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Given the difficulties in doing things like constructing O'Neil cylinders or habitats on places like Mars, is it at all plausible that current humans could ever really colonize anything in space? Is it more plausible that we're all cyborgs by the time we could reasonably get there, or that AIs/robots are the ones doing nearly all of the actual exploration?

What could prevent this from being the case? How can we keep more or less regular people relevant in future space travel?

EDIT: I feel like this is especially a problem in terms of the type of life support that you would need for extremely long term settlements like O'Neil Cylinders that people will live in over the long term. You'd need biotech advancements to create the sort of closed cycle life support, which would also logically allow things like genetic engineering and other types of augmentation to move forwards more easily at the same time.

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  • $\begingroup$ I suspect you are referring to interstellar space travel (with no FTL/wormhole handwaving) and not "Solar system colonization". If positive, it won't hurt to specify it explicitly in your question. $\endgroup$ Apr 22, 2020 at 5:28
  • $\begingroup$ @AdrianColomitchi This is sort of about both ideas. The idea mostly started because of a discussion about The Expanse, but it also applies heavily to what I was thinking about with interstellar colonization and generation ships. $\endgroup$ Apr 22, 2020 at 5:40
  • $\begingroup$ The solar system colonization and interstellar colonization are different enough to not mix them. Solar system colonization doesn't necessary require transhumanism - after some generations, you'll see "colonies" in the solar system drifting enough (biologically and culturally speaking) to allow xenophobic manifestations (reactions to non-self); I can imagine it is likely that significantly presence of transhumanism inside a Solar system set of colonies will trigger generalized reactions of rejection. It may require the pressure of interstellar travel to accept it as a necessary evil. $\endgroup$ Apr 22, 2020 at 5:56

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Even if we do develop the technology to genetically modify ourselves to be more suitable for exploring space or build cybernetic bodies, there will always be factions that remain "pure" human.

Even in the modern world you get people like the Amish who reject a lot of the modern world. You can then play off the different factions against each other.

If you don't want the cyborgs and GM humans then you can always say there were religious wars and genocides that removed them or that they all just left to explore the stars away from the bigotry and limitations of our solar system

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    $\begingroup$ Of course every faction will argue that they, and they alone, are the "true" humans, even ones genetically engineered to live in the deep, cold oceans under the surface of ice moons orbiting Jupiter and Saturn. $\endgroup$
    – Thucydides
    Apr 24, 2020 at 4:02
  • $\begingroup$ @Thucydides True. There are ways to argue that you are the "truest form of human", even with cybernetics and genetic engineering. Just point to human history and show all the times that we as a species have invented new technologies to improve our lives or created new animals through selective breeding to suit our needs. Someone might say " Humans have always changed ourselves and our environment to suit our needs. This is simply the final step." $\endgroup$
    – user75574
    May 12, 2020 at 22:40
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Sure it's possible. It's more a matter of whether or not human society would ever consider the investment of resources to be worth it.

For the longevity question: Observe that human kind has continuously inhabited the International Space Station for nearly 20 years. This is actual experimental proof that long-term habitation of space is possible. The ISS will probably keep flying as long as we deem it worthwhile to keep flying.

There are still big unknowns here- Could we fly a space station for 20 years without a planet nearby to support it? Could we grow enough food and produce enough oxygen and have enough industrial capacity to be self-sustaining? Where would the raw materials come from? But those are all problems we can currently solve or could probably solve with some time and effort- for example, so far nobody has tried to build a full-scale farm in space, but we've successfully grown food.

For the speed question: As far as we know right now, faster-than-light travel is not possible and even getting close to light speed is not feasible. However, it was speculated in the 50's that we could use nuclear weapons to achieve 10% the speed of light, which could get a ship to the next nearest star (Alpha Centauri) in about 100 years. As far as anyone can tell, there are no serious technical problems with that proposal, just a political desire not to launch thousands of nuclear warheads into space.

Moreover, what this demonstrates is that we as a species has developed to the point where we can harness enough energy to achieve appreciable fractions of the speed of light for at least one ship. What this means is that interstellar travel is technically feasible, but the limiting factors are how expensive it is and how much you can do it.

Both of these observations imply that long-term habitation of space, both in the vacuum of space as well as on other worlds around other stars, is at least theoretically possible. How would it work- nobody really knows. Would we send one big ark ship off into the void with enough supplies and space to sustain generations of people before it got to its destination, or could we go fast enough that colonists who leave Earth as young people would see their grandchildren play on alien soil? Can we send a lot of ships or just one? Is it ever possible to send a return ship without waiting a thousand years for society to develop?

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Colonisation of space in rotating space stations should certainly be possible, although the technical, practical and financial issues are huge.

It is an open question if humans will be able to colonise Mars or not. Although often ignored the real question is whether human reproduction and embryo development can occur normally in a reduced gravity environment. If it can, then colonisation would be possible, but if it’s not then it would make colonisation impossible or ridiculously impractical. We will see.

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Look at it this way: we already have plans to go to mars, we dont have much cyborg tech. We will most likely have some sort of permanent space base before cyborgs become real as you are thinking. we humans have a long way to go actually modifying ourselves, but sending things to mars we have done that.

in short: There isnt really a problem to begin with

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  • $\begingroup$ The plans to go to Mars, from what I can tell, are sketchy. The existence of such plans do not in any way guarantee success. Even the most optimistic of Mars enthusiasts accept that there are hundreds of problems to be solved and that some of those problems just may not have solutions. So perhaps there is a problem to begin with. $\endgroup$ Apr 22, 2020 at 17:08
  • $\begingroup$ @JonStonecash there are problem to be solved but we are solving them SpaceX has starship being worked on, plenty of people are designing new ways to produce food with less space, NASA has been working on it. as for cyborgs well theres some but most that i know of is to help someone if they lost an arm or hand or whatever it is. I personally believe that we will have a mars base soon within 50 years or so you can choose to believe something else $\endgroup$
    – Topcode
    Apr 22, 2020 at 17:14

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