THE ETHICAL COMMERCIALIZATION OF OUTER SPACE
David M. Livingston
As the twenty-first century progresses, more and more people will be working somewhere other than on Earth, be it in low Earth Orbit or on a lunar or Mars colony. The technical advances that will enable businesses to operate from a space-based location are not nearly as important as the ethical standards we will require those businesses to follow. Now, as ambitious new space industries are in the planning stages, we have a chance to formulate a blueprint of moral and ethical behavior for corporations in a new and expanding marketplace. In this presentation we will consider what business practices as well as what philosophies, procedures, and attitudes-are appropriate for outer-space commerce. In the late twentieth century, the business environment has become more than just highly competitive, often to the exclusion of basic human needs and the fair distribution of resources. Consumers are often at odds with corporations who, though acting fully within the law, do not consider their moral and ethical responsibilities to the public. Examples include the liability lawsuits against tobacco companies, complaints against HMOs for limiting healthcare, and parents' concern over the gratuitous violence in movies. Do we want to export these worst case examples of this kind of impersonal, profit-based system to outer space? Will we allow the frontier of space to turn into another Wild West where large corporations and a few enterprising individuals take all? Or, to stretch our minds to another extreme, should we draw from the type of utopian model practiced, by say, the Star Trek federation? The business practices initially projected from Earth will set important long-term precedents. Regardless of who will decide them, now is the time to begin the debate. As space activists, we are among the first to envision the implications. Our conscious participation, or benign neglect, in influencing ethical standards for the commercialization of space may shape the character of space businesses and those living in space for a long time to come.