• Unseen
    120
    The nearest star is Alpha Centauri and given current technology going there would take 100 years. And it's fairly certain that AC has no habitable Earth-like planet. So, a trip to a star with a habitable planet might take many hundreds, a thousand, or thousands of years.

    For the sake of argument, let's assume that the technology, often depicted in sci fi movies of cryo-sleep never got worked out, so that those on the mission will be conscious the whole time, just as they would be on Earth.

    In the described situation, generations of humans will live out their lives in the service of the mission. They will never know what it's really like to experience life on Earth. A European vacation? Not possible. A world cruise? Not possible. Hiking the Appalacian Trail? Not possible. Being able to choose a mate from among all the potential mates on the planet? Also not possible.

    The question is this: Are these people who, after the first generation, are no longer volunteers kidnap victims? Prisoners?

    Is there some way to do such an enterprise in a fully ethical manner?
  • BrianW
    773
    The question is this: Are these people who, after the first generation, are no longer volunteers kidnap victims? Prisoners?Unseen

    Are we kidnap victims or prisoners of our parents?
  • TogetherTurtle
    279
    In the described situation, generations of humans will live out their lives in the service of the mission. They will never know what it's really like to experience life on Earth. A European vacation? Not possible. A world cruise? Not possible. Hiking the Appalacian Trail? Not possible. Being able to choose a mate from among all the potential mates on the planet? Also not possible.Unseen

    If we can create automatic systems sufficient to not only create but maintain a ship large and complex enough to keep life support systems as well as all other systems operational for at least one hundred years, we can make computer simulations of the things you mentioned above. Even current VR technology, as crude as it may be, can do most of those things in a limited capacity. In fact, since we are investing in the future of humanity, I don't think it would be too much to think that the simulations would be better than the real thing. Probably easier to experience for the individual as well.

    As for not being able to choose a mate among the potential mates still back home, if this is a generational ship (which is what we are discussing) they will have plenty of mates to choose from onboard. Unless you are extremely tied up in superstition and faith, it should be easy to believe that you didn't leave your one true love behind on Earth.

    The question is this: Are these people who, after the first generation, are no longer volunteers kidnap victims? Prisoners?Unseen

    When colonists crossed the ocean to the Americas, and they had children, were those children prisoners? Of course, those children could travel elsewhere on the continent, or if they had the money, even travel back. However, these ships that take us to new stars will likely be massive. If you don't like your parents, just move to the next area over. Really, most people throughout history have had no choice of where they lived. Travel was either too expensive or not practical. Even today, the choices of your parents will always change the way you live even before you are thought of. No one (except for an antinatalist) is saying that your parents were unethical because they had to take a job in New York City and now you're forced to grow up there.

    Really, even if the colonists were exposed to horrible conditions, this is the future of humanity we're talking about. If one thing bad enough happens on our small corner of the universe, it's over. I think that even if it is horribly ethically wrong to send people on a journey like this, the ends justify the means to do it at least a few times.
  • Stephen Cook
    8
    The question is moot. We are not going anywhere.
  • Stephen Cook
    8
    Nuclear Fission is not powerful enough, nuclear fusion is always 50 years away and, besides, each of these have limitations due to the fuel needing to be carried aboard.

    Then there is the issue of speed and distances involved. To be able to travel such vast distances in ny kind of plausible way (I will expand in what I consider as "plausible" later), the speed would need to be a significant fraction of the speed of light. Putting aside the technical difficulties in achieving such speed given the above limited energy sources and consequent technologies, there is a deeper, more intractable problem and that is the fact that "empty" space, particularly for large bodies of matter travelling at high speeds, is not empty.

    In each cubic metre of space, there are, on average a few free floating, lone hydrogen atoms as well as other elements and larger, more complex, cosmic dust particles. For anything travelling at a tiny fraction of the speed of light, these particles may as well be assumed to be non existent in practical terms. But, for objects travelling at significant fractions of the speed of light they are anything but non existent. If we assume a large space craft travelling at a significant fraction of the speed of light, the issue of friction and build up of heat is going to be a problem.

    The only other viable system that has been conceptualized would be the Buzzard Ram jet whereby free hydrogen is harvested on route from the interstellar medium I alluded to above. This is still firmly in the realms of science fiction and there is no good reason to assume it will not remain there.

    To return, now, to the issue of what is a plausible time-span for travel to another world. If we are talking about a multi-generational time-span, the following issue arises: the spaceship would need a fully functioning, ecologically self contained and self sustaining living system whereby all waste products of life were recycled and returned to the system for reuse. Here, on earth, we have an entire planetary eco system devoted to that little task. In what realms of fantasy does anyone suppose it would be possible to create a fantastically miniaturized, version of the above - where all of the energy required for such a complex living system to exist and to renew and repair itself would have to be carried on board for the entire journey?

    There are other issues of plausibility, but I'll leave it at that one since it is quite insurmountable enough as it is. Put it this way, if humans were capable of devising a space vessel capable of the above, there would be little requirement to endure the arduous interstellar journey to the next star since humans could colonize empty space in our own solar system far more easily on the back of such technologies. But, even that is highly improbable.

    Our future is not in the stars. It is in the mud.
  • Stephen Cook
    8
    I just wrote you a full response, and it has since been deleted.
  • ssu
    1.4k
    Is there some way to do such an enterprise in a fully ethical manner?Unseen
    Of course! Send a droid.

    (Yeah, I know, this is a debate about ethics, but I couldn't resist to give the obvious answer.)
  • Frank Apisa
    896
    Stephen Cook
    2
    I just wrote you a full response, and it has since been deleted.
    Stephen Cook

    Ouch.

    That must have been one hell of a response.

    I'm interested in the "why."

    Can you clean up your response so as to make it acceptable to the mods?
  • Baden
    7.9k


    It wasn't deleted. It was a spam filter false positive and has been restored.
  • TogetherTurtle
    279
    Nuclear Fission is not powerful enough, nuclear fusion is always 50 years away and, besides, each of these have limitations due to the fuel needing to be carried aboard.Stephen Cook

    We don't need to carry any fuel on board, or at the very most much less than is needed to go the whole journey. Lasers pushing a craft forward eliminates the need for carrying fuel aboard the craft, and slowing down can be done by those particles in "empty space" you mentioned earlier. If the laser is now the concern, we already have a fusion reactor to power it. The sun should be sufficient and reliable enough to power such a device.

    Then there is the issue of speed and distances involved. To be able to travel such vast distances in ny kind of plausible way (I will expand in what I consider as "plausible" later), the speed would need to be a significant fraction of the speed of light.Stephen Cook

    To reach Alpha Centauri in 100 years, only 4.5% of the speed of light is required. This is nowhere close to our current speed record of 11.08 km/s, but NASA is currently working on an (admittedly tiny) craft that will go 20% of light speed powered by a similar laser method. I don't think it's too much of a stretch of the imagination that with a much larger laser we should be able to reach a fourth of that with a larger craft.

    In each cubic metre of space, there are, on average a few free floating, lone hydrogen atoms as well as other elements and larger, more complex, cosmic dust particles. For anything travelling at a tiny fraction of the speed of light, these particles may as well be assumed to be non existent in practical terms. But, for objects travelling at significant fractions of the speed of light they are anything but non existent. If we assume a large space craft travelling at a significant fraction of the speed of light, the issue of friction and build up of heat is going to be a problem.Stephen Cook

    Typically it is assumed that close to lightspeed vessels will have to be narrow and long to avoid this. However, even though that would work on the body of the craft, the sail that pushes the craft would need to be wider so that it is still pushed by the slowly scattering laser. The heat could be alleviated by going a bit slower, but the "sail" could be made of very heat resistant material. All that really matters is that the sail is light and heat resistance, so it could be made of any kind of material, and also very thin. I don't know how hot it would get, but we might have (admittedly rare) materials currently that could do the trick.

    The only other viable system that has been conceptualized would be the Buzzard Ram jet whereby free hydrogen is harvested on route from the interstellar medium I alluded to above. This is still firmly in the realms of science fiction and there is no good reason to assume it will not remain there.Stephen Cook

    I recall an upcoming test on a large prototype fusion reactor in France. Let's hope it does well. Even so, I think the reason it feels like it's taken so long to get fusion power is that we have so very few reactors to test on, and once they run a test, they're out of commission for a good while. I really think that scientists just need more toys to play with, and then something like this would be possible. Of course, those toys are very very expensive, and all of the money they could ever need is sitting in the Swiss bank accounts of oil tycoons. Go figure.

    To return, now, to the issue of what is a plausible time-span for travel to another world. If we are talking about a multi-generational time-span, the following issue arises: the spaceship would need a fully functioning, ecologically self contained and self sustaining living system whereby all waste products of life were recycled and returned to the system for reuse. Here, on earth, we have an entire planetary eco system devoted to that little task. In what realms of fantasy does anyone suppose it would be possible to create a fantastically miniaturized, version of the above - where all of the energy required for such a complex living system to exist and to renew and repair itself would have to be carried on board for the entire journey?Stephen Cook

    I think this could be accomplished with current knowledge. It's only a 100-200 year trek, so we don't need too much biodiversity. Energy to provide artificial sunlight could be provided by the laser from before. A hearty mix of man-made technological marvels and possibly genetically engineered flora and fauna would be necessary, but the latter is already done today and the prior is more a matter of building big.

    I think more research into various ecosystems is required though. I think we know enough to say we can do it, but not enough to say exactly how.

    There are other issues of plausibility, but I'll leave it at that one since it is quite insurmountable enough as it is. Put it this way, if humans were capable of devising a space vessel capable of the above, there would be little requirement to endure the arduous interstellar journey to the next star since humans could colonize empty space in our own solar system far more easily on the back of such technologies. But, even that is highly improbable.Stephen Cook

    This I agree with to an extent. thorough colonization of our solar system would not only be required for interstellar travel but also more efficient anyway. However, when we need more resources to build solar collectors but we don't want to disassemble Earth (or any other planets, likely Mercury first), or if we don't want to blot out our own star with a Dyson Swarm or if we wish to keep our system relatively intact anyway, interstellar travel is a good idea.

    Our future is not in the stars. It is in the mud.Stephen Cook

    Our (near) future is not in the stars, it is in the mud.
  • Wayfarer
    7.6k
    I’m convinced that interstellar, or even inter-planetary, habitation is impossible due to unsurpassable physical constraints. The Voyager spaceships that we’re launched out our solar system would take tens of thousands of years to reach Alpha Centauri, not hundreds:

    In about 40,000 years, Voyager 1 will drift within 1.6 light-years (9.3 trillion miles) of AC+79 3888, a star in the constellation of Camelopardalis. In some 296,000 years, Voyager 2 will pass 4.3 light-years from Sirius, the brightest star in the sky. Hmm, 4.3 light-years. That's the distance between us and Alpha Centauri. ( source).

    We have one, and only one, spaceship that is capable of supporting life for hundreds of millions of years. We’re on it, and have to look after it; there’s no ‘planet b’.
  • Unseen
    120
    The question is moot. We are not going anywhere.Stephen Cook

    This is not a discussion of whether interstellar travel is possible. Why not do something constructive like accepting the premise as a hypothetical?
  • Unseen
    120
    I'm politely asking everyone whose "contribution" is to poo-poo the entire idea of interstellar travel to go away. If you want to accept the premise of the OP and discuss the ETHICS, please stay. I, too, believe interstellar travel is unlikely bordering on impossible.

    I'm asking a "What if?" type of question. It involves accepting the premise. Please don't hijack the discussion to a different question that isn't even about ethics (this is the Ethics forum).
  • TheMadFool
    3.3k
    The children of such travelers didn't choose to be space voyagers. In addition they may lack the skills necessary for the mission and that would be a double jeopardy: the children would suffer for lack of fulfillment in their lives and the mission would fail.

    It's unethical for anyone to foist responsibilities on people (the children here) which they're unable to honor. Also, since the mission is likely to fail with so many disgruntled people it's also impractical.
  • Wayfarer
    7.6k
    Is there some way to do such an enterprise in a fully ethical manner?Unseen

    I see your point, and would be inclined to answer ‘no’. In effect these individuals would be born into servitude, with no say in the matter, and no choice but to continue.
  • noAxioms
    745
    The obvious solution is to let the trip take 100,000 years and the population rides as test tube embryos to be grown and raised by machines after they've terraformed the destination. That reduces the human component to not being in charge, probably ever. Servitude maybe, or maybe just zoo specimen.

    This is not a discussion of whether interstellar travel is possible. Why not do something constructive like accepting the premise as a hypothetical?Unseen
    OK, skip the practical solutions then. How is all these people spending their lives on a ship less ethical than imprisoning them on a planet? It's the environment they're born in, one good enough to live out a life. What's wrong with that? I don't see myself being issued a world cruise as apparently is my right, and certainly not a spaceship ride.
  • TogetherTurtle
    279
    I’m convinced that interstellar, or even inter-planetary, habitation is impossible due to unsurpassable physical constraints.Wayfarer

    Genetic augmentations and a good amount of training could easily solve a lot of dangerous problems and minimize what we have to protect against. I think it's safe to say that the people we send to space to stay won't be "homegrown" per se, but they will certainly be genetically human.

    We have one, and only one, spaceship that is capable of supporting life for hundreds of millions of years. We’re on it, and have to look after it; there’s no ‘planet b’.Wayfarer

    Personally, I believe we learned about what we might be doing to "planet a" too late. I don't blame my ancestors for wanting to live comfortable lives especially when they didn't know about any dire consequences. That isn't going to stop me from trying to both maintain and advance that standard of life for me and everyone else. Even if it means we have to leave "planet a" behind for a bit and then come back later when we can fix things.

    The Voyager spaceships that we’re launched out our solar system would take tens of thousands of years to reach Alpha Centauri, not hundreds:Wayfarer

    The Voyager crafts are both very old and very slow. They were also only meant to reach the outer edges of our solar system and take pictures, not colonize or even move very fast. I don't recall if we even know where they are anymore, but frankly, I don't think it matters. They did their job, had only the requirements for their job, and shouldn't be used as a benchmark for interstellar travel.
  • TogetherTurtle
    279
    The children of such travelers didn't choose to be space voyagers. In addition they may lack the skills necessary for the mission and that would be a double jeopardy: the children would suffer for lack of fulfillment in their lives and the mission would fail.TheMadFool

    Wouldn't the parents just teach them? Even if all of the adults onboard die in a horrible accident, wouldn't we still have onboard computers to teach people and if all else fails, books? In all reality, you should be able to do anything on a colony ship you can do on Earth. That includes teaching, playing sports, falling in love, etc. That sounds like a pretty fulfilling life to me, especially when all you have to do to contribute is have a few kids. Not everyone has to be an engineer, some are just there to populate.
  • TogetherTurtle
    279
    I see your point, and would be inclined to answer ‘no’. In effect these individuals would be born into servitude, with no say in the matter, and no choice but to continue.Wayfarer

    I honestly question if anyone isn't born into servitude. I also question if servitude is really as bad as they say. Take a very rich, very happy man for example. He was born into the upper class and lives on money his father invested. Why does he continue to live?

    If he is stupid, he will live for pleasure. He will be a slave to his desires, a slave to himself.

    If he is smart, he will start to look for a reason to live. If he has a good family and friends, perhaps he would find reason in that. In that case, he lives for others. His will bends to others. He is not free, then.

    If he has no friends or family, maybe he enjoys art or a certain subject. Just as the stupid version of this man, he will be a slave to his desire to learn, he can never truly be free.

    No one can ever or will ever be able to do anything at any time.

    Freedom, at least in what I see as the common definition, is the ability to act without constraint. You may have the freedom to do what you please, but that is not freedom in its deepest sense. If you wish to live, you wish to live for a reason. You are therefore obligated to do something because you want to live.

    I imagine that many people on a colony ship will live happy, full lives. Some will not. However, I think that making an argument that "some people won't be happy" isn't effective because they very likely would have been just as unhappy on Earth.

    To clarify, slavery is horrible. However, having nothing to do is almost as bad. I think it's clear that these people wouldn't be enslaved though. They also have things to do. It's the same happy medium as on Earth.
  • Unseen
    120
    OK, skip the practical solutions then. How is all these people spending their lives on a ship less ethical than imprisoning them on a planet? It's the environment they're born in, one good enough to live out a life. What's wrong with that? I don't see myself being issued a world cruise as apparently is my right, and certainly not a spaceship ride.noAxioms

    You're not imprisoned on Earth. Earth is your species' natural home. And no third party decided you or I were going to spend our meager existences on Earth. Except for those who are there at the end of the journey and, one hopes, find suitable digs, the generations of crews are born for one purpose only: to get that last bunch to the new Earth-like home. Their lives are being used, ;pure and simple. In order to keep the peace, they may not even be told that they are basically slaves. They may never be told about the home planet they left or even that their ship is on a mission. They may simply be led to think that being born and living on the ship is, well, natural. Just the way things have always been.
  • noAxioms
    745
    You're not imprisoned on Earth. Earth is your species' natural home.Unseen
    If we're propagating to the stars, then the galaxy is my species' natural home. My species' natural home is somewhere in Africa, and I have been kept away from there mostly from choices made by others.
    And no third party decided you or I were going to spend our meager existences on Earth.
    I'm of dutch decent and some third party (my parents) decided I was going to spend my meager existence on another continent. The kids will do fine on the ship, better than the volunteers that miss Earth they once knew. They'll be told stories of places they'll never see just like I'm told. I hope the people on the ship are kept busy. It would be pretty unethical for them to just be passengers the whole way. That's the zoo I was worried about.

    Except for those who are there at the end of the journey and, one hopes, find suitable digs, the generations of crews are born for one purpose only: to get that last bunch to the new Earth-like home.
    And the one purpose of that last bunch is the bunch that comes after them. It's my purpose here as well right now, so what's changed?

    Their lives are being used, ;pure and simple. In order to keep the peace, they may not even be told that they are basically slaves. They may never be told about the home planet they left or even that their ship is on a mission.
    You want this mission to not fail, but you're not going to tell the people why they're on the ship? Not a great way to go about it.
  • TheMadFool
    3.3k
    Wouldn't the parents just teach them? Even if all of the adults onboard die in a horrible accident, wouldn't we still have onboard computers to teach people and if all else fails, books? In all reality, you should be able to do anything on a colony ship you can do on Earth. That includes teaching, playing sports, falling in love, etc. That sounds like a pretty fulfilling life to me, especially when all you have to do to contribute is have a few kids. Not everyone has to be an engineer, some are just there to populate.TogetherTurtle

    We all know how teaching/education fails even at the most basic levels. Isn't the world's problems not attributable to our failure to educate everyone? People come in a variety of shapes and sizes, having different likes and dislikes, and this will be a severe disadvantage on a space mission which by definition will require a unified goal and thus a homogeneous population of astronauts.
  • Bitter Crank
    7.8k
    This is a sneaky anti-natalism thread, because the second generation of space travellers would face the same problem that everybody has faced on earth for a couple hundred thousand years. "I didn't ask to be born!" the angry teenager whines.

    Right. You didn't. You didn't exist yet, so you couldn't ask. Or refuse, either. That's life. Get used to it.
  • Brett
    550
    In the described situation, generations of humans will live out their lives in the service of the mission.Unseen

    Is this service a voluntary act? Is the first generation in the space craft serving a purpose for the sake of the future of mankind or seeking something better for themselves like the settlers of the mid west?

    I don’t imagine the following generation of the first settlers in the mid west felt they were slaves to an idea. However, if they heard that they had been used to perpetuate an idea from the past then they may consider it differently.
  • TogetherTurtle
    279
    We all know how teaching/education fails even at the most basic levels. Isn't the world's problems not attributable to our failure to educate everyone? People come in a variety of shapes and sizes, having different likes and dislikes, and this will be a severe disadvantage on a space mission which by definition will require a unified goal and thus a homogeneous population of astronauts.TheMadFool

    In a lot of countries, teaching/education fails very little. A colony ship would likely have the very best both in method and technology, so I don't see too many kids flunking out. Not that everyone needs to pass anyway since a majority of the people there would probably be there just to colonize, not necessarily maintain the ship. Also, I wouldn't attribute the world's problems to people not paying attention in school. Not even people with doctorates know how to make unlimited energy or stop natural disasters. I would say all of our problems are caused by the current limit of what we can teach, not necessarily people not learning.

    This ship will be these people's home for a good while, most likely their entire lives. Even if they wish to seek vengeance on the people who sent them, they will always have an interest in maintaining the ship, because they need it to survive.

    I think it very unlikely that the people would want to seek vengeance or even feel trapped at all. Realistic computer simulations and the biosphere required to maintain the life support systems should give an authentic Earth experience. Really, the only thing these people would be missing out on is potential poverty, natural disasters, and mundane sphere-bound existence.
  • Unseen
    120
    If we're propagating to the stars, then the galaxy is my species' natural home.noAxioms

    No, you're an invasive species. Unless, of course, Asian carp and house cats are native to the United States.

    I'm of dutch decent and some third party (my parents) decided I was going to spend my meager existence on another continent.noAxioms

    But the people on the spacecraft don't have the option of going back.

    And the one purpose of that last bunch is the bunch that comes after them. It's my purpose here as well right now, so what's changed?noAxioms

    The difference is that you know your situation, giving you the information you need to opt out to whatever degree possible. I think a space mission like the one described would have to keep the ultimate goal of the trip a secret to avoid rebellion.

    You want this mission to not fail, but you're not going to tell the people why they're on the ship? Not a great way to go about it.noAxioms

    Well, I'm not in control of the mission, but I think keeping them in the dark is going to be necessary to stem rebellion.
  • Unseen
    120
    ↪Unseen This is a sneaky anti-natalism thread, because the second generation of space travellers would face the same problem that everybody has faced on earth for a couple hundred thousand years. "I didn't ask to be born!" the angry teenager whines.

    Right. You didn't. You didn't exist yet, so you couldn't ask. Or refuse, either. That's life. Get used to it.
    Bitter Crank

    I don't know who you're quoting, but it isn't me. By being kept in the dark, they aren't even free to give an informed whine.
  • Unseen
    120
    Is this service a voluntary act? Is the first generation in the space craft serving a purpose for the sake of the future of mankind or seeking something better for themselves like the settlers of the mid west?

    I don’t imagine the following generation of the first settlers in the mid west felt they were slaves to an idea. However, if they heard that they had been used to perpetuate an idea from the past then they may consider it differently.
    Brett

    There is no parallel between the spacecraft as described people brought to The New World on ships because since ships can go in both directions, there was at least a theoretical possibility of returning.
  • Brett
    550


    You’re probably right, though sailing to the New World (I was actually thinking of the settlers who left the East Coast for the mid west) might have seemed like that back then.
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