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Space Exploration Needs Extraterrestrial Ethics 162

An anonymous reader writes "Professor Andy Miah notes there's already international government policies taking hold on outer space — and a need for new ethical guidelines. 'For instance, what obligations do we owe to the various life forms we send there, or those we might discover? Can we develop a more considerate approach to colonizing outer space than we were able to achieve for various sectors of Earth?' And what rights do astronauts have? 'Could our inevitable public surveillance of their behavior become too much of an infringement on their personal privacy?' But more importantly, professor Miah notes that 'the goods of space exploration far exceed the symbolic value,' pointing out that 'A vast amount of research and development derives from space exploration ... For example, the United Kingdom's 2007 Space Policy inquiry indicated that the creation of space products contributes two to three times their value in GDP.'"


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Space Exploration Needs Extraterrestrial Ethics

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  • by $RANDOMLUSER ( 804576 ) on Thursday February 25, 2010 @02:44PM (#31275496)


    An interesting point. In this day and age, if we landed on a planet that had pigs and cows, we might "study their culture", or "bring them democracy", but we damn sure wouldn't be allowed to kill and eat them.

  • here's an idea (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Onymous Coward ( 97719 ) on Thursday February 25, 2010 @03:31PM (#31276260) Homepage

    May I suggest this rather simple but effective ethics:

    Value sentience.

    To the degree that something is sentient (has feelings) it is valuable and worth treating well (helping to feel good, helping to avoid suffering).

    There are weird corner cases that are hard to figure out and certain issues that aren't clear (if you should decide to bring them up please realize that they're not really arguments against the idea), but as a foundation this is a pretty good system. It rises above the intellectual muck of "animal v. human" and provides a way to begin thinking about aliens and even artificial intelligence.

    Unresolved issues: What is the relative worth between entities A and B when they have equal sentience but when A will live twice as long as B? What is the value of an entity that is certain to come into being but hasn't yet? What is the value of the process that can certainly cause an entity to come into being, but hasn't yet been undertaken? What is the value of an entity whose sentience has been practically put on pause due to reversible coma or suspended animation? How do you accurately (as opposed to intuitively) measure sentience?

  • by Chicken_Kickers ( 1062164 ) on Thursday February 25, 2010 @06:08PM (#31278574)
    but my opinion is that we should leave any life-bearing planet alone. If a planet has conditions suitable for life, then chances are there will be life forms there. Chances are also that the forms of life there will be totally alien, not only in the movie cliche kind of way, but also down to the biochemical and genetic level. Any direct interaction between us and alien life would most probably have disastrous consequences for all. By all means, send a sterilized robotic probe and study them but no colonisation. Instead, we should confine ourselves to lifeless planets or asteroids, or even become space-nomads, living on huge motherships. If our civilization could finally manage to travel the gap between the stars, then we should have the technology to terraform a lifeless planet or asteroid or survive indefinitely in space. I don't really know what we should do if we meet any other sentient species. There are no precedents for this. We couldn't even understand different cultures of our own species. I think it might be a good idea if we ever become truly space-borne, to go out of our way from ever contacting or be detected by any other technologically advanced species.
  • by Nutria ( 679911 ) on Thursday February 25, 2010 @06:45PM (#31279080)

    don't realize that "rude colonization" and "rape of the Earth" are the two primary reasons why First World countries exist the way they do, and enjoy the comforts that they do.

This process can check if this value is zero, and if it is, it does something child-like. -- Forbes Burkowski, CS 454, University of Washington