Noting that this question is specific to human colonization, and Thucydides’s answer is explicit that driving concerns are to support life, and I notice that the story I’m working on turns this on its head because the premise is different in a fundamental way, I thought I'd ask a new question with this difference:

As a post-human culture emerges and finds its need for resources potentially growing by orders of magnitude and it is freed from many of the issues of needing to support fragile flesh, it naturally expands into space. (See this question for timeline.)

My plot has development driven by a Great Goal of launching an interstellar mission on a deadline, but before that expansion into space has already started.

What order would they do things in?

Other than the quest for resources to eventually build a new civilization, and the general desire to get away from the politics and economy of Earth, one goal relevant to the early part of the plot is scientific knowledge: build a series of telescope modules that will be farther out from the sun than Jupiter.

  • $\begingroup$ Even post humans and AI will need the categories of resources mentioned in my previous answer, just in very different proportions, and possibly for different reasons. An ice moon would make an excellent heat sink for a monster datacenter, for example. $\endgroup$
    – Thucydides
    Sep 23, 2016 at 15:38

3 Answers 3


Currently I can’t picture the whole process, but I can tell you that one of the first objectives will be the moon colony.

The idea is that you can have frequent flies from Earth to the moon with technology A which is designed to enter and exit Earth atmosphere, and then have ships build technology B that is designed for longer space travel but not really for Earth reentry.

Here is where I’m unsure, because the question seems to suggest that resources are not really an issue: after the moon colony, you could try to use those ships to send robots ahead, not for exploration but for mining and building – mars and the asteroid belt seem to be good targets for prospection, there is a chance they’ll discard mars depending if the gravity well is worth the minerals.

Either way, future manned mission would be building and launched on space.


In terms of order, I am going to make the assumption that the development of post-humans and strong AI happen during the period when humans are colonizing the Solar System. This is plausible since we currently do know how to move and settle the Solar System with only small extensions of existing technology, while we still have no clear idea of how things like uploading, AI or biological post humanism would work.

In terms of "Where" and "When", I suspect the post human will choose Jupiter as the locus of their settlement and civilization. There are many factors which will drive this:

  1. Energy. Regardless of how beings work, they will need energy for their life processes and technologies. Jupiter has both an immense amount of energy close at hand (the flux tube between Io and Jupiter is essentially an electrical circuit with 2 trillion amps of current) and more importantly a large number of heat sinks. The oceans and ice moons orbiting Jupiter can serve as vast heat sinks for factories devoted to building data centres, and the computers can be exposed to the cold of space. Mercury has much higher energy density, but is a very hot environment, while Uranus may be far colder, but energy production is limited by the need to build and operate fusion reactors "burning" 3He.

  2. Building materials. The Jovian system has 67 moons in close proximity, and thousands of Trojan asteroids, providing a huge trove of materials to build communications infrastructure, computer matrix substrates, radiation shelters and all the other infrastructure needed for post human "life". There will most likely need to be a very complex technological "ecosystem" to support advanced post human life, much like a major city on Earth needs a complex market and infrastructure to allow so many people to live in close proximity.

  3. Proximity. Since post humans, downloads and AI's will be thinking thousands to a million times faster than human brains, latency and proximity is an issue. The distance between the Earth and the Moon is only 1.25 light seconds, but for a 1,000,000x faster uploaded being, that might be a subjective week. Beaming information or uploads across the solar system would be incredibly painful for these beings, since they will be taking decades or centuries of subjective time during the trip. If physically flown across the solar system, where it might take years for any realistic spacecraft to cross the gulf, thousands of subjective years could pass. Dying of boredom could become an actual cause of death in these circumstances. The 67 moons of Jupiter, in contrast, are only light seconds apart, so a rich and incredibly diverse culture could arise with 67 or more distinct "worlds" only a few weeks apart from each other from the POV of the post humans.

So once post humanism becomes possible, I could see a movement by the post humans to bring their physical bodies to Jupiter and initially settle in existing infrastructure. Since they will be thinking and working much faster than the existing human population, they will rapidly "explode" across the Jovian system, initially claiming uninhabited moons and building space infrastructure until they are by far the majority in system. The Humans will probably be allowed to stay, since they pose no realistic threat, and are being massively outcompeted for resources anyway. If the humans choose to stay, they will be confined to radiation safe zones like bubble cities driven into the ice of Ganymede, otherwise the humans might gradually choose to move back to the Solar Zone between Earth and Mercury (where it is too hot for massive computer data bases to function effectively), or to deep space where the post humans might die of old age or boredom before being able to arrive.

  • $\begingroup$ Re your preface: see worldbuilding.stackexchange.com/questions/51746/… . One reason to go beyond Earth may be in fact the energy situation. $\endgroup$
    – JDługosz
    Sep 23, 2016 at 22:12
  • $\begingroup$ Btw, in my storyverse the uploads are initally much slower and catch up in speed as technology improves, but are still held back by energy cost. $\endgroup$
    – JDługosz
    Sep 23, 2016 at 22:16
  • $\begingroup$ …and the interstellar travellers run at 10% down to 1% during the transit, and boost up only if something frantic needs to be dealt with. $\endgroup$
    – JDługosz
    Sep 23, 2016 at 22:17
  • $\begingroup$ Not sure if an upload or AI would see an advantage to being slower than a biological brain in the initial phase, but being able to modify the "runtime" would be advantageous in long duration travel. WRT the nature of transhuman minds, try this: youtube.com/watch?v=ok8N2PkqCDs $\endgroup$
    – Thucydides
    Sep 23, 2016 at 22:52
  • $\begingroup$ Initial: not because of any advantage but because it’s possible at the slower speed, with the earliest hardware capable of running a brqintupload at all. $\endgroup$
    – JDługosz
    Sep 24, 2016 at 3:32

It is reasonable to assume there will be a fair amount of technological infrastructure installed in the solar system prior to post-human colonization. What is often overlooked is that automated and cybernetic machines will be the vehicles and industry occupying space and objects in the solar system.

The post-humans may not colonize various bits of solar real estate, but they may exploit their resources via self-aware and self-directed machines. Once they created more than sufficient infrastructure, the post-humans will take up residence in the more desirable parts of the solar system.

Post-human colonization is likely to proceed in terms of accessing the mass and energy they need to further construct and expand their occupation of the solar system.

The Moon and near-earth objects (NEOs), basically asteroids, will be initially the sites of solar power arrays, automated mining machinery, and mass-drivers to ship out material. No post-humans need be on site. A combination of AIs and remote control can do the job.

Next go inwards for energy and more mass. Mercury is believed to be rich in minerals and metals. Close to the Sun there will be solar power to burn. (Apologies for the demotic turn of phrase!) Venus can be harvested for carbon-based material. Floating structures will be used both as infrastructure and possible habitats for post-humans. The view will be spectacular. Both planets are energetically easier to get to, than going further outwards.

The next phase of colonization will be the planets Jupiter and Saturn and their attendant moon systems. The first wave will always be AI controlled systems to establish the basis of later industrialization, habitats, and colonization.

Both planets and their moons are rich in valuable and usable resources. Water, deuterium, carbon, oxygen, nitrogen, aluminium, and silicon. Also, it's hard to imagine any colonization would ignore Titan as it has to be the most Earthlike world, outside of Earth itself, anywhere in the solar system.

One problem in deciding the order of a post-human colonization of the solar system would proceed is that much of it will happen simultaneously and there will be considerable overlap in their settlement. This could happen to such an extent that the colonization might not proceed in any specific order.

For example, the exploitation and utilization of asteroids will start early with NEOs and then gradually continue to embrace the asteroid belt proper. It may be continuing to expand while the gas giants are being colonized.

Also, there is a degree of undecidability in knowing the impact of the plot driver for the Great Goal of an interstellar mission. But yourself as the author will have to make that decidable.

  • $\begingroup$ «Both planets are energetically easier to get to, than going further outwards.» would you double check that? Mercury is quite difficult in terms of needed ∆v. $\endgroup$
    – JDługosz
    Sep 23, 2016 at 15:37
  • $\begingroup$ @JDługosz: You're correct; in fact, Mercury is the hardest planet to get to in terms of the ∆v needed (at least using Hohmann transfers; there may be trickier methods using longer, more circuitous orbits). If we rank the planets (plus Ceres & Pluto) in terms of total ∆v needed from Earth, from smallest to largest, they are: Venus, Mars, Ceres, Jupiter, Pluto, Neptune, Saturn, Uranus, Mercury. $\endgroup$ Sep 23, 2016 at 17:47
  • $\begingroup$ @MichaelSeifert Well done! You've corrected my misapprehension. I knew Venus was easy in terms of ∆v & had, wrongly, assumed Mercury would be too. I was thinking of colonization using Hohmann transfers as a guide. Pluto & Neptune were a surprise. Do you have a source for this information? It will be quite useful. $\endgroup$
    – a4android
    Sep 24, 2016 at 2:04
  • $\begingroup$ @a4android: only my own self. :-) I'm a physics professor and once assigned a problem where the students had to calculate these numbers for various planets. $\endgroup$ Sep 27, 2016 at 15:13
  • $\begingroup$ @Michael Seifert. There couldn't be a better source. Science is wonderfully counter-intuitive, but it's so easy to make assumptions and go completely wrong. But finding the actual reality makes it absolutely worthwhile. Thanks for the information. $\endgroup$
    – a4android
    Sep 28, 2016 at 1:49

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