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Eclipse 2017: Shared learning and our future

Being a futurist means believing in progress for human society. And it means working for that progress, even when progress seems threatened.

I look, when big things happen, for any evidence that society as a whole has learned something. No matter the circumstance, good or bad, learning means we have gained something. When we share that learning as a society, it is most powerful of all.

The 2017 solar eclipse that crossed the United States was one of those learning moments for Americans. Hundreds of millions of people shared the experience. The hour-and-a-half shared experience was not dampened by division or politics.

The eclipse may have inpsired millions of American children to go and learn more about science, about the earth, the sun, the planets. Where I watched, I was with a specialist in space policy and a Phd student in Astrophyics. We talked about whether more students will now take a course in astronomy, or even major in it in college. Was it good for science? I think and hope so.

Millions of Americans heard about it, millions took a look. The First Family viewed the eclipse from the White House’s Truman Porch. That too was part of the collective experience. Did the President look without eclipse glasses? We even learned from that minor moment of controversy.

My best guess is that American society tends to take two steps forward, then one back. And this experience may be no different. But at least there’s some movement forward. The future gained something.

Eclipse photo: Jane Galbraith Mahaffie

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