Jeff Bezos unveiled something amazing recently. He has a plan to get humanity off of Earth and into the stars, living in massive climate-controlled, Earth-like space stations. Lets take a look at the summary video from Tech Insider.
That seems amazing. A controlled habitat, perfectly suited to our needs, free from pollution, overpopulation, or natural disasters, all suspended in space. What could be better? Who wouldn’t want to live that life? It certainly sounds pretty out there, and people are already attempting to roast him online. I say ‘attempting’ because, come on, why would the world’s richest man care about what a bunch of poor nobodies think? The boot doesn’t care about the opinions of the ant.
Laughable attempts at getting noticed aside, there are genuine problems with what Bezos is proposing, even if the technology works exactly as intended.
Ordinary people will never live in the environments from the commercial
Let’s get this out of the way. This is just a commercial for whatever Amazon is cooking up in the future, and that’s okay, but don’t expect the reality to be anything like what we see today. If you aren’t a billionaire, then there is no way that you’ll be living in anything more than a cramped, squalid nightmare of a space station. Bezos described serene open fields dotted with houses, or picturesque European cities surrounded by rivers and valleys. He even described whole stations as nature preserves. Two words: Not happening.
Don’t forget that Amazon is a company. Their primary objective is, was, and always will be, to make money. Bezos claims that these space stations will be able to hold a million people, but do you think that that’s the maximum population that the likes of Amazon will try to cram onto the station? More people means more money. After all; maintaining a space station of this size will be far from cheap, so why stop at a million people? Why not bring as many as the technology allows? If your space station has oxygen capacity for 3.7 million people at the absolute max, then any less than 3.7 million people is leaving profit on the table – something that I think you’ll agree is quite uncharacteristic of modern day corporations like Amazon.
The only way to live in the environment in the commercial is to be a billionaire. You better become Jeff Bezos or Tim Cook real soon! Otherwise, I hope you like dirty, cramped cities with insufficient oxygen (but just enough to actually stay alive and pay your rent), where important systems are constantly malfunctioning because Amazon doesn’t care about some worthless “poor people” space station all the way out in sector 18 of the Gamma region.
Oh, and forget about that whole “nature reserve” space station idea. That’s just some feel-good bullshit meant for the ad. No company will ever take seriously the idea of building an entire ecosystem in space, all to be inhabited by a bunch of bum animals with no jobs.
Every space station would be an isolated, monopolistic dictatorship
On Earth, we have governments made up of people with all sorts of conflicting worldviews, coming together to hopefully create a world that everyone can enjoy. All sorts of companies inhabit our planet, and they certainly do their best to get as much money from their customers as possible, but combinations of government and market regulation (far from a 1:1 ratio), however) prevent any one company from dominating every facet people’s lives. Only; that’s exactly what would happen on one of these space stations. Not only would Amazon become supreme dictator on their space station, but they’d also be the sole provider of literally every product or service – otherwise known as a monopoly.
Why would Amazon pay untold billions of dollars to build this space station, only to let other companies sell their goods and services on their space station? After all, increasing profit was the very reason they created the station - it would be foolish to let other companies steal that profit away - a monopoly is clearly the way to go. However, any first year economics student can tell you that a monopoly is not a desirable situation to have from the perspective of the consumer. Hell, most people can tell you that, but that’s exactly what we’d have on every single space station. It’s Amazon or nothing, and as such, Amazon sets the prices for everything. With no other provider, you’d better get used to that 300% price increase on milk. You could probably leave, but when every choice of space station within your price range is just like this, then what’s the point?
It’s not as if you’d be able to hear or learn about any other station, or even how people outside of the space station live, anyway. You think Amazon would want hearing about how great it’s competitors’ space stations are? Of course not. Internet filters and blocking software will take care of that. In fact, the owner of the space station would become a full-blown dictator – and what’s to stop them? They own the police and the military, they own the infrastructure, they own the land, they produce the resources, and they control the technology. Literally nothing would exist to prevent Amazon from controlling every fact of its citizens lives, watching them at all times, arresting them for saying negative things about the company, preventing people from expressing themselves, and any number of other terrible things. With so many scared of the government turning into what we saw in V for Vendetta or 1984, we rarely hear of companies turning into totalitarian quazi-governments, but if one company has literally all of the power over a population, with nothing to keep that power in check, then there is a very slim chance of something like this not happening.
Now, we’re the first to admit that democracy isn’t necessarily the best system of governance out there, but a full on dictatorship is not where we were going with that idea!
Amazon doesn’t give a shit about you or me. Amazon doesn’t even give a shit about it’s own employees . Amazon only gives a shit about two things; profit, and growth. You might think that the best way to ensure profit is to treat customers well, but if the only goal is to convince people to give you their money, then making them happy is the most expensive way to do it. Other methods, like taking choice away, or simply convincing them that it’s in their best interest (regardless of the reality), are far more effective.
You might think that people wouldn’t want to live in such a terrible place as has been described here, but marketing to people who have never been there will convince people to come, and harsh penalties for leaving will convince them to stay. You might think that living on a space station will be just like living on Earth but in space, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.