When our home is about to catch fire, we know it is time to leave. Within a billion years, Earth will catch fire from excessive warming by the aging Sun. Before that time, our descendants will likely board numerous spacecraft and engage in a massive exodus away from Earth.
The irony is that most Sun-like stars formed at redshifts greater than 1, several billion years before the Sun. If their technological clock resembled ours, there must be numerous refugee camps on exoplanets or exomoons that never hosted civilizations before.
For us, the trip to a second home could start within the coming decades, based on the aspirations of Elon Musk’s SpaceX and the scouting missions to be performed by smart nanoprobes from the newly announced Copernicus Space Corporation.
Acquiring a status of a double-home civilization will offer us an opportunity to reboot society. The second home after Earth could be our Moon, a planet like Mars, an artificially-manufactured space platform which adjusts its distance as the Sun evolves, or objects with water oceans under an icy surface like the large asteroid Ceres or the moons Enceladus and Europa.
A new home will offer new jobs and promote skill sets adapted to a new surface gravity, new material composition of the environment, new durations of a day and a year, new atmospheric conditions and new seasonal changes based on the particular orbital eccentricity and the tilt of the object’s rotation axis relative to its orbital plane around the Sun.
Within generations, the new environment will be imprinted on a modified physique of its inhabitants, shaping their bodily and mental characteristics to be different from those of earthlings. For example, the 62% reduction in surface gravity on Mars relative to Earth’s g, would undoubtedly change the behavioral characteristics of Martians relative to earthlings and make interplanetary soccer matches breathtaking with a clear advantage for the local team.
A new beginning in a new home will also enable entirely different societies from those imagined on Earth. The lack of ancient human history in a new environment would usher in a brave new world without the familiar scars in our collective memory from terrestrial history. The organizational transformation could be revolutionary. Consider the novel societal structure of a bee colony which consists of a queen, 95% female workers and 5% male drones. In a recent World.Minds forum with the novelist Margaret Atwood, I asked her whether she would favor establishing a human society on Mars based on well-orchestrated colonies of bees. She avoided the bait and noted: “humans will remain the same wherever they go and I have no desire to leave Earth.” She asked me whether I would be willing to leave Earth, and I replied with a resounding yes. What I had in mind is primarily the thrill of exploration but there was another reason for my unequivocal answer.
The greatest benefit of joining a new society is that its early phase will promote innovation to solve immediate challenges with minimal bureaucratic constraints. There will be little time and tolerance for large committees which adhere to a low common denominator. Throughout my leadership positions over the years, I noticed a universal law in administration. Just like the second law of thermodynamics, which asserts that the entropy of closed systems would only grow through irreversible processes, the bureaucracy of large traditional organizations like universities, government agencies or large corporations, can only grow through irreversible processes. This “first law of bureaucracy” is so prevalent in suppressing innovation on Earth, that it may also apply to all societies of sentient civilizations throughout the Universe. A young society is better because it has less time to develop its bureaucratic web, capable of suppressing agility and innovation.
In the coming years, we can test this universality conjecture empirically. It implies that the most accomplished interstellar gadgets were not manufactured and launched by exo-NASA agencies but rather by exo-Musk innovators. All we need to do for this test is read the “Made by …” label on interstellar technological gadgets.
This is not a hypothetical test. In 2023, I plan to personally search for such a label on relics of the first interstellar meteor CNEOS-2014–01–09 (IM1) by leading an expedition of the Galileo Project to collect them. We already know that this object was tougher than all other 272 meteors in the CNEOS catalog. The key question is then: if this object is artificial in origin, was it made by a government agency or an entrepreneur?
Finding what others have accomplished through their exploratory multi-home endeavors may inspire us to invest in new homes ourselves.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Avi Loeb is the head of the Galileo Project, founding director of Harvard University’s — Black Hole Initiative, director of the Institute for Theory and Computation at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, and the former chair of the astronomy department at Harvard University (2011–2020). He chairs the advisory board for the Breakthrough Starshot project, and is a former member of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology and a former chair of the Board on Physics and Astronomy of the National Academies. He is the bestselling author of “Extraterrestrial: The First Sign of Intelligent Life Beyond Earth” and a co-author of the textbook “Life in the Cosmos”, both published in 2021. His new book, titled “Interstellar”, is scheduled for publication in August 2023.