Happy fiftieth anniversary of the dawn of the Space Age!
Half a century since the launch of Sputnik 1. Where's my jetpack already?
Also on 4th October 1957, Aneurin Bevan made that speech about sending a British Foreign Secretary naked into the conference chamber. Interesting that over the course of the subsequent fifty years we have, if anything, just increased the amount of politics by
The Bomb was on everyone's minds. Which gives me an excuse to quote extensively from John Wyndham, who published The Midwich Cuckoos fifty years ago. What follows is more about the perils of etiquette in the technological age, but that pretty much includes the Bomb as well as everything else.
(On the subject of the new etiquette for the new age: in the following paragraphs I will make extensive use of inline quotation tags (
<q>). These won't display in IE because the people who wrote IE considered HTML standards to be more a set of vague suggestions. If you read the following in IE it won't make any bloody sense. Go and get a web browser that isn't shite, then we can talk.)
At last the music tied itself up with a neat bow, and ceased. Zellaby stopped the machine by a switch on the arm of his chair, opened his eyes, and regarded Alan.
I hope you don't mind,he apologized.One feels that once Bach has started his pattern he should be allowed to finish it. Besides,he added, glancing at the playing-cabinet,we still lack a code for dealing with these innovations. Is the art of the musician less worthy of respect because he is not present in person? What is the gracious thing?—For me to defer to you, for you to defer to me, or for both of us to defer to genius—even genius at second-hand? Nobody can tell us. We shall never know.
We don't seem to be good at integrating these novelties with our social lives, do we? The world of the etiquette book fell to pieces at the end of the last century, and there has been no code of manners to tell us how to deal with anything invented since. Not even rules for an individualist to break, which is itself another blow at freedom. Rather a pity, don't you think?
Er, yes,said Alan.I—er—
Though, mind you,Zellaby continued,it is a trifle démodé even to perceive the existence of the problem. The true fruit of this century has little interest in coming to living-terms with innovations; it just greedily grabs them all as they come along. Only when it encounters something really big does it become aware of a social problem at all, and then, rather than make concessions, it yammers for the impossibly easy way out, uninvention, suppression—as in the matter of The Bomb.
Some things don't change, do they? Much like my non-posession of a jetpack.