The People That Will Advance Humanity

I saw Oppenheimer last night.

It presented the people and events around the development of the atomic bomb. Christopher Nolan, the writer and director, offered a holistic view of the people, particularly Oppenheimer and events that led up to and after the dropping of two atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. By holistic, I mean a fuller picture of the multi-faceted aspects of the people and events involved. And, exploring the dichotomy of turning one of the greatest advances in the history of mankind, into a weapon.

Behind all the science that ultimately ended World War II, were a consortium of visionaries. These thinkers ignited a firestorm of discovery, innovation and creativity that has only been replicated a handful of times in human history. Visionaries like Einstein, Heisenberg, Oppenheimer, Schrodinger, Bohr, Fermi, Tesla, Van Neumann and hundreds of other theoretical physicists and mathematicians all shared something in common. They were all born within a 30-year period of each other. The greatest scientific and mathematical minds in human history were all born within 30 years of each other and would collaborate to either escalate the war for the Axis powers or end the war for the Allied powers.

What are the chances that this magnitude of brain power lived during the same time in history? 

Very, very, very, very low. There have been other examples of this in human history.

Michaelangelo, Da Vinci, Raphael, Copernicus, Botticelli, Giorgione, Durer, Verrocchio, Perugino, and Buti were all born within a 30-year period. Their artistic and scientific creations were achieved during the Italian Renaissance and continue to be admired roughly 550 years later. The Renaissance marked a significant departure from the preceding medieval era and is considered one of the most important periods in European history. The Renaissance originated in the city-states of Italy, including Florence, Venice, and Rome. The key characteristics of the movement were: Humanism, Artistic and Scientific Achievements and Patronage. The Italian Renaissance had a profound and lasting impact on Western civilization, contributing to the emergence of the modern world. It laid the groundwork for future artistic styles, scientific inquiry, and philosophical thought, shaping the course of history.

Beethoven, Schubert, Mendelssohn, Schuman, Liszt, Chopin, Berlioni, Brahms, Tchaikovsky, Wagner, Verdi and Dvorak were all Romantic Era composers born within 30 years (Beethoven was 45 years) of each other.  The Romantic era was a period of musical innovation and experimentation, and it laid the groundwork for the diverse musical styles that emerged in the 20th century. The key characteristics of the movement were:  Emotion, expression, Individualism and Rich Orchestration. Romantic music is deeply cherished for its emotional power, evocative storytelling, and the profound impact it has on listeners.

I chose 30 years because it is generally considered the time period of a generation. This means that on average, it takes about 25 to 30 years for a new generation to be born, grow up, and have children of their own. And, these three generations exhibited an explosion of creativity and innovation that have not only had profound impacts on future generations, but whose work has remained relevant to this very day.

There may be other past generations, like these three, that have contributed to an explosion of innovation which propelled humanity forward at an accelerated rate. In fact, we may be living through one of those generations now.

The Technology Era has been shaped by countless individuals who have made significant contributions to the development and advancement of computing and artificial intelligence. Here are some notable figures who have played a crucial role in shaping the Technology Era:

Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg, Tim Berners-Lee, Linus Torvalds, Larry Ellison, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, Elon Musk, Sheryl Sandberg, Marissa Mayer, Satya Nadella, Sundar Pichai and many, many more were all born within 30 years of each other. In fact, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Tim Berners-Lee (the developer of the World Wide Web) were all born in 1955. These individuals have influenced the way we interact with technology and the digital world. And, it may be safe to say that their influence will be felt for generations to come. 

This information begs a few questions:

  1. Is it accidental or by design that a critical mass of people with extraordinary skills in a certain area can live within the same generation?
  2. If certain generations have a preponderance of intellectually gifted individuals in certain areas, could reincarnation be an answer?  
  3. Is progress predestined or accidental?

Regardless of what you believe or how you would answer these questions, it is interesting that certain periods of time boast the occurrence of a group of highly gifted individuals that propel humanity ever forward.

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