Updated: Nov 22, 2019
I am not a big movie goer but for some reason I began to receive calls and texts from across the nation, asking if I had seen Marvel’s AVENGERS: Endgame. I knew the movie was set to come out, as no one can avoid the continuous mass marketing and product placements across media platforms. Subconsciously, I questioned how memorable of a movie this would be for me... but I took their advice and went to see the movie on the Opening Sunday, two days after it premiered and had already broken records.
As we got to the theatre, I was looking around at the fans dressed in their favorite character costume. I saw a kid in Iron Man cosplay, someone else wearing a cape and numerous people sporting that ubiquitous Captain America T-shirt. As I sat at the bar and ordered a drink (Yes, in New Orleans there are bars in the movie theatre) a guy sat next to me and he had on a whole Thanos glove with the stones and all! I tried not to stare but kids kept coming up to touch his glove and he explained that he had seen the movie 3 times already.
As I watched the movie and observed people’s responses to certain scenes, I noticed how much STEM was incorporated into the plot. At the start, Mad Titan Thanos has already wiped out half of the universe after having collected the Infinity Stones - which possess reality-altering powers and are embedded in his gauntlet. Beloved heroes die, and now Captain America is tasked with going back in time to place the stones in their original locations and prevent the villain Thanos from collecting the Stones, killing superheroes, wiping out half of humanity.
A few prevalent STEM concepts jumped out at me, for example:
Physics of Time Travel: this area of science is what takes center stage during Avengers: Endgame as it becomes an important plot mechanism. Time Travel finds its roots in Albert Einstein's Theory of Special Relativity, discussing traveling forwards in time. However, there is no scientific basis yet for traveling back in time.
Quantum Mechanics: the second most important scientific field for the movie would have to be quantum physics. This is because the heroes take a tip for Ant-Man to shrink to the subatomic realm and navigate the Quantum Realm to pull off a time-heist. The movie treats the characters as subatomic particles, who are then free to go back in time.
A deeper drive will reveal applications of General Relativity, Wormhole Theory, Hydrodynamics, Levitation from Iron Man’s boots.
Watching the movie was like an Introduction to STEM class for the curious. The Falcon was flying, the genetic mutations of Hulk, the searing laser of Vision, the advance material science behind Captain America’s Vibranium shield and self-healing ability of the Black Panther are all STEM areas that can be explored and studied by students. People were ducking, screaming and cheering and then it happened! The reason why people wanted me to see the movie.
When Reality and Fantasy Worlds Collide
People aren’t suited with the skills required of STEM jobs because STEM education isn’t a readily-available opportunity for many. Nor is it something being ingrained or even presented early enough - or often enough - in a child’s life. ID Tech
Upon his return, an older Captain America decides to crown Sam Wilson, The Falcon (played by my younger brother Anthony Mackie) as the new Captain America and a new timeline (or split reality) is created. And wow, I am sitting there in shock as my real brother is crowned the new Captain America in this fantasy universe.
Proud and elated, I sat there thinking that the damage inflicted by Thanos would be reversed by the use of STEM theories to restore balance in the World; however the parallel to the real world was not lost on me. Thanos was the disruptor in this fantasy universe and all good people came together combining their knowledge, wisdom, expertise and powers to restore order and balance. In reality, we are now living during a Time of mass technological disruption that cannot be reversed.
We are now living in a time where not Thanos but technology is disrupting the world as we know it. The problem and challenge facing mankind is that (unlike in The Avengers) we cannot go back in time and bring balance back to the world. It is estimated that automation, artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, the Internet of Things (IoT), etc. will displace millions of workers in the near-future! McDonald’s is already testing cashier kiosks, There’s robotic barista that can make 120 cups of coffee an hour, an automatic hamburger maker that can make 200 hamburgers an hour, Walmart is using robots to stock shelves, Amazon has fully automatic warehouses and self driven autonomous trucks and cars stand to displace millions!
STEM For All: Making Sure No One is Left Behind
As you might already know, STEM is an economic driver to be reckoned with and the evidence is glaringly obvious. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Out of 100 STEM occupations, 93% of them had wages above the national average.” Additionally, Change the Equation asserts that:
STEM jobs are projected to grow 13%. Between 2017 and 2027, the number of STEM jobs will grow 13%, compared to 9 percent for non-STEM jobs—with positions in computing, engineering, and advanced manufacturing leading the way.
We must become STEM literate to catch and fully participate in the innovation wave. Thanos and Captain America are fantasy but technological disruption is here. Somebody must wake up the people and let them know that the Thanos of our time is coming! As a nation we must move to a posture of STEM for all. Parents, educators, politicians and industry leaders must commit to making sure all communities are STEM literate and advancing in this new world.
It is no secret that new technologies have disproportionately displaced workers and permanently changed the way we do things. I hope this article helps you assess your adaptability and prepare us all for the very real, disruptive power of technology. Because if we don’t adapt, we have everything to lose.
Technological change is creeping up on people and we don't always see it for what it is! Let's act before it's too late, because unlike the Marvel universe, there won't be a Captain America who goes back in time to save the world. That is to say: Captain America is fantasy, technological disruption is real.