Book Review: Emigrating Beyond Earth

Article written: 3 Mar , 2015
Updated: 23 Dec , 2015
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Do you believe that humans are the ultimate species and that we have a destiny to rule? Perhaps you’re being optimistic according to Cameron Smith and Evan Davies. Their book “Emigrating Beyond Earth: Human Adaptation and Space Colonization” provides an anthropologist’s view that splashes a certain amount of chagrin on the hubris of our culture. Yes, they say we can and indeed should become a spacefaring species. However, they do caution that this future for our species can be attained only if we proactively try.

Smith and Davies describe themselves as adventurers and academics. This varied background comes through in their book. It contains an impressive amount of research and facts, all well referenced. The considered time-frame is all Earth encompassing, from the origin of life in the Hadean age up to today’s social structure of empires that encompass multi-millions of human subjects. Of course it highlights changes over time. For instance, humans are shown to have evolved from small brained quadrupeds to large brained bipeds with cognitive fluidity. But perhaps more importantly, it shows that culture is as important as opposable thumbs and sexual reproduction.

Maybe you recall this as the nature versus nurture issue? Well, this book states unequivocally that nurture or culture is an essential element of humanity’s existence. That is, our culture allows us to build thriving, capable empires as the Mayans did. The hubris appears by the reminder that most empires and indeed most species have faded away or gone extinct. Hence, the book’s unwritten conclusion is that humans will follow the same path unless we proactively choose otherwise. Whether from an academic viewpoint or from being a world traveller, the authors in their book vouchsafe that emigration to space is a necessary act for the survival of humans.

Indeed, much of this book is taken up with arguing for the emigration beyond Earth. In this sense, if you are looking for information and reasoning to support the effort and expenditure for space colonization, then this book is a great resource. It even offers a perspective on the relative benefits between colonizing the Moon or Mars. However, while it provides sound arguments for ‘why,’ it doesn’t really answer ‘how.’ This could be the book’s main short coming in that most of its arguments for emigration have arisen before and, thus, while being comprehensive it may not offer anything new to a well-read reader. Its one main suggestion is for a ‘cognitive shift’ to make the idea of space emigration as common place as eating. Indeed, if everyone were to read this book, then such a shift would likely take place.

In total, this book empowers and indeed urges the reader to make a choice. The choice is between accepting the future whatever it may hold, or, proactively choosing to try to advance both our culture and our biological make-up via emigrating. In this, the authors Cameron Smith and Evan Davies in their book “Emigrating Beyond Earth: Human Adaptation and Space Colonization” clearly lay out the likely consequences for either. Does humanity have the will to make such a choice? Are you ready to make the choice? Read this book and then ponder some more about the future for humankind.

The book is available at Amazon. More information can be found at Smith’s website.

Mr. Mortimer is the president and CEO for the Lunar Colony Fund. He is leading this registered non-profit organization to be the focus for those people worldwide who want to support a human capability beyond the cradle of Earth.

Mr. Mortimer has had an extensive career across many fields including government, defence contractor, telecommunications, institutions, environmental agencies and fundraisers. He’s written reviews for space related publications as well as written a book on the attribution of civilization’s progress to the availability of energy. By establishing a singularly focused fund, he will resolve the single most challenging aspect of space; the monies needed to enable our reach to the stars.



10 Responses

  1. Member
    Tim Reyes says

    Unless they address bio-engineering, this book is only half-baked. There are two events that will decide the state of humanity within the next 200 years. One is expansion beyond the Earth and utilization of the asteroids as a natural resource. Second is bio-engineering. The human species is destined to bifurcate into sub-species. Some humans will choose to remain unchanged and most of those will remain on Earth but the new environments beyond Earth will beckon for physical changes.

    One only needs to look at the Amish of Pennsylvania to recognize one extreme – no change. The other extreme, who knows where the limit is but it will be extreme as well. Consider the social changes to accept LBGT occurring now. It is the continuing trend to accept diversity. If young generations of the third world are able to find meaningful work and end the chaos of, e.g., the middle east crisis, acceptance of cultures will continue to grow, too. Bio-engineering will see resistance but there is no turning back, just as there is no turning back from accepting social, cultural diversity and also taking the path forward into the rest of the Solar System and the other places, too.

    • LapsedPacifist 2 says

      @ Tim Reyes
      “The other extreme, who knows where the limit is but it will be extreme…”
      Agreed, I’d say it approaches infinity…

      “One only needs to look at the Amish of Pennsylvania to recognize one extreme – no change.”
      That’s not one of the extremes – in fact it’s about the least likely of all. No change, or very little, would require a population crash first.

      The other extreme is actually extinction. So the choice we face is between onward and extinction. I vote for onward.

      Just a few self-sufficient colonies off earth would almost guarantee our descendants at least one entire galaxy within a few million years and survival for at least a few trillion. No doubt as uncountable new species and cultures.

  2. Ponce says

    “Do you believe that humans are the ultimate species and that we have a destiny to rule?” YES & NO.

  3. bfmorris says

    In regards to the topic of this book, I disagree that bio-engineering is as salient as has been suggested in the comments. It certainly isn’t the key to emigrating beyond Earth, that should be obvious when examined in the face of the daunting technological challenges that emigration requires.

    I think the desires spoken of in the book exist in humans. This can be seen in history; in the way humans spread around the Earth, moving to new lands, new environments and overcoming incredible odds during those times. Those early pioneers found a way through, they returned, were able to convince large numbers of others, and they were correct, though many tried and failed and did not return as well. However, I agree with the review in that I don’t think a ‘cognitive shift’ is going to get us to space and new worlds to colonise. As Mark Mortimer suggests when he alluded to ‘how’, we need incredibly major breakthroughs in energy technology, first. Also the problems that gravity presents seem like a deal breaker even with a new, incredible energy source. Keep working on the breakthroughs. Then the shift will come.

    • Member
      Tim Reyes says

      With or without the migration of humans to the rest of the Solar System, bio-engineering will happen. Certainly, expansion and exploration could take place without it and it would offer those Donner Party type of moments. With it, it enables more migration and adaptability. Our technology is an enabler – space travel or bio-engineering; an optimist’s POV. I would add that what makes a triad is artificial intelligence that we will realize out-performs us in many respects. My recent comment here reflected on this challenge. We will be defeated by A.I. if we dismiss the value of our cultures. Any culture that has been defeated technologically has survived by embracing and often reviving their cultural heritage. So it will be for all humanity. Technology even without A.I. has disrupted cultures (though it offers opportunities).

  4. TomArt says

    I’m confused by the criticism of this book. The reviewer stated: “However, while it provides sound arguments for ‘why,’ it doesn’t really answer ‘how.’ This could be the book’s main short coming in that most of its arguments for emigration have arisen before and, thus, while being comprehensive it may not offer anything new to a well-read reader.”

    That’s not the point. I haven’t read the book yet, but it is perfectly clear to me that the purpose of the book is to help introduce the “cognitive shift” to a broader audience, not to the “well-read reader” who, as the reviewer states, is already going to be aware of most, if not all, of the points the book makes. Few people are going to fit that description compared to society as a whole.

    This much is evident from the very next sentence of the review: “Its one main suggestion is for a ‘cognitive shift’ to make the idea of space emigration as common place as eating. Indeed, if everyone were to read this book, then such a shift would likely take place.”

    A comment here mentioned the need for major technological breakthroughs. Well, that seems to be the underlying point of the book – they won’t happen, or at least, not for a long time, without the collective will generated by the cognitive shift toward thinking extra-terrestrial at a cultural level.

    An anthropological issue that I find more intriguing are some criticisms you may hear about space exploration that along the lines of, “as a species, we can’t even think globally! We’re too provincial, and we have major problems like world hunger and such here on Earth. What’s the point?” Well, my answer would be that a serious effort at colonizing Mars, or the Moon, etc., can be unifying. The moon landings did that, for a time, until the pendulum has swung back toward narrow interests. I think it’s time for the pendulum to swing forward again, which appears to be the goal of the book.

    I’m going to buy it, and I look forward to reading it. Thanks for the review!

    • Member
      Tim Reyes says

      I should add that the review is a good one and it pulls no punches and states what is lacking which is along the lines of my first comment. Also, raising questions and comments from readers is a good thing. I’m with you and I’m inclined to try this book.

    • bfmorris says

      ” they won’t happen, or at least, not for a long time, without the collective will generated by the cognitive shift toward thinking extra-terrestrial at a cultural level.”

      Historically, the breakthroughs (ie successful journeys) appear to have occurred first, these then drove a ‘cognitive shift’ to migrate.

  5. postman1 says

    For those interested in this subject, check out Kim Stanley Robinson’s trilogy, ‘Red Mars’, ‘Green Mars’, ‘Blue Mars’. Yes, it is scifi, but there is a lot of ‘sci’ and they are a good read.

    Also: What, no free copies to give away?

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