Friday, April 14, 2017

Captain's Log: Star Trek and Star Wars: The Gifts That Keep On Giving

The X-Prize has been awarded to two groups that developed working models for medical devices that mimic the functions and portability of the Star Trek tricorder.

Second prize went to a group of 50 doctors, physicists and programmers, backed by a major corporation.  But the first prize winners were four brothers and three friends, one of them an emergency room doc, who funded themselves.  That's three of them pictured above, in uniform.

The Washington Post:

"Final Frontier Medical Devices, led by Basil Harris, a suburban Philadelphia emergency room doctor, won the $2.6 million top prize. The open competition, launched in 2012, challenged applicants to produce a lightweight, affordable health kit that diagnoses and interprets 13 health conditions and continuously monitors five health vitals. The team’s kit, equipped with noninvasive sensors, collects information that is synthesized on a diagnostic device — an iPad was used in the competition, but it could ultimately work on a smartphone. Harris’s only invention before this competition was a cotton-candy machine he made with his brothers in grade school."

This is a prime example of what's become the Star Trek fan ethos, the same do-it-yourself enthusiasm and dedication that resulted in generations of fan-fictions and fan films that almost evolved into independent Trek films before Paramount intervened.

But it also exemplified a Star Trek ethic.  The Post story ends:

"Harris recalled how he felt when he entered the competition four years ago. “It was intimidating because there were all these groups being backed by large corporations,” he said before the prize announcement. “But we were always thinking beyond the X Prize. We’ve met our objectives. We’ve made something worthwhile.”

Making something worthwhile, making a difference is a living expression of the soul of Star Trek.  Congratulations to the Final Frontier.

Meanwhile, as Star Trek wraps up the 50th anniversary of its first television season, Star Wars begins its celebration of the 40th anniversary of its first film, now known as The New Hope, but in those days, just Star Wars.

At the first event of its ongoing celebratory convention--which included tributes to Carrie Fisher and other fascinating moments reported at length by the Hollywood Reporter--Star Wars creator George Lucas explained the intent of that first movie:

"The idea was to do a high adventure film that I loved when I was a kid with meaningful, psychological themes," said Lucas...Lucas admitted he wasn't supposed to say this, but he described A New Hope this way: "It's a film for 12-year-olds. You're 12 years old. You're going to go on in the big world. You're moving away from your parents being the center focus. You're probably scared, you don't know what's going to happen, and here's an idea of some of the things you should pay attention to. Friendships, honesty and trust — and doing the right thing. Living on the Light Side. Avoiding the Dark Side."

From the technology to the ethic, from the approach to the attitudes and the future they make, Star Wars and especially Star Trek were aspirational.  They were models for how to be better people, how to build a better future-- for the people and institutions that would make it a better future.

And though neither the Star Trek or Star Wars universe is a reality, the power of the stories themselves continues, more than two generations later, to be living models, to set aspirations and to inspire.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great article!!!