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Member since: Wed Oct 13, 2004, 05:42 PM
Number of posts: 8,636

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Playboy in orbit: A step toward the world of Elysium?

The movie Elysium (2013) provides a dystopian vision of the world of 2154; where the ultra-rich live in a luxurious space station / habitat and everyone else inherits a polluted ruin of a planet.

It's impossible to look at the private space station designs from Playboy Enterprises and Virgin Galactic founder Sir Richard Branson without thinking of Elysium.

There's a meme going around to the effect that: "The NASA program is winding down, so it's up to the private sector to take over." I've even seen that here, including some posts favorable to Virgin Galactic and the other space tourism companies.

Now I've been a supporter of some private efforts, like Elon Musk's Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX), largely because Elon Musk is challenging the aerospace giants who've run the space program as their fiefdom. SpaceX is successful because it has NASA, DOD and now the Canadian Space Agency as customers.

I've also got a long history of supporting space, going back to the old L-5 Society; I even organized a chapter in Tulsa back in the 70s. I hoped to see us making major steps toward building Gerard K. O'Neill's space settlements by now.

I'm sounding warnings because, like everyone here, I've observed:
  • The growing inequality in American culture, and
  • The evolution of our economy into a plutonomy, an economy run only for the benefit of the rich, and
  • The growing political power of the mega-rich and the big corporations, and
  • The diminishing ability of the mega-rich to empathize with ordinary people.

Let me repeat: I'm a supporter of space and a role for the private sector in space; but, I'm fearful that private space, without government participation, and without checks on the power of big corporations will lead to the world of Elysium: Luxurious playgrounds in orbit while science is forgotten and exploration is only to provide thrills for billionaire boys club members, and life on Earth becomes more squalid for the great majority.

A speaker at a recent conference: The Starship Congress for the Icarus Interstellar foundation talked about two possible negative outcomes for future history that would block our progress to the stars:
  • Permanent stagnation vs.
  • "Flawed Realization.

Permanent stagnation is obvious; that means we stop progressing. Flawed realization means that we continue to 'progress,' but in negative ways.

Elysium was used as an example of both: Permanent stagnation on an overpopulated, polluted, impoverished Earth and flawed realization on the Elysium space station.
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