Friday, March 20, 2015

Nudniks On Rickety Old Ladders

I've spent most of my working life in one form of maintenance or another. As such, just as cops can get cynical from seeing only the worst behaviors, janitors typically think people are asshole monkeys that spread their shit on everything.

Oh, I'm not talking about being sloppy. That's a fundamental characteristic of Life Itself. You leave your waste products as you please, maybe hope for a strong current to sweep it away, but shitting in the kitchen is probably a universal constant in terms of behavior.

No, I'm talking about the monkey characteristic of clever monkey. Cleverness. Cleverness almost invariably results in fucking things up. Monkeys break shit with pride, in that they think, in order to exercise the old will to power, they come up with clever workarounds that they oh-so-pleased with themselves in figuring out, but almost invariably ends up with fucking things up even more than to begin with.

(Are you sensing a certain amount of anger and dismay, as in I found a number of fucked up things around the studio that clever people had done? You are right!)

All the more amazing then, when you look at so much of what we have, so much that is kluges cobbled together and jury-rigged to keep on working, that we aren't extinct! I mean, this cleverness really is a good example of a valid solution to the Fermi Paradox.

Case in point. I'm watching a TV show about Chicago, and they show the control room for the locks of the Chicago River in Lockport. The lock master has a lap top wirelessly connected to a control panel from the 1950s, with chunky buttons and radio dials and analog meters. That 1950s control panel in turn is connected to a wall of knife switches and painted hydrant wheels from the 1920s, that in turn connected via fraying gutta percha insulated thick copper wires to a steam motor connected to cast iron cogs and levers and wood chock blocks. I could imagine this series of kluges extending all the way back to an arrangement of stone knives and bear skins that actually operate the doors of the lock.

And of course, at each interface is whatever passed for clever quick fixes, workarounds and patches, so that at the very bottom of the tech barrel one might find a large ball of cords and thongs made from strips of mammoth hide and a stone pot of glue from rendered wooly rhinoceros: the lower paleolithic equivalent of Duct Tape.

And, fortunately for the state of Illinois, some old monkey codger who knows through rote learning and how to nurse the damn thing. He might even occasionally possess enough simian self-awareness to extrapolate a clever solution that is outside his learned stimulus-reponse programming.

I'm not the only one that's noticed this. I've heard tell that one guy found a stuck control valve in a nuke plant wedged open with precariously positioned flathead screwdriver.

Clever. And we save monies. Monies that we don't have to spend on inconvenient maintenance of critical systems, when we can spend it on our greedy, narcissistic little monkey desires.

So, working forward, I anticipate a day when Sol system goes supernova because our hideously advanced material instrumentality (with, apparently every engineer's hard-on - no moving parts) when that screwdriver or that mammoth sinew falls out or come undone.

(Anyone care to bet there is on some holographic control image either a Blue Screen Of Death, or a Pinwheel Of Death, that shows up right before everything goes kablooey)?

1 comment:

  1. it's not our cleverness that we will do ourselves in with, it's our penchant for poisoning the air, water, and earth we need to survive.