keithl wrote:Humans will return to the moon, and on to the planets, but they will be preceded by millions of tons of machines, discovering resources and creating a habitable niche from them.
Nah. Humans will never move beyond the Earth, except maybe for brief and/or deadly visits. We're too frail. We're not evolved to survive in space, or the surfaces of other planets, or even vast swaths of our own planet's surface. Bubble cities and terraforming are too fragile/expensive for any long-term civilization.
It will be much easier and cheaper to adapt humans to other planets than to adapt other planets to humans. Humans will remain on earth; space will be populated by transhumans and posthumans. The machines we're sending now are just a precursor to the genetically-modified cyborgs we'll send in the future.
Most of what you say is true, but you read way
too much into what I posted, and missed the point. Most tasks are better done by machines (even here on earth), and machines are getting better. Given that trend, my statement about "megatons of machines", when most of them will be gram-weight and smaller, is even more "dismissive" about sending unmodified people. I am a "cyborg" already (I wear glasses and clothing and have metal implanted in my teeth). I expect most people will have far more biomods in the next few decades, years before a habitat (not a whole planet, but bigger than a tin can) is ready for them. The habitat will be a niche, not terraforming, and a mix of local materials and imported machines.
As to why (modified) humans will go ... simply the speed of light. The ping time to Mars at conjunction (opposite side of the sun) is 40 minutes. Modded humans will have reflex reaction times in milliseconds, and much quicker and heavily augmented cognitive decision making times. The myriads of machines on Mars will need executive managment, and people will be too impatient to tolerate a "200 major decision" delay. How they will tolerate a "million major decision" trip time is an imponderable - perhaps they upload. That is way beyond my prognostication horizon.
Will they be "human"? Ask a Cro-magnon cave painter, a pre-Rennaisance cleric, or a Nazi race theoretician, whether we are. I say we are, and they will be, and that the substrate is less important than the mind that inhabits it. Successful minds will still go where the data is; priority is deeply wired in.