12 May 2016

What Ernest Shackleton has in common with Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk

Dean Nitin Nohria on balancing exploration and protection


Photo by Stephanie Mitchell

Dean Nitin Nohria penned a piece for the Boston Globe magazine that draws parallels between famed Antarctic explorer Ernest Shackleton and modern space entrepreneurs like Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos. Reflecting on a recent family trip to Antarctica, Nohria wonders if space exploration might allow the world to move on from its modern energy sources the way that it once moved on from whale oil.

Entrepreneurs like Bezos and Musk, whom I admire for their creativity and initiative, want to profit from launching satellites and providing novel experiences for rich tourists — and perhaps by finding and claiming valuable new natural resources. It’s a modern set of economic motives that aren’t much different from those that set whalers sailing south more than a century ago.

While Nohria sees promise in the commercialization of space, he notes that it presents complex challenges beyond the technical.

Will space explorers create new ventures that benefit us, or will they (like the old factory whaling ships) exploit and ravage natural landscapes that had been untouched? Will even less human restraint in space require even more regulation? However this next age of exploration unfolds, these questions will need to be answered.



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