He had come home with the idea in his head that he needed to get a little bit of native soil on himself before getting shot up to a place where he would be every bit as lost and alienated as Dorji and Jigme had been on aboard USS George H. W. Bush. Which seemed uncontroversial to him. But when he presented the plan to Tav over a cup of naval coffee in one of the aircraft carrier's eateries, Tav demurred. "You are totally overromanticizing dirt."
Tav liked to play the devil's advocate. He and Doob had had many such conversations. Doob shrugged and said, "Let's say you're right. What's the worst that could happen if I get some dirt on me while I have access to dirt?"
"Before they started sending me to places like this, they made sure I was up to date on my shots."
"No, seriously, I just don't buy it, Doob."
"Buy what? What is it you think I'm trying to sell you?"
"You're trying to sell me the idea that there is such a thing as a state of nature that humans were designed to live in. It is the 'dirt is good' hypothesis."
"But obviously we evolved in rustic outdoor settings. Those places are, in some sense, natural to us."
"But we did evolve, Doob. We're not animals. We evolved into organisms that could make things like this." Tav waved his free hand around at the painted-steel environs of the aircraft carrier. "And this." He raised his cup of coffee and clinked it against Doob's.
"Which is a good thing, you're saying."
"Compared to being torn apart by hyenas? Yeah, obviously it's a good thing."
"Well, I'm not going to get torn apart by hyenas. I'm just going to go camping."
Tav smiled in a way that seemed a little forced. You don't get what I'm saying, do you? He said, "Look, you know my views on the Singularity. On uploading."
"I did blurb your book on the topic."
"Yes, thank you for that." Tav was referring to the idea that the human brain could, in principle, be digitized and uploaded into a computer. That this would one day happen on a large scale. That it might actually have happened already - that we might all, in fact, be living in some giant digital simulation.
Something occurred to Doob. "Is that why you were grilling the king about his views on reincarnation?"
"That's part of it," Tav admitted. "Look, all I'm saying is that if you've gone where I've already gone, in terms of thinking about that -"
"If you've drunk the Singularity Kool-Aid, in other words?" Doob said.
"Yeah, Doob, as you know I've already done, then you've already made a fundamental break with trying to be Nature Boy. I believe that the human mind is almost infinitely malleable and that people are going to adjust, within days or weeks, to life on the Cloud Ark. We will simply turn into a different civilization altogether from the one we grew up in. Our whole idea of nature will be forgotten. And a thousand years from now, people will go on 'camping trips' that will consist of sleeping in arklets, drinking Tang, and peeing into tubes just like their ancestors did."
"To them," Doob said, "that will be a back-to-nature experience."
"I think that is how we will see it, yes," Tav said.
Doob considered uttering the punch line to the famous joke: Who's "we," white man? But he thought better of it.
Neal Stephenson (2015), Seveneves, p. 210-212---
Update Jan 6, 2016
Space colonization is not a realistic alternative to taking care of the Earth.