By Edward Hudgins
[Be sure to check out the printable “Human Achievement Alliance Day Booklet” PDF for details on how you can celebrate!]
Let’s celebrate October 21st as “Human Achievement Day!”
We have an Independence Day, Veterans Day, Memorial Day, Martin Luther King Day; Labor Day, and Thanksgiving Day. Such days reaffirm values that are significant for us and for our society: the individual liberty that is the founding purpose of America; the honor due those who defended or who died for our country; liberty as the right of every individual regardless of race or accidents of birth; the dignity of productive work; and the importance of gratitude.
October 21st is the anniversary of Thomas Edison’s 1879 invention, after thousands of attempts, of the first workable lightbulb. Lightbulbs shining above our heads symbolize new, human-enhancing ideas in our minds—ideas with which we can change the world. And we desperately need in our world today all that Edison’s invention represents.
So why a Human Achievement Day?
Historians in the future will look with incredulity on a bizarre, canyon-deep disconnect in our society.
On the other hand, our culture today is defined by pessimism, nihilism, anger, impotence, despair, and malevolence. Over 80 percent of Americans are stressed about the economy, politics, and international conflicts. Polarization in the U.S. has surged to some of the highest levels yet measured. Some 70 percentage of Democrats and Republicans seeing one another as close-minded, dishonest, and immoral. Around 40 percent of Americans see some likelihood for an actual civil war.
On the one hand, exponential technology in information and communications, biotechnology, nanotechnology, the “Internet of Things,” robotics, and artificial intelligence as well as the trajectory of human progress promise a future of unimaged prosperity, with long, healthy, even living-to-200 lives for all.
The infotech revolution has given us instant access to nearly all the knowledge and entertainment in the world and to communications with nearly anyone, anywhere on the planet. Some fifteen years ago no one had modern smart phones. Now nearly 90 percent of Americans possess them. Applied Materials CTO Omkaram Nalamasu estimates that in the 1980s it would have cost $110 million to build a device 40 foot high to include all the capacities that today most Americans carry in their pockets.
Far from “taking our jobs,” robotics and AI are opening opportunities for even higher-paid careers.
In the emerging biotech revolution, AIs have recently been used to diagnose brain scans for early detection of Alzheimer’s and other ailments. The CRISPR-Cas9 genetic editing tool was recently used experimentally to turn off the production of tau proteins in brain neurons. Clumping of such proteins is associated with Alzheimer’s. CRISPR is also used to treat certain cancers. Gene therapy is poised to cure sickle cell disease, which principally afflicts African-Americans. CAR-T treatments can be used against acute lymphoblastic leukemia, which principally afflicts children. And most remarkable of all, the processes that constitute aging have been identified and researchers are working to actually keep us physically young.
Why a Human Achievement Day.
To bridge the canyon between today’s gloom and doom and the bright potential that is ours now if we will but embrace it, we need a Human Achievement Day.
On that day you can raise consciousness about the incredible world in which we live—a world we often take for granted—and how it came about.
You can renew your commitment to your own mind, reason, and imagination which, with the liberty to use them, are the foundations of innovation and achievement.
You can help imbue our culture with optimism, purpose, joy in achievement, empowerment, hope and benevolence.
And you can help lay the moral and intellectual groundwork for policy reforms necessary to unleash our prosperous and healthy future, for example, the need to bridge the canyon-deep divide between our antiquated schooling system and the needs of enterprises for talent and of talented individuals for rewarding and remunerative careers.
How to celebrate.
You can mark Human Achievement Day by appreciating your own achievements. You can share with family and friends your aspirations and how you might improve yourself to achieve your goals, and you can encourage family and friends in their own efforts.
You can encourage children to discover in themselves the goals that excite them and instill in them the confidence and fortitude needed to pursue them. Ask your schools to help our children to understand how the marvels in their world were created and who were the creators: Steve Jobs with PCs, Willis Carrier with air conditioning and Edison for electric lights.
Be innovative in celebrating in your place of employment, your community or in any arena offering achievement opportunities.
We are all achievers, whether nurturing a child to maturity or business to profitability, writing a song, poem, business plan, or dissertation, laying the bricks to a building, designing it, or arranging for its financing.
Edward Hudgins, Ph.D., is president of the Human Achievement Alliance. He specializes in free market science and technology policy. His decades-long career has included stints at the Heritage Foundation, Cato Institute, and Joint Economic Committee of Congress. Email him at [email protected] . (Download a PNG frame for your photo here!)