I recently watched the T.V. Series “Foundation” based on the series of books by Isaac Asimov. I have watched dystopian movies and series but this one was different. Set in 12,067 E.I. (Era Imperial), it is not yet a Dystopian scenario but it is about controlling the risk of the imminent decline of the current Galactic Empire and accelerating the formation of the Second Empire, from 30,000 years of turmoil to a much shorter 1,000 years. This reduction of time is achieved upon the recommendations of the eminent Mathematician Hari Seldon who not only predicts the decline but also develops the recommendations via his development of psychohistory. Psychohistory is a new and effective mathematical sociology through the use of statistical laws of mass action that can predict the future of large populations. In this case, the Galactic Empire covers the Milky Way with a population of 500 Quadrillion individual's. This reduction of time of turmoil is said to be achieved by forming a Foundation that will house the best minds working to create a compendium of all human knowledge entitled the “Encyclopedia Galactica.”
There have been some minor and major changes from the original book and the T.V. series. The most interesting change is the re-interpretation of the books Incompetent Emperors with a “Genetic Dynasty.”
This clever re-imagining has ‘Emperor Cleon I’ establish a lineage of his clones raised to believe they are the continuation of his will. Therefore, the Emperor, ever unchanging, is the living embodiment of the Empires permanency. The Emperors work together in different lifecycles as Brother Dawn (child), Brother Day (Key figure in his prime) and Brother Dusk (possibly 70 y/o+). This change sent shivers down my spine when I think of the ruling elite who shall take us to space, new planets and beyond.
Questions arose in my mind. For example, who will govern us? What system of governance will be favoured? Because they will be the architects of our survival off Earth. Will a Genetic Dynasty of Lord Musk or King Bezos be something we can look forward to? What role(s) will we play in these future elite worlds ruled by Trillionaire/Quadrillionaire? E.g. Amazon (Milky Way Inc.) will need both high-end STEM skilled individuals. Equally, it will need people to work in the factories that sort and send vital to life products and leisure products to the UBER Wealthy. There is already controversy in Amazon Depots regarding worker treatment. Will we even have the courage to complain when we are dependent on them for survival? Will the Narrators vision from Fight Club (1999) that “When deep space exploration ramps up, it will be the corporations that name everything, the Microsoft Galaxy, the IBM stellar sphere, Planet Starbucks…” become a reality? Are we assured of the honest protected values of our Billionaire space cowboys? Are they motivated by something other than just wealth creation, power and empire building?
Now I ask again: “Is Space Travel an important Priority right now?”. Sure, exploration off-world potential for our future has many pros along with cons. But it feels like we are giving up on Earth far too quickly. If we do nothing to save our home world now, then once we settle off-world and Earth is uninhabitable, if we cannot sustain an off-world living, we are a doomed species.
Furthermore, the race to take pole position in Space tourism by SpaceX, Blue Origin, and Virgin Galactic has become a reality this year. An educated guess may be it is in preparation for future explorations (Starting with the Moon, Mars and Beyond). But the real question is who currently is it aimed at and with further real accelerated damage to the planet?
It is a concern that according to experts, the chemicals burned by rockets work together in the upper atmosphere, and could eventually deplete up to 1% of the ozone keeping us safe from the sun’s radiation. In addition, the carbon impact of a Space X Falcon 9 flight is approximately 150 metric tons per launch. With a twice-weekly flight goal, it means an annual carbon output of 4000 metric tons. This goal means each rocket launch produces 150 times as much carbon dioxide when compared to a transatlantic flight. If we ask what this is serving? Then this is for the amusement of the 1% who can afford a ticket with a price tag of $250,000 per person. The good that amount can do for helping find real, urgent solutions to help our fragile planet heal, funding education, feeding the poor, equitable access to good healthcare where there is none, with the many issues that need immediate solving surely are more important and urgent priorities.
However, like all things, the quicker these organisations break even and eventually achieve economies of scale, the price tag will become affordable for the ordinary traveller. The focus of the endeavour will also allow new and novel industries to open up and move on from the current combo of science missions, ecotourism expeditions, and yacht trips led by famous space lords to more focussed and niche profit-generating roles for these missions. It will also have the benefit of creating more jobs.
Ultimately the question of priority has to be asked again regardless of the benefits. And the answer is that sadly too much attention and resources are being allocated to these ventures with not enough thought or resources given to how we can help solve urgent real-world problems. It is not that these endeavours should not be undertaken. It is just that our planet needs to be on top of the list.