Elon Musk: We Must Colonize Mars for Humanity to Survive the 'Dark Ages'

In the event of World War III, the only way for humanity to survive is to colonize Mars or the moon, according to Elon Musk.

"I'm not predicting that we're about to enter the dark ages, but there's some probability that we will, particularly if there's a third world war," the SpaceX and Tesla founder said during a question and answer session at the South by Southwest (SXSW) Conference in Austin on Sunday ahead of President Donald Trump's possible nuclear talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

"We want to make sure there's enough of a seed of human civilization somewhere else to bring civilization back and, perhaps, shorten the length of the dark ages," Musk continued during his chat with Jonathan Nolan, the co-creator of HBO's Westworld.

"It's important to get a self-sustaining base ideally on Mars, because Mars is far enough away from Earth that [if there's a war on Earth] the Mars base is more likely to survive than a moon base," he said. "But I think a moon base and a Mars base that could perhaps regenerate life back here on Earth would be really important."

Musk's remarks—which you can watch below—are similar to comments made by theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking, who also thinks that humanity needs to colonize Mars, the moon or other planets in order survive threats such as climate change.

Musk said it will not be easy for the first people living in space.

"The moon and Mars are often thought of as some escape hatch for rich people, but it won't be that at all," he said. "Really it kind of reads like Shackleton's ad for Antarctic explorers ... difficult, dangerous, good chance you'll die, excitement for those who would survive."

Once the space settlers are established, the billionaire visionary envisions a "direct democracy" for Martian colonies, "where people vote directly on issues instead of going through a representative government."

Musk suggested that SpaceX will be ready to fly a rocket to Mars in 2019.

"I think we'll be able to do short flights, sort of up-and-down flights, probably some time in the first half of next year," he said.

However, he admitted this interplanetary project, like many of his other grand plans, could be a little too ambitious.

"People have told me that my timelines historically have been optimistic, and so I'm trying to recalibrate to some degree here."

Elsewhere in his wide-ranging interview at SXSW, Musk spoke about the threat of climate change and why there must be a price on carbon.

"Anything that pushes carbon into the atmosphere … has to have a price," Musk said.

Musk, whose many companies build electric vehicles, batteries and solar panels, has spoken frequently about his vision of a cleaner, more sustainable future.

"In the absence of a price, we sort of pretend that digging up trillions of tons of fossil fuels and putting in the atmosphere … won't have a bad outcome," he said. "It's up to people and [their] governments to put a price on carbon."

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