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Jeff Bezos Wants a Trillion People to Live in Space

When you have more money than God, what’s next? What could the man who has everything possibly want? Well, transforming humanity into a space-faring civilization, and the immortality that comes with it, seems a likely bet and that looks like the direction many of these billionaires want to go. Amazon founder and Lex Luthor doppelganger Jeff Bezos recently spoke at a members-only event at New York’s Yale Club about his space colonization ambitions with his company Blue Origin. At the event, Bezos described his vision for the future which, according to him, would see one trillion humans living in space, a society of “thousands of Mozarts and Einsteins,” and an Earth whose natural beauty and environment has been preserved by moving heavy industries off-world.

According to Business Insider, who transcribed the speech, Bezos said:

“The solar system can support a trillion humans, and then we’d have 1,000 Mozarts, and 1,000 Einsteins. Think how incredible and dynamic that civilization will be.

 

But if we’re going to have that, we do have to go out into the solar system. You have to capture more of the sun’s output, and we have to use all of the resources that are out in space, in terms of minerals and not just energy. And that’s very doable, but we have to get started.”

The alternative to going to space, according to Bezos, is bleak. Citing compounding energy use, he says a future locked on earth would be one of “population control and energy rationing,” and that’s not the future he wants for his grandchildren’s grandchildren.

Lunar base concept art.

NASA concept for a lunar base, which would construct large ships and space stations

Unlike Elon Musk, who is also deep into the new billionaire space race, Bezos doesn’t believe we should colonize other planets. Instead, he says we will build giant “O’Neil-style” cylindrical space colonies:

[T]he space colonies we’ll build will have many advantages. The primary one is that they’ll be close to Earth. The transit time and the amount of energy required to move between planets is so high. But if you have giant space colonies that are energetically close and, in terms of travel time close to Earth, then people will be able to come and go. Very few people are going to want to leave this planet permanently — it’s just too amazing.

On the matter of what happens to the Earth, Bezos says that the goal of building a space-faring civilization is to protect it. Locked down here we have no choice but to exploit all of the finite resources, but in space that won’t matter. he says:

“Ultimately what will happen, is this planet will be zoned residential and light industry. We’ll have universities here and so on, but we won’t do heavy industry here. Why would we? This is the gem of the solar system. Why would we do heavy industry here? It’s nonsense.”

Jeff Bezos says he now believes Blue Origin, his private aerospace company, is the most important work he will ever do. To fund this important work, Bezos reportedly liquidates $1 billion worth of Amazon stock every year. The company is focused on building a low-cost, reusable launch vehicle, which Bezos believes is the key to extending our reach to the stars. He says:

“The fact of the matter is we don’t have forever, and the first step — I don’t know all future steps — but I know one of them is we need to build a low-cost, highly operable, reusable launch vehicle. No matter which path you take, it has to go through that gate.”

O'Neil space station.

Artist’s conception of the inside of an O’Neil space cylinder.

Now, I’m feeling a little bit confused. On one hand, Jeff Bezos is Lex Luthor. On the other hand, he’s right. If we could sure that this future, no matter who gets to have their statue built, is the one that’s coming, I think we’d all sleep a little easier and worry a little less. There are all sorts of problems with Jeff Bezos and Amazon. There are all sorts of problems with everybody. But there is something singularly beautiful about dreaming of the stars. To quote astronaut David Scott as he was standing on the surface of the Moon:

“As I stand out here in the wonders of the unknown at Hadley, I sort of realize there’s a fundamental truth to our nature, Man must explore . . . and this is exploration at its greatest.

 

For when I look at the Moon I do not see a hostile, empty world. I see the radiant body where man has taken his first steps into a frontier that will never end.”