All posts by Mordanicus

Space advocate, author, classical republican, classical liberal, religious humanist, religious naturalist.

The year 2100: a review of Rosenfelder’s predictions

This post has been previously posted on blogspot.com.

On the web page of Mark Rosenfelder I found the following article. In which he is reflecting on the 20th century, but the last section he makes a list of predictions of what will happen this century. I want to share my comments about his predictions. First of all I have to note that Rosenfelder writes from an American perspective, however, I think most of his predictions are also of value for the Western world in general.

The Republicans will find that they like governing; as a result their anti-government rhetoric will fade away, to be revived only on ceremonial occasions (in much the same way that you only hear “these United States” at political conventions).

The GOP just do not like that other parties than themselves are in charge. It is questionable whether the GOP will actually still exists in the year 2100, if we take their current increasingly extremist ideological position and their destructive political practices into account. Personally I also question whether the USA as such will survive this century, given the fact that todays US politics is extremely polarized. But I will discuss my thoughts about the future of the USA in another post.

Religion is here to stay; but the fundies, frustrated with their inability to impose theocracy, will lose interest for a generation.  The next time they pop up, they’ll be as likely to ally with the left as with the right (especially because abortion will, I suspect, be largely eliminated by improved methods of contraception).

Religiosity is a characteristic  with to some degree genetically determined. The abolition of religion is utopian fantasy and also undesirable. Many people have a need for some religion and as long as religious life doesn’t harm society, it should be allowed. The strong alliance of the religious with the political right is a particular US phenomenon, while in Europe religious motivated politician are spread over both left- and rightwing people (in Europe politics are dominated by multiple party systems, so it quite easy for a culturally rightwing, economically leftwing party to gain some seats in parliament). In order to eliminate abortions better use of contraception is needed much more than better contraception per se. Even if there is better contraception, people have to be aware of them, to accept them and to make use of it. One of the biggest, if not the biggest, reason why abortion rates in the USA are the highest in the Western world, is the poor quality or total absence of adequate sex education (which primarily blocked by religious zealots), better sex education will decrease the number abortions.

Liberalism will disappear— at least in its incarnations as described above; the new movements and causes that replace it may keep the name.  The political fights of 2100 will center largely around ideas that are considered impossibly idealistic or perverse today.

Of course, Rosenfelder is here speaking from an US perspective, “Liberalism” has in Europe a (slightly) different meaning (and as I believe also “truer”) than on the other side of the Atlantic. However I almost fully agree with his second sentence; nowadays we have political discussions about, for instance, Internet privacy, something which did not exist a hundred years ago.

Conservativism will remain, of course; though it will end up implicitly accepting everything that 20C liberalism stood for.

Conservatism is not an ideology, it’s an attitude. In every society there are people who prefer the current status quo. The people who in China support the there present system, would be conservative GOP supporters if they were born and raised in the USA. Too many people confuse conservatism with reactionary thought. Basically there are two types of conservatism: the first one, and I believe also the most common, stems from an attachment to a comfortable present situation and a fear for the unknown. The second type of conservatism is the result of a certain scepticism about the ability of man to change society deliberately. For these reasons we can see that if society changes conservatism also change, conservatives will defend the new status quo. Conclusion: Rosenfelder is basically right, I think. 

Acceptance of gays and lesbians will be mainstream in a generation, and will spread to the conservative churches by the end of the century.

I hope that Rosenfelder is right, and this will not only limited to the Western world. But I a little bit pessimistic in regard of this prediction, in my own country [1] there is increase of anti-gay sentiments in some parts of the population. Remember that homosexuality was accepted in classic antiquity, but became unaccepted when Christianity took over Europe. What I mean to say is that social attitudes towards gays and lesbians can change quite rapidly in a century.

Collectivism will come back in a big way… but not for another generation, and Americans won’t be the ones to develop it.

Since human has evolved as social animals, human civilization has always been characterized by some sort of collectivism. This simple and plain fact is usually ignored by “libertarians”, and the social nature of humans is also the fundamental reason why “libertarianism” will never succeed, anywhere on this planet. Due to the “individualistic” nature of American society, “collectivism” is a filthy word in the USA, while the rest of the world is more the less collectivist. The emergence of new forms of collectivism is inevitable [2], but I do agree with Rosenfelder that Americans will not take the lead in these developments. See for instance the discussion about “Obamacare”, which is according the West-European standards actually quite moderate. The most likely places where these new brands of collectivism will be developed are Europe, Asia and South-America. Personally I think there will be a collectivist revival in a post-aging Europe.

New forms of democratic government will be devised (again, not here; probably in Europe) that prevent the tyranny of the majority.

One possible alternative for a new form of democracy is the random selection of legislators. This would eliminate the need for elections, and also make electoral campaigns obsolete. In which case the problem of the influence of campaign donors on policy making would disappear. In order to reduce the risk of the tyranny of the majority, we can demand that these new legislatures can only make laws by super-majorities. If more votes are needed for a law to get passes, it would more difficult make oppressing legislation.  A further addition would be the requirement that legislator should always vote by secret ballot, this would reduce the possibility of legislators being bribed by so-called lobbyists.

The important units of society will be, increasingly, not geographical units but what we might call tribes: diffuse collections of like-minded individuals who want to live life in a certain way and have broad rights and powers to do so.

I have serious doubts about this one. For example, most people live quite close to their jobs. Secondly many things have to organized geographically, think about sewages, water pipes, garbage collection. Even if you spent most time with your “friends” of your tribe, you still need to go shopping, bringing your kids to school, typically services you want to have in your neighborhood. At the national or super-local level, there are things like infrastructure, dikes and so on, which are fundamentally geographical.

When the oil runs out, mid-century, we’ll finally make some progress on sustainable development.

Since oil reserves are finite, sustainable development is a necessity, not a luxury. Problem with people is that they only act to solve problems, at the very last moment or even is already way to late. Ostrich policy is one of the fundamental flaws of the human species, that we are running out of oil has been clear since the 1950s and yet relatively little action has been undertaken in order to arrange a smooth transition from a petroleum-based economy to a sustainable economy. Note that sustainability and economic growth are not necessarily mutually exclusive. See also this and this post about alternative energy.

Corporations will be run quite differently, though if I knew exactly how I’d be a business consultant, not a writer.  I suspect that by present standards they’ll be much more efficient, much less autonomous, and more democratically run.

Since more and more economic activity will be automated, the will be increasingly fewer jobs (see also my upcoming post about “The Lights in the Tunnel” by Martin Ford). Consequence of the process will be that corporations will have less and fewer employees, and those who will remain will have coordinating positions. Probably these corporate coordinators will make their decision by voting, which will make corporation more democratic in one sense, but this is the traditional idea of work place democracy.

Half the economy will be bit production and consumption— an amalgam of entertainment, news and business analysis, science, education, religion, and the increasingly abstract support industries that these require.  Manufacturing will be like agriculture is today: a tiny though essential sector of the economy.

This particular trend is quite obvious to almost everyone, in many development countries there are more people with access to Internet than to clean and save drinking water.

The scientific study of government will make present-day political fights seem like pure foolishness.  Once we actually know how to grow an economy, 20C moralisms of all political flavors will sound like leeches and electroshock therapy do today.

Personally I am a little bit more pessimistic about this one. Further is it quite possible that we have a steady state economy in 2100, in which there is no economic growth. If we assume that in 2100 most people are able to meet their basic material needs and that according to the previous prediction most of the economy is just bit production/consumption, we can ask ourselves what purpose is served by economic growth.

English won’t take over the world; localism will lead to a resurgence of local languages, whose inconvenience will be mitigated by technology.

I agree with the first statement, I am not sure of the second one. It is questionable whether there will be a widespread localism, not that I believe that there will be a homogeneous global culture (the other extreme). 

Artificial intelligence will be a significant factor, past midcentury.  I suspect that human-level intelligences won’t turn out to be useful– or politically viable.  Rather, we’ll see lots of low-level AI in appliances, software, mechanical translators, etc.; as well as massive systems that can contemplate the affairs of an entire corporation or government.

Artificial intelligence is already increasingly more important, and it will affect our economy and society in very severe ways. However there are basically two types of artificial intelligence: soft and strong AI. The latter is what most people would see as “pure” or “true” AI, computers with the same (or even higher) intelligence as humans, while the former is what most computer scientists understand as AI: using (complicated) algorithms to solve problems with computers. Weak AI is almost everywhere these days, and it would only become more and more prominent. No one is sure whether strong AI is actually possible (personally I believe it is, but until someone manages to build such a system we can’t know for sure), but most optimistic “experts” believes that is at least “fifty years from now” (this was so in the 1960s as it is in the 2010s).

Still no flying cars.  Dammit.

Actually flying cars do already exist

A few hundred thousand people will live in space… the largest space industry being tourism.  But Alpha Centauri will have to wait for the next century, at least.

For some one who writes on a blog devoted to space colonization, I have to comment on this. His first state, I think Rosenfelder is at the right end. Assuming that rockets can only bring a few dozen people in space during each launch, only hundreds to a few thousand people can move to space each year. Therefore a few hundred thousand space colonists in 2100 is a likely event, however if space populations have above replace fertility, their numbers could easily be a few million in 2100 (and a few billion in 2200, even without further immigrants from Earth). I disagree with his second statement, the largest space industry will not be space tourism but asteroid mining. His third statement, I think Alpha Centauri has to wait until the 2500s or something like that, but interstellar space colonization is both unlikely and undesirable, our Solar System contains enough resources for many million times the current number of humans. Colonization of other star systems is a fantasy based on the misguiding ideas of planetary chauvinism, with dreams of colonizing Earth like planets while ignoring the work of people like O’Neill.

Notes:

[1] Which is the Netherlands.

[2] With “inevitable” I don NOT mean that such a development is desirable, that is a completely different matter and depends largely on personal preferences.

Freedom of speech and the denial of historical facts

Recently Cambodia has passed a law which outlaws the denial of crimes committed by the Khmer Rouge. People can receive up to two years of imprisonment. Many Western countries has passed similar laws for denial of the holocaust. Classical liberals are against any of such laws, because they are a violation of the right to free speech.

Some people will argue that crimes against humanity are facts not opinions and therefore they are not covered by the freedom of speech. Classical liberals reject this argument. After all who is to determine what constitutes a fact and what an opinion? Often there is no clear-cut distinction between facts and opinion. For instance, when scientists are discussing different hypotheses. Are these opinions? When a hypothesis has been confirmed by evidence, it’s considered a fact. Science is about establishing facts regarding the world we live in. However, science is also about questioning the things we consider to be facts.

A more important question, is why we should give facts any legal protection? As far as I am aware of, there no laws in any country outlawing the denial of gravity. Any such bill would be dismissed as ridiculous. Generally, it is accepted that facts should speak for themselves.

According to classical liberalism the litmus test for determining whether an action should be prohibited (or regulated) is the harm principle. Only if an action results, or might result, in (physical) harm to third parties then the government is entitled to prohibit said action. Therefore the question becomes: Does the denial of historical facts constitute harm? Although people might be offended by such denial, for understandable reasons, no one is actually harmed by such denial.

John Stuart Mill, the philosopher who has formulated the harm principle in his On Liberty, has also given the most profound defense of practically unlimited freedom of speech. He presents several reasons for allowing broad freedom of speech: An opinion which some seek to suppress, might be true; further by being forced to refute obviously false opinions we are able to know why certain facts are indeed true.

But Mill made a few exceptions to the freedom of speech. In his famous example of a rioting crowd, he argued we should not give a speech to such crowd which might incite them to commit violence, even if such speech could be published in a news paper. Thus, incitement to violence is not covered by freedom of speech.

Further, Mill has also argued that though the government is not permitted to prohibit the denial of historical facts, people might censure the fellow citizens for their opinions. We are not obliged to provide people the means to promote their views, nor are we obliged to associate with such persons.

Our conclusion is that governments should not be in the business of outlawing denialism.

Solar Islands and Seasteading

Some time ago we wrote about the feasibility of Space based Solar power (SBSP) for terrestrial use, in that post we argued that SBSP is an unlikely candidate for meeting terrestrial energy needs both because of expected negative reactions from the public and the presence of suitable alternatives. One of those alternatives we mentioned were so-called solar islands.

A few years ago we wrote a sceptical article about seasteading. One of our arguments against seasteading was about their economic suitability. We argued that seasteads had poor economic prospects, with the consequence of a lack of interest from potential investors. However, solar islands might change this.

As we have argued in an earlier post, the ocean might be a good place for producing synthetic fuels. According to this site seawater contains 15.1% CO2 against 0.03% in air, thus CO2 can easily be extracted from seawater. Energy provided either by solar islands or ocean thermal conversion, can be used to produce hydrogen gas. From CO2 we can produce CO, and from CO and hydrogen we can make synthetic fuels. These fuels can be exported to other places.

The off-shore production of synthetic fuels might be a raison d’être of seasteads. However, it’s doubtful whether the political ideals associated with seasteading can be realised if seasteaders would specialize them in synthetic fuel production. It will depend on who is providing the funding for these projects, if corporations or governments are the primary investors in seasteads then the pursuit of liberty might be jeopardized.

Soon we will discuss the colonization of Antarctica.

Exogenesis and Space colonization

Reading this post, I was reminded to the concept of exogenesis. No, this is not a combination of exodus and genesis, rather it is a scientific hypothesis about the origin of life. Basically exogenesis is the idea that life on Earth has extraterrestrial origins, in this the concept is similar to panspermia.

Panspermia and exogenesis have a subtle difference, although some consider exogenesis as a particular type of panspermia. As originally proposed by Fred Hoyle, panspermia is the idea that life in some primitive form has always existed. At some point in the distant past, some of these life-forms has landed on Earth. This is, however, no alternative for evolution by natural selection, rather it’s the rejection of abiogenesis. More recent versions of panspermia, state that life is transferred from one planet to another.

Exogenesis on the other hand, is the idea that either life has come into existence in outer space or that at least, certain necessary chemical compounds for life has originated in space. Subsequently, some of these life-forms or compounds has arrived on Earth, thereafter they evolved to terrestrial life. In short, exogenesis places abiogenesis outside our planet instead of rejecting it completely.

There are several arguments in favour of exogenesis. Some scientists believe that organic compounds can be formed more easily is three dimensionally at high velocities in outer space than on Earth. A more empirically argument is the detection of organic compound in interstellar clouds.

If exogenesis is true, then Space colonization is in fact about the return of life to where it came from. Or more poetically, we might say that the seeds of life came from outer space and needed to be planted in a suitable womb, the Earth, in order to develop. Now the time has come that Life has to been born and to expand over the Galaxy.

See also:

UFOs from our own Solar System?

Asteroids Provide Sustainable Resource, Study Finds

One more study in favour of (near earth) asteroid mining. The exploitation of extraterrestrial resources is one of the methods to fund space colonisation.

After Big Bang

The prospects of a robotic manufacturing base operating off Earth is not as far-fetched as it used to be according to a study published by a team of NASA researchers led by a Kennedy Space Center physicist.

Because asteroids are loaded with minerals that are rare on Earth, near-Earth asteroids and the asteroid belt could become the mining centers for remotely operated excavators and processing machinery. In 20 years, an industry barely imagined now could be sending refined materials, rare metals and even free, clean energy to Earth from asteroids and other bodies.

In their paper called “Affordable, Rapid Bootstrapping of the Space Industry and Solar System Civilization,” published in the Journal of Aerospace Engineering, Phil Metzger, Anthony Muscatello, Robert Mueller and James Mantovani detail an intriguing path toward developing a self-sustaining, space-based industry that would use resources from asteroids and other heavenly bodies to meet the needs of…

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Statehood, legal and practical considerations

Introduction

The primary purpose of Lagrangian Republican Association is the establishment of an independent and sovereign republic in space. However, what is sovereignty? And what is a state? These questions are of great importance for every movement aimed at the colonization of space, whether in free space or on Mars. In this post we will discuss several issues related to statehood and sovereignty. Continue reading Statehood, legal and practical considerations

Space colonies and drug policy

If there is one thing we do not need in any future Space settlement, it is organized crime. One of the leading factors in organized is the prohibition of drugs. So if we want to reduce organised crime, we have to deal with drugs.

We have first to consider why the war on drugs has been a failure. American professor in criminology, Peter Moskos, has explained this as follows:

A child victim doesn’t go out searching for another criminal abuser. But that’s exactly what a drug addict does.

An arrest in the war on drugs usually creates a job opening. Arrest thousands of drugs dealers […], and other needy or greed will take their place. (Moskos p. 19, 2011).

The problem is that drug crimes are economic-demand motivated crimes. As long as there is a demand for illicit drugs there will be people who will sell drugs. And this trade in drugs is mainly controlled by criminal organizations.

Some people belief that using drugs is a victimless crime. They argue that since no third party is harmed if one chooses to do drugs. Therefore under harm principle drugs ought not to be prohibited. Although the principal “victim” of drug consumption is indeed the user, there are, however, serious issue related with drugs.

One is that drugs are addictive, if one uses drugs once they have a physical or mental need to continue using drugs. If a pregnant woman uses drugs, her child might be born already with a drug addiction. This certainly violates the harm principle and could therefore be prohibited or regulated. And being born with a drug addiction is not the only risk resulting from using drugs while pregnant. Children of addicted mothers suffer from several mental and physical development disorders.

Many (heavy) drug users are unable to function at their work, and hence get fired. Subsequently, they turn to crime to support themselves and finance their drugs. In this way drugs also causes significant harm to society. Heavy drug users also do harm by their behaviour. When people are under influence of drugs, they will behave in a different manner then they would otherwise. This is often asocial or violent behaviour.

Until very recently I was a fervent supporter of the global war on drugs, for the reasons mentioned above. I really believed that space settlement should prohibit drugs and should impose harsh punishment to enforce this prohibition. But I had a change of heart when I learned about the truth of the war on drugs in Mexico. Since 2006 tens of thousands of people have been killed in Mexico by rivalling drug cartels.

The Mexican Drug War is the direct result of the American war on drugs, since Mexican gangs are the main suppliers of drugs on the American market. In fact the war on drugs are causing much harm than the problem it ought to solve. Is this really what we want in a space colony?

Unlike some other proponents of drug reform, Republic of Lagrangia believes that drugs should be legalized in combination with regulation. How would our drug policy look like? First, we should treat drugs as a public health issue rather than as a matter of criminal justice. Drugs users who want to come clean should be helped by the government.

In order to prevent in influx of drug users, we should modify our immigration policy: terrestrial drug addicts should not be allowed to immigrate to outer space. If they can overcome their addiction, and stay clean for some years, we might welcome them as new settlers.

Although the use of drugs causes several social problems, violent drugs dealers are probably an even worse problem. The problem of drugs dealers is easily to solve: in order to have supervision on drug users, the state should consider to monopolize the trade in drugs. Since the state has no profit motive, it could offer drugs at cost price. The production of drugs is quite cheap, it’s prohibition which increase their market value. Because of this huge margin of profit, people become drugs dealers. If the state should offer drugs at low prices, then dealing drugs will lose its attractiveness.

Another benefit of state controlled supply of drugs, is that drugs users can be sure that the stuff they purchase is actually safe. It is not uncommon for ruthless drug dealers to sell instead of drugs, dangerous substances as wash powder. Because of the illicit nature of this trade, no fooled drug users will report those bastards to the police. Therefore these criminals get away with their fraud.

Also we believe that selling drugs to persons below 18 years of age should remain illegal.

References

Moskos, Peter 2011. In defense of flogging. Basic Books, New York.

3D-printing, a key technology for humanizing space

As a regular reader of our site might know, Republic of Langrangia are strongly in favour of 3D printers (see here and here). Recently, this idea has become mainstream. On space.com you can read the following article: 3D Printing Could Aid Deep-Space Exploration, NASA Chief Says.

The basic argument for 3D-printing in Space are simple: our Solar system is rich in all kinds of resources. Through in situ resource utilization the input for 3D printers can be made from asteroidal material (or if necessary from Lunar or Martian material). The blue prints of the needed objects can be stored electronically on board of a Space colony or can be transmitted from Earth. This would significantly reduce the launch of all kind of supplies.

3D printing will also reduce the number of people needed for Space industries, because a 3D printer can print a whole variety of things. And in principle, we have to launch only one 3D printer, since this machines should be able to reproduce themselves.

Incest and Bestiality are NOT victimless crimes

Introduction

Republic of Lagrangia endorses the version of classical liberalism as have been described in On Liberty by John Stuart Mill.

The most important concept in this work is the so-called harm principle. What is this principle? The harm principle basically states that individual liberty should only be limited in order to prevent harming of others. In other words: a certain behaviour can only be prohibited by the government is such behaviour is harmful to others. This also means that the law should not make acts of self harm illegal. If some one chooses to harm himself without harming others, then we should not consider such person as a criminal.

Related to the harm principle is the concept of victimless crimes. These are crimes which do not have a victim. However, what is a victim? Some crimes such as murder, rape and theft, have clearly identifiable victims. But there are crimes in which the victims are less clear. An example is environmental pollution, which does harm person by destroying our environment. Only in case of environmental pollution it is often not clear who exactly has been harmed. Some wingnuts claim for these reason environmental pollution is a victimless crime, of course this is pure bullshit.

However, the harm principle does not state that some one has to be harmed intentionally by some act. If it is known that a certain act is harmful for some one, then this would be sufficient reason for prohibiting such act (or at least to regulate such behaviour).

Some people would argue that incest between mutually consenting adults is not a victimless crime. And people such as David Brink, suggest that bestiality is a victimless crime. In both cases, people argue that no one is harmed by such acts. In this post I will explain why neither incest nor bestiality is a victimless crime.

Incest

With incest we mean here: sexual intercourse between two consenting adults who are close relatives of each other. This definition excludes sexual relations between adults and minors and rape of a relative. These latter two act consist two separate crimes, since they are generally not considered as victimless.

One might argue that if two (or more) person consent to have sexual intercourse with each other, then there is no harm. In most cases, this would indeed be true. However, if two closely related persons have sex we have to take into account the children who might result from this act. And in case of two close relative having intercourse we have to deal with the risks of inbreeding.

It is a widely known fact that children of parent who are close relatives, have a greater change of having genetic disorders. Many governments are persuading pregnant women not to smoke or drink alcohol, because of the potential harm for their unborn children. Following this logic, we should also discourage close relatives to have sex with each other, in order to prevent harm to the children who might be conceived during an incestuous affair.

Inbreeding becomes even more serious when the children of closely related parents would have in their turn children with their relatives. For each generation that a family practices incest the incidence of genetic disorders will increase. And these disorders include very serious illnesses. There is incest certainly not a victimless crime.

Bestiality

Bestiality is when a human has sexual intercourse with a non-human animal. This behaviour is harmful in several ways.

First, we have to consider the harm done to the animal. According to Mill’s teacher Jeremy Bentham animals should have moral relevance because they can suffer, just as humans. Therefore animals are also covered by the harm principle. Although harming an animal might be justified in certain extraordinary circumstances, we absolute do not consider trying satisfying some (perverse) sexual urges as one of those.

Whether an animal will suffer of sexual intercourse with a human, depends on the physiology of the particular animal. However, even if an animal is not physically injured, an animal might suffer psychological damage from a unconsensual act.

A second reason why bestiality should be illegal is the problem of diseases which can be transferred from one species to another. By having intercourse with animal a human being might be infected by some disease. If such person subsequently has intercourse with a human, (s)he might infect other people. A new, potentially epidemic, infectious disease has been born. Or the zoosexual might infect other animals.

Scientists believe that HIV has been transmitted from apes to humans at some point in last century. We do not want just another of such disease. Therefore bestiality is not a victimless crime.

See also:

Space colonization and vegetarianism

On the Ethics of Colonizing Mars and Space

Both the colonization of Mars and Space colonization has ethical concerns. In this post we will discuss some of the more important issues.

Possible Life on Mars

Similarly, nobody really mourns for those who do not exist on Mars, feeling sorry for potential such beings that they cannot enjoy life.

David Benatar, Better Never to Have Been. The Harm of Coming into Existence. 2006.

One of the arguments against colonizing Mars is concern for possible Martian lifeforms. Some people argue that introducing terrestrial life to the Red planet, would be bad for native Martian life. Most scientists believe that, if Martian life (still) exists, it will most likely consist of bacteria or similar organisms.

The question we should ask ourselves is whether such Martian bacteria has any moral standing. According to English philosopher Jeremy Bentham, beings have moral standing if they can suffer. Bentham’s student John Stuart Mill, has introduced another important principle in moral philosophy, the harm principle. According to this principle our liberty is limited by the liberty of others; we may do what we wish as long as we do not harm other beings.

If we combine Bentham’s axiom of suffering with Mill’s harm principle, we can conclude the following: we may not beings who have the ability to suffer. As far as we know, bacteria cannot suffer, therefore they have, according to Bentham, no moral standing. For this reason we cannot conclude that bringing terrestrial lifeforms to Mars is immoral, because native Martian life might became extinct.

A related argument is that if terrestrial lifeforms are introduced to Mars, the original lifeforms cannot be distinguished from the introduced ones. This would interfere with scientific research to life on Mars. Although this might be regrettable, we might ask ourselves whether this would outweigh the benefits which colonizing Mars would offer to humanity.

A third concerned with the possibility of Martian bacteria is the health risk for colonists. This fear is understandable, however it is quite unlikely. Infectious diseases are generally limited to certain organisms. So is HIV dangerous for cats, apes and humans, whilst crocodiles are immune for it. Because parasites are adapted to a certain host organism, they cannot infect other organisms. (This also implies that all stories about fighting alien invaders with biological warfare are implausible.)

Of course, there is one caveat to this reasoning. Martian microbes might be poisonous to us.

Environmental impact on Earth

Another concern regarding space colonization, is the environmental impact of rockets. This is a serious problem, the pollution due to launching rockets into space do damage to our atmosphere. This pollution has all kinds of harmful effects to people, not the least to public health. The harm principle dictates that we should reduce the impact of rockets.

The precise environmental impact of a rocket depends on its type, especially on the kind of fuel used. Many rockets use poisonous fuels such as hydrazine, a hydrogen-nitrogen compound. By burning hydrazine both water (H2O) and nitrogen n-oxides  are produced, especially the latter is problematic since they are one of the causes of acid rain.

Hydrogen rockets, which produce water vapour as exhaust, are the most environment-friendly type of chemical rocket. Although there some technical difficulties with managing hydrogen rockets, the space shuttle program has shown that these can be overcome. Water vapour is a greenhouse gas, in fact one of the strongest, however this gas also stays in the atmosphere for a short time.

On the other hand, space colonization will also solve some environmental problems. For instance, asteroid mining would eliminate the need for mining on Earth. And mining is one of the leading causes of environmental degradation.

The costs of space colonization

Space-flight is expensive and so is space colonization. Therefore some people argue that given the large amount of poverty in the world, it is wrong to spend billions of dollars to a space colonization programs. However, these people are unaware that space colonization might be a solution for the problem of poverty.

The Solar System contains a lot of resources, so much that John Lewis has calculated that an equal distribution of these resources, would give every human on Earth a 100 billion dollars, which is much more than Bill Gates’ net wealth. Of course, this is somewhat extreme and this calculation is based on current prices of resources. When asteroid mining will increase the supply of this resources, their prices will fall. However, this price fall is not bad, since materials will become cheaper and so will the general price level. In this manner poor people can do more with their money.

Further, space colonization might increase employment, both in Space and on Earth, by creating all kinds of jobs. Even if the direct employment as result of space colonization will be limited, there is also the possible increase of indirect employment. Employees in the space industry will demand all kind of goods and services, which will create many more jobs etcetera.

Conclusion

Space colonization faces several difficult ethical question, however, it is also a potential solution for some ethical problems such as environmental damage and poverty.