Friday, August 10, 2018

Trees and other projects

There's a saying that goes along the lines of:

"A society grows great when old men plant trees in whose shade they will never sit."

There doesn't seem to be much agreement on who said it first, or who thought it first.  Or even who first thought that they might like to think about saying it. 

Humans are always starting new projects and building new stuff.  But it seems to me that most of humanity's biggest projects are built in timeframes that fit within a single lifetime.  The people who started it will probably be around to see it finished.

The capitalist system seems to encourage even shorter timeframes, with a preference for projects that can be completed quickly -- within the next quarter -- to satisfy shareholders.

When I left my previous job, I was asked to leave a to-do list for my replacement.  So, y'know.

I don't know how long it took to build an average ziggurat, but the Intertubes says that the Pyramids took around 20 years apiece.  If I started hauling blocks now (and maybe started eating properly once in a while) there's every chance I could live to see my own pyramid finished.

Maybe it's difficult to convince someone to devote their time, labour, and money to a project that they'll never see done -- and that might be abandoned after their death, never getting finished at all.  There are exceptions, like cathedrals that took centuries to build, but the people who built them may have had faith that the cathedral would be done eventually.

So, if the scope of the projects humans undertake is somehow influenced by our life spans, what about alien races with different life spans?  If an alien race lived for a thousand years, would they be more likely to undertake larger, grander projects?  Would we see temples and monuments and other public works on a scale beyond anything humans have ever built?

Or maybe they'd work at a different pace, knowing they had plenty of time and there was no need to rush.  Their projects might be no grander than ours, but just accomplished really, really slowly.

What I'm saying is, I think the motor-vehicle licence office is run by aliens.

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