you. I'd like to begin by saying how honoured I am by Port Burroughs'
invitation to speak here on your fiftieth anniversary. On the past
two occasions I've been here as a guest speaker, I was asked to talk
about the future; something that wasn't too difficult for me, as a
on such a momentous day as this, fifty years since the establishment
of the third colony on Mars, rather than looking forwards, I think
it would be fitting to talk about the past. You'll have to forgive
me, though, for making the odd prediction or two - it's a hard habit
to slip out of.
you think of the most outstanding events of the last fifty years,
the first that comes to mind is probably the Tear asteroid disaster.
Certainly it changed many things - not only did that singular event
kill thousands and halt all research into both artificial intelligence
and nanotechnology, it shocked the solar system out of its pervasive
in that regard, we have not realised all the dreams of our ancestors
who thought their children would be conversing with computers and
creating diamonds out of coal, though it is true that we have made
startling advances in biotechnology - we were all surprised by the
news of the sapience uplift of dolphins.
I'd like to think that rather than the 21st century being remembered
for technology, as the 20th was, our descendants will think of our
era as the one where the human race grew up, and left home. I know
that the people here at Port Burroughs are a disarmingly modest bunch,
but believe me when I say that the Martians were the people who kicked
off this process of maturation.
see, when the first settlers came to Mars, they had to be flexible,
they had to be willing to be different. These weren't essential characteristics
back on Earth - but on an alien world possessing the harshest environment
humans had ever tried to live in, either you had them and survived,
or you didn't and you were on the next ship home. Only there weren't
any ships home, so you had to shape up.
people today recognise the Martian's flexibility in the form of the
various technological breakthroughs the first colonies produced -
the black silicon solar arrays, biological ore refiners and total
waste recycling system, to name a few. The most significant - and
subtle - change however was still to come.
with being open to new ideas, the first colonists were open to new
concepts of how to live. In the cramped spaces of their tin-can habitats,
there was no centralised government. Each colony had to get along
as best as it could, and they couldn't afford the time or energy to
set up a formal bureaucracy. So they improvised - taking the much-discussed
but never implemented concepts of transparent societies and electronic
voting, they single-handedly revolutionised the notion of 'democracy'.
of democracy being the ability to vote for a representative who would
have to balance your views with ten thousand others, along with being
exposed to the temptations of misusing the over-large power bestowed
to them, it became the method by which people could have a say in
there were teething problems, notably at New Toronto in 2032, which
resulted in the complete shutdown of their hydroponics bays due to
the wrong people having the wrong information at the wrong time. But
those problems were far outweighed by the fact that the Martian way
allowed people to really feel they could make a difference in their
world. That's something we take for granted these days.
the end of the twentieth century though, politics was treated with
complete apathy by many sections of the population. To take an example
from the United Kingdom, almost half of all young voters would not
vote, or did not know who to vote for, at elections. Political commentators
at the time merely said that politics bored the youth. We know now
that this reluctance to vote was not just apathy, it was the fact
that the youth simply did not believe that their vote could make a
can't blame them, when the media was constantly talking of corrupt
politicians and disastrous mistakes made by 'back-room committees.'
They didn't think anyone would listen to what they said, so they stopped
state of affairs continued for over a decade until the first humans
arrived to live on Mars permanently. That youth, now grown up, realised
that on Mars they couldn't afford to ignore anyone's opinions or ideas
- those ideas might quite literally make the difference between life
and death. So the generation that had collectively lost its voice
began to listen to each other again, and they taught their children
how to speak. That generation created the world we live in today.
my way to Port Burroughs, I was asked to unveil a statue at Asimov
Point, up north on the banks of the Valles Marineris. I'd never seen
anything quite like it before - it was composed of two spheres, the
inner being a brass globe of Mars, and the outer a transparent globe
of Earth. It had a simple inscription on it:
orbis terrarum, Una gens.'
from the Latin, it means 'Two worlds, One people.'
heartening to see that in these prosperous times we still remember
where we came from, and those who made it possible for us to be here
now. No matter how far we travel, into space and into the future,
we will always have come from Earth. It's a testament to those people
that in the dark beginnings of the twenty-first century, they had
the confidence to believe that they could make a difference, and convince
the world that Mars was more than a star in the sky. It's to them
we owe our existence here.
of individuals making a real difference, the one example that comes
to mind is the incredible sacrifice of the first female on Mars, Astronaut
Harris. Which is the other prime candidate for the most important
event of this century so far, coincidentally bringing us back full
I don't need to remind you about that story; every child on this planet
knows what happened on the nearly disastrous first manned Mars landing
here to read the background behind this story]