Translation : Constance Cottus Author : Emmanuel Azencot Creation : Wed Apr 22 00:00:30 CEST 2009 Update: Tue Jan 12 21:34:14 CET 2016
When I heard for the first time the writer develop his theories, I admit not having fully grasped what he wanted me to understand. But, while reading them again, and after having taken time for reflection, it all appeared ... more than interesting. I am not a mathematician, far from it, however, something struck me in this reasoning. It starts with a fact of which we are all aware: globalization and the resulting problems : pollution, shrinking of planet's resources and, to a more or less long term, destruction and death of our civilization. But the reasoning followed by the author of these lines goes beyond this simple observation and leads us to deeper reflection. Thus, after having witness the twentieth century excesses, we come to the idea of conquering space.
However, conceive of the interstellar travel is also a glimpse to the future and a bet on the very long term, the next three hundred years. This conception is opposed to human way of thinking, the one we have when we project ourselves into the future. Indeed, who project himself on more than 50 years ? That is how Emmanuel question us not only about ourselves but also about our habits of thought and of living. Are we going manage to conceive a distant future, to make efforts in our life so that in the distant future, human civilization continues to exist? It has not been the case of the Easter Island civilization which totally disappeared from our Planet. We must renew our values and undertake a real fight against ourselves. This text is much more visionary and revolutionary than it sounds I invite you to read it. Beware, aliens await you to the bends of these lines ...
From the insignificant, man, the Earth and its problems, to the infinitely large, galaxies and the universe, or how the infinitely large can "save" us from the waste of resources and from endless conflicts to which we witness helpless since long That is our problem.
To fully understand, it It is necessary to give up to generally accepted ideas and to project into the future in order to become aware of our limits and our possibilities. In these fields, the results of the scientific research and from mathematics can bring answers, whether on our situation or on how to ensure a future as a species.
Among the options, the big challenges are, as such, landmarks which help to project us into the future. A challenge which, in particular, would allow us to escape the finitude of our world and perhaps to our end, could be the interstellar trip.
Katrin and Emmanuel.
At the beginning of this millennium we are witnessing, for the first time, an unprecedented phenomenon called "globalization". This expression bears in itself the new perception we have of our environment It means it is explored, it is closed and bounded. This sensation of finiteness has greatly accelerated in recent years, as massive airline transport was being set up and while Internet has emerged.
The finitude of the world raises the question of the available resources sharing which gives the worrying sensation that enormous blocks, up to now separate will enter in competition for their sharing and that the strongest will win the lion's share More reasonably, it is very likely that we will fall into the trap of the "Tragedy of the commons", leading to a rapid depletion of those, to everyone's detriment.
Through the greenhouse effect, everyone can feel that the world is small enough so that man can change its climate. It is also large enough to make very difficult the effective control of greenhouse gas emissions which compound the situation.
Know that whatever the human group, the individual has no interest to cease its polluting activities. If you are not convinced, sell your car and use common transport. If you manage to make this sacrifice in the real life, you will be treated by your friends as an idiot and as an idealistic. You now have an idea of the difficulty of controlling greenhouse gases emission, and this is only one of the many environmental issues we will have to face in the near future.
"Tragedy of the commons" explained in Wiki.
"The Tragedy of the Commons", original by Garrett Hardin, 1968.
A few years ago archaeologists have finally unraveled the mystery of Easter Island. What they found is chilling. It's simply the fate of a human colony located in a closed environment. After some 600 years of island occupation, resource degradation, which we consider to be renewable, was such that they have ceased to be, causing a gradual biotope impoverishment and which caused the sharp fall of the system, without hope of rebuilding on the ashes nor to leave the island because all the trees had been cut.
More recently, the installation on New Zealand island is not more reassuring about the ability of humans to preserve its resources when it is in community, which is always the case. Soon after installation, the newcomers have discovered a species of bird, the Moa, which combined all sort of disabilities. Tall as an ostrich, clumsy, not very wild, and ground-nesting, it was a perfect victim. At the height of the massacre, the remains of mass graves show that only parts of the bird were consumed, the tastiest and most tender pieces, the rest being left on the carcass.
Without doubt, the newcomers had they developed a culinary arts around the animal and a habit had been made to eat only the best bits. Of course, this exploitation could not last for long. After, came hunger and war. This probably explains why the Maori culture is as warlike.
"Easter Island", in wiki.
"The Polynesian Settlement of New Zealand in Relation to Environmental and Biotic Changes", M. S McGlone
At present, these experiences increase the disturbing lighting that we perceive on Globalization's phenomena. The sensation that we occupy a finite World comes with the problem of the resource's control, which are undoubtedly finite too.
Individually, our concern on the subject is limited by confidence we have in the community to find solutions to these problems. Many people will tell you that the community will always find a solution to all problems.
But when we examine the problem on a planetary level, it's not the case. The resources our planet can offers is limited and can and may definitely disappear, even if they are told renewable. Maybe we will be able to solve some problems such as the energy with the nuclear fusion, but will we be able to handle living specie's disappearing, or to pollution on a big scale ?
On some subjects, the future lies in a race against time. On one hand, we face population's growth and it's living standards; on the other hand, we face resource's disappearing, which are both obstacles to the system's proper functioning. It is feared that humanity will eventually exhaust itself out and that civilization as we know it collapses. Our descendants we will leave on the planet, will no longer be able to start a new cycle of civilization before very long because we will have by then squandered all the resources that are needed to rebuild.
Paradoxically each of us is conscious of the enormous potential we behold throughout Humanity's unification in one community, and it's annoying to think that we are able of putting a miserable end to it, only because of misunderstandings. Unfortunately, once again, we know that unity is extremely hard to achieve. Our political and world field experience shows that agreement and harmony is nothing but an ideal.
In real life, arguments, personnel interests and the fight for power are considered to be normal. When things start to get serious, as in when it comes to our comfort, defiance and selfishness always reappear.
Many are those who believe that this reaction doesn't comes from man itself but from society, which generates this kind of conflict. This debate has recently been fed by new mathematics results. First of all comes the Prisoners' Dilemma, then the Game theory, show that defiance and cheating are, in general, the best tricks.
Worse, Arrow's theorem shows that in the absence of a dictator, there is no simple solution for a collective to democratically decide its fate. When we examine the forms of the most "evolved" democracies with their presidents and chambers, we can observe that mankind has found a workaround to this nature's harsh limit, rather than merely falling into sterile power struggles.
Even if the collective organization is not perfect, and even if it is indeed the cause of tensions among its members, it is yet a functional solution to this very sharp problem, still unknown at the time it was invented. Humanity can thus find sensible collective solutions that enable its own organization. Which leads us to think that it could be applicable to Worldwide extent.
The prisoner's dilemma, wiki
Arrow's impossibility theorem,wiki
One method that has proven to be efficient when it comes to unify the collective is to make it share an idea, an aspiration, a dream, an escape, a goal and a guide to follow that will force every members to make sacrifices.
The experience of religions, from this point of view, is of major interest. They managed to gather huge masses around a few shared ideas. The force of ideas is tremendous and allows adhesion of huge crowds.
Such an objective must first be part of a mankind project so as people can approve it and join it. In this regard, it must fall within the scope of the "natural" development of mankind. It also must be be far enough in time for the group to think in terms of centuries rather than in terms of decades. Indeed, when discussing the future, the horizon rarely exceeds 50 years. At this scale, very few environmental problems can be can be taken into consideration. One can hardly see the need to educate young people ...
In my opinion, engaging ourselves in the study of interstellar travel now would increase significantly the chances to avoid a miserable fate for our children.
Yes , Why did we went to to explore the world on oceants ? Why do men have spread all over the planet ? Because it is our destiny to always go further It is often driven, among others by deteriorated life conditions, overcrowding or conflicts. Our curiosity to go beyond our limits is innate and encered in our psychology since it has always given positive results.
At the very begining of my studies, I was tought that this travel was impossible to achieve, simply because that travel would last too long. The nearest star is 4,22 light years away, which means the distance that light covers (300.000 km/s) on a four or more year scale. In comparison, the sun at at about 500 light seconds away from the Earth.
To make it simple, a spacial craft has only one way to move through space: it must ejects mass coming from the spaceship itself in the opposite direction where wants to go. The problem is that this mass coming from the spaceship must be entierly boarded at the start off. The yield is improved by increasing the ejection's rapidity. But the constraint is strong enough for the spaceship's maximal speed to be inssuficient in order to reach it's goal in a reasonnable timing. All this is based on the fact that Space is "Empty" and that we can't get any mass out of it. This is is completely wrong.
The galactic emptiness is, as a matter of fact, far from being empty. It contains about 0.1 particles per cm3. Actually, it's so full of these particles that it becomes a real preoccupation for the Travel to Mars, because they constitute an ionising ray that reveals itself to be dangerous for our human cells. Most of these particles are ionised, which means that they are electrically charged.
Therefore, it's possible to attract them with an electric field, and guide them towards a magnetic field and then be used for propelling. Of course, the production of powerful enough fields for a trip that would, for the travellers, last only ten years, isn't ready to be achieved yet.
Nontheless, do remember that the possibility to pervail mass in the intersideral world radically changes the energy basis for that travel, that theoritically becomes possible. And that is in a relative short time (in terrestrial time it stays superior to 1 year per light years).
In the actual state of our knowledge, the interstellar travel cumulates such difficulties that it probably will not be applicable before the next 300 years. It barely even is studied because these difficulties. One has to know that even nowadays, sending a man on the moon is a real struggle. As for Mars, it is only to happen in about 30 years. Then, what is the use of studying this even further trip you may wonder ? Simply because it's far.
If we have a common project, that would be applied in 300 years from now, the collectives will add a constraint to maintain a society capable of making great research efforts during all these centuries. It may seem very innocuous, but when you look through it deeply, it is actually very structural.
When you hear a politician give a speech, or hear a companies' perspectives, they never go beyond 50 years. Which means that their choices only concern this period of time. Truth is that usually the politicians never see beyond the next elections, and a company beyond the next balance sheet. Beside, when things turn bad, the conjuncture often come to their help, and since they have done like everybody else, they are out of danger.
For the time being, our planet's resources are being exploited so fast that it is not compatible with the idea of maintaining our civilization, as it is known, within this timing. Adding to this the fact that in 20 years from now we will be 12 billions Human Beings on Earth, you can easily imagine that in 300 years from now we will scarcely be a bunch of savages left on a desertified planet.
Our goal comes with the preoccupation of long lasting resources's managing, taking into account the short term exploitation, which is naturally claimed by the economic actors. It comes with such a preoccupation because the first condition to obtain it is for our planet to last.
Have you ever noticed that everything something new is achieved, no matter the obstacles, that same experience is quickly reproduced elsewhere, even without transmitting the knowledge to the second party that will executes the experience. For instance, when it comes to the Atomic Bomb, little have been the exchanges and transfers of its technology between the first Los Alamos Team and the rest of the world. Yet, many are the countries that have rapidly acquired the same results. This is because the goal and it's interest being known, researches towards that same goal have been led. The simple information that the A bomb was effective had an importance.
From this information, the collectives have a goal to achieve and start to reach it. In the opposite situation where we do not know what we are looking for, things obviously get a lot more difficult. How to find something we do not know it can exists ?
One thing is for sure : those who do not know where to go are doomed to roam.
In our society, the value's scale has insidiously moved towards earning money as fast as possible, very often to the loss of others, such as artists who have for only credit their down-fall's exhibition, or, perhaps, their participation to some big Production factory's cating. What can we expect from people to whom we praise easy money earning and glory for a day ?
As soon as a collective has a goal to achieve, we can observe a drastic change on the value's scale, that goes towards individuals's unity, in the march towards that same ideal. If we take for extreme example a battle field, without ever having been there, I am sure that personal wealth or the last brand's snicker will not be part of the scale of values to which the slaughter's participating people would think of.
While we were bathing in technology, many doubted about the use of mathematics and scientific research in general. Without mentioning the main goals to be reached, big projects mostly always generated unexpected repercussions. For example, the interauts would not exist if the HTTP protocol and the HTML language had not been invented.
It was invented by the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), near Geneva. In charge of the elementary particle's collision study, this laboratory conceived the biggest measure instruments ever built by men (12000 tons for the LEP's Collision Chamber). The web was invented so as to consult the outnumbered quantity of documents necessary to these projects.
Everything that you use as an object was once invented in total, general indifference, when no one needed it. Electricity, printing machine, zero, money, wheel, clothes, fire ...
Once the goal achieved, the conditions that made it necessary disappear. Indeed, at this state, Humanity will not be in enclosed world anymore, for it will once again render itself to plagiarism, disorder, with all its soul, on other planets, until it clashes with new limits ...
More and more, the existence of extraterrestrial life imposes itself to community, incuding scientific. That merely starts with the simple observation that we exist. And if we assume that we have been imported, it is clear we are not alone. Assuming that life would have appeared spontaneously on earth, which is the most likely scenario, the study of old rocks showed that it appeared 3.5 billion years ago. Since Earth formation is dated to 4 billion years, it means that life began 500 million years under conditions that we qualify as appalling. At that time the temperature was likely 70 degrees Celsius and there was no oxygen in the atmosphere. Back
Might as well say that it was not long for life to appear and that the scenery was barely dry when the first players started the big show.
Given the size of the galaxy (10 billion solar masses, for 100 million light years in diameter), the number of planets in the same situation that the Earth isenormous. Therefore it is difficult to believe that none is alive. Among them, there are likely intelligent species.
From there on, our historical experience of civilizations clashs is very clear, it is better to be the traveler that visited, and by far...
Drake equation, Wiky
Fermi paradox, Wiky