by Rebecca McCauley Rench
The Borg Queen in Star Trek is capable of understanding all of the Borg she is connected to implicitly and has acquired the cumulative knowledge of all assimilated alien races. Yet until assimilation, the Borg are incapable of understanding the motivations and emotions of those space farers they encounter. The holiday season spent with family and friends that you only see occasionally makes many of us feel like a Borg, incapable of communicating our thoughts with family and bewildered at the ideas our loved ones share. It can be difficult to communicate an issue with people speaking from a different reference point. We all want to understand the thoughts and feelings of loved ones, but actually putting oneself in their shoes can be an unachievable challenge. What if we could get assistance communicating with each other through neural technologies that helped us understand the concepts our loved ones are trying to share? Technologies could provide commentary or tell stories in a new way so that we can understand in a way relevant to our personal reference frame. Not only will these types of technologies help us communicate with those around us more effectively, learning becomes more effective as new concepts are explained in a way that fits our frame of mind.
The impacts do not stop with those able to verbally communicate either. The Borg could communicate through their neural network. What if we could apply those same principles to interacting with our children? New parents with their babies often discuss the difficulties in knowing what a baby wants and thinks before their child has had a chance to learn how to speak. Most parents would agree that the first 2 years of a child’s life is difficult and normally completed in a haze from lack of sleep. The benefits of such communication technologies in our child rearing are clear – what if communications between you and your child allowed you to understand why they were upset or what they didn’t like about particular foods and toys? Would child rearing become easier? Perhaps parents worry about the impact on the “natural” progression towards cognitive development. We will have to wait for the data to come in to see how these technologies affect us, but with data in hand, sign me up for a cyborg baby.
It’s springtime in DC, which means a time for new beginnings. The birds are chirping, the flowers are blooming, and the presidential candidates are beginning to unveil themselves. It’s a perfect time to talk about science communication. Public perception of science has been hit hard lately with recent episodes of misinformation, peer-review gangs, and overall confusion. With the fresh-faced candidates on the scene, we should hope to see new mediums to revitalize the presentation of how science affects society. Every facet of our life is permeated by science and I’m excited to see their takes on how science affects the world. What stance are they taking? How does that play into the bigger picture? What will that mean for the future of the United States?
As each candidate starts to release their platforms, we should evaluate what they are communicating, how they are communicating, and to whom they are communicating. In our modern world, political figures communicate science through the foothold of political context. We should expect our leaders to practice informed decision-making. Science communication at its best is a full conversation, which is both informative and educational. The more the public knows about science, the better we can understand how, why, and what policy decisions are being made.
As we fortify our country with new technologies, preserve our environment, and make literal leaps into deep space we all have a right to be a part of the conversation. Science communication is a science in of itself. It’s a necessary tool for successful communication between scientists and non-scientists alike. I hope our future leaders will help us to be a part of this conversation. In addition, since political leaders can shape this conversation, we should challenge them to use science communication to raise our standard of science public literacy.
This spring, we have the opportunity for a new beginning, a new President, a new type of leader that is not reactionary but rather bases decisions on a strategic plan for our future. Science communication is important and I can’t wait to start having this discussion with our new leaders.