LIFE ON MARS

Mars_1What is it with loony digital utopians and Mars?

First off, crazy instapundit Glenn Reynolds, in his recent Army of Davids, says that colonization of Mars is just around the corner. To Reynolds, rather than being the red planet, Mars has the potential to be a libertarian paradise:

"I think that although early Mars societies will not offer certain kinds of freedoms that we enjoy on Earth -- such as the freedom to be nonproductive sponges living off the labors of others -- they will offer more freedom for individuals to make something of themselves."

Then Chief Evangelist at Google, Vint Cerf, in his weekend WSJ exchange with Esther Dyson about the Internet in 2016, jumps from ubiquitous broadband in one paragraph to robots on Mars in the next:

"By the end of the decade, we will have a two planet Internet in operation as the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter is prepared to serve as a store-and-forward relay to ground-based rovers, a mobile science laboratory and other future missions to Mars. The Interplanetary Internet, serving robotic and manned missions, will grow from this simple configuration to a more complex backbone of interplanetary links as each new mission is launched to the planets and satellites of our solar system. Virtual visits to our near-space neighborhood will be as common as a trip to the local supermarket as we amass enormous amounts of information about the region of space in which we live. Kids will have virtual field trips to visit the Spirit and Opportunity sites on Mars and other places from which we have gathered so much information already and will gather in the next decade."

Cerf, clearly just as loony as Reynolds, has been overdosing on Star Trek/Wars. Perhaps that's what being the Google guys' Chief Evangelist has done to him. Interplanetary networks, Vint?  In 2016, even you will be lucky to afford the gas to drive from the Googleplex to San Francisco.

And what's all this about virtual visits to Mars? My family goes to the local supermarket two or three times a week. Even if Mars did, in some miraculous way, become a virtual reality in my family's life, I doubt we would want to visit our "near-space neighborhood" as often as our local supermarket (the Berkeley Bowl). After all, why would we --me, my wife and especially my kids -- want to stare at some distant planet where nothing ever happens? It sounds even more boring than the videos on YouTube.