Bad news for those who suffer from anxiety, become too competitive, or simply choke under pressure: New research suggests you may need to stay home on Earth while other more laid-back and “pleasant” types colonize Mars.
The new study, still under peer review, ran computer simulations that tracked the progress of human settlements on the Red Planet over their first 28 years of virtual exploitation.
“Pleasant personality types were judged to be the most durable over the long term,” the researchers found, for all four personality types used in their simulations, “while neurotics showed the least adaptability.”
The researchers also found that the minimum number of colonists needed to successfully operate a human colony on Mars was much lower than previously expected: just 22 people.
“Contrary to other literature,” they wrote of their simulated colonies on Mars, “the minimum number of people of all personality types that can lead to a lasting settlement is in the tens, not the hundreds.”
The new simulation drew on a large amount of data: economics and agriculture papers; an overview of the capabilities of the International Space Station; data collected from Antarctic outposts, submarines and more; but not from the 2015 Matt Damon film The Martian (above)
The four traits that keep you alive on Mars
Computational social scientists at George Mason University have focused on four key traits a colonist on Mars needs if he hopes to survive the rigors and sudden tragic surprises of life on the Red Planet.
Which of these personality traits are similar to you?
Low competitiveness. The “pleasant” category, which performed best in the study’s simulations, was more cooperative and less “winner take all” than the “neurotics” or “reactives,” both of which fared worse. A Mars base divided against itself cannot stand.
Adaptable to change. The winning ‘agreeables’ were also programmed to be less obsessed with maintaining a ‘rigorous routine’ – making them more able to deal with the unexpected. They were always willing to adapt and survive.
Neither introvert nor extrovert. The “Socials,” a category close to the “Agreeables,” aside from their tendency to “require social interaction,” shrunk to be best suited to Martian habitation. The reason seems to be that while a settler must be able to work well with others, the desire for companionship will inevitably impair one’s ability to perform crucial tasks that require concentration and solitude.
Low aggressiveness. The “neurotic” group fared worst, in part because of their “highly aggressive interpersonal characteristics,” which often proved fatal when the simulation confronted them with a crisis. It seems that a colony lives and dies together. There is no “I” in Mars Colony.
The study’s authors, all computational social scientists at George Mason University, fed data from a variety of related scenarios to better inform their computer model: economic research and agricultural data; an overview of the storage and production capabilities of the International Space Station (ISS); data collected from Antarctic research posts, submarine crews and more.
“Establishing a human settlement on Mars is an incredibly complex engineering problem,” the researchers said in their draft, posted on arXiv for review.
“In addition to the engineering and technical challenges,” they wrote, “future settlers will also face psychological and human behavioral challenges.”
‘Our goal is to better understand the behavioral and psychological interactions of future Mars colonists through a Agent-based modeling (ABM simulation) approach.’
A mix of other computer simulation concepts, including game theory and “evolutionary programming” used to study biological systems, the Agent-Based Simulation divided the “free agent” virtual humans into four basic personality types.
Their model defined the “pleasant” type as an individual with “the lowest degree of competitiveness, low aggressiveness, and not fixated on strict routines.”
The ‘social’ type was defined as ‘individuals of medium competitiveness, extroverted, need for social interaction, but not fixated on strict routines.’
In contrast, a personality called “reactive” has a moderate level of competitiveness and a fixation on following their strict routines.
The model’s fourth and final group, the “neurotics,” had “high levels of competitiveness, highly aggressive interpersonal characteristics, and a difficult ability to adapt to boredom or a change in routine”—making them the least adaptive. were for the surprising challenges that might arise. come up with maintaining a colony on Mars.
The George Mason researchers made a series of generous assumptions about their model, including routine supply shipments from Earth and a nuclear generator capable of providing steady electricity to the settlement for at least seven years.
Their Martian colony ‘sims’ were tasked with extracting precious minerals for shipment to Earth.
“The main focus is on the personality types of the selected colonists and how they perform throughout their time on Mars,” they wrote, “using their skills to extract minerals and respond to random supply mishaps or habitat disasters.”
After running their “MARS-COLONY Agent-Based Model” five times during 28 simulated years each, and varying the population size of the colony between runs from 10 to 170 settlers, they found that the base could function for decades with only 22 inhabitants.
After running their “MARS-COLONY Agent-Based Model” (above) five times during 28 simulated years each, and varying the colony population size between runs from 10 to 170 colonists, the researchers found that the base had been around for decades. could function with only 22 settlers. inhabitants
In future simulations, the researchers plan to experiment with the ratio of personality types among the Martian colonists. Their hope is to find out if a team made up of completely laid-back “pleasant people” could really be the best of the mixed groups made up of all sorts from their past trials.
During most of their simulation sessions, the researchers found that their settlement could normally recover as long as the total population remained at 10 or more settlers between tragedies and misfortunes.
This proved not to be the case in cases where the colony was unable to recover on its own, in between resupply missions from Earth, which their simulation predicted would occur once every year and a half.
“The inhospitable nature of the Martian environment requires each habitat to be largely self-sustaining,” they noted. “The stress caused by accidents, as well as interaction with other settlers, takes its toll.”
For George Mason’s social scientists, the simulation shows that “success in extreme environments” can be broadly attributed to “coping capacity” — how people go with the flow during hardships, adapt to unexpected changes, and improvise amidst issues. adverse conditions or disasters.
In future simulations, the researchers plan to experiment with the ratio of personality types among the colonists at each Martian base.
Their hope is to find out if a team made up of completely relaxed “pleasant people” could really be the best of the mixed groups made up of all types from their past trials.