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Are we designing the planet for us?

Posted By Administration, Monday, December 17, 2018
Updated: Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Maggie Greyson, a member of our Emerging Fellows program inspects the future of living on Earth in her fifth post. The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the APF or its other members.

Dr. Yvonne Cagle imagines life on Mars and the voyage there. She works with four young people who are living in an isolated Mars-like site in the Hawai’i Space Exploration Analog and Simulation habitat. She plays an important role in the NASA study to keep astronauts well-nourished during these one-way missions.

Over 200,000 people volunteered to colonize Mars. What are their assumptions about life on the Red Planet? All but one hundred individuals have already been rejected based on key traits. Who designed the criteria and what did it emphasize; merit-based, biological selection, intellectual or emotional intelligence? What influence will the chosen Mars 100 have on existing narratives about “the perfect human” or “perfect team”?

The global space industry is building a new world from the red ground up. Their assumptions are limited by their own experience so they engage in world-designing exercises. The heroes in these worlds represent those most likely to succeed based on criteria designed by a group of experts. Who has this decision making power, and what assumptions do these world builders have about human ability?

Earth is a planet that we know very little about, but humans are always updating or developing new theories. Multiple truths can exist at once. Anthropologists, geologists, biologists, artists, engineers, AI programmers, healthcare workers, artists, and economists, to name a few, are building prototypes and mental models of our complex world and its governing systems. Critics in other disciplines try to debunk these theories as myths and propose new fictions that are truths from their perspective, and so the narrative keeps evolving.

Many of our expectations of life on Mars will be incorrect because we lack the capacity to imagine all the possibilities. The vision of life on Mars will intensify and the design team responsible for the astronauts will make some tough choices. We will learn from the process of designing the ideal society for Mars. Could we use a framework to critique our life on Earth by the same standards? What do these expectations of a better life on a new planet tell us about what we really want from life on earth?

Two-hundred thousand individuals would commit to a one-way trip to a resource-starved planet. What are the avenues for people who have been denied extra-terrestrial travel to express themselves and change what they see as lacking on Earth? Instead of feeling “left behind” will they prepare a new narrative? Perhaps a future of nutritional abundance? They have a spark in common with each other and the ear of the media because of their unique interest. Perhaps they may create the countercultural narratives making Earth the “perfect world”. That kind of rhetoric is infectious and social movements are built in this way.

© Maggie Greyson 2018

Tags:  Earth  living  world 

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