Thursday, December 04, 2003

Return of the Cave Capitalist

To: 2 Grunts & 1 Cluck
From: BCE ATP, Grants Processing Department
Re: Your grant proposal

Dear Mr. 1 Cluck,

Thank you for your recent funding request to the Herd Council's high-risk Advanced Technology Program. Your reputation precedes you, as we've been following your failed attempts at cave capital funding for your so-called "wheel" contraption.

Frankly, I don't know how you even got in the cave opening of a respected investment firm with your futuristic sci-fi notions. "Wheels" that just roll through our hunting and grazing land on their own power, with humans somehow aboard and moving faster than our game animals! Indeed. Don't you know that faster-than-foot travel defies the laws of physics? Please, Mr. 1 Cluck, tell me about this new physics?

Unable to secure private funding, you're now asking us to waste the herd's resources on your crackpot ideas. You're asking, in a time of wood and stone scarcity, to borrow a few sticks and rocks to experiment with creation and control of fire! Let's forget, for a moment, the serious environmental and societal consequences of such an invention (What if, for example, a rival herd or an infiltrator within our own ranks got hold of such a technology and used it irresponsibly?), and let's talk about the serious physical barriers to such a fire assembler.

We all know that fire comes only from the sky, and only in rare instances when the cloud gods are in a generous, playful or destructive mood. Such a thing occurs in nature, but only under the proper conditions and cannot be recreated through human intervention. What dry medium will you use? How are you going to replace the loss of breathable air as you orchestrate precise three-dimensional placement of spark and flame? And what are you going to do with those rocks and sticks, anyway? I suppose you can use them to club passers-by who stop to mock you.

I can only guess as to the reaction our cousin Neanderthals will have to such foolishness, as they are convinced that they are smarter and destined to become the world's dominant species.

I admit that we must seek more fire, as the weather appears to be turning much colder as the years go by, but we must be content to find it among the raw materials we are given. We all know that technological society is made only of rock, wood, flesh and bone. The control of fire is, like the "wheel," good subject matter for your entertaining cave paintings or even your irresponsible "clog" (cave log). Even there, though, such ideas corrupt our youth.

A few cycles of the sun ago, I gave a talk in front of the clan's children titled, "Be a Scientist, Save the Flat World." Leading up to my visit, the students were asked to chisel an essay on "Why I Am a Cave Geek." Of the essays I read, nearly half assumed that human-created fire was possible, and most were deeply worried about what would happen in their future as fire spread to the edge of the world. I did what I could to allay their fears, but there is no question that many of these youngsters have been told a sleep-on-the-ground-time story that is deeply troubling.

You and cavemen around you have scared our young. I don't expect you to stop, but I hope others will join with me in turning on the sun, and showing our cubs that, while our future in the real world will be cold, with a coming Long Period of Ice, there will be no such monster as the human-replicated fire of your dreams.

4 Clicks, 7 Squeaks and 1 Grunt
Chief Technology Pronouncer