August 17, 2010
I think if there is one thing I am going to have to explain to my grandchildren, it is why I did not start or at least invest in an interplanetary mining concern. The descendants of the iPhone and other devices will be made with metals that are rare or non-existent on Earth; they will be omnipresent, and they will run very well, and a few people will become extraordinarily rich from supplying them, but I will not be among those people, and my grandchildren will ask why.
(I will not have to explain why we allowed the climate on Earth to get all fucked up; that will be a topic for our children, mainly, the generation for whom there is not yet a sufficient body of cartoons in which this weather and its consequences are commonplace. Our grandchildren will find talk of old weather patterns odd and mildly interesting, like our own grandparents and milkmen and ice deliveries and nickelodeons, as long as we do not go on too long about it.)
No, it is my grandchildren to whom I will have to justify our family's failure to own any portion of an interplanetary mining concern. (Possibly some portion of what remains of my 401(k) will be invested in one, several layers of involvement away from my awareness, just as today.) My grandchildren will wonder how this boundless source of wealth could not have been obvious to me. They'll know that the first space mining flight was followed by others almost immediately, and from there it never stopped — the oil and gold rushes will provide some basis of comparison, in the sense that nobody will remember how many people struck out or died in accidents, only that it resulted in the likes of John D. Rockefeller.
(But it will be a rush without violence; we will be too fragile in outer space to attack each other, and by the time we have grown secure enough for that sort of thing, we will have learned to be civilized about it.)
My grandchildren will say that we could have been rich; they will not be angry about it (they will be, after all, good kids and fond of me, as I am well-suited to grandfatherhood), just puzzled that I had what will appear to them a clear and simple choice when I was a young man: to mine in outer space and become rich, or to not mine in outer space and keep fucking around in offices — and my decision was apparently to keep fucking around in offices.
I will sigh and tell my grandchildren that someone had to stay behind and fight off all the polar bears; those things were mean.