“Belgium's little Einstein”, isn't, yet.

In response to “‘Belgium’s little Einstein’: The 11 year old boy who is the world’s youngest science graduate”, The Brussels Times, Monday, 14 March 2022.

Laurent Simons, the world's youngest to have earned a Bachelor of Science in Physics at age eleven, may rank his smarts among Einstein, but he certainly lacks Einstein's wisdom, for now. By Laurent's own admission: “During my bachelor’s there was a stupid ethics course”, and, concerning his wish to invent an immortality pill, “He admits he hasn’t thought through the ethical questions.”

This is a warning sign because the use of science for good or evil depends on a person's well calibrated moral compass. Thus, Laurent's dislike for ethics puts him at a crossroads early on. Especially considering he's being inundated with seed funding from multiple billionaires, a group of people who generally do not reach their goals by adhering to virtuous ethical standards, but relentless profit motives. Hence, the oxymoron “moral billionaire”; one cannot be moral and a billionaire simultaneously since such greed in no small part expedites poverty and rising wealth inequality. Therefore, Laurent should invent a morality pill first. After all, what good is The Giving Pledge—multimillionaires promising to give away their wealth before or upon their death—if they become immortal. To no surprise they are grooming him with money, and it seems to be working: “When not studying quantum optics, he dabbles in stocks – and cryptocurrencies”. Sigh. Just as one of the greatest physicists Isaac Newton fell for the South Sea Bubble, the now youngest physicist fell for fly-by-night digital pyramid/Ponzi schemes. It goes to show that scientists are not exalted above the rest of us; being prodigious at one thing doesn't automatically translate toward another.

Conversely, Einstein was a cosmopolitan who frequently engaged in philosophical discourse. God, “He does not play dice”, he said, and so shouldn't Laurent. It is a dangerous venture; where a cosmic black hole devours light and matter, a financial black hole devours the soul. If immortality is something humanity would like, can handle, let alone deserves, then Laurent should realise the fastest way to get there is not by the rich placing their bets on one person, so they can live longer, but by not betting at all and ensuring we can all live longer, better. Ultimately, to be justifiably called “Belgium's little Einstein”, Laurent must equally understand that the eradication of poverty and meaningless work takes precedence. When everyone can contribute to the arts and science, only then we will become an immortal/spacefaring civilization, and only then we will deserve it.

“Einstein struck a more serious pose when he addressed the Caltech student body near the end of his stay. His sermon, grounded in his humanistic outlook, was on how science had not yet been harnessed to do more good than harm. During war it gave people “the means to poison and mutilate one another,” and in peacetime it “has made our lives hurried and uncertain.” Instead of being a liberating force, “it has enslaved men to machines” by making them work “long wearisome hours mostly without joy in their labor.” Concern for making life better for ordinary humans must be the chief object of science. “Never forget this when you are pondering over your diagrams and equations!”” —Albert Einstein (1879–1955) []

—Angelino Desmet; 18 March 2022.
Edited: 27 March 2022.


  1. Walter Isaacson. Einstein: His life and universe. Simon & Schuster Paper- backs, 2017.


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