Knowledge is Power, very much so

But power to do what?

Here’s a quote from Jeremy Pearce’s piece, “Konrad Dannenberg, 96, Top Rocket Scientist, Dies”

“For his part, Mr. Dannenberg, who was not a member of the Nazi party, said that the Peenemünde team had not been involved in the factory brutality, that the rocket science was pure, and that the German ‘army was the only rich uncle with enough money to pay for the things we wanted to do.’”

As a “pure” scientist myself, I find that quote to be quite typical and not restricted to the scientists of Nazi Germany.  Of course in this day it’s almost impossible to be successful in science without devoting all your energy purely to the science.  There is no time to keep up with personal obligations, much less to worry about how your results might be used in the areas of technology, big business and big ugly politics.

Some do.

The question is discussed.

But not enough scientists or citizens recognize their obligation to the potential power, for good or ill, that is generated by their research.

The Power to Control the Universe

It is Bitsy’s opinion, when she sits on top of the hay on top of the pickup — and nothing can convince her otherwise — that she has the power to control the whole universe.

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We jumped into the pickup this morning, Bitsy whining her delight, and drove a mile or so down the road, across the cattle guard and slowly through a little herd of multicolored Texas cattle. Visualizing (well I was visualizing, Bitsy was probably thinking about running and chasing) the amazing biology of the pigment cell. Red cows, beige cows, brindle cows, black, and an outstanding grey individual I could not imagine the genotype.

But the rancher said, while he tossed the square bales of coastal into the back of Bitsy’s pickup and I was already wondering about next year, he said that it might not rain at all this year.

If not, there won’t be any hay.  He’ll have to send his cattle to market, and we will have a problem filling up the pickup.  There will be nothing for Bitsy to control.

Asking the Right Questions?

Hiroko Tabuchi reports on the deflation that results when consumers fail to heed the advice of the growth economy and begin to live within their budgets and long-term rational expectations.  Actually most of that first sentence represents my own opinion upon reading the article.  The author never questioned the desirability of infinite growth, not the shadow of doubt, and the subtitle of the piece is “Japan offers a peek at how thrift can take lasting hold of a consumer society, to disastrous effect.”

Disaster?  I’d rather see a little disaster now than a huge one later.   I wonder why we bow to this corporate mentality that devours our resources in order to produce short-term irresponsible wealth for themselves, while ignoring the fact that it simply is not sustainable into the future.   It’s mathematically impossible to grow forever, and the sooner we start thinking sustainability the lesser will be our pain when it hits the fan.  Our options for making positive change narrow with every delay.