Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Remember when MTV played music videos? Remember when NASA went to the MOON??

In the 1960s, one of the greatest technological advances known to mankind emerged from the imaginations of many to the welcome arms of ambitious dreamers. Of course, I'm talking about The Pill. Now that scientist had that pesky risk of pregnancy with carefree sex out of the way, they could really get to work. A horny mind is an occupied one, and a mind with numerous unplanned offspring is one that's on permanent vacation.

With this renewed, relaxed vigor, science and President Kennedy, who himself was surely high fiving himself on the birth control's creation, forged into what would be one of the largest scientific endeavors ever taken on by us walking meat bags. Kennedy gave a speech in 1962 to Rice University, and while I don't have that verbatim, the idea of it was to dream, set goals for that dream, and get that done...no matter how difficult or seemingly impossible. Of course, by claiming that we would reach the moon and back within the decade, he was tasking hundreds, even thousands of others to fulfill his own goals, which must be a perk of being the leader of the free world, as I have trouble getting my friends to help me move when the time comes. I guess I have to offer them patent rights and vast sums of money versus pizza and beer. Oddly enough, increasing the amounts of either of these combinations renders the payee incrementally useless. When Kennedy was killed a little over a year after making that promise...well, in a word...we got shit done.

Everyone involved felt a tribute to a great man was in order, and if the moon is what the man wanted, that's what the man got. Over the next six years, science, technology and testicle size of the people at NASA grew at an unmatched, incredible rate. Every time they would hit a brick wall in terms of ideas or processes, they would just have to find a new way around, instead of reinforcing the front end of whatever hit that wall. They would dream big, think big, get small results, and use those small results to dream bigger and move forward. Can you imagine how bad those guys got hit with the 'we can put a man on the moon, but...' scenario? I mean we use that scrutiny on each other just from being from the same country that happened to send a human into space flight. The actual people must of been brutalized at home: "I see. You can put a man on the moon and have him survive the vacuum of space for more than a week, but you can't put the toilet seat down!?!"

Anyhow, at the time Kennedy died, they had not created, flown or tested any of the actual vehicles that would take three men to the moon, allow two to jump out, have a look around, then all of em shoot back home to sit in a Winnebago with an admiring Dick Nixon on the other side of the glass. In six years. It's now been forty-one. How many times back? Well, five. Would of been six had Kevin Bacon not stirred those oxygen tanks. But that's also five in three years after the first. How many times back since then? Zero.

The program never died really. Just went into a phase of putting to use all that had been acquired, which really only meant something to the people involved in the program. I liken it to Halloween when I was a kid. Everyone paid attention and produced a lot of hoopla when I would get dressed up and go out trick or treating. Once I got home with my massive amounts of candy, no one cared what I did anymore, just as long as I didn't spoil my dinner. Apparently, it was all about the spectacle of me going out there, with the result just at a "meh".  That was discouraging to me, because my whole purpose was my result. I went outside, sometimes looking ridiculous and acquired all these things through my own hard work and now have them all at my disposal, and NOBODY cares??? I mean look...I even got a king size Snickers! I know those came out a few years back...but it's still A KING SIZED SNICKERS. Oh well, more for me. Then, as I grew up, Halloween became less and less important, and soon I was buying all the candy myself, so it wasn't too exciting any more.

All clever allusions to my storied childhood aside, we lost that desire to break the brick wall. Or, any more, to be impressed by the things that technology brings us. We all blindly purchase little pieces of tech that make lives easier, not realizing that years before it was state of the art, or just a tiny thought in someones head that seemed ridiculous and unpractical. Right now I'm typing this on a very outdated laptop that will soon go to my computer graveyard. It's a real thing. It's hallowed ground, since it contains both the computer I had when I discovered internet porn and the computer I had when I would play 'Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, The Graphic Adventure', which was a pretty epic game in my household.  The thing that should be amazing to me now is that this outdated, crappy laptop has 2000X the computing power that we had in a craft that flew and landed on the moon.

The point? I don't know that I ever have a point. But the idea is...why haven't we gone back? The technology that got us there to begin with is over forty years old, and based on how fast my laptop earned 'crappy' status, I'd say that we could probably do it with our eyes closed, backwards, on a rainy day with a hangover with absolutely no trouble. The problem? People lack imagination any more. Everyone is very wound up in filling the status quo. Outside thinking anymore is considered frivolous and cost inefficient. Not to mention that there are more pressing social, political and global concerns before we pump another $25.4 billion($170 billion in today money) into some spacemen playing golf on some dusty rock in the sky.

But maybe we need a re-introduction of imagination. I mean, yeah, we've been there, done that...but maybe by getting back there will make use our considerable resources and imagination to get further.With our unemployment rate so high, I think a reactor plant on Mars as depicted in Total Recall could be the ticket to some new jobs for folks.

The status quo bores me anymore, and is constantly changing anyhow. Look what we did in six years. What could we accomplish if another goal was set? I'm up for the challenge. As long as a bunch of other people can do all that science-y stuff.

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