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Ask HN: What will come first?
3 points by brendonjohn 1323 days ago | hide | past | web | 1 comment | favorite
A robot that's able to coexist with human culture

or

Self-sustaining human life on Mars?

...I have intentionally put the question in layman's terms. For what sounds like a ridiculous question, I'm seriously proposing it. I'm not interested in what the majority thinks, but the reasoning for how your decision came to be.




Space travel since the 1940's to present has progressed from unmanned rockets to a permanent orbiting space station with a few moon landings in between. We've got the basics as far as technology goes to possibly get to another planet in the next 50 years, but considering we haven't figured out sustainability here on Earth, we wouldn't be able to get to a level of self-sustainability in the Martian desert. It is possible that population pressures here on Earth will become so severe that we will be forced to develop new technology to address food/water/shelter shortages that will help in a quest to colonize Mars.

Computers, on the other hand, have come what seems like a much longer way since the 1940's. From electric abacuses to devices that affect every facet of our lives. Computers are getting smarter, smaller, faster, and cheaper year after year. A modern smartphone is many times more powerful than the most powerful desktop from just a few years ago. Amazon has $2/hour EC2 instances that rival the fastest supercomputers from just 20 years ago. The ubiquitous nature of computers makes it more likely that industry will spur innovation in computers. It is quite possible that increases in computing power enable artificial intelligence at a level where we could have walking, talking robots, possibly indistinguishable from humans within 50 years.

Of course the most likely scenario, given recent success with Mars rovers, is that when robotics advances to a point where robots have sufficient intelligence and maneuverability we send them to Mars to build the infrastructure necessary to support a future human colony.




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