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New from the World Future Society
The Study of the Future
By Edward Cornish with Members and Staff of the
World Future Society, Washington, D.C. 1977
320 pages. Paperback.
A general introduction to futurism and future studies Chapters discuss the history of the futurist movement ways to introduce future-oriented think ing into organizations, the philosophical assumptions underlying studies of the future methods of forecasting, current thinking about what may happen as a result of the current revolutionary changes in human society etc It also includes descriptions of the life and thinking of prominent futurists and an annotated guide to further reading Comment Many people have sought a readable introduction to the futures field None of the books on the market seemed quite suitable. so the World Future Society has devel oped this unique book To speak honestly though perhaps immodestly we believe it is the best introduction to futurism now available for the aver age reader
Price: Members - $8.50
The Future: A Guide to
World Future Society. Washington, D.C. 1977
This is a guide to individuals, organizations, educational programs and courses. current research projects, periodicals, books and reports, films and videotapes, audiotapes, games and simulations, and other information sources This book was prepared by the Society in response to the countless queries it receives each year from people who want to know where to go for information about forecasting and futurism Supported in part by grants from the National Science Foundation and the Congressional Research Service, the Society labored more than a year to complete the survey of the field on which this volume is based. Comment "This is the most complete and accurate guide now available, and is strongly recommended"
by Paul L. Csonka
A large-scale space colonization program now would probably lead to widespread oppression, violence, and global disaster, argues a scientist. He believes that only a small, strictly supervised number of space settlements should be permitted until humanity becomes less violent and forms a world government capable of policing space.
The dream of leaving the Earth and reaching the stars is probably as old as the human race. It certainly predates the invention of writing as attested by ancient legends and mythologies. Through the millennia, the concept of extraterrestrial life and travel has proved to be a rich source of entertainment and inspiration. It also has been quite harmless
That state of affairs has changed in recent years. Largely as a result of the interesting analysis of Princeton physicist Gerard K O'Neill and his coworkers in the United States, and other scientists abroad, it has become clear that we could now start large-scale colonization of space if we wished to do so. The dream of permanently leaving the Earth could become a reality. And therein lies the danger.
Before presenting my arguments. I must emphasize that I am not against space colonization. I hope that it is successfully undertaken some day. But mankind should not plunge into such an adventure before conditions are ripe for it, and I believe that at the present time they are not
It is not our technological maturity which I doubt. In fact. I have high regard for the work of O'Neill and his collaborators, who have presented a convincing argument that our industrial capacity could cope with the task of colonization. Their calculations have proved to be realistic, although occasionally on the optimistic side. My objections are of a social and political nature Under the conditions prevailing today, immediate large-scale space colonization is likely to have disastrous consequences for the human race.
The Proposed Program for
How could one commence large-scale space colonization today? O'Neill suggests a multi-stage process. In the first stage, a "Model 1" space colony would
The first space colony could look like a giant wheel floating in space. The burnished disc that hangs suspended over the wheel is a floating mirror panel that reflects sunlight down onto slanted panels and into shields that screen out cosmic rays. Photo NASA
be constructed. capable of supporting about 10,000 people inside a space cylinder about a mile long and with a radius of several hundred feet This could then serve as a base to construct a larger Model 2" space colony with about 100,000-200,000 people and a cylindrical volume about 30 times larger than for the previous model. That, in turn, could be used to construct "Model 3," which would be several miles wide and long and house about a million people. Even larger models might come later
Various industries would be established in the successive models. The production costs in some of these industries would be less than in similar industries on the Earth: for example, high-strength single crystals might be cheaply manufactured in zero gravity high-vacuum environment, and solar energy would be more plentiful In this way. Model 1 could partly "pay for itself" starting immediately after it becomes operational thus reducing the otherwise exorbitant construction costs of Model 2, etc. The technology to accomplish this multistage construction project is only partly available today the rest would have to be developed along the way.
According to O Neill. Model 1 could be operational by 1988. Model 2 by
Author Paul L Csonka warns that disaster could result if humanity plunges into largescale space colonization in the near future.
1996. Model 3 by 2002 and starting about the year 2014 the work force of a "parent" colony could build a daughter" colony within 6 years, relying entirely on its own resources plus raw materials found in outer space, with no assistance from the Earth This doubling time of six years is to be compared with the present doubling time of Earths population: 35 years. Accordingly. from about the year 2050, the number of places available in the space colonies would increase so fast that they could absorb the population increase not only on the Earth but also in the colonies. Thereafter, population density could be decreased everywhere. The price of implementing this program would be around five billion dollars per year (in 1972 dollars). (For more on space colonies see Space Colonies: The High Frontier by Gerard O'Neill in THE FUTURIST February 1976, pp. 25-33.)
The Arguments for Colonization
Why should humanity embark on this proposed gigantic expansion project? According to O'Neill and his coworkers, there are several arguments in favor of such a plan. I will try to give a fair summary of these arguments as presented by O'Neill in Physics Today (September, 1974). (The ordering is mine)
1 Cultural diversity will flourish. O'Neill says that the technical imperatives of this kind of migration of people and industry into space are likely to encourage self-sufficiency small-scale governmental units, cultural diversity and a high degree of independence
A community of 20.000 people, eager to preserve its own culture and language. can even remain largely isolated. Free diverse social experimentations could thrive in such a protected self-sufficient environment. (For such reasons many young Maoists are now enthusiastically in favor of space colonization)
2 Good "land" will be plentiful. The history of the last 30 years suggests that warfare in the nuclear age is strongly although not wholly motivated by territorial conflicts-battles over limited. nonextendable pieces of land." O'Neill maintains The construction of new living spaces may eliminate the cause of such conflicts.
Furthermore, one may be hopeful that colonization will be peaceful. We already have a treaty banning nuclear weapons from space, and the colonies can obtain all the energy they could ever THE FUTURIST, October 1977 285
need from clean solar power, so that temptations presented by nuclear reactor by-products need not exist in the space communities
3. Population pressures on Earth can be alleviated. After about the year 2050 the number of new space colonies built per year would be high enough to decrease the population density of Earth and the space colonies to predetermined ecologically sound levels, even if the growth rate of the population persisted undiminished at its present value of 1.98% per year. This expansion could continue while there is space to be colonized in the Solar System: at least a 20.000-fold increase of the population could be so accommodated without increasing the population density At the present rate that would take about 500 years during which time we would hopefully learn to slow down population growth or initiate space travel to distant stars. There are enough materials for us to use: "If we are so prodigal as to run through the entire material of the asteroid belt in the next 500 years we can even gain another 500 years by using up the moons of the outer planets
4 Industrial pollution on Earth could be greatly reduced. "If work is begun soon, nearly all our industrial activity could be moved away from the Earth's fragile biosphere within less than a century from now. declares O'Neill. In addition. "bird and animal species that are endangered on Earth by agricultural development and industrial chemical residues may find havens for growth in the space colonies, where insecticides are unnecessary and industry has unlimited energy for recycling.
5. The quality of life would be high. The space settlements would offer "new
A small transportation vehicle waits for lift-off from a mining town on the moon. Lunar materials will be the prime source of metals and oxygen for proposed space colonies. At right are mines and living quarters. The smaller tube bins with glass windows are agriculture sheds where food is grown. At left is magnetic track of accelerator which sends lunar materials hurtling into space. Photo NASA tions from the calculated values. To avoid such a delay we have to start colonization right now. And if this were the whole story, we would be well advised to do so.
habitats far more comfortable. attractive than is most of the Earth" O'Neill suggests. In addition, using the matter and energy available in space to colonize and build, we can achieve great productivity of food and material goods. Examples of this type were cited earlier: favorable environment for large single-crystal growth is difficult to achieve on the Earth, but could be easily accomplished in space colonies, solar collectors, placed in orbit, could gather solar radiation for conversion to electrical energy (which in turn may be radiated to Earth in the form of microwaves)
(During the last year or so. publications dealing with space colonization have tended to stress the fifth item on our list of expected benefits. However, the other four have not been repudiated or retracted: in fact, they are still being quoted, and by now they have been repeatedly enumerated by the news media.)
These arguments suggest that we should undertake space colonization soon, and on a large scale. Indeed unless we do so, ecological damage to the Earth's biosphere would no longer be reversible, birds and fish which might have found sanctuaries in space habitats would become extinct: the human population density would reach catastrophic levels, and a pathologically overpopulated Earth could not provide the necessary financial resources and supplies to sustain a major colonization effort. Population limitation would then be brought about by other means Because of the exponential growth rates, even a small delay would mean large devia
Critique of the Proposed Program
But this is not the whole story Another assumption implicit in the above arguments is that human behavior is mostly rational and generous in the sense that it furthers the best interests of the entire human race This assump tion is unjustified, as any student of history well knows. Those on whose decisions the future of our race depends must face the consequences of human irrationality and selfishness. it would be irresponsible to do otherwise. At the very least, we must try to foresee all difficulties which we may encounter-and make sure that we know how to avoid them before committing humanity to such an irreversible course of action as space colonization
Some enthusiasts take the position that space colonization would be a new venture, so we can never know where it will lead us I reject this argument. It is true that so far humanity has not built large spaceships, colonized outer space, or lived in isolated space communities for any appreciable length of time. But mankind has built sea-going vessels, colonized distant lands, and lived in more or less isolated communities for centuries Our ample experience in these undertakings must be considered as an indication of the kinds of obstacles we are likely to encounter.
In this short article my aim is to call attention to some of the social and poli
tical problems to be expected on the basis of historical analogy. I plan to convince you that we are in no position now to handle the difficulties which would emerge. I intend to demonstrate that in view of the many unsolvable problems, the above listed five benefits expected from space colonization are largely illusory. Furthermore, I will argue that not only is the proposed space colonization program unlikely to alleviate our difficulties, but it will inevitably amplify them and move us closer to general disaster.
Let us start our argument by examining one by one the previously listed five expected benefits.
An Invitation to Tyranny
1. Diversity. How realistic is the hope that space colonization would indeed encourage small-scale government units, a high degree of independence, and free diverse social experimentation?
If left to themselves, what kind of social structure would the spaceships likely develop? The most reasonable assumption is that they will develop along the same lines as small self-contained social units in the past have tended to do. Probably the simplest example of such units is a ship on the high seas. What societies evolved on sea-faring vessels of the past? All of us have heard about pirate ships roaming the high seas, each under the control of its tyrannical captain. But how many ships were inhabited by a democratic community of gentle people who minded their own business, did harm to no one and made their living happily fishing on the high seas under the bright clear tropical sun? None that I know of. More generally, how many peaceful, democratic, pluralistic
have evolved since sophisticated weaponry became possible with the discovery of ways to forge copper? The history of Europe shows that whenever central authority has weakened, countries have tended to disintegrate, and smaller. geographically determined units have emerged each ruled by a strong man reigning over the local population-but also defending against exploitation by outsiders. With the notable exception of certain Swiss cantons and some cities, essentially all regional governments were autocratic until quite recently. This phenomenon is not limited to Europe: the experience of Asia, North Africa and Central America is similar. Nor is this tendency limited to the past. Hierarchies and rul
About the Author
Author Paul L Csonka, a physicist, is direc tor of the Institute of Theoretical Science, University of Oregon, Eugene, Oregon 97403
These everyday observations are of
Nowadays the tendency to form hier-
movement happens only as a result of the spectacular social changes usually referred to as revolutions and more often than not, even these changes merely generate another autocratic system replacing the old one.
In view of the foregoing, we must assume that most isolated space communities will, almost certainly, eventually develop some non-democratic form of
Exterior of a space colony as seen through an astronaut's helmet. At man's present lev el of development, believes author Csonka, uncontrolled proliferation of independent space colonies probably would produce mostly autocratic space communities, and space pirates would roam the solar system.
A Dialogue on Space Colonization
In recent issues. THE FUTURIST has published several articles which look favorably upon the idea of large-scale space colonization in the near future. "Space Colonies. The High Frontier" by Gerard K. O'Neill appeared in the February 1976 issue and Designing a Space Community by Magoroh Maruyama appeared in October 1976.
This article draws attention to some possible drawbacks of largescale space colonization now. Csonka a physicist anticipates that some may tend to dismiss his arguments as unscientific. because he is neither a historian nor a political scientist However, he contends that
his presentation is justified because "the choices which will have to be made will affect the future of all of In addition, at present, there is no generally accepted practicable scientific method in the social scr ences which could prove wrong" his opinions, he says In such cases, expertise must be supplemented by other considerations, he concludes. There is clearly room for opinion. Csonka believes that the subject of space colonization is such an important one that a dialogue must be started in which all of the possible ramifications for Society are brought out into the open before a commitment is made.