Communes in Outer Space



“Space settlement advocates frequently argue that we will soon be able to settle humans in space. Surviving on Mars is clearly a pre-requisite to settlement, and much work has been done examining the engineering aspects of this endeavor. Much less work has been done, however, on questions related to how to arrange a society in space. Early settlements will be dangerous, isolated, and cramped, and picking a social arrangement that is likely to result in a vibrant and productive society will be critical. Moreover, given the high stakes of this endeavor, being able to anticipate and ameliorate likely social problems ahead of time would be beneficial. Some important questions to consider include: How can settlements pick members who are likely to contribute as much as or more than they take from the society? How will they make sure everyone continues to contribute? How will they retain their most talented members? The literature on space settlements frequently posits that early settlements are particularly likely to be communal, though settlement scholars rarely consult the social sciences literature to explore whether or not communes would be a good social model for space. This article explores lessons from three major communal movements—the Hutterites, kibbutzim, and 60s-era communes. Similar social problems (such as adverse selection, free riding, and brain drain) are frequently encountered in these communes, and communards employ similar solutions to ameliorate these problems. This article also discusses how the nature of these social constraints may differ in the space environment, and the potential implications of the observation that religious communes seem to be more likely to persist than purely socialist ones.”

From Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal, of all places.

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