Diaries Magazine

From Rockets to Drones

Posted on the 15 October 2018 by C. Suresh
Every now and then, I hark back to my long forgotten childhood. You know, the usual 'Those were the days' trip the old are expected to go on. Not that I have been known to always do what is expected of me but this one...this is probably hardwired in the genes and gets triggered by age, like it or not.
And, so, there was this stray memory about what captivated the minds of us guys in those long-gone days. This was the time of the Sputniks and the Apollos, when foreign names like Gagarin and Armstrong became familiar everyday names. If I ever dreamed of a future, it certainly involved being an astronaut, visiting strange planets with ammonia oceans and carbon dioxide snow, maybe finding worms that speak and spiders which build skyscrapers. The Universe was a strange and fascinating place but, at that time, it seemed like Humanity would venture out into it and make a place for itself even under foreign Suns. Alpha Centauri, Rigel...those names became invested with fascination because of the thought that, perhaps, I, or some future human, would step onto a planet on which they shone.
I wonder what I would dream of if I were that child now? Maybe I would dream of becoming a drone 'pilot', sitting in the comfort of my cabin and guiding a drone over my city? Or, perhaps, of an evening spent in a 3-D world where worms and spiders could be made to do whatever I want them to do; and make it snow sulfur and rain Helium...it is a matter of writing code, after all. The most likely thing, I confess, is that I would be dreaming of sitting idle at home with robots catering to my every desire...what is AI and ML for, if I cannot even have that?
In those long gone days, I think a lot of us kids talked of becoming Scientists. Next only to astronauts, scientists were the stars in our firmament (Oh, yes, of course there was the fascination of becoming a movie star but, for a lot of us, the mirror put paid to that as a serious ambition - we were not THAT divorced from reality, after all, not all of us at any rate.) Now, I suppose, Science may not be as much in favor, if I were a kid; technology is the thing. Talk of AI/ML and you get the 'Oooh! Brainy!" looks; Talk of String theory and M-theory, and you get the suppressed yawns and an indelible reputation of a bore. So, it is a no-brainer.  Nowadays, technology is cutting edge; Science is blunted. Nerd may be the in-thing now but you ought to be the right sort of nerd.
Astronomical information is passe. (Who cares how many moons Saturn has or whether Europa had water...or even life? Unless, of course, it is sentient or if it causes a plague on Earth). Yeah, there are those nice pics sent across by Voyager and all, good for sharing on Social media but, come on, it's not like I can take a selfie with them in the background, is it? Talk of what percentage of women like what deodorant on men...NOW you are talking! So, it is all about Data Analytics, collating data generated by humans, and not about scientific information about the Cosmos. So, instead of dreaming of searching the Heavens for quasars, I'd love to dream of trawling the Net for information about my fellow-men and their foibles.
So, yes, now rockets are either for putting up satellites so that I can live almost all of what makes it a life on my smartphone; or, of course, to deliver nuclear warheads to far distances, which countries make in order not to use...or so they solemnly promise. (All this will push forward ambitions in Space? I wish, but I suspect it is all going to be deployed to sell chips better and cheaper.)
AND the ambitions of nations are restricted to building the biggest ant-hill on our mud-ball.
Or is there any nation that still dares to dream of the stars?

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