Monday, December 22, 2003
Profiles of the Future: Can Space Colonization Still Inspire?
Chapter 8's focus is primarily on how the new frontier of space and, more importantly, space colonization, will have a dramatic effect on the arts, as evidenced by quotes from Walter Prescott Webb's The Great Frontier. I have not read this work, so I only have Clarke's bits and pieces of it to work from, but it appears that Mr. Webb indicates that great advances in the arts are coupled with great advancements on the frontiers of a particular culture.
Interestingly, Clarke mentions that flight has not produced such advances. He conjectures that this is because flight is a frontier that man only stays in temporarily. At some point the plane lands, and it is invariably somewhere familliar.
It occurs to me, then, that the reason for these Renaissances associated with frontiers may be because of the great unknowing of what lies beyond the frontier. If this is, indeed, the case, I expect that any inspiration the move to space colonies may be tempered somewhat by the fact that we will invariably know as much as we can possibly know before even setting foot in the direction of this adventure due to the costs involved, and the increased perceived importance of human life (exacerbated by the fact that very few will get to participate in this adventure). We will know the face of the planet we set off to down to the minutest detail. We will know precisely where to land, the order things will be unpacked and assembled, and the composition of the daily meals.
I wonder, then: Will there ever be, again, a physical frontier that exceeds in inspiration the virtual frontiers we can now create? My guess is that, unless we discover a means of teleporting ourselves to unknown destinations where no man has previously gone, the answer is probably no.
Nonetheless, if we were to land people on the moon in the next couple of decades with the intent to set up a colony, I expect I will still be filled with awe and wonder. I expect that it will still suffice to make us feel small in a large universe, and the inevitable things that will go wrong will keep us in suspense the entire time. I just wonder if I won't have already played and gotten bored with the simulation of it years previous.