Life On a Spaceship - The Future of Mankind

Over the past hundred thousand years cultural innovation has changed the lifestyle of humans dramatically. The advent of agriculture ten thousand years ago and the invention of a written language moved humans to move away from a nomadic hunter-forager lifestyle and toward more permanent and centralized settlement patterns.

More recently in the 18th century the invention of the steam engine and mining of coal allowed humans to a higher quality of life. The invention of the first computer system in 1946 allowed humans to share information at an accelerated rate, leading to the current globalized world we live in today. In today’s hyper-connected world we can communicate with millions of people via the internet in a day, while ten thousand years ago humans likely only interacted with about 500 people over the course of a lifetime.

New technological innovation has also affected the perspective of ourselves and place in the universe. To prehistoric societies, the Earth likely seemed infinite, and the sun moved over the Earth. During the enlightenment Copernicus’ theory showed that we were not the center of the solar system, shifting humankind’s view of itself. The first photograph of Earth from space would irrevocably solidify the idea of a finite and limited world we live in. How would our perspective change if we were to go to space? This question is one often explored by science fiction, in the worlds of Star Wars, Star Trek and Dune with different outcomes.

It is likely that human culture and beliefs would change dramatically if generations were to pass onboard a spaceship. On spaceships, humans would have to grow food under artificial lights and would be in constant contact with other humans since they would not be able to just go outside. I imagine that this spaceship of the future would be designed using principles of biomimicry, in order to simulate conditions that humans evolved under. This would include periods of “daylight” and low lighting at “night” to encourage a normal circadian rhythm for the spaceship occupants.

It is possible that people may experience an illness known as “earthsickness” where people will long for the green hills of Earth, causing the person affected to be willing to do anything to get back to the ground. Those that grow up on a spaceship may be less likely to be earthsick and may instead develop a love for the sights of distant galaxies, nebulae, and Earth-like planets.

Societal norms will become more exacting as resources such as oxygen, energy, and food become more obviously finite, while reproduction rates will likely be carefully-planned by community onboard in order to plan for future resource demands that will result. Certain professions such as medical professionals, growers, and engineers will be needed onboard all spaceships.

New professions might be psychiatrists specializing in earthsickness, spaceship captains, spaceship repairmen, and diplomat representing Earth government who is able to mediate group conflict onboard. These spaceships would likely travel between Earth and some meteoroid or terrestrial planet where they can replenish their supplies. Possibly, the spaceships will be self-sufficient, getting their energy from the sun or some other clean energy source, such the quantum particle realm.

Whatever happens with space travel, humans will always have many of the issues and questions as they do now. I do not think that culture, spiritual belief or seeking for something greater than us will ever leave the human species, although space will expand our collective imagination for all these things.

My hope is that even as technology becomes more apparent all around us and we have the choice to regress back to a child-like state we will understand the underlying biological systems that intertwine and underlie all the universe’s life force, that we will choose the harder path, that we will choose to revere the ancient and wise biological systems over our more recent self-serving inventions. This choice will retain our dignity as a species and serve as a roadmap for the future.