The End of Space Travel

Kurzgesagt, the clever animator, insightful commentator and sexy narrator uploaded this video essay about the possible end of space travel.

This kind of observation hints at one of the problems with the way we approach moral questions. The philosophical question of where we derive notions of “ought” and values from is a bit of a red herring (albeit an interesting one.) For all practical purposes we agree on what to value. We just have no idea how to cope and defend our intuitions when multiple values come into conflict.

The fact that this happens is an empirical fact about the world because we have finite lifespans, finite resources and the second law of thermodynamics, not getting to eat your cake and have it too is a natural state of the world. (The Abrahamic tradition gets this backwards and fantasizes about a perfect created world that we subsequently fell from, so the finite resources and finite lifespans are our fault; the result of “sin”, a notion responsible for more emotional trauma that just about any in human history.)

Instead of an ontological problem of “Why we ought do X”, we have a computation problem of weighing the different Xs against one another. In the case of space exploration, something we value because of the many moral benefits it brings us. (How many lives are saved each year because a GPS is narrating the directions instead of having to look down at a map?) but we wanted those benefits, which were real, in a hurry. So we got them in a way that wasn’t sustainable. We didn’t have the moral software sophisticated enough to look to the future to see when all this “progress” might stop.

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