When I was growing up, the science fiction I watched painted a fairly clear picture of how the creator thought humanity should be. Star Trek and Babylon 5 showed versions of humanity who were united in a universe full of creatures who showed us that we were not so different to one another compared to the aliens that surrounded us, and we could reach out to those races with our newfound acceptance of one another to form stronger unions with them.
Star Trek’s Federation unites all humans, doing away with national identities in favour of acknowledging geographic and hereditary distinction, and of those born and raised on space stations, colonies, and ships, while embracing humanity as a whole. We have welcomed Vulcans and Klingons among dozens of other races and individuals, whose differences are appreciated… so long as they follow Federation procedure and wear Federation uniform. That’s one I can’t help but observe… and while I’m in favour of a unified organisation bringing peace and equality to the galaxy, there is a definite monocultural approach, and I can understand why people like the Bajorans would resist incorporation to the Federation, no matter how their philosophies might align.
Babylon 5 takes a slightly more realistic approach. Yes, Earthgov is still a global union of people, but national identity never truly fades, a Commander Ivonava’s Russian outlook on the world is something of a defining characteristic. But the human colonies of Mars and Io have some serious conflicts with Earthgov, and ultimately forces many colonies – including Babylon 5 – to declare themselves independent during a crisis. And again, we have reached out to other races, formed fierce allegiances that helped us dramatically… but that does not make us any less warlike.
I want to restart the Babylon 5 in-depth series, and I want to talk about warfare there, but there’s something else here worth considering.
Of the two, one series has a far more realistic approach than the other. I shan’t touch Star Wars because it’s a fantasy, not a future of Earth (it’s in the opening crawl), and the same is true of the likes of Farscape. But to my mind, there’s a science fiction series that has presented a low-key prediction that is far more likely than a united Federation.
Who is currently more likely to colonise Mars: Russia, China, the U.S, or Elon Musk?
As it stands, there appears to be a very clear answer. It’s far more likely that curious billionaires are more likely to plant the first flag, raise a terraforming platform, and open the first Martian Starbucks. It’s not just Space-X, Virgin has a space exploration program, and Amazon has Blue Origin. The funding of each of these private projects is still dramatically less than that of NASA, and yet the perception is that they’re putting a greater drive to extra-planetary conquest than the biggest nations in the world.
And there are excellent opportunities for private companies in space. Mining, tourism, potential real estate development, scientific advancement, not to mention the possibility of Martian tax havens. But competition between these companies could be fierce, and without a national government to help protect their assets, private security might have to become increasingly militaristic, their loyalty to the company unwavering. With the difficulty of travelling, colonies of people would be born to work for one company and one company only, with only a scattering of enterprising merchants breaking free.
Any of this sounding familiar?
All of this to say I really wish I was playing Borderlands 3 right now.
Replace Atlas with Virgin Galactic, Dahl with Blue Origin, and Torgue with SpaceX, chuck in some hints of Weyland Yutani, and a future filled with corporately owned planets starts to seem more likely than a Federation.