Andrew Rader he is an author and aerospace engineer with a PhD at MIT, a podcaster and, as he defines himself, a “curious explorer of humanity and technology.” Passionate about knowledge, the constantly moving expansion of the visible world, in deep correlation with our inner world, he proposes in his volume, Beyond the known world, published by Corinth Publishing House, a history, a philosophical meditation and a deeply personal perspective on how in which the journey and discoveries refine our identity and transform us humanly.
Andrew Rader writes about Polynesians arriving in South America, about Ibn Batutta, a 14th-century traveler crossing Africa, the Middle East, Central Asia, about the Romans arriving in China, about Cook, Magellan, Columbus and Elon Musk. another, about the uncontrollable need to comprehend the mind with the world. Is it instinct? Is it a vocation? Is it poetry that fuels the progress of technology? I read it with delight and I enjoyed a little this conversation in which we opened wide the windows of the Zoom and, on the way to Mars, we stopped sometimes at Pompeii, sometimes at Rome, sometimes in our individual loneliness and collective alike. It was nice. I would leave.
The urge to explore. latch
I think I’ve been following this idea all my life. I was always thinking about what sets us apart from the rest of the living things. There are many things – speech, the size of the human brain, but a very important aspect would be technology. I wondered where this technology came from, how it took shape. When I was little, people asked me what I wanted to do in life and I, who was very interested in Star Trek, said I wanted to build cars to get to the stars. After years of reflection, we have come to the conclusion that in order to develop new technologies, we must always push our own limits. Progress means the effort to take another step in the desired direction. This is how technology has always been integrated into history. Through constant challenge. Basically, we set a target, after which, in order to reach the desired target, we develop a technology, possibly applicable in several fields. I think this is the story of the evolution of technology, and exploration is one of those major vectors of human history that has made us always invent other and other things.
What you learned about the world
The most interesting thing was how connected we are, in fact. We humans have always been explorers. Ever since we started our journey on this earth, we have followed the herds of animals in their migration, we have wondered what is beyond the horizon, what is behind that lake, what is beyond. Maybe there were other food resources, other materials, from which other tools could be made. Humans have always been curious, and this has been a great advantage, which has ultimately led to the survival of the species. The desire to explore novelty is common to all human tribes. It’s something that connects us to each other. I discovered fascinating things. I wondered what it was like in the skin of a man 2000 years ago. What did a novel know about Africa, for example, how the world seemed to him, and so on. They knew more than we are tempted to believe. One of the first maps of the world was created in Alexandria by Eratosthenes, a fabulous character, to whom we also owe our current calendar. People 2000 years ago knew pretty well what the Old World looked like, which I think is great!
If you walk the streets of Pompeii, you will be amazed at how similar those people are to us. They liked the theater, they liked the bars, they walked their dogs, they were not so different from us. The main difference remains the technology.
What has changed, though
Mainly the tools we have created along the way. We have always ventured into these explorations with technical means somewhere at the limit, because you can’t wait for the technology needed to explore a new space to appear. You have to embark on that journey and develop, along the way, the technology that you find you need. It is important to have visionaries like Elon Musk, who set out to go to Mars and developed the means of transport needed following a process that often involves failure and resumption of production. That means evolution. The evolution of technology is exactly like the processes of biological evolution. If something works, that something will replicate. It’s like a mutation that’s accepted and spreading. People are copying functional technologies. Ideas that don’t work don’t survive. All these changes are a consequence of the challenges of life, and the main challenge of humanity, over time, has been exploration.
The effects of accelerated evolution for future explorers
It’s hard to say. The more I try not to make predictions about the future of exploration, the more often I wake up in the position of doing them! This acceleration of technology is very easily noticeable, at least in certain areas. If you only look at the miniaturization of computers, you realize how much we have evolved in such a short time, we have microtechnologies now that would have been hard to imagine in a Star Trek version 30-40 years ago. This is not the case in other areas. I arrived on the moon 50 years ago, but I haven’t evolved much since. That’s also because we haven’t planned much in this area. It all depends on the goals you set. What will change? I believe that we will live longer in the future, we will be able to slow down the aging process. A big question is floating around about our possible merger with technology. Will we end up implanting microchips in our brains, or will we perhaps load our consciousness into a computer? I don’t know what to say, that’s an interesting question. Probably humans will travel more easily off the planet, maybe even in other solar systems. It is inevitable that it will happen, because people will want such adventures. Expansion into space is therefore inevitable if we are to survive as a species long enough to complete this effort.
The biggest challenge when writing the book
The book is like a look at my mental flow. I think a lot about history and all these ideas, so for me it was a process of writing what I had in my heart. It was easy in terms of content, but the writing itself is a different story. One that requires discipline. I’m not convinced that I like sitting and writing so much, but I like the end result and the creative thinking that generates the whole process.
Exploration history, aerospace engineer, traveler. What do you choose?
I like all! I am a curious explorer of technology and humanity. I like to learn as much as possible and I think that, to a certain extent, this is the meaning of life for me. People are always looking for a meaning in life, and for me it’s mainly about curiosity and learning. Learning is one of the most enjoyable human activities. This is true for everyone at a certain age. When you are little, you explore the world around you and absorb as much information as you can about it. You love finding new things. It would be great if we could keep this enthusiasm going for the rest of our lives. It’s priceless.
Isolation and travel
Some participation still exists. People’s behavior changed a little, they were more online … It’s weird that I, for one, thought I was more sociable during this time. I stayed more online and I reconnected with old friends through technology … but I really miss traveling! Now you can travel virtually anywhere, you can go to Rome or any other city from you, on the couch. People don’t really do that, though. Why? Because, strangely, the presence in that space is overwhelmingly important. So I think people will continue to travel. Virtual is compensatory, but it will not replace physical experience.
You are a licensed researcher at MIT, you also have a podcast …
The point of connection is curiosity. That motivates me. I always want to know new things.
The story of 10,000 years of exploring a child’s understanding
I think the desire to know more is innate, as I said. You know, animals are very … specialized, somehow. It favors a certain habitat, a certain type of food … People are more general. We eat just about anything, don’t we? We don’t have fangs or claws, we don’t have many defenses. We are naked monkeys. We need to defend ourselves and get food. But we have a big brain and the ability to make tools. That’s the technology. The fact that we cultivated our curiosity kept us alive. We specialize in our lack of specialization.
Favorite hero – in terms of travel
Yes, the Greek Pythias is one of my favorites. I didn’t know much about him. He went on foot to explore Europe more than 2,000 years ago, and many of the things that are familiar to us today come from his writings. He wrote about the ebb and flow, about the phases of the moon, he gave us all the vocabulary with which we describe the Arctic world, from glaciers to ice floes and much more. It’s a role model.
Where did this book take you?
First of all, it helped me meet a lot of new people. All sorts of opportunities have arisen. It’s easy nowadays. You come up with an idea and people are looking for you, they want to know more. It’s a very interesting experience.
Why do we always have to prove to ourselves that we are not alone in the Universe?
That’s the most interesting question possible. Are there still beings like us? It’s all about connection. I think, for people, the connection is closely related to well-being. We feel connected to the family, to the community, to the world. As inhabitants of the planet, we are looking for other beings like us in the Universe. Does it exist? Do they have similar experiences to ours? It’s like watching a movie. You identify with the characters, you find out things about yourself. It comforts you somehow that there are other people like you. It comforts you that you are not alone.
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