It’s hard to argue. I’ve blogged many times about our inability to consider the ‘big picture’ and lack of initiative for investing in things without an immediate payoff. In one way, it’s the disadvantage of human nature. Anybody specializing in psychology (or advertising) will tell you that the primary question in everything is “what’s in it for me?” or, by extension, “how will this help my kids?” If that answer is nothing for you, and more costs and work for your kids, we aren’t inclined to do it because there’s no payoff that we can perceive. Why would we sow seeds we’ll never benefit from? You can’t expect future generations to appreciate the efforts, anyway, because what comes easy is usually taken for granted. If you need an example, just look at The Bible. Life in the Promised Land fell apart pretty quick. It only took a couple of generations upon settling for people to turn away from the Lord, leading to a chain of events taking them into 70 years of captivity. We really haven’t evolved since then - or really, ever since civilized society began. Heck, our technology has surpassed our evolution by a millennia or two. How can we truly reach for the stars when we can’t handle life on Earth?
Man hasn’t been to the moon since 1976. We have the International Space Station, but our efforts since then have been largely unmanned, robotic missions. We’ve learned a lot from them, but the fact is that we’re no closer to expanding humanity into the solar system now than we were in the years after I was born. There’s been a lot of talk about a manned mission to Mars, but the truth is that Mars is still just home to our robotic life. I’ll bet aliens would get a kick out of that. We have other probes hurtling through space, including the New Horizons probe that found the hydrogen wall at the outer edge of the solar system, but what benefit does that have beyond exploration? The answer: plenty, if we plan to do something with it. Not that much if it’s archived and posted on Wikipedia as a “fun fact” for scifi writers to use as a suspension-of-disbelief mechanism in our novels.
I had the aliens come to us in The Earthside Trilogy because I believe it’s more likely that we won’t really do anything about our space explorations until there’s a threat to humanity from “out there.” You see here some of my own political beliefs at work. There are plenty of people on Earth who have a desire to expand to the stars, but they aren’t the ones holding the purse strings and making the decisions that can convert this desire to reality. Our focus is, and always has been, on the immediate problems in front of us (and influencing campaign results). We certainly can’t ignore that, because the issues of living on Earth must be dealt with. But what if there’s an answer “out there” that could help us “down here,” if only we’d open our eyes and our minds to greater possibilities? But we put people in power who say they’ll fix these problems while securing themselves, and keep believing the lie that things will change with every election. But that’s another blog post. Let’s stick to science today.
We talk about investing in the future, but only do it to a limited degree. And the truth is that overpopulation and environmental issues are growing beyond the capacity of this planet to solve on our current scale. We have to grow beyond the problems to find long term solutions. We have to keep stretching beyond where we are to pave a path to where we want to be. Everything has changed in our generation. Communication has linked the entire planet and widened our perspective to larger proportions than ever before in human history. It’s time to grow into our achievements, and keep growing beyond them. Stop reinventing cell phones and computers, and branch out into new things. We need to break out of the rut we’re trying to settle in and look at what we’ve discovered in a different light before we reach a desperation point that will blind us to possibilities are in front of us right now and can be taken advantage of as an opportunity to secure the future.
Forget about whether or not future generations will appreciate the investment, or the effort. This world will forget you in time, but it can’t forget what it has as a result of the efforts of those who went before, whether they remember (and appreciate) them or not. Do what’s right because it’s right. It’s what we’re supposed to do anyway. We’re supposed to grow. We’re supposed to evolve. Let’s do our part and leave a legacy behind for future generations to build on.
It’s time for mankind to evolve. Let’s get out of survival mode finally, and shift to “thriving.” Let’s us science to improve our life on Earth, and open possibilities beyond it. Let’s take that first step. Don’t wait for the aliens to land in the Walmart parking lot. Take the initiative and do it now.
That’s all today. Take care, and have a great week.