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<<I do sort of love the fact that people think a species that can't manage a perfect 4-billion-year old self-sustaining solar-powered biosphere surrounded by its own self-generated forcefield are gonna somehow be able to build a viable space habitat. >>

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Good lord, some of the comments on this thread. Like this one.

How... how do people think like this.

This is, at the root of it, what keeps the myth of space colonisation alive. The idea that if we just put 'the right people', by which they mean rich people, into a tin can and keep everyone else, by which they mean poor people, out, suddenly a miracle occurs.

This belief is why we got austerity and oligarchy..

WHY DO TECH PEOPLE THINK BILLIONAIRES ARE PROBLEM FREE ZONES???!!

This belief is the Atlas Shrugged myth, the idea that all the problems of Earth are caused by other people, the untermenschen, that if you just put all the self-selected supermen together you get paradise.

It's what's driving Silicon Valley's Cloud and Big Data and Disruption fixation. It's what's driving transhumanism and "rationalist" cults and Bitcoin and the alt-right. It's what's making SV ignore the inflated rents they're cursing cities with and the suffering that causes.

It's fascism.

This belief, that you only want 'smart people', that leaders of society and captains of industry must get away from the vast sea of ordinary people so they don't get Ordinary People Mind Cooties...

I can't stress this enough. This is an evil belief and the more it finds a home in STEM and tech companies, the more unspeakable suffering will result from it.

@natecull i hope all their projects fail miserably, because imagine the absolute hell being stuck in a half-broken crumbling space hulk with a bunch of like-minded people who are totally unaware of their own (otherwise perfectly normal and manageable) human failings...

@carcinopithecus One upside is that if someone like Jeff Bezos does try to build a space station, hopefully they will find out about the limits of systems and resources and the failure modes of human group psychology much quicker and with less collateral damage than they would if they were just, say, running for US President or something.

@natecull it would be so much cheaper for someone to send them the wiki link for Biosphere II...

@carcinopithecus I know! I wish someone would try another one of those, hopefully with less of a nuclear-paranoia cult group running it.

Fun fact: After Biosphere II fell apart, the white knight investor guy who swooped in to save it was.... dum dum dum... STEVE BANNON.

@natecull @carcinopithecus I think this is actually two questions:
1) Are we technologically capable of building a space habitat (given that we can't even make Earth work sustainably)?
2) Are we socially capable of inhabiting a space habitat (given that we can't even get along on Earth)?

@natecull @carcinopithecus For (1) I'm afraid I mostly have to agree with you - but for (2), does it really just have to be about sending /better/ people? Could it not just be that the coordination problems which're messing up the Earth may be easier to solve with /fewer/ people (and less baggage in the form of entrenched, preexisting systems, etc.)?

@ej @carcinopithecus

It would certainly be interesting to test both (1) and (2) in a cheaper and simpler to access environment, like a big sealed greenhouse in a desert on Earth. Once we can do that repeatably and at scale, we could either try to do it in space, where the resources are much more expensive and the stakes for failure much more deadly.... or we could just scale it up on Earth and have a whole bunch of greenhouse cities.

@natecull @carcinopithecus Sorry for the late reply! Yup, I totally hafta agree with all of this! Think a submarine env. may be better than a desert one, though (if'n I get to choose..), and I think building sustainable cities would be an argument in favour of space colonisation, rather than an alternative to it..

@ej @carcinopithecus

The thing about space is its biggest resource is... Rock and non-oxygen gases.

We already have a lot of rock in Earth. That's not really what we're missing.

What is it that people see in space that's worth putting people there for? Absent any even theoretical warp drive, of course. If we could get to other stars (and therefore planets with biospheres) in a human lifetime, this calculus totally changes.

But our best physics so far says we can't. Would love to be wrong.

@natecull @carcinopithecus Ah - this, I can't disagree with! I'm largely not in favour of human space exploration for this reason: it's just too inefficient.

We gotta do something, though. Obligatory Space Quotes:
"If the dinosaurs had had a space programme, they'd still be here"
-- Carl Sagan

"The galaxy is probably littered with the one-planet graves of cultures which made the perfectly sensible economic decision not to go into space [...]"
-- Randall Munroe

@ej @carcinopithecus

Um.

There's no reason to think that a space program would help at all with surviving a meteor strike. Literally.

What are the crew of ISS gonna do if a meteor hits Florida and Kazakhstan?

And that's after 60+ years in orbit. Putting that time into a sealed greenhouse in a salt mine would pay off more if it's survival you want.

Spade colonies are *insanely* fragile and always will be, compared to anywhere on Earth even after a worst-case extinction event.

@natecull @carcinopithecus [Gonna go with the space conversation for now because I've limited time and it's kinda the more fun topic. Hope that's okay!]

Ways a space programme might help fend off existential disasters:
• Less adversarial political climate through international collaboration
• Advance warning of PHAs
• Destruction/Deflection of PHAs
• Space-based seed banks, DNA repositories, etc.
• Colonisation of other planets, so's all our eggs aren't in the one basket

@natecull @carcinopithecus We've been around for ¼ million years so far; dinosaurs were around for >150 million years. If we last that long, how awesome could our space programme could be by the time our own asteroid turns up!

@natecull @carcinopithecus Cards on the table: I'm not really in favour of human space exploration. It's really inefficient, we need the money for other things, and I'm *really* not convinced that what the galaxy needs is more human beings.

But, I also strongly believe we should have a massive, international, well-funded space programme. Just that its end goal shouldn't be about sending humans into space.

@ej @carcinopithecus

Yeah, I think I agree with all of this. I still think human space colonisation is very cool. I just don't think (unless we find something very unexpected like huge water supplies on Mars... we're finding a bit, but it seems like there might be all kinds of toxicity problems), that it would contribute hugely to general human survival. At least not in the short term.

It's mostly the tired 'we used up old Earth, so we moved to the 'Verse' SF scenario that annoys me.

@natecull @carcinopithecus Yeah, I get you. (That particular SF scenario makes me think of that bit in the Matrix where Hugo Weaving compares humanity to a virus..)

And yeah, it'd probs. adversely affect survival in the short term, owing to reduced spending on other projects and to military applications of the developed tech.

Can't just plan for the short term, though! We'd get trapped at a local-maximum, and eventually some existential catastrophe would wipe us out!

@ej @natecull @carcinopithecus the problem with the amount of people we have is only that so few are in charge

@hirojin @natecull @carcinopithecus Maayybe this is the problem with the current political system, yeah. Maybe! But if so - it *definitely* isn't the only one!

@natecull and this all even including the fact that there were research on such idea. And research failed, because "greatest" people community broke to the same "non-great" community they would have if there was no such a selection...

@natecull Idiocracy has done untold damage to hundreds of thousands of libertarian-curious brains

@natecull @megfault It's a paridigm difference.

In a "survival of the species" crisis, selecting the "best" is the optimal answer. In any other situation, the side effects are more than nasty enough to forbid it.

@natecull

This is just the extension of liberal, conservative and leninist politics into other fields right? The fundamental belief that there are essential and natural hierarchies among people required to govern any endeavor.

@natecull
Eww don't put transhumanism in with that lot. You're thinking of the small minded but more visible off shoot that I like to call cishumanism.

@imani I do, though.

Transhumanism is the idea that baseline humanity is broken and that machines are better than and should control and regulate human bodies. It's hard for me to see how that leads to anything but contempt for the masses, and a culture that worships engineering and the machine.

It's the same drug the Italian Futurists were on and it goes right along with a romantic worship of machines, violence and speed. And historically, that's the exact milieu that birthed Fascism 1.0.

@imani There is the whole New Age thing, which is about transcending humanity and so is transhumanism-adjacent, but it starts from entirely different premises about the ontology of the universe. But the New Age also falls very easily into cultlike models of authoritarian hierarchical control (though I don't think it necessarily has to).

I guess there's also the 'bicycles for the mind' computing people, who I respect a lot, but generally those aren't quite so much about 'hacking the body'.

@imani ie:

I like the idea of computers as personal 'thought amplifiers'.

But generally, that subset of computing seems to come from the perspective that the human user, *and their body*, should be central and control the machine.

When we start thinking that the body is dumb, the user is dumb, and the programmer/engineer/Cloud/AI/Fitbit whatever is smarter and should control the body/user, then I think we're building in something very hierarchical and very scary.

@CobaltVelvet @imani

Why do you think a transhumanism can even *exist*? Or should?

What do you think is wrong with being human?

What do you want to replace humanity with?

Why do you think that something nonhuman is better than something human?

@natecull @CobaltVelvet @imani

>Or should?

it shouldn't

>What do you think is wrong with being human?

Transhumanists don't see anything wrong with that

>What do you want to replace humanity with?

a more reified form of humanity. even if the morphological changes dreamed of by transhumanists become possible, transhumanist ideology ensures that all morphological changes will stll be anthropocentric. fuck 'humanity fuck yeah'

@a_breakin_glass @CobaltVelvet @imani

Hmm. What exactly does 'a more reified form of humanity' mean to you?

How does one 'reify' a human being?

@natecull @CobaltVelvet @imani
>Why do you think that something nonhuman is better than something human?

they don't. such morphologically variant forms might be much different from what we have now, but the category of humanity would in all respects expand to include them. mass deforestation, strip mining of resources, and so on would still be acceptable despite the 'nonhuman' morphologies because they'd still benefit from the idea of human superiority over nature, etc

@CobaltVelvet @imani

To be clear, I am talking about physical, mechanical transhumanism.

As I'm religious, I do actually subscribe to the idea that sentient beings can exist that don't have the nasty flaws that we see in biological humans. Like death, for instance.

But I don't really see a way to get from that sort of religious feeling to 'we can replace the human body with something we've made ourselves which is better'

I mean that's literally what's killing the biosphere isn't it?

@natecull @imani personally, being human is hell

it's been a an utter pain from the beginning to now, and even though improving our lives in every other way is very important, some things can't be fixed that way.

bodies are so fragile. you can die any time. for so many reasons. because of so many other people with various motives around you. and even if you're very privileged or lucky in the same life, you still can't stay long. how do other humans put up with that

@CobaltVelvet @imani

Well generally, human beings throughout history have put up with this by coming to the conclusion that our essential humanness is not inherent in our body, but in something more primary than the physical realm - the currently unfashionable idea of a soul or spirit.

I'm open to ideas about transhumanism that start from the idea of a soul... but those ideas generally don't conclude that it's our problem to somehow replace our body, since that's already sorted for us.

@natecull @imani and they naively believe that something happened to the soul "on its own" after death and other ideas like that. i don't and have never could believed such thing.

that soul is in my brain and will be lost after i die. unless we move the brain, or make a copy run in a machine. imagine actual immortality being so much closer to us

anyway i'd like us to fix bodies first

@natecull @imani maybe that's just transhumanism from a cyberpunk anarchist's point of view. but to me that's truly the essence of it.

i'm willing to admit that it's very different from a capitalist's point of view whose main idea would be to put a price tag on "augmentations" and rule forever, none of us want that. but they never needed that to make our lives miserable either.

@natecull @CobaltVelvet @imani whether we have a soul/spirit doesn't matter, but we have no essential humanness.

the idea that we have some essential humanness that makes us 'better' is a serious problem, and something that transhumanism carries with it, even as it tries to disclaim humanity

@a_breakin_glass @natecull @CobaltVelvet @imani Love this discussion! Saying hi to keep track of it. Might venture an opinion at some point :-)

@natecull
Well... that's not *my* understanding of transhumanism -- or at least not the part of it that I find appealing.
@imani

@natecull @imani That is definitely classic Extropianism (which is a driving force of Silicon Valley these days - most of the big tech bros are old-time Extropians, and doing exactly what they said they needed to do to make it happen).

Tautology: You are either a god, or you are unworthy of being a god. Sound familiar?

@natecull
Thank you!

Space colonies that aren't selected by some kind of lottery would lead to fascism before they're even built.

And yeah, hard agree with everything you wrote here.

@erosdiscordia @natecull that's like saying, "worker cities that aren't selected by some kind of lottery would lead to fascism before they're even built".

Space colonies aren't countries, and if they'll ever be built, it'll be long before they grow past the stage of employee towns. Somehow, terrestrial ones didn't turn into fascist states, or into a problem for anyone but themselves.

@temporal
You make a good point, but I do think theres a certain social cache to the idea of "space colony" that "worker city" doesnt have. An assumed elitism, even if the reality of the colony is hard and dangerous work.

And it's not so much that fascism would appear within the colony itself. So much as the discourse around its creation might lend itself to fascist thought.
@natecull

@erosdiscordia @natecull I feel the elitism is projected, a combination of hate for the rich (who recently became involved in space industry) and adult version of high-school nerd bashing. There's a bunch of libertarian-ish people thinking space could be a better version of seasteading; I understand criticizing this idea, but it's not representative of the larger groups of a) people working in old&newspace industries and b) space exploration enthusiast. To fight fascism, fight Rand-ism, not space colonies.

@temporal
Well, I might just have to agree to disagree. I don't actually personally hate "the rich", just many of the narratives they advance to justify their decisions (which have far fewer checks on them than yours or mine do). It's those narratives that are causing escalating problems, not necessarily wealth itself. They're picked up by the non-rich as a sort of crusade, and that's where a lot of the overt fascism and borderline-eugenics thinking tends to pop up.

I'm thoroughly for the idea of space colonies. They just need to be firmly alongside cleaning up the mess we have made here, both in terms of the environment, and our deep unease with equality and humanity. Until the latter is glorified as much as some "space colony elite", that particular idea is dangerous.
@natecull

@natecull woah, that's putting a lot of unrelated groups in one bucket. Probably the closest connection is "representatives of these groups exist in San Francisco area", and/or "not misanthropes".

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