Monday, June 8, 2015

Synthetic Horses

We have not traditionally regarded 'horsepower' that has been provided by steam, gasoline or electrical motors rather than by actual horses as coming from objects that are man-made, artificial and synthetic.

This is unfortunate because it reduces our ability to understand the causes for WWII's atrocities.

We are all well aware that humanity in the Age of Progress had an unstoppable mania for replacing as much of inanimate Nature as possible with synthetic man-made equivalents ---with artificial food and artificial leather being among the many low points in the process.

But none of this synthetic autarky in inanimate objects can be said to lay a very direct trail to the WWII horrors of Aktion T4, the Hunger Plan or the Holocaust (with their planned killing of tens of millions of 'useless mouths') over on the bad guys' side of the Atlantic.

Or to the post-war planned killings of tens of millions of work horses for horsemeat, over here on the good guys' side of the Atlantic.

That is because if newlyweds ever decide to replace expensive imperfect natural diamonds with cheap perfect synthetic diamonds, natural diamonds will merely become "useless" but not "useless mouths".

They will now be be useless to humanity but they won't cost tightfisted humanity a dime if left lying there in the ground forever more.

Disposing of living ex-machines

Not so with formerly very valuable animal and human slaves gradually rendered useless and worthless in the Age of the Machine.

For short periods of time, humans and work horses can exhibit amazingly good pulling powers but for sustained work a good quality work horse can only provide 1 horsepower of work output and a healthy adult only about .1 of a horsepower.

It is true that mechanical pulling engines need fuel just as humans and animals need food, but mechanical engines can work full out for 24 hours, 365 days a week.

In practise, horses and humans eventually work at less than full sustained capacity, if not given sufficient hours of rest daily and days off weekly to rest up.

So over a week of 168 hours, an unceasing two horsepower engine (a very small engine even in 1800) could replace a team of maybe ten horses, each working as well as the mechanical engine for bursts of time and feed just as cheaply, but only able to work full out for about 35 hours a week.

Discarded as a consequence to save money and increase profits, these ex-machines still had to be feed and cared for.

At least as long as upper class humanity still retained vestiges of old fashioned charitable concerns towards the smaller, older, slower weaker beings among them.

Now cue --- not Charles Darwin, or even his 1859 theory ---but rather the popular elite response to his theory.

As if well known, Darwin developed his theory well before 1859 but planned not to release it until he felt elite opinion would accept it.

1859 was not that time he felt - he was probably right - but Wallace's plans to release his very similar version of the same theory forced Darwin's hand.

I am tempted to say that any time in the 1870s was the right time for Darwin's theory to win elite approval but I may be 110% wrong.

Instead it just could be that the 1870s were the epoch changing decade that they became only because of the impact that Darwin's earlier theory had had upon elite humanity.

For its talk of an universal and eternal battle for survival providing elites the intellectual justification for some long sought after changes settling the post-slavery fates of once valuable animate man and beast, replaced by mechanical machines.

The poor were no longer to be 'always with us' but rather, as losers in the evolutionary race, to be assisted off the coil of life with a 'gentle kindly tug at their ankles'.

(To describe a way of thinking that Moscow Show Trial defender George Bernard Shaw made infamous.)

Just as it was long believed that the decline and disappearance of Canada's natives was evolutionary inevitable, so it couldn't possibly be morally wrong to kindly haste Nature's cruel ways with a little man-made starvation and terrible housing.

Synthetic autarky - the belief that 'fit humanity' didn't need imperfect inanimate nature ultimately extended to not needing imperfect animate humanity either.

For Darwin's cousin Galton had quickly picked up Darwin's ball and invented Eugenics.

And it was his negative eugenics that made it possible for ordinarily decent people, during WWII, to solve the longstanding 'problem' of disposing of 'useless' living, breathing, eating machines once they had been replaced by new synthetic models, without losing any sleep.

'Evolution really did all the killing, not us', said Germany's population, in justification after the fact ...

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