Living on Earth in a Space Home

We should start building affordable houses that could be used on another planet or moon.  I think it would be interesting if Habitat for Humanity stopped building wood framed houses and started erecting  space worthy homes.  If we could build or deliver a space house for less than a wood framed house we probably should.  We need people of all walks of life to live in a house that would be used in space colonization.  We need human feedback for continuous improvement.  More importantly, we need to mainstream the idea of the next generation of homes.

We are facing climate change and increasing world population.  Some people, perhaps whole towns to cities, will need to be moved due to coastal flooding.  This may be the opportunity to move a large population into space houses.  Let’s face it, moving a large population of people may not be wildly welcomed into an area that struggle with a large population.  This will remove large urban areas from consideration.  Other at risk areas with starvation, drought, or refugees could also limit a relocation.    The good news with a space house is if it can survive space, it can survive some difficult areas of Earth as well.

Granted, it is not realistic to setup a town of space homes and expect the transplanted population to be overjoyed.  Thought and planning is required.  The town would not only need a power supply but also a way of self sustaining.  An autonomous space town would need to produce food, air, and maintain a clean water supply.  It would need a host of structures for administration (what is a town without bureaucracy), town services,  health services, education, and communal areas for meetings and entertainment.  Self reliance will be critical since the town could be placed in a searing hot desert or a frigid tundra.  The  town would easily survive at extremes.  It would not just survive but thrive because this town could be deployed to another planet or moon just as easily as Earth.

So, what is a space home?  A home is where you rest, raise family, cook, entertain,  maintain hygiene, and perhaps work.  Most people would not feel at home if missing  key pieces of what a house should provide.  In the article, Terranormous Space Cities, I explored some of the concepts of home in a space context.  Suffice to say, the house will have enough room and amenities that most people would consider it a home.

A space house needs a few extras than a normal Earth house.  It needs to be modular and easy to attach to larger structures but flexible enough to fit in different footprints.  It would be air locked and could maintain air and water for an extended period of time.  It would be rugged and able to survive some of the worst weather but also radiation and vacuum.  The space house would be networked  and can communicate outside itself.  Communications not only provide the house status as part of a network but is also part of communication between inhabitants of the town.  Simply, the house is integrated into the town and its inhabitants.

Last and as important as a good working bathroom, education.  Space house and town living will be different.  Learning how to live in a sustainable way is important to the house itself but also the town.  There will be new jobs to learn and new ways to contribute.  Perhaps if a space town on Earth is running well it could be selected to move to space.

As humans, we need to explore paradigm shifts in what we consider common place.  A house is a fairly common construct and in some cases unchanged for hundreds of years.  However, our planet is changing as well as population and resources.  We need to think differently starting now.  Creating a new mindset around what a home is would definitely challenge the norm.



Marooned on Earth

You are marooned on a single planet with over 7 billion of your species.  The population continues to climb and resources are becoming scarce.  Food and potable water are serious issues across the planet.  Mass extinctions are occurring.   Life threatening disease affects over 24 million people on one continent.  Worse, the climate seems to be getting warmer, the seas higher, and the weather more severe.  The near planets are not habitable and take time and resources to reach.  Celestial events like asteroid impacts and massive solar flares could annihilate your species.  In the near term, it looks like you will not be able to leave your planet.  A new mindset may need to be adopted.  The mindset that we are not living on a planet but are marooned and unable to escape.

Take a moment and think of being marooned on a small island.  Survival becomes paramount.  Water, shelter, rescue, and food are the priorities in that order.  Imagine limited resources of food, water, and building supplies compounded with the fact that each week you spend on the island another person appears.  But wait there’s more, on a daily basis the tide gets a little higher.  More people, less resources, dwindling space, and you don’t know when but sometime in the future a tidal wave will hit the island.  There is no hope of rescue.  Only the inhabitants of the island can rescue themselves.  After a quick scouting mission it seems like the islands visible from yours are uninhabitable.  Day to day subsistence living will not save a future generation.  What can you and the people on the island do to ensure their children’s survival?  Perhaps, start looking at what it means to live on the water or on one of the inhospitable islands.

Now imagine the island is Earth, your species is human, and the sea is space.  Deciding to move people to space and other planets is a huge endeavor.  It is hard to obtain ample funding and resources to explore off world living.  It is most likely easier to get funding and resources for a new aircraft carrier.  It may be easier to get an aircraft carrier than a space ship or space station because of the wrong mindset.  We think an aircraft carrier will protect us and this may be true short term.  However, an aircraft carrier may not be able to affect future generations.

Let’s think about our little island again.  Due to dwindling resources and myopia, all the large game and easy to gather food are gone and you are relying on grassy plants and small fish for food.   Faced with dwindling resources and a need to diversify from the island, would a cannon be a welcome suggestion?  In this case, a cannon does not build a boat nor feed anyone.  It could make a good anchor but really is not its purpose.  A cannon is a means to an end which could be used to force boat building or take someone’s food.  However, this is the least industrious way of getting work done.  If the cannon were one choice and the other a sail for the boat, which is the better decision?  Assuming protection is not the immediate concern then a sail would be a welcomed addition to the boat.  What if everyone believed the sail was the best choice and because of this group thinking it reduced the need for the cannon?  If everyone was on-board with the boat and sail idea perhaps future choices about the boat would be much easier.  In other words, if people believe the survival of future generations are paramount then less would be spent on fleeting endeavors like weapons.

Marooned without chance of rescue means survival needs to be prioritized.  Survival in this case is not the current generation but rather two or three generations away.  We need to stop thinking of living on Earth but rather surviving as an entire species.  The best survival of the species would be divergent plans.  A plan to live beneath the sea, a plan to live on another planet, a plan for massive space stations, a plan for moon living, and a plan to expand to the edge of our solar system.  All these plans need to be resourced and begun now.  Our generation may make insignificant progress but no progress is unacceptable.  We need to position future generations to maintain humanities survival.

Two to three generations is not a distant future.  A grandparent looks at the second generation in their grand children.  If really lucky, a great grand parent can glimpse the third generation.  As a grand parent or great grand parent how will you explain to children that a generation believed they were not important enough to survive.  In fact, your generation was so callous you decided not to give them a chance.

How do we survive?  How do we all survive for millennia?  We survive together.  As a species and a planet.  We change our mindset from subsistence to survival.  Survival is based on We not Us and Them.  We all love our children bringing us to the same table, together.  Because, in the end, we are all on the same island, Earth.




Aliens and the Human Brand

If Aliens come to Earth or we run into them in space they may have some prejudice to humans.  Through some off world observation, humans could be perceived as either threats or peaceful.  If humans were a product how have we been marketing ourselves?  What is the human brand?

Humans are a species that use mutually assured destruction to keep the world at peace.  Not necessarily peace of mind but a deterrent to war.  A casual outside viewer may look at this as a bit aggressive.  An alien that does not speak our language or understand our cultures let alone the political landscape might regard humans as hostile.  Humans tend to be wary when first interacting with each other.  As an alien, it would be a safe approach to presume we could be hostile.

This is not to say that humans are always hostile.  Quite the opposite.  We have a love for beauty and art.  We design and build awesome architecture.  We have all kinds of music from classical orchestral to Lady Gaga. We plant gardens and have beautiful flowers with wonderful fragrances.  We enjoy the beauty and company of other species like birds, dogs, cats, hamsters, and other pets.  We can write down our ideas and create literature or compositions for all to enjoy.  We love and care for our children and elderly.  Heck, we have freaking Christmas and New Years with all the decorations, Whos in Whoville, and good will.  It would certainly seem humans would at the very least prefer to be peaceful.

However, looking at a sample of art may elude to a hostile belief.  Just think of all the Jesus nailed to the cross art.  Also, images of God’s wrath like the flood story with Noah.  Without explanation these images seem hostile.  The explanation might not help either.  For example, here is a snippet from a possible conversation with an alien:

Alien: <looking at a crucifix> “Why do you nail prophets to wood?”
Human: “It is wood but we call it a cross.  The cross was used as part of an execution type the Romans employed called crucifixion.”
Alien: “Okay, why kill the prophet?”
Human:  “Because God had a plan that required the prophet, Jesus, to die for our sins.”
Alien:  “Ah … God.  This was the entity who flooded the Earth and reigned fire and brimstone on cities? Or is this the entity that rules in a fiery domain?”
Human:  “The fiery ruler is Satan or the Devil.  Bad people who have sinned go to hell.”
Alien:  “I do not understand. Did Jesus not die for everyone’s sins?”
Human:  “Um … yah.  Maybe ask the Pope in your next meeting?  I’m just trying to take your falafel order.”

I am sure after a better explanation including why wars have been fought over religion will certainly clear up all misunderstandings.  Then again, explaining the cruelty of humans to one another based only on skin color might be tricky.  Especially if all humans look the same to aliens.

Based on a perceived hostile nature of humans I think we may be missing a peaceful alien encounter opportunity.  We may attract the wrong kind of alien.  The alien that would find humanity interesting could be more of a warlord.  A warlord type alien may view humans as a challenge or a hunting trophy.  The movies we make about alien visitation generally confirm this fact.

Looking on the bright side, what if we are visited by a peaceful alien race?  After we get past the pleasantries like “Where are you from?” and “How’s the weather on your planet?” what next?  A whiny list of diseases to cure, technology we want, and pleas to go for joy rides in their space ship?  What do we offer other than never ending requests for help?  After we get an infinite supply of energy, anti-gravity, and gravity generator what then?  What new unknown technology would we receive and what would we do with it?

The computer is a good example of how humans handle new technology.  The personal computer was created and made available to anyone that could afford one.  The number of personal computers in households was initially low.  Why would I want an expensive calculator?  Software was difficult to use relying on function key combinations.  The CRTs where small and monochromatic.  There were no mice and the joystick had no joy.  Not too much fun.

Then games started to be created for the personal computer.  Text based at first then pictures.  Zork and Wizardry dungeon diving games became a must have for the newly created gamer persona.  Personal computers in homes started to increase. CRTs became bigger and had more colors.  The joystick technology moved towards joy but were more meh-sticks.  Games and entertainment started to affect computer sales.

That was the long way of saying we will make a game out of whatever the alien gives us for new technology eventually.  I can already think of some fun applications for the personal black hole generator.  The alien may find turning technology into fun a bit amusing or at least interesting.  Perhaps fun is not an alien concept and could be perceived as rude.  I certainly hope not because amusing generally lasts longer than violent or worse, boring.  It is the primary reason we don’t eat otters.

Whatever alien race contacts us humans it looks like they will decide what they want to do with humanity.  We may have very little say.  Before we have an alien encounter we may want to work on our brand as peaceful humans.  If peaceful is too difficult a brand for humanity then perhaps fun loving would be a good second choice.

Death and How to Ignore a Possible Apocalypse

Knowing we will die, how do we ignore death?  To be precise, how do most humans wake up in the morning and get out of bed knowing they will die at some point?  How do most children after learning about death grow into relatively sane adults?  How do Earthlings ignore the possibility of an extinction level event?

Humans are an interesting animal in that they know they will die and simply try to ignore it.  Humans are sentient meaning they understand the concept of ‘me’ and the concept that ‘me’ will die.  Think back to when you first realized you would one day die.  The realization was probably a bit terrifying but also confusing.  An explanation was certainly required to understand that everyone dies including loved ones.  It also brought other questions like where the hamster ‘farm’ really is located.

Naturally, a discussion is important about what happens after we die.  This is where beatific and horrific views of afterlife expound.  If you are good, you go to some form of heaven. If naughty, you may go to a bad place like hell.  Alas, I am christian, so please feel free to provide your own personal favorite heaven and/or hell.  There is also limbo concepts where it is not heaven nor hell.  Limbo always seemed like an upgraded hell to me.  Afterlife also helps the children understand where the hamster ‘farm’ could be and just how much fun Lucky is having in hamster heaven.

Now I may have some bad news for Lucky and her possible lack of a soul.  To get to afterlife requires a soul or a spirit that is able to move on.  Some afterlife rule making groups do not believe animals have a soul.  As such, animals cannot go to their respective animal heavens.  This concerns me as the sentient animals, the humans, have excluded some really magnificent animals from heaven.  For example, all those images with light streaming from heaven past the white doves now seems so unfair.  Hey look doves it is heaven!  Oh wait, you are not allowed.  I prefer to believe that life is interconnected so that heaven is inclusive rather than exclusive.

Which brings me to my actual point, we can ignore death because we have rationalized around it.  All the above hamster drivel was to illustrate how adept we are at creating an afterlife that helps keep us functioning in life.  It is a natural outcome of sentient questions like “Who am I?”, “Where do I come from?”, and “Where will I go?”  Yet, hamsters do not ask these questions but are highly motivated to not die.  They are also pretty keen on running on a wheel for hours.  Perhaps we have a basic will to survive and not give up on life.  The will to survive seems to be something we share with even the smallest forms of life.

Birthdays are a great example of rationalizing death.  Each year you have a birthday and celebrate the day you were born.  However, that is not what is actually happening to you.  Your birthday is a celebration of how long you have lived and been part of your birthday celebration.  Some folks will get upset at the thought of celebrating a birthday.  Others, embarrassed at their age.  The truth is you have survived to your birthday anniversary.  This is an especially powerful thought when you realize you could die at any time.  Life is fragile and from the moment you are born you could die.  Fairly simple.  Therefore, look forward to your birthday and confidently give your age.  You survived and you deserve some recognition.

How are humans able to ignore an impending apocalypse?  Let us first look at the smorgasbord of events that can kill us humans.  A super virus pandemic.  Rapid climate change affecting food growth, water, and spurred by over population.  A good old fashioned hide-under-your-desk nuclear holocaust.  A super volcano eruption like the one under Yellowstone.  Let us all hope Old Faithful stays faithful.  A giant natural gas release from the sea floor.  The magnetic poles shifting where north becomes south and vice versa without the involvement of east and west.  Huge asteroids smashing into Earth like the one that killed the dinosaurs.  A giant solar flare frying away our atmosphere.  A zombie hamster attack.  Agreed, the last event about the hamsters is highly unlikely unless they involve the super virus.  At any rate, we know we will die and worse we know that humanity could become extinct.

Each of the apocalyptic events above do have some meager attention.  There are scientists working on how to circumvent extinction level events.  However, all except the nuclear holocaust are underfunded and understaffed.  It is probably better to describe the efforts as proofs of concepts.  To me, this is what exemplifies ignoring a problem.

Humans have never been so close to doing something about preserving the species.  The advancement of technology is more rapid than ever.  However, we may need key advancements sooner in response to a future solution.  In other words, if we don’t plan and fund our survival now then we may not have the solution when we need it.  I personally do not want to disappoint our future.

The old saying, “Don’t keep all your eggs in one basket.”, holds true for humanity’s survival.  As it is important to protect the Earth, so too is it important to not have all the humans in one location.  For humans to avoid extinction we must spread out into space.  We cannot depend on a good defense alone.

Unfortunately, we humans can rationalize ourselves into believing we are safe.   After all, we have this great notion of heaven waiting for us.  We can ignore the possibility that generations or mere years from now we may face an extinction level event. Perhaps it is best not to think about death.  It just makes us all feel strange and uncomfortable.  Then again, we should feel worse for not allowing a future generation to live.