December 20th, 2021
This will not be my most popular post or opinion (though when have I ever cared about being popular, I’m kidding, please everybody love me), but I’ve been reading Stephen Hawking’s work lately, including his last book, Brief Answers to the Big Questions, and I believe, like he does, in one controversial attitude:
People like Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos are doing what we need to do in order to ensure any future for the human race.
Hold on, hold on, before you throw any red paint on me (this fur isn’t real). This is not me saying anything like Jeff’s business practices at Amazon are not abysmal and horrific. Nope. This has nothing to do with that.
No, Hawking knew that if commercial money found its way into the hands of the scientific community, then we could make progress in space exploration and travel. And we have to learn how to leave Earth.
Well, I’ll list the most pressing.
Our environment is likely past the point of no return. Even if we threw money at it and told people what had to be done, events like the pandemic have shown us that you can tell humans the right thing to do, and a lot of them will refuse to do it, especially if it is an inconvenience.
In the late 60’s, when the space program was popular, it inspired kids to get into science and the public admired and respected the scientific community. As the program fell out of the light now cast on societal issues (which we definitely fixed back in the 70’s, right?), people started to minimize and ignore those in science, an attitude that has fluctuated in a downward wave, as can be seen in the absurd mistrust certain groups now have for people in science (which includes people in related fields, like healthcare.)
Basically, the human race as a whole can not get their collective shit together as a mind.
We are under massive nuclear threat at any time, as those weapons exist, are still here, and available for anybody to use.
Another asteroid will hit Earth. That isn’t an alarmist guess. It is an inevitable fact based on physics probability.
Over-population is real and within a blink of the universe’s lifetime, we will be standing shoulder-to-shoulder with our fellows under a 450-degree sun.
If this all sounds scary, it should. Boo. And if you’re saying we should use that money to fix our problems here, I join Stephen Hawking in saying: why not both? He proposes using a quarter of a percent of the world’s GDP on space, as it’s a global goal. The rest can be used for the present.
If we want a future, we have to boldly go — and we can boldly fix this place, too, if we rediscover some common ground and return science to its rightful place of respect and prominence.