The Role of Innovation in the "Billionaire Space Race"
Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos recently made "history" by launching into space. Surprisingly public opinion about these events have been mixed. It got me thinking about the significance of this moment for us now, and in the future..July 19, 2021 · 2 min read
It's been interesting to see the public's reaction to what's being dubbed the "Billionaire Space Race". Like many things these days, people seem to be split on whether this is a moment to celebrate, or a moment to scrutinize. With so many problems apparent on Earth, for many it seems rather trite to be focused on the stars. I think both sides might be missing the mark.
Personally, I think this is a historic moment, regardless of whether we judge recent events as either "good" or "bad". It represents a paradigm shift that will have profound reverberations for years to come. It represents the incremental progress that often accompanies innovation, in this case, it is another step of many towards the democratization of space. So really, it's less about the "Billionaires" than about what this event signifies for the next generation, one that never experienced Apollo 11 or man's first steps on the moon. This generation has grown up with SpaceX, and within a few short years has seen Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin make it to space. These represent the first steps towards the commercialization of space, and while it's Billionaires today, tomorrow, it could be us.
This is the typical story of innovation. Whether we're talking about the automobile, the aeroplane, or countless other innovations. At first they are usually only accessible by the few with means. Once they are introduced to public awareness though, this begins the long, iterative process of experimentation, creation and invention that leads to many breakthroughs that are simply impossible to predict in the early days. It will probably take many years before travel to space is available to everybody, but recent events show it's possible to get there. What future innovators might this inspire? What valuable gifts might we discover once we get up there? How will our world view change once the majority of people have the opportunity to experience how small we all truly are?
I'm being a bit of a space fanboy here, but I do believe the implications of space travel are profound. I think it's the natural next step in the story of human innovation. Of course, we have major challenges here on Earth that cannot be ignored, but I don't believe sitting idle is the answer. Investing in the future doesn't mean we need to ignore our problems today, and technology and innovation will probably never be a complete solution to our social issues anyways. But as long as it doesn't become a negative distraction, I think there is great value in having something new to explore. Perhaps it might lead to a different way of thinking about our world and our place in it, and provide a much needed shift in perspective. As innovation often does, current advancements in space will most likely lead to unforeseen consequences, some of which are likely to change our perspective & world for the better.