When you dream of the future, what comes up? One picture is one of a high-tech, high speed, high powered computers, cars and spaceships. Normally we want to, you know, make our dreams come true, to make the future reality. If that is normally the case, why the hell do we insist on pissing away our opportunities?
Let’s at the first type of future – the dream of a better society brought about by numerous scientific and engineering innovations. Now, the decline and reversal of scientific innovation and progress has been well documented elsewhere. But I am not talking about anything like nuclear fusion, rotating space colonies, human cloning, or anything like that. I just want the simple shit. A lot the ideas, and concepts I’m thinking of are those that were spoken of in the 1990’s and early 2000s, stuff that can be done with proper project management skills, access to preferential capital, a morally upright technocratic elite and full corporate history that includes proper documentation of processes. Some of these will require the ability to push projects through without recourse to public ignorance opinion, and the willingness to abruptly cancel one’s own existing product line, with the associated capital. A lot of this however, will require skill and imagination that seems to have been systematically removed from skilled tradesmen, project managers, engineers and scientists.
Look at small nuclear reactors. Not even nuclear fusion. Just small nuclear reactors of 300 Megawattsth at most. They should be transportable, suitable for mass manufacture, and be meltdown resistant. This would make them be ideal for off-grid work like drilling oil shale (LOLIRONY!!), airports, military bases, or developing countries, especially island nations that have to provide their electrical needs with oil-based electrical grids. It could be as system like this one. As you can see, it’s been on the business plan binder stage since 1995. Never mind the few dozen or so that have been proposed since the middle ’00s.
How about aerospace? Again, I don’t need anything much, no Single-Stage to Orbit spaceplanes, hypersonic air-breathing passenger flights – none of that. Let’s look at some Mach Six air-breathing missiles. Well we have BrahMos……and not much else. This is something that was done before.
Again, I’m not asking for the creation of a titanium spaceplane, which has to have its engine and fuel tanks lined with gold to work. Yet in terms of aerospace development, the move to Mach 6 and above has been a backward, not a forward one. The Russians may have been making supersonic anti-ship missiles for years, but the Americans actually got a Mach 6 missile back in 1980. To wit:
X-51A test 4 (the final one) was successful. 4 minutes burn followed by 2 minutes coasting-down flight. Hydrocarbon-fueled scramjet burn at Mach 5.1. Compare that to ASALM-PTV flight test 1 of 7: accidental acceleration to Mach 6 on hydrocarbon fuel at only around 20,000 feet. ASALM-PTV was an ordinary ramjet, not a scramjet. This was done back in 1980.
Such performance has failed to repeat itself, despite numerous attempts with X-43, X-51, HyFly, Hyshot, RATTLRS and God knows what else.
“Oh come now, Satanforce, how can you ignore the changes in computers? Moore’s Law will save us! You yourself are using what amounts to a handheld supercomputer many times more powerful than your original 2005 PC. Never mind that fabulous laptop you’re typing this on. The you from 15 years ago would shit himself at the mere power oozing forth from the screen of your Dual Core Sandy Bridge!”
Umm, really? Then why the fuck does Word 2013 on that Dual Core take longer to open up than Word 2000 on my old piece of shit 800 Megahertz Pentium 3? Being able to download porn in 4K resolution is not technical advance – it’s a distraction. Besides, most of our x86 processors are just Pentium 3s with some extra stuff added on. Exciplex LASERs have improved, not computer architecture. Oh, and we had better ideas for phones and such gadgets back in the 00s anyway
Nano-nonsense notwithstanding, there is there really a good reason why we could not have flexible electronics, complete with flexible asynchronous processors and foldable screens by now? Nobody really gives a fuck about performance hits, people would rather be able to fold up their iPads into iPhones.
I know medical technology hasn’t progressed to level where we can do easy tissue engineering and nerve regeneration, but can why isn’t there any technology available to double my penis length? Last decade’s medical technologists stumbled upon Viagra and Caverject, women can double their ass and titty size and re-tighten their vaginas, so why can’t I come out of a cold shower with a 15 inch penis?
And so it goes. Much of the technologies that at the start of the Millennium we assumed would be a part of our modern society simply do not exist: In-Vitro meat, cheap carbon-fibre reinforced polymers, widespread gene and stem cell therapy, super-heavy wing-in-ground effect vehicles with 500+ ton payloads, stratospheric airships for 5G communication, caseless and plastic cased small arms ammunition, powered exoskeleton, reusable launch platforms worth a damn, and the list goes on.
Is the constant push more and better technologies merely the modern-day equivalent of pyramid-building. Perhaps, but there are real needs for much of these things. In-vitro meat than can be grown cheaper than farm animals would certainly help in the case of countries with a calorie deficit. Stem and gene therapy can also help with groups that suffer from certain diseases, like sickle-cell anemia or breast cancer.
While there may be several reasons as to why technological advancement between 1970 and 2020 pales in comparison to that of 1880 to 1960, I think they will all come down to very simple reasons , with the usual complex answers. To quote myself:
stuff that can be done with proper project management skills, access to preferential capital, a morally upright technocratic elite and full corporate history that includes proper documentation of processes. Some of these will require the ability to push projects through without recourse to public ignorance opinion, and the willingness to abruptly cancel one’s own existing product line, with the associated capital. A lot of this however, will require skill and imagination that seems to have been systematically removed from skilled tradesmen, project managers, engineers and scientists.
The above quote describes the solution to the failed processes that come out of a corrupt type of thinking. While this type of think is most usually associated with the denizens of Silicon Valley, the main ideas have so permeated Global institutions that they are taken for granted, even though a cursory examination of these ideas will show that they have no basis in factor reality. In the technical world, much of these are ideas that glorify Computationalism – the idea that bits are more important than atoms, that simulation is as good as reality. There is also the influence of neo-classical ideas in economic thinking, which include the Washington Consensus and trickle-down economics. Combine these two, and you get a worldview that favours control and mass communication , instead of the creation physical assets or heavy industry, control of inflation instead of full employment , stasis over change.
Or maybe all is right with the world. Maybe I’ve been staring at my screen for too long Maybe I just dream too much.