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Saturday, December 20, 2014

Expanding into space requires human risks

Editor,

A creeping sensation of inevitable failure follows every conversation about space. We’ve been to the moon. We’ve sent multiple complex systems to Mars. Obviously, we sent the wrong thing, because we’re not there. Every effort to establish a sustainable system outside our planet has failed.

That’s because man has failed at designing a single system built to replicate since its inception. Humankind has been relying on the natural pace of evolution to provide us answers to the failures of our own human-designed systems, and we wonder why we feel dumb and slow to evolve.

Until recently, evolution was a demonic concept.

Further still, many believe replication to exist only in the domain of organic life; however, some of the most powerful artificial intelligences are being built by competitive allocation of resources to replicating systems. Replicative expansion is the only model we know. Grow to fill the space around us.

After that, then what?

Our efforts in space were all constructed under the assumption that the foundation system, us on Earth, would somehow evolve to live where we’ve poked about. It’s a bit like saying we’ll have cities in the sky if we build a bigger Six Flags. If we can build bigger, more efficient engines, people can live on floating cities. Yadda yadda yadda. Nonsense. Why worry about the details when you’re already doomed to fail?

Every system, every company, every man-made architecture building our ‘real’ world uses the directive “grow” instead of “replicate.” So, somehow, we’re supposed to grow into space.

Nonsense. Make space grow to us. That’s the power of humanity: to eclipse the natural pace of evolution.

So, how does NASA get us to space? How does Virgin Galactic get its space hub on the moon? It’s so simple and so arduous it hurts.

Build a system designed to replicate on the moon. Obviously, adaptive learning machines capable of manual labor which also happen to be auto catalytic (self-replicating) should be included. That would be humans. They must also be self-replicating enough for birth rate to beat death rate, which will be high.

We must face the absurd assumption that no one would, should or could build a home on the moon tomorrow. We must allow for that fact that among the billions on earth, there would easily be enough adventurers and craftsmen to start the first city.

We know how to build AI architectures that can handle smelting, concentrating solar energy and harvesting heat from thorium reactors. We know how to build caves that can withstand earthquakes. We know how to build atriums. We know how to bring all the supplies for the first colony to space. We know how to get them to the moon.

If we package a successful, replicating system, no matter how much it ‘costs,’ we never need to send another dime, just more people as labor demand outstrips birthing potential.

So who cares how much it costs? Stop sending all these pansy missions and get to the part where we really make progress. Build a seed and plant it. Stop pussyfooting around and get in the game.

We can build replicative architectures. We can populate and guide their evolution. We can do that on the moon next year if we want. Everything else, without us pushing replication as the number one directive, is moot.

Vincent Brandon
UNM student