No worries, bro. We’ll get ya home. Hold on dude, the sci-calc app keeps crashing.
Just about 45 years ago, we landed on the Moon, or so the fashionable theory holds, and many at the time and ever after held to the fantasy that such was a stepping stone to a new era of human achievement; that humanity stood at the precipice of a century bursting with the boundlessness of a technologically fertile tomorrow.
Anything and everything would be possible once we completely stepped through the threshold.
Little did they know then or understand now that the threshold wasn’t through a doorway to a new tomorrow; rather it led us out the back door into the alley, a door that locks from the inside.
But wait a second, Huck,
you say, just wait one goddamn second here. We have some pretty bitchin’ technology, computers that fit in your hand. Hell, a digital watch today has more computing power than whatever they had headin’ to the Moon. C’mon.
First, we still do have some pretty cool technology today. But little in the way of genuine innovation or fresh ideas. The same type of artificial computing power is simply getting more efficient and convenient. In sum, though, it’s still an artificial computer, the basic idea and framework of which was conceived more than a century ago.
Diddo, the rocket engine.
Second, I’d like to point out that no, in fact, a digital watch today, in 2014, does not have “more computing power” than what the Apollo Program had available back in 1969. Notice the distinction I just made in the previous point. Artificial computing power is not the only game in town, and dare I say, it’s not even the most important. Artificial computing has been and for quite a while will continue to revolve around providing computational supplementation to the only innovative force the material world has available — human cognitive capacity. Human cognition is capable of problem-solving through imagination, and in many cases, through desperation, and that capacity is on the wane, measured by just about every available metric, headin’ south in a hurry.
All of this is why I laugh derisively when talk of a manned mission to Mars seeps in from the edges, because we simply don’t have the chops anymore. I would not want to be on such a mission, not due to the dangers inherent in space exploration, but due to the diminished capabilities of our supposed best and brightest; the ones who sure know how to tap things on a touchscreen device, but couldn’t perform basic trig log functions with paper and pen if the lights suddenly went out, you know, if they could even gather the composure to write anything down amid the screams and wails produced by their psychological breaks when things go wrong.
I would not want a Mission Control stuffed with Millennials, is basically what I’m trying to get at here.
While there are numerous reasons for this decline in human cognitive capacity, part of it I attempted to illustrate in the Wheeler Experiment posts – we think we know a lot more than we actually know, so a lot of the inferences and suppositions that were put into place to make the math work have become placeholders for our own ignorance, accepted as true because what else are you going to do. This breeds complacency, which is the foundation of creative laziness. We have dwindling cognitive resources devoted to refining that which is perhaps preposterous at the expense of developing true and beneficial innovation.
This is by no means the only cause, or only one of a dozen causes, but it’s a factor, and perhaps why we’ll never step foot upon the surface of the moon again in our lifetimes.