Misdirected genius

20May10

Last night Esteban and I happened upon a PBS program about modern tank warfare. (We’d been hoping for Rudy Maxa. Wrong day, apparently. Sigh.)

Once I resigned myself to my fate, I actually started to enjoy the show. It was fascinating to hear about how the Russians retooled their tanks — even as World War II was raging — to adapt to the changing battle conditions.

I’d also never thought about the cat-and-mouse game between our modern weapons’ heat-seeking capabilities and their targets’ stealth. Who knew that coating tanks in mesh could make them less visible? And who would have thought that an explosives-laden shell would reduce a missile’s damage?

But as I listened to the engineers and the generals and the historians, I was struck by one thought: What a horrible waste of human ingenuity.

I know that much of the technology we now take for granted — GPS, for instance — was first developed for military applications. But what might we have achieved as a species if we’d channeled more of our energy and money and time into more benevolent technology instead?

We’ll never know, of course. But it’s interesting to ponder.



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