[ExI] OP-ED: The billionaire space race reflects a colonial mindset that fails to imagine a different world

Adrian Tymes atymes at gmail.com
Thu Aug 26 22:22:40 UTC 2021

On Thu, Aug 26, 2021 at 2:16 PM William Flynn Wallace via extropy-chat <
extropy-chat at lists.extropy.org> wrote:

> Vastly better quality of life?  Hah.  I cannot imagine living in space in
> some rotating asteroid or totally manmade thing.  I am quite sure I would
> not like it at all.  I want to look out the window and see a real sky and
> dirt and trees and flowers and animals.  I don't want a high res image of
> the sky - I want real sky.

I can imagine it.  Let me paint you a vision from one of my upcoming
works.  (Coming out...maybe November, more likely early next year.)

There exists an alien race (the K'kree, from Traveller) who are
substantially more claustrophobic than humans.  There are tales (in
universe), possibly exaggerated, of some having panic attacks so severe
that they tore their way out of spaceships just to be "outside" with no
consideration of first donning spacesuits (in fact, viewing them as a form
of further confinement), which had predictably fatal consequences.  And
yet, they wished to conquer the stars.  (The setting includes a FTL drive.)

Some of them got around this by constructing giant arks - mobile O'Neill
cylinders (the setting includes a drive that can handle gravity and
inertia; a comparable habitat for RL humans wouldn't need to move).  These
arks are 2 kilometers in length and diameter, with concentric decks each 50
m radius (100 m diameter).  The outermost deck is spun to 1 G; each deck
inward reduces gravity by 0.05 G, down to a minimum 0.25 G; the space below
the 250 m radius is hollow, to afford a 0 G space for industrial efforts
and docking.  (Independently rotatable docking rings line the central
corridor; when a ship wishes to dock, it settles onto one of these rings,
which secures the ship then spins up to match the ark's rotation, finally
synchronizing position with transit tubes to let crew, passengers, and
cargo transfer between ship and ark.)

On each of the outermost decks (used for habitation; the outer skin is
shielded enough that even the outermost deck has about the same radiation
exposure as one would get on the surface of a typical planet), habitable
structures rarely rise beyond 10 meters tall, very rarely beyond 20, and
never beyond 30 unless they mean to link to the deck above.  There is about
10 meters of interdeck plating, leaving 40 meters of occupied space.  The
decks above tend to be covered by cloud-like mist at all times; if and
where they are not (which may be "never"), they are covered by plants.

The horizon may curve up instead of down, but it is a true horizon: one can
only see so far along the curve of the world, and if one travels to that
point, one can see further in the direction traveled but not so far in the
other direction (what used to be in sight, now being beyond the horizon
back that way).  The horizon may be only along one axis, but on the other
horizontal axis (if you are not right next to one of the walls), the ark is
long enough that the far distance fades into the blue of air - like how
trees on a planetary horizon, when you can see that far, appear more sky
colored than green.

Unless specifically excavated for a building, the "ground" is covered by
thick dirt, with trees and flowers and grass.  Some arks even have areas
with wildlife, monitored so they do not damage ship systems or residents.

A majority of the internal volume is "wasted" being open air with little
function beyond aesthetics, but it is these aesthetics that enable the
aliens to permanently live in space.  If repurposed for humans, a few
million humans could live on one, with ample industrial space with which to
maintain it (given sufficient raw materials input, such as from asteroid

That's a better living situation than some spacefaring volume-optimized
apartment brick, no?  It does require costs to come down so planners of
space structures don't have to be hyperfixated on minimizing mass; getting
resources from space and building in space should help with this.

I simply cannot imagine some tech being lost unless it is to a more
> advanced tech.

It's not that the tech is lost, per se, just that it becomes uneconomical
to make in changing circumstances - and thus becomes effectively lost.

I can imagine a future person having the ability to make his own chips or
> just anything he needs just by pushing buttons.

Getting there requires the kind of effort that you need to distribute the
cost of over lots of people - billions, maybe more - who would use,
benefit from, and fund, or it just doesn't happen.
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