Robert Anton Wilson is one of America's most well-known popular philosopher and futurists of the present age. He has over 20 books to his credit, including the influential and award-winning Illuminatus Trilogy. An electrical engineer and psychologist by training, he brings considerable intellectual skills to a broad range of cultural and historic viewpoints.
Sounds True: You've been called a futurist. What does it mean to you to be considered a futurist?
Robert Anton Wilson: A futurist is somebody who has had a book on the future published. That's how you become a futurist.
Sounds True: You seem to enjoy thinking and speaking about what the future might be like.
Robert Anton Wilson: Yes, because that's where I'm going to spend the rest of my life. I think most of us are going to spend the rest of our lives there. No matter how nostalgically we are connected to the past, we can't go back there. “You can't go home again,” as Thomas Wolfe said. And no matter how much you try to be in the here and now, the here and now keeps disappearing. The future is where we're going to have to live, so I think we should not be afraid of it, and should try to make as beautiful a future as possible—as beautiful and funny a future as we can imagine.
Sounds True: One of the aspects of the future that you spoke about in Denver was the idea of space migration. Can you give a little bit of a scenario of how you see this happening?
Robert Anton Wilson: Yes. Both the United States and Russia are engaged in the military exploitation of space. The Russians have their own equivalent of the Star Wars program, and according to a book I read recently, they have about 70% of the same technology up there that the United States has. The Star Wars scenario did not begin when Reagan gave that speech. It's been going on for at least ten years.
But in addition to that, however nefarious that is, there's a great deal of our communications technology out in space already. The next step is going to be moving more industry out into space, because there are actually 10100 power industrial processes that can be done cheaper or more efficiently in space.
Industry is not going to remain blind to that fact for much longer. They'll be putting more and more technology out there. I think eventually they'll be moving more and more industrial plants into space. The Russians already have a colony up, which they intend to keep permanently staffed by human beings. There will be human beings living in space.
I think when it really sinks in that there are Russians living in space, America will put up three such colonies immediately just to get ahead again. So there will be a lot of competition among those mammalian lines.
I call that mammalian politics—the struggle for territory. The next step after that—after industry goes out—is a lot of other things are going to go into space, because the workers will mostly be married. Most people are married, statistically, whether one approves of monogamy or not. Most people have children. So there are going to have to be shops and schools and libraries and theaters and concert halls, so actors and musicians will be going on the flights out after the teachers.
And, if you want a model, it will be very much like the colonization of the United States. Like the colonization of Colorado—first the engineers come in, and then come the school marms, and then come thewell no, first the prostitutes and the wives came, and then the school marms, right?
But I mean it will follow that general pattern, and I think within thirty to fifty years, there will be hundreds of millions of people living in space.
I base that on the history of aviation, which I use as a model. In 1928, one man flew the Atlantic: Charles Lindbergh. By 1978, two hundred million people were flying the Atlantic every year. I think if you project space forward at the same rate, by around 2020, there will be a couple hundred million people going into space every year. I think eventually we'll have a repeat of what we had in the United States in the 19th century, with the formation of utopian communities. Most people don't know much about that. There were over a thousand utopian communities created in the Midwest and western United states in the 19th century.
And so, as Timothy Leary says, the lesbian vegetarians will have their own space colony, as will every other group. I'm sure there will be Communist colonies and anarchist colonies and free love colonies and every type of eccentric and deviant. I'm not using those words pejoratively. I'm an eccentric and deviant myself. All of us screwballs will have a chance to form our own utopias out there. And so then the Utopians will have to move further out into space. That's my general scenario of what I think will happen in space.