Wednesday, March 20, 2013

A look back at space colony enthusiasm

If you read Robert Anton Wilson's writings in the 1970s and 1980s, you can't help but be struck by how optimistic he was that space travel, space colonies and lifespan extension would very soon transform everyone's lives.

The timetable didn't move along as quickly as Wilson expected, but he wasn't the only one who thought that great things were within reach. Reason magazine has published a review of a new book,   The Visioneers: How a Group of Elite Scientists Pursued Space Colonies, Nanotechnology and a Limitless Future. The book is by W. Patrick McCray, a California history professor.

According to Brian Doherty's review, The Visioneers focuses in particular on Gerard O'Neill, whose advocacy of space colonies was promoted in Wilson's Schroedinger's Cat trilogy, and nanotechnology guru Eric Drexler.

Doherty writes, "O’Neill and Drexler imagined progress in their respective fields faster than reality warranted. But it is too early to declare them prophets of what McCray calls 'failed futures.' I don’t think either of their stories is over, despite being entombed here in a book from an academic press."

These seems fair. Recent successes from SpaceX suggest there's hopes for space exploration optimists.

A check on Amazon reveals that McCray's book has several references to Wilson, described by McCray as a "Bay Area science fiction writer." The book appears to offer excellent background for Wilson's ideas (and Timothy Leary's ideas) on space exploration.

Hat tip: Jesse Walker.

1 comment:

fuzzbuddy said...

I've just seen this book:
Moving into Space by Peter Beren.

O'Neill is also mentioned in the 2nd paragraph of this interview: