L. Neil Smith's
THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 244, October 26, 2003
"We're throwing away the future"
The Cresting of a Culture
Exclusive to TLE
I fear I just saw humanity throw away the stars.
Alone in Dallas for a week, making use of modern medical technology to produce a huge improvement in my life, I woke up in the middle of the night, too muzzy to read, and turned on the ijit box.
And was wide awake in minutes, watching one of the Corporate State's News-Like Channels covering the end of Concorde service with no replacement planned. "A gas-guzzler," the reporter intoned, "so loud that no nation would allow it to fly over their territory at supersonic speed." SARS and the jet-smashed World Trade Center were rung in (and wrung dry!), despite the lack of connection; threats of epidemic and reminders of the threats we must face unarmed put eyeballs on screens, don'cha know.
The once cutting-edge Concorde was a relic. The cockpit was all-analog, hundreds of meters and gauges not very different from the ones in a DC-3 except for their sheer numbers; the "flight computer" until very recently was a custom slide rule, and yet until the end, Concorde brought more individuals closer to space than any other vehicle. Even the Generic Field Reporter spoke wistfully of "flying at the very edge of space, you can see the curvature of the Earth. The sky becomes very dark."
Kiss it goodbye. Tickets for the last few flights sold out shortly after the announcement was made. "This may be the last civilian supersonic passenger transport in our lifetime," according to the News-ish Network.
Pilots commented that this event is unheard of. Never before has the speed of commercial transportion been reduced, and so drastically, from Mach 2 to a pitiful few hundred miles per hour.
The Roman Empire crested at Hadrian's Wall and thereafter retreated slowly, step-by-step, so gradually that few people noticed that with every year, there was a little less.
The Western Empire, did we crest at the Moon? If we did, surely the death of Concorde is akin to the last of Rome's Legions departing Britain. And the most troubling sign is not that Concorde is no more, but that we watch it's passing with such complacency.
Alone in Dallas to better myself, I turned on the television and for just a few minutes wondered why I bothered at all.
We're throwing away the future. We have seen the stars, and meekly followed the State back to our mud puddles and sandboxes.
It doesn't have to be this way. With Concorde gone, a niche exists for high-cost, high-profit high speed transatlantic service. If that niche is filled, it will be a very good sign.