A Flash of Mortality

A few hours ago I learned that Iain Banks, one of my favorite SF authors over the last twenty years, has been diagnosed with cancer. I was in the middle of writing up some of my research on citizen science and have been kind of gobsmacked for the last hour.

In high school I dreamed of winning a Hugo award for an SF novel, along with a Nobel prize in physics, but now I will be happy to get a research job after I finish my Ph.D. It’s interesting how both dreams and the scope of the future shift over a lifetime. I’m closer to Banks’ age, 59, than I am to high school. And I can feel the slight breeze wandering over my grave that asks what have you left behind for the world or another?

One of the side effects of working on a Ph.D is closing off parts of your life because they take up time that cannot be wasted. I’ve tried to disconnect from politics over the last 3 years because paying attention to that is too much of an emotional drain and an energy sink. I want to add something to an area where people aren’t paying enough attention - namely citizen science and its effects on the relationship between science and society.

But being a specialist means that the audience for your ideas is limited. Few people care about the history behind the sociology of science or the twisted tracks that distinguish correspondence, coherentist, and deflationary accounts of truth. But, at the same time, the only way forward for humans as a whole is for each person to put their shoulder to the wheel and try to push a tiny piece forward. I’m toiling at it as best I can. Are you?