Do we need laws on a future Mars Colony?

Think of the most toxic environment, multiply it by three, exclude all natural resources and add radiation and dust: Eventually you might find yourself on Mars, 54.6 million kilometres away from your home planet. You travelled 9 months through the universe and now you arrived at the red planet, not at all known for its beautiful beaches and legendary parties. Not your dream destination? Mine neither.

However, multiple volunteers applied in 2013 for the program “Mars One” by Dutch CEO Lars Lansdorp willing to inhabit the universe´s desert.[1] SpaceX, a company founded by South-African born CEO Elon Musk, plans to colonise Mars in 2022 and thus “making life multi-planetary”. The slogan implies the creation of a new human species since there is no return ticket: Once you have adjusted to gravitation on Mars which is one third compared to gravitaton on Earth, your muscles and bones deteriotate.  You cannot give a second thought on a decision which determines the rest of your life which sounds indeed very promising.

Having left your human-friendly environment, you are totally dependent on technology and surrounded by people you have to get along with. Living together under these circumstances requires a different set of rules. Safety is of top priority but implying the risk of taking decisions rather for a common good than for the individual. Thus, human dignity can be neglected.

It is questionable if a Mars colonisation can offer space for empathy if human mistakes can cause minor to severe catastrophes. Bringing into account the pressure to perform your skills both on a high maintenance and high quality, the psyche has to cope with an extreme environment and isolation.[2] Artificial intelligence (AI) also comes into the game. When human beings take decisions, there is place for empathy in contrast to a artificial system which only decides rationally and based on the order. Can empathy be taught to an intelligent system? I doubt it.

Speaking of a law system- do the Marsians need one in the first place? Jean-Jacques Rousseau already wrote in the 18th century that a community needs to establish rules and regulations whose compliance is regarded by a democratic-elected authority with the right to use force in order to be free. When humans interact, there is always potential for conflicts especially in the toxic Mars environment. To ensure a peaceful community, rules need to be made to solve those conflicts.

However, significant differences in space need to be taken into account. Firstly, there is no authority such as a Parliament to make laws or a government  to impose instructions, neither a court to watch over the coherence with laws. The traditional seperation of legislative, judicial and executive powers is not applicable. Also, a potential law system on Mars would have to function entirely without Earth contact. Delivering messages takes over 40 minutes, so the decision-making process has to be made by the Marsian community. Secondly, the people are isolated from Earth. They are a new species and need to create rules by themselves. Otherwise, the acceptance of such imposed laws lacks behind. Thirdly, the standards of living are not comparable to those on Earth. The Marsian community will live in a world whose livability is only uphold by technology and the skills of its inhabitants. The psychological pressure is already very high so that reconciliation needs to be done instead of punishment.

So the answer is yes, but the differences to Earth need to be taken into account. A law system sanctioning misbehaviour in an abstract way is not longer applicable, in contrast a general set of rules agreed to by the Marsians whose supervision depends on the community.

Photograph by Nikolas Lobos, Unsplash



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