What space mining can teach us about kindness

Four Bananas, six eggs and the Cullinan diamond have something in common – they weigh about one and a half pounds. Shopping for these essentials can be a nightmare, especially when they’re out of season. Bananas can be as much as $5 a kilo, and the Cullinan diamond $2 billion. 

Boasting 3,100 carats, the Cullinan diamond was one of South Africa’s greatest finds. 

A galactic payday

Have you heard of space mining? It’s no longer fodder for science fiction plots because NASA has made it one of their next missions. Not far from Earth, there’s an asteroid called Psyche 16. When I say not far, I mean it. Psyche 16 is the next Olympics away — four years by rocket. The mission is scheduled to take off in August of this year.

Deep in Psyche’s core, there are enough precious metals to give you and every other person on the Earth a billion-dollar payday. 10000 quadrillion dollars worth. Right now, our current world economy is worth 75 trillion dollars. This brings me back to our Cullinan diamond. Like gold, diamonds are not that hard to find around the galaxy. A diamond is just carbon and pressure. There are even supposedly entire planets made of diamond.

Fake diamonds

Unfortunately, not all diamonds are real, but there are a few ways to check. One way to tell a real diamond from a fake is to find some newspaper and read the letters through the diamond. If you can, your diamond is fake. A real diamond refracts light. In other words, it bends it all over the place. 

We test diamonds and gold, yet I’ve never encountered any human test. Nothing like: to test if your human is real, you must place multiple bank notes in their path. Your human is a fake if they aren’t drawn towards the notes.

The sad reality is that there wouldn’t be a human test because we only test valuable commodities. In South America, most lives are only worth fifty dollars. That’s the going rate to kill someone. And throughout history, slaves were as abundant as the grain they farmed. Nothing this common can be of any value.

The hunt for alien life

There’s a top-up for gold, diamonds and other rare minerals, the galactic equivalent of a trip to the mailbox from Earth. But what about us? Apart from our planet, where can we find intelligent life? 

Scientists and UFO hunting enthusiasts have been fascinated by this question. Their only difference is where the hunt has taken them. For the UFO hunters, it’s a back paddock and browsing Reddit, and for the scientific community, hundreds of millions of light-years away using advanced telescopes. 

One of these two groups has a challenge on its hands, and here’s why. If you’ve ever been to the beach, you would have seen sand. If you picked up a handful, you would feel fine grains running through your fingers. Imagine how many of these grains have to come together to make the beach you’re walking on. 

There are a little over seven billion of us on this planet. If you, me and every other person were a grain of sand, we’d take up seven cubic meters of space on a beach. Now, instead of people, let’s use these grains of sand to represent planets. One grain of sand equalling one planet. If you were to pick up every grain of sand on this Earth, you would have fewer grains of sand than planets in the universe. There are more planets in the sky than grains of sand covering our Earth. 


The search for life is a big task. Despite this, we’re more advanced than you might think. The Hubble space telescope can see distances as far as billions of light-years away. Now, it’s important to remember this isn’t “see” in the same sense as looking through a camera or pair of binoculars. Everything we see at these distances happened the same time ago. When we witness the explosion of a distant son two billion light-years away, we are travelling back in time. The explosion we see happened two billion years ago. The light carrying the sight of the event has only just made it to us. 

What have we found in our search for life? Nada. On the other hand, we’re tripping over diamonds and gold. When you wake up in the morning, open the door and wave to the neighbour across the street, you’re not just waving to another person. You’re waving to a human being, one of the rarest things in the universe. 

The rarest thing in the universe

We wake up, and the first thing we see is other people. We turn our phones on to watch videos of people. We turn the TV on to watch people. We leave our house and pass by more people. All day, we are around people, and because of that, we lose our value. To you and me, people are common. 

Our brains place value on rarity. When your brain sees you bumping into people all day, all it knows is that people are common. But this couldn’t be further from the truth. If we could see beyond our Earth and experience the sparse expanse of the universe, would we realize just how rare we all are.

Diamonds and gold aren’t rare. What’s rare are people. You and everybody on this planet are unbelievably rare. The greatest tragedy is that we forget how rare we truly are. 

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