Artificial intelligence, automated industry and colonizing Mars
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There is good reason to believe that people can design a partially self replicating industrial system for Mars along with the artificial intelligence to run it following instructions it receives from Earth after every eight hour shift of Earth bound controllers. There are ants about three hundredths of an inch from end to end that none the less pack sufficient data processing power in their tiny heads to forage all about a human kitchen, find the cookie jar, suck the grease and sugar out of the chocolate chip cookies and return to their nest in wavering curving lines stretching over more than ten feet. They find a supply of water somewhere too, probably by digging into the dirt under the house's foundation. The task for an artificial intelligence running a partially self-replicating industry on Mars might be more complicated in raw processing power, perhaps ten times, perhaps a hundred times more complicated. People have powerful enough computers sitting on their desk tops. The things that are lacking are the programming and the design of the industrial task. These two must be built together as nature built the programming and the task of the ant together. People have an advantage over nature. We can see the final goal and design for that without going through all of the evolutionary steps along the way.
Colonizing Mars brings this task to humanity while we still have a chance to successfully meet the economic challenge that goes along with it. If we put this off until the far future, it might kill us. We do not need this kind of advance in automation on Earth because the economic problem is to distribute the fruits of production to those involved in the production. More people involved in production simplifies this task. The wealth we produce must be kept flowing like the sap in a tree, or the tree dies. That is a consequence of the industrial economy we have which we must live with. The potential of automated manufacturing for producing goods without much input of labor could be too big of a change for Earth to adapt to. In outer space this advance is not only helpful, it is required. When the technology gradually seeps back to Earth causing unemployment, the space habitats will be ready and waiting for the children of Earth looking for new homes. Space habitats can be flipping out of their factories like flap jacks, loading up with people and sailing off into the sunshine. The expanding economy resulting from people emigrating to outer space can soak up the productive power of automated factories controlled by artificial intelligence which otherwise might constipate the whole system. Mars is an ideal place for this to begin.