(The great adventure continues)
Arthur C Clarke once famously stated these two propositions clarify the ultimate destiny of the human race:
‘Only two possibilities exist:
Either we are alone in the universe or we are not.
Either way the prospects are terrifying.’
‘We stand now at the turning point between two eras. Behind us is a past to which we can never return. The coming of the rocket brought to an end a million years of isolation. The childhood of our race was over and history as we know it began.’
(Exploration of Space (1952)
Taking these two great epithets to heart, the task of the human race now (the now part meaning with gathering urgency) is to take on the mantle of explorers and to search for our destiny in the only place that would produce another planet should we need it – the universe. The cosmic wheel of destiny is turning as inevitably as the firmament and we must not be left behind in the dust. Even our cradle earth is still a dangerous place that could easily tip into chaos and become instead our tomb as a species.
We are used to facing the impossible and triumphing despite the odds. Our frail bodies are vulnerable, as Shakespeare put it: ‘to all the ills that flesh is ere to.’ but we now have the biological research tools to overcome such minor difficulties if we strive to achieve our goals. The genome is mapped with every sequence known. The possibilities to evolve as a super -race (meaning killer disease and genetically inherited disease-free) may be our best defence against the rigours of interplanetary-travel. I predict that within fifty to one-hundred years the medical curses of inherited conditions such as Huntington’s Chorea and Type 1 diabetes or Haemophilia will be things of the past. Plagues and pestilence will be controlled and eradicated – just as Small Pox was. Provided we can contain the super-bugs brought about by over use of the antibiotics which bred them.
The only monument we can build to all the past genius of Mozart or Shakespeare or Einstein
is to continue our race’s big adventure and eventually succeed in building Jerusalem at the end of the known (or even unknown) universe.
If we are alone in the universe then these discoveries and achievements which would sustain any life anywhere in the cosmos have become imperatives in themselves and must not be allowed to perish.
I for one do not want such great medical expertise; artistic wit and wisdom discovered and created by the human race to perish from the universe in the flames of indolence. We must press on to bigger and bolder achievements made through discoveries and our own ingenuity because this defines our race. Our ancestors battled ignorance; climate and sickness to get to where we are now.
That super-tool of super-tools, the human brain and developing intelligence, will take us to where ever we want to go.
Other inevitabilities spring to mind which will compel our explorations in the coming centuries.
Overpopulation of the planet will prompt an irreversible dwindling of precious finite resources
Pollution levels will also tip the world’s ecosphere into irreversible decline
Cosmic debris is destined to strike the earth at some point, as it has done so many times in the past
with possible catastrophic consequences
The earth will eventually be consumed by our own sun as it devolves into a red giant caused by depletion of its own finite resources of hydrogen. These are but the immutable laws of cosmic physics.
The wonders of exploration and discovery
Mankind has always been a race of explorers. When the first erect homo-sapiens walked out of Africa roughly two million years ago to explore and populate the world, that was the beginning of our first big adventure as a species.
That terrifying leap into the unknown has brought us copious bounties such as: civilization, agriculture; Information Technology, Machine Automation, Artificial Intelligence PC’s Medicines, Telescopes, Jet & Rocket propulsion, atomic power; – the list is endless and growing by items daily.
These are the foundation blocks we need to take us to the next stage of development:
Exploration and conquest of the solar system; and then the universe. By conquest that does not mean by dreams of avarice but by endeavour because of an overwhelming sense of curiosity.
To colonize our neighbours such as the moon and Mars and beyond.
The only worthwhile triumph or reward must be in the achievement of these great tasks
To paraphrase the old adage: it is better to travel than to arrive.
We can only travel in hope across the Universe rather than in anticipation of a safe arrival.
© Chris Owen