The hardest thing in any legitimate science is coming up with breakthroughs. Breakthroughs are in fact resisted and actively discouraged. This type of environment is very effective in nipping creativity in the bud. Breakthroughs rely on creativity. Creativity is drained out of existence either at an early age or at the time of the first embarrassing and socially humiliating encounter with the scientific authorities “de jour”. That’s just how it works.
Neat and steady progress which relies on incremental improvements of the scientific paradigm of the day is great as well. The legitimate but close-minded scientists of every era get a very bad reputation; in their own way they’re as important, or at least as necessary to fertilizing breakthroughs. Of course, there is a spectrum of behavior that the oppressors may choose to take. There is another catch: the oppression you encounter from lay people and their institutions will make you hope and beg for the mild, intelligently expressed oppression you received from your peers. When you combine a good amount of peer and non-peer oppression, you might get a fertile ground for breakthroughs. You may also get mercilessly killed for believing the wrong thing, mere decades before it’s a universally accepted fact. That’s the ultimate dark irony.
There are very few bad things which are inherently bad for you or inherently good for you. Oppression is one of them. Everything, even actions*, is mainly made from the same stuff: hydrogen of all makes and vintages. You may choose to go further with this analogy: All hydrogen is a combination of a proton, a neutron and a theoretical electron. You may even choose to go further: Everything is just fermions (or stuff) and bosons (or what stuff does). There’s even further you can venture with this analogy: Everything is either stuff, not stuff, neither, or both. This stuff/non-stuff business is either interpreted by an observer or “affectee,” or it isn’t, or some is and some isn’t, or both, or neither. You can keep going even further with this analogy but that starts to feel a little more like one tautology after another, after another. The point that I’m hopelessly (on my part) belaboring here is that stuff is bad and/or good for you based on how “old” it is, what “path” its constituent parts took to get to you, how much of said stuff is affecting your “stuff,” and—more importantly—how your “stuff” interprets the stuff that’s affecting you. The answers to these age old questions are always fickle and on the fringes.
I’m not saying arsenic is good for you. I’m also not saying that water is good for you. While the former two statements are mostly true in a day-to-day sense, their “goodness/badness quotient” can be tweaked to kill you with enough of anything, good and bad.
Thought experiments originate the ideas which eventually lead to great scientific, socioeconomic and even spiritual advances. These thought experiments require a great amount of creative imagination. Visionaries like Einstein and Newton (less famously) pictured the world in a very different way than their contemporaries. Linear and purely algebraic mathematics were soon replaced by more accurate methods provided by calculus as well as probability and statistics. The perceived universe rapidly changed from a mechanical clockwork to a random and unpredictable zoo with laws and “unlaws” and exceptions.
I believe that we’re currently on the cusp of the next big leap in science and, eventually, in everything else. Unlike in our fictionalized past, our future breakthrough will be one of both scientific discovery and self-discovery. I don’t mean profound self-discovery, perhaps just a realization that the sterile view of the past is limited by time’s unrelenting embrace. I’m almost certain than Einstein got his inspiration not from a muse in his head but a muse in one of the patent papers that he happened to be reviewing. Newton was simply improving the mathematics of the day. Without Leibniz calculus would have ended up split quite differently into its constituent disciplines.
I don’t know anything about the next advance in mathematics or physics. I do enjoy following and humbly attempting to predict trends. My pet peeve about most peoples’ predictions are their linear and exponential natures into the very far future. Things don’t work like that in the real world. Just look at a graph representing the past 10 years of performance in the Dow Jones Industrial Average. There are very few steady and pretty-looking exponential growth areas. There are even fewer linear growth areas. The truth is that sometimes reality just changes in unpredictable and unexplainable ways. These changes are generally preceded by an uproar in both creativity and social discontent and friction. Right about now feels just like one of the aforementioned times. Many people tend to poo-poo this idea of “our time being more special than any other time”. I understand and partially share the spirit of said “poo-poo-full-ness”. Let me just ask you one thing: during what other era has a single generation of humans been able to experience such a vast array of novelty?
My uneducated advice to the visionaries of the future is to picture a unified (both logically and functionally) field where quantum mechanics and relativity both explain each other. The secret for the solution will possibly have something to do with an underlying layer of connectedness which explains both disciplines and also stands on its own. This could be using a more mature version of M-theory or a yet undiscovered discipline. As far as M-theory is concerned, it seems that the authors as trying to describe the wrong thing while missing what’s there: look at the larger picture! The next logical step in mathematics is to make sense of the infinity to the infinity power as applied to the real world. If your theory is correct, you will be able to prove it in the real world by making it fully consistent with what you can otherwise measure less precisely. You will so be able to look at the exceptions to your theory and hopefully (if I’m correct in guessing) realize that every exception leads to a new theory which is just as correct in predicting what you can otherwise measure less precisely.
The youth today is commonly measured by its lowest common denominator and is often misunderstood by its elders. That’s normal, do not give up. We rely on you to help us heal the world of tomorrow and even maybe ourselves, whether we fight it or not. Just remember that as long as your intentions and consciousness are pure, you’re probably on the right path. And, most importantly: never forget to question your assumptions. Turning old assumptions into a new paradigm is a battle that everyone has to fight on their own.
*By actions I mean thoughts that somehow cause specific actions, in a very empirical, “real world,” perceived affects [pl.] kind of way; it doesn’t aim to address the nature or origins there of.)