Elon Musk wants to colonize Mars. Here’s why he’s looking the wrong way through the telescope.
If we keep growing at the current rate, either there won’t be enough room for us on Earth or we’ll damage the environment beyond repair. So the argument goes, we’ll inevitably have to colonise other planets or another star, so we should take the idea seriously.
Both of these would require massive amounts of energy and hardware to either get there or control or change the environment when we did.
If we think of this as a design problem, there is a much better solution. Instead of expanding our environment to another planet at massive cost, why wouldn’t we miniaturise ourselves so we can expand without increasing our habitat or energy requirements, but still maintain our ability to create culture and knowledge, via information exchange.
The history of information technology and the preservation of Moore’s law has been driven by exactly this phenomenon of miniaturization. So why shouldn’t the same apply to the post technological evolution of humankind as it approaches the hypothetical ‘singularity’ and the potential ability for us to be physically embodied in silicon rather than carbon form.
At the point where this is technologically feasible, it will be easier than colonizing Mars.
Interestingly, the same rules of energy use and distance between planets and stars would apply to any extraterrestrial aliens, so one possible explanation for the Fermi paradox is that we all get smaller and less visible as we get more technologically advanced. Rather than favoring interstellar colonization with its mind boggling distances which are impossible to communicate across within the lifetimes of individuals (and therefore impossible to hold together in any meaningful way as a civilization) perhaps advanced civilizations stick to their home planets but just get more efficient to be sustainable.
The answer to Musk’s colonization ambitions may be right under his nose, from the industry that he comes from:
Go small and multiply.