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Human Potential Is Illimitable – LewRockwell

Posted by M. C. on December 4, 2022

Since Homo habilis first walked the Earth, about 2.3 million years ago, the history of the human race has been a history of accelerating technological progress. From the first stone tools, the utilization of fire, writing, and the harnessing of artificial power sources, our lives have become longer, richer, and more satisfying. Yet human beings have barely begun to fulfill our potential. We have reason to be optimistic about the future.

By David Deming

With information and energy, anything allowed by the laws of nature is possible. The confluent emergence of robotics, artificial intelligence, and nuclear fusion power brings this within our sight. In the centuries to come human beings will reach unprecedented levels of prosperity and welfare. The natural environment will be healed and restored. And humanity will spread throughout the galaxy.

Nuclear power is inevitable, because that’s where the energy is. Hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe. The fusion of hydrogen atoms into helium powers stars. The reservoir of hydrogen on Earth alone is sufficient to meet the needs of any conceivable human civilization into the indefinite future. For more than fifty years, the pursuit of practical energy generation through fusion has failed. But in recent years there has been rapid progress using a number of novel techniques. It seems likely that within a decade or two at least one of these approaches will come online as a practical means of generating electrical power.

By the end of this century most of our power generation will be by means of nuclear fusion. The cost of electricity will drop. Abundant and cheap energy has almost endless implications for solving human problems. If energy is inexpensive, desalination can provide limitless amounts of fresh water wherever it is needed. Global warming and the planetary climate can be modulated by pulling carbon dioxide directly out of the air. Inexpensive energy will also enable the cost-effective synthesis of chemical fuels, where the use of these remains appropriate, as in aviation and rocket ships. It will be feasible to manufacture hydrocarbon fuels directly from carbon and water. Gasoline will become a renewable source of power storage and utilization.

Artificial intelligence combined with robotics will provide a means of channeling and utilizing energy to achieve anything that is possible. These technologies are sufficiently advanced to be on the verge of producing an autonomous self-driving automobile. The rapid maturation of artificial intelligence is demonstrated by the fact that computer programs can now easily defeat the best human chess players. Industrial robots are replacing human beings in a number of roles where they can perform many tasks more reliably and accurately.

The James Webb space telescope is an awesome achievement. But future telescopes will not be laboriously pieced together on Earth and then transported into space. The raw materials will be gathered in space or transported to the appropriate location and then assembled by robots guided by artificial intelligence. The process will be much more robust, as the assemblers will remain on site after completion to effect any needed repairs or correct any malfunctions. Telescopes with mirrors a kilometer or more in diameter can be used to scout nearby stars for Earth-like planets suitable for colonization.

If human life can be prolonged, colonization of the Milky Way galaxy will be inevitable. The average distance between stars in the galaxy is about five light-years. Even if the speed of light remains an insurmountable obstacle, interstellar travel is theoretically possible. Rockets can be accelerated to some appreciable fraction of the speed of light using nuclear pulse propulsion. If the average human life expectancy at birth can be increased to say, a thousand years, then a trip taking a hundred years becomes feasible.

Eventually, humans will not search out Earth-like worlds, but construct artificial worlds. This process has already been foreseen. The 1970 novel Ring World by Larry Niven describes an artificial world rotating like a ring around a star. Niven’s Ring World has a diameter equivalent to that of Earth’s orbit, a width of one million miles, and provides three million times the living space that Earth does. Such a world could be roofed by solar panels that open and close, alternating day and night, moderating temperature, and generating large amounts of electrical energy.

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