Stephen Hawking, the future, and women
Stephen Hawking passed away today at the age of 76. Many thought it would come much earlier in his life. Many thought it would never happen because he was a super genius from another dimension (sarcasm). Regardless, the world lost one of the most brilliant and beautiful minds ever known to the planet Earth.
Stephen Hawking was known for many accomplishments in his life. From hypothesizing Hawking Radiation (radiation escaping black holes), to his proof (and re-proving) of Einstein’s Theory of Relativity… Hawking made countless contributions to science and humankind. His dedication to his art was amazing to behold.
Having one of the most brilliant minds in the history of the planet extinguished makes you think about the future. What are we leaving behind and what do we have to look forward to? As more of the brightest minds are lost to time, we must look at the state of humanity, the social issues that are inhibiting scientific breakthroughs, and norms and standards that will impede our ability to survive long-term.
Humanity is on a collision course with destruction. It is up to us to do what is in our power to extend that period if possible. It is impossible to make humans last forever as it is an inevitability that we eventually destroy ourselves or are destroyed by natural disasters. From over-population, to socio-economic disparity, to luddites and medical atheists, we are doomed and only a few bright minds seem to have the foresight to try and fight it.
People are procreating at an unsustainable rate. At some point, we either must decrease population, control reproduction, or find another planet to inhabit like a virus. Even if each family only had one child, which they statistically don’t… that’s not a decrease in population from 2 to 1. It’s an increase due to how long people are living. Exponential growth is a huge issue that is impacting the health of Humans the health of Earth as a whole.
When it comes to medical atheists, as I like to call them, we face an even bigger issue. Some of the most dangerous diseases in human history have been fought and, for the most part, been beat. Then comes along these “people in the know” that actively choose not to vaccinate their children. Some of the diseases we thought we had beat, are making a serious comeback due to “anti-vaxers.” These people pretend they know more about medication and health than the people who spend their entire lives researching it in a scientific setting and coming up with repeatable tests to prove vaccinations work.
The biggest argument from anti-vaccination advocates is “if vaccinations are effective and your child was vaccinated, why does it matter if my child is vaccinated?” The simple answer here, and one that has been repeatedly proved in a scientific setting, is simple… mutation. The same reason you must get a flu shot every year, is the same reason Measles can hit a person vaccinated. A person who is not vaccinated gets infected, mutates the virus, and then spreads it to people who are not immune to the mutated form. It’s murder.
Simply put, luddites are afraid of technology and actively fight it. Think about the people who refuse to get x-rays because they think the radiation will kill them, or the people who don’t use the internet because “it’s the downfall of humanity.”
Humanity isn’t doomed by people posting pictures of their lunch and sharing memes. It is doomed by people who won’t use tele-health tools to be seen by a doctor when they otherwise can’t travel to a clinic or hospital. It is caused by people who refuse to do DNA testing for preventable diseases that are known hereditary dangers. Humans hate change and they are letting the fear of a tool impact their survival.
One of the worst issues…
One of the biggest issues facing humans right now is not medical, technological, biological, etc. It’s apathy, greed, and laziness. Everything in the world has been turned into a business. That is not always a bad thing, but there are limits. Companies purchasing the rights to life saving drugs, or in some cases, the research that could result in the creation of life saving drugs, and then marking up the medications by 100-1000x the original cost is a huge problem. Everyone is aware of the Epi-Pen fiasco. That was widely publicized but is far from the only case. There are entire businesses who survive solely on the purchase of medications for the sole purpose of exponentially increasing the cost. It has happened with serious lifesaving drugs and research around cancer, HIV, demyelination drugs. Valid business model or not… it causes death and hiding research hurts all of humanity, not just a pocket book.
It is not just drugs and research this is impacting. There are huge voids in the sciences right now due to the same mindset of “find something simple I can force people to pay more for and then I don’t have to do anything else with my mind or life.” If Stephen Hawking thought that way, we would be in a much different place right now scientifically.
Women in Science
Women are severely under-represented in the professional world. There are plenty of numbers floating around saying the numbers are better than ever but look at hard statistics. Don’t look at political statistics or CEO statistics, but statistics about scientists, females who are actively pursuing science degrees, heading science research, and representing the future to girls around the world.
The numbers leave something to be desired. Women are less likely to receive research grants, less likely to be chosen to head research projects, less likely to pursue science degrees, and less likely to be chosen to represent or head foundations.
This doesn’t just mean “hire a woman.” That’s a sexist thing to do. It means encourage your female children to do something substantive with their lives. Don’t enforce stereotypes. Focus on science, math, and humanity. If my daughter came to me and said she wants to be a theoretical physicist or mathematician, I would cry. I only hope I can encourage her enough to do something with her mind as much as society does men.
This has nothing to do with men being bad or reducing the elevation of men to a specific role. This has to do with making sure we encourage every human male and female in existence to do something real with their lives and not settle for being paid $60,000 a year to flip burgers (or whatever the pay for that is by the time they are grown).
Open any Wikipedia article on science and you will find a dozen men referenced. Start creating some of the future leader women. Give girls more positive role models that change the world for the better. It will improve the lives of every man and woman alive when everyone is focused on the outcome and not the sex of the person speaking. Maybe then people can focus on the real issues facing humanity and not on if it’s Stephen or Stephanie talking.
The world is changing and a lot of it is not for the better. We just lost an amazing mind and will continue to lose more of the next couple of decades. Humans need to start thinking about the future. Not 10 to 20 years in the future. Not 100 years in the future when your grandchildren are grown. The real future in 500, 1000, or 5000 years from now.
We are not doomed to go out in a puff of smoke tomorrow (as far as I know), but we can make this beautiful thing last if we work, encourage, and improve. Teach your children about Stephen Hawking, not about Tide Pod challenges. Teach your students about long-term thinking and not just about their retirement planning. Remember the past, live the hell out of the present, and build to the future. Don’t just look to the future… create it.