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Interpersonal issues in interplanetary travel

Author: Ashlee VancePublished: 2015-05-19
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Interpersonal issues in interplanetary travel

Postby robert » Sat Apr 30, 2016 2:15 pm

Elon Musk likes to tell people to take it down to the physics when people try to tell him something won't work. He's doing a great job paving the way for the physical possibility of transporting people to Mars, but there are some interpersonal issues that I suspect he hasn't even tried to deal with yet.

On a long plane ride you might have someone coughing next to you or a crying baby in front of you or a kid kicking your seat behind you (or a host of other scenarios with the mix of people on the plane). There are several ways to cope with this on a plane ride, like trying to sleep or getting lost in a good book, listening to music, watching movies, or even working or playing on a computer.

If the plane ride is 3 months long, however, several other aspects of life need to happen. If you transport 100 people to Mars on a 3 month journey you'll need create almost a biosphere in the rocket to feed everyone and deal with all the human waste. That can likely be dealt with (using probably more chemistry than physics), but beyond that there will need to be enough space for people to move around freely and exercise as well as have privacy of their own rooms (small though they may be).

With that many people you will have on average around 30 birthdays during the trip, and there may need to be some designated mediator or 3rd party to help resolve any disputes that arise from living together with strangers for that long without a way to physically get away (ie "cabin fever").

Based on the stories shared in this book about Elon it doesn't sound like he would consider these issues because of his personality and apparent expectation that everyone else be like him (willing to make great personal sacrifices for the sake of the overall mission). Even if he personally interviews all the passengers there will be people who slip through that do not get along (like some of his former employees who he courted and then later eschewed).

So how to we plan for these issues? According to studies shared in Humans are Underrated by Geoff Colvin people respond better to people than computers, so a Wall-E type scenario run by "Auto" would likely fail. It seems to me that trained moderators using Non Violent Communication would be helpful, maybe instead of flight attendants.

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