Why Humanity Will Never Be A Space-Faring Species

How the tyrannies of distance, biology, and physics will always defeat us

Allan Milne Lees

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Image credit: Paramount Pictures

Many years ago, my first job after arriving in California was to help set up business processes and technology solutions for a company in the San Francisco Bay Area. This company produced literature about various illnesses, presented in easy-to-understand cartoon form. The company’s customers were doctors’ offices and dentists’ offices across North America and in its niche it was very successful. Primary marketing and fulfillment was accomplished via a group of about twenty telemarketers who happened to be all female and all aged between thirty and fifty. These women formed a cohesive social group because they shared one over-riding common interest: daytime TV soap operas.

In order to avoid missing even a single episode of their various must-watch series, they’d arranged a rota. As each telemarketer in turn took their allotted 30-minute break, they’d go to the break room next to the telemarketing area and sit in front of the TV to watch whatever soap opera happened to be the one they’d been allocated. Then, once the soap was over, they’d rush back to their telemarketing station and quickly send an internal message to all the other telemarketing agents updating them on the day’s soapy events. In this way, the women were able to consume some sixteen different soaps each day and remain current with whatever it was the various characters were doing.

What has all this to do with space exploration and humans spreading across the stars?

Simple: the women in the telemarketing group knew, intellectually, that the soaps to which they were addicted were fiction and that the characters they followed so assiduously were portrayed by actors. And yet… when one character fell ill, the women clubbed together to send flowers and various gifts of food. When another character became pregnant, the telemarketing women clubbed together to send baby clothes and huge cards expressing their hopes for a wonderful birth.

In other words, the telemarketing women couldn’t really distinguish between reality and fantasy. They’d learned to acknowledge that these soaps were pure fiction, but this did not in any way prevent them from reacting precisely…

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Allan Milne Lees

Anyone who enjoys my articles here on Medium may be interested in my books Why Democracy Failed and The Praying Ape, both available from Amazon.