The vicarious experience of the astronauts’ triumph instills a certain pride in humankind, in what we can accomplish, in what we can dream. We should look for that sense of wonder and fascination in whatever we do. Our experiences have value–and so do we.
We need statistics to make society and medicine safer and more effective. We need baseline values so that we know when there are problems. Yet ultimately we cannot control every number we measure, and maybe we shouldn’t try. Averages may be calculated from individuals, but individuals can’t be calculated from the average.
The sheer size of the Internet community serves as a double-edged sword, giving individuals an easy way to find others that will accept them but at the same time giving them the means to insulate themselves from differing views.
Whether we embrace our obsessions with Lord of the Rings or particle physics, or whether we really believe that the geeks get the girls, there’s no better time than now for putting aside concerns of social awkwardness and focusing instead on the interests and inclinations that mark our contributions to our jobs and our communities.
Going forward, museums face a plethora of challenges relating to broad audience engagement. To avoid becoming obsolete, museums should highlight the aspects of their exhibits that visitors can’t get elsewhere, such as interaction with original artworks or specimens.
The world is full of unsolved problems. It is also full of problems for which solutions already exist, if we only leverage them. When we slow down for a minute, consider the available options, and more carefully assess the consequences of various modes of action, we have a better chance of directing our efforts where they ought to go–for the good of ourselves and the issues we face.
Another critical component of turning dream into reality: build on what’s already there. The good thing is, once the path is there, it’s easier to make people walk. In light of Denis’s lessons in leading by example, we can consider an ongoing environmental effort on campus: the student-led petition to replace Stanford’s grass landscaping with drought-tolerant native plants.
Ultimately Denis envisions entire green cities that function like ecosystems, exchanging materials and energy throughout the system in a self-sufficient way. Already there are experiments with sustainable buildings on a larger scale, such as the ecodistricts targeted for Washington DC and Los Angeles.