Letter from a Minotaur: Why Humans are Scary – by Orvan Ox
That’s the core of it, or perhaps the driver of it, but it’s not that alone. The way of using it matters. The tune High Hopes might have a very persistent ant, or ram but we know that in reality the poor ant and ram aren’t going to get anywhere. There’s even the line (not in that tune) about how repeating the same thing hoping for a different result is sign of insanity.
Humans are stalkers. Sure, you might say that all actively hunting creatures are stalkers – and that passive hunting is called trapping. These might be extremes on a spectrum, but humans? Oh, the stuff of nightmares! There you are, peacefully (or not) grazing on the plains and… these things appear.. and come at you. They are not very fast and a short run gives distance. But not relief, for they keep coming. Run. They keep coming. You have to sleep sometime, but they seemingly don’t. Or some disappear – but different ones take their place! If you do get some rest, they’re there when you wake up. That is, if they didn’t get you in your sleep. Or you didn’t drop dead of exhaustion from this slow but evidently eternal chase. Lions and Tigers and… a good many others… they’d have found something else to chase some time ago. Alright, some pack-type animals also do this. But they tend to have claws and sharp teeth and not much else going for them.
Now, somewhere in human ancestry, some human – or some proto-human, picked up a rock. And threw it. And it hit something. This might have happened many times, but finally there was that “Aha!” moment of “Say, this could be useful. Or (or and) it happened with a stick. Either way, or both, humans now had the projectile weapon. They could project power. Not far, but a little distance means a little more chance of survival and even slightly better chance helps.
And then some clever person likely mused, “What if I put a rock on the end of a stick?” Sure, club. Force amplifier. Spear – force projector. And then the weapons program really began – how to project things farther, faster, more accurately? And if the otherwise wonderfully effective means of defense the muskox has (a defensive line, made circular when needed) hadn’t been thwarted before, it was then. Persistent development.
Oh, but it doesn’t end there. Sure one could continue on the advances in weapons, but once the concept of projected force had been realized, the key was out in the open. Humans dream, and they dream impossible things. And despite that, have a habit of doing them anyway – eventually.
One way or another, they figured out fire. Some put the credit or blame on Prometheus and tell his story, but however they got it, got it the did. And then used it, for many things. And watched the smoke rise – for centuries, millennia. Meanwhile there were dreams of flying. The tale of Daedalus and Icarus, for one. In what might well have been sort of a “D’oh!” moment that was another “Aha!” a couple brothers, Montgolfier, watched the smoke rise. They thought about it and… if the hot smoke rises, could it lift something into the air? Hello hot-air balloon and one version of flight.
Of course it didn’t stop there. Systems to try guide the balloon were added. As chemistry developed its way away from alchemy, new lifting gasses were tried. But it was still largely at the whim of winds, the speed was only wind-speed, and there was this great gas-bag above. Humans didn’t stop trying to “fly like a bird” just because they had figured how to fly one way. Never satisfied, powered flight, heavier than air flight, was a dream – eventually realized in the early 1900’s when a powered heavier than air machine did something none had done before: NOT crash. Flight, perhaps, had been achieved by such before, but the controlled landing? That was new. About 16 years later, they crossed the Atlantic with descendant of that machine. In another 8 years, a lone human would do it non-stop in a more advanced machine. Even that wasn’t enough. Faster! Higher! Jets! Rockets! And sound itself got left behind. Persistence.
Rockets? Yeah, they had those for ages and ages and such were toys and crude weapons (that projecting power thing again). Still dreaming a very old dream: Going to the moon. One very early story of such, utter fantasy, even hinted or more than hinted at how one part needed to be dealt with. No, not Verne – he had so much more right, having so much more knowledge available to him. This story is much older. I’d point to a reference, but I have not found such readily available. A fellow is planning a trip to the moon and someone asks why he doesn’t ride a horse or some other animal more befitting such a grand journey, only to be told that the trip will be long and all supplies must be kept as light as possible. Thus the ideal mount was not the horse which would need its own supplies, but the dung beetle. Oberth dreamed – and built. Goddard dreamed – and built. Tsiolkovsky dreamed – and how! von Braun dreamed – and did he ever build! Persistence. Armstrong left footprints.
Once upon a time (alright it was the 1970’s – a mythical time indeed. Alas, often mythically bad. Avocado-colored kitchen appliances? Wage & Price controls?) I had access to the set of the World Book Encyclopedia’s books of yearly updates. Sometime in the 1950’s or perhaps early 1960’s someone claimed that “hang on the wall” flat-screen televisions were 10 years away from being real. I was reading this well over ten years later and there was no such thing. It might well have been twenty years – but such things were, I had heard, still somehow “10 years away.” In the 1980’s, I heard it again – except this time it was, if not right, closer to right. LCD screens did appear, and there was even a TV watch. It was more than a simple strap-a-TV-on-your wrist thing and rather clunky, but it existed. Now? People have flat-screen televisions bracketed to walls.
Power generating fusion reactors were 20 or 30 years away – and still are. And humanity is still working on that one. Will they get it? I wouldn’t bet against it. Even if they discover or invent something better, some will almost certainly not be willing to leave that dream behind. Humans “keep on keeping on.” They realize the dreams of the ages, and then dream anew or look at the unrealized dreams and keep at things. Persistence. Downright stubbornness, even.
Without detail, a very short list of the “impossible” things humans have gotten to:
They dreamed of flying. Now they fly.
They dreamed of reaching the moon. They’ve grabbed bits of it.
They dreamed of telepathy. They have radio, Bluetooth equipped phones.
They dreamed of magic mirrors. They have television and webcams and video-calling.
They dream of telekinesis – and they’re working on it, even making some progress.
Humans just do not stop. That is what makes them scary. Do NOT get on their bad side.
 I rather like the Doris Day recording of the tune.
 The Curtiss NC-4 flying boat, finally landing in Lisbon after Starting in NY state 19 days earlier.