Life On Mars Bad? Star Trek Dream Could Be Killed By NASA’s 2020 Mars Rover

The Star Trek dream has always been for the human race to be capable of interstellar travel, but futurist Nick Bostrom claims that if the 2020 Mars rover program finds life on Mars then this dream may die with the discovery. But how could finding life in space put an end to “going boldly where no one has gone before”?

In a related report by the Inquisitr, the International Space Station recently found life in space when the Russian cosmonauts were cleaning the external surface of the ISS. The discovery had scientists speculating about how the creature got there in the first place, never mind how long it had been growing there without anyone noticing.

NASA is currently working on choosing a location for the 2020 Mars rover program, which is intended to be a followup to the Curiosity rover, that will look for signs of life on the red planet. The final landing spot is not expected to be chosen before 2018, but scientists are debating the merits of a good number of spots all over the red planet.

Nick Bostrom might be secretly hoping NASA picks a bad search spot. He’s the director of the Future of Humanity Institute at Oxford University, and back in 2008 he wrote a paper entitled “Where Are They?: Why I Hope The Search For Extraterrestrial Life Finds Nothing.” Although this paper was written years before the 2020 Mars rover program was ever conceived, Bostrom’s writing are still relevant to the current endeavors into space.

“But I hope that our Mars probes will discover nothing. It would be good news if we find Mars to be completely sterile. Dead rocks and lifeless sands would lift my spirit. Conversely, if we discovered traces of some simple extinct life form—some bacteria, some algae—it would be bad news. If we found fossils of something more advanced, perhaps something looking like the remnants of a trilobite or even the skeleton of a small mammal, it would be very bad news. The more complex the life we found, the more depressing the news of its existence would be. Scientifically interesting, certainly, but a bad omen for the future of the human race.”

Bostrom writes of “the great filter,” which is essentially a probability barrier beyond which life can reach the point of creating an interstellar civilization. He hopes that the this great filter is in the past, but fears it may be in the future and that certain events, like nuclear war, prevent everyone, including aliens, from reaching the goal of living like Star Trek.

“The Great Filter must therefore be powerful enough—which is to say, the critical steps must be improbable enough—that even with many billions rolls of the dice, one ends up with nothing: no aliens, no spacecraft, no signals, at least none that we can detect in our neck of the woods…. The other possibility is that the Great Filter is after us, in our future. This would mean that there is some great improbability that prevents almost all technological civilizations at our current human stage of development from progressing to the point where they engage in large‐scale space‐colonization and make their presence known to other technological civilizations. For example, it might be that any sufficiently technologically advanced civilization discovers some technology—perhaps some very powerful weapons technology—that causes its extinction.”

But what exactly does that have to do with finding life on Mars? Bostrom argues that if life is on two planets in the same solar system that life is likely to spread all over the universe. If that’s the case, then there must be a good reason that no one else is zipping around through space like in Star Trek, whether through extinction or the impossibility of interstellar space travel. This is why he hopes ” that our space probes will discover dead rocks and lifeless sands on Mars, on Jupiter’s moon Europa, and everywhere else our astronomers look. It would keep alive the hope for a great future for humanity.”