I was skimming an ezine where this editor was remarking at how futuristic gizmos and gadgetry of the original Star Trek (1966-1969) is taken for granted today from wireless communication to smart computers but what is still to come of age is that sense of racial harmony and well meaning spirit of exploration (and I’ll add, emphatic leadership) that so memorialized the series.
If scientific progress outgrows the emotional maturity of a race on one hand and on the other, mental evolution comes full cycle while science plays catch up, what you may ask, is the stumbling block in each case and why is it so important that both go hand-in-glove?
The most obvious answer is religious dogma. Now, religion can offer a moral compass to what is right and wrong but history is witness that opposing science or waging wars in the name of religion suggest scriptures or transcribed words of a founder (regardless of how sincere he or she was) are wide open to literal misinterpretation, especially when passages are likely to be lost in translation or re-interpretation by a less realized soul can leave one happily confused at best or fearful at worst! Is it wise to accept every single belief (and label anyone who question as heretics) when it only encourages grasping and narrow faith rather than generosity and kindness? Unfortunately, the tainted buck does not stop with religion and sorry to say, in this day and age with all the surplus cognitive feedback, atavistic dogma still seeps through country, culture, color among a ‘gentrified populace’.
This leads to cases of ‘ethical mirage’ – men and women with authority or power in every walk of life who by their experience, worldly or supernatural, viewed with awe or god like deference and therefore considered infallible and beyond reproach even when they go against the grain of plain decency, basic humanity or understanding. Is it not the job of true leaders to create more leaders who can think independently and act for themselves or to create a circle of die-hard followers? Loyalty is a blessing when it flings open your perception and a burden when it confines it! This is where a scientific attitude works as it helps you stay curious, explore alternate arguments and moreover, maintain objectivity specially when your own ‘unconscious bias’, even if you mean well, can polarize thinking.
Finally, hard-boiled skepticism. Recently, I shared a report analyzing socioeconomic trends of the last 100 years that surmised despite what some may opine, the world is actually changing for the better and surprised when a history professor of some repute decided to troll and slam-dunk the research, first in passive aggressive tones only to go verklempt when I offered to lighten up. Notwithstanding the fact he really needed to pull his chair into the sun, it taught me that some people don’t even want to look at data that conflicts with core beliefs and no matter what you tell them, they will conveniently flip it around and toss it right back at you. Although a healthy amount of skepticism is necessary to think through a balanced argument, being negative is not how we make progress. True, we all have cognitive biases that can make us think in a local and linear way but if we get past that, we may notice an opportunity where others see a problem. This isn’t all pollyannish thinking as a dyed-in-the-wool realist might like to say, cause nothing worthwhile can ever be achieved if every little objection must first be overcome!
Bill Gates famously said, most people overestimate what they can do in one year but underestimate what they can do in ten years. Given the pace of exponential technology, it is a foregone conclusion that many of our jobs will be automated more or less in the near future or done by robots who can do it faster, cheaper and work longer and even if you think, that’s unlikely to happen to you in this lifetime given your particular skills, mind you it wasn’t raining when Noah built his Ark, so why not just start by cracking open your most limiting belief this year or challenge yourself to be more kind by the end of week? You could be somebody’s hero, you know and I promise, your future self will thank you…