State of Civilization
Science and Technology
Civilization in Space
Civilization and Cosmos
Building our future
2015 Nov 29
Building our Future
The future that we can envision as likely for humanity is more than increasingly sophisticated gadgets, more than the benefits and hazards of biotechnology and nanotechnology, more than going into space to create settlements–it is a future of new species, new social systems, and new modes of living that have not been experienced before by humans.
If this bold future develops, it will be one that we must build ourselves. We know humans well enough now to be certain that some people will dedicate their lives to bring about such changes, while others will place obstacles in the way–to prevent the changes if they can. That is part of the challenge–one part from the cosmos, another from ourselves.
The sad news is that we must leave Earth and probably all of the other planets in Sol's system. Or perhaps not so sad, as that will be a part of the adventure of living, of surviving and succeeding in this ever changing cosmos.
For all that gets said about our impact on Earth, the changes we have made and are likely to make over the near term are quite minor compared to the changes that will be wrought by natural processes over the long term. In the natural course of things, Earth will lose most of its atmospheric carbon dioxide, will become too hot for mammals, will lose its oceans, then lose its atmosphere, and eventually will be either melted or vaporized. If anything survives of Earth from all that, the remainder will freeze to unimaginably low temperatures. We can intervene in these natural processes to some extent with planetary engineering, but, to the best of our knowledge, those natural process will eventually seal the fate of Earth. Humanity and its descendants cannot live on Earth forever.
Those who think that using the resources of a planet–all of it–for our own ends is a serious desecration of nature give no weight to the number one rule of the cosmos for advanced species: March or die (borrowed from a famous, or infamous, legion). Besides, the planet Mercury will be destroyed by Sol, along with Venus and Earth. In the far future, even tearing apart Earth is sensible if it is important for the survival of our civilization and our descendants.
The long-term survival of humanity and its offspring requires traversing interstellar space. As things appear at this time, the endeavor is both dangerous and difficult, but far from hopeless. For most of humanity's existence, life has been dangerous and difficult, so there is nothing new in that.
Planets that can support advanced life are likely rare in the galaxy, but we can build our own—take Nature's planets and turn them outside in, in prodigious numbers
We are not bound to search the galaxy for those rare planets that can support complex life. We can create them ourselves as we wish, by the tens of thousands where nature brought forth only a single one, which is destined to have a brief, as those things go, habitability. Across this galaxy, those worlds could be counted in the millions.
Planets like Earth can support complex life for about 1 billion years, perhaps 2 or 3 billion with extensive planetary engineering. Planetoids should be able to support complex life for trillions of years. The future for life is clearly planetoidal.
Planetoids, as modest planets, can travel to where resources and safety can be found, carrying not only the builders, but other life forms that made their home planet an ecosystem. This is true for all intelligent, civilized beings throughout the cosmos. In time, very distant time, only artificial, mobile planetoids will carry life.
Toroids are the most mass-efficient configurations providing gravity and rotational stability. They have the slowest rotation rates for the gravity provided among other configurations of the same mass. When stations or planetoids are desired with gravity, toroids are the logical choice.
It appears that only by spreading across interstellar distances can intelligent life endure indefinitely, at the least for spans greater than a trillion years. For those spans of existence, planetoids are essential to provide the environments to support life as we know it.
Planetoids can carry a wide range of planetary organisms in their environs. A planetoid with an internal area comparable to Earth's land area could potentially carry nearly all of the species that exist on Earth at present. They could exist in more-or-less balanced ecosystems.
Potential sources of materials for building planetoids include Mercury, Luna, asteroids, comets, and Callisto (a satellite of Jupiter).
Mercury and Venus will be vaporized and will disappear into the bloated body of Sol in a few billion years, unless they are moved farther from Sol than Earth's orbit. Even if moved somewhat beyond Earth's orbit, they will be thoroughly melted. Until that time, they are destined to simply get hotter without any substantial change in their characteristics.
However, Mercury might be completely consumed for use by people, leaving nothing behind to be uselessly vaporized by the expansion of Sol.
Something around 10,000 Earth-equivalent planetoids could be made using the material resources of Mercury, asteroids, and possibly some planetary satellites.
Unlike the planets, these planetoids are mobile. They can be distributed around the Solar System and beyond.