by Mike Wall
SpaceX is developing
reusable rocket-spaceship system
the BFR to help make Mars settlement
Humanity's brutal and bellicose past provides ample justification
for pursuing settlements on the Moon and Mars,
Elon Musk says.
The billionaire entrepreneur has long stressed that he founded
SpaceX in 2002 primarily to help
make humanity a multiplanet species
- a giant leap that would render us much less vulnerable to
Human civilization faces many grave threats over the long haul, from
asteroid strikes and climate change to artificial intelligence run
amok, Musk has said over the years.
And he recently
highlighted our well-documented inability to get along with each
other as another frightening factor.
"Last century, we had
two massive world wars - three if you count the Cold War," Musk
said earlier this month at the
SXSW festival in Austin, Texas.
"I think it's
unlikely that we'll never have another world war again."
He emphasized that he's not predicting an imminent global conflict,
only that one is likely to occur at some point in the future, given
humanity's track record.
If and when that next big
war occurs, Musk added, it could usher in a planet-wide "dark ages."
"Then we want to make
sure that there's enough of a seed of human civilization
somewhere else to bring civilization back and perhaps shorten
the length of the dark ages," he said.
"I think a
and a Mars base that could perhaps help regenerate life back
here on Earth would be really important, and to get that done
before a possible World War III."
Mars base would be a
sturdier civilization bulwark than a moon settlement because the Red
Planet is farther from Earth, Musk added.
But it's worth setting up
shop on both worlds, as each outpost would thin our risk, he said.
Musk isn't all talk on this topic:
SpaceX is developing a huge,
reusable rocket-spaceship combo called the BFR, with the chief aim
of making Mars colonization economically feasible.
Musk unveiled the latest
plans for this transportation system at a conference in Australia
last September, and he gave a
brief progress update at SXSW.
building that ship right now," he said, referring to a BFR
"I think we'll probably be able to do short
flights, short sort of up-and-down flights, probably sometime in
the first half of next year."
Musk has previously said
that, if everything goes well with
the BFR's development, the first
crewed flights to Mars could lift off in the 2020s.
And getting back to existential threats:
A global war and
accompanying dark ages aren't at the top of Musk's list of
At SXSW, he
sounded the alarm once again about
artificial intelligence (AI) and called for some form of public
regulation of the rapidly advancing technology.
"The danger of AI is
much greater than the danger of nuclear warheads, by a lot, and
nobody would suggest that we allow anyone to just build nuclear
warheads if they want. That would be insane," he said.
"If humanity collectively decides that creating digital
super-intelligence is the right move, then we should do so very,
very carefully - very, very carefully," Musk added.
"This is the most
important thing that we can possibly do."