Yes, literally. This scenario presents a possible range of events, i.e. not impossible but highly unlikely. It specifies a chain of events, which may ultimately lead to one escape route for Humanity – to Mars. You may think it is a science fiction. I do not. This scenario is entirely possible, because all of the technologies needed are already here with a few unknowns (protection against cosmic radiation, long-time travel impact on the body and psychological effects). At the moment there is one man that has been the springboard behind that venture – Elon Musk. However, the other contender might be China as well as the US. I have tried to input in this scenario as many actual technological solutions as possible, to make it more real.
Elon Musk returned to his study after a long walk outside the main Zone’s Habitat 1, which was in the northern part of the Grand Canyon on Mars that stretched for 4,000 km. He preferred Habitat 1 because it was built in the late 2020’ by autonomous robots and 3D printers and retained a kind of an earthly home, rather than Habitat 2, built in one of the big caverns nearby. He thought he deserved a good cup of original coffee brought by him from Earth for special occasions. It was a precious stuff, as it could not be grown on Mars yet. Tomorrow, on 28th June, will be his 69th birthday, although having gone through gene rejuvenating therapy just before leaving Earth, he looked like he were in his 30-ties. Anyway, he started to reflect on how it all happened and what a miracle it was, that he was here, alive, and as full of energy as in those early days of Space X adventure.
He remembered very well what motivated him to come to Mars. Initially, it was that sentence in “Foundation” book by Isaac Asimov: “you should try to take the set of actions that are likely to prolong civilization, minimize the probability of a dark age and reduce the length of a dark age if there is one.” He also remembered that interview in March 2018 when he said “I want to die on Mars, just not on impact”.
And then it all unravelled. He was kept awake at night at that time by the threat coming from the unregulated Artificial Intelligence, which he had previously warned could lead Humanity into a third world war. It was at that time when he said “Humans must prioritise the colonisation of Mars, so that the species can be conserved in the event of a third world war”. Or, at another occasion, when he said: “AI is much more dangerous than nukes. So why do we have no regulatory oversight?”
That’s exactly what happened on Planet Earth. There was hardly any oversight on AI development, since even the most sophisticated nearly superintelligent agents could be produced by reasonably qualified AI researchers supported by some anarchic or disordered millionaires. America after Donald Trump era could not get back to the time where their policies were broadly predictable and cohesive. It was soon overrun economically by China. Around that time there was another migration wave from the Middle East and Africa to Europe. The European Union was being kept together mainly by the external danger coming from Russia. But Russia, seeing lack of strong cohesion among the EU countries, attacked the Baltics anyway. The only way NATO could balance the Russian forces was to launch small scale nuclear bombs that emitted strong electromagnetic pulse (EMP bombs) in northern Russia, disabling Russia’s army by blocking any electronic devices. Russia responded in a similar way. That stopped the war but the radiation levels that followed were immense. A Peace Treaty between Russia and NATO was signed.
However, as soon as the Peace Treaty had been signed, some EU countries went their own way, and quit the EU, following the British example in 2020. Within a few more years the EU fell apart completely, and a series of wars on the European soil erupted. Europe was in a complete chaos, aggravated by a high level of radiation from the short exchange of nuclear attacks by NATO and Russia. Medical and social help was stretched to the limit. The only thing the larger countries, such as Germany and France could do (then working very closely together, almost like one state), was quickly quash the wars, before another one erupted. Europe was just one step away from a free for all war, which Russia thought it would win using conventional weapons only. That is exactly what it did and now vast sways of Europe were under the Russian control. Many European states became Russia’s vassal states.
China took advantage of such developments in Europe and expanded into the Pacific Ocean, building even more artificial islands. The USA was directly in danger mainly from China but also from Russia (Alaska and California). Around 2030 the first nearly superintelligent agents, untested and prone to errors appeared. Most were quickly eliminated but for Elon Musk that was the last straw. He saw that his fears were to materialize very soon. Thankfully his Falcons rockets, which became the space industry workhorse, as well as his Starship rockets that had already quite a few landings on Mars delivering first explorers there, were performing very well indeed. He realized it was impossible to get 1 million people on Mars by 2050, as he had once promised, but nevertheless he wanted to get as many people as possible there, including himself.
Therefore, he set up independent commissions all over the globe, composed of doctors, teachers, engineers, scientist, philosophers and psychologists, who were conducting in depth interviews with the volunteers wanting to settle on Mars. In 2018 there were already more than 250,000 registered and initially screened volunteers. Gradually millions were queuing up. The criteria were stiff. The most difficult test was psychological and especially, Personal Value Test. Musk made it a fundamental criterion because he wanted the civilization on Mars to be of a different kind than the one on Earth, so that wars would be inconceivable between Martians.
After several thousand people had been settled on Mars, he decided it was the time for him to pack up. How right he was. After he had left, only several more thousand people managed to settle on Mars, when a full scale nuclear, biological and chemical war broke out. All his factories and rockets were destroyed, as was most of the world. There were no states as such, since migrants were everywhere, even in Antarctica, which had the lowest level of radiation. About 2 billion people perished and it was estimated another 1 billion people were to die in the next few years because of radiation, hunger and cold. There was a semi-nuclear winter with an average temperature drop by 4C, and there was no more than just three months of some sunlight a year, mainly around the poles.
Musk was thinking about his birthday resolution. Things on Mars were going much better than anybody had expected. The only problem was cosmic radiation but new suites may solve that problem as well. The Mars atmosphere rebuilding programme was in full swing. Most of the technology and science brought from Earth had been adapted to Martian conditions. Several rockets entirely produced on Mars went to Moon, where there was a large settlement of people, mainly Russians and Chinese but with an entirely different culture than their compatriots on Earth. There were also a few Americans, but the Moon community did not recognize nationalities. They were all ‘Moonlighters’ – citizens of the Moon who wished to rebuild with Martians the Planet Earth.