Thursday, April 13, 2017

Fragility. However We Love, Or Loathe, It, We Ignore It At Our Great Peril

Fragility isn't something we normally take to with loving arms, but there are quite notable exceptions. Babies. Kittens. That collector's item, whatever, that is so beautiful, who cares how fragile it is. You get the idea.

In electronics, of course, and especially for the military, however, fragility is to be avoided like the plague. As you could imagine, during the time of vacuum tubes that was a very tricky problem. They did a pretty good job with them, given the circumstances but, as the g forces kept climbing in virtually all situations, you can bet your ass they saw silicon based electron manipulation as a god send.

For some reason, a lot of times when I think about fragility, amidst great outward chaos, I have a very clear image of various scenes from the movie "Sorcerer." And by that I mean the one done in 1977, directed and produced by William Friedkin and starring Roy Scheider, Bruno Cremer, Francisco Rabal, and Amidou. This was a wonderful production that still holds up quite well I think. It depicts a group of really down and out misfits, in a really backwater, third world country. They are all, barely surviving here, and desperate to a point that is made quite visceral when you watch. The other main plot point is an oil rig fire that must be put out some number of miles away, but for which no means of air lift can be of help.

So. To put out the fire requires a counter blast explosion. The only explosives are not where they need to be and, to make matters worse, they are very old sticks of dynamite that have been sitting in a hot environment, and sweating nitro for far too long. The only thing left to do? Pay some idiots just desperate enough that a, only modest amount of cash to the business folks, would entice them to try and get the dynamite to the fire. Through some very bad ass jungle, and virtually non existent roads, with at least one bridge from the absolute hell of rickety, and ready to break.

It is a pretty stark example of what people can be made to do when they see the least little bit of hope in a sea of abject hopelessness. What's really interesting in this, though, is that this is also how I see where we are today. Only in this case the we are the desperate guys, our country is that bad ass truck they get to custom configure, and the thing we are carrying is our economy. And what we are driving too is a metaphor for what our economy, and our desperation, create together; the next fire that is always there to be put out.

The thing is, however, what really amazes me here is how we so readily seem to accept the fragility our economy has; and in this I am talking about the bedrock idea that Capitalists always refer to when they talk about what markets require: As little uncertainty as possible. What would then be one of the greatest contributors of "uncertainty?" The thing that always makes variables go crazy: Turbulence. Especially turbulence coming from many, as well as unexpected, sources. And as we are now driving through a new information jungle of our own making (in physical and meaning space), which we understand only a little more than squat about, we get a lot of turbulence from a lot of unexpected sources. Which makes the package we carry cranky, unpredictable in its own right, and subject to not putting out enough juice (it sweats it's own form of nitro, which we try to control, with its own problematic degree of success) out for the rest of us to keep this crazy truck going at all, let alone successfully through some really bad bush.

To make matters worse, though, we have to drive our truck around carefully, so as to avoid running into, or make common tracks, impassable, for other desperate drivers of other trucks; each carrying equally fragile cargo.

And so I ask myself again. Why on earth would we put up with fragility worse than the cheapest vacuum tubes of the early fifties? A situation made even worse by the fact that the g forces involved are getting worse (because of all of the big problems we've ignored for so long), even as the economic operating system's fragility increases. Is this not a perfect definition of madness stacked upon even more madness? If it isn't, I'd sure like someone to explain to me how that could be so.

Become better informed. Ask deeper questions. Take peaceful action.