What’s Next for Humanity? Our Near Future in the Stars


Humans are resourceful, and we’ve been advancing rapidly for the better part of 2,000 years. A short 2,000 years ago, our most advanced vehicles were simple wooden boats. Now, our most advanced vehicles can carry humans to the moon and beyond.

As we continue to manipulate the earth to generate the energy we need to maintain our modern lifestyles, many have pointed to the limited nature of terrestrial resources and the impact we’re having on our environment.

Needless to say, we’re causing harm to the natural world by overusing some of our preferred fuel sources. Alternatives, like solar and wind power, have become more viable in recent years, but we’re still burning through fossil fuel as though we were unaware of its drawbacks.

This has led many to theorize that the future of energy for humans could be something dramatic: a bold jump to the stars to harness the energy of our own sun.

Dyson Sphere

Named for physicist Freeman Dyson, who described the structure in 1960, the Dyson Sphere is a theoretical megastructure that would encompass an entire star and harness 100% of the solar energy output of the celestial body.

This much energy would be enough to power modern society far into the future, completely severing the Earth’s reliance on fossil fuels, or, indeed, any other form of energy creation.

However, the construction of such a sphere could prove troublesome. The amount of material needed for such an endeavor is far beyond the current capabilities of our species. Another potential issue arises when the sphere is completed: if the sun is encompassed entirely by a sphere of solar panels, then it would get rather cold here on earth.

Dyson Swarm

A much more realistic arrangement is the Dyson Swarm. This theoretical system would involve hundreds of thousands of panels that orbit the sun and soak in its energy, beaming that back to Earth. While this system would be less effective at harnessing energy than a full sphere, it would be much easier to construct and operate.

In fact, we’ve got a perfect candidate for a staging area to create the swarm: Mercury, the planet closest to the sun.

A sufficiently advanced robotics program could create a Dyson Swarm on Mercury with the right set of instructions. A robot created to create two solar panels, launch them into orbit around the sun, and then duplicate itself before repeating all instructions, could use the raw materials on Mercury to quickly create a massive fleet of solar panels.

The first robot could be programmed to terminate the program when a certain number of repetitions have been met, ensuring it doesn’t simply disassemble Mercury by following its programming forever.

This system would result in a surge of power for our planet that would free use from the need for any power plants, hydroelectric dams, windmills and terrestrial solar panels. The power generated would fuel us for unfathomable generations far into the unknowable future.