bloggers, including Brian Wang at NextBigFuture, among others.

The Space Economy blog began earlier this year, and does a respectable job of covering space ideas that Al Fin would like to cover, but does not have time to do.

Here are links to a recent sampling of articles at The Space Economy:

Space optimism was once a staple of North American society, with the race to the moon in the 1960’s, and the 1970’s explosion of space enthusiasm described at NSS.org :

Excitement over the L5 scenario probably peaked in 1977. That year produced the third consecutive NASA summer study on Space Settlements and Industrialization Using Nonterrestrial Materials. (The study was published in 1979 as NASA Publication SP-428, entitled Space Resources and Space Settlement.) In this study, L5 Director and physicist J. Peter Vajk and others developed the most detailed scenario yet for production of Solar Power Satellites from lunar materials. The scenario called for a space manufacturing facility which would house 3,000 workers in a rotating facility constructed from refurbished Shuttle external fuel tanks. The study identified exactly how many launches of the Shuttle and a Shuttle-derived heavy lift vehicle would be required, and concluded that the project could have begun in 1985 and have three SPS’s on line by 1992. Unfortunately, this scenario was based on two assumptions that later proved incorrect: that the Shuttle would significantly reduce the cost of space launch, and that it would fly 60 times per year. The scenario did, however, serve as a significant “proof of concept.”

1977 was also the year that two major books came out on the subject, bringing in a new wave of members. One of these was O’Neill’s classic work, The High Frontier. The other was T. A. Heppenheimer’s Colonies in Space. The latter book happened to be my own introduction to the subject. I remember at first passing it by in the bookstore because I thought it concerned things 200 years from now. I finally picked it up when a less expensive edition came out, and in the middle of the second chapter it hit me: this is something we can do right now! I immediately joined the L5 Society, started a local chapter, and have remained active ever since.

In the early 21st century, any type of optimism is generally considered to be naive, and especially space optimism and techno optimism. This is a natural result of the accelerating dysgenic Idiocracy, which necessarily tends to focus on problems rather than solutions. Why “necessarily?” Because as the Idiocracy takes hold, the ability of humans to solve real world problems tends to decay.

10% of the people do at least 90% of the work, and always have. This applies to solving difficult problems at all levels, and it applies to making sure the necessary dirty work gets done. The ongoing Idiocracy is nothing new, although due to the global nature of modern life it is operating on a much wider and deeper scale. It means that “the smart fraction of the smart fraction” is being squeezed by growing dumb fractions inside all populations, as long as humans continue to ignore the lessons of natural selection.

Space optimism — like all forms of modern optimism — relies upon the human ability to learn and solve problems. If the human substrate of difficult problem-solving is allowed to decay in an orgy of politically correct dysgenics and ideological denial of the evolutionary nature of the human race, problem-solvers are likely to be in short supply.

And that is where networks of resilient and dangerous communities come in.

More: The Lure of the Void from Nick Land (PDF) via Dark Matter Journal

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10 Responses to Outer Space Optimism: A Retro Perspective on Human Expansion that is Long Overdue

  1. bob sykes says:

    Natural selection and the Malthusian limit still exist. In fact we are right now under very strong natural selection as a result of the agricultural and industrial revolutions. Both of these revolutions have radically changed the human environment, and our old hunter/gatherer traits are undergoing evolution. The dramatic growth in population in the last few hundred years is due to increases in agricultural production. We have been raising K, and N has been adjusting to the new limit.

    The laws of science do not change.

    • alfin2101 says:

      Perhaps I should have quoted from the source that I linked, so that the argument being made was more clear.

      Agriculture and Industrial technology have definitely changed the human environment. Rather than refuting the point that is being made about increased genetic load (impaired natural selection) from a marked shift in fertility, it explains and reinforces the point.

      Natural selection cannot work when it is not allowed to eliminate deleterious mutations — which pile up in the collective genome due to high survival and fertility among the genetically disadvantaged. At the same time, beneficial mutations are not allowed to propagate through the human genome due to low birthrates within populations of the genetically advantaged.

      This is the phenomenon of genetic load, which damages population fitness and impairs the ability of human populations to adapt to environmental challenges. It comes from a failure of natural selection — in this case from a natural human adaptation to increased affluence — from agriculture and technological progress.

  2. John says:

    I would bring that one step further, and say that we have natural deselection, ( and I’m not claiming that I may not be part of it ) but in todays society if you work hard and plan to take care of your family, along with not taking from the government programs, meaning you produce more than you consume, you\we have less children because you want to provide for them, if you are a slug and do not think you are responsible for your kids or get paid to have more \ well there’s your natural deselection.
    You will always get more of what you pay for, and presently we are paying for stupidity.

  3. Stephen says:

    It’s depressing that we could have a remarkable future if only we could get these elites who keep growing the dysgenic underclass off our backs. I don’t what the solution is because the hostile elites in North America hold onto state power like a homicidal madman hugs his firearm. Perhaps the rise of parties like UKIP in Britain and Front National in France will allow the Europeans in time to reverse course away from idiocracy.

    I would love to see humans terraform other planets and moons. If we had the technology to do so in our future and discovered how much gravity is safe for human development, this would be extraordinary.

  4. James Bowery says:

    Despite my erstwhile organization being credited with the first launch service privatization legislation (by the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Ron Packard in his introduction of my testimony to the House Subcommittee on Space), I no longer find space really interesting. Once private space investment took off, it ceased being interesting precisely because we had solved main problem: NASA’s death-grip on the American Pioneer’s drive to access space. So the conditional probability of space settlement looks very good.

    The condition?

    Getting through the near to medium term.

    That’s why I’ve been focusing on a fast doubling time system to remediate civilization’s environmental footprint by attracting Earth’s population to self-sufficient, nearly closed biosphere, largely self-replicating artificial atolls providing tropical beachfront high-rise condos scalable to at least 7 billion people.

    • alfin2101 says:

      The Earth is still prime real estate for settling, although for minerals and energy, space may surpass Earth before long.

      It is often said that “youth is wasted on the young.” And I am certain that I would not be the first to say that “the tropics are largely wasted on low-IQ, low-conscientiousness peoples.” 😉

      Smarter humans would probably never have evolved within the tropics, but not everyone wants to deal with the change of seasons year after year.

      Any solution that is meant to get humans through the near to intermediate term bottleneck will have to provide a safe haven for high cognition, high grit populations.

      It is likely that “civilisation’s environmental footprint” will take care of itself, once the natural consequences of massive debt and dysgenic decline hit the developed world with a vengeance — unless current trends change. Natural selection can only be held in abeyance for so long.

      • James Bowery says:

        Your statements “The Earth is still prime real estate for settling” and “Any solution that is meant to get humans through the near to intermediate term bottleneck will have to provide a safe haven for high cognition, high grit populations.” add up to seasteading. My concern for the biosphere is not your usual environmentalist faggotry.

        I do not identify with any sort of society in which group selection dominates (any society within which war, conducted by any means whatsoever, has an impact on the gene pool) — least of all societies of “individual sovereigns” such as those posited by the likes of William Rees-Mogg and James Dale Davidson let alone travesties of “individualism” such as the Austrian School of Economics. I consider it an affront to Creation that when a man from a foreign land walks before me, and more particularly before the women of my society, I cannot challenge him to enter into a State of Nature with me, utilizing what Nature provides us, by environment and individual heritage, with at most one of us returning alive. The consequence of shrinking from the challenge being that the coward may be killed by anyone, acting alone or collectively, at any time by any means.

        Gerard O’Neill asked his Princeton students: “Is the surface of a planet the right place for an expanding industrial civilisation?” Given Edward O. Wilson’s insights into the relationship between eusocial humans and the biosphere, I have to add to O’Neill’s question: “Is Earth’s biosphere the right place for eusocial humans?”

      • James Bowery says:

        Erratum: The quote from O’Neill is “Is the surface of a planet the right place for an expanding technological civilization?”

      • James Bowery says:

        Perhaps the most impressive example of environmentalist faggotry is from E. O. Wilson himself in “The Social Conquest of Earth”, pages 95 and 294:

        “Theoretically, if the flow continues long enough, the population of Stockholm could become the same genetically as that in Chicago or Lagos… The geographical homogenization of Homo sapiens appears unstoppable…

        …If global changes caused by HIPPO (Habitat destruction, Invasive species, Pollution, Overpopulation, and Overharvesting, in that order of importance) are not abated, half the species of plants and animals could be extinct or at least among the ‘living dead’ — about to become extinct — by the end of the century. We are needlessly turning the gold we inherited from our forebears into straw, and for that we will be despised by our descendants.”

        Hey, Ed, I despise you here and now for declaring that geographical homogenization of Homo sapiens “appears unstoppable” while claiming that human eusociality’s global changes are “needless”. It is only “unstoppable” because the primordial contract between males and society upon which civilization is founded — that they will forego their right to natural duel as the appeal of last resort in dispute processing in exchange for group protection of their territory from invasion by foreign males — has been abrogated. This is _inhumane_ to males everywhere.

        Oh, and by the way, after ragging on “religion” during your little sermon about environmentalist faggotry, you pull this out of your goatse hole on page 295:

        “Another principle that I believe can be justified by scientific evidence so far is that nobody is going to emigrate from this planet, not ever…. The same cosmic myopia exists today a fortiori in the dreams of colonizing other star systems. It is an especially dangerous delusion if we see emigration into space as a solution to be taken when we have used up this planet… So, now I will confess my own blind faith. Earth, by the twenty-second century, can be turned, if we so wish, into a permanent paradise for human beings, or at least the strong beginnings of one. We will do a lot more damage to ourselves and the rest of life alng the way, but out of an ethic of simple decency to one another, the unrelenting application of reason, and acceptance of what we truly are, our dreams will finally come home to stay.”

        Yeah, you spend an entire book describing in excruciating detail why eusociality is ecologically dominant — particularly in humans — only to, in the last paragraph, go all goatse on us.

        Get the hell away from me and the biosphere with your eusocial disease _before_ you have used up this planet. Civilization is group selection. Group selection is war. If you get your “one world civilization” all it will do is wage war on the biosphere. Wage war on lifeless rocks in space if you want to be a true “civilized environmentalist”.

  5. alfin2101 says:

    I think that a lot of smart people need to stop getting mad and start getting even. Sometimes one must get angry to motivate oneself to get even. So be it. But we need to keep the focus where it belongs.

    The concept of carbocrete seems a useful starting point, but the concept and economics needs to be worked through. There is a long distance between concept and reality when it comes to mega-structures. If humans could learn to master mega-structures, it could make a huge impact on the direction of human history. In fact,the mastery of megastructures and nanostructures would likely create a new starting point for the species, particularly if space access and the use of the oceans were made easier.

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