Sunday, December 9, 2012

45 Years: Saturn V to iPhone V

This is a cautionary tale for any society that changes its focus from Science and Engineering to Marketing and Finance...

Saturn 5

Built: 1967 (USA)

Weight: 6.2 million pounds

Velocity: 24,500 miles per hour (translunar)

Payload: 260,000 pounds
- 3 crew
- Lunar module
- Command module
- Service module

Mission: Fly to moon (240,000 miles), orbit, land, return

iPhone 5

Built: 2012 (China)

Weight: 112 grams

Mission: Phone, email, calendar, Angry Birds

Growing up in the 1970s, we thought given the pace of change we had seen up until that point in time i.e. man's first flight (1903) to lunar landing (1969), that we would be living on the moon by 1999. Granted, given these "special effects", we should have known at the time, that something was going very wrong...

Instead, the debate today is whether or not the country can afford food stamps for the ever-increasing number of people dependent upon them. $400 million dollar fighter jets that kill their pilots are still in budget, however, food for impoverished children, well, we have to draw the line somewhere...And just today, the latest numbers show another 1 million Americans fell below the poverty line just in the past two months...

Back in the late 1980s we heard stories about people in the Soviet Union lining up for two hours to buy toilet paper because all resources were being directed to the military to keep pace with the Cold War Arms Race.  American military strategists at the time, said it was only a matter of time before the Soviets would be forced to choose bread over tanks and aircraft - if only to maintain civil order. It didn't take long of course until they were proven right. Twenty years later, and the U.S. faces the exact same choice. That's what happens to a society that has it too easy for too long - it throws it all away, while being too clueless to realize it's going. When a society is far more preoccupied with how things look than how things really are, then decline is inevitable.

One hundred years from now, if the human race survives, historians will say that at the end of the Cold War arms race, the Soviet Union collapsed from economic exhaustion...not too long afterwards, on an historical scale, the U.S. collapsed as well...