AEON asks if sending out generation starships — a miniature society where it would take several generations before they reached their destination — is a brilliant way to colonise distant planets or an immoral act that forces a new generation into a form of living to which they have no say.
Further, those born aboard will be more limited in all of their choices than any human anywhere should be. For example, many millions of women around the world have no control over whether they bear children: most of us believe that this is intolerable, and that everyone should have control over their own reproduction. But those born on board a generation ship will have no effective choice over whether they become parents. The success of the enterprise will depend on (at least most of) them having children, which ensures that they will be (at minimum) under great pressure to reproduce. They will have little choice over whether they partner up, too, and perhaps not much choice over whom they partner with (once some have partnered up, others must settle for those who remain).
The only way around these problems would be to design and build ships massive enough to house an entire complex society that presents a wide array of options and ensures a range of lifestyles can be pursued. The enormous costs of such a ship and the difficulty of propulsion for anything of that size suggest that it’s not a realistic option.
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