It was Ernest Becker who said “One of the reason the social sciences work in oblivion is that they are not getting at knowledge that instantly makes people feel powerful and satisfied, that gives them the sense they are taming their world, taking command of its mystery and danger. The science of man is the science of man’s knowledge about himself; it gives a chill in addition to a thrill — the chill of self exposure.”
I think you can aptly parallel the social sciences on an interpersonal level, to the societal introspection required to fix the issues on our planet — indeed, it would be a painful endeavour into the follies of man; one that these billionaires clearly have very little desire to undertake.
Having said this, I can’t help but disagree with your article — it is a universal trait of mankind to look to the stars and yearn to explore. I don’t think conceptually, even with the differences in knowledge from then and now, you can equate imperialist frontier expansion with the sheer unknown of the universe, the scale and knowledge at stake aren’t comparable.