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Anthropology 1:

How Will Us Humans Do Human

-- in Space?

By, Martha Adams

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Thru no coincidence at all, I've just received a nice book about anthropology. I'm reading it now: Anthropology for Dummies, from the Scientific American Book Club. The title is misleading. I think it's a good undergrad text on its topic and genuine dummies won't be interested in that. The book features the same good organization and presentation that is a hallmark of the many Dummies books offered today. If you feel its cover and title are too dissonant with your social rank and status, remember the classical brown paper bag.

After a quick pass through the book, I wrote the following. Look for my further notes and comments as soon as I finish reading this book. -- mha

* * *

As I've looked at the work under way that is (or might be) relevant to us humans making our place in this local solar system, I've noticed topics the reported work seems to miss. I point out one of these missing topics here because I believe, 1) such omissions amount to self-proving and self-propagating error; and 2) if this goes on, their absence (or too-simple application) will certainly kill the settlements (hopefully) to come. Here, I'm writing about anthropology.

At first glance, 'anthropology' doesn't sound much like space, does it?

Anthropology is the study of the topic, complex and long in history, of how us humans go about being human. About human behavior in environments we made for ourselves. Of how some cultures survived and developed and we live in one of them and may visit others today; of how others failed and vanished nearly without trace and people today try to understand why they are gone.

Good anthropology is reality based. I don't see that it's normative. It is the objective study of as much as we can see of cultures present and past. It's the careful guesswork and thinking about what they are today in their uninterrupted workings where we find them. It's a valuable resource for today's thinking about how tomorrow's off-Terra settlements can be designed -- before we get there to build them and then to live in them -- to be immediately practical in a human way.

I think, if we're going to build settlements and an entire new human culture and economics in space, we must start with knowing how something like that has already been done. And how it worked out, then and since. Its relevance is this: us humans going up into space, will carry with us our genomes, our culture, our characters. Into a deadly unsafe, restrictive and hostile environment, markedly unlike anything our ancestors experienced and survived in. How will we do that (if we do that)?

This question calls for us to move our perceptions far beyond the exciting minutes of liftoff -- about 10 min to Low Earth Orbit -- to the years and (hopefully) millennia when us humans are the longterm inhabitants of all our local Solar System. And to think about that, we must invoke our past and use it. We need anthropology.

My sincerest Thank-You to Robert Zubrin for referencing Turner in Zubrin's The Case For Mars. I mildly suggest to Zubrin that his Case would be improved by a restructure to move his discussion of Turner's work from an Epilogue in the back of the book to a Prologue in the front of it.

------------------------------------------------- Notes, Resources, and Pointers:

Cameron M. Smith and Evan T. Davies, Anthropology for Dummies. Paperback. Wiley Publishing, 2008. ISBN 978-0-470-27966-3 Social Science / Anthropology.

Robert Zubrin with Richard Wagner, The Case For Mars. Paperback. Simon & Schuster Touchstone, 1996. ISBN 0-684-83550-9. LC QB641.Z83.

Frederick Jackson Turner, about 1893. Here are two options among many to find his seminal paper about the frontier in American history. Namely, http://xroads.virginia.edu/~hyper/turner/, and, http://history.hanover.edu/courses/excerpts/225turner.html

This paper in hand, try rewriting it into something by yourself as a history student and scholar out there in the future. (I can't guess how many decades out there -- that's another topic.) Use Turner's settlement stages hierarchy to write a review of how our human cultures might advance and develop in the space of our Solar System.

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