The Fun in Fusion (v. Survival)

Posted by Rezwan Razani on Feb 27, 2012 at 05:26 PM
What do you think about this? Let us know in the comments below!

The pursuit of fusion is intrinsically fun.  Here we are, boldly seeking the energy of the twinkling stars. How cool is that?  And yet, the restrictive logic of short term ROI, next elections, jobs programs and security dominates the conversation.

Survival:  Important

In the wake of the FY2013 fusion budget cuts, the “Save the Alcator C-Mod” initiative has been very successful in gathering support for fusion.  Their site describes the crisis in serious and sobering terms.  The loss of the C-Mod will hinder the effort to develop magnetic fusion: a potential source of safe and abundant clean energy.  It will result in the loss of future generations of scientists.  It will impede the growth of US technology and lead to massive job loss.

The ASP White Paper lists energy independence, a clean environment, a thriving economy, american competitiveness and averting nuclear proliferation as the key reasons to pursue fusion. 

The need for short term ROI and low risk likewise hampers the fusion effort, as described in this post on confronting perceptions and this post on fast track peer review.

Charles Seife takes an alarmist tone about the “unfathomable wealth” allegedly squandered by fusion researchers.  Likewise, one often hears that “fusion has a credibility problem.”

These are all very serious issues and perceptions that must be addressed.  And yet, if we focus on them exclusively, we enter into a gloomy spirit.  Is this the best spirit in which to take on fusion?  Is there more force available with a different emphasis?  Let’s explore.

Fun:  Underrated, Subversive, Leverage-able

In Get Back in the Box:  Innovation from the Inside Out, Douglas Rushkoff writes:

Except for a random catastrophe completely out of our control, we pretty much know for certain that we are both going to be just fine.  So why do we motivate ourselves and everyone else in our lives by acting as if our very survival were in question? 

The language and logic of business are organized around the survival instinct, even when survival is not in question.

This is inefficient, unprofitable, and, perhaps worst of all, depressing…

Instead of relentlessly pursuing survival even after our survival needs are met, we must learn how to do things because they fulfill us - because they are, in a word, fun. 

Fun is not a distraction from work or a drain on our revenue; it is the very source of both our inspiration and our value. A genuine sense of play ignites our creativity, eases communication, promotes goodwill and engenders loyalty, yet we tend to shun it as detrimental to the seriousness with which we think we need to approach our businesses and careers…

[and, we might add, quests for fusion].

Be Honest, You’re Not Really Motivated by Survival

The Rushkoff quote shines light on a troubling aspect of human priorities.  The “survival” we seem to care most about is not long term survival, but short term and narrow in scope.  We use very serious “survival” rationalization for jobs we don’t like, the bottom line, the next election.  We cling to a zero sum paradigm, we sell out other projects to insure the funding of our own.  Long term, more fundamental survival - not so much. 

If we were really concerned about survival as a species, if we cared about global sustainability and leaving a better world for the future, or creatively solving the big problems and bringing about fantastic wealth for everyone we would have funded fusion to the fullest a long time ago.  (Many of us would also have stopped smoking and started exercising).

Some are of the school of thought that we need to change people (ourselves), get them (us) to prioritize the deeper survival issues against these short term matters.

Or, as Rushkoff suggests, we could just bypass that tense and depressing conversation and release the Fun!  The generous and playful spirit that can drive us to great heights.  To begin with, what is at the heart of the fusion endeavor?  It’s a classic quest.  Theft of fire from the Gods (or cosmos, as the case may be).  The ultimate joy ride. 

Let’s not wallow in petty survival rationalizations.  Let’s kick some fusion @$&!  Here’s “pro fusion culture” as a point of departure.

Cool Guys Don’t Look at Explosions

I’m ending this post with a video.  This one reminds me of my friends in fusion, conducting ridiculously cool experiments at insane temperatures and densities, explosions and implosions at a scale that defies - well, that are hard to look at (or to bear seeing) without an array of instruments. 


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* Have fun with fusion. 
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* At the same time! 

Points of departure:
Story Time
Fusion Food
Retail Therapy
Games and Apps
Science Stim

Related Q:  Does analytical thinking turn people off to fusion?

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