Jun 01, 2022 I Paul Seaburn

Astronomer Predicts Mars Colonists Will Quickly Turn Themselves Into Cyborgs

Many people believe that the first beings from another planet we humans will meet will be cyborgs – part alien and part machine designed for long distance travel. One astronomer has given this idea an unusual twist – he believes the first human planetary colonists we meet will be human cyborgs who have modified themselves to be able to survive on a hostile new world … and he believes it will happen on Mars, the first planet we colonize. Could he be right?

“These intrepid explorers on Mars will be out of the clutches of the regulators and they will have every incentive to modify themselves because they are very badly adapted for Mars.”

Astronomer and cosmologist Martin Rees is Britain’s fifteen Astronomer Royal – a title well-deserved for his contributions in the fields of cosmic microwave background radiation, galaxy clustering, black holes and gamma-ray bursts, just to name a few. He spoke at this year’s Hay Festival – an annual literature festival held in Hay-on-Wye, Wales, and once described by Bill Clinton as "The Woodstock of the mind" – and showed in an interview with The Telegraph that he’s been thinking a lot about what will happen to the humans we send to colonize Mars and beyond.

What will they modify first?

“Let’s imagine by the end of the century there are little communities away from the Earth. By that time, genetic modification and cyber techniques will be far more advanced than today. One hopes they will be regulated here on Earth but these intrepid explorers on Mars will have every incentive to modify themselves.”

Rees sees human explorers in 2100 have better tools in the realm of bodily modification than we have today – which is limited to limb prosthetics, rudimentary eye technology and body piercings. While he predicts that creating cyborgs will be heavily regulated on Earth – and rightly so – those humans we send to Mars will likely have their own government which will be no match for the struggles to survive on the Red Planet. As a result, these transplanted humans will use the technology they have to modify their bodies to be better suited for the Martian environment – and let the Earth regulations be damned.

“They will use all these techniques to adapt themselves and within a generation or two they may become a different species, a mix of flesh and blood and robot.”

The Astronomer Royal has no patience for SpaceX CEO and Martian living promoter Elon Musk. He hates the words “space tourism” – saying it’s a “dangerous delusion.” He likens living on Mars to dealing with an immediate and drastic climate change on a planet whose environment actually requires terraforming for humans to live there comfortably.

Is the idea of humans turning themselves into cyborgs out of desperate necessity really a bad one or is it more an ultimate example of good old-fashioned human ingenuity?

"We don't know what mix they will be, if flesh and blood and electronics, but if they become electronic, of course they could be almost immortal."

“Almost immortal.” Throughout the course of human history, it has never turned out well when the possibility of immortality is dangled in front of humans. If it will only take a generation or two for humans to become successful reproducing cyborgs, how long after that will they switch from cyborgs by necessity to cyborgs for immortality? To take it one step further, if humans back on Earth find out Mars is the planetary equivalent to the Fountain of Youth, how long before there are over-crowded ships heading there for a technological drink of immortality? And if that happens, how long before the first Martian cyborgs decide to defend it rather than share it?

How long before their cyborgness gets passed on to the next generation? 

History is a cruel teacher – which may be why so many people wish to suppress its teaching. Astronomer Royal Martin Rees has applied the lessons of human history to his predictions for humanity's future on Mars. Will the hostile environment of the Red Planet create hostile humans ready to do whatever it takes to survive – and then do whatever it takes to defend their survival … even if it means destroying other humans?

History is a look at the past, a look to the future … and a look in the mirror.

Paul Seaburn

Paul Seaburn is the editor at Mysterious Universe and its most prolific writer. He’s written for TV shows such as "The Tonight Show", "Politically Incorrect" and an award-winning children’s program. He's been published in “The New York Times" and "Huffington Post” and has co-authored numerous collections of trivia, puzzles and humor. His “What in the World!” podcast is a fun look at the latest weird and paranormal news, strange sports stories and odd trivia. Paul likes to add a bit of humor to each MU post he crafts. After all, the mysterious doesn't always have to be serious.

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