Thursday, May 25, 2006

Another Advance to Take Us Backward

I read a story in the Globe and Mail today about the potential for a real-life invisibility cloak. It certainly seems to be an interesting concept. And somehow the idea just seems to make sense. My problem with it is that if it becomes reality, then there is a tool for yet more things to not be as they appear to be. I often think that as a culture, we are becoming incredibly de-sensitized to everyday deception, which is why you'll really dislike my bigger criticism: Such a thing is lazy.
There is an art to concealment. Stealth requires skill. This type of technology takes those things out of the equation. Most people don't know that there was an entire unit in the European theatre in WWII that was dedicated to camoflage and deception. I didn't know until I recently read a book about them. I lament that such things are now reduced to technology, because people will stop thinking about the kind of understnding that goes into cultivating such skills. Once people stop thinking about enough things, then they just stop thinking. It is the kind of development that makes be recall C.M. Korbluth's book, The Marching Morons. If you haven't read it, the nutshell is this: Several centuries in the future, scientific advances have progressed to the point where society still works, despite the fact that its smarter people have slowed their birth rates down to a trickle, in large part because they are the ones always on the run and propping society up. Why is this necessary? Because the less-intelligent haven't stopped their breeding in higher numbers. Social policies compounded the problem, by offering perverse incentives to these same people to breed. Before you say "conservative propaganda", I will tell you that it was written in the 1950's, and I have found it to be strangely prophetic. A person from a more self-reliant era, through no fault of his own is discovered in a state of suspended animation. When briefed on life in his new century, he asked why the smart people didn't just go away. He was told that they did, and the wholesale death and suffering in a world that couldn't take care of itself was too much to bear. They came back, and spent years cleaning up the mess. The man from the past then came up with the idea to promote travel to the colonies on Mars. There were no colonies on Mars. The "morons" boarded rockets that went into space. They just didn't go anywhere after that. The leader who executed the plan committed suicide, and the humanity got a second chance to be all it could be. Not a happy ending, but neither is to one our leaders are taking us to. Maybe I'm just reading something into it, or MAYBE I'm on to something.

Read the story yourself: