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Science Doesn't Have ALL the Answers

I am a STEM person. I have a PhD in a STEM field and work at the intersection of science and computers in a science-driven industry. You cannot get much more STEM-y than me. However, I’ve been increasingly uncomfortable with our society’s strong focus on STEM careers, and I have finally figured out why: I do not think STEM fields can solve all of the problems we face.

Don’t get me wrong. I see plenty of problems for science and technology to address. There are diseases to cure, alternative forms of energy to harness, and safety issues to engineer away, to name just a few. But I also see plenty of problems for which the solutions will need to come from other fields. Science and technology will almost certainly play a role in the solution to global warming, but I do not think STEM can solve it alone.

Science might hint at some of the sources for our human tendency towards discrimination, but it is largely silent on how to move beyond those influences to a more equitable society. Determining how to handle financial inequality is almost completely beyond the scope of STEM.

We need the social sciences and humanities to put these problems into their full context, and help us find viable solutions. We need the people with the imagination to conjure up completely new universes, too. This brings us happiness, which is important. It can also show us the way to better futures.

For example, I have long felt that there must a way to arrange society so that parenting could be better integrated with the other things we do. I have the shadow of an image of such a society in my mind, but I can’t make the image clarify into anything concrete. Perhaps if novelists and storytellers to explore these themes, they will find the idea that leads us to a happier lifestyle.

Even within STEM, there is a need for ideas from other fields. Robots were dreamed up by writers long before they were made a reality by engineers. Science has provided us vaccines, but not the means to overcome people’s fears of them.

In short, I think that when we focus so strongly on STEM, we neglect too many sources of solutions to our problems, and risk consigning ourselves to a poorer future as a result. Believe it or not, this is related to why I started this website. I want there to be a way for people in all fields to make money from their ideas. More than that: I want there to be a way for me to pay people for sharing their ideas with me. Paying for their writing seems like an efficient way to do that. I want to help build a market for short writing, so that more people will share their ideas. Yes, that sounds a bit idealistic and crazy, but I figure it is worth a try.

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On a somewhat related note, Crossed Genres, one of my favorite sources of short stories, is having a kickstarter. If you like short stories that tend toward sci-fi/fantasy and have characters that represent the full diversity of humanity, check them out. I have yet to read one of their stories that wasn't good, and quite a few have been downright wonderful. If you’d like a taste of what their stories are like, check out Oomph: A Little Super Goes a Long Way, which was one of my recommendations for a collection and is a seriously great read.

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