So I was at a party last night and as is always the case at the moment when you gather a group of twenty something together we all had a good moan about our jobs. Because the schools we went to told us horrible lies about our potential. One guy though told me he had a lousy job, delivering replacement microscope parts for the big fancy ones they have at university and private labs. Because I'd been drinking I told him that he was looking at it wrong, that he had an amazing job as a small but vital part of the glorious engine that is human progress.
But here's the thing, I really believe that.
I don't have a lot of faith in people, they vote for UKIP and read the Daily Mail online, but Humanity... That's something else. The things we've done, the problems we've solved blow my mind every time I remember to think about them. Did you know we've been to the Moon!? The freaking Moon! Our ancestors prayed to the bloody thing and we've put people on it! For like, no reason! We've put robots on Mars! Better yet we found a hexagon on Saturn, a gigantic, regular hexagon... Saturn is 1.2 billion km away I can't fit that number in my head and we found a hexagon on it. Even better than that though, yes it gets better, we explained it. Using fluid dynamics models I couldn't hope to understand people worked out how and why a hexagon would appear in the swirling clouds of another world. YES!
We like to believe in great men, individuals who save us with their almost supernatural ability. People like to think Charles Darwin had the idea for evolution one day is much the same way you or I might think "I'd quite like a sandwich". But he came at the end of centuries of thought and rational development. This doesn't mean Darwin wasn't a genius but it is the truth behind all human progress. We do it together.
It's why I've always prefered Lex Luthor to Superman, the real Lex Luthor that is, this fella:
Green and purple, because you want your doom suit to be a statement.
When they have one of their little scraps Superman get's ready by putting his underwear on over his tights and he's done. Lex on the other hand draws on resources from all over the world, hires the best scientist from all over the world, puts all that into a suit and uses it to punch god in the face for daring to stifle human progress.
We can do amazing things, we can cure disease, reshape the face of our world and stand on others. But it takes all of us, we need the guy replacing and repairing the microscope in the lab that might cure Alzheimer's or Parkinson's, we need the guys who made the tyres of the Mars rover, we need the people who make the screws that hold Voyager together as to leaves the solar system billions of kilometers from here.
It's easy to think we're at the end of history, reduced to social media navel gazing while we wait for the inevitable apocalypse with optional zombies. But it isn't true, we aren't Alexander weeping for no more worlds left to conquer, we're just getting going. The infinite possibilities and beautiful futures are out there waiting for us all we have to do is go out and take them.
We don't need great men and women, we don't need super-heroes or gods to show up and save us. I carry more computing power in my pocket right now than it took to get us to the moon, we can do anything if we do it together. So remember that when you're delivering microscope parts or doing admin at a hospital or whatever that you're part of the glorious engine that's driving us into the future. This is how men really move mountains, stone by stone.