I lied: there aren’t going to be any gumdrops unless you bring them yourself. I just finished the second semester of my PhD program and passed the last hurdle to be an official doctoral candidate. It’s supposed to be an accomplishment and I do have a strong sense of relief, but there’s also an underlying current of rising pressure. I’ve been trying to figure out that is and it’s not quite the obvious thought of “Oh, you’re almost ready to start working on your dissertation, better get to it”. Instead, I’m seeing more and more darkness and stupidity in humanity that is making me severely concerned with the future. To name but a few:
- The extreme religious organizations are committing terrible crimes against populations (Boko Haram), or sociopathic governments are encouraging communities to play off their fears and murder each other (Central African Republic).
- People’s attention spans are incredibly short and don’t stay focused on the problems long enough to solve them or punish the necessary parties (BP Gulf spill, numerous bank and financial officers on Wall Street).
- There is an amazing amount of disbelief in science and theories that have held up, and conversely a large amount of trust in pundits.
- The systemic corruption of our legal system, where lobbying and buying votes isn’t even considered corruption anymore. It’s visible but no one does enough to stop it.
- The mess with Russia and Ukraine, and for me the saddest part is that the International Space Station will likely no longer be international. The crowning achievement of human engineering disturbed by petty land squabbles.
I feel like the world has withdrawn into itself or stuck its collective heads into the sand to avoid facing the hurdles of living in a global-centric world. We’ve lost a vision of where to go, the people truly in charge only seem to follow the goal of getting more money. If we want something to achieve, why not reach for the stars? It would create a massive amount of jobs if we expanded the space industry. It would allow us to move off planet if necessary. It would let us mine resources on asteroids without worrying about what it would do to the environment. We could collect water and ice from elsewhere. It is also a goal we would not soon reach. Space is limitless so humankind might be preoccupied for long enough to guarantee a more permanent foothold in the universe.
Cynically it has always been war and trade that triggered exploration. The amount of resources, without regulation, should be motivation enough for economic purposes. I’d like to think we wouldn’t have to move to space for military reasons, but on the other hand encountering another alien race would do wonders for reuniting the world. But really, I wish more people wanted to explore for exploration’s sake. However the universe started, it is out there and it’s a crime of life and worth to not try and see it for ourselves. And that is how it all ties back to the timing of me completing my oral prelim exam. I am not seeing an easy way for the career I have chosen and enjoy doing to help solve the problems that I see in the world.