I BROUGH T M Y KIDS TO THE PARK the other day and while they played I stood
by somewhat absently as my mind reeled over the everyday particulars of life:
the to-dos, the due dates, the drop-offs, the pick-ups, the missed calls, the car
repair, the grocery list… and what in the world was I going to put in this letter?
But in recalling the stories of this issue—especially our cover story on
nanomedicine—I realized that even in such a moment of trivial fixation, there was an
entire tiny universe at work inside of me, inside every one of us. A thought like that
is enough to give a serious moment of pause, and a serious shift in perspective. The
nanoscale is perfect foil to that classic “smallness” you feel while reflecting on our
familiar universe of planets and galaxies. Because between those two worlds, here
we are. And to occupy a place between two equally vast frontiers, you can’t help but
feel incredibly relevant—so simply, distinctively human—that it’s not so much our
existence that seems small, but rather the minutiae that so often consumes our lives.
Yet from another perspective, being human is hardly so simple. This becomes clear
when you consider the many scholars working to understand us—socially, cognitively,
not to mention mechanically—and bringing that understanding into the world of
robotics. Artificial intelligence was just the beginning; now we’re talking algorithmic
empathy, even synthetic emotions. This technology is not only astounding, but brings
into sharp relief the complexity of all that we do every day without a second thought.
I guess sometimes it takes a robot to show us the natural miracle that is humanity.
That’s why now more than ever, when it’s all too easy to be sucked into the black hole
of life’s laundry list, a fresh perspective is a thing of incredible value. I hope this issue
likewise lends a novel perspective that you can, in turn, pass on to others as well.
LETTER FROM THE EDITOR
GET MORE TRITON ONLINE
See UC San Diego’s robots (p. 32)
in action, not just falling asleep on
me like RUBI here.
Watch PLACAS (p. 26) performed live
and hear Paul Flores, ’95, in his own
Watch microrockets bubble their
way through stomach acid (p. 20)—
which isn’t as gross as it sounds.
Catch the Muir College pumpkin
drop, shake it out on the shake
table, and more!
TRITON | WINTER 2016 6