Imagining Elon Musk’s Million-Person Mars Colony – Chapter 18

Imagining Elon Musk’s Million-Person Mars Colony – The greatest thought experiment of all time

by Marshall Brain

Chapter 18

How will entertainment work on Mars? What types of entertainment will be available for Mars colonists?

We want the Mars colony to be the pinnacle of human existence, so the entertainment options will be spectacular on Mars. People will also have plenty of free time for entertainment – far more free time than people have on Earth today, as we will discuss below. But what is entertainment? When you want to “entertain yourself”, what does this mean?

The dictionary defines entertainment like this:

  1. the act of entertaining; agreeable occupation for the mind; diversion; amusement: Solving the daily crossword puzzle is an entertainment for many.
  2. something affording pleasure, diversion, or amusement, especially a performance of some kind: The highlight of the ball was an elaborate entertainment. [ref]

In the United States, entertainment is a huge industry, representing hundreds of billions of dollars. Here are some of the major sectors in the industry:

  • Movie theaters: $11 billion
  • Home video: $20 billion
  • Cable TV: $100 billion
  • Streaming video: $11 billion
  • Music: $15 billion [ref]
  • Books: $30 billion [ref]
  • Video games: $30 billion [ref]
  • Porn: $10 billion [ref]
  • Amusement parks: $16 billion [ref]
  • Sports: $60 billion [ref]
  • Gambling: $100 billion [ref]
  • Broadway: $1.5 billion [ref], [ref]
  • Fireworks: $1.1 billion [ref]
  • Don’t forget “the internet”: Reddit, Youtube, Vimeo and a million other websites intended to entertain and/or “kill time”.
  • And “social media”: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, etc.
  • And phone apps, many of which are games and many of which are free [ref]
  • And all kinds of smaller stuff can be found in the entertainment sphere: Parades, fairs, parks, zoos, circuses, museums, walking, hiking, rock climbing, surfing, dirt biking, go kart tracks, beaches, boating, fishing, kayaking, golf, miniature golf, water parks, arcades, comedy clubs, dance clubs, music clubs, theaters, dinner theaters (e.g. Medieval Times), board games, playing cards, concerts, symphonies, operas, magicians, comic books, bars, sports bars, certain kinds of shopping…

A quick video tour of several different kinds of entertainment:

People entertain themselves in all kinds of ways, and a large portion of the economy – something like $650 billion in the United States [ref] – helps people to feed their need for entertainment – to “agreeably occupy their minds”.

So how will people entertain themselves on Mars? Will there be theme parks on Mars? Concerts? Movies?

Creating a new video game

Video games are obviously a popular form of entertainment. If you look at the statistics above, the video game industry in the United States is bigger than music and movies combined. Lots of people play video games, and they are willing to pay $60 or more for a top title [ref].

Video games are certainly popular, but they are not popular with everyone. Every human being needs food. Everyone needs housing. Everyone needs health care. But not everyone plays video games, and even the people who do play video games have different likes and dislikes. Some people like first person shooters, while others like Mario Kart.

So how will the Mars colony decide to create new video games? It is the creators of games and the players who will decide.

Since its invention in 2009, has demonstrated an incredibly interesting way to fund and promote new ideas. Just about anyone on the planet who has some initiative can come up with a new idea and seek funding on Kickstarter. As an example, here is a video game from a friend of mine that raised $2.2 million on Kickstarter to fund its development:

The basic idea of Kickstarter is nicely demonstrated here. The Planetary Annihilation team put together the video and the Kickstarter page to launch their fundraising campaign. Then people who visited Kickstarter could “vote” for this project by making a “pledge”. For example, if you pledged $20, you would receive the game when the team completed it. If you pledged $40, you received the game, plus early access to the beta along with the soundtrack. And so on.

The way kickstarter works prevents a misfire. The money is delivered to the developers only if a critical mass of people sign up for the campaign. So the developers state a goal – say $1.5 million. Only if people pledge $1.5 million will any of the money be delivered to the developers. Otherwise, all of the pledgers get their money back and the game is not developed (In this case, the developers could give up, or they could try to revise their campaign and run it again).

As video games go, Planetary Annihilation was fairly small. Here is a much larger example called Baldur’s Gate:

Baldur’s Gate was developed by Canadian game developer BioWare, a company founded by practicing physicians Dr. Ray Muzyka and Dr. Greg Zeschuk. The game required ninety man-years of development, which was spent simultaneously creating the game’s content and the BioWare Infinity Engine. The primary script engine for the game (used mainly as a debugging tool) was Lua.

At the time that the game was first shipped, none of the sixty-member team had previously participated in the release of a video game. The time pressure to complete the game led to the use of simple areas and game design. Ray Muzyka said that the team held a “passion and a love of the art,” and they developed a “collaborative design spirit.” He believes that the game was successful because of the collaboration with Interplay. [ref]

The interesting factoid in here is the “90 man-years” part. This is a lot of human time to create a video game. It means that the game took one full year of work from 90 people, or two full years of work from 45 people, or some combination that adds up to 90 man-years of effort to get the game out the door.

So how do we account for this kind of time commitment in the Mars economy and make it available for game development? The key element here involves one colonist contributing time on behalf of another colonist. It is easy to imagine a central Kickstarter-like system for the colony where anyone in the colony can post their new product ideas. In the case of a video game, a team of people could assemble in their free time (as described in Chapter 10, more than half of the year is free time for Mars colonists) and come up with a game idea and the Kickstarter page for it. They estimate that the game will take 90 man-years of time to develop. This works out to 130,000 man-hours.

Then people look at the Kickstarter page and decide if they like the idea. If so, they contribute their time to the game on this kickstarter-like system. So if I like the game, I contribute, say, an hour of my time to the game’s development. What this means is that I will do an extra hour of work one week (or an extra 2 minutes of work over 30 weeks, or whatever), and in return, one of the people on the game development team will be released from one hour of work. When 130,000 hours have been contributed by people like me, 90 game developers can spend one entire year developing the game. Or 45 game developers can spend a full two years developing the game, or whatever. These game developers have had their normal time commitments to the colony “bought out” by other colonists, and now they can devote their full effort to the game’s development for a period of time. The task allocation system distributes the developers’ normal tasks to the colonists who contributed time.

What if, after the game is released, another 100,000 people want to play the game because they hear good things? They can contribute their time, and it lowers the time “paid” by everyone. The game took 90 man-years to create, and this is true no matter how many people play it. So 130,000 people initially contributed the 130,000 hours needed for the game’s development. Now 230,000 colonists are playing the game, so the 130,000 hours spreads out to 230,000 people – each player only needs to contribute 33 minutes to the game’s development. The “original investors” get a “refund” of 27 minutes eventually, because more players means that that the cost of development is spread out over more people.

This same kind of system can be applied to many different kinds of entertainment: movies, books, music albums, TV shows, etc. can all take advantage of this Kickstart-like system on Mars. The basic idea is very simple: the colonists who want to create the entertainment post a campaign on the colony’s Kickstarter-like system, and the colonists who want to consume the entertainment contribute their time to the property’s development. The time that gets contributed “buys out” the artists’ time, freeing up artists to create entertainment full time.

Amatuers creating entertainment

Many entertainment properties on Earth are created in even simpler ways – people create entertainment in their spare time all the time on Earth. For example:

  • I am writing this book in my spare time. My goal in writing it is to help humanity find a practical way to lift billions of people out of grotesque poverty, and to end the concentration of wealth that is a central cause of all of this poverty. These particular words are being edited on Saturday, July 1, 2017, and I am hoping to get a lot of work done during this 4th of July weekend.
  • J.K. Rowling wrote the first Harry Potter book in her spare time [ref].
  • Tom Clancy wrote his first book in his spare time [ref].
  • Justin Bieber got his start when he posted random videos of himself on YouTube in his spare time [ref], [ref].
  • There are millions of YouTube channels and web sites created by people who post things in their spare time, because they enjoy what they are doing.
  • Wikipedia is largely the work of volunteers using their spare time to write and edit for the site. It is thought that 100 million volunteer hours or so have gone into the creation of Wikipedia [ref], [ref].
  • The idea of a “garage band” is so iconic that it is defined in the dictionary [ref]. People in garage bands are amateurs who are playing together either for the fun of it, or with the hope of hitting it big one day. [ref].

Since Mars colonists will have more than half of the year free (180 days a year are work days, 185 days a year are free days, as described in Chapter 10), this kind of amateur artistic endeavor will flourish in the Mars colony. People will have plenty of time to pursue their creative endeavors if they so desire.

Will There Be Theme Parks on Mars?

To take an example of an Amusement Park, let’s use Disney World in Orlando, Florida. According to Wikipedia:

The Walt Disney World Resort is an entertainment complex in Bay Lake and Lake Buena Vista, Florida, near Orlando and Kissimmee, Florida. The resort is the flagship destination of Disney’s worldwide corporate enterprise. Opened on October 1, 1971, Walt Disney World is the most visited vacation resort in the world, with an attendance of over 52 million people annually. The property covers 27,258 acres (43 sq mi; 110 km2), housing twenty-seven themed resort hotels, nine non–Disney hotels, four theme parks, two water parks, several golf courses, a camping resort, and other entertainment venues. Magic Kingdom was the first theme park to open in the complex, in 1971, followed by Epcot in 1982, Hollywood Studios in 1989, and the most recent, Animal Kingdom in 1998. [ref]

When you consider that the population of the United States is approximately 330 million in 2017, it means that about 16% of the U.S. population visits Disney World each year (it is less than 16%, because Disney World also hosts a number of international visitors). To put it another way, on average, everyone in the U.S. visits Disney World once every 6 years or so.

In terms of human time, Disney World is also amazing. Wikipedia pegs the number of employees at Disney World at 74,000 – “The largest single-site employer in the United States”. This number is a bit bloated by several interesting anomalies. For example, “The resort also sponsors and operates the Walt Disney World College Program, an internship program that offers American college students (CP’s) the opportunity to live about 15 miles (24 km) off-site in four Disney-owned apartment complexes and work at the resort, and thereby provides much of the theme park and resort ‘front line’ cast members.” This is a rather unusual way to recruit employees in the United States, and it takes more employees to manage the apartment complexes for these employees.

Does the Mars colony need an entertainment and resort complex that can handle 52 million visitors a year? Probably not. There are only one million people living in the Mars colony, as opposed to the 330 million people living in the United States. It is unlikely that every Mars colonist would want to spend 52 days at a Disney World-like theme park every year. But a Mars colonist might want to visit it several days a year for the following reasons:

  • First, a resort like this would just be a few miles away for every Mars colonist. It would be like living in Orlando, as opposed to living in Kansas City (and needing to fly to Orlando to visit Disney World). Someone living in Kansas City cannot visit Disney world very often because of the travel time and travel cost. Someone living in Orlando could visit Disney World every day if desired.
  • Second, Disney World hosts a wide variety of entertainment options in one place: rides, shows, water parks, golf courses, restaurants, hotels, boating, fishing, race car driving, movie theaters, shopping, etc. If this complex was only 15 minutes away, and it did not cost an arm and a leg to get in, people might be far more likely to visit it frequently. It is one-stop-shopping for many different forms of entertainment.

We can glean an interesting fact from the above statistics. Let’s assume that each Disney World employee on earth is working 40 hours a week, 50 weeks a year. It is probably a slight overestimate, but it gives us a convenient round number of 2,000 hours of human time per employee per year:

  • 74,000 employees * 2,000 hours per year = 148 million man-hours of human time per year
  • 148,000,000 man-hours / 52,000,000 visitors = 2.85 man-hours of employee time per daily visit

So from a Mars colony perspective, if the colony were to build a Disney World-like theme park on Mars, and if the Mars theme park were staffed at a staffing level equivalent to Disney World, then if a Mars colonist is willing to contribute 2.85 hours of time to work at the Mars version of a theme park, this Mars colonist could then spend one day in the park. Does this “make sense”, economically? A standard one-day ticket to Disney world on July 1, 2017 costs $122.48. A 4-park “park hooper” one-day ticket costs $172.53 [ref]. This means that the Mars colonist is “getting paid” $122.48 / 2.85 hours = $42.98 to $172.53 / 2.85 hours = $60.54 per hour. Yes, it “makes sense”. The park would be originally built as part of the colony’s master plan, or with a Kickstarter-like campaign (just like any of the other forms of entertainment described previously, with the hours of construction then amortized across all visitors). The park could be grown year by year with additional Kickstarter-like campaigns, just like any amusement park.

Will there be sports teams on Mars?

In the United States, sports is huge business.

  • There’s the NFL, which rakes in $14 billion a year [ref],
  • MLB at about $10 billion ref],
  • the NBA at about $6 billion [ref],
  • the NHL at about $4 billion [ref].
  • Then there is the Olympics, which makes billions of dollars every few years by selling the television rights and sponsorships [ref], [ref].

Therefore any one-million-person city in the United States has at least two sports venues:

  • There is a large stadium for things like football games, baseball games, monster truck shows, very large concerts, large track and field events, etc. The Meadowlands stadium in New Jersey is typical. It has 82,000 seats and cost $1.6 billion [ref]. The Dallas Cowboys stadium in Dallas seats 80,000 and cost $1.3 billion [ref]. These structures cost about $20,000 per seat.
  • There is a smaller arena for things like basketball games, hockey games, boxing, wrestling, smaller concerts, etc. Rogers Place in Alberta, Canada seats about 20,000 people and cost $480 million [ref]. The T-Mobile arena in Las Vegas seats about 20,000 people and cost $375 million [ref]. This is also about $20,000 per seat.
  • For completeness, a typical city would have other public venues like a civic center or convention center for things like home shows, bridal shows, car shows, boat shows, RV shows, gun shows, etc. It probably also has an outdoor concert venue and/or amphitheater. And it would have some kind of performing arts center for symphonies, operas, smaller concerts, ballets, dance shows, Broadway-style productions, etc.

Since these kinds of facilities are so common on Earth (every major city has them – even Rome had its Colosseum built 2,000 years ago to seat 65,000 people [ref]), it is safe to say that these structures will be baked into the overall plan for the million-person Mars colony.

Now the question is, how will sports teams come about on Mars? If the colony wants to have “professional athletic teams” made up of athletes who devote their full time to training and playing their sports, then we can use the same Kickstarter-like system. An NFL team typically has 53 players [ref]. When we add in coaches, trainers, physical therapists, etc, let’s use a round number of 100 people for the full team.

This starts to look a lot like the level of effort seen for the Baldur’s Gate video game described above. We need 100 man-years of effort each year to support a team. We need at least two teams to have a game. Given the popularity of sports on Earth, it is easy to imagine hundreds of thousands of Mars colonists being willing to contribute several hours of their time per year to make many different sports teams possible on Mars.

But it is also possible to imagine a completely different trend arising on Mars. Rather than watching sports, Mars colonists may instead choose to participate directly in sports. Groups of Mars colonists might form their own “amateur teams”, spending their significant amounts of free time to train and practice together. In this case, there would be no need for “professional teams” at all on Mars. The whole sports vibe on Mars might be far more participatory. There would be a great many more teams this way, and it would be a lot more fun for the colonists.

How will Justin Bieber make an album on Mars? Will there be bands and concerts on Mars?

Let’s imagine that, at age 12, Justin Bieber is a Mars colonist. He has made some home videos of himself playing the guitar and singing. He posts the videos on the Mars version of YouTube and he becomes incredibly popular incredibly quickly as his videos go viral.

Now Justin wants to create his first studio album. How would he do it? He would create a campaign on the Mars version of Kickstarter. Since this is a “real” album, he wants to devote his full time to it for a full year. He needs a producer, a person to do the mixing, a band to play the music, some songwritiers to do the music and lyrics, and so on. Let’s say that totalled up, this album will require 15 man-years of effort, or 21,600 man-hours of effort. 100,000 fans are happy to contribute their time, so they each contribute 13 minutes of their time to free up Justin and his entourage to make the album. When it is complete, the album is digitally delivered to the 100,000 sponsors. Later, 100,000 more people want to receive the album because they learn through the grapevine that it is a great album. These 200,000 total people end up contributing 6.5 minutes of their time.

What if Justin, or any other band, wants to have a concert? A concert will need a number of people to help with things like equipment setup, lighting, mixing, crowd control, and so on. There will also need to be time for rehearsal, choreography, etc. A Kickstarter-style campaign can easily fund the time to make a concert possible.

It is easy to imagine thousands of musicians and bands on Mars. Given the discussion in the previous section, we can see that there will be plenty of venues for concerts in the Mars colony. Bands can form in two different ways: there can be professional bands, where their work is funded through the Kickstarter-style system, and amateur bands, where band members use their significant amounts of free time to play and practice.

A band only has four or five people in it, so a band with any popularity can easily “fund” itself with tiny contributions from tens of thousands of fans.

It is also easy to imagine many more music venues arising on the Mars colony. If you look at an article like this one, you can see a number of popular small venues in the United States, particularly the House of Blues. The popularity of these venues means that hundreds of thousands of people visit them each year. It is easy to imagine a group of people creating a campaign to build different venues like this on Mars.

A general model for innovation

If you look at the real on Earth, you can see that it opens the door to a huge amount of innovation by small teams of people. When I look at Kickstarter today (July 1, 2017) here are some of the most popular projects:

  • Electronics: earbuds, headphones, speakers, power converters, PCs, bike lights, sleep enhancers, air purifiers, etc.
  • New kinds of clothing, underwear, shoes, etc.
  • New kinds of food, beverages, sauces, etc.
  • Wallets – many different types
  • Watches
  • Games – card games, board games, adventure games, computer games
  • Books
  • Knives
  • Luggage and backpacks
  • 3D printers
  • Dice
  • Pots, pans, cooking accessories
  • A small scuba tank you pump up yourself
  • And so on…

Go to and click the “Explore” button to see all the different kinds of projects that are underway. It is very easy to imagine Mars colonists of all stripes creating new ideas and new projects constantly, and in this way the Mars colony will be bursting with new products, new foods, new beverages, new housing options, new restaurants, etc.

Think about someone who wants to create a new bottled beverage. In the United States this would be a daunting challenge – doable, but daunting. In the Mars colony, it is greatly simplified. The factory capacity belongs to the colony, and there are already bottling lines for hundreds of other beverages. A colonist would simply need to develop a recipe that people like, run a campaign to recruit fans, and then contribute their hours to get a new production facility and bottling line started. If popularity of the product grows, people would order it in greater quantities, and the manufacturing system would adapt automatically to meet demand, like it does with any other product.

The bottom line is that the Mars colony can develop many different kinds of entertainment, and a virtually infinite array of products, by leveraging the creativity and energy of the Mars colonists. The Mars colony will likely have a much higher rate of new product development than seen on Earth.

> > > Go to Chapter 19

Mars Colony Table of Contents

  • Preface
  • Chapter 1 – Elon Musk Makes His Big Announcement about the Mars Colony
  • Chapter 2 – The Many Thought Experiments that Mars Inspires
  • Chapter 3 – Why Do We Need a New Socio-Economic-Political System on Mars?
  • Chapter 4 – Imagining a New and Much Better Socio-Economic-Political System for the Mars Colony
  • Chapter 5 – What Happens When We Add a Massive Amount of Farm Automation to the Mars Colony?
  • Chapter 6 – How Will the Mars Colony Produce its Clothing?
  • Chapter 7 – How Will Housing Work for the Mars Colony?
  • Chapter 8 – How Will the Mars Colonists Construct Their Housing?
  • Chapter 9 – How do we provide other services like water, sanitation, police force, fire department, health care, etc. for the Mars Colony?
  • Chapter 10 – What might a typical “work week” look like on Mars? Who gets a free ride on Mars? Who will do the undesirable jobs on Mars?
  • Chapter 11 – What do we do with lazy people on Mars? What do we do with the assholes?
  • Chapter 12 – How would insurance work on Mars? Yes, insurance…
  • Chapter 13 – How will we make chips on Mars? Pharmaceuticals? Medical devices? “Stuff”? Will Mars be an actual backup plan for humanity?
  • Chapter 14 – What Will the Transportation System on Mars Look Like for Mars Colonists?
  • Chapter 15 – What will the political system look like? How will it be organized?
  • Chapter 16 – Building Experimental Cities on Earth Today to Find the Optimal Configuration for the Mars Colony
  • Chapter 17 – How can we apply the Mars colony’s principles to the billions of refugees and impoverished people on planet Earth today?
  • Chapter 18 – How will entertainment work on Mars? What types of entertainment will be available for Mars colonists?
  • Chapter 19 – How will children work on Mars? Who gets to have children? What is the colony’s stance toward children?
  • Chapter 20 – Starting the process of building experimental Mars colonies on Earth – Mars Colony Simulation 1000A
  • Chapter 21 – Can the economic system proposed for the Mars colony significantly improve the Welfare situation in the United States?
  • Chapter 22 – How much land will the Mars colony need?
  • Chapter 23 – Thought Experiment: What If Everyone Makes the Same Wage?
  • Chapter 24 – How Will Innovation Work on Mars?
  • Chapter 25 – Will there be advertising on Mars?
  • Chapter 26 – What should be the ultimate goal of the Mars colony?
  • Appendix A – Restaurants
  • Interviews with Marshall Brain on the Mars Colony:
  • See also:

[Feedback and suggestions on any part of this book are greatly appreciated. Contact information is here.]