Ten Predictions for Space Exploration in the 21st Century

Last week the front-page of newspapers all over the world announced that Ultima Thule, a snowman-shaped object located 6.5-billion km from Earth, had been finally approached by Nasa’ New Horizons probe, becoming this way the farthest body in the Solar System to be visited by a spacecraft.

Looking at the gorgeous pictures of the rock, floating silently beyond Pluto, I could only think how far we have come in the exploration of space since we launched the first space probes just over 60 years ago. If we have done so much in just a few decades, what could the skies be holding for us in what remains of this century? As Yogi Berra put it, “it’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future” so I claim neither exceptional foresight nor particular creativity for this list of ten predictions that I wrote down when trying to answer that question:

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Separate men and women

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For those outside Colombia, let me explain the tongue-in-cheek expression “paseo bugueño”, which might translate as “going on a trip to Buga”: It refers to those situations in a social setting where men and women end up in two separate groups, physically apart one from the other. This funny distribution might arise spontaneously, perhaps from the nature of the conversation, so it typically causes some laughs when someone asks, “How did we end up in a paseo bugueño?”

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Ignoring the will of the people

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We learn that a referendum is a phenomenal tool of democracy, one that empowers people with direct vote, and allows them to make critical decisions on their own. We also learn that a referendum gives legitimacy to the outcome, and because it comes from the people, it transcends the narrow views of individual political actors. What is decided in a referendum is an order given by the people to the politicians, not simply a suggestion.

Anyone who keeps thinking this way after the catastrophic experiences in Greece, Spain, Colombia, and the UK over the last couple of years is in a deep state of denial about what can be achieved with referendums. In these four cases people were led to believe that their wishes would be granted if they only went to the polling station and marked their preferred choice on a piece of paper. In all the cases the reality has been strikingly different.

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Theresa May’s last bullet

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Now that we are about to finish the second season of this drama called Brexit, it is fair to say that nobody really knows what is going to happen in its final episode. The next crucial date is December 11, when the Parliament votes on the agreement reached by the British and European negotiators, and according to those keeping track of the numbers the outcome looks gloomy for the government of Theresa May: less than 250 MPs would vote in favour, way below the minimum threshold of 320 that is needed for its approval.

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It’s always election season in planet Earth

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Another great year for elections all over the world! In 2018 there were more than a hundred, from tiny French Polynesia to elect their Assemblée, to mighty USA electing a new Congress. From Finland to Zimbabwe, from Mexico to Malaysia, the whole planet celebrated once again that quintessential festival of democracy that is the elections.  In total more than a billion people voted this year, what surely must be a new record.

While all this was happening, this year I abstained from voting, a decision for which I have received strong criticisms from friends a family. To help shaping my ideas better about this topic I have been writing in Spanish about elections in my blog, and now I’ll start translating these entries to English. Here is the first one, a personal view about this that I originally wrote in April; I’ll be posting the rest of translations in the next few weeks.

I’m fascinated about elections but even more for alternatives to that toxic system. I have material for some 40-50 entries to cover most of the things I want to say about this, so this will take some time. I’m not in a hurry though: no matter what year, and no matter what time of the year, there will always be a place somewhere in this planet where an election is about to happen.

What worries me the most about technology

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Black Mirror is a TV show in Netflix that has gained a cult status among its millions of followers due to its unique way of portraying the future. Its episodes tell unrelated stories that take place in a variety of future versions of our world but where we can recognize perfectly well elements of our own reality. Black Mirror is an exercise of creative extrapolation, in which specific technologies that are now in their infancy are unfolded to their maximum range and potential, proposing a series of questions about their purpose and their impact in our life. Its creator, Charlie Brooker, was the keynote speaker on a conference I attended last week and he shared insights into his creative process to write the stories, his sources for inspiration and his personal views about the future.

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The fact is that no one cares about facts

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“Next year will be 50 years (supposedly) that man stepped on the moon. I’m having dinner with some friends…chatting about this. I bring the topic to the audience! Do you think it really happened? I don’t!”

This was the message that goalie Iker Casillas tweeted a few weeks ago to his eight million followers who are probably more used to his acute observations about football rather than his views on the space program. Serious newspapers like El Pais, always ready to find inspiration in the Twittersphere, took the 157 characters to run articles that amplified Mr. Casillas remarks while omitting the point that the guy must be bonkers for thinking this.

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