The rise of Trump and “America First” has shown us that tribalism still reigns supreme. All of recorded history is nothing more than our tribal interactions and the frictions that belonging to a different group can cause. Wars are fought for land, religion, business, and politics: all of which are an attempt to expand a tribe’s power.
One of these days, tribalism will destroy us all.
How close were we to a nuclear wasteland during the Cold War? How soon until the fail-safe systems fail and a stray missile is launched, or a despot gets too big for his or her britches and tries to wipe out another country?
We have no idea when the world will end, but until we stop thinking about ourselves as tribes and instead as humans, there will always be a risk.
That’s why we need to invest in space travel. We have to expand beyond our pale blue dot and venture out into the universe. We need to become Earthlings — entirely focused on the following goals:
- Ensuring all humans live a happy, productive life
- Exploring the galaxy and expanding the human race to ensure we survive
- Looking for life elsewhere in the cosmos
That last goal is key. I’m convinced that if we found aliens tomorrow, we would unify as a species more quickly than any other event. We’d do it even faster if the aliens were a threat to our existence.
The second we realize we aren’t the only ones floating around on a spinning rock in a vast, silent universe, we will begin to think of ourselves as citizens of a larger galaxy rather than a collection of nations on Earth.
Unfortunately, uniting because we found aliens would still end up harnessing the power of tribalism. Aliens become “the other”, and humanity would work towards grabbing more pieces of the galaxy than they currently do. Eventually — when we’ve saturated our little corner of the universe — we’ll be right back in the same spot we are today; bickering over territory and power, only at a scale a million times larger.
That’s a “future us” problem though, and none of us will be around to see it. But I’m optimistic that humanity will be enlightened thousands of years from now. We’ll do spectacularly in dealing with that issue if it even arises.
In the meantime, let’s start searching the stars.
Let’s put aside our differences and work to get multi-national space programs off the ground.
Let’s start uniting as citizens of Earth!