You’re smart. So is everyone else. Mostly. The problem with smart people is they like to talk to other smart people in really smart ways. That has always bugged me. Perhaps that is why I find this New York Times article from Nicholas Kristof so interesting. In the article he calls outs the academic profession as being a bit too stuffy in their academic pursuit and failing to connect with “common folk”.
This disconnect is true for just about any profession, not just academia and “professorhood”. There are going to me major shifts (at least I hope) in many facets of our society that general public is going to need to understand (e.g. transition to renewable energy, electric driverless vehicles, Google Glass, Project Tango). As STEM professionals we need to find way to ground ourselves since we are the ones who have to earn the public trust as we enter this period of remarkable technological change. This is why I am so enthralled with the STEM/STEAM/DIY movement. It’s about democratizing knowledge and espousing the practical over the academic. When any profession becomes so self-absorbed it can’t talk to the general public without coming off arrogant and superior, you start to lose your usefulness. It’s precisely what’s wrong with American politics today, lot of inside baseball politics and not a whole lot of compromise governing. I think a lot of professions could learn from the renaissance going on in the STEM professions. So long as the STEM professions remember they too are not immune from pontificating from time to time. We can all do better.