This is Dark Cloud on Wednesday, May 02, 2012.
I'm reading today that the new F-35 fighter/bomber/jet ski/waffle iron has come a cropper, and the updated budget for completion of this one air/land/space supremacy vehicle is more than a trillion dollars, and more than the entire GNP of Spain. Almost unsurprisingly, the thing won't work as hoped, and won't be the improvement of the currently sufficiently calumniated F-22, a plane so expensive that the government decided to go with the F-35. The F-22 more or less works, though, and is an entirely great aircraft, too expensive and too complicated, but at least there's nothing afoot to remotely touch it. The F-35 was supposed to do less for less but, as happens, is worse in almost every way and more expensive to boot.
Let us take a few seconds to lambast greedy Masters of War, and pay homage to Eisenhower's military industrial complex warning, and then sing a song of peace and understanding and mutual and self respect. I'll wait. Done? Good. None of that is relevant, it isn't the problem.
You may remember that the IRS and various police agencies have all tried to put together software systems for record keeping and communications that 1.) work, and 2.) save money and paper, and 3.) improve efficiency by being easily accessible by all authorized to do so. In every case, these grand projects failed miserably, and I think for the same reason that military contractors often fail. They nod like idiots when asked if the initial project is doable, and because of all the money and status involved, and because their specialties are so recondite that few in the buyers' circle have a real clue when they're being massaged and deceived or, as I now think, self deceived, nobody can argue with them when more money and testing is needed.
The problem with our fighter plane is that it has too many demanding parents. It seems logical: a base unit plane that can take off from an aircraft carrier or any ship with an iron deck or any level ground, ascend to heights and speed immediately, patrol the world on a teaspoon of gas yet at Mach 4, carry enough armaments to shoot down interceptors of the world's second and third best Air Forces and enough nuclear or conventional weaponry to flatten Kansas a thousand feet lower. Of course, it cannot do everything at once, so the plane must be able to take out entire packages of electronics and weapons bays and plug in new units of communication and/or water skis for propaganda missions after a brief stop of forty or fifty seconds on the ground. At need, it must also fly on methane from the shovel of dung a pilot produces in flight from eating a secret compound of peppers, peanuts, and bad fish kept in the glove compartment. It must be the premiere air supremacy vehicle for the next century with no competition. Also, the entire project must not exceed the costs of 100 units of the DC-3 in 1942 dollars. Is that too much to ask?
All the IRS, FBI, ATF, Homeland Security, CIA, armed forces investigative units, 50 state police and thousands of sheriffs, marshals, and police want is a communication system that allows them all to talk to each other at need without violating anyone's rights or making errors or dying as in the World Trade Center. It wants a button to include each and every fire fighting unit at need, media, and local officials for evacuations and shutdowns. We can make Warcraft and other computer games, why is this so different? We look at the television crime shows and wonder why we still have humans involved: the laboratory machines are so wonderful, accurate, and convincing.
When I sit down at the computer these days, I am aware that I am living what Leonardo, Einstein, every science minded genius of any previous day would consider heaven. The machines today are beyond my capabilities to utilize them. I suspect that is true of just about everyone. It's sort of embarrassing, actually. But I'm not so smart that I could take it as an affront, a mocking of my ego.
But there are far smarter people than I am who see the possibilities and the potential and have concluded they can be done. Eventually, it will be done, as ever, but the vision comes first, than the frustration, the disappointment, the resignation. All those sketches by Leonardo da Vinci for helicopters and tanks, so beautiful and possible in his mind and by his hand, and totally impossible to build, much less work centuries ago. He knew the materials needed did not yet exist. We cannot yet always build what our imaginations see and know will be, and we need be more realistic in expectation.