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No Jeff, we don't have to go to space to save mankind

Earth from a distance. It's pretty dark out there. Photo: NASA / OSIRIS-REx team, University of Arizona I love space. I am very excited for people to explore space more, and I am also okay with us to go back to the moon to begin with. Space is a great limit to scientific discoveries waiting to be made; a chance for us to seek the universe's mysteries and learn more about ourselves. What space is not and will never be, is the key to saving our species. And yet the claim that we need to venture boldly into the last limit to save mankind and perhaps the earth itself – has become the prevailing dogma among a certain cohort of cosmically true technical brothers. In 2016, Elon Musk revealed his vision of establishing a permanent human presence on Mars, which describes the project of making mankind a "multiplanetic species" as the best and only way to secure our efforts to eradicate. Last night, Jeff Bezos took that thought further in a 50-minute speech intentionally announcing the Blue Origin's new lunar lander. In reality, the talk was a sweeping overview of Bezo's vision of liberating mankind from the arches of Blue Marble's finite resources. "For all human history, the earth has known us great," Bezos tells the collected audience. "It is no longer true. Earth is no longer great. Man is great. It seems to us great, but it is expedient." Bezos has quickly abandoned poverty, famine, homelessness, pollution and overfishing…

Earth from a distance. It’s pretty dark out there. Photo: NASA / OSIRIS-REx team, University of Arizona

I love space. I am very excited for people to explore space more, and I am also okay with us to go back to the moon to begin with. Space is a great limit to scientific discoveries waiting to be made; a chance for us to seek the universe’s mysteries and learn more about ourselves.

What space is not and will never be, is the key to saving our species.

And yet the claim that we need to venture boldly into the last limit to save mankind and perhaps the earth itself – has become the prevailing dogma among a certain cohort of cosmically true technical brothers. In 2016, Elon Musk revealed his vision of establishing a permanent human presence on Mars, which describes the project of making mankind a “multiplanetic species” as the best and only way to secure our efforts to eradicate. Last night, Jeff Bezos took that thought further in a 50-minute speech intentionally announcing the Blue Origin’s new lunar lander. In reality, the talk was a sweeping overview of Bezo’s vision of liberating mankind from the arches of Blue Marble’s finite resources.

“For all human history, the earth has known us great,” Bezos tells the collected audience. “It is no longer true. Earth is no longer great. Man is great. It seems to us great, but it is expedient.”

Bezos has quickly abandoned poverty, famine, homelessness, pollution and overfishing as “urgent immediate problem “, so that the crowd goes into the real crisis against humanity.

A very basic long-distance problem is that we will run out of energy on the earth, says Bezos. “We don’t want to stop using energy, but it’s unsustainable.” According to Bezos, the only way to prevent us from eventually covering “the whole earth’s surface in solar cells” is to knock out beyond our home world.

“If we go out into the solar system, for all practical purposes, we have unlimited resources,” said Bezos, explaining that we could have “one trillion people” including “a thousand Mozart’s and a thousand Einstein’s”. If one reinforces the human population, two orders of magnitude were not ambitious, so Bezos continued to propose that we do so by filling people of millions in spinning land cities – also known as the Neill cylinders where we will have cities, crops and recreational parks . Presumably, a benevolent company will ensure a continuous supply of air.

Soil, the Amazon man says, will end up in the “housing and light industry” while all harmful industries will move beyond our planet’s blue gloss.

“We both get,” Bezos said. The earth will be preserved for future generations, but humanity does not have to give up “a future of dynamism and growth.”

understand. This sounds very exciting, and there is nothing like a Silicon Valley billionaire like more than blowing some techno-optimism. But are we not perhaps in front of ourselves, just a little here? Shouldn’t we try to know how to live sustainably on the only planet that supports human life before thinking about how to recreate one million pocket-size versions in a cold, dark void?

Bezos hand-waves of many 21st century problems gone, but this is real crises against real people right now. If we do not get ongoing climate change under control and figure out how to prevent a million species from emitting, there is a very true chance that we will never come close to maximizing the Earth’s “limited resources” because you know we all come be dead.

And frankly, we are nowhere near to use the earth’s resources. Bezos recognizes so much in his speech when he observes that we can transform the entire Nevada into a sunbathing farm and run the entire human company of it. The US Department of Energy has estimated that there is enough energy blowing in the wind from US coastlines to more than the power of any American home. The rare earth metals that we mine to support the energy transition are abundant in the earth’s crust and while at present we can only access small pockets of them, develop new sources on the earth or technically our technology to use them more effectively are both far more reasonable solutions than harvesting the same metals from Saturn’s rings. We can add a fraction of the resources needed to develop Neill cylinders into a robust fusion energy program, and for a century we can drive the entire cities from seawater.

Maybe Bezos can even invest some of the resources Amazon uses to automate oil extraction?

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