Standard-physics travel will require extremely long voyages, much longer than a human lifetime. Schwartz suggested four options. 1) Generational ships—whole mini-societies commit to voyages that only their descendents will complete. 2) Sleep ships—like in the movie “Avatar,” travelers go into hibernation. 3) Relativistic ships—a near the speed of light, time compresses, so that travelers may experience only 10 years while 100 years pass back on Earth. 4) Download ships—”Suppose we learn how to copy human consciousness into some machine-like device. Such ‘iPersons’ would be able to control an avatar that could function in environments inhospitable to biological humans. They would not be limited to Earthlike planets.
Thus his four starship scenarios… 1) “Stuck in the Mud”—we can’t or won’t muster the ability to travel far. 2) “God’s Galaxy”—the faithful deploy their discipline to mount interstellar missions to carry the Word to the stars; they could handle generational ships. 3) “Escape from a Dying Planet”—to get lots of people to new worlds and new hope would probably require sleep ships. 4) “Trillionaires in Space” —the future likes of Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and Richard Branson will have the means and desire to push the envelope all the way, employing relativistic and download ships or even faster-than-light travel.
It sounds like the most likely scenarios involve people believing in something larger. God, or the end of the world, or a trillionaire’s belief in his or her own ego. This is all assuming we don’t ruin everything here before we can get away…which seems like the most likely scenario to me. But maybe I need to stop reading about peak oil.