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The next small step for a man?

07/10/2007 10:45 AM

For many years the possibility of terraforming, i.e. transforming the environment of another planet so as to make conditions a bit more more like those on our own, was little more than a science-fiction story. Things are changing. As mankind's knowledge and capabilities expand it is beginning to look as though, possibly before the end of the 21st century, we will have the technology to terraform Mars, our nearest planetary neigbour, with a view to changing the environment there with an aim of improving the prospects of living there in the future.

The question is a moral one: just because one could do something doesn't necessarily mean that one should do something. In the case of Mars, any history that Mars may reveal in its geology, geography and, perhaps, even a fossil record will have its course altered, irrevocably, by a terraforming process initiated from Earth.

The ill-fated recent attempt to place Beagle 2 there by Dr. Colin Pillinger's team had an underlying principle of not importing any Earth biology to the planet. Until the moral issue has been resolved this approach is admirable.

The question remains. As aliens to that body (we presume?), SHOULD we terraform Mars? Do we have a right to do that? Is the act of terraforming Mars a bit like "War of the Worlds" in reverse?

And if we should, does that give an alien race from elsewhere the right to transform Earth into something more akin to what it might expect, without regard to what is happening here?

Or do we have to redefine the concept of "alien"?

Discuss!

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Guru
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#1

Re: The next small step for a man?

07/10/2007 11:21 AM

There is very little here that steps on moral issues.

Most morals are based on the following precepts

  1. Life is good
  2. Death is bad
  3. To create is good
  4. To destroy unnecessarily is bad

Any historical records found in the geology of Mars are worthless unless discovered.

You cannot discover them without disturbing them. As long as due care is taken when they are discovered, everyone (and everything) is happy. To leave them undisturbed would mean there eventual destruction from sandstorms, erosion etc.

I am sure it is a geologists dream to explore a planet undisturbed by man, however, to call it a moral question is blowing it a bit out of proportion.

Now, If there was a thriving ecosystem there, it would be another question.

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Guru
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#2

Re: The next small step for a man?

07/10/2007 2:04 PM

IMHO - if there is any life there, we do not have the right to destroy it through terra forming. If there's no life there, I see no moral issue.

One could ask a similar question - is it morally acceptable to turn a desert into a forest? Is it morally acceptable to turn a forest into a desert?

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#3

Re: The next small step for a man?

07/10/2007 2:22 PM

Why would, or should we; redefine a word which reflects or recognizes unknown, in a pure state of understanding? The word is conceptually the most simple expression of:

"?" I can think or conceive, next to "huh?".

Such statement, as you have proposed, would yield to the fact it had already been redefined.

Would this infer the word "alien('s)" meaning was bastardized in order to deliberately reflect control over what is unknown or accounted for...

The inference you provide of the word's limitations implies, you may already be subjected to this limitation or re-function concept.

More over, one may infer the extent of which the meaning of the word has changed or the word may actually no longer reamain anchored to the presumed usage of the word.

Expectations and rationalizations of the use of the word is limited to inferences to the word and the expanding concept of anchored expectations of the word.

Talking about this is will not be useful unless people have abused and learned from the mis-use of the word and assess the quantitative of the risk to reward of such control on either the word or the environment, under constrained criterion.

One should define what expectations of "progress" shall be, given the limited usage of the word you have suggested, which requires consideration of re-definition, (with a suggested implication it already may have previously done so).

Please estimate the learning curve of the publics learning rules and the effect of information shared between agents who will be used to asses such progressive policy actions and define the extent of what the actions shall entail; under a variety of model based projections and professional judgments.

I suggest you first decide who will write the history books, regarding this venture.

The chosen person's professional opinion, will ultimately be the only record of the actions and definition derived, of any substantial value, from the question you have posted; as historical data, as inferred, may not exist.

I believe the only certainty is; without historical understanding of adverse effects of any of the actions or lack there of, as purposed, shall ultimately be the future.

Is it moral?

Please define moral monetary aggregate responsibility; where it relates to life or the assumption of our moral responsibility to adversely effect life, and if you think it is not already occurring on our own planet; and if it does, then why should we change course, when it may already be ignored?

That's a great question for Ben Bernanke.

I will study this question further and get back to you, in the future with my answer.

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#4

Re: The next small step for a man?

07/10/2007 10:42 PM

If we do not get off of this planet and start expanding our species will decline. It may take several hundred years but it will happen, birth rates are starting to decline. Do we terraform Mars? Yes or we need to have space travel so quick and efficent we can look for a suitable planet(s) to expand to. I say terraform Mars now. Any 'artifacts' will still be there for us to 'discover'. Even if it offends some peoples morals they have to understand that 'mankind' is not the top of the food chain nor the 'king' of the beasts. We are however the ultimate predator on this planet to the point we prey on ourselves. It is unlikely this will ever change so to keep us from causing our own demise we need to expand to keep this species in existance.

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#5

Re: The next small step for a man?

07/11/2007 11:25 AM

I don't think this is an ethical question as much as a practical question. On the big scale, the universe doesn't care what the little pipsqueaks in our solar system are doing. But practically, why would we take on trying to terraform Mars when we can't prove yet that we can live sustainably on earth? That's like our teenage daughter who made such a mess in her room that she wants to sleep in the den instead. I say we properly manage this planet before we go onto another. If population is an issue, then control the population. One couple, two children max. Learn how to manage the land, resources and water sustainably on a global basis instead of just stealing as much as we can get from whoever. Conserve. Re-engineer lifestyles.

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#6

Re: The next small step for a man?

07/11/2007 12:16 PM

Unless Mars has evolved sentient life, there is no life there that should trigger a moral obligation in us. For our own knowledge and benefit, however, we should ascertain what is there or what might be there and seek to preserve it as needed to learn from it. It would also seem prudent to explore terraforming methods on Mars, even if we haven't figured out how to sustainably stabilize our Earth evironment. Maybe, especially so.

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#7

Re: The next small step for a man?

07/11/2007 12:41 PM

Not exactly a small step. The only way to do something like that is to turn loose some kind of lifeform. That hasn't worked too well in the past in Australia. We're still busy Veneraforming earth.

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Guru
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#8
In reply to #7

Re: The next small step for a man?

07/11/2007 12:50 PM

That is certaintly a huge mistake we can learn from. To properly Terraform, we would definetly have to build a balanced and tested ecosystem, and plan on it getting out of hand (It is close to impossible to fully contain life)

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#9
In reply to #3

Re: The next small step for a man?

07/11/2007 1:14 PM

Is this Moto guy for real? Please don't get back on this. Your ramblings have given me a headache.

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Guru
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#10

Re: The next small step for a man?

07/11/2007 1:28 PM

Since I am an alien, I can assure you that rather than change the places we visit to suit us, we change ourselves, genetically, to suit the conditions. Thus, as we have been on earth for some time as observers, our genes are such that we cannot be distinguished from native humans. We can even inner-bred. http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.com/~chtank/reports.html.

What we have found is that it is better to colonize space in especially built 'ships' than to try to find or alter other planets. Space is such a dangerous place, full of mines, i.e., meteors and comets, plasma and radiation, that having maneuverability provided by our vessels makes it far safer than sitting on a rock to be bombarded with space junk. Besides, some of the space junk is quite valuable, ice is plentiful, carbon is abundant, hydrogen is 90% of the universe. We prefer to visit ohter planets, not live on them. We will continue to travel the universe in vessels of our own design and making, than you.

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#11

Re: The next small step for a man?

07/11/2007 1:32 PM

Life on this planet hangs on a thread and can easily be extinguished by a cosmically minor event - even a falling rock. Any morality questions are ultimately surpassed by the need to survive as a species and planetary expansion is an absolute necessity. This is not the same as profiteering by raping the pristine frontier.

Good time for me to promote my idea of pushing that useless space station of ours into orbit around Mars where it will get us further on down this road and do some good.

What the hell was Moto talking about?

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#12
In reply to #11

Re: The next small step for a man?

07/11/2007 6:20 PM

Do you hunt guitars or hunt with guitars?

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#13

Re: The next small step for a man?

07/11/2007 6:35 PM

There are some scientists who believe that life on earth was seeded by comets or asteroids. If so, that constitutes an invasion of earth by alien life which has turned out alright for the invaded planet. So introducing life to a planet is not neccessarily a bad thing.

Nevertheless, I have long suspected that some day in the future, when terraforming becomes feasible, there will be a powerful lobby against it. The Society for the Preservation of Extra-Terrestial Environments (or something similar) will have enough influence to make terraforming politically untenable.

Just my 20 mills.

Bill Morrow

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#14
In reply to #6

Re: The next small step for a man?

07/12/2007 2:56 AM

So what you are saying is, we make a judgement using an empirical value that we arbitrarily make up, to decide whether a form of life is worthy of a moral obligation. So if we find a cache of stromatolites on Mars, because there is no sign of sentience, we should feel no guilt if we wiped them out. Even though, without stromatolites we ourselves would have a completely different atmosphere, and life on earth would look very different indeed. Hmm. Have we learnt nothing? Can anyone out there tell me what a Dodo looked like?

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#15
In reply to #12

Re: The next small step for a man?

07/12/2007 8:45 AM

I collect and restore in the NYC area. Watcha got?

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#16

Re: The next small step for a man?

07/12/2007 10:59 AM

Yah, that worked on Bikini Atoll!

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#17
In reply to #10

Re: The next small step for a man?

07/12/2007 11:03 AM

So much for the theory of intelligent life in the universe...

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#18

Re: The next small step for a man?

07/12/2007 11:41 AM

I believe the last line of his thought begged to ask:

"Or do we have to redefine the concept of "alien"?"

I just happened to be watching Bernanke report the economic outlook of the fiscal budget and the economy. His description of the criterion for understanding the metrics for change are no more complex that terra-forming Mars.

For some strange reason, his words did not give me a head ache, but rather outlined my statement above. If you didn't watch his interview yesterday, please look him up on CBS or MSNBC. The criterion for such thoughts should be outlined before we try an emotional response or we are guessing and reaching for an emotional answer instead of asking; "Is it worth pursuing an alternative ideology?".

1) Can we afford to go there?

2) Can we afford not to be there?

3) What is the risk to reward?

4) Do we have what it takes to succeed?

Ironically the methods to understand the question revolve around socio-economic conditions, only. As a student of mining process, I am intrigued by the power of man's urge to dig for elements to create amazing instruments with endless potential.

We choose to lend these metals and rare elements to institutions, providing grants and funding research, in order to maintain economic conditions globally. That's why the market is so strong throughout the past ten years, in a way the world has never known and gold has remained under $1,000.00 per ounce. All in the name of progress.

When it becomes feasible to dig for ore on Mars, just like Bikini Atoll or Utah or South Africa, we will probably go there and dig.

Morals have little to do with it, when the entire species survival remains singularly on the brink of disaster, by existing on one planet. By moving some life from this planet to Mars, or space, we ultimately meet our species primary function: "To survive and reproduce."

Will we remain the same? No. We evolve.

Only historians will have the dubious distinction of judging the moral outcome of the actions we as a society have chosen; in order to meet our primary function as human beings.

Wouldn't we be surprised if the dinosaur had the technology to survive the eventual revolution of this rock which we claim; in their absence?

I do not apologize for describing the methods of logical deduction and defining the criterion for making such dramatic changes of an important word like "alien".

One which has the potential of socio-economical actions, possibly prohibiting the unknown from being explored, should it's definition be changed to veil logical understanding, for a what sounds to me; like a bad gas pain.

Last I read, the cost to go to Mars today, is expected to be $50 BillUS.

Money is the only thing stopping us, not morals.

Even a baby elephant wants to climb on top of the only thing to stand on, in his pen.

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#19
In reply to #15

Re: The next small step for a man?

07/12/2007 3:44 PM

Mostly electrics and some vintage Fender amps:

Guitars:

1965 Strat that's player quality (i.e., well worn, refinished body, non original P/Us and pickguard).

1990 Strat lefty-turned-righty.

1991 Gibson LP Jr.

1978 Gibson Marauder

1976 Kramer 450G (guitar) and matching 450B (bass)

6 or 7 miscellaneous others (i.e. 2002 Mex strat deluxe, Traveler Speedster, Fernandes 7-string with sustainer P/U, Ovation Celebity, a Mexican acoustic, a homebuilt semi-hollow-experimental design, etc.)

Amps (most serviced and with electrolytic capacitors replaced with new blue Atoms during attendance at a couple of Kendrick Amp Camps):

1963 Fender Deluxe Reverb

1965 Fender Deluxe Reverb

1966 Fender Deluxe

1965 Fender Princeton Reverb

1964 Fender Princeton

1965 Fender Super Champ

1971 Super Reverb (with Kendrick blackface mod)

1973 Super Reverb

1964 Tremolux (with Kendrick OT)

Homebuilt Fender Twin Reverb with Normal channel converted to reverb control.

1996 Fender Blues Junior

1970s Fender oilcan delay

1954 Mason amp

some other miscellaneous 60s reverbs, and amps.

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#20

Re: The next small step for a man?

07/17/2007 7:31 AM

I say terraform Mars so we can send all the prisoners there! Austrailia is full enough!

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#21
In reply to #20

Re: The next small step for a man?

07/17/2007 7:35 AM

Australia is a land of culture and taste....even with the wardens descendants!

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#22
In reply to #14

Re: The next small step for a man?

07/17/2007 12:06 PM

Nope, that's not quite what I had in mind. Yes, we make a judgment. Yes, we rely on our empirical knowledge, the fullest we can gather. But, in addition, we weigh our values, including our budding value for and interest in preserving pristine, unadulterated environs. No, we don't make the decision arbitrarily. Ideally, we give it the fullest consideration we have opportunity to give. The decision to colonize Mars, should it become a pressing issue in the effort to preserve our species, will involve many, complex moral decisions that should be made only after careful consideration.

Realistically, though, decisions must often be made in the absence of perfect knowledge and in spite of conflicting moral imperatives. On Mars, were we to encounter a cache of stromatolites that were beneficial or even benign to human existence; of course, they and their ecosystem should be widely preserved. If, however, the stromatolites spewed spores that destroyed human lung tissue and we couldn't readily protect ourselves from it, their preservation might justifiably be less extensive. It would appear wise, however, to seek to preserve a species and avoid its extinction.

Stromatolites, however, don't really shine the bright light on the issue, though, do they? Stromatolites, for whatever beneficial roles they played in terraforming the environment from which we arose, would appear to be on par with algae. That is, very significant to our being here, but not an organism which much teases our moral fibers. The issues will be the tougher and the lines drawn the sharper the more the entity on the bubble and its capacities resemble us and our capacities. What if Mars is populated with tiny, wispy creatures that resemble baby seals and communicate with tones from the Blues scale in Em?

Again, realistically, humans seem to do what is most directly required for survival. Hopefully, we are growing wiser and the decisions in advance of our continuing encroachments will reflect it. I've never seen a dodo, but I gather that it was a creature that successfully adapted to an environment where it was able to lose the capacity for flight, had no need for elaborate or flexible defense strategies, and relied on a hard shell and low moratality to produce its subsequent generations in sufficient numbers. It was not prepared for a predator that could find it and kill it and crack its eggs with relative ease. But predators did what predators do, they killed and they ate. The loss of the dodo is tragic. However, countless species have been extinguished--too many have succumbed to human intrusion but a far greater number by non human forces. Many, certainly, which left no trace. It is even more unfortunate that many more species appear destined for a similar fate in our lifetime.

Unlike the dodo, humans are better equipped to adapt to new conditions and new threats. We are able to conceive migrating from the planet of our origin to enhance our survival. The same capacities that give us the power to do that and the drive to want to, however, give us the wisdom and the emotion to develop morals and rules for prioritizing them. In a perfect world, every decision would be made after the proper reflection and the considered application of the most advanced rules. In this world, we're going to lose big chunks of the natural world's heritage of living creatures and pristine environments. It is tragic and it is certainly to be a similar story, should we migrate to another world. But, if we do not survive and if we do what we can to preserve our species and the information that we have gathered and assembled (e.g., that a dod was and what it looked like)--who will weep for the dodo? Stromatolites?

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#23
In reply to #22

Re: The next small step for a man?

07/18/2007 2:57 AM

Fair enough. The point I was trying to make make about the Stromatolites is that we are very likely descended from them, as there was very little else about at the time! So we can have no appreciation of what may occur to their descendants in the depths of future time. As long as we are comfortable with this as a race, no problem. As to the Dodo's, well that is an extreme case. They were eaten by just about everything, cats, sailors, you name it! But no-one knows what they looked like, although every-one thinks they do!

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#24
In reply to #23

Re: The next small step for a man?

07/19/2007 11:27 AM

Weighty issues. Whenever I contemplate the tremendous change that can occur over thousands, millions, or billions of years, I almost cannot bear the awareness that, eventually, our neighborhood of the universe, if not the entire expanse of it, and all that it supported and fostered will cease to be. Likely, no record will survive, there will be no entity(ies) capable of appreciating it, or both. As uncomfortable as that awareness is, it does help put the particular, more finite losses (e.g., the dodo) into perspective. I guess that makes me some mixture of nihilist, pessimist, relativist, existentialist, and melancholy. And, don't even get me started on the next several hundred years, which, I believe, will certainly mark the end of humanity, as we know it--regardless of what we do or don't do with Mars. The tweaking has already started and there is no stopping it until we have tweaked ourselves beyond recognition. Has anyone seen my joy reuptake inhibitors?

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