Get Smart | It’s Not (Just) Rocket Science
This post was originally made on 3/31/21
Welcome to The Bloch,
Since my last letter about basketball, the Suez canal was un-blocked by the engineers, and this morning I was trying to decide what to write about in this letter. I was reading the news, and I came across a popular post on LinkedIn that resonated with me, and at that moment I knew what I wanted to share with you.
Notice that this post has over 21,000 likes and over 1,400 comments:
I am not a parent yet, but I do have a niece and nephew, and young cousins and some of my best friends have started to have kids. But the point here for me isn’t about kids, or STEM vs sports, because I don’t believe in that sort of false choice. I know plenty of people who were great in sports and great in school. I would argue that you should encourage your children to get into both STEM and sports, as they have different benefits and both are positive in my opinion.
For now, though I want to focus on the STEM side of this. For anyone who maybe hasn’t heard this term before, STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. I’m going to frame this through the lens of looking at two STEM tycoons, Bill Gates and Elon Musk. I read an article recently where Bill Gates said that he believes science, math, and economics will be high-demand skills in the future job market.
This advice from Bill Gates resonates with me, and my experiences have backed up this claim as well. From what I have seen in Silicon Valley, and from what Elon Musk’s kids are doing with AI (artificial intelligence) & ML (machine learning) in their futuristic school Ad Astra, I’d say these two super-rich super-geniuses are on to something. Certainly studying STEM fields worked out well for the two of them.
Aside from their intelligence and wealth, what strikes me about these two guys is their different approaches to how they deploy capital to achieve their goals, and what the goals that they set out to achieve say about how they think, and their approaches to leadership.
In the case of Bill Gates, I’m mostly referring to his charitable nature: the creation of The Giving Pledge and The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The Giving Pledge is a commitment by the world’s wealthiest individuals and families to dedicate the majority of their wealth to giving back. The Gates Foundation is nonprofit fighting poverty, disease, and inequity around the world. These efforts are monumental in providing big money as well as serious intellectual and human capital to solve some of the massive problems facing the world. This is a very grounded, pragmatic approach to solving some of the biggest problems we’re facing today.
Elon Musk, on the other hand, is focused on solving the problems that humanity as a species is likely to face in the future, rather than the ones we necessarily face today. For example, Tesla’s mission is to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy. This is a very noble cause, as moving faster toward sustainable energy seems obviously beneficial for the long-term survival of humans on this planet.
As I mentioned earlier, at Elon Musk’s other company SpaceX, a Starship prototype just crashed and burned after another test launch from the site at Boca Chica, Texas. The crash happened while attempting to test parts of the controlled aerodynamic descent, aka the landing. On the SpaceX website in regards to the reason for this technology, it says: this capability will enable a fully reusable transportation system designed to carry both crew and cargo on long-duration, interplanetary flights and help humanity return to the Moon, and travel to Mars and beyond.
Elon has also called for turning the village of Boca Chica, Texas into a city called Starbase, and he is encouraging people to move there on Twitter.
Musk isn’t the only one looking to explore the cosmos either. Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin and Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic are also busy engineering spacecrafts. This week Cathie Wood at ARK Investments launched a new exchange-traded fund ARKX, which is focused on space exploration. Just last month, Relativity Space, which builds rockets with robots using 3D printing, unveiled a reusable, 3D-printed rocket to compete with SpaceX’s Falcon 9.
So while Musk, Bezos, Branson, and others are looking to the future and beyond Earth, Bill and Melinda Gates are more grounded and centered in the here and now, trying to solve some of the big human issues of today, and anticipating the problems of tomorrow. They all have their places in society, we definitely need the visionaries and the pragmatists. I do my best to see the big picture and look ahead while also staying grounded in the current reality and the limitations we face in the situation at hand. I’m glad that we have people like MacKenzie Scott to help balance out some of the hubris that these STEM leaders often indulge in. Lord knows we need it. With all this talk of space exploration, it seems to me that we could certainly be doing more to spread awareness and make progress on solving the water crisis and cleaning up the oceans. Those problems just frankly aren’t as sexy to talk about, work on, donate to, or invest in as say, going to Mars.
What’s most exciting to me about the time we live in, is that thanks to Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math, we get to see the limitations of today reduced rapidly over time. As more people around the world come out of poverty and get access to housing, healthcare, education, and the internet, the possibilities for what we will do here on Earth, in digital space, and in outer space, are limitless.
What will you do with your time? What will future generations do? What will we build? Where will we go? It’s fun to think about. It’s even more fun to execute. To infinity, and beyond!
Until next time.