Wednesday, June 1, 2011

They came from Outer Space

No, not the groundbreaking comedy series about aliens from the planet Crouton (but that's awesome too).

If not more awesome.

There's a book called The Future as History. I referenced it in a book review a while back. It was published in 1960 and the premise I took away was the belief that technology would continue to advance at such a rate that it would solve any problems created. That was something I believed fervently when I was a kid, and I'm still inclined to believe it as an adult, with the following caveat.

Sometimes I think we're going to get to a point of diminishing returns with the benefit technology alone can give us. I think of it in terms of the Square-cube law as applied to animals (as the size of an animal is scaled up, the size (and therefore strength) of its muscles increases by the square of the scaling factor while its mass increases by the cube of the scaling factor, so the increased mass would very quickly outpace any increased strength, and likewise, because modern society is so complex, benefits arise as a square of new developments, and complications arise as a cube.

And that's not to say that new technologies should be adopted indiscriminately without thoughts for the consequences, but we shouldn't abandon them altogether, and more and more, that feels like what we're doing.

And I suppose that's why I'm feeling a little down about the last mission of the Space Shuttle Endeavour

Okay this was actually more awesome

When I was a kid, I wanted to be a astronaut. Well, for a long time, I was torn between astronaut and fireman, and then I learned that the latter put out fires instead of starting them. (*Cough* Mostly)

My grade school classes watched the shuttle launching and I grew up in the boonies. But the mood I remember we all seemed to think that our future would be in space.

(Obligatory: "I mean, did you really see a future with this girl?" "Like...with jetpacks?")

I asked two friends if you their experiences paralleled mine, but one of them called me when I was grocery shopping to tell me about Columbia exploding and the other has a Neil DeGrassi Tyson poster on her wall so they may be skewing my sample.

I was at a party once and the host was talking about how the space program was a waste of money. And I bit my tongue because it wasn't my friend making the statement and sometimes I do manage to resist the urge to yell ""You're wrong and let me tell you why!"

I doubt the Space Race paid for itself completely, but it did have considerable benefits, to US society and the world as a whole, and it was certainly better than having an even larger Arms race.

I think the thing that disappoints me the most about the scaling back of the space program is that it really fired the imagination of my generation and we don't have anything comparable anymore. I mentioned above that technology may not be able to solve all our problems, but it seems that more and more we've given up on even trying to use it to try.

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