Friday, May 2, 2014

Overcoming Problems Is What Humans Do

Without modern technology, we would be dying from unsanitary water, simple bacterial infections, and likely face mass food shortages.  Without the polio vaccine, millions of children would continue to be paralyzed each year.  My wife has Type 1 diabetes.  It is an autoimmune condition in which the immune system attacks the islet cells of the pancreas.  The body is unable to make insulin.  Without insulin, people can eat but the energy cannot be released to the cells.  Type 1 diabetics essentially starve to death.  The disease is incurable.  Watching one's diet and taking pills will never cure this disease.  Without artificial insulin, my wife would die within a few days.  The insulin diabetics now use is produced by bacteria.  It is a genetically engineered product.  She wears an insulin pump that delivers insulin to her system via a mini IV all the time.  There is nothing "natural" about her survival.  Yet thanks be to God because of science and technology, she is here.  She is thriving.  Thanks to the technology which allows her to test her blood sugars and keep them within the normal range, she can safely be pregnant.  Sixty years ago she would have been dead. 
As human beings, we use tools to solve problems.  We use understanding and learning to observe things, make adjustments, and test our theories.  Those that work are kept, those that do not pan out are discarded.  The process may be messy, but it is the best we've got.  Overcoming human problems is what humans are designed to do.  We have been doing this since the invention of the wheel and the discovery of fire.  Yet it saddens me that in recent years there has been a war on science. 
When Ray Kurzweil, the inventor of the flatbed scanner was a child, the philosophy of his family was "There are problems in this world.  It is up to you, Ray, to find a solution.  You need to go find the answer and when you do, share the solution with others."  This personal sort of can-do attitude is what will help the human race make progress in the future.  Grit and persistence can go a long way when combined with rational planning and the scientific method.  My wife and I have twins on the way.  As they grow, I plan on teaching them this philosophy. 
Science can overcome many problems, but it is difficult to solve problems when people are too afraid of embracing risk.  Taking chances is required to succeed to solve life's most difficult problems.  Sometimes you have to take a moonshot to making things better.  Sometimes you have to try something even though you think there is a 99% chance it won't work out.  Why?  Because no one else will take that risk because they figure it is too crazy.  So no one ends up doing it.  That is part of the reason why we still are so dependent on gasoline vehicles.  It took someone as insane as Elon Musk to start Tesla and show that electric cars could be a real solution to gas vehicles.  And Tesla is succeeding. 
Look at Japan.  It is a very risk averse culture.  It is also highly conformist.  Japanese workers have tremendous work ethics and discipline.  But Japan doesn't innovate for shit.  That is part of the reason why the Japanese economy has been stagnant for so long.  Being entrepreneurial isn't part of their culture.  Compare this to Israel, which has a thriving economy despite its small size and lack of natural resources.  Israel is a world leader in the biotech industry. 
We can do far more than what we think.  But we have to be willing to try and fail.  Babies will keep trying to walk even after they stumble.  Eventually their brains make the right connections and they succeed.  Why should it be any different for us?  To grow, we must become young again.  We must be open to hearing new ideas, trying new skills, and attempting new solutions to persistent problems.  We must be willing to risk a fall here and there.  If we do fail, we must pick up and move on. 
The future is not going to stop for us.  If technology makes our jobs obsolete, we need to learn new skills, no matter how old we are.  If we stink at a particular skill, we must practice it for hours until we master it.  If not, we lose out on the treasures of the new things which await us.  Our quality of life will suffer.  Being adaptable and open to change is vitally important. 

No comments:

Post a Comment