Competing Visions

November 07, 2016 at 6:59 am by Frank White

For some time now, I have been urging that we develop a "philosophy of space exploration and development." As it turns out, two of the main players in the commercial space sector actually have embryonic space philosophies, and they have begun to reveal them.

As it also turns out, the perspectives offered by Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos are radically different, and this is really important to our future. Why? Because both of them are visionaries, committed to their cause, and both of them are billionaires, able to turn their visions into reality.

Let's take a look at these two competing philosophies, how they lead to contrasting visions for space exploration and development, and the implications for the rest of us.

First, Elon Musk has said that he wants to put a million humans on Mars as a "Plan B." Essentially, he is making the logical point that an extinction event brought on by climate change, an asteroid strike, or something as yet unforeseen will wipe out humanity unless we become a "multi-planet species" and a "spacefaring civilization." Ultimately, he cannot be contradicted, because we know that the sun will eventually go supernova and wipe out all life on Earth. (Of course, this would wipe out all life on Mars as well, so it is an argument for interstellar, rather than interplanetary, travel.)

Then there is an alternate vision that is being offered by Jeff Bezos, another billionaire who made his fortune because of the "technological Overview Effect" that is provided by the Internet/World Wide Web. Bezos harkens back to an earlier era in the history of space exploration and development, the late 1970s and early 1980s, when Gerard K. O'Neill started the Space Studies Institute and offered a new perspective on how humans ought to expand into the solar system.

(To be continued)

(c) Copyright, Frank White, 2016, All Rights Reserved

The Overview Effect: Space Exploration and Human Evolution is available at and