Sunday, December 8, 2013

The Importance of Dreaming

While soldering things together, I get a lot of time to think about the general course of technology and so forth. And I'm now old enough that I've personally seen a large chunk of the story arc. So rather than post a work update, I wanted to get out of my head a thought that's been rattling around for a while, but recent events have solidified.

Let's start with what sounds like the intro to a terrible, tragic joke: What do the the Newtown Shootings and the Space Program have in common? They are both ways an individual can leave their mark on history. I've been learning how Adam Lanza was apparently inspired by previous school shootings, and had newspaper clippings about such events going back a hundred years to one of America's earliest. He learned that such heinous acts were a path to notoriety, to fame, and he was right, because I just said his name, and you know who I mean.

Not too long ago, there were other ways of achieving such fame. You could become an Astronaut, and walk on the face of another world, for example. Granted it was unlikely - the first round of jobs generally went to the upstanding military types who had been kind enough to fight a war on their country's behalf, but the feeling was that soon we might all have the chance to do something that had never been done, to write our own small piece of the new history.

But that doesn't happen anymore. We aspire to efficient repetition, now. There are far less jobs around so new they don't have a name. There's a stagnant stability to our culture, and we've stopped doing the cool stuff because it was too difficult. No Concorde. No Space Shuttle. Not much to replace them. Maybe we'll go back to the moon next decade. Jupiter? Don't make us laugh.

Buzz Aldrin is reduced to punching bloggers in the face.

When the blue-sky options contract and all the papers talk about are the latest tragedy, when the walls of society close in, we lose something. Modern culture's mantra is that fame is all that matters, and if you're not born pretty or sporty in exploitable ways, there aren't many options left. A whole generation destined to die forgotten, ignored, because we withdrew the support structures and funding needed to feed those dreams.

We just passed discovery of the 1000th exoplanet. One seems to have water. There are, literally, new worlds to explore. But we think they're out of reach, so no-one cares.

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