You won’t see a prominent scientist publicly discussing personal phone etiquette. Yet.

ONE OF THE GREATEST HOLLYWOOD CHARACTERS. Martin Short as Kevin Bacon’s uber-flakey agent in, “The Big Picture.”



When I moved from academia to Hollywood at the end of 1993 (nearly 20 years ago, yeeks!), the cultural differences between the two worlds were profound. Today, not as much.

The internet was just getting started back then, almost nobody had cell phones (pagers were the rage), and email was just taking off. Pretty much all “films” were still being shot and edited on actual film, not video.

In the years since, the computer has proven to be an enormous agent of homogenization. When I introduced the first batch of Scripps grad students in oceanography to Final Cut Pro (a widely used video editing program) in 2005, I warned the faculty there might be some problems, but there weren’t. They picked it up in a heartbeat — why wouldn’t they? Its just another program on their Mac laptops. Had I tried to show them how to use a Steenbeck film editing table (where you manually cut the film with a razor blade and tape it together with tape) it would have been days of pain and suffering. Times have changed.

But as similar as the various worlds of science, Hollywood, and everything else in our society have become, there are occasional reminders that the social dynamics have still not quite converged. Here’s a prime example.



Check out this item this week from Hollywood super agent Gavin Polone talking about “phone etiquette.” He makes no bones that there are people on his list whom he simply is not speaking to right now and will not return their calls.

Try to picture the day when a prominent scientist — say the Director of NIH or NCI or NASA interviewed in Science — talks about the people whose calls he’s not returning. You know they show the same behavior, but it’s still a different world, but for how long? Again, the lives of top scientists today look much more similar to the lives of top Hollywood moguls today than they did a couple of decades ago.

For better or worse, the world continues to homogenize itself.