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

Adrian Tymes atymes at gmail.com
Fri Aug 27 02:35:13 UTC 2021

Given the audience, I thought a tech description was more desired.  If you
want poetic...

Obviously one 2x2 km cylinder would not represent the entire ecology of the
much vaster Earth - but nor would just one accommodate more than a tiny
fraction of humanity.  If you want variety, you want a fleet.

Each cylinder would be set up for a different habitat, plus some
accommodation for the humans who choose to live there.  This one a lush
forest, that one a warm desert, this other one more arctic.  A few would of
course be built-up: urban is a biome too, and some people greatly prefer
it.  Some might be set aside as wilderness preserves, especially for the
less popular (less human friendly) biomes.  But don't forget, the main
purpose would be to house humans, so there wouldn't be that many preserves.

It wouldn't be fake dirt or fake plants.  It would all be real - managed to
some degree, but real.  There's no slipperiness of plastic, no whiff of
chemicals, none of that.  Holes could be cut in decks for the largest of
trees to grow and be observed through.  (Once they grow that large, of
course: for the first several years it'd all be saplings.)  Sniff the
flowers: your nose doesn't detect anything fake because there is nothing
fake.  A rose grown in any other place would smell as sweet.

What's removed is the "nature, red in tooth and claw" aspect.  No
hurricanes, no earthquakes, no volcanoes, no natural disasters.  Rain every
so often - maybe on a slightly random schedule, but scheduled so people
know when to get out of the rain - because that's the easiest way to wash
the sky, but no floods or droughts.  Maybe you are fortunate enough to live
somewhere where these things do not every so often threaten life and wreck
property, but there are a lot of people for whom this alone would be luxury
worth calling Heaven.

Sure, it might get boring living in just one biome all the time.  These
colonies, for humans, would be close together, linked by mass transit - so
if you want to visit another biome, it's a short trip away, and moving to
another biome wouldn't be hard.  You could even walk to the next biome, if
you're in good health.

Can't see the night sky?  Well...I just mentioned links between cylinders,
right?  Walk out among them - they're radiation shielded too, just
transparent to visible light - and gaze out on a more brilliant sky of
stars than could ever be seen at the bottom of our atmosphere.  Or call up
a display from one of the many cameras, like peering through a telescope
but more convenient.  Also you don't have to wait for night: the sky always
there, waiting to be seen.

The "farmland" - hydroponics - would also be close at hand.  Fresh fruit,
vegetables, and all manner of animal products (your tongue doesn't care
that it's cloned meat so long as it has the right taste and texture) at
lower prices (since there's much less distance to transport food).  With
every cylinder producing food, hunger becomes much less of an issue:
disruptions in one cylinder don't endanger the other cylinders.

And nor would it be just food.  You want 100 roses?  Sign up to help tend
the wilds and you could have a rose garden as part of it.  Flowering plants
might use drones instead of bees (less out of concern for bees going wild,
and more because bees might go extinct by the time this colony got going),
but they would still get pollinated.  (If there were no bees to be found -
well, at least there would be maple syrup.)

On Thu, Aug 26, 2021 at 5:36 PM William Flynn Wallace via extropy-chat <
extropy-chat at lists.extropy.org> wrote:

> Look down at what you wrote:  lots and lots of words about
> specifications of this and that and tiny bits about plants, vistas, trees
> and dirt.  Hardly any color.  So people can tell that you are a tech person
> and not a poet.  Or in other words, the way you wrote would be just about
> the opposite of what you would want to present to prospects for living
> there.  You want words like 'lush'.   What percentage of the ecology of the
> earth could be represented?  Two of everything including microbes?  Two
> kilometers is rather small.  The place needs different environments, such
> as prairie and jungle.  Different seasons.
> It could be very attractive to me if I had to leave Earth.  But it's kind
> of like Disney World:  you know everything is fake in a way.  I would still
> want to visit planets if I was on a habitat.  You have to realize that I am
> difficult to please.  Look at what most people are happy with:  an 8 x 10
> deck to plant a few ferns.  I have 100 roses.    Maybe I am just a bit
> claustrophobic.   bill w
> On Thu, Aug 26, 2021 at 5:24 PM Adrian Tymes via extropy-chat <
> extropy-chat at lists.extropy.org> wrote:
>> 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
>> mining).
>> 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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