Nichelle Nichols talks to a group of students at NASA Mission Control in 1977 and visits the Lewis Research center that same year.
In the mid-1970s, Nichols has given a speech that criticized NASA for not selecting women and people of color as astronaut candidates. The agency’s response was to hire her to find and recruit talented minorities and women, and she did exactly that. In her tenure as a recruiter, she helped the agency bring five women, three African American men and an Asian American male on board.
take a moment to appreciate the following:
NASA’s response to criticism was to hire their critic and ask her to help them fix it.
Nichols’s response to this was to do exactly that, rather than telling them to fix it themselves.
He lit seventeen cigarettes, because who the fuck cared. “I’m a man,” he announced to the room. “I’m a goddamn man and sometimes I have to make the tough decisions that no one asked me to make and my jaw looks like a shovel and I have an important job, so fuck you,” just in case someone was listening.
Let me tell you a little story about innovation and creativity. Years ago, I worked on a wiki-based project to find the first instance of ideas/techniques in video games (like the first game to use cameras as weapons, or the first game to have stealth as a play element). It excited me to dig to give credit to those who laid the foundations of ideas that we now take for granted. I couldn’t wait to show the world how creative and innovative these unknown game designers/developers were.
I went into it with much passion and excitement, but unexpectedly, it turned out that there were almost no “firsts”. Every time someone put up a game that was the first to do/contain something, there was another earlier game put up to replace it with a SLIGHTLY less sophisticated, or SLIGHTLY different version of the same thing. The gradient was so smooth and constant that eventually, the element we were focusing on lost meaning. It became an unremarkable point to address at all. We ended up constantly overwriting people’s work with smaller, less passionate articles, containing a bunch of crappy games that only technically were the first to do something in the crudest manner. Sometimes only aesthetically.
After a lot of time sunk into this project, I came to the conclusion that I was mistaken about innovation/creativity. It would have been a better project to track the path of ideas/techniques than to try to find the first instance of an idea/technique. I held innovation so highly for years before that, but after this project, I saw just how small it was. How it was but a tiny extension of the thoughts of millions before it. A tiny mutation of a microscopic speck that laid on top of a mountain. It was a valuable experience that helped me very much creatively.