Anatomy of Next
Summary: In the second season of Anatomy of Next, explore every aspect of going to Mars, transforming it into a habitable world, and building a new branch of human civilization. How do we bring a cold, dead planet back to life? Can we build an atmosphere on Mars, thaw the frozen plains, and build an ocean? How do we seed a barren land with life, and make a red Mars green? Then, it’s everything from politics and education to money, music, and architecture. What does it mean to be human on an alien world?
Invention proceeds from ideation, but where do ideas come from? Jamie Hyneman is best known for his work on the Discovery Channel TV show Mythbusters, which he hosted for 14 and a half years. Prior to that he ran a special effects shop in San Francisco for decades, inventing work on over 800 commercials and dozens of feature films. He’s made a career of building new things. We talked about how.
Separate from the question of how to build a world is the question of what makes a world worth living in. Let’s talk about art. Maisie Williams is an actor most commonly known for her performance in Game of Thrones, and cofounder of a new startup called Daisie. She wants to help artists find each other and build careers. We talked about the changing nature of artistic collaboration, social media, fame, and identity.
If our goal is to bring life to the universe, we may not need to send colonists to Mars at all, and certainly not to Alpha Centauri — at least not at first. We’re on a mission to terraform new worlds. But what if we could accomplish this simply by mailing our closest, neighboring star a kind of… cosmic seed packet? Richard Fuisz is a bioengineering graduate of Stanford currently working on a stealth DNA project. We talked about the purpose of life, and spreading it.
In an age of digital identity, how do we protect ourselves in an increasingly insecure world? In 2008, Dan Kaminsky identified a critical flaw in the internet’s Domain Name System (DNS) and led the largest synchronized fix to the internet’s infrastructure of all time. Today, he’s Chief Scientist and cofounder of White Ops. Topics include: the great cities of the world that were proven vulnerable, and burned to the ground, computer worms, why it’s easier than ever to hit the WHOLE world with an attack, crypto’s role in proliferating these attacks, evil hacking as a kind of mind control!, how – in the context of Mars – to start over and get security right, and building an elite team of security hackers dedicated to fighting crime and fixing bugs around the world.
Nothing can be achieved without some convincing that it’s possible – we need to be inspired. Barbara Moreau was my third grade teacher, and one of the most decorated leaders of the Young Astronaut Council, a United States education initiative focused on fostering interest in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). Mrs. Moreau contextualized my early space traveling dreams in reality, and taught all of her students that the exploration and colonization of new worlds was not only possible but necessary. More than twenty years later, we talked about the program that changed my life, how teachers might inspire children toward great pursuits today, and what it was like watching the first moon landing.
What happens when the most intelligent being on earth is smarter than the average human by an order of magnitude? Dr. Nick Bostrom is Director of the University of Oxford’s Future of Humanity Institute and author of Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies. We talked about the dramatic amplification of human, or machine intelligence – what that hypothetical superintelligence would look like, how we might build it, and what it could mean for the human race.
Dr. George Church leads Synthetic Biology at Harvard’s Wyss Institute. Author of Regenesis: How Synthetic Biology Will Reinvent Nature and Ourselves, he is one of the foremost thinkers in biological self-determination. Could we take control of our genome, and direct its evolution? Should we? In our conversation we explored genetic engineering broadly, as “the nanotechnology that works,” the morality of this technology, and the future of the field.
Dr. Stuart Armstrong researches the potential for intelligent life across the universe. In this work, he’s speculated on the kinds of engineering we should expect from an advanced civilization, most commonly the Dyson structure. In our conversation we explored how a civilization might theoretically capture the entire energy output of a star, how we might build something like this ourselves, and how that energy might be used to warm – or vaporize – planetary objects in our solar system.
Let’s talk about the ethics of terraforming. Dr. Chris McKay is a Senior Scientist at NASA Ames Research Center’s Planetary Systems Branch and is actively involved in the planning of future Mars missions. If we encounter alien life on another world, what is our moral responsibility to that life, and how do we balance this responsibility with exploration and colonization?
The AON team tells you what's up next for the podcast.
Mars is a frozen, irradiated desert world with almost no hope for life…but it doesn’t have to be. In this episode, we explore the mechanics of building a Martian atmosphere, warming the planet, thawing the ice caps, jump-starting a new hydrologic cycle, and bringing back the Martian oceans.
Martian colonization is one of the most dangerous goals humanity has ever undertaken, and there are no shortage of ways to die in space. From radiation exposure to literally going crazy, let’s troubleshoot a couple of our greatest risks, and work out a heuristic for tackling the rest.
In Episode 2.3, we look at “strange” rockets: nuclear, antimatter, and ion thrust. The tremendous amount of time it takes to move through space has isolated humanity from the cosmos. But burning rocket fuel is not the only way to travel the stars.
Why is Mars important? In Episode 2.2, we explore the philosophies that dominate our thinking on the subject of Mars — humanism and anti-humanism. Then, how do you build something with a time horizon of 100 years? Optimism is useful, but determinate thinking is essential.
Before we can approach the task of building humanity’s second home on Mars, we need to get there. In Episode 2.1, we explore the most likely shape of our first mission to the Red Planet.