Elon Musk: We should head to Mars, just in case World War 3 happens

Technology doesn’t necessarily go forwards, and we need to “back up” humanity sooner rather than later, says Tesla boss


Elon Musk is – it’s fair to say – one of life’s optimists. The glass is not only half full, but it’s half full of delicious, refreshing apple juice, and it comes with one of those big sharing bags of Maltesers. You need that attitude if you want to change the world in so many different ways, but it does mean that when he comes out with something a bit more pessimistic, you can’t help but feel it. “If even Elon Musk is sad, then why should I be happy?”

In a wide-ranging interview with GQ, Musk once again reiterated the need for humans to colonise Mars in some capacity, explaining: “You back up your hard drive... Maybe we should back up life, too?” That’s nothing new – we know he believes we have a duty to continue the human race.

What is interesting is his reason for wanting to make the leap to Mars as quickly as possible. There’s a school of thought that says technological advancement only moves forward, but Musk isn’t convinced that’s the case, citing the decline of the Roman Empire and Ancient Egypt, following the pyramids, as examples. “There's a window that could be opened for a long time or a short time where we have an opportunity to establish a self-sustaining base on Mars before something happens to drive the technology level on Earth below where it's possible,” he said.

What sort of event would cause that? “I think we need to acknowledge that there's certainly a possibility of a third World War, and if that does occur it could be far worse than anything that's happened before. Let's say nuclear weapons are used. I mean, there could be a very powerful social movement that's anti-technology.” Musk's words echo one of the possible answers to the Fermi Paradox - why in such a vast universe, we've never heard from any aliens.

It’s certainly food for thought, whether or not you think it’s likely. The world of technology can often be extremely short-termist, so it’s good that figures such as Musk are keeping an eye on the bigger picture, but how quickly could we land a human on Mars? Well, the next 20 years seems feasible, but a bit unlikely without a big change in political will. Hopefully, Musk’s fears won't materialise at all – certainly not before we can make the next giant leap for mankind.

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Images: Steve Jurvetson and OnInnovation used under Creative Commons

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