Sunday, 17 November 2013
A Certain Hunger?
- Poul Anderson, Is There Life On Other Worlds? (New York, 1963), p. 165.
Do we? How many people on Earth want either to cross interstellar distances or to be alive when others do? Many struggle for existence on Earth. Others hope for a fulfilled life here. For those who are interested in the exploration of the Solar System, it will be a very long time before it becomes familiar. Anderson wrote this book at a time when the US was racing to the Moon, although, as he says in Thermonuclear Warfare, this was more for the development of rocket and computer technology than for interplanetary exploration. But interplanetary exploration was part of the popular image of why they were doing it.
At the end of the preceding chapter, Anderson presents this rationale for interstellar travel:
"Machine civilization, irresistably powerful, spreads across Earth and devours all others...We see before us the specter of a planet-wide empire...as rigid as Pharaonic Egypt...the individual may have numerous liberties. But if there is nothing he can do with it, his freedom is empty. Already today we feel the first gnawings of that millennial hollowness. Yet we move on toward the empire, for our alternative is to renounce the machine.
"The newness that is our salvation may come from the stars." (p. 164)
Nothing he can do with it? We can life live to the full on Earth with some exploration of the Solar System even if the first interstellar travel is a long way in the future. Instead of renouncing technology, we can use it to make this world fitter for humanity.
I am for the exploration of the universe but do not see the interstellar question in such apocalyptic terms.