FILE — Retired astronaut Chris Hadfield presented the history of Canada for his Canada 150 tour at the Vernon and District Performing Arts Centre in May. (Carli Berry/Black Press)

Astronaut Chris Hadfield reflects on technology, privilege and responsibility

Canadian is in the Kootenays to speak at the Columbia Basin Symposium

Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield is in the Kootenays to speak at the Columbia Basin Symposium this weekend.

Friday morning Hadfield spent half an hour talking to the media. He started out the conversation by responding to a question about what kind of messages he would like to pass on to young people.

“The things we accomplish in life are kind of a reflection of the edges of our expectations,” he said. “Often our accomplishments in life are sort of limited by the horizons we have seen growing up. A large part as one of Canada’s astronauts where I have had tremendous privilege, but also a pretty amazing perspective — is to let other people perhaps see opportunities that they might not have realized existed.”

When Hadfield speaks to students in Cranbrook later on Friday, he said he will feel his talk is successful if, “…the students come away with a slightly expanded view of the world and their place in it.”

He also spoke about the advantages that human invention has brought to the world.

“We are at an absolute zenith of quality of life around the world,” said Hadfield. He listed the eradication or near eradication of diseases such as smallpox and polio and the jump in global literacy rates.

“It’s technology and human inventiveness that allow those types of things to happen,” added Hadfield. “I think that is something to focus on … What do we need to do next and where should we be focusing?”

“What should people be doing here in the Columbia Basin next week? Thinking about their role within the province, their role within Canada, and Canada’s role within the world. To me, that is really the focus of what we ought to be looking at.

“When you get to ride on some of the most cutting-edge technology and see the world in a way we have never seen it before, makes you think about all of those opportunities but also responsibilities. With privilege, which I have been lucky to receive so much of, comes, I think, also a great level of responsibility.”

Hadfield spoke to the fact that technology can only go so far — it takes humans to interpret the facts in a meaningful way.

“Exploration isn’t just scientific and technical, it’s human — otherwise we would just send robots to do it,” he said. “Robots don’t care — we are the ones that matter. To have people interpreting what is happening is what is of real value and interest.”

“Onboard the space station it seems a little remote and technical and clinical, but it is actually just six people up there,” explained Hadfield. “They are imperfect and doing their best and they are six emissaries of the other seven and a half billion on the surface.”

Hadfield was happy to come to this corner of Canada, and as a skier, he said he was looking outside and wishing the snow was falling heavier.

“The Columbia Basin Trust that you folks have — what a lovely legacy, what an enabling organization in order for people to see beyond just the regular day-to-day,” said Hadfield of the organization that is sponsoring the event and asked him to be their keynote speaker.

The symposium — SHIFT! Thriving in Change — is taking place in Kimberley, but will be streaming online at symposium.ourtrust.org/live/.

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