Well, There is an Answer to This Question, Of Course.

Far from showing how swiftly the world is advancing, the Phoenix mission is another dispiriting reminder of how the pace of change in the world is regressing.

It\’s 2008, for Pete\’s sake. Weren\’t we supposed to be taking holidays on Mars by 2008? When we watched Star Trek as children, didn\’t we assume that by the 21st century we\’d be in silver one-piece suits, visiting galaxies, meeting aliens with eyeballs the size of watermelons and nostril foliage like an upturned version of Don King\’s hairdo? In fact, we can barely travel across London without havoc (what happened to those personal jetpacks we were promised?). Japan\’s Bullet Train is almost half a century old and we still haven\’t built anything that matches it for grace and punctuality. Concorde, far from being a first step to being able to fly to Sydney in an hour, has died. Supersonic travel died with it.

Just like Al Gore used to be the next president of the United States, the future used to be the next phase awaiting mankind. That\’s how the future is supposed to work, isn\’t it? But all around us lies spooky evidence that the world may actually be moving in reverse.

If you look at the list of technologies that have indeed advanced rapidly as against that list which has either stagnated or regressed, you\’ll see an interesting point.

Those that have advanced are those (generally, to be sure) where individuals and markets have been left alone to play. Those that have stagnated or regressed are those where governments and bureaucracies have strained mightily to pick winners. And with their usual efficiency, have notably failed to do so.

Whjy, we might even go so far as to start assuming that it\’s not just a correlation, that there might even be some causality here?

3 thoughts on “Well, There is an Answer to This Question, Of Course.”

  1. I think it’s more of a common cause.

    The government is left to do those things which are really big, really hard, and important to some people but not really critical – space travel being a prime example. The project then fails because it was too darn hard in the first place. Later on industry comes in and makes it work once the general level of technology has risen to the point that the effort put into the project to succeed will be equal to the rewards of success.

    In this case, we conclude that the government should do less. Not, so much because it does poorly, but because it’s currently too easy to twist the government’s arm into doing something stupid.

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