To Humbly Go: Guarding Against Perpetuating Models of Colonization in the 100-Year Starship Study

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W. R. Kramer (2014), JBIS, 67, pp.180-186

Refcode: 2014.67.180
Keywords: 100 Year Starship, Mythology, Frontier, Outer space, Colonialism, Extraterrestrial, Alternative futures

Past patterns of exploration, colonization and exploitation on Earth continue to provide the predominant paradigms that guide many space programs. Any project of crewed space exploration, especially of the magnitude envisioned by the 100-Year Starship Study, must guard against the hubris that may emerge among planners, crew, and others associated with the project, including those industries and bureaucracies that will emerge from the effort. Maintaining a non-exploitative approach may be difficult in consideration of the century of preparatory research and development and the likely multigenerational nature of the voyage itself. Starting now with mission dreamers and planners, the purpose of the voyage must be cast as one of respectful learning and humble discovery, not of conquest (either actual or metaphorical) or other inappropriate models, including military. At a minimum, the Study must actively build non-violence into the voyaging culture it is beginning to create today. References to exploitive colonization, conquest, destiny and other terms from especially American frontier mythology, while tempting in their propagandizing power, should be avoided as they limit creative thinking about alternative possible futures. Future voyagers must strive to adapt to new environments wherever possible and be assimilated by new worlds both biologically and behaviorally rather than to rely on attempts to recreate the Earth they have left. Adaptation should be strongly considered over terraforming. This paper provides an overview of previous work linking the language of colonization to space programs and challenges the extension of the myth of the American frontier to the Starship Study. It argues that such metaphors would be counter-productive at best and have the potential to doom long-term success and survival by planting seeds of social decay and self-destruction. Cautions and recommendations are suggested.


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