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  • It's the year 2300, and you're on board a starship headed for distant worlds.

  • Unfortunately for you, you've gotten caught committing a space crime, and now that you've

  • done the space crime, it's time to do the space time- but what in the world will prison

  • in space be like?

  • In present day Earth we have a serious problem- many of our prisons are overpopulated, and

  • most governments are extremely reluctant to give up perfectly good real estate just to

  • house society's worst offenders.

  • An easy out, it seems, is to simply put them where there's lots of space for extra prisoners-

  • namely, well, space.

  • But building prisons in space comes with some serious drawbacks.

  • The first and most obvious is the sheer cost of operating a prison in space.

  • Sure, it sounds like a great idea to put prisoners in orbit where they can't escape or hurt anyone,

  • but with the cost of putting goods into space still running at hundreds of thousands of

  • dollars a pound, nobody is going to foot the bill for blasting off El Chapo to his new

  • digs on the moon.

  • But future technology promises to make access to space much, much cheaper.

  • Reusable rockets such as those pioneered by Elon Musk's SpaceX are a big leap forward,

  • but massive construction projects such as the space elevator will make it possible to

  • put things in orbit at a fraction the current cost.

  • As humanity expands to the stars, so too will humanity's criminals, who'll definitely need

  • a place to be housed at.

  • It's almost a universal theme across science fiction for prisoners to simply be frozen

  • or placed in stasis and forced to serve out their time as human popsicles.

  • While this is an extremely cheap, and very convenient way to safely store the worst of

  • the worst, it comes with one serious problem: for the frozen prisoner, a twenty year sentence

  • will basically be just one big, long nap.

  • Frozen prisoners will have not been aware of their prison stay, and thus have no chance

  • at reformation over the course of the twenty years they were sentenced to serve.

  • Other than briefly removing a prisoner from the flow of time, freezing prisoners serves

  • no viable purpose, and thus is not likely to be a punishment method for space crime.

  • Another popular science fiction trope is the use of prison labor to settle or work on hostile

  • and dangerous worlds, or perhaps asteroids.

  • This makes sense, as it has a huge historical precedent- Europe's expansion out of the continent

  • was largely the result of exporting prisoners to exotic locales around the world.

  • North America was a popular and convenient dumping ground for Europe's prisoners, who

  • would be sent to work as indentured servants and 'serve out' their sentence alongside the

  • early settlers.

  • By the end of their sentence, most decided to simply stay, and thus America can claim

  • the same honor as Australia of being largely founded by prisoners and outcasts.

  • In our own future though, it's unlikely we'll see this tactic used for space prisoners.

  • For one, the use of prisoners to settle lands was a way for nations to lay claim to far

  • flung territories and settle them before their competitors could manage it.

  • On earth, good land for settlement is very limited- but that's just not the case in space.

  • Space is so vast, and we are discovering so many potentially habitable planets every year,

  • that nations won't have much of an impetus to 'rush' out and colonize nearby worlds as

  • fast as possible, largely by using prisoners.

  • After all, not many people truly want to leave the safety and comfort of earth to colonize

  • a potentially dangerous world that could end up killing them.

  • Prisoners then are perfect for the job.

  • But as we mentioned, we're finding so many potentially habitable worlds that a land-grab

  • similar to the European conquest of North and South America is extremely unlikely.

  • Even then, these are entire worlds we're talking about.

  • Even with a full-blown colonization effort by all major nations, it would take centuries

  • to fill up just one world with human inhabitants, let alone a dozen.

  • Some prisoners may in fact wind up being offered opportunities to become colonists, but these

  • will likely only be non-violent offenders.

  • After all, no colonists will want to hitch a ride to the stars with a murderer along,

  • knowing that help is lightyears away.

  • But what about using prisoners as labor in hostile worlds, to mine up precious resources?

  • Well, this idea runs into several problems right off the gate.

  • First, there's the fact that by the time this is even possible mankind will have evolved

  • to a nearly fully automated labor force, making human labor both extremely expensive and extremely

  • inefficient.

  • Sure, you don't have to pay prisoners, but you still have to provide them with shelter,

  • air, food, and water- and getting those things to prisoners in a hostile world would be a

  • very expensive undertaking.

  • By comparison, robots don't need any of that, making it very economically unappealing to

  • use prison labor.

  • Then there's simple efficiency.

  • As the Soviet Union found out during the Cold War, slave labor is a pretty inefficient way

  • of doing things.

  • During Stalin's regime, he famously put the prisoners of his gulags to work, and the Moscow

  • canal, while beautiful, was actually constructed by prison slave labor.

  • This goes for many other canals, bridges, and various other major infrastructure projects

  • around the Soviet Union, and yet while the labor is free, it ended up costing the Soviets

  • in other, major ways.

  • For one, the sheer inefficiency of unmotivated and largely unskilled slave labor caused significant

  • delays, inflating the cost of the few paid specialists required on every job.

  • Gulag slave labor also led to very shoddy work, further slowing down progress and requiring

  • skilled labor to later return and fix the sloppy work done by gulag prisoners.

  • All in all, the use of slave labor by the Soviet Union actually cost them millions more

  • than simply using paid labor would've.

  • It makes sense after all, prisoners aren't particularly motivated to do a good, or fast

  • job on a project they aren't being paid for.

  • And, most prisoners aren't skilled experts, and thus are prone to sloppy work and making

  • lots of costly mistakes.

  • In space, where the initial start up costs are astronomically larger than here on earth,

  • it again just doesn't make economic sense.

  • It would be far more efficient to simply use machines, who can work remotely and with the

  • help of artificial intelligence, require little if no oversight by humans.

  • A special type of probe, called a Von Neuman probe, could in fact be programmed to set

  • up an entire mining operation and ship resources back home all on its own.

  • It would accomplish this by first landing and then immediately replicating itself.

  • The copy would then copy itself, and that copy would copy itself, on and on until you

  • have a whole army of probes all from one original.

  • These probes would be so efficient, it was calculated that as long as raw materials were

  • available, one probe could end up encasing the entire sun in solar panels in as little

  • as a century.

  • That's quite the feat!

  • There's another silver bullet for the prison labor colony idea though, and that's simply

  • the fact that in space resources are extremely plentiful.

  • Right now astronomers have tracked asteroids with mineral wealth in excess of one trillion

  • dollars, and they're all little more than a few weeks or months ride on a modern rocket

  • away.

  • In fact, some companies are even now investigating the possibility of mining these asteroids,

  • which are basically free-floating gold mines... in some cases literally.

  • It was thought that there was one resource in space that was extremely rare, and perhaps

  • worth mining.

  • That resource is water, and it was thought years ago that perhaps prison labor could

  • be used to mine water ice in other worlds and then have tankers bring it to space colonies

  • that need it.

  • New observations of our solar system though have shown that space is lousy with the stuff,

  • it's practically everywhere we turn a telescope to or shoot a probe at.

  • Mercury, the closest planet to the sun is roasted by our star, and yet even there water

  • ice was discovered safely tucked away in the rims of craters where the sun's rays never

  • fall.

  • So ok, if we can't freeze prisoners, because it would be pointless, and we can't use them

  • as slave labor, because it would be expensive and pointless, and we're probably not going

  • to use them as colonists because that's also pretty expensive and there's no real 'land

  • rush', what's left?

  • Humans will inevitably commit space crimes, so what else can we do with our space criminals?

  • Well, many futurists believe that the future of prisons is not something the prisoner goes

  • into, but rather something that already exists inside the prisoner.

  • As technology advances, it is becoming clearer and clearer that soon we will have the means

  • to interface with, and even modify our brains.

  • The future of prison is thus perhaps the mind of the prisoner itself.

  • Some psychologists believe that with time and the aid of technology we'll be able to

  • directly modify a prisoner's brain.

  • The idea kind of makes sense too, because we are really nothing more than organic computers,

  • and all the chemicals in our brain and how they interact with each other are largely

  • behind the way that we react or perceive to the world.

  • We may still not understand consciousness, but we do understand that different chemical

  • balances can have a significant impact on our consciousness.

  • So perhaps prisoners won't need to serve any time at all, as advanced technology simply

  • scans their brain, identifies chemical balances that are leading to criminal, anti-social

  • behavior, and then simply corrects the balance.

  • Coupled with some psychotherapy and counseling, there's no reason to believe it wouldn't work

  • to completely, and very quickly rehabilitate a prisoner.

  • There is already evidence that this works with prisons in Europe that have shifted from

  • a punitive, punishment-oriented approach, to a rehabilitation approach.

  • Prisoners are given respect, good food, and even some freedoms, along with education and

  • counseling, and recidivism rates have plummeted.

  • Compare that with the US where the approach is purely based on punishment with none to

  • little chance for rehabilitation, and recidivism rates are so bad that on average 3 out of

  • 5 prisoners return to jail within a year.

  • But all this takes time and money, things that will be in short supply when you're living

  • on a colony ship or perhaps setting up town on a new world.

  • So why not simply speed things up?

  • The human brain operates on impulses sent at around the speed of sound, yet if we integrate

  • with technology as we will likely inevitably do, we could achieve a form of super intelligence

  • known as speed intelligence.

  • This doesn't mean that you're smarter, but rather that with the aid of technology you

  • can have more thoughts quicker, and thus reach conclusions and work out problems exponentially

  • faster than a non-augmented individual.

  • If your brain operated on an optical network like fiber optics, you would think 800,000

  • times faster than you currently do!

  • So much thinking will not only make us super intelligent, but could also work to affect

  • our perception of the flow of time in very interesting ways, ways that could be harnessed

  • to rehabilitate prisoners on the cheap.

  • A prisoner could simply have their perception of the passage of time accelerated within

  • a simulation of a prison, and thus they could 'serve' a thirty year sentence in a matter

  • of hours.

  • In the simulation the prisoner will feel like they're living out thirty years of their life,

  • but in fact their brain has simply been 'frame-jacked' to dramatically increase their perception

  • of time.

  • The cost of running a prison like this is basically just the cost of the hardware, and

  • you'd need no guards or staff other than the medical staff overseeing the brief procedure.

  • The benefits are huge: a hopefully reformed prisoner will wake up from unconsciousness

  • an hour or two later, and have the experience of three decades of reformation, counseling

  • delivered by an artificial intelligence, and the regret over their crime.

  • In just half a day, you could turn a killer into a productive, and safe, member of society.

  • And aboard a starship, virtual prisons save on space and get crew back to their jobs quickly,

  • something that would be critical for a long voyage through the stars.

  • Want to learn more about real, earth prisons?

  • Check out our video What actually happens during a prison search, or check out this

  • other video for a change of pace!

  • Don't wait, click one now!

It's the year 2300, and you're on board a starship headed for distant worlds.

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宇宙の刑務所はどのようなものになるのか (What Prison In Space Will Be Like)

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    Summer に公開 2021 年 01 月 14 日
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