There’s plenty of room at the bottom

Back at the end of 1959, Richard Feynman gave a lecture at CalTech covering, principally, why big things can get a whole lot smaller. He talked about how we could easily envisage writing all of the Encyclopaedia Britannica on the head of a pin, how we could have an electric motor no bigger than 1/64 of an inch cubed and how we could build a computer that would recognise someone’s face (without the machine being the size of the pentagon). He could see no reason why we couldn’t do any of these things. I’ve been a fan of Feynman since I studied physics at school – I wish I’d had him as a lecturer, my grades would probably have been a lot better. So 43 years and 1 day ago, Feynman was thinking of the world the way it would likely be in the future – as he did with so many of his ideas. It seems to me that there is a lack of vision in many things today, that people are focused on the short term – on the financial results of the next quarter, on the housing market during the next 6 months, on the Nasdaq at the end of 2003. The big picture needs to be reiterated so that we can aspire to it, break it down into smaller steps and then start to live up to the dream that it inspires.

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