The Future Moon

A sense of the possible is a great guide in life.
What matters is best determined by what can be.
This is the nature of inspiration.

Here we'll look at what is possible in living beyond Earth. Thinking this through is much simpler than visualizing the future on the Earth itself. Lab-grown organs, sudden climate shifts, unrestricted broadband everywhere always, sensors and cameras and computers and drones and robots on all sides - we will probably live to see it all. Such things combine and morph in the teeming energy of our world, making the future murky indeed. By contrast, our first off-world colony will be isolated on a sterile planet whose physical challenges (and opportunities) will overshadow everything else for at least the first couple of decades of its existence. Anticipating what that will be like is much more plausible, yet touches the core of the most difficult questions facing us. The life we'll be imagining is so dramatically different than anything any of us have experienced, it changes your perspective about what it means to be human. I don't think that is an exaggeration.

Finding meaning has been more challenging for the last century or so. The issue really picked up steam about when Nietzsche declared god dead. 💬 Religious fervour isn't what it used to be. Sure, lots of people still believe in god, but not so many people pray daily, or believe in angels, or miracles. Not like it used to be, for all of human history up to our friend Nietzsche's lifetime. Gods used to belong to specific peoples, cities, and tribes. Your god was yours in a way we can't imagine today. As far as you were concerned, its presence was palpable in many everyday phenomena we now explain differently. You rarely met anyone who believed in a different god, the fabric of your daily life was filled with religious tradition that you shared with everyone you knew. Of course this caused a lot of problems, like the tendency to kill members of other faiths. Still, it gave people a sense of purpose. Shared purpose, god-given purpose - the thing gods are perhaps most useful for.

Well, those days are gone. No, just kidding, actually they've been briefly shoved aside by a stressful growth spurt the human race had to go through. They will return in a new form. All we need is a new sense of purpose, big enough to inspire anyone and broad enough to fit any perspective.

What if we accepted that stewarding life is our natural purpose? Sure, it doesn't sound like us, but maybe that is just because we haven't matured enough yet to take up our role. Think about it, what is everyone's image of the perfect world - at peace and lush with life, right? What is the most basic program of all life? Create more life. As an intelligent animal all we are is the sum of several increasingly complex layers over that basic program. Over our history we have tried endlessly to create a perfect garden world full of love and wisdom, and it has always gone dismally awry. But maybe that is only because we were trying to obey our program before we had the tools needed to do so. You need an internet to create paradise. You need a vast network of sensors and monitoring satellites, computer models, huge amounts of clean energy running a broad, sustainable manufacturing base. You need to understand incredibly complex ecosystems, and understand yourself, which is just about as hard. Maybe the fastest way for an intelligent species to learn all that stuff is for it to have a burning need for purpose built into it, constantly telling it to stretch out its hand and make things right. It will do terrible things as it stumbles around trying to do that when it doesn't know how, frustrated and confused. Poor things. That's alright though. In evolutionary terms, do you know what ten thousand disastrous years culminating in a species that sets itself to nurturing life and spreading it to other planets is? The Jackpot.

The first true act of stewardship will either be engineering the world's climate to correct the damage of warming (don't kid yourself, we won't have a choice), or moving permanently beyond the planet and beginning the job of making a new biosphere. Whichever happens first, the other will soon follow. After that, our sense of who we are will just... be different. We'll look at our stunning achievements and say 'Wow. We should do this all the time.' And then we will. Because it is just more fun than accumulating pointless wealth and power. It means something.

Let's look at why it would be really, really nice if we managed to have a permanent colony on the Moon BEFORE we have to pull together and stop the world's icecaps from melting. Now we get to have some fun.