Status Report

MarsNow 1.10 – Network Logic and the New World

By SpaceRef Editor
September 26, 2001
Filed under , ,

Our world changed on September 11. Our old world of naïve complacency is gone. Though in many places, the modern face of barbarism has been an intimate and familiar one, for most of us, only now have we come to clearly see that savagery and hatred are real, and rampant. The day’s attacks shattered one world and ushered in a new. In the afterword to his novel Gust Front, science fiction writer John Ringo describes the now old world as a golden age in America, its inhabitants very different from Americans on the eve of Pearl Harbor, the last time this country was so brutally attacked. Those people, he asserts, had already been tempered by a dozen years in the fires of the Great Depression, and had the steel for the tribulations ahead. We, he suspects, do not. Yet, tempered or not, willy-nilly we find ourselves in this new world. These past weeks we’ve been paralyzed, stunned, the old order of the world shattered and the new yet unformed. It falls to us now to shape a new world from the chaos. There is much for the space movement to do.

The values of the space movement, that network logic I have been describing weekly here, have made us targets for terrorism. We have made enemies, despite the traditional American abhorrence of ideological conflict and professed ideals of tolerance and moral relativism. The World Trade Center and the Pentagon were carefully chosen targets, representing the military power and influence of the American state and the importance of free exchange of value to the American people The values of freedom, technological innovation, rationality and globalism represented – if not always respected – by those institutions are the core values of the space movement.

More than the military, more than the financial industry, we in the space movement stand for the use of reason to improve our lot as a species, and as a planet. More even than they, we come from a centuries-long tradition of allowing scientific data to cross all boundaries. We hold that human dignity lies in understanding the forces of our environment, not fearing them. If divine revelation has an enemy, it’s we who advocate the need for verifiable data. If those who would recreate the cultures of millennia past have an enemy, it’s those of us building the cultures of the new millenium. If isolationism has an enemy it’s those of us who would join together in spreading through the solar system. If despair has an enemy, it is the wonder we feel beneath the night sky, and our hope for reaching out to new worlds there.

We believe our future lies in space, a future with room enough for all to live as they would choose. That future is under attack, and we must defend it. Not just from Islamic fundamentalists but from everyone who has begun to lash out at reason, at freedom of choice, at the notion of civilization. By this I do not mean suppressing dissent. But I do mean vigorously countering it. In defending, we should move forward, to claim the high ground of our convictions. We should not feel a need to apologize for the civilization we have built and its power to attract adherents even among the poorest and most tradition-chained in the remotest corners of our closed world. Rather, we should make our case publicly, in every forum, at every opportunity. We all – scientists, policy advocates and dreamers alike – should take this chance to put forward our views: that we can unite behind a cause of good as well as in a fight against evil. That a real move into space would teach our youth engineering rather than superstition, cooperation rather than hatred. That when we rebuild a working monument to world trade, it should be on orbit, or on Luna, for all to see and draw hope. That our future lies not in the stars of Nostradamus’s prophecies, but in our building our own destiny among the stars themselves.

What can we do? Two projects stand out. The Women of Space conference ( ), designed to be a beacon of hope to women and girls worldwide, to show this half of humanity how they can actively join the Spacefaring Web, may have to be postponed from April 2002 unless funds come in soon. We need that conference: the planning group has already brought a Central Asian woman – from Kazakhstan, on the Afghan border, onto a team with young women from JPL, American universities and industries. If Women of Space can spread the dream in Kazakhstan, it must find a way to host its global conference next year on Yuri’s Night. Similarly, the Space Frontier Foundation’s Clarke Gala may face postponement, preventing the Foundation from supporting Permission to Dream, a program for inner-city students and teachers to bring them into the Spacefaring Web, to give these vulnerable children the values and skills to combat the terror of their neighborhoods and the ideologies of despair.

I urge my readers with resources to consider support of these projects, or others like them, as part of their own war on terrorism and the destruction it has wrought.

There will be much more to do. Soon, NASA will likely announce substantial cutbacks, making it clear that the job of trailblazing falls to us in the citizen space movement. Several private projects may soon announce bold steps forward. As our situation becomes clearer over the next few months, we must pick up what NASA drops. We must actively fight the terror by working to spread hope, fight the hatred by building our positive new world. Old world means of organizing and communicating, petty factionalism, amateurishness, cults of personality, deference to governmental wisdom, have failed us. Where hierarchies have failed, networks succeed. Where self-proclaimed all-wise leaders commanding blind allegiance fail, voluntary coalitions of free agents will succeed. Network logic stands on one side, tyranny and ignorance on the other. All of us who are nodes in the Spacefaring Web must coordinate, in our own defense, and in the defense of the values of the space movement and our civilization.

Network logic is nothing new to the advocates of an open future under siege. The principle was familiar to Benjamin Franklin, who said “if we do not hang together, we will surely hang separately.” No one will hang us if we do not build the Spacefaring Web right now. But we will have failed in our defense, and we will have failed the future. Right now that future is waiting to be shaped. It will be shaped – either by the terrorists and their ideological ilk, or by the space movement and its friends. We may be the untempered children of a golden age, but just the same, the future has been given into our hands. We cannot shrink, or pretend that the old world still lives, or deny that the space movement must assert its values now in the common defense. We must act: now, and together.

In the months to come, I will describe these new alliances in the Spacefaring Web, highlight hope’s champions among us, and call for the creation of coalitions to fill gaps opened as we shift our resources to fight the terror. But know: all of us who hope for a spacefaring future must step into action now, setting aside our old world complacency and taking responsibility for shaping the new world into something worthy of our values and our vision.

Mars Now is a weekly column © 2001 by John Carter McKnight,
Mars Program Director for the Space Frontier Foundation.

Views expressed here are strictly the author’s and do not
necessarily represent Foundation policy.

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SpaceRef staff editor.