Distant Stars

I believe that before we can reach for distant stars we must learn to love our World and each other. We must feel comfortable giving up our weapons of violence and mass destruction. Tearing down the walls that divide great nations and building up the love such nations so richly deserve to share. Only when our World can come together as a pluralistic and loving society, where people are free from persecution, violence, and despair, will we have the necessary yearning to turn our attention in earnest to star travel.

I believe the time will come when, on our World, the major problems of today become surmountable. That does not mean a World without conflict or suffering. But conflict and suffering will be the exception rather than the norm. It means a World where human rights including religious, and democratic rights, are widely respected. Where inequality both between nations and within nations has been significantly narrowed thereby allowing all people and nations to participate more equally in the success and advances of the World. This in turn will foster fairness and hope on a global scale. And of course all of this must be achieved in an environmentally sustainable way. Humankind must never again take our planet for granted.

When that time arrives the World will look outward, instead of inward, into the space beyond. Together we will tackle the enormous endeavor that is interstellar space travel. And we will reach for distant stars not because we have to. Not because some global calamity or impending disaster necessitates such action. It is the opposite. We will reach for distant stars because the absence of global concerns will free humanity to undertake the enormous and global effort that will be required for star travel. And it will not be our fears which drive that effort. It will be our dreams and aspirations.

When that day arrives we will send probes followed by human explorers to the distant planets we have deemed habitable. And we will extend humanity’s love to them and thereby fulfill the promise of the second vision. That vision showed me that the primary obstacle in reaching such stars is not our scientific or technological advances. Certainly there will be enormous hurdles to overcome there1. But I believe those technical challenges are secondary to, and will only be addressed after, the primary obstacle is overcome. Namely ourselves. Humanity must learn to trust, cooperate, and love on a global scale. Only then will we be able to focus enough of our combined attention and resources elsewhere.

How long will that take? How long will it take humanity to come together on a global scale? To show compassion and consideration not just for our families, communities, and nations but for all inhabitants of this World and the World itself? Can we even do that with our current capacities and predilections or will it take Darwinian processes and time scales to address? I believe the fifth message has revealed the answer to this question. I believe humanity’s sacred love brings the second vision within reach of our species. For me this was the key point of the second vision. Highlighting humanity’s technological potential was not its central purpose. It was instead meant to show that that tremendously hopeful vision is only made possible once humanity’s love is extended much more equally across our planet.

Now there are some that have argued that as individuals we are incapable of extending our love, our consideration or care, equally across an ever expanding circle of the World’s population. Although I do not agree with everything in the linked article I do find the general sentiment compelling. For example I believe that members of our species were never meant to love a stranger half way around the world as deeply as we love our own children. So for a person to afford equal consideration to those two relations appears untenable to me. Instead our species as a whole, through shared values, and institutions founded on impartiality, cooperation, and compassion must bring us closer to such equality in aggregate despite our individual tendencies. Only when this is achieved on our World will we be able to export that ethos to other Worlds.

It will all take some time. Not evolutionary epochs, but much, much time nonetheless.

1 Harnessing enough energy to enable such discoveries is perhaps the greatest engineering challenge and forms the well-known basis for one astronomer’s view of humanity’s future advances. Subsequent addendums by others extended Kardashev’s vision far beyond interstellar travel. But I found such technology-centered visions without purpose or hope. Their focus was more on how we will extend humanity’s lifespan, empire, and power rather than on how we will broaden and deepen our compassion and love. Their conclusions lifeless and lacking humanity.

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