I just watched Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar, and I absolutely loved it. It had all the elements of a great drama and it addressed many of the existential questions that will come with pursuing life in the galaxies. Questions such as: Is it worth leaving your family behind to save the entire human race? If you were able to come back, how would you feel about coming back to a child that is older than you? Is data more important than trusting your gut/heart?
In case you haven’t watched it yet, and without spoiling anything, the story centers on a how a group of people must leave an Earth that is no longer suitable for human beings and find humanity a new home in outer space. Having been thinking about space and the importance of getting humanity off this planet ever since I attended Singularity University in 2011, it got me thinking on what type of education you would need to survive in space. How would you prepare to explore worlds that others might not even know exist and to endure the journey it would take to create something meaningful elsewhere?
Here is the list I came up with:
1. Self-directed learning:
Earthling, you will be traveling where no human and possibly no machine has gone before, so be prepared not to know most things. You will encounter situations and objects you can’t even begin to fathom and will have to deal with constant dramatic change on a daily basis. Forget your textbooks and 4 year curriculums, no matter what someone promises you, they can’t possibly know what you, yes you, will need to learn on your journey.
It is critical that you learn how to identify what matters most to you and what is the most important thing you could be learning at any given moment. You need to weed out from the vast amount of information what is mission critical and how to tackle it. Practice following your own curiosity and wondering about the way things work and the way they connect. Figure out a way to teach yourself anything you set your mind to.
Start your own “curriculum” now.
2. Feedback and Failure
As much as we would like to think that we know everything, that is accurately not the case. There are just too many ways that possibilities can recombine and what may work in one case will not work in another. Even more so in space. When you’re out among the stars it’s too costly to try to prove you’re right. Instead, you need to be constantly iterating until you figure it out. You need to be comfortable sharing information with your team and giving each other honest feedback about what you’re doing. Get comfortable not knowing the answer and failing many times before you find a solution.
As cliche as it sounds two helmets are better than one, so surround yourself with other people who you can iterate with. Get comfortable receiving feedback and giving it out in constructive ways. Pretending you’re right will probably get you all killed. The quicker you can speak the truth the higher your chances of survival.
Build a community that supports you and ask for feedback. Constantly.
3. Don’t rely on the “experts”.
Be wary of people that call themselves experts.
People that pretend to know everything about a subject are more likely to defend what they know than to be open to admitting new possibilities that contradict it. See above. Pretending to know will get you killed.
At some point there will be radio silence and you won’t be able to communicate with them. You’ll have to rely on yourself . The quicker you get comfortable doing that, the better you’ll be at it when the time comes.
There is the possibility that they are trying to sell you on some idea for some ulterior motive of their own.Practice trusting your judgement.note, this doesn’t mean ignore them, it just means don’t rely on them
4. Master something tangible
When you’re in the quiet of space, floating to your next destination or landing on a new planet there will be many, many, many practical aspects that need to get taken care of. Planting food maybe? or more likely designing and 3D printing objects for your current needs or programing the robots that are with you with new tasks. The list is almost endless.
Make yourself valuable to your team. Be great at doing one these tangible things.
Learn to program, learn to design, learn to build hardware, learn to write and communicate. (This list might be outdated soon so take it with a grain of salt.). The point is, don’t rely only on intellectual knowledge, master something that people will pay for.
5. Learning to be is more important than learning to know and learning to do.
Finally, and probably most importantly, no matter how well you survive and thrive in space, it won’t really matter much if you’re surrounded by awful people. More likely too, you won’t survive.
Strive everyday to be a better person. Be a person of character, of trust, of courage, someone who builds others up and is in touch with their humanity. This is what matters in the end. Take every day as a chance to practice your virtues and surround yourself with others who are on that path too. In the long run, it’s all that counts.