N = R* . fp .ne . fl . fi . fc . L
If life exist on other planets (as I expect it will on some, in a simple form) we should respect and preserve that life. But I would not let protection of speculative simple life prevent our own further development. Earthly life has proven its ability to develop complex forms, ecosystems, intelligence and technology, and I value those more than non-sentient algae. We do not yet know what we might achieve, but today, we appear to have achieved more than any other life in the galaxy. We owe it to those who have gone before to reach for what more we can become.
And private entrepreneurs are already working toward an interstellar exploration project. The "Breakthrough Starshot" was initiated in 2016 by Russian entrepreneur Yuri Milner with a personal commitment of $100 million, and supported by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. The US agency DARPA has also given a grant called the 100 Year Starship, toward the development of the capability for interstellar travel within 100 years.
We should also acknowledge the progress that has been made over the past 300 years of the scientific enlightenment, and especially the incredible progress over the past 30 years in former "developing countries". This progress is well documented in Hans Rosling's book Factfulness, and Steven Pinker's book Enlightenment Now. Rosling's data visualization site Gapminder.org, is an excellent tool for seeing that progress, especially in the visualization "Health and Wealth of Nations". https://www.gapminder.org/tools/#$chart-type=bubbles
Although our entertainment about space provides inspiration, we will not achieve human opportunity by reading science fiction, or watching Star Wars, or playing space games. It seems to me that people are satisfied with the dream, the fantasy that we are a space-faring people. We will only achieve human opportunity by actually doing things that will bring us closer to space travel.
Let's do it.
Original post: 7/13/2016.
Edited 4/3/2020 to add references to Hans Rosling's Factfulness, and Steven Pinker's Enlightenment Now, and references to interstellar exploration initiatives, and additions about human potential.
Hans Rosling, Ola Rosling, Anna Rosling Ronnlund; Gapminder.org.
Steven Pinker, 2018, Enlightenment Now, 576 p.