The public has an odd image of scientists are reclusive loners with deep eclectic streaks and megalomaniacal tendencies. Eclecticism aside, it should most vehemently noted that megalomaniacs are, by their very nature, doomed to failure, so as a scientist you shouldn't even try. Yes, it may be tempting to ponder as you blearily load Blue Juice into agarose wells and wonder why you bothered to crawl out of bed. And yes, you may know, in your data-ey heart of hearts that the world would be a better place if it was ruled by a rational scientist*, but the truth is that each and every megalomaniac aspirant begins their path to conquering the world with grand visions of uniting the world as one cohesive and peaceful society. Then they inevitably make 2 mistakes:
1) Try to invade Russia.
2) Fail to take into account that people actually live in the world.
First of all, it should be noted that unless you've found a way to animate snow men as soldiers, you will never successfully conquer a very cold, wintery Northern country (except maybe Canada). The people that live there are used to the staggeringly brutal winters and know how to use it as an advantage against you. To understand that this is true, you only have to look to the historical examples (of which there are relatively few) where one Northern country tried to whup another militarily instead of just economically. In the Winter War of 1942, Finland and Russia fought a nasty border war. The Russians attacked on snow mobiles, and the native Finns who knew the land ambushed them, guerilla-style, on skis. Russia tried to use tanks, but really should have known better: they got stuck in freezing mud. Moscow may be flat, but Karelia and Finland are full of lakes, and what looks like dry ground between lakes is usually actually a swamp. Finland eventually lost this battle because they didn't have the supplies to keep fighting, and they wound up losing a substantial amount of territory in Karelia and also lost the important industrial city of Viipuri (now Vyborg).
Secondly, in almost everywhere on the planet, in every little nook and cranny where you'd least expect to find them, are people. Living there. With histories, and traditions, and individual languages and land rights that make the task of being their benevolent ruler aggravatingly complex and bureaucratic. You're stuck with them. You have to deal with them, regardless of whether or not you want to because, if you're in charge and decide to ignore them and focus elsewhere, you'll have a steaming pile of rebellion dropped right into your fancy oatmeal. And let's face it: rebellions are an expensive pain in the ass. You've got to send soldiers to keep them from taking it out on any vulnerable scapegoats, you've got to rebuild whatever they manage to destroy (never underestimate the sheer raw power of 10,000 angry people with hammers), and then you've got to figure out whatever the hell it was they wanted in the first place. Pain. In. The. Ass. Instead of eating exquisite grapes off the juicy bodies of your servants and having your wine washed in fancy feet, you've got to rule the people.
Alternatively, you could conquer the world and set up a Parliament so that the people you now have to rule would feel like they had some say in things, but then you'd also have to deal with Parliament interfering in your wishes. And if you decide to go even further and let Parliament actually rule and be a figurehead emporer instead, well, let's just say you're setting yourself up for a coup d'etat, and once the whole world is pissed off at you there's no where for you to flee to.
Isn't this sounding like a massive bother? Wouldn't a nice cup of tea and a cookie be better instead? I mean, if you're going to rule something absolutely, start somewhere where you can decide who gets to live there. Like the Moon. If anyone tries to rebel you can politely tell them to go walk it off outside.
*Because if we let an engineer run the world everything would suddenly have 3X as many buttons, 1/2 as many useful functions, and nothing would be properly labeled.
Two interviews and a podcast
1 week ago