Daily Archives: February 12, 2007

Lost in Space

There is a long naval tradition that captains of military ships spend many years in training and practice before receiving command of a ship. Such an officer becomes intimately familiar with the details of their ship. In particular, they understand the limitations and advantages of their weapons systems to an extreme degree.

I realize that all traditions eventually decay away, but I had not expected this one, a very practical tradition that has served the sea-faring nations well for several thousand years, is not going to last into the next few centuries.

People who had access to televisions back in 2002 learned of the death of this tradition early, as that was when an episode of the television series “Star Trek: Enterprise” was aired. I don’t own a television and so here I am, shocked and daunted by the things I’ve seen, five long years after most people learned them. If my buddy didn’t own a TV, I’d likely never have known.

In this episode, Captain Archer asks that the ships phase cannons be used against the enemy. But phase cannons cannot be fired while this ship is moving at warp speed. He receives his education on this limitation from a junior officer, the way one might expect a captain would learn that the crew’s mess has run low on baking powder for cookies, or that there is a shortage of brooms.

The only parallel I can think of for this level of ignorance is the captains of industry, who even now seem less capable than their counterparts from years ago. I’ve not seen enough to understand the details of how officers are to be trained in the future. It appears that the capabilities of military officers will eventually approach those of chief executive officers of large companies: ceremonial posts required by the human flocking instinct; that their decision making capability will be primiarily limited to such as choosing the paint color in the executive washroom and making bad sports analogies while playing golf.


Filed under physics