How to Build a Better Space Explorer

Author's Note

How will our ancestors view us? As pioneering or provincial? Whichever it is, I hope they view us from the orbits of a thousand distant stars.

As a science fiction nut, I've long been captivated by two ideas. The first -- that we could one day opt to transform ourselves instead of our planets -- first horrified me, then puzzled me and finally just left me scratching my head, smiling.

The second concept is that our ancestors on distant worlds might one day forget, or even laugh at, the idea that we all originated in one place: "a small blue-green planet in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the western spiral arm of the Milky Way Galaxy," to quote Douglas Adams.

Both notions deal with identity and our sense of place, within our bodies or within the physical world. As we grow and change throughout our lives, the people and places we've known assume a dreamlike quality, and we find we cannot completely trust our recollections of them, or even of who we once were. Most of the cells in our body are replaced several times over during our lifetimes. Whatever we are, whoever we are, seems to transcend these things, but are there limits to that transcendence?

Don't ask me. I'm probably just a brain in a jar somewhere, collecting dust.

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