birdwatcher (birdwatcher) wrote,
birdwatcher
birdwatcher

OK

Scott Aaronson -- I also vividly remember a conversation in 2013 where Steve [Wiesner] shared his fears about the American physics establishment and military-industrial complex, and passionately urged me to

- quit academia and get a “real job,” and
- flee the US immediately and move my family to Israel, because of a wave of fascism and antisemitism that was about to sweep the US, just like Germany in the 1930s.

I politely nodded along, pointing out that my Israeli wife and I had considered living in Israel but the job opportunities were better in US, silently wondering when Steve had gone completely off his rocker. Today, Steve’s urgent warning about an impending fascist takeover of the US seems … uh, slightly less crazy than it did in 2013? Maybe, just like with quantum money, Wiesner was simply too far ahead of his time to sound sane.

Wiesner also talked to me about his father, Jerome Wiesner, who was a legendary president of MIT—still spoken about in reverent tones when I taught there—as well as the chief science advisor to John F. Kennedy. One of JFK’s most famous decisions was to override the elder Wiesner’s fervent opposition to sending humans to the moon (Wiesner thought it a waste of money, as robots could do the same science for vastly cheaper).
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