History's End

History will end only when Man does

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  • Monday, January 31, 2005

    Athena or Ares

    Greyhawk over at the Mudville Gazette explains the significance of the two:

    "Both that, and technological cunning. From time to time there is a battle that is out-and-out won by new technology - like longbows at Crecy. For most of history those battles happen only every few centuries - you have the chariot, the compound bow, gunpowder, ironclad ships, and so on. But something happens around , say, the time that the Monitor, which the Northerners believe to be the only ironclad warship on earth, just happens to run into the Merrimack, of which the Southerners believe exactly the same thing, and they pound the hell out of each other for hours and hours. That's as good a point as any to identify as the moment when a spectacular rise in military technology takes off - it's the elbow in the exponential curve. Now it takes the world's essentially conservative military establishments a few decades to really comprehend what has happened, but by the time we're in the thick of the Second World War, it's accepted by everyone who doesn't have his head completely up his ass that the war’s going to be won by whichever side has the best technology. So on the German side alone we've got rockets, jet aircraft, nerve gas, wire-guided missiles. And on the Allied side we've got three vast efforts that put basically every top-level hacker, nerd, and geek to work; the code-breaking thing, which as you know gave rise to the digital computer; the Manhattan Project, which gave us nuclear weapons; and the Radiation Lab, which gave us the modern electronics industry. Do you know why we won the Second World War?"

    "I think you just told me."

    "Because we built better stuff than the Germans?"

    "Isn't that what you just said?"

    "But why did we build better stuff?

    "I guess I'm not competent to answer. I haven't studied that period well enough."

    Well, the short answer is that we won because the Germans worshipped Ares and we worshipped Athena."

    To understand what he is talking about, read it all.

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