Legacy is important, yet hard to spot in the moment. People who were around in Einstein’s time probably didn’t realise he was well, Einstein. His greatness was only realised after his death. As it is difficult to spot such greatness when their legacy isn’t fully known, I have decided to run down who could be seen as the Einstein of our generation in the coming years.
To work out who is going to be the next big thing in science and technology, we need to understand what Einstein did. Einstein changed the world. His theories of general and special relativity helped us understand time and space in a way which we never could before. Einstein managed to theorise how to make nuclear bombs, create nuclear power and lay the foundations to help understand the big bang, black holes and time travel. His discoveries led to more discoveries in the field and a greater understanding of our place in the universe. In our quest to find the Einstein of our generation, we are looking for someone who made a discovery that monumentally changed our life or how we view the world.
First up in the running for the next Einstein is Stephen Hawking. Everyone knows who he is, and what he sounds like. Hawking has even had a film made about his life. If you don’t know who he is, or haven’t heard his voice I would seriously question where you have been for the last 10 years. His work on black holes has been game changing. Despite him being a generational scientist, he is more of a figure, than a great scientist. His greatest achievement was his book; A Brief History of Time. He made complex theories understandable to the non scientist. Everyone vaguely understands Einstein’s theories and understands the importance in relativity as an extension of Newton’s theories. Not many people I know understand Hawking Radiation and it took me a long time to figure out what it was and I still don’t know its importance. There’s a reason the Theory of Everything didn’t go into detail on his discoveries.
Next up in the running is the internet giants. I don’t feel that they are that revolutionary on their own, but all have the potential to be great. They are all on a drive to make sentient AI, create driverless cars, solve climate change, and in Zuckerberg’s case, cure all diseases. They are some of the most ambitious philanthropists in the world. Elon Musk is arguably the most ambitious out of them all. He is getting extremely close with a trip to Mars seeming ever closer. Sergey Brin and Larry Page are pioneering AI production. Google’s Deep Mind has produced an AI which taught itself to walk (with a hilarious new technique). Apple recently have bragged about the amount AI has helped them make some of their newest products. When announcing their new range of iPads and Macs, they bragged to no end about how clever their machine learning was. But, with their vast amount of wealth, it should be expected from them. With Apple having $246 billion in cash, more than the US, they should be pioneering new developments in tech. It is not one mind that is changing the world. It is an endless supply of cash and extremely clever people. Despite the tech giant’s endless supply of resources, they haven’t actually got anywhere. AI is still very far off creating consciousness, Climate Change is still going to kill us all, and Cancer is definitely still killing people. So they’re not quite there yet.
They wouldn’t have been able to get anywhere though without one man: Sir Tim Berners-Lee. Sir Tim is one of the great technology scientists of our generation. The internet giants widespread fame and success is only possible due to the Sir Tim’s noble invention of the World Wide Web at CERN. Before the World Wide Web, the internet was only accessible through walled gardens run by large corporations like AOL and Cisco. Berners-Lee created a universally, free way to access the internet and to host websites. The monopoly of control by the likes of AOL and Cisco was no more. Anyone could access the network created by Sir Tim. The website you’re reading this on now is possible because of him, Facebook is possible because of him, Apple’s resurgence is partially because of him.
All internet gurus of today owe their success to this man. He is the closest we have in our generation to Einstein. The World Wide Web changed the fabric of today’s society. He created a free and open transfer of data and information. The idea of ‘sharing’ on the internet and the groundbreaking idea that information should be widely available is only realised due to the World Wide Web. Einstein’s theory of General Relativity changed how we view time itself. Berners Lee’s invention change how we approach problems and acquire knowledge. People can now access vast swathes of data and information vital to new discoveries. AI is only going to be possible due to this availability. The internet is the source of all the data which will enable the discovery of consciousness.
But, when you’re reading this, you probably don’t know who Sir Tim Berners-Lee is. This is probably the first argument you’ve read about how revolutionary he really is. So for that reason, he can’t really be the Einstein of our generation. However, he is the silent Einstein, enabling great discoveries. The next Einstein will create the equation, like Einstein to end humanity. E=mc2 led to the creation of the world destroying nuclear bomb, the next generational scientist will create a real AI. Effectively becoming a god, being creating the first robot which has emotions and consciousness and intense learning capabilities. Nonetheless, their discovery wouldn’t be possible without Sir Tim.
words by Frazer Worboys