Which rules would we would have on our spaceship Earth – if we were to pursue the common goal of colonizing space.
To answer, we have to question the current ethics on the planet without prejudice. With all respect for the Enlightenment and the humanism derived from it, it seems to me that it is time to discuss whether the optimization of the well-being and development of the individual is still the right ideal. As Yuval Harari clearly describes, humanism has developed from an educational ideal to a religion, a worldview. Nowadays, to point out that the well-being of the individual is not the basis of a decision is close to a sacrilege. The individual person is the sacred center of the cult. Individualism is preached by states and the liberal economic environment. Everyone is called upon to optimize himself in his environment not just financially. The economy has made customer demand the measure of success. A flourishing economy benefits as many individuals as possible and is therefore the target for national politics in democratic societies. This orientation of companies, the market and states towards the individual at different levels is completely independent of the consequences for our planet or the common good.
Mind the Gap
Admittedly, we Germans in particular have had bad experiences in recent decades with more community-oriented concepts of society – such as the Third Reich and Communism. However, this does not necessarily mean that the idea is bad per se. Without a strong orientation towards the common good, humanity would never have been able to maintain and develop itself to the present day. From packs, village communities, ever larger states and religions to corporate identities, the individual has historically often had to sacrifice his or her own interests for a greater goal. This was not always voluntary. Over the millennia, however, many human cultural achievements have emerged from this. Now, is the time to realize that if we want to enable each individual to achieve his/her self-realization to the extent that he/she does not directly harm another individual, we are entering a dead end: We can better distribute food, improve health standards worldwide, eradicate diseases, increase prosperity, energy consumption and consumption worldwide – in the end we are only postponing the point in time when the resources on our spaceship are exhausted. The tipping point will come.
Save spaceship “Earth” first
This leads to difficult ethical considerations and decisions, which we cannot avoid logically. The new ethics has to focus on the preservation of the planet Terra. This does not contradict a free development of the individuals living on it. But the preservation of the planet is a limit, which was hardly considered so far. Ecological movements of the present want humanism AND environmental protection. But they do not resolve the contradiction therein. Interestingly, at least in Germany, it can be observed that politically increased environmental awareness correlates strongly with non-discriminatory, increased humanism (emphasis on individual freedom). I do not plead for radical, discriminating, inhuman solutions – on the contrary! I think we must now set the appropriate and balanced strategic course so that we do not end up in a dead end where ethically acceptable, balanced solutions are no longer possible.
the new commandment
The ethic to be designed needs to balance a number of values – there is no place for radical concept. An ethical rule that is to last over time must take into account that in the near future we will have different genetically improved humans and human machines, probably also artificial intelligences with different qualities on earth. It must be scalable and expandable. The categorical imperative of Kant: “Everyone may act in such a way that his intention could at the same time serve as the basis for a general legislation”, starts from the individual and sets the freedom of other individuals as a limit. The balance with the preservation of the planet and the future challenge of “homo deus” is missing. Following the idea of “Terraism”, one could re-formulate as follows:
Everyone may act in such a way that his/her intention could serve as a basis for global rules that ensure the habitability of the earth in the long term and allow the individual to develop within the scope of his/her possibilities without discrimination, as long as this does not collide with the interests of other living beings.
Next week we will start diving into the question what that translates to for our valuesystem, community and in everyday life.