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Apologies for what may seem like an extraordinarily trite subject to such boffins, but I am looking for some enlightened discussion.
The thought occurred to me a while ago that if (and I am aware that in terms of realism, it's a very slim prospect) humanity ever does reach out and colonise the stars, what will the implication be on the development, progression, and continued survival of the human race? And what are our most likely means of achieving it?
To begin with, as I followed this train of thought, I was somewhat fascinated by how primitive our early space-faring voyages will appear to this hypothetical future Alpha Centauri society. It seems inevitable that things will parallel the early colonisation and exploration of the new world by medieval humans. Early colonists will most likely be entirely cut-off from the established human race, the vast gulf of space making even basic communication difficult, meaning the society of our new worlds will be something almost alien in itself.
My line of reasoning here is that once humanity has mastered interplanetary travel within our home system, and maybe put a foothold on Mars or some distant moon of Jupiter, our attention will turn pretty swiftly to inter-stellar travel. We have always been a species to make daring, bold leaps into the unknown, and merely colonising this solar system is not enough to ensure our survival. Once we can travel between stars we will be almost inextinguishable, though we may mutate and evolve over the centuries we will always survive provided our fate is not tied to one solitary rock. But what I really want to discuss is the myriad of possibilities the future holds in such a scenario. Hypothetically, if we managed it, how would it work out? What do you think will become of us?
Will we wage vast interplanetary civil wars over resources and territory, the new Martian global elite leaving the paupers of Terra to starve and fight amongst themselves for what little fossil fuel remains? Will the great exodus fleet of varying corporate, government and military alliances survive it's expedition across space with some kind of cryogenic travel, or will the eventual survivors who set foot on New Earth be unrecognisable? A tribe of religious zealots worshipping the technology and ideology of a bygone age, having been confined for dozens of generations aboard their mothership, the nations of our new home forming eventually from these fractured remnants of ancient Earth society? Would they even still have mastery of the technology they used to travel there?
Please, discuss. I'll let you in on the secret that I'm thinking of starting to write a hard sci-fi novel and I'd like some input from people who actually know science, rather than just my mild acid-trip imaginings.