Jeff Bezos loves to talk about space. And in a talk about just that on Monday, he encouraged anyone who was listening to go listen to another classic talk about space.
The Amazon CEO and Blue Origin founder was a guest at Wired 25 in San Francisco. He’s the subject of the magazine’s new cover story: “Jeff Bezos Wants All of Us to Leave Earth — For Good.” His conversation with writer Steven Levy opened with the two recalling that Bezos gave Levy a homework assignment involving footage from an old TV show called “The Round Table.”
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“This is an incredible short video that I would recommend all of you go find on the internet and watch,” Bezos said. (We did that for you, below.)
The video featured Princeton University professor of physics Gerard O’Neill and biochemist and science-fiction author Isaac Asimov.
Bezos said that O’Neill promoted the idea of giant space colonies for human settlers, as opposed to the idea of settling on the surface of other planets.
“For me, Gerry was very formative in my high school years,” Bezos said. “I read his book called ‘The High Frontier’ and it resonated with me and made a lot of sense to me. He was the first person to ask this very fundamental question, if we are to expand into the solar system, is a planetary surface the right place to do so.”
Bezos went on to point out one of the “delightful moments” in the interview, when Asimov is asked why he thinks no one had come up with O’Neill’s idea previously — an idea for space colonies that would be very large and hold more than 1 million people.
Bezos quoted Asimov as saying, “I think I know why no one’s thought of this before. It’s because we’re planetary chauvinists.”
“I believe we are,” Bezos added. “It makes sense. We kind of grew up on one.”
Levy pressed Bezos and his Earth view, calling him the richest person on the planet — “this planet, anyway” — and asking whether spending billions on space exploration made more sense than spending more of his Amazon fortune on critical issues at home, such as poverty.
It’s a question Bezos has become familiar with, as he’s faced scrutiny over Blue Origin and the price tag associated with his exploratory pursuits.
“I will not spend one minute of my life on anything I don’t think is contributing to society and civilization,” Bezos said. “You want risk-taking. You want people to have visions that most people won’t agree with. If you have a vision that everybody agrees with, you probably shouldn’t do it because someone else will do it first. All of the real needle-movers are driven by being right when most of the world is wrong.”