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TUCSON 2000
International Space Development Conference
May 25-29, 2000


TUCSON 2000 HOME > SOCIAL AND POLITICAL ASPECTS

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Social and Political Aspects

It’s 25 years down the road, and you and I seem no closer to working our own claims in space than we were in 1974. Some say that we’ve lost it, that civilization peaked in the Apollo era and we no longer have the drive to put it on the line for anything risky, that our dreams are being ground into Webhead fantasies. A parallel image in the colonization movement of the 70s/80s was that of spaceketeers escaping an imploding world and forming utopias on the frontier.

Well, history fans, that sort of "pessimism as destiny" is now as stale as the cold war, having been overwhelmed by a rambunctious economy that will not stop growing and branching despite the best efforts of statists to corral it in the names of preservation and fairness. The future is here, so fear of the future is now moot. Notwithstanding individual motivations, the race to open space is now most accurately seen as a natural outgrowth of an expansive world economy.

On the technical side, a lot of work is being done to move outstanding problems from the in basket to the out basket. Meanwhile, the social/political front has its own pile of challenges:

First, we have the legal entanglements that arise when a world full of competing nations tries to carve up a new territory that none has any unique claim to. Pro-space lawyers are on the offensive, and have had some successes to date.

Second, the financing of space settlements is fundamental to their planning. Anyone who seriously proposes a settlement needs to outline the initial investment and the payback. If the payback is not sufficient or is displaced too far into the future, then a source of non-commercial funding has to be sought, such as a government or the participants’ own pockets. Some of the first permanent off-planet settlements might well be religious colonies that have no other economic intent than to survive.

And third, the internal structure of a settlement and relations with outside groups demand a new design that is adapted to modern technology and desires for personal freedom. This subject will generate a lot of principled disagreement, but space is big, and each settlement will be its own experiment in human society.

The faces of those who seek to open the new frontier are varied. Some are devoting their lives to pounding on the doors of the government treasurers and keeping the machinery of the "space movement" rolling, with no thought of actually going to space themselves. At the other end are those who scorn political activism, but will throw their lives into the first risky settlement plan that comes along.

A third group are the young children and those yet unborn who will be raised with a matter-of-fact acceptance of the inevitability of space colonization. When the time comes, they will go and they will distinguish themselves.

The field is wide and still thinly populated. Where do you fit in?

Tom Jaquish, Program Chair, 3/14/99


 
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