What would it mean to be human if we were no longer an earth-bound species?

Pondering the ever-changing reality of what it means to be human

The future of humanity is fundamentally going to bifurcate along one of two directions: Either we’re going to become a multi-planet species and a spacefaring civilisation, or we’re going to be stuck on one planet until some eventual extinction event.

Elon Musk

This publication is titled Being Human. It’s a place where I can explore numerous topics, tied together by a broad theme. Reading this quote from Elon Musk this morning got me thinking about being human in a whole other way though.

What would it mean to be human if we were no longer an earth-bound species?

How much of our very sense of who we are as humans is connected to this planet we live on?

If you’re hoping for a quick answer, don’t hold your breath. It’s good sometimes though to stop and think about these things—even if they make our heads hurt.

(On that note, I’m ever grateful to my friend and mentor, Alex McManus, for continually nudging me to think about the future and its ramifications for humanity. His regular ‘Dispatches from the future’ email, written to help faith leaders process these issues, is well worth signing up to.)

What does it mean to be human is such a fundamental question for everyone of us, across every generation, to wrestle with. I don’t think there is a set answer either; it’s an ever-evolving answer. It changes from one generation to the next. It’s not just a philosophical or religious question though. If Musk is right, the future is either-or. Either we become a species who adapts to life on other planets, or we end up extinct when, at some point in the future, earth is no long a viable habitat for humans.

I don’t even know where I’m going with these thoughts really. And it’s tempting to bat them away, thinking they’ll only be relevant for future generations. But it’s an interesting and challenging thought process to put ourselves through from time to time.

What does it mean to be human?


Image: Kevork Djansezian, Getty Images

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