Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Leave Space Alone!


Some of you may be familiar with the BBC Astronomy programme The Sky At Night, the Beeb’s longest running show presented once a month by Patrick Moore. It’s generally a relaxing watch, with plenty of photos of deep space and so on, a balm to the senses in providing a brief escape from the repetitive round of humans on planet earth.

Anyway, there was an anniversary edition a couple of weeks back and a number of astronomers were asked what they hoped for in terms of the future of Astronomy and the study of space. My stomach turned at their answers: all of them were eager for bases and colonies on the moon, missions to Mars and, of course, the prospect of humanity colonising the solar system seemed to have them creaming their trousers with anticipation.

No, I thought, please, NO! The main reason it’s calming to look up at the night sky is because it provides a release and escape from human woes and allows us to put our own puny lives in perspective. I, for one, could never look at the moon again knowing there was a colony of humans up there, sullying it with its presence. Humanity, leave Space alone! Keep your plague and your curse and your meaninglessness and your restlessness and your egotism and your violence to the rock where you spawned and will perish. Don’t destroy the silent beauty of the stars with your filth and disease!

Leave Space alone!

36 comments:

  1. I thoroughly echoe this one!

    People in general are very deluded things. They think they are so important, that their seed must be spread around - to the universe and beyond.

    It frankly disgusts me even.

    And it also reminds me of Lovecraft. I only read this quote in portuguese, but is more or less what you said there - he liked to watch the space and imagine places where human interests didn´t exist. I´ll try and find the quote in english, but it´s hard - I already tried!

    Cheers!

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  2. You know how we can win-win this?
    By gradually turning the Earth into a tranquil peaceful space object like the rest of them, while awing at the discovery of new sights that the declination of sentient presence opens up along the route.

    Bring Space at Home?

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    1. Yeah, nice thought Bazomps. Let´s only hope man cannot go too far.

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    2. Bazompora, I daresay you're familiar with the documentary series 'Life After People', but in case not here's a link to Episode 1. It's one of my favourite docu series of all times, for obvious reasons:-)The CGI of the planet after we're gone is quite beautiful.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6XDbcMND7fY

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    3. Actually, I was completely unaware of that series. Thanks for the link.

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    4. That series must be one of Karl´s favorites, if I know him correctly! =)

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    5. I also am a fan of the "Life After People" series.

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  3. Shadow: I think this might be the one:

    "Now all my tales are based on the fundamental premise that common human laws and interests and emotions have no validity or significance in the vast cosmos-at-large. To me there is nothing but puerility in a tale in which the human form – and the local human passions and conditions and standards – are depicted as native to other worlds or other universes. To achieve the essence of real externality, whether of time or space or dimension, one must forget that such things as organic life, good and evil, love and hate, and all such local attributes of a negligible and temporary race called mankind, have any existence at all. Only the human scenes and characters must have human qualities. These must be handled with unsparing realism, (not catch-penny romanticism) but when we cross the line to the boundless and hideous unknown – the shadow-haunted Outside – we must remember to leave our humanity and terrestrialism at the threshold."

    And who can blame the Master for saying so? I thoroughly agree with him and you Karl. The human vermin should be confined to this ball of dirt called Earth.

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    1. Mr Graverol (good nick btw, antinatalist forums have the best nicks of all in my opinion)

      That is the one alright! TY for bringing it up!

      Also, good comment! These days I lent a book of him for a friend, and was asking if he already read the Master. Good to know you regard him with the same eyes. Cheers man.

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  4. If humans somehow manage to convert other celestial bodies into living spaces -- or find and move into celestial bodies already suitable to live in, the consequences shouldn't really be unlike the discovery of Australia or the Americas in the long run. It's like Parkinson's law: just like work grows to fill all available time, typical humans multiply to fill all available space, until there is dire crisis, and then, until there's bloodshed ... until heat death or proton decay.

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    1. While I agree with your point about human multiplication, I have to disagree with your analogy with Australia and the Americas. Both landmasses already had well-developed ecosystems full of neurological life that can and was indeed harmed. The ecosystems of other worlds in our solar system either don't exist or consists exclusively of extremophile microbes (which by trait cannot have nervous systems and hence cannot be hurt).

      Your analogy to other worlds can apply ONLY to those neurological life - which certainly would have to be as evolved as at least Earth's Cambrian period.

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    2. I only intended to say that finding more space and resources to leverage doesn't solve humanity's problems. Yes, and it's true that humans and other sentient beings already present in the Americas and Australia must have been caused great misery by the invaders, and colonising space not having other sentient beings should avoid that harm.

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  5. completely agree on that! outer space is a beautiful awe-inspiring thing and humans should not contaminate it with...themselves.

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  6. Man travelled to the moon. And what did he do when he got there? He uttered staggeringly asinine platitudes like 'One small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind', jumped up and down in the low gravity, collected some rocks and left! Yes, left behind abandoned machine parts, flags, and assorted other rubbish littering the lunar surface. Was the moon effectively just a rubbish dump?

    And now, the same happens with Mars. Probes are sent there and how soon before man further defiles that planet by setting foot upon it?

    And beyond that, if man ever reaches the stars and finds terra-compatible planets? One simply despairs!

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    1. "Yes, left behind abandoned machine parts, flags, and assorted other rubbish littering the lunar surface. Was the moon effectively just a rubbish dump?"

      I doubt the moon minds.

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    2. No, the moon may not mind. But it is so typical of man to pollute everything he touches.

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    3. But isn't that endemic to all life? The planet is covered in dead leaves and trunks, animal waste and skeletons, it's surface torn up by roots and burrows; man is but championing what all life does: polluting.

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    4. But this is natural waste resulting from decomposition of dead matter or the bodily processes of life. With man, it is much worse: 'abandoned machine parts' are hardly natural.

      But yes, I do agree with you: ending life in all forms would be the best outcome.

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    5. I'm only being geeky now: don't think more of it. ;-)

      "'abandoned machine parts' are hardly natural."

      Yet, what is 'natural'? If the product of a nature product isn't natural, then were birds, beavers, tube worms, termites and ants also not guilty of littering the planet with their abandoned creations, long before our ancestors joined the crafting?

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    6. Mr Graverol is always 'glad to be sad', or 'geeky' as you put it.

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  7. Karl,

    As a big fan of astronomy and knowing what’s out there, I admit this one tore at me.

    On one hand, it’s difficult to doubt your ideals. On the other hand, it's exciting to go where we've never been and discover new things - even new sentient creatures, rare out there they may be. However, I chalk the latter to little more than "entertaining" ourselves (a very broad use of the term, but that's what excitement at discoveries is - entertaining ourselves).

    Wherever we humans go, we always find a way to screw things up. Not even the transhumanist-inspired Hedonistic Imperative will solve that one (in fact, redesigning humans is likely to make us worse off than we are now – optimistic views of human nature notwithstanding).

    I suppose there’s the option I often bring up: Design a human that has not the slightest capacity for ANY of the following traits. Call this entity / new species robo-human (MANY thanks for that one, estnihil – who coined that one on his blog a few weeks prior to this post)

    (a) Sense pain (both physical or emotional)
    (b) Feel desires of any kind (unfulfilled ones can be emotionally damaging in and of themselves).
    (c) The survival instinct in any form (in which case conscious existence is morally irrelevant, although I can’t see how morality itself can be relevant with this kind of human).

    Making a robo-human is probably on safe moral grounds. However, that’d pretty much neutralize the whole point of the Hedonistic Imperative, and practically all other forms of TH for that matter. What’d be the point? To paraphrase Francois Tremblay, you might as well design an oak tree with a human cerebral cortex.

    Moving considerable closer to probable future reality, I believe eventually we will establish permanent settlements on at least Mars and the Moon, and after a long while even extrasolar planets as well (with robohumans extremely rare, if they exist at all).

    Ultimately though, it comes down to this: Both sapient biological life with at least human-level intelligence AND robots/androids/AI run on pre-programmed instructions. Even humans are run on preprogrammed instructions to think about things in some capacity – even the capacity to reprogram instructions when necessary is a program. Both biological and artificial intelligence do what they are programmed to do. Robots do their thing, biological life does its thing. What are either accomplishing?

    “Accomplishing” is an interesting term – for that implies that each has an ultimate end purpose, which is…to continue making more copies of themselves? How is that doing any more than what plants and bacteria do? Non-conscious entities also do what they do. Non-neurological organisms do what they do, dead matter like planets passively conform to the laws of physics (as if they had any capacity for choice at all, let alone a conscious one) such as become hot, thereby causing magma swells which in turn penetrate the surface and create volcanoes and (in Earth’s case) move tectonic plates. Stars fuse lighter atoms into heavier ones, and all this just passively drifts along paths pre-determined by the laws of physics (chiefly gravity in this case). So how is making copies of ourselves any different? What is it about consciousness that makes us any more special than mere ‘dead’ matter, especially if our consciousness is the product of matter that is technically ‘dead’ (i.e. w/o consciousness on the molecular level)? So in the end, even assuming we find a way to stop heat death or entropy – or at least create and/or transport ourselves to young fresh new universes – we are just doing stuff. The universe (even the young fresh one) doesn’t care. If we exist we exist, if we don’t we don’t.

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  8. Filrabat, thanks for the very thoughful and beautifully put comment. I agree with practically everything you say, although being the old pessimist that I am, I feel a certain amount of fear at the possibility of encountering other life forms of a similiar nature to us. Given what we know of human nature and history, isn't it extremely probable that such contact would eventually result in conflict? I think the only form of life worth encountering would be something like the planet described in Lem's novel 'Solaris', something utterly 'other', beyond all normal human conceptual frameworks.

    What I find fascinating about gazing into the night-sky is the calm it brings me, the mind and the spirit seeking nothingness, longing to dissolve and melt into the void. I have a similiar kind of feeling when I think of empty streets on a sunlit day, devoid of humanity.

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  9. Another quote from Lovecraft seems apposite here:

    "To shake off the maddening and wearying limitations of time and space and natural law - to be linked with the vast outside - to come close to the nighted and abysmal secrets of the infinite and the ultimate - surely such a thing was worth the risk of one’s life, soul, and sanity!"

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    1. Mr Graverol,

      Keep coming with Lovecraft´s quotes!

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  10. The earth-ling by Brian Patten

    Countless years ago the people of Alzorus used the planet Earth as a lunatic asylum. They called the people they dumped there 'earth-lings'.

    I am an earth-ling.
    My memory goes back a long way.
    I was dumped here long ago.
    I lived beneath some overhanging rocks.
    Around me at night, through the sky's black sheet,
    stars poured down.
    It was lonely sitting for centuries
    beneath that rain-drenched rock,
    wrapped in furs, afraid of this whole terrible planet.
    I grew fed up with the taste of its food.
    I made fire, I slaughtered creatures,
    I walked through a forest and made friends.
    I copied the things they made.
    I walked through another forest and found enemies,
    I destroyed the things they made.
    I went on and on and on and on,
    and on a bit more.
    I crossed mountains, I crossed new oceans.
    I became familiar with this world.
    Time would not stop running when I asked it.
    I could not whistle for it to come back.
    I invented a couple of languages.
    I wrote things down.
    I invented books.
    Time passed.
    My inventions piled up. The natives of this planet feared me.
    Some tried to destroy me.
    Rats came. A great plague swept over the world.
    Many of me died.
    I am an earth-ling.
    I invented cities. I tore them down.
    I sat in comfort. I sat in poverty. I sat in boredom.
    Home was a planet called Alzorus. A tiny far off star -
    One night it went out. It vanished.
    I am an earth-ling, exiled for ever from my beginnings.
    Time passed. I did things. Time passed. I grew exhausted.
    One day
    A great fire swept the world.
    I wanted to go back to the beginning.
    It was impossible.
    The rock I had squatted under melted.
    Friends became dust,
    Dust became the only friend.
    In the dust I drew faces of people.
    I am putting this message on a feather
    and puffing it up among the stars.
    I have missed so many things out!
    But this is the basic story, the terrible story.
    I am an earth-ling,
    I was dumped here long ago.
    Mistakes were made.

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  11. This makes perfect sense to me. Thanks Karl.

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    1. Just beautiful.
      Dark and poetic.
      TY Karl

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    2. Great poem. Thanks for the share.

      On a more religious bent, "Perhaps we have all died before, and this is Hell." Personally don't think it's the case, but who knows...?

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    3. I´ve thought about this before as well. Who knows? Indeed!

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    4. At the risk of another quote, albeit a particularly misanthropic one, from Lovecraft that again seems apposite here:

      'These vertebrates, as well as an infinity of other life-forms—animal and vegetable, marine, terrestrial, and aërial—were the products of unguided evolution acting on life-cells made by the Old Ones but escaping beyond their radius of attention. They had been suffered to develop unchecked because they had not come in conflict with the dominant beings. Bothersome forms, of course, were mechanically exterminated. It interested us to see in some of the very last and most decadent sculptures a shambling primitive mammal, used sometimes for food and sometimes as an amusing buffoon by the land dwellers, whose vaguely simian and human foreshadowings were unmistakable.'

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  12. No, I thought, please, NO! The main reason it’s calming to look up at the night sky is because it provides a release and escape from human woes and allows us to put our own puny lives in perspective. I, for one, could never look at the moon again knowing there was a colony of humans up there, sullying it with its presence.

    All I can say to this one is, AMEN! Total agreement.

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  13. There's a lot of hard science out there basically proving that terrestrial organisms are vitally dependent on remaining terrestrial.

    Most recently I'm reading about biophotons (verified, not theoretical) and plasma cosmology. Apparently how organisms regulate their internal systems is in synch with, among other things, the unique radiation field of the earth on which they evolved. ... Not the moon, or mars, or the planet klingon. .. And without it we'd fall apart and die.

    So I really don't worry for space.

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    1. I agree with foxinabox.

      Incidentally, this whole "space is the final frontier" is just horse crap to keep us distracted, another one of the failed projected projects (sorry for the redundancy) of mankind, and wishful thinking.

      We are not meant to live anywhere else - in this state that we currently are organized.

      Even astronauts, who go for just some weeks close to earth, have to keep a keen eye on their health, otherwise they can perish at any moment.

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    2. Derp. I meant to say 'electromagnetic', not radiation.

      And yeah, screw space.

      Death is the real final frontier.

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