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Hawking Says Humans Must Go Into Space 843

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the purple-belly-push dept.
neutralino writes "The Associated Press reports that astrophysicist Stephen Hawking wants humans to establish colonies in space in order to ensure the survival of the human race. At a news conference in Hong Kong, Hawking said that 'It is important for the human race to spread out into space for the survival of the species. Life on Earth is at the ever-increasing risk of being wiped out by a disaster, such as sudden global warming, nuclear war, a genetically engineered virus or other dangers we have not yet thought of.'"
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Hawking Says Humans Must Go Into Space

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  • by DoofusOfDeath (636671) on Tuesday June 13, 2006 @02:12PM (#15526053)
    I'm not anti-human or anything (in fact, I'm good friends with a number of them!). But why should an individual care about whether or not the drama of humanity continues? For instance, if we permit let every person who currently lives to live out a natural and good life, and somehow do so without creating any new people, would that be acceptable?
  • by mikesmind (689651) on Tuesday June 13, 2006 @02:14PM (#15526088) Homepage
    Would colonizing space really solve the basic problems that could cause mankind to die out on Earth? The disasters listed above seem to originate with man, and most of these because of man's relentless pursuit for power or profit. If our lives are so fragile now, on the planet we are ideally suited to live on, how much more fragile will the human race be on an inhospitable planet somewhere else in the solar system, not to mention the universe. There is a great gulf to cross through space and it seems that we should solve the root causes of our problems at home before we bring them with us to a more delicate and dangerous place.
  • Universe survival (Score:3, Interesting)

    by VincenzoRomano (881055) on Tuesday June 13, 2006 @02:18PM (#15526140) Homepage Journal
    Life on Earth is at the ever-increasing risk of being wiped out
    And going to space should allow us to survive from ourselves?
    I think it would be better to remain on the Earth to let the Universe survive!

  • by dpbsmith (263124) on Tuesday June 13, 2006 @02:23PM (#15526205) Homepage
    ...just as we need to accept personal death.

    The Noah's Ark story has great appeal, but events capable of destroying the Earth might well destroy nearby colonies in the solar system.

    Or perhaps I should say, if we hypothesize that humankind does not have the wisdom to maintain a stable existence on Earth, the same factors that lead to it destroying the Earth and/or human life thereon might well lead to the same outcome in our planetary colonies.

  • by Quiet_Desperation (858215) on Tuesday June 13, 2006 @02:23PM (#15526207)
    That's because many of the problems here on Earth have *NO* solutions.

    I know we all like to sit around and pretend that there's a solution for everything out there, somewhere, waiting to be found, but humanity is a seriously broken creature. We could have infinite food, power and resources, but people would still kill, rape, maim and hurt one another endlessly.

  • Re:I doubt it. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Jerf (17166) on Tuesday June 13, 2006 @02:27PM (#15526251) Journal
    It is true that actually destroying the galaxy is orders of magnitude harder than actually destroying the Earth [qntm.org].

    But there are ways we could end up sterilizing the galaxy, by creating Berserkers [wikipedia.org]; self-replicating machines that either deliberately or accidentally sterilize all life. Odds are that if any such machines are actually created, unlike the stories that the term comes from, they'll actually win, and once established they can't be displaced.

    Berserkers are one of the interesting aspects of the Fermi Paradox; is the solution to the Paradox that some dumb-asses actually did create Berserkers that come and wipe out all civilizations as soon as they attract attention? Is our high-tech doombot even now winging its way here at nearly the speed of light?

    In more recent fiction, the Replicators of Stargate SG-1 are updated versions of the Saberhagen berserkers, designed with a better understanding of computers and more magical technology, but otherwise almost indistinguishable from the Saberhagen variety. (Saberhagen even had some berserkers that masqueraded as humans at some points, and used time travel, which Stargate hasn't gotten around to, mercifully, though I couldn't tell you why.)

    In other words, while on Earth the "Gray Goo" scenario is implausible due to energy requirements and simple thermodynamics, the Galactic "Grey Goo" scenario has no such restrictions.
  • by Rorian (88503) <james@fysh.gmail@com> on Tuesday June 13, 2006 @03:02PM (#15526611) Homepage Journal
    I don't suppose anyone has read this book?

    It's fairly hefty on the physics details, but it does go into some interesting details about not only how humans, or at least sentient spacecraft capable of reproducing themselves need to be sent out by the human race pronto, if we want to have any chance of becomming immortal. I haven't read the book in a long time now, so I'm a little light on details but I can see how Hawking could be on the same wavelength (branching out to preserve the human race)
  • Let the Robots Win (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Vicissidude (878310) on Tuesday June 13, 2006 @03:15PM (#15526749)
    Both humans and animals are completely too specialized for life on earth. Because of that, it's highly unlikely we'll ever see our universe populated by humans. Our short life spans makes any trip outside the solar system completely unlikely. Even if we do make it to another solar system after a 500 year trip, we require a very specific environment to truely thrive. We need an earth-like environment. We need a good variety of both plants and animals. We need a good variety of bacteria. Hell, to successfully move, we need a noah's ark to take us there.

    If we really want to see human progeny or intelligent life expand out into the universe, then we need to get AI working, stuff that into self-sufficient, self-replicating robots, and throw them out into the universe. They will be able to easily travel between stars by simply shutting down for a limited time. Robots can survive in almost every place in the universe that humans cannot, so they're almost guaranteed to thrive regardless of whether their destination has an earth-like planet or not.
  • Re:Right now? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by bsartist (550317) on Tuesday June 13, 2006 @03:31PM (#15526877) Homepage
    Given that we seem bent on such things as placing the value of a dollar above the hunger of our neighbors, do we really deserve to be able to infest the rest of the universe?
    I agree, we've made a mess here on Mother Earth, and probably don't really deserve to do the same elsewhere. But really, being deserving has nothing to do with it. We were either created or evolved (depending on your philosphy) to be two things: Curious and prolific. That combination virtually guarantees that sooner or later, we will go exploring.
  • Re:Right now? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by 0xABADC0DA (867955) on Tuesday June 13, 2006 @03:39PM (#15526958)
    You have made a certain kind of valid zen-like point. Some kinds of dangers, like that the world is running in a simulation and quantum cryptography are causing the sim to run slower as it factors primes for us and we resume billions of real-world years later, are competely unavoidable. You either do it or you do without.

    On the other hand, wtf are we doing creating a black hole [futurepundit.com] anywhere near us? Sure scientists "expect" it to dissapate faster than it sucks in matter, but knowing human nature I fully expect it to become "I wonder how large a black hole we can make and still have it self-destruct". That's the kind of danger we need to be legitimately worried about. We don't need to do that kind of research on earth.
  • Re:Right now? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by vertinox (846076) on Tuesday June 13, 2006 @06:41PM (#15528298)
    you can live your live in a cave with a rock covering the mouth in fear of the end of life, or you can embrace each day for all there is to enjoy about it. or you can just cry about all your sorrows and bitch about how much life sucks, whatever floats your boat man, it's not going to make a super virus infect the human race or whatever.

    Well... On the brightside... If the end of the world does happen... We won't be around to bitch about it.

    But seriously, if you haven't noticed the rest of the universe is not prone to life (that or we are the first) so chances are we are a fluke and we are about to get the galactic snuff any day now.

    So either we do something about it in the next few thousand years... Or we die.

    That is simple as that.

    If a technological singularity does not happen, mankind will not be around to notice.

    Maybe the evolved cockroaches or sentient apes in a few hundred million years will wonder what these stupid creatures did to themselves, but obviously we get off this god forsaken rock or we will die...

    If not by a meteor event in the next 100,000 years... Perhaps in a few billion when the sun expands and absorbs the planet.

    Of course if that causes the end of mankind... I'd like to ask our decendants "WHAT THE HELL HAVE YOU BEEN DOING FOR THE PAST FEW BILLION YEARS TO NOT HAVE BOTHERED MAKING A SPACE PROGRAM!"

    Oh well... Maybe we deserve to cease to exist.
  • Re:Right now? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by siriuskase (679431) on Tuesday June 13, 2006 @06:59PM (#15528423) Homepage Journal
    I know I'm going to die. My opinion isn't going to change that fact. Whether I care about the future of the human race is a different matter. For all I know, God might replace us with something better.

    You are so right to recognize that preparation to survive the big disaster isn't enough to motivate us. Just look at New Orleans for an example of how not to prepare for something everyone knew was going to happen. When Carnival markets a cruise, they spend more on telling us about the nightclubs, arcades, etc, than on the lifeboats. No one gets excited about lifeboats until they are needed.
  • by meringuoid (568297) on Tuesday June 13, 2006 @07:28PM (#15528581)
    The Federation is a military dictatorship. Deal with it.

    No, it isn't. The Federation is run by the Vulcan shadow government.

    Think about the situation at the time the Vulcans first contacted Earth. They've had their schism with the Romulans and have fought wars with them, and had the worse of it; and now there are Klingons prowling the dark places of the galaxy. Now the Vulcans contact a planet that's just developed warp technology. A planet full of creatures with a horrific record of murder and mayhem, who are capable of justifying the same to themselves in terms of 'pro patria mori' and similar bullshit, who could easily be a terror on the galaxy to make even the Klingons fear... but who are at a very impressionable stage...

    Bingo! The Vulcans, in a paternal, imperialist sort of way, take Earth under their wing. They help humans build better starships, they advise and guide. In time, they join with Earth to form the United Federation of Planets. Coincidentally, the enemies of the Earth are the same as the enemies of the Vulcans... How did something like that happen?

    So now the Romulans and the Klingons are kept off the Vulcans' backs by Starfleet. By the mighty space navy of the United Federation of Planets. A fleet of ships built at Mars, crewed almost entirely by humans from Earth, now guards a planet of decadent philosophers who are free to pursue their ideals of pure logic and reason. Humans fight and die in huge numbers for the protection of Vulcan. And every Starfleet ship we've ever seen has a single Vulcan, as a highly-ranked officer but not as captain... remember how Soviet ships used to have a 'political officer' to make sure the captain didn't do anything ideologically unsound? Yeah.

    And whenever we see Starfleet command, the concentration of pointy ears is so much higher, don't you notice? Oh yes. It's all humans on the front line, but back at base it's all green-blooded bastards.

    The entire Federation is a sham, concocted and perpetuated by the Vulcans for their own cowardly ends. Deal with it.

  • Re:Poor solution (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ElephanTS (624421) on Tuesday June 13, 2006 @10:11PM (#15529271)
    Closed biosystems to sustain human life have not succeeded so far. Biosphere 2 began to run low on oxygen and so wasn't really self-sustaining.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biosphere_2 [wikipedia.org]

    The cost of putting something like that on the moon would be extraordinary. How much weight, how many journeys? How would it be assembled - there's manyears of work there? It would have too be fairly big to produce a sustainable crop of food or produce oxygen. There's a long list of things like radiation, low gravity, temp extremes that make small things very difficult and expensive to solve. And it's going to have to be paid for by taxation. Politically near enough impossible I would think. The He3 story could make it a commercial venture but I'm not sure a large firm would spend billions to get small risky energy returns. The first steps would be seen as commercial suicide due to the expense.

  • Re:Right now? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by amliebsch (724858) on Tuesday June 13, 2006 @11:25PM (#15529530) Journal
    It's based on observations, e.g. (these are by the time of TNG):

    - Starfleet commanders repeatedly order civilians around
    - The only civilian space transport ever shown is on federation vehicles, at the discretion of the federation
    - No federation civilian-owned space (or even stratospheric) vehicles are portrayed
    - No private corporations are ever shown
    - Contrary to your assertion, I don't believe any election is ever portrayed.
    - No civilian media organizations are ever shown
    - No legal civilian energy weapons are ever shown (in fact, civilians appear not even to be allowed to have blades!) - yet starfleet personnel are rarely without a powerful sidearm
    - There appears to be no such thing as privacy, except for high-ranking Starfleet officers. The federation appears to have massive databases containing all known information on everyone, used liberally by Starfleet.
    - Actual buying and selling appear to be officially prohibited (Picard didn't even understand the concept of "investment"!), reducing trade to barter and trading bars of latinum on the black market
    - In at least one case, a civilian is tried by a court with a Starfleet judge!
    - The most prestigious jobs in the federation appear to be starfleet offices
    - The military (Starfleet) appears to have complete control over federation foreign policy.
    - Most of all, the entire human race seems choked by a conspicuous conformity. You never see federation slackers, punks, vagabonds, hedonists, burnouts, addicts, malcontents, or revolutionaries. It simply isn't plausible that humans have been conditioned without exception to work hard for no appreciable incentive. Given real choices, there will always be people who choose not to conform, but never a one is shown in Star Trek - unless they are from a non-federation or extremely remote colony where the power of the Federation is non-existent. The conclusion is inescapable - the explanation is that people conform because they in fact have no choice. The only logical way such consistency and pattern of conformity could possibly be achieved is through sheer triumph of the will.

One man's constant is another man's variable. -- A.J. Perlis

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