14 thoughts on “Space Ethics”

  1. “Since Paleolithic times, settlement and development of new territories have been key to unlocking new resources and opportunities for our species. But along with the benefits have come catastrophe, including the spread of disease and destruction of cultures, the untimely death of explorers and pioneers, wars over newfound territories, and damage to the environment from the mixing of life from different ecosystems.”

    Yet the “planet” survives, and, indeed, flourishes. The authors’ litany of recommended nail-biting bureaucratic recommendations to stand in the way of something already monumentally difficult simply means that it won’t happen. Not in our lifetime, or our children’s lifetimes (I don’t care about our children’s children, because I don’t think children should be having sex).

    1. Yeah, there is a human trait to try and control the future, our environment, and everything else because we have an evolutionary fear of an uncertain future but the future can not be controlled. At best, we can mitigate the future but we have to be mindful that acts of mitigation can also be harmful.

  2. “spread of disease” – there’s nothing to spread disease to.
    “destruction of cultures” – what cultures? There are none.
    “untimely death of explorers and pioneers” – adults making their own choices. One of those choices will be to get away from government nannies.
    “wars over newfound territories” – lets pass a law outlawing war. That’s the ticket!
    “damage to the environment from the mixing of life from different ecosystems.” – a non-issue until we find life off of Earth.
    This is 95% utopian, bureaucratic, wishful thinking which should be left behind in Earth’s atmosphere.

    1. ““damage to the environment from the mixing of life from different ecosystems.” – a non-issue until we find life off of Earth.”

      Not necessarily. We don’t know how life we bring with us will change and what could happen when we bring it back. I don’t think it should stop activity but it should be researched as time goes on.

      1. I think it’s fair to say that life on Earth is continually optimized for Earth. Life in space, on Mars, Europa or some asteroid will get optimized for those environments (assuming it survives). I don’t think those alien-environment optimized life forms would compete all that well back on Earth. It’s not impossible, but pretty low probability IMHO.

    2. I don’t think an airlock can be sufficiently idiot-proofed to allow these people to survive any long-duration space mission.

  3. “A call for a new field of “space ethics” to ensure humanity has learned from history and is evolving morally and culturally when it comes to settling the cosmos.”

    What makes space ethics different than regular ethics? The way this is phrased implies that humanity as it exists now, is inherently bad. It also implies there is some new ideology that will fix human nature. It comes off as neo-Marxist.

    The meat of the op-ed has some good points. We do need to study how different levels of gravity affect different life forms throughout their life and generationally. We should also search for life but its existence, shouldn’t stop us from being there.

    Over time, we can expect that populations on Earth and other places in the solar system will develop different diseases. We can also expect humans to act like humans. Short of war, there will still be murders, thefts, rapes, and other crimes. A war involving territories off Earth wont be any more serious than the ones on Earth. If we can’t stop humans from being human on Earth, we wont be able to anywhere else.

    This brings up a question, who will do the stopping? Who will make up the board? International groups have their place but also don’t have a good track record on Earth. As an American, I favor national and individual sovereignty. I’m skeptical of the mention of human rights because far too often what I consider human rights are not considered rights by those who trend toward Progressive Marxism.

  4. My take on this is that the tough ethical decisions are far less consequential than the easy ones. There were no tough ethical decisions in, for example, the several hundred million people who died from totalitarian ideologies or ending slavery in most of the world. These were clear wrongs with vast numbers of people suffering. Even on the small scale, there’s no dilemma in most petty crimes and violence.

    But a hard decision is what to do now to reduce the odds of future harm. We can go on and on about the uncertainties, but one thing for sure is that plans made now aren’t likely to survive contact with the future. It doesn’t make much sense to go on and on about ethics of space development, when we don’t know what the dilemmas of space development will be and will have little if any influence on those dilemmas even if we did. For certain, it won’t be indigenous aliens getting Terran diseases and being oppressed by Terran conquistadors in order to loot their space gold – the colonial model of space development is deeply broken.

    So it’s a hard problem with little consequence (particularly, if one is fishing with red herring from human history as bait) because the people of that day will be the ones making the ethical or unethical decisions not the relatively uninformed people of today.

    Sure, it wouldn’t be great if some of our descendants completely kill off unique Martian life. But we really don’t have much say in it. Things are already pretty crazy with all kinds of ratcheting of human freedom and creation of nanny rules/laws because somewhere there is a stupid person doing what stupid does. Don’t make it worse by creating rules for hypothetical, stupid future people. As the saying goes, when you make something fool-proof, the universe makes a better fool.

  5. Once again, those of us who will not participate in exploration believe we can make life better by dictating terms to the explorers.

  6. To borrow another phrase from Star Trek…
    The best diplomat I know is a fully charged phaser bank
    – Lt. Cmdr. Montgomery Scott

  7. A new field? What rock have they been living under? Writers like Willy Ley, Isaac Asimov, and Arthur C. Clarke have been writing essays and stories about “space ethics” since the 1950’s. Books like Beyond Spaceship Earth by Dr. Hargrove (1992) and Envoys of Mankind by George Robinson (1986) have already established the field. They only reason these “Johnnies come lately” think its new is because they have no knowledge of the subject. They need to spend some time doing their space ethics homework before attempting to be “experts” on it.

    1. Increasingly I have come to view “experts” as people/organizations that spend a great deal of effort convincing others that they are “experts”. It is amazing how often “expert” is a self proclaimed title with an unstable foundation in reality. I’m seeing this in some engineering work.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *