Well, it was fun while it lasted but it’s time to admit: the reign of humanity will soon be ending. Don’t believe me? Then stop playing FarmVille for two goddamn seconds and look at this collection from our friends at Oobject.com.
Vaccination – which is based upon the same principal as homeopathy (a small amount of a toxic substance that heals) but which has been proven to work not only through double blind trials but the eradication of some of the world’s most tragic and dangerous diseases, is irrationally opposed by the exact same type of people that often believe in homeopathy.
This is a terrible and pernicious form of technological regression brought about entirely by superstition and cultural factors. We are seeing previously extinct diseases like whooping cough kill children in developed counties where herd immunity has broken down, an entirely avoidable tragedy.
The voice of anti-vaccinationists is so powerful and its support so mainstream, that the inclusion of this item in this list will be seen by some so be politically biased and that the anti-vaccination stance is the other half of the argument that has a right to be heard. But for some arguments, such as whether the earth is round of flat, the evidence is overwhelmingly in favor of the scientific consensus. Vaccination is one of those arguments, but unlike flat earthers, the anti-vaccination meme actually kills people.
Antibiotics – the rise of the superbug
It may turn out that for a brief period in human history we were able to treat bacterial disease and that that period is coming to an end.
Over use of antibiotics particularly for farming has evolved strains of bacteria which have multiple genetic mutations that create resistance all known antibiotics, creating alarm in the medical community.
Despite this the number of new antibiotics being released has continued to decline as more profitable types of drugs are developed.
Bathyscaphe Trieste – voyage to the sea bed
We haven’t been back to the bottom of the sea since we went to the moon.
On January 23, 1960, the Bathyscape Trieste reached the ocean floor in the Challenger Deep (the deepest southern part of the Mariana Trench), carrying Jacques Piccard Don Walsh, shown in the picture.
The Trieste looks a little like a submarine, except that the bit that holds the passengers is the tiny bubble underneath, and the rest is a large tank of gasoline, which is highly incompressible but lighter than water, so acts as a float.
Games industry user interfaces used to look like Minority Report compared to web-based UI which had all the sophistication of Pong. But now the world’s biggest games company, built on the visceral addiction of poker and the simplicity of a Tamagotchi has make a game based on watering your plants and which has a UI worthy of 1980s shareware, something that 1 in 10 humans play. Playing FarmVille is literally as interesting as watching grass grow.
What this demonstrates is that the drug like virality of some aspects of social software removes the need for genuine technological progress.
In the past American design was modern and the emerging architectural vernacular reflected that, from the Farnsworth to LA’s Case Study houses (such as the one pictured above) or to Eichler’s industrialisation of modernism, for the masses.
But now this has been replaced by a new version of the old, from McMansions to Pottery barn, Victorian design represents regression in the form of aspiration to a pre-industrial age, America’s current design prudery is a form of technological regression that is so pervasive, we should be very thankful for the brilliant exceptions such as Apple.
Saturn V – vehicle capable of taking us to the moon
Since the last Saturn 5 rocket in 1973 mankind has not had any vehicle as powerful. Even without the retirement of the shuttle, we would not have human transportation capable of taking us as far as we did in the ’60s.
Space Shuttle – reusable human space transportation
As of this Friday, June8 2011 there will be no re-usable human space craft and US manned space exploration will have entered a period of relative stasis.
It could be argued that the idea of a re-usable space craft is as much of a public relations exercise as a practical design. Why spend so much extra effort bringing back the whole thing when the most important bit is the pod with the people in. It could also be argued that manned space flight isn’t as important as robotic missions.
And both these arguments would be true but they wouldn’t change the fact that the US’ manned space program is one of the most uplifting and sublime achievements of all of mankind.
One small step down for man, one giant plunge for mankind.
Speedy Snail Mail
The US Postal Service has no official creed or motto, but the Herodotus inspired inscription above the James Farley Post Office in NYC might as well be the words of the national anthem:
‘Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds’
Despite the fact that many nations were built on the ability to send physical items anywhere, the ability to deliver messages electronically has undermined the overall business model.
Consider that when James Joyce wrote Ulysses he was able to send a physical letter suggesting a lunch meeting in the morning and be able to get a confirmation beforehand. Even FedEx can’t do that.