In science fiction, when humanity is faced with existential crises, we turn to great minds attached to great hearts. While we aren’t under alien attack or facing sentient machines, our world has its own share of problems. Human cognitive enhancement might just be the solution from which all other solutions are born; or maybe it brings too many risks of its own.
Independence Day has one of my most favorite hero duos of all time: Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum. Brawn and brains, flyboy and nerd, working together to take out the baddies. It all comes down to one flash of insight on behalf of a drunk Goldblum after being chastised by his father.
Every apocalyptic film seems to trade on the idea that there will be some lone super-genius to figure out the problem. In The Day the Earth Stood Still (both versions), Professor Barnhardt manages to convince Klaatu to give humanity a second look. John Cleese’s version of the character had a particularly moving “this is our moment” speech. Though it’s eventually the love between a mother and child that triggers Klaatu’s mercy, Barnhardt is the one who opens Klaatu to the possibility. Over and over we see the lone super-genius helping to save the world.
Shouldn’t we want, oh, I don’t know, at least more than one super-genius per global catastrophe? I’d like to think so. And where might we get some more geniuses, you may ask? We make them.
Kyle Munkittrick, IEET Program Director: Envisioning the Future, is a recent graduate of New York University, where he received his Master's in bioethics and critical theory.
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