Invincible Summer |||

Technology, society

More clips from my reading.

No one was specializing yet. That came later, when the bureaus and paranoias moved in, and the organization charts became plan-views of prison cells.

They called it the magic number, and they meant it literally. As some gamblers on the stock market know when to place stop orders, feeling by instinct not the printed numbers but the rates of change, knowing from first and second derivatives in their skin when to come in, stay or go, so there are engineering reflexes tuned always to know, at any moment, what, given the resources, can be embodied in working hardware – what is ‘feasible’. On the day that a 2000 m/sec exhaust became feasible, the A4 itself suddenly came in reach. The danger then lay in being seduced by approaches that were too sophisticated. No one was immune. Hardly a designer there, including Pökler, didn’t came up with at least one monster rig, some Gorgon’s head writhing with pipes, tubes, complicated folderol for controlling pressures, solenoids on top of pilot valves on auxiliary valves on backup valves – hundreds of pages on valve nomenclature were printed as appendices to these weird proposals, all promising huge pressure differences between the inside of the chamber and the nozzle exit – beautiful, as long as you didn’t care much about those millions of moving parts behaving together too reliably. But to get a dependable working motor, one the military could use in the field to kill people, the real engineering problem now was to keep things as simple as possible.

Taking and not giving back, demanding that ‘productivity’ and ‘earnings’ keep on increasing with time, the System removing from the rest of the World those vast quantities of energy to keep its own tiny desperate fraction showing a profit: and not only most of humanity – most of the World, animal, vegetable and mineral, is laid waste in the process. The System may or may not understand that it’s only buying time. And that Time is an artificial resource to begin with, of no value to anyone or anything except the System, which sooner or later must crash to its death, when its addiction to energy has become more than the rest of the World can supply, dragging with it innocent souls all along the chain of life. Living inside the System is like riding across the country in a bus driven by a maniac bent on suicide…

from Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon

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