“We’ve done quite well for ourselves,” wrote Neil deGrasse Tyson in a January 1, 2001 Op-Ed in The New York Times. Tyson was ringing in the New Year by sizing up the “relentless comparisons” between the fictional world of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, and “our measly earthbound life in the real year 2001.”
Even though we still don’t have space colonies today, Tyson continues to be pleased with our progress nonetheless. Our computers, after all, are not the size of a room but small enough that you can carry them around with you. “That was unthinkable in 1968,” Tyson points out.
Indeed, it is the computers that get all of the glory. Our robotic emissaries are probing space, not humans. Does this shortcoming matter? Are we depriving ourselves of one of our greatest aspirations, along with its rewards? Astronauts testify to feeling great awe when they see Earth from space. This feeling has been reproduced in a laboratory setting, and subjects have been observed to be “more patient, less materialistic, and more willing to volunteer to help others.”
While Tyson says he would like to go to space himself, or at the very least help others get there, he is content with living vicariously through the robots for now.
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