I recently had a conversation with a friend who said that belief in God is the same as belief in electrons and neutrons and all sorts of other stuff you can't see. To which I flatly responded "No." It's not a debate about god vs science; I'd rather get to the real problem — It seems that a growing portion of the general public views science as some sort of magic. I have heard the third part of Clarke's Three Laws before: "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." I mean no offense to anyone, but we – as a civilization – are not at the point yet where the general population should think anything they can buy or make is based on magic; instead the general public needs to get back to the basic human component of curiosity and wanting to know.
I had never heard the remaining two of Clarke's laws but second one seems relevant to this discussion: "The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible." Humans are curious by nature. In fact, our curiosity is what pushes humanity as a civilization forward. Children who are chided for asking questions that are taken as "annoying" should retort back "lets find out together." I don't know how to not be curious, or how not to imagine how something may work in my head. To think that there are things that are "off limits" is unfathomable. Telling me that knowledge is off limits is more of a challenge than anything else; now I have to know not only why I'm not supposed to know but what that little nugget of knowledge is. I wonder if Pythagoras, Aristotle, Galileo, Newton or any other great mind would think what we have done is impossible? I know Issac Asimov certainly would be proud of Wikipedia and how far we've come with robotics.
I don't want to experience another period of barbarism like the dark ages (read Asimov's Foundation series if you want an interstellar, 500 year, dark age story). Humanity has come too far to fall back on complacency and low expectations. Engineers and product designers are told to design things to be Idiot Proof. I can't help but reject this idea – there's a difference between making something elegant and intuitive, and designing for the lowest common denominator. If we start expecting more out of people, then – I want to believe – the majority will step up to the plate and at least hit a single. instead of waiting for the ball to magically hit the bat sitting next to them in the dugout.
But how do we get a population that seems to be in a slump to want to go out and improve themselves for the sake of self-improvement, to know things for the sake of knowing, and to explore the unknown for the sake of exploration? For those questions, I don't have answers. I can only attest that exposure to art, literature and history by passionate, engaging teachers brought me my first intellectual renaissance, my second by international travel and social interactions. Everyone is a part of the record of humanity, and can either make an imprint on that record or watch. The small, calculated marks of a few will help shape humanity. Without realizing it their small marks will grow and cascade to inventions and creations that will change everything. Now imagine that, instead of a few, there were millions making marks.
I think that within my lifetime I will be able to get genetically compatible replacement organs printed out of a machine. Before I die, computers will have so much processing power we will be able to create atomic level, real time, simulations of physical objects caused by the realization of the memristor. Humans will be setting foot on other planets and starting the process of visiting other star systems on ships with real shields. I'm sure there will be others that will astound and fascinate me. I just hope there are enough people around who care enough to continue creating and moving forward to build the future.