The think tank futurists who sold the American people on the idea that real tangible products don’t matter, that our future was in the magical "information" industry, and that we'd all make our daily bread by shuffling bytes from now until forever really perpetrated a colossal disservice upon a duped citizenry.
A citizenry astoundingly gullible enough to accept, and even seem to welcome such a vision of the future.
Suddenly, the United States went from being a global leader in producing almost every important commodity to an also-ran; that crash occurred at lightning speed.
Out of all the thousands of vital, physical products that the U.S. simply quit making, examining just one — cement — gives an idea of the monumental hole America has dug for itself.
China alone produces as much cement as all the rest of the world combined, followed by India, which pumps out a truly sizable amount. The U.S., by comparison, is in a three-way tie with two other countries a bit lower on the cement production pecking order: Turkey and Vietnam.
The Chinese churn out 27 times more cement than the United States.
If the U.S. were to disappear from the market it wouldn’t cause international business and industry anywhere to even blink an eye.
Cement, one should stop and consider, is hardly an insignificant thing.
Modern concrete is the very foundation — literally — for every facet of modern civilization; it has been so since Roman times, and even long before with more primitive mortars.
It’s the backbone of everything at every step during every waking moment of our lives, by the trillions and trillions of tons, in every sidewalk, building, roadway, the material that supports the 150 million houses in which Americans live.
The dreamers, academicians and elitists, leaning on ponderous sheepskins and careless of nuts-and-bolts realities of the workaday world, have led the U.S. into a dangerous place, for it isn’t just cement that is no longer made in America.
That list is long, shocking and foreboding, since too many are vital materials and commodities.
Iron and steel are such strategic materials; wars have been started, won, lost, and concluded based on access to steel. Warships, fighter bombers, tanks, artillery pieces, missiles and almost every other important military accoutrement are fashioned from steel.
China, the EU, India and Japan all forge more steel than the U.S. — Chinese steel production dwarfing American yield by a factor of 11.
A host of ordinary yet indispensable things of everyday life are also disappearing from American assembly lines, as the factories themselves are mothballed or — abandoned.
Incandescent light bulbs, rebar, televisions, cell phones, Levi's jeans, vending machines, railroad turnouts, flatware and many other once iconic artifacts of Americana are all made elsewhere with zero output in the United States.
Even Rawlings baseballs, the official supplier to Major League Baseball is on that list.
Shockingly, between 2000 and 2015, 60,000 factories vanished in America.
But if information isn’t the end-all and be-all of successful and dynamic societies, how did such purportedly far-seeing intellects get so much so wrong?
With the advent of the personal computing revolution during closing decades of the 20th century, as often happens when heady transformations drastically change civilization overnight, Americans fell collective victims to overplaying the success of the silicon chip.
"Information" became a buzzword, then a mantra, and finally a religion.
Indeed, a case can be made that there is nothing more powerful in the universe, unfortunately perhaps leading to some convoluted logical misconceptions.
A human cell, for example, contains a billion DNA base pairs, the genetic information coded using four amino acids. A four-letter alphabet doesn’t seem like much, but in this case it's four — raised to the power of a billion.
That little bit of biology — a billion times smaller than the volume of the ink to dot the period at the end of this sentence — is sufficient to house information equivalent to the Library of Congress’ collection.
As astounding as that is, however, a human being is something far, far greater than the chromosomes in its body. Those strands of DNA have to be housed in cells, protected by skin, bone and muscle, replaced, and repaired by all the systems of the body.
Information, for its own sake, standing alone, remote and purposeless, disconnected from the real and corporeal reality, creating nothing, producing nothing, and simply existing on its own is something nature abhors more than any vacuum: a brain without a body.
Nothing like that exists, nor will it ever.
The geniuses that rang in the Information Age had good reason to celebrate and got a good part of what they imagined to be the future right.
They blundered catastrophically, unfortunately, on more than a few things as well.
David Nabhan is a science writer, the author of "Earthquake Prediction: Dawn of the New Seismology" (2017) and three previous books on earthquakes. Nabhan is also a science fiction writer ("Pilots of Borealis," 2015) and the author of many scores of newspaper and magazine op-eds. Nabhan has been featured on television and talk radio all over the world. His website is www.earthquakepredictors.com. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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