Been reading through The Great Influenza, an account of the deadliest disease outbreak in human history. You may be thinking, “Well, that’s not very exciting,” but you would also be wrong. A well-written history book reads like a novel and tells its story against the backdrop of the times and through the eyes of the people.
One of the threads therein is the state of medicine at the turn of the 20th Century. It was terrible. Technology had advanced in industry and society. In a few short years, mankind would go from riding horses to cars and airplanes (and, unfortunately, WWI, would soon introduce things like tanks, chemical warfare, strategic bombing…). Medicine, though, was largely primitive and anyone could be a doctor. Not everyone was willing to let that status quo continue. They had foresight and vision. It wouldn’t be easy, but they would push for the change. It would take more than slogans and hope. They joined together and decided they would “precipitate a revolution.”
When is the last time we have had a threshold-crossing advance? We think a new Kindle or iPhone is a big deal, yet it is still doing what a computer 30 years ago did. Sure, ours are faster, smaller and have some cool features. At the end of the day, they are still just computers. Incremental change versus revolutionary.
Fusion energy always 50 years away. Space travel mired for decades with occasional bursts of greatness. Governments that stand in the way of true advancement. Have we lost our vision? Our nerve? In spite of our love of sci-fi, who really can see into the future and its potential? Or do too many people think we have it all figured out?
Robert Zubrin, in Entering Space, wrote on societies who thought they had reached the pinnacle, only to become static in their self-satisfaction. They knew everything, had done everything. Dead cultures they would become.
There is a line in Star Trek where Christopher Pike challenges Jim Kirk to not just be another cog in the machine:
You can settle for a less than ordinary life, or do you feel like you were meant for something better? …I dare you to do better.