26 Mar Creativity and humility.
I’m frequently reminded just how exceptionally clever and creative some human beings can be. The kind of cleverness and creativity that is off all ‘normal’ charts.
Last week I had the great fortune to meet a young scientist who is definitely one of them. He explained that he’d always wanted to be an astronaut and that Kubrick’s “2001: a Space Odyssey” was his all-time favourite film.
Disappointed that Kubrick’s vision of massive space stations hadn’t been realised by 2001 he set about a space odyssey of his own.
Studying physics and fresh from completing his PhD he went to work for NASA developing lunar landing craft. On the strength of his work, which involved building and being able to fly a scale model prototype around a hangar with surgical precision, he was given $80m to build a big one. That ‘big one’ is currently orbiting around the moon measuring surface and atmospheric data so that we know what it’s really going to be like before we’re tempted to live there (yes, really).
But his most extraordinary achievement so far, is to set up his own company, Planet Labs, with plans to develop and build 28 micro satellites, not much bigger than shoe boxes, called “Doves.” They’re already being deployed in relatively low orbits to collect high-resolution images of the earth to monitor signs of climate change (see photo on home page).
Unlike many of the images you find on Google Earth, which may be up to 10 years old, the “Doves” will record the entire planet every three months. Next, to quote him, “I want to make space travel as easy as catching a bus. “
Years ago, when I was Chairing award festivals, I would ask the jurors to consider the work in the medal rounds like this: if they looked the level of creativity in an idea and felt envy it was bronze; if they felt jealousy it was silver; and if it was humility they were feeling then it was gold.
In the presence of Chris Boshuizen last week I felt a level of humility I can’t quite compute. It’s deserving of a metal so rare that we haven’t found it anywhere on earth. But there’s every chance that he will when he’s living on the moon.
A version of this story will appear in Campaign Asia-Pacific next month.