Sunday, 10 November 2013

So, I was at this party....

So I was at a party last night and as is always the case at the moment when you gather a group of twenty something together we all had a good moan about our jobs. Because the schools we went to told us horrible lies about our potential. One guy though told me he had a lousy job, delivering replacement microscope parts for the big fancy ones they have at university and private labs. Because I'd been drinking I told him that he was looking at it wrong, that he had an amazing job as a small but vital part of the glorious engine that is human progress.

But here's the thing, I really believe that.

I don't have a lot of faith in people, they vote for UKIP and read the Daily Mail online, but Humanity... That's something else. The things we've done, the problems we've solved blow my mind every time I remember to think about them. Did you know we've been to the Moon!? The freaking Moon! Our ancestors  prayed to the bloody thing and we've put people on it! For like, no reason! We've put robots on Mars! Better yet we found a hexagon on Saturn, a gigantic, regular hexagon... Saturn is 1.2 billion km away I can't fit that number in my head and we found a hexagon on it. Even better than that though, yes it gets better, we explained it. Using fluid dynamics models I couldn't hope to understand people worked out how and why a hexagon would appear in the swirling clouds of another world. YES!

We like to believe in great men, individuals who save us with their almost supernatural ability. People like to think Charles Darwin had the idea for evolution one day is much the same way you or I might think "I'd quite like a sandwich". But he came at the end of centuries of thought and rational development. This doesn't mean Darwin wasn't a genius but it is the truth behind all human progress. We do it together. 

It's why I've always prefered Lex Luthor to Superman, the real Lex Luthor that is, this fella: 
Green and purple, because you want your doom suit to be a statement.

When they have one of their little scraps Superman get's ready by putting his underwear on over his tights and he's done. Lex on the other hand draws on resources from all over the world, hires the best scientist from all over the world, puts all that into a suit and uses it to punch god in the face for daring to stifle human progress.

We can do amazing things, we can cure disease, reshape the face of our world and stand on others. But it takes all of us, we need the guy replacing and repairing the microscope in the lab that might cure Alzheimer's or Parkinson's, we need the guys who made the tyres of the Mars rover, we need the people who make the screws that hold Voyager together as to leaves the solar system billions of kilometers from here. 

It's easy to think we're at the end of history, reduced to social media navel gazing while we wait for the inevitable apocalypse with optional zombies. But it isn't true, we aren't Alexander weeping for no more worlds left to conquer, we're just getting going. The infinite possibilities and beautiful futures are out there waiting for us all we have to do is go out and take them. 

We don't need great men and women, we don't need super-heroes or gods to show up and save us. I carry more computing power in my pocket right now than it took to get us to the moon, we can do anything if we do it together. So remember that when you're delivering microscope parts or doing admin at a hospital or whatever that you're part of the glorious engine that's driving us into the future. This is how men really move mountains, stone by stone. 

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Something that brightened my day

I am, among my many faults, something of a cynic. A big part of me tends to the view that no matter what you do or how things are set up the bastards are always going to rise to the top: cream my rise but so does scum and so on. It's easy to fall into this mindset with the world as it is, HSBC being fined around a days profits for financing massive criminal enterprises, Assad carrying on killing people but it's OK now apparently because he's only using bullets and cluster bombs not Sarin and VX. The world is a place in which fairly horrible things happen every day and thanks to this being the information age we are at liberty to know about all of them.


I picked up a paper today, well the Guardian but still, while I was in a waiting area of a restaurant and I read the front page article about the trial of Rebecca Brooks and Andy Coulson. I nearly cried right there in public. The reason I'm writing this is because people don't seem to be taking on the awesome magnitude of this trial and quite how beautiful it really is. This trial and to a lesser extent the Leveson inquiry that preceded it really are the most brilliant and perfect thing that has happened in this country in decades.

The wheels of justice turn slowly and Leveson may seem like a long time ago but this trial shows that they do turn. It shows that everyone is subject to the rule of law, your connections might help you, your money might delay matters but the wheel turns and justice is done and it is done publicly and honestly.

I am struggling to put into words how beautiful this is but let me try with an example; they read out in court a private letter showing the six year affair between both defendants. Now it's easy to just titter and say 'oh er' behold the emperor has no clothes and I can see his winky. But it's so much more, this was read out for a reason it show the close personal connection and the willingness to share secrets that the defendants had which is an essential element of the offence with which they were charged. Do you see? It wasn't just to cast aspersions on their character as they had done to public figures so many times before it is the moral opposite, it is a personal secret revealed because it was in the public interest: exactly what they pretended to do with their petty smear campaigns. Can you hear the music?

Whether they're found guilty or not this is victory, seeing them hauled up and called to account, put in a place where they can't PR bullshit their way out of tricky questions because the interviewer wants to have them on again and there's only 3 minutes budgeted for this chat. All their friends and their power and their influence means absolutely nothing in a court of law Rupert Murdoch and the Prime Minister can't help them now. This is victory, because it shows that justice can happen, it is an object lesson for every quick tongued little spiv who thinks it's better to be clever than good, better to be Loki than Thor.

Take a moment to really appreciate it, this is the definition of a free country, Voltaire said that to learn who rules over you, simply find out who you are not allowed to criticize and for a long time if you lived in the public eye that meant people like Rebecca and Andy, and yet there they are. Take a moment a savour the value of a powerful independent judiciary and the rule of law, take a moment and enjoy the idea of a QC in his silly wig and silk gown tearing into the them like he's Anthony Hopkins doing his best Odin.

So yes this really brightened my day, there is Justice in the world and not because of the honeyed words of religion promising justice in the After or Karmaic nonsense that they'll get pooped on by more birds or something. No there's Justice in the world because we put it there with courts and law and it's beautiful.