Ever since I read Gerard K. O’Neill’s The High Frontier (link is to my review when I re-read the book in 2013) in the 1970s, it has been obvious to me that the medium-term human destiny is to expand from using resources on the surface of Earth to exploit the abundant resources of the solar system, where more than 99% of the matter and energy are available for the taking and the constraints of a closed ecosystem do not exist. There were technological barriers to overcome in order to get from here to there, but none of them required technologies we didn’t already understand or investments greater than were regularly squandered on futile wars or counterproductive social programmes.
I thought, “All it would take is a wealthy individual who gets it and is willing to stake their personal fortune on a human destiny which is optimistic and open-ended, as opposed to the claustrophobic vision of the slavers who see future generations confined on one planet, increasingly under the control of masters who worship at the altar of ‘sustainability’ ”. The amount of money required to bootstrap this future would be in the round-off of the government budget of a medium-sized industrialised country, but you don’t get vision from coercive government—just control and keeping everybody in their place.
What if I told you that the richest man in the world, Jeff Bezos, completely gets it, and is devoting a substantial amount of his fortune to taking the incremental steps toward a future in which a trillion humans (and probably post-humans, but he hasn’t gone there yet—patience) inhabit the solar system and laugh at things like the “age of limits”, “sustainability”, “green new deals”, and landscapes covered by unsightly bird shredders. Further, his projects, years in the making, are meeting their goals and progressing toward the next ones.
This would be pretty big news, right? I mean, we’re talking about what is potentially the greatest change in the way humans live and the aspiration of our species since the invention of agriculture. But you won’t find it making the headlines it merits, except here.
Here the presentation by Jeff Bezos on 2019-05-09, laying out his vision for the human expansion beyond Earth and how work underway at his company, Blue Origin, is patiently building the infrastructure for the next few steps toward this vision.