This is your life and its ending one moment at a time.
― Chuck Palahniuk,
We are encouraged by everything around us to work on things that are important. Given the intrinsic differences between the messaging we are given explicitly and implicitly, its hard to really decide what’s important. Of course, if you work on what’s important you will personally make a bit more money. You really make a lot of money if you work specifically in the money making industry…
Where I’ve worked, the explicit message is that nuclear weapons are important. Science for nuclear weapons should be the sweet spot, but its not really. Part of the problem is that science sells itself to scientists. They actually have to pay us less to get us to do science. On the other hand, the implicit message for all of society is money is important. Nuclear weapon’ labs are no different, money is the most important things there too. Its become pretty clear that the same superficial value system present society-wide is at work there too.
At a personal level you also like to do interesting work. Sometimes interesting and challenging are equated. You get into science because it is both interesting and you’re good at it. Someone will pay you to do something you’re good at and is interesting. You convince yourself that it is good for society, good for your Nation, and the right thing to do. As you get older, some of these things start to come into question.
The messages you begin to get implicitly start to undermine all those things you convinced yourself of. Interesting work keeps you sane; important work keeps you paid. Maybe there isn’t much more that you can hope for.
Nothing of me is original. I am the combined effort of everyone I’ve ever known.
― Chuck Palahniuk