Thursday, May 6, 2010

Humankind in space, a vision of a man, and the hopes of a species

I just finished reading Pale Blue Dot, a vision of the human future in space, written by Carl Sagan. Right now Sagan is kind of a hero of mine, he's a huge source of inspiration, and I love the way he walks you through mathematical, astronomical and biological issues to show you the shortcomings and potential of this species called humans, in relation of spacefaring and exploration of new worlds.

Right now, I believe we're amidst a crucial moment in our history, as Sagan writes in this book and many others. We have the technology, the science and the power to change so many things for better, and yet the same tools can be used to completely wipe us out of the face of the Earth. It is up to us as a collective consciousness, to "wise up" and not destroy ourselves, to leave aside petty greed and lack of long term planning. But would that ever happen? Humans are clearly known for repeating the same mistakes over and over through history. Will we ever learn? It makes me think that the key for us as a species to actually get out and explore/colonize other planets is not only technology, but surviving ourselves.

It is also interesting to think about the subject of other intelligent beings out there in space. I'm a 100% sure they do exist. I refuse to believe we're the one and only intelligent (and I also question that) species in this vast universe. There are millions of stars in this galaxy, and there are millions of other galaxies. A lot of that large number of stars have planets around them. Why only us? it doesn't seem logic.

But leaving that aside, and assuming they do exist, and they're more advanced technologically than us, if they found us without us knowing, what would they do? Some days ago I was watching Larry King on CNN, and Stephen Hawking was there, talking about this same subject, together with several other specialists in astronomy (Mishio Kaku was there too, a theoretical physicist that I also like very much because of his ways to approach "common" people into science). He suggested that we should be careful about approaching other intelligent beings, because they might actually be a threat to us. Although I don't intend to fall in the naive view of that extraterrestrial beings will come here offering us peace and love, I also don't buy the idea of them coming to Earth, kill us all and take our resources. That's so, SO, human to do. WE do that. WE are very well known to have done that in the past, in the present and possibly in the future. Other beings might not. The Earth doesn't offer any resource besides biological life, that other planets with no population might have. Isn't it much better to go somewhere else and NOT deal with earthling natives for resources? I feel that's a much easier and logical way to do it. Or if they discover us, and they just feel like studying us, they really don't need to meddle with earthly affairs. We might not even find out they're around.

Or on a third scenario, they might just take one look at us, and conclude we're so backwards and messed up as species, that they'll just leave us alone and go other ways. Right now, the only threat we pose to others is to ourselves. If extraterrestrial beings can travel through space and actually get here, then they're way more advanced than us. What are we to them? Probably nothing. Probably just a funny thing to watch, like a space soup opera, waiting to see if the drama kill us all or we redeem ourselves.

There are many other issues mentioned in this book, and I don't feel like writing an essay, but I suggest anybody with a little sense of adventure, thirst of knowledge and imagination, should pick up this book and read it.

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