Thursday, July 16, 2015

Martian Society

Mars One Concept for Initial Mars Base
Mars will likely be the first planet, after Earth, which humans will have a permanent presence upon. But what will a Martian society be like? How will it develop and what will Martians be like to trade with. What will be the state of technology. And what will be the mindset of a Martian. In order to create a multiplanetary economy these are all questions that must be explored.

Here are the basic predictions we'll cover in this post. Mars will be agrarian. It will be technologically advanced initially. Martians will be highly independent. Mars will be an ecological experiment station. It will lead advances in agriculture and genetics. It will be a planetary country. Any commerce, at the beginning, on Mars will be basic bartering and trading.

To imagine Mars will be agrarian is a given. In order to survive initial colonist will be required to have a firm grasp of agriculture. This will continue for perhaps hundreds of years as farming is the only means to produce the food needed on Mars. It will remain the focus until Mars  is terraformed.

In the early days the farming will occupy the attention of many of the people in a colony. The limited space and inhospitable environment will require constant attention be given to farms to ensure they produce adequately. Automation and robotics will likely come to replace the amount of attention and labor given to day to day farming activities. However, the farm will remain the primary focus of the colonists. Therefore when they gain time for research and study it will be toward methods of improving the farming techniques to increase their standard of living

While Martian society will be based on agriculture the society will still be technologically advanced. In order to land and then live on Mars for any period of time requires technologies which are not commonplace on Earth. There will be a dependency of Martian society on that technology. And, in order to grow at an appreciable rate the best and newest technologies will have to be delivered. Not to mention the fact that genetics and material science will be important aspects of Martian survival based on the farming foundation. Both of those fields require highly advanced technology. But since exploitation of Martian resources to produce such products as silicon chips will be difficult, Earth will have to supply it. Technology will be the Earth's primary export to Mars.

In fact, as compared to Earth the technological infrastructure of Mars will be greater. This will be a side effect of establishing a colony on Mars. Anything that does not have to be landed will not be landed. For this reason communications will be wireless from the very beginning and computing will likely be in the form of orbital data centers. Such a system simplifies the delivery of such technological payloads from Earth.

Concerning power generation. Mars will begin using solar and nuclear powersources. Coal and other fossil fuels will not be an option. This will again leap ahead of Earth. Perhaps to such an extent that even orbital power plants will be in use early in the society due to the access to Earth delivery craft. Nuclear will be an option since fears of such technology will not exist on Mars.

To explain why such technologies as nuclear reactors will not be feared on Mars we should discuss the people. To be blunt Martians will be the best people alive. Mars is to far away and too expensive to send herds of people to. Even if a launch from Earth becomes inexpensive the cost and risk of landing large groups of people on the planet are too great. So with fewer people being delivered they will be sifted.

Unlike the Americas Mars has few initial resources to draw from. The people that are sent to Mars will have to be geneticists, botanists, and farmers who are able to adapt Earth ecology to the Martian environment quickly and without hesitation. When we say "farmers" that is exactly what we mean. Not some professor of agriculture but a farmer who has been able to make horrible ground yield a crop. Practical experience will be essential to all Martian settlers. When creating a colony intellectual pursuits will have to be focused toward practical decisions and action.

Now, since all of the people that are chosen to become Martian colonists will be practical and scientific individuals they will not have a mindset obscured by propaganda. Fears of meltdowns and the like, which inhibit nuclear power on Earth, will be ignored by Martians who have no such luxury as fear when there are only a few options that will work for them.

This practicality and intellectual aptitude, which will grow in Martians, will make them highly independent. Perhaps even more independent than the Americas were. The continual need for survival, little chance of return, and a far greater lack of resources than in the Americas will force Martians to depend on no one but each other.

Martians will have to be very tolerant as well. To be cooped up together for long periods of time will require it. Even as colonies grow into enclosed cities all Martians will be in close proximity to each other.

The colonies will also likely be only one single colony. It makes no sense to attempt to colonize a planet with multiple small settlements. The foundational work and infrastructure is too great. Earth's international affairs will likely move far enough along that only a single colony will ever be attempted, supported by all parties involved. This raises the diversity line again. The colony will have to adopt a single language and societal structure which will span all the cultures that will arrive. This commonality will be helped along by the practicality inherent in early Martians.

From this single colony Martian society will grow. Since multiple colonies will not be pursued multiple Martian cultures will not arise early on. This will create a single Martian society. Unlike Earth, Mars will not be a planet filled with countries, it will be a planet-country. Certainly, if Mars is ever terraformed then cultures and customs may come to vary just as they do when you move from a farm to a city on Earth. But the governmental, economic, and societal structure will be unified over the entire planet.

The economic structure of Mars will be long based on trading and bartering. Trade some carrots for some cabbage, or a potatoe for some water. The need to survive again working. As a Martian city arrives and not everyone is working to survive then currency will arrive. It will be digital from the very beginning. Mars will never adopt any kind of paper money. The technological aspect of Martian society will never require hard physical money.

Now, the biggest question is how Mars will trade and interact with Earth. Earth will be holding the leash of Mars for some time. Earth will provide the capital, technology, and transportation from the get-go.

As far as how much control Earth will exercise over Mars, it will be nominal. The only organizations to send colonies to Mars initially will be governments and non-profits. Even today much of the Mars movement is coming from foundations, and even Mars One will likely not turn a large profit. There is little commercial value in Mars.

But since those Earth organizations working to establish human presences on Mars are doing it for the sake of doing it they will not have any interest in the colony once it is established. While Britain wished to control the American colonies due to the value of it natural resources and taxes from residents, Mars will have no such resources since its population won't be able to grow as quickly as America did and it has no significant resources.

Once Martian society is established it will have one principle export. Its knowledge and technologies developed for agriculture. Mars will be a hotbed of agricultural and ecological innovation. Experiments and advances will be made due to lack of regulation and danger of negative affects to the barren environment. These advances will be needed on Earth as its population continues to grow. The need for more efficient food production and possibilities of climate control are all problems that will be tackled on Mars.

The great aspect of all of these technologies is that they are not material. They will not be hard goods but information. Information and knowledge can be transported very cheaply from Mars. It requires no rocket fuel just a little electricity. Martian exports will be the genetic designs and agricultural technology which allows that society to flourish on a planet ill-suited for it.

So to sum up. Mars will be a technologically advanced agrarian society which will be fiercely independent of Earth. Its citizens will have a myriad of backgrounds but will all be extremely talented and practical. Mars will form a planetary country and will trade agricultural advances with Earth for technological supplies.

This discussion and theorizing could turn into a book very easily. We have only done a poor job of scraping the surface of what a potential Martian society would be and much of it may never come to pass. But as the reality of a Martian society comes into view these topics will be important.

To read more about Martian trade possibilities read The Economic Viability of Mars Colonization by Robert Zubrin

1 comment:

  1. I find these arguments unconvincing.

    First, it claims that "any commerce on Mars will be basic bartering and trading." Nope. When the colony grows large enough, that will break down. Economics is about the efficient allocation of scarce resources. Note the word "efficient". If I have cheese and I want your eggs, offering you cheese won't do a damn bit of good if you're lactose intolerant, or already have cheese, or don't like cheese, and so on. That's the core problem with barter: both sides need to want what the other offers. Money (in terms of the M1 money supply), is incredibly efficient because it represents an independent source of value which is freely convertible. There's a reason no large scale economies are based on barter. As for trade, well, it's more or less the same thing, but on a larger scale.

    Second, the author states "to imagine Mars will be agrarian is a given." No, that's absolutely not a given. While we're still working on understanding how to grow food on Mars, hydroponics will likely be used. It's incredibly efficient, requires no soil, there will be virtually no pests or diseases, and just a handful or hydroponics farmers could potentially feed hundreds of people. What are the rest of those people going to do? Sit around and wait for food? No. The majority of activity on Mars is going to be non-agrarian.

    Third, the claim that the Earth will have no interest in Mars once it's established is dead wrong. In the short term, this may be true, but there are also strategic considerations to think of. Long-term, if this low-gravity well society grows (that lowers the cost of spaceflight dramatically), more and more governments will realize that if they don't influence/control Mars, someone else will. It could be as simple as wanting to deny Mars to the Chinese.

    Now consider the oft-repeated line that the world's first trillionaires will be asteroid miners ( Even a relatively small, metallic asteroid could be worth 20 trillion USD. You think that's not going to make government's sit up and notice? Now combine maturing 3D manufacturing producing low-cost rockets, the relatively shallow gravity well on Mars (reducing the cost of launch tremendously), and the fact that Mars is much closer to the asteroid belt, and you have a very strong, viable economy that Earth governments will want to control.