Let's assume we live in a civilization with very advanced machines, capable of moving through space safely. Space travel is a reality. But we still have to face, let's say, 40 years of waiting (assuming there's no shortcuts like wormholes or speed of light).

How would this affect us, in behavioral terms?

In a scenario where we can go far, as long as we accept to pay the price of long periods of journey to deep space, with no turning back? What are the effects of this idea in the context of day-to-day life (inside a spaceship)?

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    $\begingroup$ You may want to clarify your question... as it stands, I believe we already live in such a world. After all, we do have "advanced machines capable of moving through space" (e.g. satellites, the ISS, and deep space probes), and they don't have FTL. In this case, the answer seems to be that having the advanced machine makes it difficult to justify sending people as well. That said, Mars One is an example of an organization that, if funds could be raised, is attempting to do just that -- send people on a one-way journey to Mars. $\endgroup$ – Caleb Hines Oct 20 '15 at 5:44
  • $\begingroup$ Make a fast google on generation ships, it could provide some answers $\endgroup$ – Magic-Mouse Oct 20 '15 at 9:16
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    $\begingroup$ I suggest to have a look at @TimB's questions about generation ship: worldbuilding.stackexchange.com/questions/20275/… I know it does not exactly answer your question, but it may help you expand and precise it. $\endgroup$ – clem steredenn Oct 20 '15 at 11:21
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    $\begingroup$ There's a really good book called Revelation Space that's exactly about this. Basically humans get all sorts of way to prolong their life and eventually store their minds in "alpha simulations" even after they die. The only way to travel long distances is to hibernate. You should take a look at it. $\endgroup$ – Phisher Oct 20 '15 at 13:14
  • $\begingroup$ Non-ftl is a major genre or theme or whatever you call it. No not only is this way too broad, but I'm adding a new tag for that. Exploring this subject might deserve a sticky wiki post or whatever they use for that. $\endgroup$ – JDługosz Oct 20 '15 at 19:15

First of all, I think that this civilization is not a lot different from ours: we just lack the ability of stopping the ageing process. If we could, I think the most probable thing is that birth would become very rare and we would somehow all become immortals. It would change a lot our very notions of death and life because it would suddenly become a matter of choice.

In this context I think the ability of deep-space travel is negligible from respect to the impact of conscious immortal life.

In the other hand, trying to deep-space travel knowing that neither us nor our close siblings would be able to reach the destination is a real challenge. Giving the fact that the closest star system (except from ours) with habitable planets is several centuries away at light speed, people who decide to board the vessel have to expect spending their entire life and those of their siblings within this vessel before landing anywhere. This is very tough and for a very random result. What if the planet is covered in water, what if we were wrong? Is the ship self-sustainable so it can go from star system to star system until finding something interesting?

Plus you have the risk of loosing the point. I think the people inside the vessel -- which is actually becoming a community -- will start to forget about their goal. They will eventually wander in space and start to wonder the same way we do. You have no way to strongly connect the two communities because nothing can travel faster than light and you cannot transmit anything from one human expansion to the other or to the Earth.

So maybe everyone is leaving the Earth. In that case I expect that your question turns into: what would we become if we were living in outer space? Well, I think that we have a good idea of how not good it would be given our current knowledge and technology. We have to experience gravity so we have to generate it. We know that maintaining an angular speed is extremely difficult and except if we have a very very large vessel we would still feel the difference of gravity between our feet and our head. We have to find an energy source, either we embark a fusion reactor with a lot of fuel (which I think is very unlikely) or we program our travel to go from sun to sun so we can fill up our batteries.

Unless you accept to have something like cryogenics abilities. I think that deep-space travel is very unlikely to happen and people would be very reluctant to embark in such a unpredictable and incredibly long mission.

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  • $\begingroup$ I disagree in part. Most people would be very reluctant, but there would be some. A closer example is Mars. Anyone that decided to go colonize Mars would probably not be able to come back after a while because of the effects of low gravity and the cost, but if there was a signup for people to colonize the red planet you know there would be those that would. A lot of people are wired to stay where it's safe, but some just want to get out into new places, explore, and "stretch out". And some would go in hopes of escaping their situation. Don't underestimate the desire to start out fresh. $\endgroup$ – AndyD273 Oct 20 '15 at 16:04
  • $\begingroup$ I totally agree with you. I just assume that going for a Mars colonization is greatly easier than going for an outer-space colonization. But yes, eventually you're right, Humans are eager to colonize and I don't think that they would be reluctant to do so. I just think that his world has to be a bit more prepared than ours. The rest of my point stand I think. $\endgroup$ – Ephasme Oct 20 '15 at 16:47
  • $\begingroup$ @AndyD273 I would challenge that the phrase "A lot of people are wired..." which starts to become a difficult to defend stance when we start talking about societies dealing with immortal consciousnesses or similarly exotic issues. It would not be unreasonable to assume our concept of such long distance space-travel is comparable to a 2 year old's concept of what it means to go to war. $\endgroup$ – Cort Ammon Oct 20 '15 at 16:51
  • $\begingroup$ @CortAmmon That was kinda my point when I said that if the said civilization managed to achieve immortal consciousness there is not much to say about deep-space travel as an issue, it becomes kinda negligible. $\endgroup$ – Ephasme Oct 20 '15 at 16:54

It would be a lot like any other major expansion in human history.
First you'd start off with generation ships full of the explorers, the loners, the disaffected, the oppressed, and the desperate. People without anything to lose who want a fresh new start, cutting all ties to what came before, or the ones that just want to see "whats over the horizon".
There was a time when people who emigrated from the old world to the new world did it with the expectation that they would never be able to go back.
And it happened again when the west was opened up, and families in wagon trains headed west, probably never to go back.

Later on, when the colonies are established then you'll start seeing a few "ordinary" people and family groups, where leaving everything behind is hard, but not outweighed by the opportunities offered.

Eventually, you might start to see people traveling for fun, but that'll likely only happen if longevity treatments become a thing, where you could be gone for 1000 years and your friends are likely to still be alive when you get back.

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