Accepted Paper:

Silicon Valley and the multiplanetary imaginary  


Richard Tutton (Lancaster University)

Paper short abstract:

Elon Musk and other Silicon Valley figures believe that humanity will be a multiplanetary species. I explore these actors' imaginings of human futures and how they justify efforts to settle Mars as a hedge against or an exit from what Haraway (2016) calls our disturbing/mixed-up/troubling times.

Paper long abstract:

Elon Musk, a lionized figure of Silicon Valley claims that over the next two decades we will become a multiplanetary species. He is not alone: other Silicon Valley entrepreneurs are investing in outer space technologies on the promise of that vision. The recent Silicon Valley interest in outer space has reanimated what I call 'multiplanetary imaginaries' (Tutton 2017), offering interesting inflection points in how scientists, engineers, science fiction authors and advocates have projected and debated the future of humans in space. Borrowing from Sheila Jasanoff and Sang Hyun-Kim's (2015) work on sociotechnical imaginaries, my use of 'multiplanetary imaginaries' refers not only to projections of a future in which human beings establish life on another planet, but also concern questions about how live on this planet: they are based on an understanding that pursuing large-scale technological projects can bring about social change. They form the basis of various types of imaginactivism (Haran 2016) by which groups use cultural production to attempt to change the world, yoking together science fiction, cinema, news reports, and social media. In this paper I explore actors such as Musk and others' social and political imaginings of human futures and in particular how they seek to justify efforts to settle Mars as a hedge against or an exit from what Donna Haraway (2016) calls our disturbing/mixed-up/troubling/turbid times.

Panel A21
Outward and inward encounters: STS meets Outer Space