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Several geometrical forms for the physical shape of space communities have been studied: including a cylinder of a few kilometers in diameter; a torus of a few kilometers in diameter and several tens of meters in cross section; a bundle of narrower parallel toruses; a necklace shape consisting of small spheres; a pair of large spheres, each of which has a diameter of several kilometers. They were examined from the points of view of volume, mass, rotational speed, shielding needed, construction and costs, as described in the next chapter. However, there are also some psychological considerations of physical shape which affect the mental health of the inhabitants. Different geometrical forms of the communities may also influence the types of social interactions and social organization which take place in them.

The Solipsism Syndrome in Artificial Environment

Some environments are conducive to the state of mind in which a person feels that everything is a dream and is not real. This state of mind occurs, for example, in the Arctic winter when it is night 24 hr a day. It is also known to occur in some youths who have been brought up on television as a substitute to reality.

Solipsism is a philosophical theory that everything is in the imagination, and there is no reality outside one's own brain. As a philosophical theory it is interesting because is is internally consistent and, therefore, cannot be disproved. But as a psychological state, it is highly uncomfortable. The whole of life becomes a long dream from which an individual can never wake up. Each person is trapped in a nightmare. Even friends are not real, they are a part of the dream. A person feels very lonely and detached, and eventually becomes apathetic and indifferent.

In the small town of Lund, Sweden, the winter days have 6 hr of daylight and 18 hr of darkness. Most of the time people live under artificial light, so that life acquires a special quality. Outdoors, there is no landscape to see; only street corners lit by lamps. These street corners look like theater stages, detached from one another. There is no connectedness or depth in the universe and it acquires a very unreal quality as though the whole world is imagination. Ingmar Bergman's film "Wild Strawberries" expresses this feeling very well.

This state of mind can be easily produced in an environment where everything is artificial, where everything is like a theater stage, where every wish can be fulfilled by a push-button, and where there is nothing beyond the theater stage and beyond an individual's control.

There are several means to alleviate the tendency toward the solipsism syndrome in the extraterrestrial communities:

  1. A large geometry, in which people can see far beyond the "theater stage" of the vicinity to a view which is overwhelmingly visible.
  2. Something must exist beyond each human's manipulation because people learn to cope with reality when reality is different from their imagination. If the reality is the same as the imagination, there is no escape from falling into solipsism. In extraterrestrial communities, everything can be virtually controlled. In fact, technically nothing should go beyond human control even though this is psychologically bad. However, some amount of "unpredictability" can be built in within a controllable range. One way to achieve this is to generate artificial unpredictability by means of a table of random numbers. Another way is to allow animals and plants a degree of freedom and independence from human planning. Both types of unpredictability must have a high visibility to be effective. This high visibility is easier to achieve in a macrogeometry which allows longer lines of sight.
  3. Something must exist which grows. Interactive processes generate new patterns which cannot be inferred from the information contained in the old state. This is not due to randomness but rather to different amplification by mutual causal loops. It is important for each person to feel able to contribute personally to something which grows, that the reality often goes in a direction different from expectation, and finally that what each person takes care of (a child, for example) may possess increased wisdom, and may grow into something beyond the individual in control. From this point of view, it is important personally to raise children, and to grow vegetables and trees with personal care, not by mechanical means. It is also desirable to see plants and animals grow, which is facilitated by a long line of sight.
  4. It is important to have "something beyond the horizon" which gives the feeling that the world is larger than what is seen.

    Types of Social Organization

There are many different types of social organization based on different cultural philosophies. The following exaggerated examples are discussed to suggest how each may be facilitated or made difficult by various forms of macrogeometry of a space colony.

Type A Community: Hierarchial and Homogenistic

People in this community believe that if there are many ways, there must be the best way among them, and that the "best way" is "good" for everybody. They think in terms of maximization and optimization. They consider majority rule as the basis of democracy, and competition as the basis of "progress." They look for universal criteria and universal categories which would apply to all people, and they look for unity by means of similarities. Differences are considered as accidental, inconvenient or bothersome, and are ignored as much as possible. Diversity, nonstandard behavior, and minority groups are considered abnormal and undesirable, to be corrected to be more "normal." If these people are inconvenienced by the system which is geared toward the majority, the fault is considered to reside in the "abnormal" people. Because of the belief in the "best way" for all people and in maximum efficiency, all living units are designed alike. Because of the belief that unity is achieved by homogeneity and that differences create conflicts, residents are divided into age groups, occupational groups, and the like in such a way that each group is homogeneous within itself. Similarly, all living units are concentrated in one zone; recreation facilities in another zone; industrial facilites in the third zone. This allows for a large continuous area suitable for recreation activities which require large space.

Type B Community: Individualistic and Isolationistic

People in this community think that independence is a virtue, both from the point of view of the person who is independent and from the point of view of others from whom he is independent. They consider self-sufficiency as the highest form of existence. Dependency and interdependence are looked down upon as weakness or sin. Each living unit is like a self-contained castle and is insulated against others in terms of sight, sound and smell. Each unit contains its recreational facilities, and there is no communal recreation area. Within each unit everything is adjustable to the individual taste. Protection of privacy is a major concern in this type of community.

Type C Community: Heterogenistic, Mutualistic and Symbiotic

People in this community believe in the symbiosis of biological and social process due to mutual interaction. Heterogeneity is considered as a source of enrichment, symbiosis, resource diversification, flexibility, survival and evolution. They believe that there is no "best way" for all people. They think in terms of choosing and matching instead of maximization or optimization. They consider majority rule as homogenistic domination by quantity, and instead, use the principle of elimination of or compensation for hardship which even a single individual may suffer from when a decision no matter which direction is taken. They consider competition useless and cooperation useful. They think that criteria and categories should be flexible and variable depending on the context and the situation. They look for harmony and symbiosis thanks to diversity, instead of advocating unity by means of similarities. Homogeneity is considered as the source of quantitative competition and conflict. Houses are all different, based on different design principles taken from different cultures and from different systems of family structure, including communes. Each building is different, and within each building, each apartment is different. The overall design principle is harmony of diversity and avoidance of repetition, as is found in Japanese gardens and flower arrangement. Different elements are not thrown together but carefully combined to produce harmony. People of different ages, different occupations, and different family compositions are mixed and interwoven, but care is taken to place together people who can help one another. For example, old people who love children are placed near families who need babysitters. On the other hand, antagonistic combinations are avoided. For example, noisy people are not placed near people who love a quiet environment.

There are two different methods of heterogenization: localization and interweaving. In localization, each of the heterogeneous elements separates itself and settles in one locality. Chinatown in San Francisco is an example. In localization, heterogeneity increases between different localities, but each locality becomes homogeneous. On the other hand, in interweaving, different elements are interwoven together. This system creates no great differences between localities, but within each locality there is a great diversity. In the interwoven system, accessibility to different elements increases. It becomes easier for the individual to heterogenize himself. For example, a white person may eat Chinese food on Monday, Italian food on Tuesday, learn Judo on Wednesday, or become a full-time Tibetan Monk. Both localization and interweaving may be incorporated in the design of extraterrestrial communities.

The Problem of Matching

Individuals vary in their taste, abilities, and optimal rate of communication. No culture is "healthy" or "unhealthy" for everybody. Each culture is healthy for those whose tastes, abilities and rate of communication match with it, and unhealthy for others. High-communication individuals suffer in a low-communication community, and low-communication individuals suffer in a high-communication community. The same holds true for the matching of individuals to jobs, or individuals to individuals.

Successful matching requires availability of variety, and availability of variety depends on the number of different types of communities as well as the degree of heterogeneity within a community.

There is also the problem of size vs. number. For example, many areas of the Midwest have a large number of small colleges, each with 1000 or 2000 students. They all have libraries with more or less the same basic books. In a way this large number of small colleges creates heterogeneity. But in another sense a small number of large universities can create more heterogeneity, especially in the variety of library books or in the variety of departmental subjects. The planning of extraterrestrial communities presents similar problems.

Self-Sufficiency of an Extraterrestrial Community

One of the most frequently asked questions regarding the idea of extraterrestrial communities is whether they can be self-sufficient. There are several different criteria for self-sufficiency:

  1. Ability to survive and develop without any interaction with other communities.
  2. If isolated, ability to survive at a reduced level.
  3. Inability to survive without interaction with other communities, but financially self-sufficient in the sense that the "export" and the "import" balance out.
  4. Ability to produce for export.

    Turnover of Personnel

    There are three kinds of people who go to work in remote terrestrial areas such as Alaska: those who like adventurous life or like to challenge harsh, inconvenient life and enjoy it; those who have a romantic but unrealistic notion of adventurous life, find themselves incapable of living there, and return as soon as the first contract period is over; those who go for money, even though they hate the life in the remote area.

    The percentage of the second and the third categories is very large. The material conditions in extraterrestrial communities will be comfortable; more comfortable than living in Washington D.C. in summer or in Boston in winter. What would probably make life in an extraterrestrial community "harder" than life in Minnesota or California is isolation from the Earth and smallness of the environment. In these two aspects, an extraterrestrial community resembles Hawaii rather than Alaska.

    High monetary incentive should not be used for space colonization recruiting because it attracts the wrong people. Furthermore, it would be unhealthy for the community as well as for the individuals concerned to make efforts to retain "misfits" in the extraterrestrial community. It would be healthier to return them to the Earth, even though this might seem more "expensive."

    During the feudal period in Japan, political offenders were often sent away and confined in small islands. This form of punishment was called "shimanagashi." In many American prisons today, there are "isolation units" and "segregation units" where inmates whom the prison authorities consider as "troublemakers" are confined for a length of time.

    To a smaller degree, the "mainlanders" who spend a few years on an isolated island, even though the island may have large cities and modern conveniences, feel a strange sense of isolation. They begin to feel left out and intellectually crippled, even though physically life may be very comfortable. People suffer from the shimanagashi syndrome unless they were born on the island or have lived there a long time. For many people, life in Alaska has more challenge and excitement than life on a remote island. Often daily life in Alaska seems to consist of emergencies, which test resourcefulness and ability to cooperate with other individuals.

    Furthermore, Alaska is not only part of a continent but also has travel possibilities that are almost unlimited in winter as a result of snow on land and ice on the ocean, both of which serve limitless highways for sleds and skis. On an island, however, one cannot go beyond the shoreline, whereas in Alaska one can travel far beyond the visible horizon.

    Would the immigrants of extraterrestrial communities suffer from the shimanagashi syndrome? Journals and books can be transmitted electronically between the Earth and extraterrestrial communities, so that these communities are not isolated in terms of communication. However, in terms of physical travel they are isolated at least between the Earth and extraterrestrial communities because the Earth is at the bottom of a deep gravity well. But when numerous extraterrestrial communities have been constructed, travel between them will be quite inexpensive because the transportation system does not have to fight against the gravitational field.

    International Participants

    When there are many extraterrestrial communities, some may belong to different terrestrial nations, some may be international, and some may even form new extraterrestrial nations.

    The first extraterrestrial communities may not be purely American if the United States is no longer a major world power or a major technological center by the time the first extraterrestrial community is established. If the United States remains a major world power, many nations including nonwestern nations and African nations, could be highly technological and want to participate, so that the first extraterrestrial community may be international.

    The present technological nations are not necessarily advantaged, because the technology they possess is "Earth-bound" in addition to being culture-bound. They may have first to unlearn the forms, the assumptions and the habits of the Earth-bound technology before learning the new forms and assumptions of technology useful in extraterrestrial communities.

    Return to Chapter 3

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Curator: Al Globus
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