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Scottish Academic: Mining the Moon For Helium 3 Is Evil

samzenpus posted about 8 months ago | from the hold-the-cheese dept.

Moon 462

MarkWhittington writes "Tony Milligan is a teaching fellow of philosophy at the University of Aberdeen and is apparently concerned about helium 3 mining on the moon. In a recent paper he suggested that it should not be allowed for a number of reasons which include environmental objections, his belief that the moon is a cultural artifact, and that too much access to energy would be bad for the human race."

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462 comments

Useless academic is useless. (5, Insightful)

jcr (53032) | about 8 months ago | (#44702629)

This is probably the most publicity that Milligan will ever have in his life.

-jcr

Re:Useless academic is useless. (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44702683)

It's more than you'll ever get.

Re:Useless academic is useless. (5, Funny)

noh8rz10 (2716597) | about 8 months ago | (#44702725)

Ali G [talking to Buzz Aldrin]: People have been arguing about this for years, and I want to bring it up here and settle the issue once and for all - does the moon really exist?

Re:Useless academic is useless. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44702703)

Less than useless. A discredit on academia.

Re:Useless academic is useless. (0)

real-modo (1460457) | about 8 months ago | (#44702739)

I love the way you bring evidence and reason to the debate, and also the way you rigidly avoid ad-hominems.

What exactly is wrong with the proposition that mining Helium-3 on the moon is evil--leaving aside questions of the mining being completely futile, impractical, and currently unachievable?

Re:Useless academic is useless. (5, Insightful)

wagnerrp (1305589) | about 8 months ago | (#44702789)

Environmental objections... What environment? It's the god damned Moon. It's a lifeless near-vacuum.

Cultural objections... Culture has admired the Moon from afar. Helium-3 mining collects helium produced by billions of years of bombardment from solar wind. That means it only exists on the surface. You're not going to notice any difference between today's Moon, and a Moon mined of its helium.

Too much access to energy would be bad... Seriously, just go fuck off.

Re:Useless academic is useless. (5, Informative)

real-modo (1460457) | about 8 months ago | (#44702839)

Thanks. Two good paragraphs.

Current global power consumption, 15 TW, is enough to raise the surface temperature by something the order of a hundredth of a degree. So if we used 10,000 times as much energy as we do now, it could be bad.

Agreed, that's not an immediate prospect; and there are five and a half billion people who need more cheap energy.

Re:Useless academic is useless. (0, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44702975)

No the consumption of 15tw has raised the Global land temperatures by 1.5 degrees C over the past 250 years. (http://berkeleyearth.org/summary-of-findings)

Re:Useless academic is useless. (4, Informative)

icebike (68054) | about 8 months ago | (#44703151)

No the consumption of 15tw has raised the Global land temperatures by 1.5 degrees C over the past 250 years. (http://berkeleyearth.org/summary-of-findings)

And most of, if not all of that effect has been due to the (at the time) unavoidable pollution, not the simple expenditure of energy.
Helium 3 (fusion) suggests an energy approach that eliminates all of the green-house gas and pollution, leaving us with just the heat byproduct of using electrical energy. As our energy use becomes more and more efficient, even this is reduced.

However, with lower greenhouse emissions the excess heat would just dissipate into space, with no measurable ill effect. (Well some say it will balloon the gas envelop a tiny bit).

Re:Useless academic is useless. (2)

wagnerrp (1305589) | about 8 months ago | (#44702995)

The highest per-capita energy usage in the world is around 22kW. Most "first world" countries are between 5-10kW. Bringing the entire world's population up to that 22kW value would only be around 150TW. By comparison, the total input energy from the Sun is around 175PW. If we used 10000x as much energy as we do now, it certain would be bad, but that's such an absurd amount of power consumption, it's not even worth worrying about.

Re:Useless academic is useless. (2)

Angeret (1134311) | about 8 months ago | (#44703085)

A question... Is it global power consumption that raises the temperature or the methods of production of that power?

Re:Useless academic is useless. (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44703131)

So if we used 10,000 times as much energy as we do now, it could be bad.

Or it could be good. Or neither. Or both. Care to explain why it might be bad?
Your statement is like that of people arguing against asteroid mining on the grounds that if we accidentally bring too much extra mass to Earth it'll collapse into a black hole.

Re:Useless academic is useless. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44703139)

The far greater issue is population. Energy production does not inherently change the climate...

Re:Useless academic is useless. (4, Informative)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about 8 months ago | (#44702843)

Too much access to energy would be bad...

And even this is ignoring that fact that we have no idea how get net energy from fusing He3. Fusing deuterium and tritium is orders of magnitude easier, and we are decades away from achieving even that. I don't think we really need to worry about a massive moon based industry mining something that is more or less useless. Someday the Sun will supernova. Maybe he should worry about that instead. It is a more immediate concern.

Re:Useless academic is useless. (1)

wagnerrp (1305589) | about 8 months ago | (#44702913)

Presumably we would have that little detail figured out by the time we would be in a position to do large scale mining on the moon.

Re:Useless academic is useless. (1)

Dcnjoe60 (682885) | about 8 months ago | (#44702999)

Presumably we would have that little detail figured out by the time we would be in a position to do large scale mining on the moon.

Or a cost benefit ratio of how much its going to cost per unit of energy retrieved compared to other energy sources. No doubt helium 3 is there for the taking. It's just really costly to get there and take it and transport it back. Figure in the energy required to launch transport ships back and forth and it makes one even wonder whether this would be a net increase in energy reserves or not.

Re:Useless academic is useless. (2)

jcr (53032) | about 8 months ago | (#44702883)

Some people just want to freeze in the dark. That's their prerogative of course, but when one of them bitches about people trying to achieve a higher standard of living, I agree. They can fuck right off.

-jcr

Re:Useless academic is useless. (2)

interkin3tic (1469267) | about 8 months ago | (#44703035)

What environment? It's the god damned Moon. It's a lifeless near-vacuum

No one said it was a GOOD environment...

Re:Useless academic is useless. (1)

perpenso (1613749) | about 8 months ago | (#44703109)

You're not going to notice any difference between today's Moon, and a Moon mined of its helium.

Mining could conceivably change the surface color of the region mined. Lunar soil exists in a variety of colors and there is the debris/soil/dust that rains down after impacts. Recall the orange soil that Apollo 17 found, wasn't that under a thin layer of gray?

Also a perceived color change could occur due to shadows from indentations in the soil left by mining equipment, a dithering like effect.

Re:Useless academic is useless. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44703125)

This is what is wrong with modern environmentalists. They would do (and have done) the same thing right here on earth. Death Valley is a freaking national park. Not just the main "badlands" area, but extending way over into Saline and Panamint valleys. It's called "Death" valley for a reason. It's over twice the size of Grand Canyon national park.

Have some perspective. What's the point in "saving" something if you are not saving it for someone.

Re:Useless academic is useless. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44702807)

Your knowledge of logical fallacies is sooo sexy, Mr. Hipster.... and that edgy intellect, and public display of justified indignation? ooooohhh aaaaaahhh.

Re:Useless academic is useless. (5, Insightful)

mdenham (747985) | about 8 months ago | (#44702809)

Aside from that declaring it "evil" is specifically a move to shut off debate?

It's an intentionally bad choice of words on his part, designed to garner publicity and be entirely unproductive. Referring to it as "bad" still allows room for the debate to exist - it puts him specifically on one side of it, but that's fine - whereas referring to it as "evil" shifts it from a "should we do this or not" debate to a debate about morality, which, honestly, is not what a debate about mining anything should be about.

For what it's worth, I agree with two of the three terms you're using to describe mining the moon (the point of disagreement being "completely futile", as I'd like to see advancements in automated mining technology, which would have uses down here in the old gravity well).

Re:Useless academic is useless. (1)

real-modo (1460457) | about 8 months ago | (#44702901)

Aside from that declaring it "evil" is specifically a move to shut off debate?

Good point. Thanks.

Automated mining is under development in northern West Australia, but yeah. More experience can't hurt. If only there were something worth bringing back from the moon...

Re:Useless academic is useless. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44703163)

Aside from that declaring it "evil" is specifically a move to shut off debate?

Good point. Thanks.

Automated mining is under development in northern West Australia, but yeah. More experience can't hurt. If only there were something worth bringing back from the moon...

I'd rather focus on finding at least one additional basket for our moon-eggs, instead of worrying about the eggs being less valuable than the ones we already have.

Re:Useless academic is useless. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44702811)

What's to debate? He's a wanker, and so are you.

Re:Useless academic is useless. (4, Insightful)

the gnat (153162) | about 8 months ago | (#44702867)

What exactly is wrong with the proposition that mining Helium-3 on the moon is evil

Seriously? How about the fact that it privileges an inanimate, lifeless celestial body over the development and happiness of the human race? Most environmental concerns focus on the danger (and immorality) of fucking up biospheres, but the moon has never supported life, and never will (unless we alter it even more radically).

Re:Useless academic is useless. (4, Interesting)

Dcnjoe60 (682885) | about 8 months ago | (#44703037)

What exactly is wrong with the proposition that mining Helium-3 on the moon is evil

Seriously? How about the fact that it privileges an inanimate, lifeless celestial body over the development and happiness of the human race? Most environmental concerns focus on the danger (and immorality) of fucking up biospheres, but the moon has never supported life, and never will (unless we alter it even more radically).

So when country X goes to the moon and mines the helium, are they going to come back and distribute it to all of the world's inhabitants or does it just belong to country X? I'm curious, because before mining the moon began, it would seem that we would need to know who owns the moon? Does it belong to the first one who gets there? Does it belong equally to all people? Or will it belong to some mining company? Because if you get that first basic question wrong then potentionally everything after that becomes immoral because it infringes not on the privelige of some inaimate lifeless celestial body, but real people, here on earth. And if it is immoral, then technically one could consider it evil (although that is a strong word).

Re:Useless academic is useless. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44703051)

Besides, if the choice is between mining on the moon and mining on the earth, I know which I would prefer us to do.

Re:Useless academic is useless. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44703077)

Not that I agree with him or even RTFA, but consider it from the point of view that The Sphinx used to have a nose.

Copper is pretty useful and valuable right now. Why don't we melt down The Statue of Liberty to recover the raw resources? It's just a giant chunk of metal.

Also, you may not be old enough to remember Thundarr the Barbarian. We could accidentally split the moon in half, and that would be bad for everyone (except those of us who get a sun sword out of the deal).

Re:Useless academic is useless. (0)

Rockoon (1252108) | about 8 months ago | (#44702863)

You will hear of this man again when a company decides to paint their logo over the entire visible surface of the moon. Its more practical than most people think.

I thought Malthusians were extinct (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44702643)

But they keep proving me wrong.

Re:I thought Malthusians were extinct (2)

blankinthefill (665181) | about 8 months ago | (#44702665)

It's just that every time they are about to fold under the pressures of reality, they discover a new advance in methods for predicting the end of the human race. (Oh the irony!)

Equally Possible: (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44702659)

Insufflation of lunar helium gives humans telekinesis.

Re:Equally Possible: (1)

djupedal (584558) | about 8 months ago | (#44702685)

...allowing for _direct_ brain-to-brain communication without any of this wires-and-computer sideshow.

...a cultural what!? (5, Insightful)

Penguinisto (415985) | about 8 months ago | (#44702663)

Seriously - does this guy have any clue as to how frickin' BIG the Moon is? You could carve a hole in it the size of New York City and it would barely be noticeable. You could carve out the entire dark side of the Moon and no one would ever see it (and misnomer aside, it gets just as much sunlight, thus He3, etc...)

The environmental angle? Maybe if it all got brought back here, okay... having not RTFA, I hope he isn't worried about the Moon's "environment", namely because it really doesn't have one of note.

Re: ...a cultural what!? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44702677)

But the Nazis are already doing it...

Re:...a cultural what!? (2)

Peristaltic (650487) | about 8 months ago | (#44702835)

Seriously - does this guy have any clue...

Not one little bit, it appears.

When I was in school, I always wondered what people actually -did- with a PhD in Philosophy, now... I know.

Re:...a cultural what!? (1)

rossdee (243626) | about 8 months ago | (#44702869)

"You could carve out the entire dark side of the Moon and no one would ever see it (and misnomer aside, it gets just as much sunlight, thus He3, etc...)"

You're confusing the far side of the moon (which we can't see from earth) with the Dark Side which is the side currently not facing the sun.

Except when there is a lunar eclipse "there is no Dark Side of the moon really, matter of fact it's all dark"

Useless (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44702697)

How did this make it onto /. ? This guy is a nutjob nobody has ever heard of. 'Teaching fellow of philosophy' ... wow, nice job meta-mods.

Well of course (5, Insightful)

roc97007 (608802) | about 8 months ago | (#44702705)

Too much access to large amounts of cheap energy would mean that we don't continue to buy it from current sources. We can't have that.

Re:Well of course (1)

real-modo (1460457) | about 8 months ago | (#44702781)

Why would fusion energy be cheap?

Fuel cost is trivial for current fission reactors. Do they produce cheap energy?

Re:Well of course (3, Informative)

mdenham (747985) | about 8 months ago | (#44702841)

Taking into account assorted opportunity costs as well (including reduced productivity from pollution-related illnesses from other sources), I would say the correct answer is "yes".

Re:Well of course (3, Insightful)

real-modo (1460457) | about 8 months ago | (#44702947)

Fair enough. Lots of people seem to have in mind the old "too cheap to meter" idea when they talk about fusion. I could never see that.

I agree: fission is way cheaper than fossil energy when costs are properly apportioned, and people are rational about risk. Wish I lived in that world.

Re:Well of course (1)

mdenham (747985) | about 8 months ago | (#44703121)

"Too cheap to meter" only makes sense with government-owned utilities, and then only if startup and maintenance costs (including fuel under maintenance) are both negligible.

That said, I suspect geothermal power is actually better-suited to being "too cheap to meter", but getting the necessary power output requires significant advances in mining-related technologies anyway (ideally your heat-uptake loop has as large of a heat differential as possible, meaning drilling a borehole near or even into the mantle if possible).

Re:Well of course (1)

EmperorArthur (1113223) | about 8 months ago | (#44703157)

The fun thing is that 3/4 of the issues we're currently dealing with in fission are also a problem for fusion.

While fusion reactors don't have radioactive fuel.... Wait... Any fusion reactor we use in the near to mid future will be Tritium (H3) based. Tritium is radioactive. A large cost of servicing and decommissioning a fission reactor is radiation making the containment vessel, and coolant radioactive. Fusion reactors have the same problem.

In a 4th gen pebble bed reactor you have fuel that is individually contained in tennis ball sized capsules. Though, dust is a major issue with this design. With a toroid type fusion reactor you have huge amounts of plasma hotter than the sun being held in place by magnets that need to be the same temperature as liquid nitrogen. Guess what happens when the two have an accident. The first shuts down cleanly, though some radioactive dust may escape. The second goes up in a giant radioactive fireball.

I honestly don't get people claiming fusion is the end all be all answer to Earths energy problems. I'm all for the research, but that's because I see it as a better option for space based power, like ramscoop powered transtellars. I think it's because when the eco nuts and talk about fusion they mean "cold fusion." An idea that's about as realistic as a perpetual motion machine.

Re:Well of course (1)

Rockoon (1252108) | about 8 months ago | (#44702993)

Do they produce cheap energy?

Yes they do, but because production from this source is greatly limited by decades of NIMBY politics the price is still mainly rooted on the less efficient methods.

Supply cannot meet demand.

missed it by a mile (2)

deodiaus2 (980169) | about 8 months ago | (#44702711)

I would say that mining the moon is the best thing we as a race can do. No wars of intervention to get at resources "owned" by another nation. No environment damage due to exposure of contaminants or by-products. I guess there is a chance that the most powerful nations might keep the other ones from grabbing a piece of the pie, but there is so much surface area, that it is cheaper to mine than to wage war. Unlimited energy will also allow more time to develop green (direct from solar) technology, but maybe an argument is to be had that doing so will cause us to be lazy in this endevour.

Re:missed it by a mile (1)

noh8rz10 (2716597) | about 8 months ago | (#44702733)

remember, world power comes not just from mining natural resources, but preventing others from mining resources.

Re:missed it by a mile (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 8 months ago | (#44703089)

remember, world power comes not just from mining natural resources, but preventing others from mining resources.

It's not even that noble: Where will you find people who will be satisfied by abundance (be it ever so great) at the same time they suffer the knowledge that their enemies are not suffering scarcity and want and the subjects of their petty jealousies and rivalries are not doing worse than they are?

You could hand people a post-scarcity utopia on a silver platter and they'd damn you for making their wealth worthless and their inferiors equal.

Re:missed it by a mile (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44702785)

you keep on believing that (sarcasm) , and watch what happens!!!!

Re:missed it by a mile (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44702855)

Yeah, because it's the Moon that means that everything bad that has happened elsewhere won't happen here... where do I subscribe to your delusions?

it's puritanism (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44702713)

puritanism is that horrible feeling that somewhere, somebody might be having fun.

it's actually the basis of the entire "environmental" movement. humans can't just keep getting richer and better fed, we must be doing something wrong.

remember, nuclear winter? no wait, global warming, that's it! whatever it is, humans are causing it and it's bad. why didn't we listen to malthus!

Re:it's puritanism (3, Interesting)

mdenham (747985) | about 8 months ago | (#44702849)

Eh, some of the trends are unsustainable projected into the long run.

That said, projected into the long run, there's a 100% chance of the Earth being destroyed.

Re:it's puritanism (2)

Dcnjoe60 (682885) | about 8 months ago | (#44703065)

Eh, some of the trends are unsustainable projected into the long run.

That said, projected into the long run, there's a 100% chance of the Earth being destroyed.

First I think you mean 100% probability of the earth being destroyed, not chance. 2nd, it is not 100%. There is always a chance, no matter how remote that something happens and the earth is left intact, regardless of the scenario. There is never a 100% certainty of the earths destruction. It's pretty damn close, but not close enough.

Short sighted (5, Insightful)

mechtech256 (2617089) | about 8 months ago | (#44702717)

Given a long enough time frame, the human race will either inevitably fizzle out on our single planet, or move on to be an interstellar civilization for at least some period of time. If the second possibility is to happen, utilizing the moon will most certainly be a stepping stone there. Whether it's covering the surface in solar panels, mining it for helium 3, or something entirely different like simply using it as a staging area for longer range launches, we can't say, but it's virtually guaranteed that humans will be all over the moon in some capacity if they are to expand beyond our planet/solar system. On another note, the moon is a boring bland rock compared to Earth. I bet the moon is incredibly desperate for us to do something interesting on its surface... "please, let something, anything happen aside from getting smacked with another space rock and getting a 15 millionth identical crater!"

lol (5, Insightful)

Lehk228 (705449) | about 8 months ago | (#44702729)

teaching fellow of philosophy

sounds like the sort of individual who's opinion I certainly give a fuck about

Re:lol (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44702861)

There's some situations where I think I could be on-board with limiting planet-facing activities. For example, there's always some scammy sounding "investment opportunity" that basically says they've figured out a way to use the moon to display advertising. "Think of it, the most prominent billboard on the planet, viewable by everyone!" The advertising execs salivate over this idea. And if they ever implement it, I fully support someone(s) going and blowing that ad-beamer up.

Now imagine a fleet of He3 harvesters running roughshod over the moon (remember, there's no atmosphere, so no natural processes to cover up tracks, etc). Over time, yes, you'd see the effects on the face of the moon. Now imagine some enterprising kid with a zero-day and a goatse.cs image translated to a moon-sized target...

Re:lol (2)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 8 months ago | (#44703105)

"sounds like the sort of individual who's opinion I certainly give a fuck about"

And yet, somebody at Yahoo dug a random paper he wrote out of the Annals of Tedious Philosophy (Volume 167), wrote a quick clickbait screed about it, and now it's on Slashdot...

And then... (1)

Kaenneth (82978) | about 8 months ago | (#44702747)

We discover the Moon is actually a giant Egg.

Re:And then... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44702891)

So if Milligan is dead set against us mining it, then surely that means he was the giant cloaca that grunted it out in the first place?

Re:And then... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44702955)

It's a space station left behind by the Anunnaki where they processed our gold in to reactor housings for their pyramid-ships. Duh.

Thanks but no thanks. (5, Insightful)

pla (258480) | about 8 months ago | (#44702751)

too much access to energy would be bad for the human race.

Ah, so the classic "we should all live in the dark and grow our own food" argument. Beautiful. Give King Ludd my warmest regards.

Free hint, Tony - Yes, many of the energy booms of human history have come along with a variety of ills. But they have also come along with the single greatest periods of progress as well, both social and technological. The industrial revolution caused a good bit of pollution, but basically made human slavery a net loss, economically. And fusion, as a nice perk, pollutes less than fission (which we already do), which in turn pollutes less than dinofuels (which we also already do because the hippies would rather let birds - and us - die that build more fission plants).

So in summary - Go fuck yourself, Tony. Live in the dark if you want. I like computers, and air conditioning, and cars, and concrete, and aluminum cans, and cheap plastic bottles.

Re:Thanks but no thanks. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44702823)

All of which can still be had - just perhaps more efficiently. If I were to give the same argument I would probably argue that way first. Let's see if we can improve our exist efficiency first before we wreck something that the entire human race can literally see with the naked eye.

I mean I think the Arctic is just as beautiful as the moon. Are you saying that if there's an energy source there we should wreck it because you like plastic bottles?

Re:Thanks but no thanks. (1)

pla (258480) | about 8 months ago | (#44702873)

Are you saying that if there's an energy source there we should wreck it because you like plastic bottles?

Who said anything about "wreck"ing the moon?

First of all, TFA's arguments have more to do with morality than aesthetics. I poked fun at that, not whether or not I consider the moon "pretty".

And second, "wrecking" involves a subjective analysis of value. With the arctic, we can take about aesthetics, but we more commonly mean the loss of biodiversity (ie, polar bears). The moon has no biome, and it would take mining on a truly incomprehensible scale to spoil something that big in any meaningful aesthetic sense.

Re:Thanks but no thanks. (1)

khallow (566160) | about 8 months ago | (#44703013)

I mean I think the Arctic is just as beautiful as the moon. Are you saying that if there's an energy source there we should wreck it because you like plastic bottles?

Well, if there's something valuable there, I'm good with moderate levels of wrecking. We seem to be able to manage that. As to the Moon, one of the great ironies of this ethics article is that we probably wouldn't be able to notice complete mining of the lunar surface unless we happened to be there. Overturning the top couple of meters of lunar surface isn't really going to look all that different to us on Earth.

Re:Thanks but no thanks. (1)

Guru80 (1579277) | about 8 months ago | (#44703063)

That is a ridiculous argument...the moon is beautiful, don't mine it. First, do you have any idea how large of a scale we would have to mine to make the moon not "beautiful". The moon isn't exactly tiny and any mining done for generations wouldn't be noticeable just looking up at it. There is nothing to "wreck", it's a barren wasteland without life, bio-diversity or penguins to hurt. Every major source of energy we use right now does more damage to the Arctic and potentially every living organism on Earth than mining on the moon ever would. If the moon could provide something the benefit of mankind, that is more important than saving the moon as some priceless painting to hang in a museum.

Re:Thanks but no thanks. (2)

the gnat (153162) | about 8 months ago | (#44702847)

I like computers, and air conditioning, and cars, and concrete, and aluminum cans, and cheap plastic bottles.

Add to that: a greatly reduced birth rate (helping stabilize the population), vastly lower infant mortality, and life expectancies in the mid-70s in the developed world (early 80s if you live in one of those horrid north European socialist countries). None of this would have been possible without the huge increase in prosperity and productivity brought by industrialization. People tend to think of gadgets when they think of technology, but even without cars, air conditioning, computers, and disposable packaging, our quality of life is almost incomprehensibly better than it was 200 years ago. (Leaving aside sub-Saharan Africa, among other hellholes, but the solution for that is more technology and economic development, not less.)

I suspect that we've also managed to preserve some parts of our environment much longer than we might have if not for industrialization. Europe was essentially deforested by the late Middle Ages, because they needed all of that wood for fuel and construction, and open land for agriculture. Now that our agricultural production has also been largely industrialized and made far more efficient by chemical fertilizers, we can pack people into concrete-and-metal cities, and we have more advanced fuel sources, we can afford to leave some trees standing. (FYI, there are actually a lot of relatively liberal environmentalists who are adamantly in favor of nuclear power, for obvious reasons. We tend to get shouted out by the Greenpeace types and the ignorant moderates who freak out when the word "nuclear" is mentioned, unfortunately.)

Well of course! (1)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | about 8 months ago | (#44702941)

We should all be happy to go back to the pre-industrial ages. Sure it means the vast majority of humans will have to die off, and the ones that live will have much shorter, harder, lives but hey, it would be good for the planet (depending on how you define good)! As such all of us should be happy, no honoured to do that. Excepting for professors, of course. They advance knowledge so they clearly need to be allowed to keep all of their modern conveniences. But the rest of us, back to the dark ages!

That is what always amuses me about the "industrial society is bad!" types is I've never seen any of them practice what they preach. None of them go and live in the wilderness, off the land, eschewing all modern technology except for the rare times they come to give a talk on it. Heck none of them even go back to Amish/Mennonite levels of technology. They live modern lives, enjoying all the conveniences, and then say others shouldn't.

How about, try it first, then see if maybe there's a reason we like all this new stuff?

Re:Thanks but no thanks. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44702965)

The industrial revolution caused a good bit of pollution, but basically made human slavery a net loss

a net loss for whom?

imagine walmart replaces all of it's minimum wage employees with robots. how good will that be for the minimum wage employees? i'm not supporting slavery or condoning it. the world does that on it's own.

Re:Thanks but no thanks. (1)

khallow (566160) | about 8 months ago | (#44703025)

Well, why hasn't it happened already? And what does your argument have to do with slavery?

No. Not even that. (1)

denzacar (181829) | about 8 months ago | (#44702983)

Ah, so the classic "we should all live in the dark and grow our own food" argument. Beautiful. Give King Ludd my warmest regards.

This guy is basically arguing (among other things) that because 100% of the energy from He-3 mining would not be used to directly power "a great life-enhancing project" - it is all bad and it should not be done.

Furthermore, in the absence of a radical alteration in patterns of human behaviour, a good deal of energy from He-3 mining is unlikely to go towards a great life-enhancing project. It is likely to be used for comparatively trivial purposes such as advertising, waste and the enhancement of prestige.
This is part and parcel of living in a society where choice is valued. However, there are some choices (the choice to be cruel, aggressive, destructive or wasteful) which may not be worth having and which, in some cases, we ought not to have.

You know... kinda the way paper and pens should not be produced because not all of them are used to create works of Shakespeare or Michelangelo.

Anyone willing to dig for more pearls of wisdom, here is his academia.edu [academia.edu] page with his other works.

Re:No. Not even that. (1)

khallow (566160) | about 8 months ago | (#44703167)

For example, there's this gem [academia.edu] .

If we ask "What kinds of freedom in space does the skepticism of Arendt and Ballard place in question?" the answer would seem to be "Any conception of freedom which undermines our shared sense of vulnerability." What they point to is an appreciation that our human vulnerabilities are among those things which help to bind us together with others who share "a life like our own". Their kind of skepticism cannot then be answered by appeal to the removal of vulnerabilities but the latter is precisely what they find threatening. Any promise of freedoms which encroaches too far upon our shared vulnerabilities, which promises too much, will then also risk removing the basis for a specifically human sense of community.

This is from page 10. He's discussing ideas from a couple of philosophers (one, Hannah Arendt gets mentioned favorably in his Moon mining ethics paper) shared vulnerability yields a basis for a "specifically human sense of community". While he yearns for a better basis, he states that he thinks no "viable substitute" exists.

Well, let's look at historical examples of this in application. The German Nazis of the late 1930s were experts at this task, creating shared threats against mostly imaginary dangers such as Jews or Communists, which they used to build said "specifically human sense of community" and start a world war and various democide programs that killed many tens of millions of people.

So I'm not very impressed by such an ethics concern given how it's been used in the past. Maybe shared vulnerability is not that viable after all? I would suggest that if there really needs to be anything shared (and I don't see that there does), then shared goals are more worthy and ennobling than shared vulnerabilities.

But this is the sort of argument from the person who thinks they have ethical arguments against non-existing stripping mining of the Moon.

Philosophy academics... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44702763)

I have never seen any dumber creatures than Philosophy academics. Meeting them sometimes in a campus dining hall, they will always spoil you lunch if you are unfortunate to share a table with them and they try to have an "intellectual" conversation with you.

Useless debate (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44702765)

No one is going to "mine" the moon for an ultra-tenuous substance that has no use whatsoever. Newsflash you retards: WE HAVE NO FUSION POWER PLANTS. And if we did, why would we use a fuel that needs such massive expenditures to get, and is harder to burn than deuterium? (Which we don't have either)

You mock the good professor of philosophy but you are debating the number of non-existent technologies that can dance on the head of an invisible pin.

Good work, whackjobs.

Cart before horse (2)

WaffleMonster (969671) | about 8 months ago | (#44702829)

I'm still waiting on that slashdot article introducing the worlds first working economically viable fusion generator.

Re:Cart before horse (1)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | about 8 months ago | (#44702859)

Cross out fusion generator and add in any of many alternatives.

My favorite would be flying car.

Re:Cart before horse (1)

Dcnjoe60 (682885) | about 8 months ago | (#44703091)

Cross out fusion generator and add in any of many alternatives.

My favorite would be flying car.

They have flying cars. One even won a Darwin Award.

Think of the cheese! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44702851)

For the love of God won't some one please think of the Cheese?

If we start mining the moon and bringing it back to earth, who's going to eat all that cheese? I'll tell you who, no one. That's no way for cheese to go bad.

OED: Artifact (1)

cervesaebraciator (2352888) | about 8 months ago | (#44702885)

artefact /tfakt/

((US artifact) )

noun

1. an object made by a human being, typically one of cultural or historical interest: gold and silver artefacts.

2. something observed in a scientific investigation or experiment that is not naturally present but occurs as a result of the preparative or investigative procedure: the curvature of the surface is an artefact of the wide-angle view.

So, is this guy an intelligent design proponent? Oh wait, that's just the summary. In TFA the word appears once:

Firstly, the Moon is a culturally-significant object. Given this, we should no more treat it as a mere resource (as a giant mine or quarry) than we should treat Stonehenge or the pyramids as a convenient source of building materials. This is another way of making sense of the idea (already enshrined in space law) that the Moon is part of the ‘common heritage of mankind’. It may, of course, be pointed out that the Moon is not a human artifact whereas structures such as Stonehenge and the pyramids are. And this no doubt restricts the ways in which the Moon can realistically be viewed as culturally significant but not the fact that it has such significance. Moreover, this does not seem to be dependent upon how the present generation, or any particular generation of humans, happens to feel about the Moon. [Emphasis mine]

That's a different statement. Still, there're some hidden premises there he should support if he wants people to buy that argument.

Energy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44702909)

mining the moon or anything else isn't inherently evil. cheap, abundant energy isn't inherently evil either. i do not want to stand in the way of progress but, obviously this chap and i see and agree about how the human race runs. the more cheap, abundant energy we have, the more we propagate ourselves and the more resources we consume. i hope that if we ever reach a point where we can harvest vast amounts of energy from the moon, we will also be able to use that energy to move and sustain populations on other bodies in space. i would also hope that we have the knowledge and wisdom to use that energy to recycle every-frickin-thing we discard in order to prevent turning the earth into something as barren as the moon.

This crazy old bat GETS it. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44702911)

I'm being told to stay away from the moon and ignore all the unlimited energy it has? Well that settles it. Now I HAVE to do it.

What are you going to do old man, throw space regolith at me? Eat my lung shredding moon dust!

Man is actually part of the universe (4, Interesting)

Beeftopia (1846720) | about 8 months ago | (#44702919)

The elements in our bodies [wikipedia.org] come from exploding stars. [lbl.gov]

The earth coalesced from a swirling ball of gas and dust. Which had various quantities of these elements. Then yadda yadda, lifeorms started popping up. Of which man was one of the later variants.

Man needs this fishbowl of earth to survive in the universe, just like goldfish need a fishbowl to survive in our living room. Imagine if the goldfish could get to the refrigerator.

We're just trying to get to the refrigerator. Or maybe even go outside.

The earth is not the center of the universe. It's a smallish planet in the solar system. It's part of the universe. Just like man. Eventually the sun will red giant. If we don't go outside - leave the womb - we're finished. A fruit that died on the vine. Seems like we should be working on that problem now.

Re:Man is actually part of the universe (4, Insightful)

Dcnjoe60 (682885) | about 8 months ago | (#44703159)

The elements in our bodies [wikipedia.org] come from exploding stars. [lbl.gov]

The earth coalesced from a swirling ball of gas and dust. Which had various quantities of these elements. Then yadda yadda, lifeorms started popping up. Of which man was one of the later variants.

Man needs this fishbowl of earth to survive in the universe, just like goldfish need a fishbowl to survive in our living room. Imagine if the goldfish could get to the refrigerator.

We're just trying to get to the refrigerator. Or maybe even go outside.

The earth is not the center of the universe. It's a smallish planet in the solar system. It's part of the universe. Just like man. Eventually the sun will red giant. If we don't go outside - leave the womb - we're finished. A fruit that died on the vine. Seems like we should be working on that problem now.

And the problem if mankind dies on the vine? Are we that critical to the universe that the universe will suffer if the human race is no longer here? There are two possibilities one, there is other intelligent life in the universe or two, there is not. If there is, then we are not unique, so our loss would not be a loss at all. If there is not other intelligent life, then our loss makes no difference as what we are trying to preserve is of no use, nobody but us cares about it -- there is nobody to leave a legacy for.

In either case, when mankind ceases to exist, our actual existence will not even have been a blink of the eye on the cosmic time scale. The Catholics say "Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return." That phrase was coined long before we knew much about the universe, but has more truth in it than many people realize. At some point in the future, the cosmic dust that created the human race will be returned to the universe. What we are will go on, in new forms, new stars, new planets, maybe even new lifeforms. But who we are will cease and there won't be anybody to care.

Cultural Artifact? (2)

_Ludwig (86077) | about 8 months ago | (#44702929)

“Cultural artifact” has a specific meaning: A remnant of something created by a culture.

Hm, what if he’s on to something?

ALL THESE WORLDS ARE YOURS, SAVE FOR THE ONE THAT’S RELATIVELY EASY TO GET TO

The biggest an only logical reason we should not (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44702949)

import super cheap energy, and the same reason fusion might be bad:

We have no way to siphon off extra waste heat into space. Without that, we will most assuredly overheat our planet because all work has waste heat. so if we have unlimited work, we will have unlimited heat.

Waste of time (2)

Required Snark (1702878) | about 8 months ago | (#44702957)

I know that Slashdot can be a way to waste time, but IMHO this is below the threshold of interest. The guy is a troll not worthy of notice. This should not have made it to a topic. Let's give it the attention it deserves, which is nothing, and don't post any more.

I will do my part by not visiting this topic ever again.

Why anybody is surprised ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44702959)

Global warmist at it's best. He probably forgot to add that we should euthanize in addition 5 billion people to return Earth to balance.

He wanted to visit Torino, so he wrote a paper (1)

Jeremy Erwin (2054) | about 8 months ago | (#44702979)

Here's the call for papers [iaaweb.org]

Papers are solicited in the following areas: ...

        Ethics
Ethical aspects of long range exploration
From exploration to colonization
Ethical aspects of terraforming
Robot ethics
Adaptation of humans to new environments ....

So he wrote a paper on the ethics of Lunar Mining that actually considered possible ethical objections to the proposed activity. Is that so odd? Wouldn't it be better to hash this all out before the technology exists to strip-mine the moon?

After all, do we really want whalers on the moon?

Re:He wanted to visit Torino, so he wrote a paper (1)

Arker (91948) | about 8 months ago | (#44703127)

"So he wrote a paper on the ethics of Lunar Mining that actually considered possible ethical objections to the proposed activity. Is that so odd?"

Not in abstract, but the specific objections seem odd, to say the least.

"After all, do we really want whalers on the moon?"

Whalers are people too.

Need that energy for the laser on the moon to... (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about 8 months ago | (#44703015)

Need that energy for the laser on the moon to destroy Washington D.C and I will destroy another major city every hour on the hour. That is, unless, of course, you pay me
one hundred billion dollars.

Okay, wait until that North Sea oil runs out (1)

sandbagger (654585) | about 8 months ago | (#44703023)

Then this fellow will begin to say that access to energy is a good thing.

Red Mars (2)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about 8 months ago | (#44703039)

Sounds like the plot of Red-Mars. Environmentalists don't think we should be messing with mars and sabotage efforts to terraform it.

Let me get this straight... (1)

bughunter (10093) | about 8 months ago | (#44703083)

... if the territory is uninhabited, then it's a 'cultural artifact.' But if it's inhabited, then it's a 'frontier.'

Right. Gotcha.

Oh, gee, look at the time. I need to water my cat. Bye.

as usual (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44703175)

Stories like this make me hate human beings even more.

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