Permanent Human Settlement of the Earth, Space and Ocean Frontiers

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

The Long Overdue Failure of Common Sense

Albert Einstein said that What we believe to be “common sense” is actually nothing more than the collection of prejudices acquired by age eighteen. What Dr. Einstein was trying to say was that we humans are creatures of grossly simplistic analysis. What we organize as “belief” is often limited by what we can see and how it fits in our comfort zone.

For instance, this statement is attributed to the Director of the U.S. Patent office in 1899, “Everything that can be invented has been invented.” It seems Charles Duell was within his comfort zone and wanted to close the patent office doors and go home, entirely satisfied with the general state of everything from then on and forevermore.

The same is true with exploration today. The media has fixed our eyes on the heavens and many people actually think space is the “final frontier”. That pithy phrase was borrowed from an old 1960’s television drama that, sadly, many today still mistake for a documentary.

The truth is, as Ralph so clearly pointed out in yesterday’s QuantumLimit web log, that the earth is still teaming with not only places humans have not settled – but places we have not even yet begun to explore!

When I was a Naval Officer in the 1970’s, we took a voyage along the fringes of the Aleutian Islands. We passed island after island – hundreds of them. They were all completely deserted, save a handful. Why? It is too cold and too inhospitable and they are very far from any supply route. “No one would want to live there.” And yet, they are many times more hospitable than any place in space or on any planetary body!

The difference is, of course, as it will be on the Moon or on Mars – technology. We need technology to keep the temperature controlled inside and to keep the cold out. We need energy for lights and food. After that – there is no place we cannot settle, from the Aleutian Islands to the deepest part of the sea.

At last count, we have settled less than 10% of the habitable earth, and people are incessantly whining about “overpopulation”. Let’s wait until we at least settle 50% before we get into that discussion.