The New World Was an Escape Hatch

Ever since our ancestors crossed the land bridge, America has drawn the restless, the inventive, and the explorer. America was a place where treasures could be discovered, brought back by risk takers, and sold to the wealthy. The most fashionable Europeans created wunderkammern, “wonder rooms,” filled with exotica from America: stuffed creatures, sketches of wild landscapes, portraits of painted and strangely dressed natives. The exploration of America by Europeans helped stimulate unprecedented growth in the European economies. To fund the risky and expensive voyages, governments invested heavily in ships, crews, and military expeditions. Private investors exploited the opportunity by forming one of the great economic innovations of all time, a precursor of the modern corporation: the joint stock company. The ships returned with newly discovered plants, including tomato, potato, corn, and tobacco, along with a trove of silver worth billions in current value.

Perhaps even more importantly, the New World offered a dramatic choice: to stay home or seek the promise of this unknown land. Europe during the early settlement of America was being torn apart by rival powers and warring religions. France, Germany, and England lost thousands of civilians to terrorism by religious zealots. On top of that, overpopulation in some areas, degradation of farmland in others, and deep economic divisions between rich and poor caused misery, disease, and mass starvation. America was more than a land to explore; it was an escape hatch.

Do you see the parallels with the Gravity Well?