August 21, 2012

Two visions of our future

In the 15th Century both China and Europe experimented with ship-borne trade and exploration. China, fearful that all those new ideas would erode Imperial prestige, abandoned her efforts. Europe, in contrast, encouraged the efforts of her best and brightest by allowing all those intrepid explorers to keep the profits of their trade. It took China five centuries to recover from that mistake. If we make China's mistake on a global scale we will probably go extinct in two or three generations.

Assuming we don't follow China's example and self-destruct, humanity will reach the limits of the Earth's ability to support it sometime this century, mid-way through the next century at the latest. There are only two ways to avoid mass starvation: population controls with massively improved food production or mass extraterrestrial colonization. Much of the liberal progressive demands that we all become peasant farmers is based on their fear that if we don't, we'll all starve, including them and their children.

I'd much rather see us sending countless ships loaded with colonists into outer space than to see the world's population reduced to a seething mass of peasant farmers ruled over by despotic tyrants who believe their cruelty is necessary to insure our happiness. Granted, some of those ships will crash and burn, killing all on board. Exploration is never safe, after all. However, considering the alternative is a world filled with starving billions ruled over by masterminds with absolute powers of life and death, the risks of space colonization and the rewards it should bring would definitely be worth it.

When national governments become collectivist and create a population dependent on the government through welfare, centralized health management, and confiscation of private enterprise, they are also removing any incentive for individuals to create better, more effective ways to leave Earth and reach distant planets. Look at Britain, for example. The only "creativity" in Britain these days is creative anarchy and high fashion. Australia and Japan have both followed suit, although so far Japan has managed to avoid the anarchy. German engineers, on the other hand, are still coming up with new technology and new ways of using existing technology while innovation has stagnated in Britain. This is partly because Germany has avoided some of the more egregious socialism dictated to them by the EU parliament.

America is broke and deeply in debt. There is really only one way out of this: we must invent something the rest of the world will spend trillions to own, use, and incorporate into their daily life. The only way for that to happen is to encourage innovation by making it possible for a few bright engineers to become entrepreneurs and make huge profits off of whatever that "next big thing" turns out to be. We need a new generation of innovators like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. Zuckerberg has done pretty well, but not well enough, and his innovation has done nothing to get us moving off-planet.

I'd like to see "the next big thing" be ships loaded with colonists headed for Alpha Centauri and beyond. That, to my mind, would be a much better option than a world of peasant farmers and their overlords.