When populations of humans
eventually make multigenerational, interstellar voyages to settle an
exoplanet, they will not be chisel-chinned astronauts living by
checklists; they will be families, communities, entire cultures. How
can we give them the best chance to succeed? We can begin by
researching how humanity has adapted to global environments in the
last 50,000 years. Both biology and culture will evolve beyond Earth.
Genetic studies tell us
that we must be numerous and diverse in such migrations, and cultural
anthropology shows that while we cannot predict precisely how humanity
will change, we can be sure that it will, in universal concerns
including how we measure kinship, our rules of inheritance, gender and
age categories, and how we structure our families. There is plenty to
consider. We might as well begin now.
"Interstellar Migration Vessel
reference design by Steve Summerford of Icarus Interstellar. The
vessel is composed of eight ‘villages’, each of 5,000 people,
revolving around a central axis to provide 1g gravity. Propulsion
systems are being designed by the physicists at Icarus
Dr. Cameron M. Smith of Portland State
University’s Department of Anthropology studies human evolution past,
present and future.
As a member of the international research group Icarus Insterstellar (icarusinterstellar.org),
he is currently investigating the biological and cultural implications
of multigenerational interstellar voyaging, recently authoring
“Emigrating Beyond Earth: Human Adaptation and Space Colonization”
Why? Because the increasing ease of space
access, a generation and a half of human familiarity with traveling to
space and living there, and the astounding discovery of thousands of
exoplanets have all made thoughts of space colonization and even
interstellar migration less outlandish than in the past.
Recently Dr. Smith
published a technical review of the genetic issues involved in
low-multigenerational interstellar voyaging in Acta Astronautica,
suggesting that populations for such projects should number in the
tens of thousands rather than the low hundreds or low thousands as
proposed by some other authors. He is currently writing a
complimentary article on the cultural implications of such voyages,
also for peer-reviewed publication, and a foundation book on the
technical aspects of human space colonization, tentatively titled
“Principles of Space Anthropology”.
Dr. Smith has also written
extensively about space colonization and evolution for many magazines
including Scientific American, Scientific American MIND, Spaceflight,
and in the books “The Fact of Evolution” (Prometheus 2011) and “The
Top Ten Myths About Evolution” (Prometheus 2006). He has lectured on
human evolution in space colonization at the NASA-DARPA 100 Year
Starship Study Conference in Houston, Texas and as a Plenary Speaker
for the Mars Society.
Dr. Smith’s interest in
the distant human future derives directly from his investigation of
the distant human past, which began as a student of the Leakey
research team searching for million-year-old hominin fossils in East
Africa. Acutely aware that most civilizations have failed in the long
term, resulting in dissolution, disintegration and essentially
Medieval conditions, Dr. Smith has decided to provide options for
humanity with realistic data on humans-in-space; space migration as a
responsible investment for humanity, rather than a costly luxury.