Sunday, August 1, 2010

Das Brazil

  Hired a new kid yesterday.  As a part of the routine, he and the manager go to the office to finish paperwork, make phone calls to HQ and enter him into the computer.  As part of the routine, it doesn't want to stick, so the manager calls me on the phone to see if I have any ideas.  The problem is that it has started to cloud up, and if there is anything between us and outer space, it's not going to work.  As I make my way to the back it starts to rain, then hail.  The building is an old one, and it used to have high roof in the stockroom, but the various owners have added as they have seen fit, but never removed anything.  As a result, there is a tangle of pipes, ductwork, wires, rails, xenomorphs and so forth all piled on top of one another and holding each other up.  Hail hits ventilation pipes and rattles its way down making a characteristic sound.  I walk around the corner and hear ping...  ping...   ping ping pingpingpingping  open the office door and everyone is standing looking roofward.  For a second, I thought they were wearing khaki with lit cigarettes and headphones.  It doesn't help that the office is this dark claustrophobic enclosure with piles of paper on every available space.  It looked like Das Boot as visualized by Terry Gilliam.

  Anyway, we get the kid sorted out, and go forth to put stock on shelves.  As has been done a hundred times before, the kid shows off his strength by leaning over and picking up three cases at once.  I do the usual watch out for your back, he says no problem, I mumble about boxes not being designed for the human machine to lift, but don't push it.  He'll find out soon enough.

  Kids think they're immortal, grown ups know they are not.  One thing I've noticed is that the elderly love technology.  Go to a nursing home and ask "Who wants to be a cyborg?"  Dozens of hands will go up.  "Me Me Me, Pick Me!"  They'll say.  It's because they know what it was like before, and they appreciate every bit of technology which made their lives better. 

  I used to wonder why civilizations fell.  Why would Europe slip into the Dark Ages?  Why would the barbarians give up all that progress?  No, I don't think it was the entity known as "The Church" burning all the knowledge.  I think it was that the barbarians were younger, and like my new employee, didn't think they would ever need it.  Think of all the young regions and countries today.  Notice that they don't produce much in the way of ideas?

  Compare to Japan.  Everyone thinks Japan is on some sort of death spiral because of aging.  I disagree.  I think they are going to be on the forefront of the New World because they have to be; they need robots to do the work and technology to keep themselves going.  It's what bothers me most about immigration; why invent a better way of doing it when you can always throw another immigrant at the problem?


  1. The older I get, the more convinced of my own mortality I am.

  2. I adore technology and civilization. When asked by my Flying Buddy if I wanted to move to the bush with him and fly commercially, I gave him an absolutely aghast stare and replied, "I'm addicted to hot running water!"

  3. Dan Carlin's history podcast mentioned something like this some time back, in regards to Roman era technology. Essentially "why bother innovating when you can just buy more slaves to throw at the problem?" I'm afraid I can't recall the source of the argument, but he cited sources as late as (19th c. Brazil, I think) where slaveowners/dealers were lobbying against some new system or another - a waterworks, I want to say.

    And yes.. certainly nothing fosters an appreciation for technology like a breaking body. :)

    Finally.. I'm not so certain it was an issue of "don't think they'll need it" so much as "didn't have the cultural structure to support the technological infrastructure."

    It doesn't matter how much you *want* hot water - if you don't have a lot of people accustomed to the idea of "get up at a certain time, go rain or shine to the [mill/ power plant/ water works / whatever], *every single day*" - you don't keep the technological infrastructure running. The tribe is not the polis.

  4. Hello. I wandered on by via Lawdog's link. I am enjoying what you have written.

    That was a good point you made about youth and the fall of civilizations. I would never make it as a member of a barbarian horde... I adore the century I livein. Give me indoor plumbing! Instantaneous communication through voice or text! Give me strawberries all year round displayed for my buying pleasure at the very palace of the western technological world: The Grocery Store!

    I think younger people may not think they will need it, but I think they make an even deeper error. They do not realize how fragile such a world as this can be. The more complex a system becomes the easier it is to destabilize and crush it. They may not care what they smash or tear down not realizing how difficult to impossible it will be to re-create it.

  5. Gotchya bookmarked.
    Youra guud riter.

  6. But the Japanese will regret it, when the Boomers go rogue...