Not Just Invention, But Deployment

…progress requires both.  An interesting article from Derek Thompson, at The Atlantic: Why the Age of American Progress Ended.

Link via Katherine Boyle at Twitter,  who also links a tweet from Tobi Lutke:

The biggest cultural problem holding us back is that society holds the production of criticism at similar importance to that of building. It isn’t. But the critics inherited the airwaves from the builders.

and adds:

Arguably critics often have more power than builders. A society that praises experts over innovators is already a dying society.

The Atlantic article is long but worth reading: I think it makes a number of important points but is also wrongheaded in some instances.

Your thoughts?

23 thoughts on “Not Just Invention, But Deployment”

  1. “The U.S. did more than any other nation to advance the production of the mRNA vaccines against COVID-19, but also leads the developed world in vaccine refusal.”

    He says this like it’s a bad thing.

    That shit will never touch my veins.

    I believe those who refuse vaccines know more about vaccination than do those who fully vaccinate, perhaps because their scepticism prompts them to seek out information. They access both mainstream and alternative vaccine information. People who refuse vaccines are often more likely to have higher health literacy.

    The author believes that the government and global entities hold all the answers to implementation of discovered tech.
    He disparages Reagan a bit in his writing but the Gipper had it right:

    We are a nation that has a government — not the other way around. And this makes us special among the nations of the earth. Our Government has no power except that granted it by the people. It is time to check and reverse the growth of government which shows signs of having grown beyond the consent of the governed.

  2. Well, it is the once great, now foolish Atlantic. Typical unbiased observation from the article:
    “It is hard to imagine scientific institutions flourishing within right-wing governments averse to both science and institutions.”

    To his credit, the author does recognize that the problem is largely one of high-income Lefties creating regulations which make it impossible to implement new technologies — or certainly impractical compared to handing the breakthrough to the Chinese and begging them to build it. And the author does recognize that the lack of trust in (Far Left) government & bureaucracy in the US is another impediment to implementation — although he can’t bring himself to acknowledge that Far Lefties are largely responsible for the decline in trust in government.

    Sadly, the author fails to see the obvious solution to the problems he describes. Instead, he calls for the usual Extreme Leftie prescriptions of more government involvement and (by implication) more “othering” of those who fail to bend the knee to Far Lefty nostrums.

  3. The Atlantic? Oooh, let’s discus.

    Many noticed that survivors earned lifetime immunity from (smallpox).

    Now tell us about immunity to covid, science-monger. Somehow the supposed best and brightest of American society- which I presume to be the target audience of this publication- forgot all about how surviving a disease provides some measure of immunity. Hence they continued to demand that everyone take their experimental medical treatment or lose their job, even after surviving the dread disease itself.

    In the past few decades, however, progress has faltered—and faith in it has curdled. Technological progress has stagnated, especially in the nonvirtual world.

    You don’t say. Who rules the United States, I wonder? It isn’t the supposedly science-hating Trump supporters.

    Since the middle of the 20th century, America’s inflation-adjusted spending on science and technology, through the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation, has increased by a factor of 40.

    Oh. So the government has been extracting wealth from the country to give to its science friends, and shockingly, they don’t make good use of it. Other peoples’ money, on other people. But I bet they’ve gotten really good at writing grant proposals.

    Our ability to decarbonize the grid is held back by environmental regulations that ironically constrict the construction of solar- and wind-energy farms.

    Again, who rules the US, and who decided “decorbonizing” the grid was a goal, anyway?

    It’s been roughly 50 years since Asia and Europe built their first high-speed rail systems, but the U.S. is almost comically incapable of pulling train construction into the 21st century.

    Someone show this guy a map so he might understand why trains aren’t so good an option for the United States. Or not, because I doubt he’d understand what he was looking at.

    If we wanted to build the next generation of advanced nuclear reactors…

    Plainly, “we” don’t. The question is, who’s the “we” making the decision. It plainly isn’t people who want cheap electricity.

    The first mRNA vaccines were administered before the end of 2020.

    Back to this- and I expect defending these experimental medical treatments lyingly described as vaccines was a key motive for writing this article.

    But a rogue cadre of inventors didn’t eradicate smallpox. States did. Agencies did.

    The blessed government saved us!!! But the author mentioned this above:

    He was put in charge of a small staff and a modest budget within the labyrinth of a global bureaucracy.

    Small staff, modest budget, smallpox gone. Devastating the US economy, tens of billions of dollars spent buying the experimental medical treatments from drug companies, trillions in payments to people commanded to stay at home, covid still omnipresent.

    It doesn’t matter what you discover or invent if people are unwilling to accept it.

    The dogs won’t eat the dog food. There must be something wrong with them, those stupid Trump-supporting mongrels. Get out the chains- they’ll eat that dog food if it kills them.

    Tens of millions of American adults simply refused a free and effective vaccine in the middle of a pandemic.

    In the 19th century, state and church leaders across Europe and the Americas typically praised the smallpox vaccine in unison. But in the 21st century, a dwindling number of subjects enjoy such universal elite endorsement.

    Does this Fing tool really think people took the smallpox vaccine because their betters endorsed it, and thinks people refused the covid experimental treatment because he imagines the gop elites told their followers to avoid it? I bet he does.

    Republicans have come to feel ignored or condescended to by the institutions populated by the former group. As if recoiling from the rise of a liberal scientific and managerial class, the GOP has become almost proudly anti-expertise, anti-science, and anti-establishment.

    These people just can’t pat themselves on the back hard enough, as the society they rule crumbles into ruin. By his own words, the liberal scientific and managerial class he endorses has produced stagnation and failure- and he wonders why millions of people won’t trust it?

  4. He is absolutely right that in invention itself is not enough…it must be improved (as with the history of the steam engine), it must be marketed and sold, and product support must be provided…and, especially, it must be manufactured. The idea that the US can worry about the glamorous task of creating products and leave the work of actually making them to other countries has been very harmful, as is now starting to be better-realized. There is as much *knowledge* involved in the manufacturing of chips as there is in designing them, as the case of TSMC illustrates.

    But plenty of important products have been not only invented, but manufactured, sold, deployed, and supported *without* any government programs being involved. I don’t think there’s much evidence that governments are likely to pick the best technologies and/or to select the most productive players. There is plenty of evidence for the negative. Only the technologies which are either already visibly important or have strong political or popular support are likely to get funding.

    In the current situation, it would be far better for government to look at the *general* problems that inhibit manufacturing and R&D in the US…tax policies, unreasonable regulations, a poorly-educated workforce…that to pass reverse bills of attainder on behalf of favored industries, however important those industries may look, or actually be.

  5. He notes accurately that government purchases of early microchips drove down their costs dramatically. (Although it wasn’t just the space program, it was also missile programs driving the purchasing) But these were purchases in support of specific needs–smaller and more reliable electronics–on behalf of particular programs. If the government had rather been abstractly trying to ‘grow the American electronics industry and make it more globally competitive’, the money would have surely gone to the large, established vacuum-tube makers and discrete transistor manufacturers, not to upstart integrated circuit companies.

  6. As Gavin and Xennady point out, the leftist slant of the article is grating, but predictable. His parroting of the dogma that the Left is “pro-science” is particularly absurd. All of the really damaging scientific debacles of the last couple of hundred years have been inflicted on us courtesy of leftist ideology. “Scientific” Marxism-Leninism with all its attendant idiocies such as Lysenkoism, the Blank Slate orthodoxy that put an impassable roadblock in the way of human self-understanding for more than half a century, the “scientific” belief that every hurricane and tornado is now caused by climate change, the fanatical opposition to nuclear power – all are excrescences of leftist ideology, and those are hardly the only examples.

    However, the author does make some good points. For example,

    “Most major inventions initially don’t work very well,” the economic historian Joel Mokyr told me. “They have to be tweaked, the way the steam engine was tinkered with by many engineers over decades. They have to be embodied by infrastructure, the way nuclear fission can’t produce much energy until it’s inside a nuclear reactor. And they have to be built at scale, to bring down the price and make a big difference to people.”


    “New ideas are getting harder to use,” the futurist and economist Eli Dourado told me. If the U.S. wanted to unleash geothermal power, we could simplify geothermal permitting. If we wanted to build the next generation of advanced nuclear reactors, we could deregulate advanced nuclear reactors. These measures would not require inventing anything new. But they would stimulate progress by making it easier to bring our best ideas into the light.”

    That’s for sure. We built over 50 experimental nuclear reactors in little more than a decade starting in the mid-50’s, and if we’d implemented what we learned from them to supply our constantly growing need for electricity, it would have drastically reduced our reliance on the fossil fuels the Left is so fond of ranting about. As it is, the nuclear industry is so entangled in regulations that bringing better and more efficient reactors online today is virtually impossible.

    When it comes to “tweaking” new ideas, it certainly took a lot of that before the guys at Livermore finally achieved the “ignition” milestone at the National Ignition Facility that will apparently be announced today. It is, indeed, a great achievement, and I’m happy to see that many of the old knights in the inertial confinement fusion community who have been riding towards that El Dorado for so many years are still around to savor the moment. That said, the hype about limitless energy and the imminent end to our reliance on fossil fuels I’ve seen in the legacy media has been beyond even anything I expected. There is zero chance that fusion reactors based on this approach to fusion will ever be feasible. I was happy to see some of the many reasons this is true mentioned in one of the more sober articles about the breakthrough I found online:

    However, it doesn’t mention the real show stopper, which is the need to breed the tritium fuel to keep the reactor running in the reactor itself. Tritium (an isotope of hydrogen with two neutrons in its nucleus along with the usual proton) only occurs in trace amounts in nature. It is scientifically feasible to “breed” it by leveraging the neutrons produced in fusion reactions. They could produce tritium in reactions with lithium atoms in a blanket or curtain surrounding the reaction chamber. However, tritium is an extremely slippery, highly radioactive material, and while breeding it in such a blanket might be scientifically feasible, the need to extract it, control it, and then recycle it as reactor fuel is a sufficiently daunting engineering nightmare that, at least IMHO, such reactors could never be economically competitive with alternative energy sources even if they could be built.

    Maybe if we “tweak” fusion long enough we will finally discover the “silver bullet” that will make fusion reactors a real possibility. However, the Livermore approach isn’t it.

  7. “society holds the production of criticism at similar importance to that of building. It isn’t. But the critics inherited the airwaves from the builders.”

    The linked article is about science and technology, but the problem can be found elsewhere. For instance, for some time now it has been common for literary critics to maintain that their writings are just as important and valuable as the literature that they write about. Now, given a choice between preserving the great literature of the Western world and preserving the literary criticism, who would choose the criticism? Only the fools, the insane, and the corrupt.

  8. My first thought was that The Atlantic must have fired all of its editors given that this is an overly long, incoherent essay. It has more of the vibe of what a pretentious graduate student would write if he was riffing through a haze of marijuana smoke.

    My second thought was that the essay made me feel like a kid again because it was using rehashed concepts from the 70s like industrial policy. He all but what to re-launch the “War on Cancer” and the whole last half of the piece that dealt with Operation Warp Speed was but a subtle call to bring back under new guise Carter’s “Moral Equivalent of War.” All that was missing was an attempt to revive the metric system.

    My third thought was that if he wanted to tell us that the age of American progress has ended because we can no longer implement, then the proper thing would be to inform us when that age had ended. I think there is a reason why he is vague to that because the cause of that end and his solution to the problem is the same thing, the administrative/technocratic bureaucracy. Much of what has stifled innovation can be linked to the administrative state, which had its dramatic rise in the 1960s and 70s. On the other hand Thompson, who no doubt has a giant fan-boy poster of Thomas Friedman on his wall, definitively points to the administrative state and our trust in it as the necessary factor for progress for only that technocratic entity has the knowledge and foresight to make the correct choices as to implementation. Very Wilsonian or if you think about it in the CCP mode, very Friedmanish.

    However the argument against the administrative state is that while it may even have the “best and brightest” people, it doesn’t have the sufficient competency to make the type of complex decisions its portfolio demands and in fact no one entity in of itself can do so. That inability could be in the economic sphere, look at the bureaucratic man crush regarding Minitel vs. TCP/IP in the late 80s or the inability to foresee innovations in transportation such as containerization. You know who did see those opportunities and made it happen? Not the best and the brightest but rather the rest of the field who put personal skin in the game to make things happen. One of my personal heroes is Malcolm McLean who could have retired early a rich man but instead founded SeaLand, leveraged himself to the hilt, and founded the modern shipping industry on nothing but his own guts and foresight. It’s not just on such successful people progress is made, but also the countless other examples of people who tried to innovate, risked all, and failed. You just don’t have that type of person in a GS-15. For Thompson, implementation is public when in fact the most effective implementations are in fact innovation and are private.

    The other argument against the administrative state is that only that a GS-15 not the type of person, by competency or personality, who can reliably innovate but also that they actively impede those who try and do so. The amount of red tape involved in starting and running a business, from environmental regulations and community acceptance to build anything, to EEO and employment law, to the complexity of tax laws is mind-boggling and I’ve known more than one sharp operator who has backed away from going out on his own because if they wanted to deal with bureaucratic headaches all day they would stay in their secure job at a Fortune 500. Also it’s not just the bureaucrats who get in the way of innovation but all the other barnacles that feed off it such as the lawyers and the DEI/HR blob.

    Thomas Friedman gives the perfect apotheosis of Thompson’s solution when he dreamed that America “..could just be China for a day? I mean, just, just, just one day. You know, I mean, where we could actually, you know, authorize the right solutions, and I do think there is a sense of that, on, on everything from the economy to environment.” ( The problem with such a regime is that not only is it unlikely to make the right decisions to enable progress but that it will exist in perpetuity to make the wrong decisions that will nhibit it. You cannot be China for a day, you cannot be dictator for one day only… you can only choose it for life. Xi and his disastrous domestic policies are the feature, not the bug.

    So here’s the scary thing about what Thompson wrote and it didn’t occur to me until after I read the essay a second time.

    The most coherent part of his essay is at the end where he discusses the response to COVID and concludes with a mutual admonishment to both Democrats and Republicans to stop being obstacles to progress, the former for opposing to building anything and the latter for being anti-science. However the mutuality of his comment is disingenuous because what he stated before that regarding Operation Warp Speed when he called it “…a special case, essentially a wartime policy” while at the same time admiring its “whole of government urgency” in dealing with administrative roadblocks (such as FDA reforms).

    Using the rhetoric of wartime mobilization to circumvent laws and procedures in order to enact desired domestic programs has been a progressive canard since the days of Woodrow Wilson. Thompson cloaks his argument in terms of using the Operation Warp Speed and wartime policy language in regard to curing cancer, but that’s pretty thin stuff as cancer cannot generate the necessary type of civilization-ending fear that was used for COVID. Thompson isn’t talking about a wartime policy for cancer, I fear he is talking about creating the bureaucratic justification for a wartime policy regarding climate change. When he is talking about problems with “implementation” he is talking about issues in rolling out civilization-changing policies. When he is talking about Democrats being against building things, he means their being deluded and reluctant to do what is necessary to build the future they know they want, as for Republicans they are anti-science and thus irredeemable enemies in the way.

    As with the fallacy of being “China for a Day” you cannot invoke the language of “war” in terms of policy and not be willing to embrace all of its connotations. As the guy running the fruit stand said, if you take a bite you have to buy the whole apple.

    Reading too much into it? Maybe but this is how climate change will be used to bludgeon us into submission.

  9. The author contrasts US progress in manufacturing of photovoltaic solar unfavorably with that of China…but he fails to note that the US has led in the development of oil & gas fracking technologies.

    Per my earlier point about *generalized* solutions versus industry-and-company-specific subsidization, he also doesn’t ask to what degree the lack of US dominance in solar manufacturing is a function of the same policies and attitudes that inhibit *many* different types of manufacturing.

    He also talks about lack of high-speed passenger rail in the US…but doesn’t discuss at all the strong American position in *freight* rail. Nor does he mention the fact that the US has completed the roll-out of the Positive Train Control system across the key elements of the US rail network. I’m not sure that PTC had the best safety & efficiency payoff per dollar, compared with alternatives, but no question that it was a heck of a big implementation job.

    Come to think of it, he also doesn’t mention that a couple of years ago, the US also completed a big part of the ADS-B system for aviation, requiring not only the deployment of hundreds of ground stations, but also the installation of ADS-B transmitters and receivers on tens of thousands of aircraft.

  10. Katherine Boyle said:

    “Arguably critics often have more power than builders. A society that praises experts over innovators is already a dying society.”

    I’d argue that when government is making the decisions, the people who advise the politicians are much more likely to be Experts than to the Innovators. Even if these individuals had been innovators & builders earlier in their careers, when they move into the government-advising role they are more likely to behave as experts and critics rather than as innovators.

  11. “Nor does he mention the fact that the US has completed the roll-out of the Positive Train Control system across the key elements of the US rail network. … Nor does he mention the fact that the US has completed the roll-out of the Positive Train Control system across the key elements of the US rail network.”

    Yes, the US still occasionally manages to do something good. But don’t ignore the other side of the equation — all the things we used to be able to do in the US, but now cannot (or lag so far behind the East). We used to be able to make nuts & bolts, and medications, and computers, and high-end chips, and steel, and automobiles, and ships, and tools; on & on. What we do produce in abundance is lawyers, bureaucrats, regulations, and laws — mostly sand in the gears.

    As Mike notes, the decline of the US can be directly linked to the growth of government bureaucracy, along with the corresponding defensive growth of bureaucracy in industry. This is not sustainable, and we all know it.

  12. As I recall, a bakery in Missouri invented sliced commercial bread for sale. The government then tried to ban it.
    Luckily, they didn’t succeed.

  13. The Livermore fusion experiment is pretty much hot air, if I understand things correctly. The input energy is only counting the energy of the laser beams; it’s not the energy cost to run the whole apparatus, and it’s not even the energy cost to operate the lasers. It’s only the energy of the lasers’ output. Similarly, it’s not ‘how much usable energy did we recover from the device’ but ‘how much energy did the fusion produce.’

    The headline figures are interesting, but we already knew fusion was a net positive energy process, and since the point of the laboratory is (in theory) to develop a way to harvest that energy, this experiment is a failure even before you ask questions like “Fuel?” or “How often can you fire the thing and/or how big you can scale it?” The test only got you enough energy to run an average American home for a titch over thirteen hours, using the flawed headline numbers.

    Unless, of course, you acknowledge the experiment as a way to harvest government dollars, where it looks likely to be an incredible success, and an excuse to ostracize those who disagree on their methods since they ‘succeeded,’ even if only by a definition of ‘success’ that would see them laughed out of the room if stated bluntly.

  14. The China is about to take over shtick is getting old. Take a look at this:

    They can’t even end their 0-covid disaster without causing even more dislocations. They have the biggest high speed rail terminal in the world with a total of one train a day. Things are on course for Great Leap Forward magnitude casualties, maybe by Spring.

    A little rich for The Atlantic, the official journal of NIMBY BANANAS to come out against obstructionists.

    For what It’s worth, the solar cell was invented in the U.S.

  15. MCS: “For what It’s worth, the solar cell was invented in the U.S.”

    The answer is — not worth much at all, unfortunately. The solar cells that the Biden* MalAdministration would like to see installed on every American rooftop are made in China, and shipped to the US in Chinese-built ships. That is mainly because the US surfeit of lawyers & bureaucrats make it uneconomic to manufacture many essential items in the US. What does it benefit the people of the US to invent every damn thing if the jobs, profits, & tax revenues are driven offshore?

    England was the workshop of the world not much more than a century ago. Now look how far England has fallen. The US was the workshop of the world as recently as the 1960s. Now look at how the US has fallen. The Real Economy of mining, manufacturing, construction is critically important — ultimately more important than the size of the military.

    Yes, China has problems, big problems. But it would be infinitely preferable to have China’s problems than our much worse problems.

  16. “We are a nation that has a government — not the other way around. And this makes us special among the nations of the earth. ”

    You are so special you killed a million people with the pandemic response, among the worst outcomes on the planet, in deaths per million.

    Armageddon is upon us, and the digital realm as social media, has facilitated the march to the final battle of everyone against everyone else. Good luck. ;)

  17. @Boobah

    “The headline figures are interesting, but we already knew fusion was a net positive energy process, and since the point of the laboratory is (in theory) to develop a way to harvest that energy, this experiment is a failure…”

    Not exactly! Livermore isn’t a civilian energy lab, but one of the nation’s three major nuclear weapons laboratories, along with Los Alamos and Sandia. All hype to the contrary, NIF was never funded as an energy project, but as an experimental facility for studying nuclear weapon physics and effects. The energy released in the recent experiment was due to fusion. The energy released in hydrogen bombs is also due to fusion. See the connection?

    In that respect, this experiment was certainly no failure, but a major success. “Ignition”: is not only a useful tool for studying what goes on in nuclear weapons, but will be a great aid in eventually achieving high “gain,” or significantly more fusion energy out than laser energy in.

    To understand why this is such a brilliant achievement, you have to understand some things about the process of inertial confinement fusion. The name reflects the fact that fusion fuel material is held in place long enough for significant fusion reactions to occur, not by massive magnetic fields as in facilities like the ITER project currently under construction in France, but by its own inertia. The process can only happen efficiently if the material is first compressed to very high densities, or “imploded.” Significant fusion due to such an implosion process was first demonstrated on a laser system built in Ann Arbor, Michigan by a company known as KMS Fusion (unfortunately now defunct), back in 1974. However, in that case, fusion was caused by simply dumping laser energy into the imploded fuel. It was shown mathematically long ago that this would be an impractical way to achieve ignition and high gain.

    To understand how this was done on the NIF is to realize the incredible precision of the facility, in which 192 massive lasers must work in perfect harmony, generating beams whose energy must be carefully tailored as a function of time. First, the fuel material must be “imploded” to very high density. However, it must be kept relatively “cold” during this process, because it is much easier to compress cold than hot material. This results in a bit of a dilemma. If the fuel material must be kept “cold” to compress it, how are you ever going to achieve fusion, which requires the material to not only be very dense, but also very hot?

    The answer lies in setting off a series of concentric shock waves during the implosion process, similar to the shock wave that causes sonic booms in supersonic jets. When shocks converge to a central point, they can generate a great deal of heat. However, one shock isn’t enough to bring about efficient fusion. Several of them must converge in the center of the imploding fuel at once at precisely the same time as the fuel achieves maximum density. In that way it is possible to heat a small volume at the center of dense, imploded fuel sufficiently high for fusion reactions to occur. The fuel material used in the ignition experiment was a mixture of deuterium and tritium, and when these two isotopes undergo fusion the resulting reaction products include a neutron and an alpha particle, or helium atom nucleus containing two protons and two neutrons, both of which carry a large amount of energy. The neutrons are highly penetrating, but not the alpha particles. They have a very short range in the dense, compressed fuel, and dump their energy in a very thin layer of it in the cold material surrounding the central hot spot where fusion is occurring. This, in turn, heats the layer to fusion conditions, producing more alpha particles, which continue dumping their energy in a “burn wave,” which moves outward from the center until all of the fuel is consumed.

    I hope you can appreciate the difficulty and complexity of orchestrating this precise ballet of laser beams and fusion reactions at the center of a tiny spot over a period of a few nanoseconds with the aid of 192 massive, precisely aimed and timed lasers. It is really a tribute to the technological brilliance of the Livermore scientists. And while the process may be hopeless as a potential future means of generating electricity, it is certainly extremely useful as a means of studying what goes on in nuclear weapons. No other country can match the capabilities of the NIF, and, as a result, it gives us a very important leg up over the competition, not only in ensuring the reliability of our own arsenal, but in avoiding technological surprise from innovations that may occur in other nuclear weapons states as long as the era of no nuclear testing continues.

  18. Wow. Could anyone write anything quite so ignorant? The lack of self-awareness is scary.

    I thought that “science” was the process of learning. In my time, I have learned that science is broken due to a complete absence of a quality process. Has this fool never heard of the great replication crisis? Does he not know that the overwhelming majority of academic studies are flawed? A wee bit of caution when faced with a broken process would seem wise.

    Was he not paying attention when the lies and abuses of power were legion? Our corrupt and incompetent national health establishment lied constantly during covid. About everything. From the beginning with the bogus epidemiology projections of clowns like Neil Ferguson and the censorship of the lab leak theory, to the lies about cases, hospitalizations, and deaths, to the completely unscientific lockdown, mask and social distancing BS, to the smearing and slandering of HCQ and Ivermectin, to the knowingly corrupt studies that were cobbled together to justify fake science, to the abusive cancel culture that aggressively silenced any dissent — the corruption and dishonesty and abuses of power were the worst in our history.

    Some of us were paying attention. No sane person could observe all this and then trust the people who were responsible for it. They had firmly and conclusively proved that they weren’t trustworthy. Those of us who actually respect and employ the ‘scientific’ process of observation and conclusion made sound judgments. Learning is a good thing. I would suggest that this bozo with the Atlantic try it someday. Soon. But first, he might want to grapple with notions like humility. And wisdom. Perhaps then he wouldn’t make such an ass of himself in the future.

  19. I finally got around to reading a good chunk of the article. It reminded me why I stopped read The Atlantic long ago. A very long, literate (Increasingly rare when few writers seem capable of even basic grammar.) and, in the tradition of coastal elite, mostly either wrong or irrelevant. I’ll just attack a few of his points.

    First: The covid vaccines were deployed as expeditiously as anyone could have imagined. Remember the debates around which one was best, based on the difference of a couple of percent in immunity each produced. This was before it became plain that the immunity was only going to last a few weeks at best. What would have told us this would have been trials conducted over time. It might have allowed a different target protein to have been chosen that would have worked better. Instead, by the time some of the drawbacks appeared the process of deployment was too far advanced to redirect. At least as far as the politicians were concerned. Now, all the rhetorical conventions employed by the “climate change” mafia are being deployed against anyone questioning vaccine efficacy. Coming soon to cancer research?

    Thompson then goes on to laud the deployment of solar and wind power in Germany. That’s not going to age well. At the same time he chides the U.S. for our decades spent developing solar without deploying it. The truth is that it still cost more than the value of the power produced, absent very heavy government subsidies. Oh, if you happen to visit China, be very careful not to drink the water or eat anything grown with it. The solar cells that China is so good at producing so cheaply use a wide variety of the more toxic squares on the periodic table and a big reason the cells are so cheap is because the byproducts are simply dumped in the nearest river. Let’s not examine too closely just how much the factories resemble prisons either.

  20. I forgot to mention that some extremely bright, experienced doctors and medical researchers around the world were warning people against the vaccines and against the covid idiocy that Fauci and friends were pushing. The dissenters used solid scientific arguments to support their dissent. They were more convincing.

    Because science.

  21. MCS,

    Good point on the solar panels. As an addition, Francis Menton has had some good recent posts over at Manhattan Contrarian regarding both inefficiencies in panel power production ( as well as ramifications of power storage technology ( Given that the numbers undergirding the “green energy” revolution are just crap, what gives? Everyone can see the numbers aren’t there so why are we pushing this path?

    The more I think about what Thompson wrote the more I start how he approaches the invention-implementation difference in terms of Progress. We look at a problem of Progress in getting an invention out into society where it can be used by those who find it useful. To use the example of Edison, Progress would be defined as constructing the means of getting a product that people individually would desire (the light bulb) by constructing the necessary infrastructure to deploy it (electrical grid, certified electricians…); you don’t need to compel people to accept the light bulb because it’s utility is already clear.

    However Thompson defines Progress differently, it is getting a technology deployed whether the population wants or it not because the “demand” side of the equation is driven top-down by experts not bottom-up. Thompson begins and ends his essay on vaccination programs, points to vaccination refusal as a marker of end of Progress, and then goes on to decry those refusers as anti-Science, Hardly a moment of reflection on how problems by the expert-side of the vaccination of the equation might lead to people to refuse it, nope, the utility of the product is useful because, ipso facto, designed by experts/

    Sounds pretty analogous to “green energy solutions” given the way the numbers don’t add up.

    That’s what worries me about Thompson’s essay. He reframes the problem of Progress which has nothing to do with invention or deployment , but only in terms of acceptance which while he doesn’t explicitly mention involves crushing opposition to that acceptance. I’m sure we can think of other areas (education, health care, social services) where progressives will apply that model of implementing Progress.

    I’m coming to the conclusion that when dealing with this agenda, one must approach it with that line from the Terminator in mind “It can’t be bargained with. It can’t be reasoned with. It doesn’t feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop…” Yes it’s important to reiterate the numbers that Francis and others like you provide, to point out the dishonesty in COVID policy, children transgender… but not in terms of honest debate which has proven useless rather as part of a declaration of (peaceful) political warfare.

    I mean that is ultimately what Thompson is driving at right?

  22. Thompson’s article is completely incoherent in terms of differentiating between invention, innovation and development. Invention is much more rare than most people realize.

    Edison didn’t invent the electric light bulb. That is a complete myth promoted most especially by Edison himself. There were others working along the same lines and had been for some time. I assume the person that first discovered that electricity could generate light was the same person that “invented” the short circuit. It then came down to getting a filament to produce a useful amount of light for a realistic period before needing to be replaced. Edison with his carbon filament in a vacuum was among the first, but probably not “the” first. Some where under Menlo Park is a glob of mercury that was dumped from the apparatus that evacuated the first Edison light bulb. Most of his day to day involvement ended after Pearl Street proved electric lights would work and he moved on to phonographs and movies.

    The big news at Tesla this week was that Musk dumped another big chunk of stock. Stockholders were dismayed he’d do that when the price was down but overlooked in the stories is the fact that the sale was almost certainly scheduled months ago and that there are more to come. As the ultimate insider, it’s about the only way for him to sell without the SEC climbing up his back. Musk is not the person that will be sweating the next percentage point off the defect rate or improving panel alignment by the next half millimeter. He’s in the process of moving on. I assume that SpaceX and Twitter will amuse him for now but he’s not going to be the one figuring out how to compete with all the other car companies for what lithium is available.

    Tesla’s innovation, or more properly Musk’s realization was that they might be able to leverage the money from building an expensive toy for the rich and trendy and the media buzz into a mass market heavy manufacturer instead of another Mclaren . In a way, recapitulating the original trajectory of the automobile. Through some confluence of genius, luck and timing, it seems to be working so far. We’ll all be seeing how that plays out over the next few years. Musk will be cheering from the sidelines.

Comments are closed.