Like many others, I was deeply saddened to hear about Leonard Nimoy’s passing. He was a great actor, but more importantly, a wonderful advocate who used his fame to raise awareness about the health dangers of smoking, and to serve as a role model who had quit.
For those of you who are non-Trekkies, Nimoy portrayed the character of Spock, the son of a logic-driven Vulcan father and an Earth-born mother. While he usually deferred to his empirical instincts, he did, in intense situations, react with human traits of concern, excitement, and relief, particularly in when he discovered his friend, Captain Kirk, had returned safely from that episode’s perilous dangers. In many ways, Spock embodied the tension we all have—torn between our rational, logical selves and our more emotional, and reaction-driven selves. And his careful logic made his sparing emotive outbursts that more endearing to fans, because it showed that even the most analytical mind—when concerned for another— could not fully disengage and address the occurrences dispassionately.
Star Trek was incredible for many reasons, but most significantly was that it represented a brighter tomorrow. Sandwiched between the Korean and Vietnam Wars, and smack in the middle of the Space Race and the Cold War, Star Trek represented the future we all wanted—our hopes for what life could be like. Threats against peace were from galaxies unknown, not neighboring countries, and humans from across the globe worked together to save inter-galactic species in need.
And the technology, well, it was nothing short of amazing.
When I think about Sick Bay and contrast it to hospitals in the 1960s, such advancements seemed light years away. Imagine: it was only ten short years earlier that we had developed the polio vaccine, and we still used the iron lung. But on the US Enterprise, they had developed the technology that enabled them to use a small hand-held device to scan and diagnose a patient, and their vaccinations seemed more akin to present-day automatic air fresheners, than a shot.
But we’ve come a long way, and although we can’t teleport our patients (yet), when I think about the fact that we are able to scan a subcutaneous sensor in patients with an internal insulin pump to see their blood sugar level trends, it seems the Star Trek future isn’t that far off. Wearable devices monitor our heart rates, much like Dr. McCoy was able to do for scouting parties who beamed down to a planet on a new quest. We’re starting to see that future come into sharper focus—most notably with the Tricorder X-Prize (which is now down to 10 finalists and plans to and move into consumer testing this year!)
And the best part is that in that highly-evolved tomorrow, compassion was key– and even the most logical Mr. Spock defied his genetics to express genuine emotion toward his friends. The future may hold holographic virtual assistants, but the respect and bond between fellow men and women will always be of the utmost importance.
May you live long and prosper.