According to the Environmental Protection Agency, Americans spend a paltry 1.68 hours per day outdoors. That means that the average American spends ninety-three percent of their time either indoors or in their cars cocooned in a climate controlled environment protected from the elements. Let’s face it; will life on a space colony really be that much different?
Most terrestrial jobs are indoors, and most people commute by car. If it’s a nice day, maybe you have lunch outside for a half hour. Maybe you take a run in the park, but you are just as likely to be on a treadmill indoors. Recreationally, you go to the movies, shop at the Mall, or attend a sports event at a domed arena—all indoor activities. And when the weather is inclement, you are likely to complain about walking the 50 yards to your car in the parking lot. Cities like Minneapolis and Houston have even built elaborate underground tunnels so that pedestrians can walk from one place to another without suffering the extreme temperatures such cities are known for.
Add to this the not-so-recent trend among young people to spend hours huddled around their computer gaming screens – hours that past generations spent outdoors.
Though some may call it a sad state of affairs, the truth is that being outside our climate-controlled environments is not really all that important to modern city dwellers. Certainly, spending time in nature is enjoyable to most, and has many therapeutic benefits. So, before I go any further, I want to encourage you to schedule a nature hike in the near future.
But, as unsettling as it may be to accept how much of our life is spent indoors, this is, in a very real sense, proof that humankind has already transitioned itself to a future existence in space. The view and the gravitation pull on a space settlement will be dramatically different from what we know, for certain. But the actual day-to-day living and working experience will not be much different from life in a big city.
To be clear, I am not speaking about the AXIOM prefab modular, the Bigelow blow-up habitat, or even the Ixion refurb. These are the Spartan interim space facilities suitable only for researchers, early tourists, and construction crews. I am talking about what comes next: the full-up space settlements that will house hundreds and then thousands and then millions of residents. Those structures will be built for the comfort of their inhabitants. And, as first envisioned in the 70’s by Dr. Gerard K. O’Neil, such space settlements can be large enough to provide all the creature comforts the developed world has come to take for granted. Therefore, the prospect of moving one’s family to such off-world homes will be no more anxiety-inducing than migrating to another continent.
And, as far as life on a space settlement is concerned, any sensation of feeling cramped should only be experienced by the earliest space settlers. As soon as we gain some experience building large structures in space, we will quickly want to build ever larger communities to the point where the common areas will be so vaulted, and climate so moderated, that settlers will have an “outdoor” experience, just as they would on Earth. This certainly will be the goal of future space architects.
I invite you to be very curious about the technological world in which we live and play, and how it is the very same world that we are about to replicate in other parts of the solar system. I don’t believe our preparedness to make the transition was an accident of nature. Rather, I believe the “Technium”–as Wired Magazinefounder Kevin Kelly calls our technical world–purposefully developed around us in just the predetermined way that it has enabled us to carry the seeds of life from this planet to other planetary shores.
Such an idea is a little hard to get your head around, I admit. This sheath of technology that has grown all around humankind is about to enable us to separate from this planet permanently. Like a seedpod separating from a tree. After some period of germination, whole new civilizations as vast as the one on Earth will take root and flourish on the Moon and Mars, and in turn those civilizations will generate new seedpods to spread life out even further.
This purposeful development of technology is encoded in the DNA of the universe, and is expressing in this moment and on this planet because the conditions here happen to be suited to it.
Our modern Darwinian brains have difficulty with the notion that our imminent transition to a multi-planet existence was a likelihood from the moment life first emerged on this planet four billion years ago. Mainstream science is wedded to a narrative that the unfolding of the universe was a result of series of magnificent accidents, culminating in the accidental emergence of life, and the blind series of natural selections that followed, leading to modern humans.
I assert that the universe and world we live in was no accident of time and physics, but that does not mean that we were created by the hand of God, either. Clearly, there is something deeply mysterious at play in the universe about which we can only theorize. I am only inviting you to be curious about the relationship between how our technological society has evolved around us, and that it might have done so for a very specific purpose.
Oddly enough–and in my mind purposefully so–we are a species well primed for life beyond Earth. And for all the people who say they could never leave this planet, there are millions who will go in a heartbeat. They are all that is needed to get this next great human adventure underway.
So let’s not worry too much that we live most of our life indoors in a technological cocoon. I believe it was always a condition we were meant to evolve into so that our transition to becoming citizens of space would be that much easier. We are ready to assume a life on an enclosed, climate-controlled space habitat for the simple reason that that is the way many of us already live.