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when everybody is a hero, nobody will be... really?

I love cartoons. I enjoy very much watching them with my kids. However, sometimes I am very concerned about the message they transmit. This is a subject that can go on and on – I am sure you will agree. However, what I am going to elaborate on today is about an idea given in one of these animated films. In one scene of the instant classic “The Incredibles”, the villain, who is an evil-genius, argues that he wants everybody to become a super hero using his inventions, because “when everybody is a hero, nobody will be”. Brilliant! ... Is it? May be. However, I believe this is a fallacy. Here is my argument.

While talking to my son, he asked me: “why did you get a PhD?” Then, he continued “It is too hard. You are working all the time”. You can imagine the answers and reasons I gave to him... “You need to get a career" … "it is to build for your future"… "blah, blah, blah”. Yes, I say this because that is the way it felt, like “blah, blah, blah”.

The conversation went on and his argument evolved on the question “why everybody needs to go to college?” This is a valid and difficult question to answer, if you don't want to sound like "blah blah blah". Yes, it is very hard to answer this without being vague. This problem went around my head for quite a while – I am a scientist, so I can’t help it. Then, a spark in my head made me remember the villain’s argument about everybody being a super hero. This is how: The current world is a complicated one. During the past decade, we have witnessed a technological explosion that has led us to consume more than ever. Along with this resource hunger, we have also become addicted to information. Everybody I know navigates the internet everyday. We have become information junkies – infojunkies. The web is rich in valuable information and yet is also rich in junk. So, how do we tell them apart? This is a crucial question to be answered. Can you really regulate the web? I don’t think so. Trying to do this will generate all kind of troubles, including 1st amendment extremists crying out loud and information kamikazes incrementing the amount of junk on the web. It will be a circus and to solve this mess we will need a super hero.

A super hero!?... Eureka! This is the answer to my son’s question. Yes! The world, in which we live now, demands citizens with higher education. We are at the point that, in many areas, our technical capabilities are far superior to our own ability to use those technologies. The simplest example is as common as driving. We have the technology to create car, better and more efficient every year. However, we are far from being great drivers. Just look at the traffic accident statistics and you will see. Another example is genetic. We have sequenced the human genome and yet, we don’t really know how the genetic and epigenetic processes make us what we are. On ecological issues, we have driven our environment to the verge of a ecological catastrophe and yet, we can’t even agree on how to revert this trend – it looks like politics and scientific facts don’t mix. For these and many reasons is critical to educate us and, first and foremost, to educate our kids. We have to become heroes, because “when everybody is a hero, everybody will be”.


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