I can easily set a story in a dystopian environment not subject to ethics, but I would rather try to create a backdrop that is as ethical as possible given the requirements. I feel that writing about possible deviations from an ethical starting point will give more interesting insight into human interactions than just starting off with no ethics. With this in mind, I would like to know how I can set up a generation ship that has a good chance of continuing in its search, whilst taking as ethical an approach as practically possible.
The first generation born on a generation ship will be living among people who were born on Earth and made their own decision to leave Earth forever. However, the new generation did not get to make this choice. Resenting this they may choose to force the ship to turn back, either by mutiny or a few decades later when they form the majority.
Assuming a ship that does not have the power to simply reverse its direction at any arbitrary point (since the speeds achievable by slingshot give such a large ship too much momentum for its own propulsion systems to be able to match), what can be done to ethically prevent the ship being turned around by slingshot at the next available star?
A few ideas come to mind and I'm not sure if they would be more or less ethical, or whether they would make continuing more or less likely.
- Keeping (very long time delayed) communication channels open to Earth for as long as possible.
- Imposing a false history so that the first few generations believe there have been hundreds before them, and Earth is not even theoretically reachable.
- A false history where Earth is uninhabitable and only generation ships survived.
Are false histories effective or more of a risk if they get discovered? Are false histories ethical if in the long term a species' survival depends on spreading out among the stars? To increase the probability of species survival, ships need to be sent out while Earth is still healthy and inhabitable. How can this be justified ethically?
I'm interested in the ethical implications of these particular points, and their effects on the probability of success. I'm also interested in hearing what points I have overlooked that affect ethical considerations and risk of return, including ideas about method of government, education and its potential overlap with indoctrination, and access by the general population to knowledge and sensor readings.
In response to the point raised on meta that ethics can be subjective and vary between cultures, I am looking for answers backed up by studies of ethics that are as near as possible to objective. Not what would one particular cultural history suggest, but what would a present day international effort to send our species to the stars be likely to settle on as ethical requirements.