I was intrigued initially by the title of the new film “Hidden Figures” and then realised that it was about mathematicians at NASA. In particular black, female mathematicians and their vital contribution to NASA space exploration and the moon landing.
We Three Queens
It is hard to comprehend the segregation that was widespread in America. Yet sadly, it has become increasingly apparent that America continues to struggle with an undercurrent of racism. Hidden Figures is a wonderful movie, telling the story of three women in particular, Katherine Johnson (Taraji Henson); Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer) and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monae). Frankly, these three shame my own mathematical abilities, but I guess that at least financial planning isn’t rocket science. They were true pioneers and wonderful examples of determination, despite obstacles designed to deliberately impede, thwart and oppress.
There are messages within the story beyond that of challenging racist attitudes. These women faced the constant threat of being made redundant due to the advances in technology. Today the device that you are reading this from probably has more computing power than Apollo 11 enjoyed. The challenge of technology replacing people, is a real one. In every field there is the prospect of computers doing the work more effectively. In my field, we call it robo-advice. Some are very concerned for their future.
Being right, Being present, Being human
It seems to me, that most of us enjoy and appreciate the advantages of technology, yet still prefer to deal with a real person. Being right isn’t the same as being present, or being able to dialogue thoughtfully. The problems seem to arise when we treat each other as less than people, inhuman, something that Johnson, Vaughan and Jackson fought against with enormous courage and dignity.
Here is the trailer. I think it’s my favourite of this year’s short-list for Best Picture. The audience at the local Wimbledon Odeon cheered and clapped, not something that happens regularly. Perhaps because, for me, it reveals both the worst and the best of America.
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