We embrace human colonization of Mars and other planets partly as a form of insurance.
If earth, for whatever reason – a global pandemic, nuclear war or environmental catastrophe – is destroyed, we at least can rest assured that people inhabiting other planets will survive to carry forward the banner of human progress.
But the question arises: How human will the descendants of these intrepid colonists really be eons from now as their genes are shaped by their planet’s unique environmental conditions?
Even the psychological effects of separation Earth-bound humans undoubtedly will be profound. It took only about a century after crossing the North Channel from Scotland to the Protestant Plantation in Ireland for the Scottish Presbyterian Convenanters to develop their own distinct Ulster (what Americans call “Scots-Irish“) identity. And we are talking of a distance between Ireland and Scotland of only 13 miles at its narrowest point.
Our attempt to become a spacefaring species will present as many challenges as opportunities to our species. Just imagine the challenge posed to humans traveling only 40 light years – in galactic terms, an very short distance – to colonize the newly discovered solar system purportedly comprised of 7 “earth-like” planets. By time they arrived, cultural and technological conditions on Earth would have changed markedly. Of course, records of these changes would be uploaded to these new colonies. But the colonists would adopt them according to their own special needs
And there is the question of how the profoundly different environmental conditions on this planets ultimately will effect humans.
Simply put: If we ever manage to seed our corner of the galaxy with Homo sapiens, we can virtually count on our galactic “empire” becoming multicultural, perhaps multi-species, and possibly even mutually hostile.