David Brin Talks about the Future of the Amateur Scientist

Back in the day, families in general seemed to do most of the work needed for themselves by themselves, since this was really required if a family was to simply survive the day. Over the past 100 years, the reliance on professionalism across the globe has steadily increased. The advantages to this “outsourcing of life’s primary needs” approach are endless… we have professional farmers that allow our refrigerators to be full with only a trip to the grocery store; we have professional protectors who work efficiently at keeping dangers as far away from our doorstep as possible without us even being aware of those dangers.

There is an already growing popularity of amateur research efforts in astronomy and environmental sciences, and how well they support current professional scientists is becoming more appreciated. David Brin, science fiction author and futurist, discusses how the effectiveness of the amateur is coming back into trend, and even the US Department of Defense is beginning to realize the potential power of millions of citizens with their on-the-spot observational abilities connected with their high-performing computers and imaging devices in their pockets (a.k.a. cell phones) (read more).

Mr. Brin predicts a turning-the-tide of sorts between the professional and amateur, where the deluge of professionals in this world is causing a plateau in progress as there are just so many people who can actually get a job being a professional… should everyone in the neighborhood really try to become a Ph.D. physicist to profess at the local university? The exponential increase in information and scientific data to be processed by the professionals is driving the need for the masses and their interest in science. And, with this growing citizen science interest, the amateur movement will likely become a critical component in the successful advancements in new scientific understanding in the future.

Do you think the role of the amateur will be so important, or should science-at-home be left to the realms of educating our kids and the happy hobbyist?

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Last updated January 18, 2022