“We stopped dreaming.” A mini-rant from Neil deGrasse Tyson.

A small clip from Real Time With Bill Maher in which Neil deGrasse Tyson talks about the budget problems at NASA:

Found over at Atheist Media Blog.

My earliest memories are from the 1970’s — being born in 1967 it took a few years before I could remember much of anything — and I can recall there was still a little bit of that desire to dream about tomorrow hanging around when I was young. Shows and magazine articles about the future did become less frequent as time went on and more often than not were foreign produced instead of home grown. For example, I can remember a TV show airing on The Discovery Channel back in the early 1980s called Beyond 2000 that I used to watch all the time. It was produced in Australia (all the hosts had the most awesome accents) and it covered up and coming technologies and advancements.

I couldn’t tell you why, but as I kid I was very keen on futurism and the promises and advances that new technology would bring with it. I’ve been ready for my self-piloting flying car and self-cleaning push-button kitchen since I was a little kid and saw reruns of the old 50’s and 60’s promotions from companies like GE and General Motors. I can remember the day when I realized that I was going to see the turn of the century and actually live in what a lot of people used to consider “the future.” My love of science fiction is tied into all of this as well. Do you realize that we’re just four years away from the high-tech future depicted in Back to the Future II? When Doc and Marty go into the future to save Marty’s kids they arrive on October 21st, 2015. Some of the stuff depicted in those scenes is already here. Specifically stuff like the huge flat screen television set on which Marty’s son launches a dozen channels at the same time. My AT&T U-Verse cable TV allows me to watch multiple news/sports/kids channels at once. I don’t use that service, but it’s there and it’s not unique to AT&T. Still waiting on that 5 second food rehydrator that they used in the kitchen though. Or, for that matter, my own personal Mr. Fusion. I’m so future-oriented in fact that my biggest disappointment with the BTTF sequels is that so little of them takes place in the future.  I was so unhappy that the third movie took place mostly in 1885.

So yeah, now that I think about it it does seem like we don’t really spend much time thinking about a better future. Most of our really popular science fiction these days depicts it as dystopian and bleak. More often than not the advances of tomorrow in our popular culture are depicted as being our downfall. I can’t really think of a recent show that promotes the idea of dreaming about what good things the future will bring. Perhaps it’s a side effect of living in an age where new technologies comes at such a rapid pace that it’s no longer amazing to us. We carry phones in our pockets that make the communicators on Star Trek pale in comparison in terms of what they can do and they have more computing power than the computers that ran the Space Shuttles. We can connect with almost anyone anywhere on the planet at a moments notice through any of a host of mediums from a telephone call to an email to an instant message to a social network. Most of us carry a music collection around with us that would amount to literally hundreds to thousands of vinyl albums from years past. Our cars, while not flying, are still some of the most highly technologically advanced things we own, safer than they’ve ever been, and only getting smarter with each new model year. And with this simple blog post I will reach more people at one time than any non-celebrity/non-politician/Average Joe of the past could have ever hoped to.

You’d think I’d have something more profound to say.


4 thoughts on ““We stopped dreaming.” A mini-rant from Neil deGrasse Tyson.

  1. I recall that episode. Even the libertarian on Bill’s panel agreed with Tyson.

    I look forward to the future and share Les’ curiosity, and the James Webb telescope is perhaps the embodiment of that. Reviewing the array of Hubble’s discoveries, try envisioning a new piece of technology that could have even greater capabilities. This should leave anyone with feelings of hope and curiosity. We go through our daily lives acting as though we are the center of everything, until we look up and realize that we account for less than a speck of the wider galaxy, let alone universe. This telescope can give us some answers about what else is out there. If that is not a top priority, what is?

    Leave it to our Congress to crush every conceivable dream. I have to admit some initial despair when I learned that this telescope might be cancelled. As Tyson points out, this telescope is not being threatened due to lack of money or Congress’ pretenses about trying to set a more responsible course for America by cutting spending. The money is being spent one way or another. Rather, they are working for the benefit of ultra-billionaires (despite Warren Buffett’s recent article in The New York Times explaining why tax breaks for the top 3% are unnecessary and are hurting the country) and for the sake of needless wars (when the CIA admits that there are probably less than 100 Al-Qaeda in all of Afghanistan.)

    A lot of fingers can be pointed, to Bush, to Obama, to the Congress, but I would lay most of the blame on the American people. When the majority of Americans aren’t looking backwards they aren’t looking at all.

  2. When the majority of Americans aren’t looking backwards they aren’t looking at all.

    I was once involved in a minor accident at a 4-way stop; after I entered the intersection the other guy started moving and ran into me. This was not in dispute, but his insurance company wasn’t going to pay because “he was blinded by the morning Sun.” Which was plausible, given our directions and the time of day.

    “Wait a minute,” I said; “he couldn’t see where he was going, so he just stepped on the gas anyway?” I’m starting to think our budget process is run by that guy.

  3. I couldn’t help but thinking the same thing when I saw this clip. And I’m considered young by some. The thing that excites me about the future is reading about tech stuff that comes out. But come to think of it there hasn’t been many movies or TV shows that get people excited about the future. Most movies just fuck up the science and make things look terrible and awful.

    I can’t wait to see his TV show when it comes out!!

  4. Great update on this story, the James Webb Space Telescope is not going to be cancelled. I haven’t been this pleased by Congress since… since… Anyway, great news for the nation, as well as for the species.

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