By Akshaye Mavinkurve
“No Man’s Sky” is a space survival game therefore the primary aim is to make sure to stay alive. To survive in the Euclid galaxy, the player has to collect elements to create materials that can sustain their survival. Collecting elements includes mining rocks, mining mineral ores and harvesting plants rich in minerals and critical elements like Oxygen, Carbon and Sodium. The nature and tone of the game allows players to deeply think about their actions as they have tangible consequences to the ecology of the planet.
At a certain point while playing the game, I started contemplating whether what I am doing is ethical as I am destroying ecosystems I don’t belong to by depleting the flora and fauna of its resources. What I can infer based on what the game has shown me is that what I am doing is unethical and illegal. Like in our universe, interstellar objects like Planets and Moons have their own well adjusted ecosystem, the player is a space nomad who travels around different galaxies and finds planets to extract resources and even set up a base, but the player does not belong to these ecosystems, by extracting key minerals from the planet to terraform it or to create structures, the player is disrupting the ecosystem and causing harm to the flora and fauna. Each planet and moon have sentinels, who guard the planet, some of them are filled with aggressive sentinels who try to eliminate you before you even step on the ground and some wait till you try to extract resources. This ethical framework within the game serves as a challenge to the player who is heavily reliant on mining asteroids and planets as depletion of resources leads to their death. When you invest hours into the game, you ultimately reach a point where you don’t necessarily need to extract resources, and that is when the contemplation starts, after causing all the disruption and harm to flora and fauna from hundreds of planets around the universe. I think the game is always trying to lead players into these thoughts which is very much needed as it is important that all forms of media really start focusing on providing an accurate report on the climate crisis on Earth and how the exploitation of available minerals is about to create havoc to our ecological system.
As private companies like SpaceX and Blue Origin start to rapidly make accessible space travel and interplanetary colonization a reality, behind the scenes, there is also a rapid effort to make asteroid mining a reality. With personalities like Elon Musk talking about an effort to colonize Mars, it is inevitable that the human species would also look at technology to extract all resources from the colonized planets and moons for our utility.
Photo by M/SUR for shutterstock
When the Industrial revolution was in motion, wealth inequality was shockingly horrible, with only Noblemen and Clergymen allowed to own property and all produce was to be sent to the first and second estate, while workers had to fight for scarce resources they were given. There were very few voices, if there even were voices railing against the dumping of waste into our lands and rivers. Simply put, people could not afford to contemplate the ecological consequences of the industrial revolution and as a consequence of that, we are now facing a climate crisis. The industrial revolution helped create a surplus of all commodities but while quality of life has greatly increased globally, all the issues that existed before the industrial revolution, exist even today i.e., Malnutrition and lack of access to affordable housing. This is not because there is a scarcity of resources, but rather due to the unequal distribution of resources. It is important for the global community to discuss the consequences of mining asteroids, planets and moons. The gross exploitation of natural minerals on Earth has led to a disastrous ecological imbalance and we are currently on the precipice of major changes to our ecological system. Learning from this, it is pivotal that we first understand the consequences of our actions in our solar system and debate on whether asteroid mining or planetary mining is worth the initiative. The reality is that we are far from understanding the universe and acting on ignorance and arrogance will only lead to our downfall.
History, Science and Literature are great tools to understand a multitude of perspectives and when it comes to asteroid mining and potentially mining for resources in other planets and moons, it is absolutely pivotal that we understand the ecological consequences of our actions. There needs to be years of experiments, observations and deliberation before we embark on an ambitious project like this. Our understanding of the world is defined by how much we are able to comprehend, because there is a limitation in human cognition and how we are able to access and perceive the physical world. As a species, our history has proved we are able to constantly innovate to survive, but at times, haste and emotions get the better of us and we create things that could mark our doom. Alfred Nobel and Robert Oppenheimer are all too familiar with and we sure could learn from their experiences and our history.