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General, Technology

We could be heroes

HeroDuring my three-month sojourn away from writing anything meaningful, the subject of the Hero has become a recurring theme.

Recently I gave a (very brief) talk with this as its subject. The idea of the talk was that we need heroes to inspire youngsters about the benefits of working in and with technology. We need to broaden their horizons to make them aware of the possibilities that are out there.

I’ve touched on this subject before. Now I just want to share a couple of pieces of writing, which more eloquently express what this same sentiment.

Roger Highfield wrote a column in the Telegraph recently which  says that it has never been more important for science to have heroes.

He writes :

If science is to inspire, engage and thrive, it needs its heroes more than ever.

It would be a disaster if we provided an uninspiring vision of scientific advance as a relentless march of an army of ants, where if any one person perishes, progress is unaffected. Do we want to deny the significance of the likes of Isaac Newton and Marie Curie? Would we want to lose the story of the Principia, in which Newton gave us his laws of motion and universal gravitation? Or how Curie won two Nobel prizes before dying of aplastic anaemia brought on by years of exposure to radiation?

He says the value of the stories is that they inspire. Not only to help further scientific progress but also the next generation of scientists too.

It’s a sentiment that is echoed by Dr Sue Black, in her great post on the same subject.

She says:

In the UK we have an *amazing* tech heritage, but for some reason technology/computing/IT is seen as something boring and a thing that boffins or nerds do.

She argues the need to change perceptions about technology, science and other disciplines deemed to be geeky beyond measure.

It’s  a post which will chime with those who attended a recent Norfolk Network event, where the subject of perceptions was discussed at some length by representatives of the Norwich Research Park and Hethel Engineering Centre .

The ability to inspire is important. Let me again point you in the direction of Neal Stephenson. What better way to do that  by creating a new set of heroes.  Highfield sums it up best:

Heroics carry the values of science more potently than anything else. For all their faults, heroes are the most viral transmitters in the crowded realm of ideas.

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