Technological decay

I have long argued, and commenters on this blog have long been disputed, that science died shortly after World War II, replaced by official state religion wearing lab coats as priestly robes, and using test tubes as aspersoria for holy water.

The age of science began with the Restoration and the Royal Society.  The Royal Society’s motto was “Take no one’s word for it”.   Feynman, in his address “What is Science?”, rephrased this as “Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts.” Now, however science consists of taking the word of secret anonymous committees meeting behind closed doors, committees that refuse to show their evidence, data, calculations, and method of calculation even while demanding trillion dollar programs, gigantic human sacrifice, and challenged by freedom of information requests.

I have long argued, and commenters on this blog have long been disputed, that since 1972, the west has been in technological stagnation or outright decline in most everyday fields, in an ever increasing number of fields. Yes, DNA reading and computer disk drives keep improving, but clothes washing machines have gone to $#!&, and there is a reason why people are nostalgic for the old muscle cars.

Observe our ability to build and operate tall buildings has been diminishing since 1972.

The highest level of technology is found in war. Soldiers are to take control of or destroy men and assets. Tanks, artillery, mortars and Armored Personnel carriers are to destroy soldiers. Ground attack planes and helicopters are to destroy tanks and armored personnel carriers, and air to air fighters are to destroy ground attack planes, and other air to air fighters.

So the highest level of technology, and the greatest expense, is found in the air to air fighter. A people’s capability to build and operate air to air fighters is the most sensitive barometer of its technological level, and a vital factor in that people’s capacity to win wars. You get air superiority, so the other side cannot use tanks against your soldiers, and you can use tanks against their soldiers, and artillery against their population centers and assets. You flatten their population centers and destroy their assets so that they cannot feed and equip their soldiers, and then your soldiers take charge.

And as you know, American air to air fighters have been getting slower and slower, more and more expensive, less and less maneuverable, flying less and less high, and carrying less and less ordinance. But now they are stealthed, right?  And Russian fighters are not stealthed.

Stealth can be beaten by sufficiently advanced electronics – you need two radars in substantially different locations whose radar is coordinated – one paints the target with a radar beam, and the other views the scatter from a substantially different angle. In response to the Turkish attack Russia now has part of the technology to beat stealth deployed in Syria: AEASA radars that can spray beams out in several thousand completely different directions per second. Does it have all of the technology deployed? Does it have the capability to coordinate two AEASA radars so as to see through stealth? Maybe. Probably. Though we will not really know until we see a major air battle between Russia and another advanced power.

Further Russian air to air fighters can fly faster, fly higher, are more maneuverable, and carry more ordinance than American air to air fighters. The recent display of Russian capability in Syria seems to be giving the Pentagon a nervous breakdown.  The Su-34 is every way superior, except for the very important defect that it lacks stealth.

When Dubai wants to build a tall building, it hires western experts. But those western experts are expatriates, semi permanent exiles from the west. They have foreign wives, girlfriends, and concubines. They don’t build tall buildings in the West because a horde of bureaucrats would shake them down for bribes (politely laundered through “consultants”, aka bagmen) and because they could not get any decent pussy in the west.

Our increasingly diverse ruling elite loses cohesion, in part through diversity, in part through selecting for cowards and liars. Because of this loss of cohesion, if you want to build a tall building in the west, you have to bribe a thousand priestly bureaucrats (whose self justifications are increasingly priestly – mostly they are protecting Gaia) and each of these thousand bureaucrats wants his pet consultant to collect ten percent of the surplus value that would be created by the building, adding up to a demand for one hundred times the value, while the King of Dubai is likely to content himself with a mere fifty percent of the value.

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47 Responses to “Technological decay”

  1. lalit says:

    Jim, What do you say about 3D printing? Is this not a feat of technological advance? Do you consider this an exception?

    • jim says:

      When I can print a gun, or print the control circuit for a 3D printer, will be impressed.

      • Lalit says:

        Appears we are not to far away

        • jim says:

          We have been not far away for quite a while.

          • lalit says:

            Hmmm! Now isn’t 3D printing a relatively new technology? How long would you say we have been “not too far away.”

            Lilienfeld worked on the FET in the 1920s. By the time it started seeing use in ICs was the late 60s, isn’t it? So even if 3D printing came earlier, could not one be hopeful about this to be the time of Moore’s law like growth in 3D printing?

            Now Jim, you make reasonable arguments about Technological decay. Suppose we were able to 3D print an AK-47 in the next decade, would you say your theory has found an exception?

            • jim says:

              Yes, sure.

              And just to be clear, not saying technological decay everywhere. Technology is still advancing in Asia, for example blue light semiconductor laser, futuristic architecture, high energy density batteries. And much of this advance comes from white expats whose wives and concubines are local women.

          • peppermint says:

            All this 3d print a gun stuff is either based on the definition that a gun is a lower receiver or one shot inaccurate stuff. It will be extremely difficult to get a 3d printed barrel to perform well.

            The second problem is ammo. It will not be possible to just 3d print explosives.

            An insurgency would be best armed with the very rifles, shotguns, and pistols that are currently legal. However, an insurgency is impossible and talk of staging one is the most colossal mistake so-called pro-Whites have made over the past 40 years. When Bob Whitaker was talking about defunding the Left by shining a spotlight on their revenue, William Luther Pierce was writing the disgusting Turner Diaries that made being pro-White radioactive for the past 20 years.

            Reagan could have crushed the Left by letting Bob go after their tax exempt organizations. He didn’t do it, so here we are. Here’s to hoping Trump doesn’t cuck out at the last minute.

          • Cloudswrest says:

            About the same price 48″ flat screen TVs were around 2002.


          • peppermint says:

            dae sintering and welding will have different characteristics from casting and boring?

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  4. Menschsplainer says:

    I don’t know why you think there hasn’t been progress in the automotive industry. People are nostalgic for old school muscle cars because cars sucked during the 70s and 80s not because they never got better. A 10 year old Charger is easily comparable to the best of the old school muscle cars in a straight line, and will run rings around them (and a fair number of 1990s sports cars) in curves all while comfortably seating four. And if that’s not enough for you, well now there’s a Hellcat…

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  7. A.B Prosper says:

    Tall buildings are vanity projects and if we were smarter about immigration, we wouldn’t need to consider them anyway.

    Population decline without immigration isn’t bad, its natural and healthy response to changes in the job market, You cannot keep it up forever but it can go one for along time without harm if your society is prudent, which ours isn’t.

    A less populace society is a healthier one anyway and a US with closed controlled borders and a population steady at around 100 million at most would be immeasurably nicer to live in than the gulag-shopping mall we are trying to build.,

    As for tech, again its kind of part of the problem since it screws up the role of men and women to a lesser degree, We need a good defense but tech progress isn’t a value in itself and we certainly don’t need to allow Chinese imports anyway. Make it here, buy it here, sell it here is a perfectly valid and effective system especially with a whole load of “stop bothering people”

    • Eli says:

      Nonsense. Pretty much all advances, especially technological, of human societies were either directly or indirectly related to solving problems of scale.
      Scale means more population, which pushes demand for said solutions in the area of food, infrastructure, warfare, policing, etc. etc.

      People who share your opinion — a huge base, including so-called conservatives. But this is where I’d rather be a pro-taxer/money-value-deflater. The way to expand civilization is for the government to step in, and invest in huge, forward-looking, long-term projects. Namely: in science and expanding technology, its sophistication, spread, and redundancy. This way, smart people get employed, and they have something to look forward to, including building a legacy and a family for whom to pass it. You also encourage nationalism. The result: people (and smarter people, especially!) will make babies.

      You can’t have workable eugenics unless you create a nationalist, pro-natalist atmosphere, and yes, limit the rights and roles of women. The other route has been tried: to this day, all attempts have ended with abysmal, anti-eugenic fertility.

      Stop worrying about Gaia.

      • Eli says:

        Also, a way to add jobs is to limit/forbid outsourcing. You don’t have to do it immediately, but it’s the way to go.

        Autarchy and nationalism is the future. Another venue, related, is projects to create own weaponry.

        That’s why Israel is doing the right thing. I only wish Israelis created even more of their stuff (although they already do a lot). I was told that during 70’s/80’s Israel’s top brass was mulling creating their own jet fighter, based on the French Mirage. Still don’t understand why they didn’t go that route.

        • B says:

          Israel scrapped its fighter program under U.S. soft pressure.

          • peppermint says:

            you’ll kill kennedy to keep your nuke program, but will scrap your fighters because USG asks? USG will let you bomb the USS Liberty, but not with your own planeys?

            i don’t even know who’s jewing who anymore

          • Eli says:

            Thanks, B. Was the US acting to protect/expand their market, or was there some other motive behind it that I don’t understand?

          • B says:

            Oh, was THAT why we killed Kennedy?

            The USS Liberty belonged to our supposed American allies and was hanging out off the coast during a war where our existence was at stake, collecting COMINT and ELINT on us and feeding it to our enemies through the Saudis. Tragedies happen, eh?

            I have no idea what America’s motive was. Probably some combination of military-industrial complex lobbying (partly for market purposes, partly because there really wasn’t anyone else whom they could rely on to regularly test American weapons against Soviet-made aircraft and AD complexes-see Op Mole Cricket 19, where the Israelis wrecked “Syrian” air defenses which were basically a bunch of Soviet systems manned by Soviet advisors) and the idea that if Israel starts making its own jets, tanks, etc. it might just give the American sponsors the bird at a key junction of events. And we wouldn’t want that, right?

        • Eli says:

          I did a cursory search to attempt to find out about the USS Liberty incident. It looks like LBJ definitely took Israel’s side when push came to shove.

          What I still can’t verify is: what this ship was there for, in the first place. They claim that they didn’t have any Hebrew translators on board, only Arab and Russian. I am willing to accept this reason as cover. One doesn’t need any translation when it comes to ELINT.

          But again, given LBJ’s actions, it does not look like he would do the exact opposite. Maybe there was a different wing inside the government (CIA?) that was acting contra-Israeli interests?

          • B says:

            For an insight into the relationship of the Permanent Government with Israel, I recommend Robert Kaplan’s The Arabists.

            For the last 70 years, you did not become an Arabic/Near East expert in State, the CIA, the NSA or the military without spending a year and a half, 8 hours a day, in class having the situation explained to you by Arabs and senior instructors who went through the same process. They used to run their language school for State in Beirut for decades. After class, you’d go hang out with more Arabs and each other. Obviously, having contrary opinions and expressing them would endanger your class standing and post-graduation job/social prospects. Not only that, all these guys were grads from colleges where they’d had area studies professors prep them for four years.

            The whole thing descended from Yankee Protestant missionaries who came to the Middle East to convert the Arabs to Protestantism, failed, then converted themselves to Unitarianism/Progressivism, and then did their best to convert the Arabs to the same. Right around this time, USG started to develop a serious foreign policy in the Middle East, and needed subject matter experts, and these assholes were the closest thing they had. See, for instance, Colonel Eddy, USMC, who ended up being FDR’s Arabic translator/advisor.

            By the mid 20th century, these guys ended up in a Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers situation-since the Arabs had no real leaders, but they had to report on what the Arabs wanted and who needed to be dealt with, they picked and supported the most strident and violent assholes in the Arab world who were not outright Communists, and supported them. This had the side effect that the problems caused by this policy made the services and insights of the Arabists more in-demand.

            The USS Liberty had a Hebrew (“special Arabic”) linguist aboard:

            In any case, you don’t need a linguist on hand if you can retransmit intercepts through SATCOM to a place where you do have linguists.

            This article says that the NSA intercepted ground control transmissions between the attacking pilots and their controllers. Ground control comms are UHF, meaning that they don’t bounce for hundreds or thousands of miles like HF does, so the range means that whoever was collecting them was within a few dozen miles of the tower at most. I’m guessing that it was the US Liberty.


            The best part:

            “”I had a Libyan naval captain who was listening in that day,” said a retired CIA officer, who spoke on condition that he not be named discussing a clandestine informant.

            “He thought history would change its course,” the CIA officer recalled. “Israel attacking the U.S. He was certain, listening in to the Israeli and American comms [communications], that it was deliberate.””

            What the fuck was the CIA doing letting Libyan Navy captains listen in on intercepted Israeli comms during a shooting war? COMINT is Top Secret/Sensitive Compartmented Information! It’s NOFORN-you don’t share it with other nations, unless specifically directed!

            And then this:

            “Two of the recordings were made by Michael Prostinak, a Hebrew linguist aboard a U.S. Navy EC-121, a lumbering propeller-driven aircraft specially equipped to gather electronic intelligence.”…”As soon as the EC-121 landed at its base in Athens, Prostinak said, all the tapes were rushed to an NSA facility at the Athens airport where Hebrew translators were standing by.”

            Yeah, the US for sure was not spying on Israel.

          • Eli says:

            Thank you very much for the lucid, very detailed explanation, B!

      • A.B Prosper says:

        I’m not worried about Gaia, she can look out for herself.

        You are correct in that our problems are ones of scale but its the opposite of what you mean

        And while I’m not in any way shape or anti-natal or anti-nationalist, just the opposite in fact the technological and cultural bind we are in suggest we simply don’t need as large a population.

        technology, the biological limits of IQ (only about 10% of the White and Asian races and a much smaller amount of the others) the limits of human nature and so on mean
        simply, life is better for most humans with less humans

        Also I think our society has this assumption that advancements in technology are inevitable, well not they aren’t. Simply, innovation is hard. And yes absolutely Jim is spot on about the influence of extra social costs but its also possible we’ve reached a point where progress slows down because the advancement increment is much slower.

        This is not a bad thing since it allows a little foresight and a society that is more stable, less “future shocky” if you’ll forgive a Toffler reference. Its a much better platform to build conservatism from/

        • Eli says:

          >You are correct in that our problems are ones of scale but its the opposite of what you mean

          I don’t understand what you mean.

          >Also I think our society has this assumption that advancements in technology are inevitable, well not they aren’t. Simply, innovation is hard. And yes absolutely Jim is spot on about the influence of extra social costs but its also possible we’ve reached a point where progress slows down because the advancement increment is much slower.

          Societies, developed ones, are experiencing acute internal dilemmas. Technology has outpaced human needs, but social institutions are weak and are regressing backwards, in the name of, ironically, “progress.”

          Your argument is that to sustain and, perhaps, slowly develop the tech we have right now, it is not necessary to have a large population.

          As of right now, for the next decades, maybe even centuries, your argument is not wrong, from the point of view of struggling social institutions in developed/ing countries, decaying from influence of various crazy Western ideas.

          Let me run through a simulation of a hypothetical but plausible scenario, along the lines of your proposal:

          As soon as *a* civilization recovers (my hypothesis, it is either via elite-ruled totalitarian or theocratic system(s) of some sort(s)), what you’ll have is a quick ballooning of said civilization, its population: from, possibly, something as low as millions, to billions, if not tens of billions. In this case, you will see a much more assertive expansionary conduct that will overwhelm your ideal Anglo-speaking half-White, half-Asian white picket fence 10-million worth, technocratic Elysium situated in, say, Vermont.

          Nuclear war is unlikely to happen. Most likely, a few thousands of years of tense, MAD-mediated peace will ensue. From within your enlightened Elysium, a group or two will emerge who will want to have as many babies as they want. Because Elysium doesn’t have birth control (or does it now?), they will quickly overwhelm Elysium with their ideology, demographically, within a few hundred years.

          And then we are back, socially, to where we started at around the onset of Industrial Revolution: societies expanding and competing with each other. And that’s good. That’s necessary for *real* progress.

          You know the saying “life finds a way?” So is with your assumption with “reasonable” number of people. This is not how life and evolution work.

          • A.B Prosper says:

            I’m not fond of race mixing for various reasons or really of large scale Asian immigration into the West. Its not a terrible choice from a biological or social POV but its not a good choice compared to not race or culture mixing.

            I have much respect for Asian achievements but they aren’t my people or in my opinion as accomplished as Europeans anyway.

            That said predicting hundreds of years in the future is fraught with peril though if you were to ask me to hazard a guess, I’d say we will have a catabolic collapse and die back in the billions.

            This is not extinction level or necessarily civilization ending though, its simply systems reaching the limits of complexity, faltering till the complexity level is low enough for the society to handle it

            You can read the Archdruid Report for more all you can stomach on the topic or read Greer’s white paper on the topic. Its short and to the point which is quite rare.

            Past this point, its perfectly possible that we will again grunt our way into a higher tech civilization. That is eugenically determined though , if you have a low intelligence gene pool it will never happen. A higher intelligence/controlled risk gene pool will happen faster depending on how much knowledge is lost and how its circulates and on the culture.

            Some cultures may simply not want or trust technology and may not have interest in such things. A large scale “church” might prohibit such investigations. Who knows?

            As for a hundred years or so estimate well our Victorian and Edwardian forbears had some good predictions and some of the 1950’s-1960’s predictions were fairly accurate so I’s day we have a prediction window of no more than 100 years (+/- 20%)

            Past that, its all guess work and honestly beyond very rudimentary planning, no point in even trying.

  8. B says:

    Previously, you claimed that the main measure of a military aircraft (as far as technology is concerned) is speed, and claimed that the F-35’s much lower top speed than that of the SR-71 demonstrates the decline of the West.

    Now you point to the Su-34 as an example of superior Russian technology. The Su-34 has a top speed of Mach 1.8. The Mig-25 had a top speed of Mach 3.2. Using Jim-logic, Soviet tech in 1964 was far, far beyond Russian tech in 2014.

    I personally am not much of an air guy. I’m a ground guy. So let’s look at ground technology in 2015 vs. 1975.

    Guys on the ground have three functions to do: shoot, move and communicate.

    Shooting: back in 1975, guys on the ground had M-16s with iron sights, and hitting at 400 meters was considered pretty good. Sniper rifles were militarized hunting rifles in .30-06, and were reliable to 800 meters. Today, guys have all kinds of cool optics, and for those who need it, even the M-16 has turned into the SPR, which can hit nicely out to 500 meters, and the SR-25, which can hit out to 800-900 meters. Sniper rifles are now ludicrously long-hitting and accurate, with calibers like the .338 Lapua. Guys are routinely hitting out to a mile and beyond. Small arms have evolved to the point that a lot of the time you can hit further than you can accurately identify a target. I should probably also mention the ridiculous advances in night vision, which let you be about as accurate at night, which was not the case in the 1970s. Also of course, you have backpackable drones which you can just fly over to whatever you’d like a better look at, and you can call in GPS-guided artillery that lands within a few meters on the first shot, as opposed to walking in rounds.

    Moving: obviously, walking speed has not changed, but accuracy has. Guys on the ground in the 1970s had land navigation technology that had not changed much in the previous century-dead reckoning and triangulation. Reconnaissance teams in Vietnam would sometimes have an idea of where they were to within a grid square, a box one kilometer to a side. Today everyone has GPS, and knows where they are to within several meters. When it comes to vehicles, there’s an enormous disparity-the US used to make its troops ride around in tin can M113s (which had crap aluminum armor) and Jeeps. Now it’s got Strykers and JLTVs. Anyone who’s ridden in both can tell you the difference.

    Communicating-when I came in, there were still AN/PRC-77s in use for training, which were a 1960s/70s radio. This thing weighed a ton, had awful range, 2 watts of output and you could only use it for low VHF voice comms (30-70MHz). When I left, we were using Thales MBITRs, which were light, small, and you could use them for voice or data from 30-512 MHz, set up frequency hopping, set up an external amp to go up to 25 watts (and still have the whole thing weigh less than the PRC-77,) connect to comms satellites with the right antenna, etc. There was all kinds of other shit that would fit in a backpack and do stuff that would have been science fiction in the 1970s.

    The Russians, Chinese etc. have gone through the same evolution, by the way.

    So it’s difficult for me to accept the argument that tech has regressed-from my perspective, the opposite is the case.

    • jim says:

      Previously, you claimed that the main measure of a military aircraft (as far as technology is concerned) is speed, and claimed that the F-35’s much lower top speed than that of the SR-71 demonstrates the decline of the West.

      And did I now say anything to contradict that? Russians fly faster than the US.

      Using Jim-logic, Soviet tech in 1964 was far, far beyond Russian tech in 2014.

      And I rather think that in substantial part, it was.

      When it comes to vehicles, there’s an enormous disparity-the US used to make its troops ride around in tin can M113s (which had crap aluminum armor) and Jeeps. Now it’s got Strykers and JLTVs. Anyone who’s ridden in both can tell you the difference.

      Germans in World War II could armor stuff just fine. Technology has not improved, rather priorities have changed. Obviously you give a volunteer army better armor than a conscript army.

      • pdimov says:

        “Germans in World War II could armor stuff just fine. Technology has not improved, rather priorities have changed.”

        Material science is actually one of the few areas that has improved a lot and is still improving.

        GPS is obviously also a step forward.

        I’m not sure whether the solid-statification of comm equipment and so on is not because it’s no longer made EMP-resistant though. Maybe it is, to some extent.

        • Erebus says:

          “Material science is actually one of the few areas that has improved a lot and is still improving.”

          Holy shit you don’t know what you’re talking about.

          The flammhärten dual-hardness steel armor that the Germans used in their King Tiger tanks was extremely impressive. It compares very favorably to the RHA steel in common use today, and it performed astoundingly well in combat.

          The boron carbide body armor plates that were given to troops in Vietnam do not differ significantly from the boron carbide “ESAPI” plates given to soldiers today. In fact, the reaction-bonded stuff of today is worse than the hot-pressed stuff from the 70’s, in terms of performance. (Easier to scale reaction bonding, though, so the new stuff is much cheaper to make. Softer, though, because they need to mix it with Si and other elements, which are not completely removed.)

          Kevlar and UHMWPE are very old inventions. No improvements on the polymer front in decades.

          As far as I’m aware, the strongest steels ever made were invented in Japan in the early 70’s. These were maraging steel alloys with tensile strengths near 3000MPa and hardness values over 65HRc. (Those who understand steel will be able to tell you how extraordinary this is. Usually it’s hard and brittle, or ductile and soft, almost never is it hard and extremely durable.) These steels were extremely expensive and difficult to make, and I don’t think that they’ve ever seen bulk production. Other maraging steels — the VascoMax 300 & 350 grades, which date back to the 1950s — are still used in extreme-stress situations, like missile frames and nuclear reactor centrifuges.
          …This goes to show that steel technology hasn’t improved in terms of hardness and strength over the past few decades. (The low-end stuff has gotten a lot better, though, thanks to the automobile companies and their quest for stronger steel, which they can use less of to bring weights down. I’m talking about TRIP steels and improved Mn alloys.)

          So tell me again how advanced materials are improving the technology that the Army fights with.

          Aside: Aluminum armor performs very well when its weight is taken into consideration. (Al density: 2.7g/cm3; steel: 7.8g/cm3; titanium: 4.5g/cm3; most armor ceramics: ~3g/cm3, never less than 2.5g/cm3.) Going with aluminum is something armored vehicle designers do when they value light-weight over more durable armor — when maneuverability and speed are more important than the ability to withstand damage. The material itself is no better or worse than ceramics or steel. If the vehicle sucks, you can’t blame the armor, solely — there are other design flaws, such as a weak engine, or something like that…

          I will add, however, that the reactive armor you Israelis invented is great. Very smart invention. And that drilling holes into steel panels to break apart projectiles and reduce weight (TOGA — perforated plate armor) was also a brilliant idea.

          …Not new materials, but innovative techniques.

          Anyway, having said all that, I can assure you that most of the non-electronic technologies that the military makes use of are stagnant — and have been that way for a long time.

          • pdimov says:

            “Holy shit you don’t know what you’re talking about.”

            This is true.

            “you Israelis”

            This isn’t.

          • Erebus says:

            Please pardon me. I had confused you with B.

            By the way, I’d add something to my previous post: Carbon nanotubes, and similar nanomaterials, are on the whole no more than 25 years old. (CNT discovery: 1991) Their potential in material composites is only now becoming apparent, after many years of dedicated and thankless work. I’m hopeful that a few material breakthroughs — in metal and ceramic composites, particularly — shall be made within the next ten years.

            There are also a number of really cool materials with terrific potential — like bulk polycrystalline diamond — that simply cannot be scaled up at this time. They await better equipment for high-pressure chemistry. 6GPa+ is no joke, but I’m sure that this hurdle will eventually be surmounted.

            So there are a number of interesting things going on. The field is not _wholly_ stagnant. I don’t want to seem too pessimistic, as, if anything, I’m optimistic for the near future in the material sciences.

            • jim says:

              There is potential in carbon allotropes for materials with twenty to two hundred times the strength to weight ratio of steel. Carbon fibre stuff that has somewhat higher strength to weight ratios is being produced here and there in small scale specialty shops, by small obscure businesses – but the carbon fibres that they use are made by a process developed in 1970.

              We know that in principle it is possible to produce very strong carbon fibres, but we are still using 1970 carbon fibres, which are strong but far below theoretical limits, just as we are still using 1982 photolithography to make semiconductor circuits.

              Progress will continue as artisans find new and clever ways to apply 1970 breakthroughs to body armor, golf clubs, and such, but it is ever diminishing progress, whereas when we first realized the potential of carbon allotropes, people were thinking that by now we would be building skyscrapers two hundred kilometers tall.

          • B says:

            >The flammhärten dual-hardness steel armor that the Germans used in their King Tiger tanks was extremely impressive. It compares very favorably to the RHA steel in common use today, and it performed astoundingly well in combat.

            Perhaps. But today’s tanks are much better armored than the King Tigers were, and much more survivable, and have the added benefit that you can drive them around without them breaking down every few miles.

            >The boron carbide body armor plates that were given to troops in Vietnam do not differ significantly from the boron carbide “ESAPI” plates given to soldiers today.

            Again, perhaps this is true, but 20 years ago it was uncommon to see guys with body armor, and now everyone has it. 10 years ago what was commonly available was either teenage mutant ninja turtle Interceptor shit or plate carriers. Now you can actually move in the stuff that’s not a plate carrier.

            >Kevlar and UHMWPE are very old inventions.

            Perhaps-but from the point of view of the typical dude on the ground, they only filtered down to him in a useful form recently.

            There is also the fact that there’s a law of diminishing returns. It’s not very hard for a motivated healthy man to train up to run a mile in six minutes. It’s somewhat hard to train up to run a mile in five minutes. It’s very hard to get to a four minute mile. To go to a three or two minute mile, you have to make some major breakthroughs in several areas.

          • B says:

            I should also mention that when I went through basic training in the beginning of the century, the standard for an arterial bleed was to apply direct pressure, a dressing and then IMPROVISE a tourniquet. You were supposed to seal sucking chest wounds with the plastic that dressings came with. That was it. Medics would push saline. During OIF 1/2, some SOF guys would carry RATCHET STRAPS to stop arterial bleeding from extremity wounds.

            Today, everyone has a pre-fabbed, self-locking tourniquet on hand. Hemcon and similar chitosan-type stuff is widely available-that stuff will seal an arterial bleed like nobody’s business. Asherman chest seals and thoracic needle decompression kits for sucking chest wounds and hemo/pneumothorax. Hextend and similar blood volume expanders are widely available.

            Again, the perspective from the ground is very different than what you describe.

          • Erebus says:

            @B –

            I think that you’re conflating two things here:

            -Technological progress.
            -Access to products derived from technological progress.

            The way I see it, Jim’s point stands. Over the past 40 years (approx), there has been comparatively little technological progress in the material sciences. We have not developed significantly stronger steels, polymers, or ceramics/cermets. Case in point: Russia’s new and much-hyped T-14 Armata tank is apparently made of a steel that would not be entirely out of place in the 1950’s. (Official details are scarce, but plausible rumors all claim that it’s a bainitic steel of 54 HRc hardness & reasonable ductility.) This tank’s armor is said to contain “boron ceramic” reinforcement — similarly unimpressive from a technical standpoint.✝

            What you’re saying — and what I believe to be true — is that planning and purchasing departments have been investing in making better tools available to frontline soldiers. There have also been loads of projects designed to make infantry kits more comfortable. This is valuable, but doesn’t change the fact that technological progress has been rather stagnant.

            Again, I’m not pessimistic. The way I see it, the past 20 years have been, broadly speaking, devoted to attaining a better understanding of nanomaterials and their composites. I feel as though we’re right at the threshold — that we’ve finally begun to understand how to use materials like carbon nanotubes to enhance metals, polymers, and ceramics in cost-efficient ways — and I wouldn’t be terribly surprised if 2016-2030 becomes a new golden age for the applied material sciences.

            I talk of material science because that’s what I know best, but I believe that it’s much the same in other non-electronics/non-optics fields. In fact, I believe that there has been even less progress in explosives and munitions/propellants than there has been in armor! They’ve been “developing” CL20 for about 30 years now. As far as anybody can tell, it’s still not in use. This 2004 report makes mention of a lot of potential research and development directions — but nothing much has been accomplished:

            Your point with respect to diminishing returns is noted. That’s part of the explanation, certainly.

            ✝-It bears mention that the Russians have always been leaders in boron/boride research. Matkovich’s “Boron and Refractory Borides”, a book which dates back to 1977, is a classic reference text & is loaded with useful and still-relevant information. It’s interesting that biology books that date back to 1977 are utterly worthless and absolutely must not be read — they’re so badly obsolete that they’ll only serve to confuse you — whereas in most fields of chemistry, metallurgy, and physics, books that date back to the 30’s and 40’s are often just fine.

          • peppermint says:

            biology was poorly understood and frequently lied about during the last century, while materials science, never really lied about that much, was grounded in modern atomic physics

  9. bob sykes says:

    Some people claim there has been no fundamental technological breakthrough since the 1960’s, and that we are still living off that capital. Certainly, desktop computer clock speeds have stagnated for almost a decade at around 3 GHz. And it is true that we are not doing skyscrapers as well: Freedom Tower is much inferior to the World Trade Center towers, both in height and in floorspace. And as impressive as the F22 is, the F35 promises to be a dog, and we are likely to lose the air superiority we have had since Vietnam. And, of course, we haven’t been able to design a replacement for the B52 in 50 years.

    However, speaking as a retired civil engineer, a great part of the problem is the prolifieration of all sorts of regulations and laws that empower all sorts of groups to delay projects (NIMBY). One has to note that truly impressive skyscrapers are being built overseas, so technology is not dead.

    • jim says:

      However, speaking as a retired civil engineer, a great part of the problem is the prolifieration of all sorts of regulations and laws that empower all sorts of groups to delay projects (NIMBY).

      In practice these groups exist only as long as bureaucrats seek additional powers, and evaporate once the powers are acquired (the GO NGO dance)

      Once the bureaucrat has the necessary powers, the problem reduces to paying off the bureaucrat through his pet “consultant”. If one only has to pay off a few “consultants” it is possible to cut a deal, but as the number of “consultants” (bagmen) multiply, it becomes ever more difficult to do a deal.

  10. Ulick McGee says:

    Re washing machines, in other words, general industry, Western companies cannot compete with the Chinese under current circumstances. In China, thanks to easy money, a small little factory boss can get a large loan to buy state-of-the-art foreign manufacturing equipment. As a result, small Chinese factories often produce metal or plastic parts to higher tolerances and more cheaply than small suppliers in the West. He has to repay the loan but inflation seriously reduces the pain.

    Land prices were rocketing until recently so if he owned the land on which the factory was built, his assets were increasing rapidly. Due to the nature of the Chinese, eventually almost every small factory is producing goods slightly over cost and relying on VAT returns from the government (for example 10% back from 17% paid) to provide them with small profit. This is o.k. because they are watching the value of their assets go up significantly every year and also because they are frugal people. 10% gross margin in China generates the same net profit as 25% gross in America.

    All his suppliers are in a similar situation so he can purchase his inputs very cheaply. State industries, like steel, are so massively over capacity that he can buy some goods cheaper than anywhere else in the world even though the proportion of labour used is low and Chinese energy costs are higher than elsewhere, for example, America.

    And yes, his labour costs are much lower than in the West. Plus, he can under report his production staff levels to pay less social insurance. A kick back to the local government avoids any unpleasant questions.

    Western washing machine makers moved production to China in the 90’s to get a short term boost in their stock price with the purpose of enriching the CEO, although the official purpose would have been to enrich the shareholders by meeting Asian demand. The Chinese government initially forced the Westerner to hand his IP over to a Chinese “partner” who proceeded to steal as much money as possible from the dumb Big Nose. By the time that this scam played out, Chinese factories were able to make washing machines by themselves, however badly.

    Now, again due to the nature of the Chinese, if there is a choice of two products and one is cheaper to buy up front although more expensive over the lifetime, the majority of Chinese will go for the cheap expensive option. Most Chinese companies cannot survive this race to the bottom, never mind Western ones. As a result, prices are very low.

    The American government’s purpose is to serve corporations so it does not put sufficient duty on incoming crud. Thus, the Chinese can export their junk to the USA and compete against local brands, whose mediocre washing machines are probably made by Chinese staff working for the American brand in China.

    Due to the Walmart effect, you are left with junk on the market. This repeats itself in industry after industry.

    TLDR: we haven’t been able to innovate even in low to mid tech because of a temporary economic situation which is now changing.

    • jack arcalon says:

      The decay has a kind of diabolical madness, the terrible vigor of ever accelerating chaos.
      Things fall apart. The center cannot hold.
      In this case, the blind-eyed sphinx is spouting Hope and Change.

  11. Alan J. Perrick says:

    One more point for the city-state model of governance. And monarchy.


  12. Richard Nixon's Ghost says:

    The US, and most of the world, have also been spending much, much less on military defense since the Cold War ended.

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