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The Value of Colonizing Mars

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MisterSwig
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Is colonizing Mars a good or bad idea? For whom is it good or bad? Why is it good or bad?

Elon Musk thinks it's a good idea for humanity. He says we have a choice: stay on Earth and inevitably perish in a doomsday event or become a spacefaring, multi-planet species. (See about a minute of his speech starting here at 1:44.)

On the other hand, Jeff Bezos seems to think that colonizing Mars is not a good idea. Compared to Mars, he says, living on top of Mt. Everest would be a garden paradise. Perhaps Musk should try living on Everest for a year before trying to start a colony on Mars. Earth, Bezos notes, is by far the best planet for us.

Bezos asks us to consider a different problem. He says that in a couple hundred years humanity's energy needs will become so enormous that we'd have to cover the planet in solar panels. So people in the future will face the choice of stasis on Earth or using the rest of the solar system to produce our energy needs. He suggests that Earth could be zoned for residences and light industry, while the heavy production would be done in space. (See about five minutes of his pitch starting at 1:40 in this video.)

Clearly Musk and Bezos see virtue in making space travel more cost efficient, but they're doing it for different reasons. Musk wants to turn Mars into a second home for humanity, and Bezos wants to turn Earth into a residential utopia.

I disagree with both of them. I shudder to think of the totalitarian government that would ban heavy industry from the planet's surface. And if we haven't perfected and accepted nuclear energy (or something better) within 200 years, we probably deserve stasis. And as for Musk, I believe there is value in colonizing Mars, but for the sake of expanding human knowledge and testing human potential. We shouldn't look upon a Mars colony as a way to save humanity from extinction, but as a way to experiment on ourselves as a species with physical and mental limits. Of what exactly are we capable?

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26 minutes ago, MisterSwig said:

Is colonizing Mars a good or bad idea? For whom is it good or bad? Why is it good or bad?

Answer is: It's good for some and not good for some.

Who will pay for it? Or who might be forced to pay for it?

In principle, it's bad if you are going to be forced to pay for it especially if it will cost you a lot. Otherwise, whomever wants to pay for it voluntarily, has a right to do so as long as it does not "harm" anyone else. Some will benefit, some will pay a high price as in death, it's their business, not for us to judge.

What is the point of determining if it is good or bad when someone wants to take a high risk. Like with an untested drug. Is that good or bad and for whom?

Now, let us say there are creatures on mars that will find their way here and kill us all in a very painful way. No one should think it is good. If on the other hand, there were creatures on mars that would come here and provide food and shelter for each and everyone of us, then its good (for me).

Meanwhile, you might as well define colonizing. It could mean multiple eventualities/manifestations depending on who does it. After all, if China or Russia does it, it would be bad for NATO (according to NATO).

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5 hours ago, MisterSwig said:

Compared to Mars, he says, living on top of Mt. Everest would be a garden paradise.

It should be clear that Musk is talking about big timescales that might even be several centuries. The objection that Mars would be like living on top of Mount Everest doesn't even take into account that it takes a long time to start a Martian city that flourishes eventually. Musk makes the assumption that Mars can be made into a great place (which is a very positive outlook on humanity) - given enough time.

5 hours ago, MisterSwig said:

I shudder to think of the totalitarian government that would ban heavy industry from the planet's surface.

The only reason to believe this is cynicism. I mean, it's not an objection, just a baseless fear. You need to say something more to justify this.

5 hours ago, MisterSwig said:

We shouldn't look upon a Mars colony as a way to save humanity from extinction, but as a way to experiment on ourselves as a species with physical and mental limits.

Actually, it might be the easiest reason to justify to other people, and not that he thinks "saving humanity from extinction" is the primary goal. It's a long-term concrete goal compared to an abstract long-term goal - without a concrete goal, it is difficult to even work towards the steps of achieving the abstract goal. I don't know what he thinks about expanding human knowledge generally speaking, though. I would bet that he would say things like it would be cool to go to Mars and you could try out different interesting things you couldn't normally. He just isn't very articulate about those things unless you ask him. But that's hardly useful for anyone working on the actual concrete problems. It's easier to formulate what to do as "another place to live in case something happens to earth or to live anyway". 

 

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23 hours ago, Easy Truth said:

Who will pay for it? Or who might be forced to pay for it?

Yep, that might be an issue, depending on how much taxpayer money goes into the mission. I believe SpaceX is a private company that's partnered with NASA and holds contracts to deliver astronauts and equipment to the space station. That's partly how Musk plans to finance and develop his Mars colony idea. He's also got profits from his other companies, and probably some big investors. 

On 5/6/2021 at 3:01 PM, Easy Truth said:

What is the point of determining if it is good or bad when someone wants to take a high risk. Like with an untested drug. Is that good or bad and for whom?

I think it's an interesting question. If you had a few hundred grand for a ticket to Mars, would you go?

On 5/6/2021 at 3:01 PM, Easy Truth said:

Meanwhile, you might as well define colonizing. It could mean multiple eventualities/manifestations depending on who does it. After all, if China or Russia does it, it would be bad for NATO (according to NATO).

Musk means a city on Mars. And I'm not aware of any interest from Russia or China. They haven't even landed anyone on the moon yet. 

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Once the context were such that there was a market for passage and colony building, and free people chose to pay passage to live there (as settlers who crossed the sea to NA did), then I suppose it would at least seem "good" for those who were taking the risk and making the choice to start a new life on Mars.

Unless and until free peoples do so, any "colonization" would probably be premature, involving coercion and/or taxation.

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20 hours ago, Eiuol said:

The objection that Mars would be like living on top of Mount Everest doesn't even take into account that it takes a long time to start a Martian city that flourishes eventually.

Yeah, I see another problem with the Everest objection. I doubt they will place the Mars colony on a mountain of rock and ice that gets pummeled by high winds and snowstorms most of the year. They will have to contend with extreme cold though, and of course the oxygen problem.

20 hours ago, Eiuol said:

Musk makes the assumption that Mars can be made into a great place (which is a very positive outlook on humanity) - given enough time.

I kind of get how they plan to solve the cold and oxygen problems by transporting needed materials and machines to Mars, but the water problem puzzles me. If they rely on ice in the soil, won't they eventually be forced to travel further and further away from the city to mine for ice? At some point each citizen might have to spend all day producing his own water ration. And that won't be much of a life.

20 hours ago, Eiuol said:

You need to say something more to justify this.

In order to zone the entire planet for residences and light industry, there would need to be some government or group of governments with the power to do so. How would it gain this power? By the people voting for or going along with unprecedented violations of property rights. 

21 hours ago, Eiuol said:

I would bet that he would say things like it would be cool to go to Mars and you could try out different interesting things you couldn't normally.

There was a bit of that when he described the crew quarters on the space ship. He said something about playing games in zero-g. I also seem to recall him saying something about bounding around in Mars' gravity. Which, by the way, is another problem. Man didn't evolve for a low gravity environment, so it's a question what that will do to him longterm. Zero-g on the space station causes atrophy.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I don’t see a great deal of rational value in reaching Mars at this point; we’ll all be long dead before any kind of industrial civilization is possible there. I’d have more respect for Musk if he focused on improving life on Earth. Then again, maybe a new age of Colonization and Martian revolution is the future counterpart of the American revolution.

Edited by happiness
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If it were possible to terraform Mars, it might be a rational value as a potential new home. But I'm not sure its lower gravity is enough to maintain a nitrogen and oxygen-rich atmosphere. Mars is 95% carbon dioxide. Maybe it can't hold much lighter gases near the surface. Colonizers might have to live in biodomes for eternity.

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5 hours ago, MisterSwig said:

If it were possible to terraform Mars, it might be a rational value as a potential new home.

What if the chances of your being alive by the time terraforming is complete is exactly 0%. 

When could it be possibly rational for you to contribute your money/wealth to something like that?  Does it matter if you have children?  Could it be rational if thinking about a future after you are gone gives you some kind of mental fuel?

 

 

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15 hours ago, StrictlyLogical said:

What if the chances of your being alive by the time terraforming is complete is exactly 0%. 

The terraforming project could be a corporation-level goal, so the corporation is building toward something in the distant future, but the officers and employees are trying to hit subgoals. For them it's a job and they don't have to spend their whole lifetimes on Mars. Maybe the first generation only visits Mars for a few weeks a year and builds the terraforming machines while also building biodomes. The second generation stays for a couple years at a time and terraforms 10% of the planet while producing needed food and materials, handling tourists, etc. After a number of generations maybe the planet is suitable for lifelong habitation.

15 hours ago, StrictlyLogical said:

When could it be possibly rational for you to contribute your money/wealth to something like that? 

Generally, when it's in your self-interest. For early investors the money goes toward producing a single step in the longterm plan, such as space transportation and tourism, which helps finance the rest of the steps. But it also attracts investors who want to go to space or make money from space industry.

17 hours ago, StrictlyLogical said:

Does it matter if you have children?

I doubt it, unless Earth were in serious danger of exploding in the next couple hundred years or so and terraforming Mars became a huge priority, in which case whole governments would probably be devoting major resources to the effort.

17 hours ago, StrictlyLogical said:

Could it be rational if thinking about a future after you are gone gives you some kind of mental fuel?

I think so. Maybe you're a wealthy businessman and enjoy sponsoring the space projects of your friends because you like helping them and thinking about the future of space exploration. However, if you're not in it for the business success, it seems more like charity, which is fine. But sometimes charity goes toward buying food, and sometimes it goes toward buying heroin. So you gotta be careful about what sort of mental fuel you're purchasing with your donation to the "terraform Mars" project. It could be a swindle.  

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44 minutes ago, MisterSwig said:

The terraforming project could be a corporation-level goal, so the corporation is building toward something in the distant future, but the officers and employees are trying to hit subgoals. For them it's a job and they don't have to spend their whole lifetimes on Mars. Maybe the first generation only visits Mars for a few weeks a year and builds the terraforming machines while also building biodomes. The second generation stays for a couple years at a time and terraforms 10% of the planet while producing needed food and materials, handling tourists, etc. After a number of generations maybe the planet is suitable for lifelong habitation.

How do the owners or shareholders of the corporation profit from building toward something in the distant future? 

How is it rational for individuals to fund that activity of such a company, rather than simply take the profits of those activities which are profitable?

 

44 minutes ago, MisterSwig said:

Generally, when it's in your self-interest. For early investors the money goes toward producing a single step in the longterm plan, such as space transportation and tourism, which helps finance the rest of the steps. But it also attracts investors who want to go to space or make money from space industry.

If terraforming wont complete until after all possible investors are dead what interest could they possibly have in actually losing money for the terraforming part?  

Tourism sounds good, but that's a separate business.

 

If no one in particular owns Mars, how could any one prevent free riders, recoup their investment?

 

I think the likely outcome for free people, would have proceeded as follows:

1. Going to Mars for tourism, flybys, then landings, then stay overs, temporary camps, more permanent camps/outposts. 

2. Going to Mars for exotic resources only once Earth stores are getting scarce on surface.  One day might be cheaper than searching and mining miles into the Earth.

3. Once 1 and 2 are more regularly established, with people staying and liking it there (hotel folks, miners, all infrastructure involved), more people on Earth will see it as an option they might choose.

4. Overcrowding and competition on Earth and opportunities on Mars might lead to a general migration over centuries.

5. In the far FAR future (millennia), once Mars has reached a certain technological capability, and a high level of population, the people of Mars might vote to allow terraforming, which could be funded by people who live there and want to see it completed for their grandchildren or their ancestors. and that might be done in steps... and just might be rational for those individuals to contribute to that goal.

 

In the context of mixed economies, or China taking over, the US and/or the UN going Marxist, we might see an age of seizure, redistribution and slavery, in which one or more Dictators, Marxists, Oligarchs, and/or Technocrats, might have a dream of terraforming Mars and they might impose upon their people that things get started long before it would have been in any one person's selfish rational interest to do so, if they were free.

 

Edited by StrictlyLogical
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18 hours ago, StrictlyLogical said:

What if the chances of your being alive by the time terraforming is complete is exactly 0%. 

If the terraforming will eventually greatly increase the value of the stock, then to that extent the stock becomes a long-term investment which may be of value to people who are trying to provide for their descendants or for some cause they consider worthy.  This may increase the current market value of the stock.  A key question is how big this effect is.

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6 hours ago, StrictlyLogical said:

How do the owners or shareholders of the corporation profit from building toward something in the distant future? 

They monetize the intermediate steps and take a share of the profits.

6 hours ago, StrictlyLogical said:

How is it rational for individuals to fund that activity of such a company, rather than simply take the profits of those activities which are profitable?

If they expect profits from the next stage of development, it might be rational to invest in it.

6 hours ago, StrictlyLogical said:

If terraforming wont complete until after all possible investors are dead what interest could they possibly have in actually losing money for the terraforming part? 

Terraforming would be an expense. I'm not sure it has to be a money pit for the company. Perhaps there is a way to profit from it. It would certainly reduce the amount of material resources needed from Earth. And maybe marketing deals could be made with McDonald's where every Happy Meal includes a toy Martian terraformer from SpaceX.

6 hours ago, StrictlyLogical said:

If no one in particular owns Mars, how could any one prevent free riders, recoup their investment?

The corporation that settles Mars will own the portion it settles. Let's say SpaceX settles Mars first. Maybe they work out an agreement with the US government to provide security to handle trespassers and lawbreakers.

 

Edited by MisterSwig
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On 5/7/2021 at 7:56 PM, MisterSwig said:

In order to zone the entire planet for residences and light industry, there would need to be some government or group of governments with the power to do so. How would it gain this power? By the people voting for or going along with unprecedented violations of property rights. 

Both of these are speculation rather than reasoning from something observable.

Why must there be zoning of an expansive kind determined by the government? Both of us could imagine into infinity different ways that property could be divided up for future use.

And in terms of people voting, of course they could vote for that, but they also might not. I suspect they would not. I have reason to say so.

If anything, early colonists would by far prefer complete autonomy to dictate their own way of doing things, with minimal government oversight. I'm thinking of the British and the Spanish, and colonists resisting that rule successfully. Not as a fundamental political principle, but a more basic recognition that the home government is far away from what's actually going on and they don't know the reality of the context living on distant soil. Living that way requires more hands-on action, which is especially conducive to noticing property rights as a principle. Things could change once Mars is more industrialized through development, but the basis would be leaning towards individual rights to start with.

But I admit, some good ol' American imperialism might be more likely given modern history especially with the media and cyber warfare... 

 

Edited by Eiuol
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1 hour ago, MisterSwig said:

They monetize the intermediate steps and take a share of the profits.

How are the intermediate steps of the terraforming as such actually profitable?  

 

A process of baking bread involves spending resources and energy, all in negative territory, on a moderate timescale...  gathering together, mixing ingredients, kneading, assembling and then baking.

For at least (let's just say it's an hour) the whole process is complete outlay of effort, energy, resources, i.e. its all spending/investment... profit is only possible once the bread is baked.  It then has a greater value than the separate ingredients etc. (otherwise no one would bother to bake bread) and a profit can be reaped from the investment of time and effort etc.

 

WHAT IF... terraforming is just like that... except the time scales for expenditure before any return is possible, is much greater than the life of any person? 

WHAT if the sheer amount of energy and resources FAR exceed anything a tourist shop, space tours, or MacDonald's toys might earn?

 

 

An eight year old could promise to move a mountain one shovel full at a time, and do a song and dance about how selling lemonade at its base (as well as with your investment) will fund the endeavor in stages, starting first with him before he hires a "crew". 

I would suggest you not count on any actual return on investment promised in connection with the actual moving of the mountain being complete, but think of the entire thing as an investment in a lemonade stand business... because that is the only thing you would actually be investing in or getting anything back from.

 

 

 

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5 minutes ago, StrictlyLogical said:

How are the intermediate steps of the terraforming as such actually profitable?  

If we know that terraforming is possible, and that investment is a fundamental way to move resources into a long-term goal, the how is not very important. It demands creativity on part of the investors, or the creators, otherwise there really is no point in doing the process. I appreciate the question, it would make good speculative fiction, but I think it's fairly easy to just spitball possibilities. High budget movies could be investments, satellite testing, environmental engineering testing, creating artificial moons, mining. 

I'm assuming here return on value, not simply return on monetary investment. An individual can have a substantial increase of value even with no return on monetary investment. A new form of business structure might be required for business on the scale of those that spend trillions of dollars, almost as if they are a government. 

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11 hours ago, StrictlyLogical said:

How are the intermediate steps of the terraforming as such actually profitable?

Yeah, I don't think I can answer that with any specificity. I'm not even sure if Mars can be terraformed. The best I got is that maybe some of the life support operations (producing oxygen and food and heat) could be combined with the terraforming process. Perhaps terraforming could be a byproduct that doesn't cost anything extra. Otherwise it would simply be an expense, and maybe you have to rely on the rich "mental fuel" types to finance it.

11 hours ago, StrictlyLogical said:

WHAT IF... terraforming is just like that [baking bread]... except the time scales for expenditure before any return is possible, is much greater than the life of any person? 

So, the product would be a terraformed Mars, assuming it's not worth anything until it's fully terraformed? That might be a false assumption. If it's 10% terraformed, that would mean something like 10% less life support required. Maybe you could spend 10% more time outside the biodome with the same oxygen tank, for example. Thus, gradually increasing the quality of life on Mars could result in more people wanting to work and visit and more profit from that trading activity.

You used a bread example, but let's take something slightly more complex, a pizza. You might assemble all the necessary ingredients for a pepperoni pizza and could sell them in a package, raw and unmixed, for a couple bucks, making a dollar profit. Now let's say you spend some time mixing them together into a single frozen pizza which you can sell for more money and make two dollars profit. Or, even better, you cook the pizza for the customer and sell it for even more money and make three dollars profit. Here there are three stages (assembling, mixing, and cooking the ingredients) and with each stage is an opportunity to make extra profit. Perhaps terraforming Mars could work like that, with more value being produced (for which people would pay more) as Mars becomes more like Earth.

11 hours ago, StrictlyLogical said:

WHAT if the sheer amount of energy and resources FAR exceed anything a tourist shop, space tours, or MacDonald's toys might earn?

If that's the case, then it's a problem. Even if "mental fuel" investors come to the rescue, it'll need to be profitable (or self-sustaining) at some point. Otherwise the colony will be a self-defeating project. Instead of supporting life, it'll be a drain on Earth's resources.

  

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  • 1 month later...
  • 3 months later...

I wonder if given the parameters of solar activity and its interplay with galactic radiation and the varying benefits of differences of thickness of the theoretic cladding , if there won’t be engineering in mind of interchangeable ‘cladding’ systems.

’Tow’ some extra cladding and apply when needed and then shed when it is more beneficial for thinner cladding. As obviously necessary as radiation protection is needed, isn’t still the largest hurdle to over come a means of food production or hauling capacity ? I think I’ve seen mentioned that radiation protection will be presumably ‘figured out and engineered’ well before the food issue.

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9 hours ago, tadmjones said:

I wonder if given the parameters of solar activity and its interplay with galactic radiation and the varying benefits of differences of thickness of the theoretic cladding , if there won’t be engineering in mind of interchangeable ‘cladding’ systems.

’Tow’ some extra cladding and apply when needed and then shed when it is more beneficial for thinner cladding. As obviously necessary as radiation protection is needed, isn’t still the largest hurdle to over come a means of food production or hauling capacity ? I think I’ve seen mentioned that radiation protection will be presumably ‘figured out and engineered’ well before the food issue.

To save mass, instead of cladding the entire ship with the idea humans should be able to run around essentially naked  everywhere inside... designate only a small percentage of ship for "relaxation" areas (where people can wear jammies and slippers) and the rest of the ship requires full protection of specially designed radiation (but not pressurized) suits.

Of course sensitive electrical and other equipment will need proper shielding... and the greenhouse/chicken coup as well.

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On 5/24/2021 at 11:57 AM, Doug Morris said:

If the terraforming will eventually greatly increase the value of the stock, then to that extent the stock becomes a long-term investment which may be of value to people who are trying to provide for their descendants or for some cause they consider worthy.  This may increase the current market value of the stock.  A key question is how big this effect is.

The long-term investment may also be of value to organizations that have longer life expectancies than individual people.

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1 hour ago, Doug Morris said:

The long-term investment may also be of value to organizations that have longer life expectancies than individual people.

I hear you, however, the ultimate and entire moral and economic purpose of a Corporation is the interest of the shareholders, who are the owners.  The owners themselves are individual people with finite life spans. 

Ownership means their individual interests are paramount... at least it would in a moral society.

 

So in the end, although there may be no foreseeable end date for an entity such as a corporation, and although long term flourishing of the corporation is in the long term interests of the owners, that long term cannot be so far outside the range of human life that the individual shareholders will not be the beneficiaries of that which they own. 

The owners are not morally held to sacrifice their own individual interests to future generations.  Any savings, or investments, or any other action a corporation takes, must be to the benefit of and intended to accrue to the current living shareholders, or as the shareholders voluntary designate, their beneficiaries, assigns or transferees, etc. 

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On 10/15/2021 at 8:42 AM, StrictlyLogical said:

To save mass, instead of cladding the entire ship with the idea humans should be able to run around essentially naked  everywhere inside... designate only a small percentage of ship for "relaxation" areas (where people can wear jammies and slippers) and the rest of the ship requires full protection of specially designed radiation (but not pressurized) suits.

Of course sensitive electrical and other equipment will need proper shielding... and the greenhouse/chicken coup as well.

From what I gathered from the link , the cladding would need to be centimeters thick(?) , that'd be a heck of a suit, no ?

And it seemed there are certain properties of the radiation that create secondary particles(?) that are dependent on angles of incidence and shape. I think all and all the engineering should incorporate the value of human creature comfort as foremost , it's a long ride :)

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