Happy new year! One of my resolutions is to post at least once a week. So here goes. Wish me luck.
If people start to live, work, play and have families in space – in other words, actually settle space instead of just floating around up there – there will be a bunch of things that will definitely happen back here on Earth.
Obviously, there will be a dramatic improvement in the capability of communications satellites. With workshops and technicians able to manufacture and maintain them in orbit, satellites will become bigger and more powerful. As a result, back on Earth the cost of satellite communication will plummet. More people will be able to talk, text and videochat with one another for less money than ever before. Similarly, earth-observation satellites will proliferate and their capabilities will improve resulting in more precise weather forecasting, better agriculture and fewer impacts from natural disasters. So, better Internet, more food, and fewer rain delays.
On the darker side, improvements in satellite performance will also extend to surveillance. An orbital industrial base will allow nation states to construct and maintain more powerful spy satellites. Pervasive surveillance of any spot on the globe will become easy and inexpensive, with a commensurate erosion of privacy and secrecy. Surveillance ‘birds’ may become so cheap to build and operate that cities will use them to monitor their street grids twenty-four hours a day and issue traffic citations based on orbital imagery and video. One can quickly get carried away imagining far darker scenarios of rogue nations using pervasive surveillance to oppress their own populations and terrorise others.
But enough of that scary stuff.
There will be other less technologically-inclined impacts that are almost certain to occur once the age of space settlement begins: those that will happen in the cultural arena. The unique architecture of space settlements and the peculiarities of the space environment – like zero-gravity – will provide great fodder for media, sports and art. Television shows and movies produced in orbit will become a part of our cultural landscape. Entirely new sports will be created to take advantage of the zero-gravity environment. Orbital art depicting the globe and the cosmos will proliferate. Anthropologists and sociologists will study the new communities of space and apply their findings to Earth. In short, space settlement – the act of literally building new worlds – is almost certain to excite the minds of many creative individuals and result in new cultural trends and phenomena.
Next post: things that will probably happen once people are living in space.