Somewhere mankind got off track. We stopped looking for new worlds, stopped reaching for the moon, stopped learning for learning’s sake.
Instead, we got practical. What can I invent, produce or discover that can make a buck?
Maybe it started with the “Pet Rock.” If you’re too young to remember, this was a rock – just a plain old rock – in a box with an instruction booklet as to how to care for your pet rock. It was a clever marketing effort since it offered something with no utility, no real value, but people clamored for it.
The Pet Rock itself wasn’t a problem, but it may be symptomatic of the direction we’ve taken. At some point we made the decision that form was more important than function. We began to believe that what was on the outside that mattered. Just around the time we made the first steps towards believing we should “not judge a man not by the color of his skin but by the contents of his character” we began to first judge by the designer of the clothes he wears.
The watershed was probably when manufacturers found they had enough hutzpah to put their logos on the outside of the product. Levis started it with blue jeans, but now if it doesn’t have “Nike” or “Aéropostale” or whatever emblazoned on it, the product – and therefore the person wearing or carrying it – is just not up to snuff.
Bill Gates and Steve Jobs were initially hailed for the capabilities they brought to society with their computers. However, this soon devolved into merely a quest for dollars. Microsoft went for market share; they sold their operating system cheap to manufacturers so that people would be familiar with it and then buy it. Apple made their system exclusive so that only products manufactured under their brand name could use their software. The products are interesting – but not as important as we believe. Does an iPad make the world a better place? I’m afraid not.
Where are the Pasteurs? The Faradays? The 21st century Tom Edisons? Instead of exploring the unknown, they’re playing shoot-em-up video games. They’re watching reality TV shows.
So here’s what we’re going to do – and I do mean “WE.” Let’s all go learn about one thing just for the joy of learning about it. Just one thing in the math or science world. Something quantifiable – oh, and it has to be fun.