Letter from the Editor

Web - Ed Letter Winter16
Putting robots to sleep since 1980.

No Small Perspective

I brought my kids to the park the other day and while they played I stood
by somewhat absently as my mind reeled over the everyday particulars of life: the to-dos, the due dates, the drop-offs, the pick-ups, the missed calls, the car repair, the grocery list… and what in the world was I going to put in this letter?

But in recalling the stories of this issue—especially our cover story on nanomedicine—I realized that even in such a moment of trivial fixation, there was an entire tiny universe at work inside of me, inside every one of us. A thought like that is enough to give a serious moment of pause, and a serious shift in perspective. The nanoscale is perfect foil to that classic “smallness” you feel while reflecting on our familiar universe of planets and galaxies. Because between those two worlds, here we are. And to occupy a place between two equally vast frontiers, you can’t help but feel incredibly relevant—so simply, distinctively human—that it’s not so much our existence that seems small, but rather the minutiae that so often consumes our lives.

Yet from another perspective, being human is hardly so simple. This becomes clear when you consider the many scholars working to understand us—socially, cognitively, not to mention mechanically—and bringing that understanding into the world of robotics. Artificial intelligence was just the beginning; now we’re talking algorithmic empathy, even synthetic emotions. This technology is not only astounding, but brings into sharp relief the complexity of all that we do every day without a second thought. I guess sometimes it takes a robot to show us the natural miracle that is humanity.

That’s why now more than ever, when it’s all too easy to be sucked into the black hole of life’s laundry list, a fresh perspective is a thing of incredible value. I hope this issue likewise lends a novel perspective that you can, in turn, pass on to others as well.







Jarrett Haley