The Military Industrial Complex And Me

When I first graduated high school, I was extremely ambitious.  I had this dream of starting up my own company, building it all from the ground up, and had daydreams of how it was going to be this exciting adventure.  Things didn’t really pan out how I’d hoped, and I later became rather disillusioned about it all.  If I had a time-machine and was given five minutes to talk with my twenty-year-old self, the one thing I’d teach myself about is the military industrial complex’s role in our economy.

You may be thinking, what?  That of all things?  Jason, you’d talk about the military and its role in the economy?  Yep!  But why?

Well, you see, when I was trying to start my own company, I would sit down and read countless business books on marketing, on management, on accounting, and all sorts of things.  But you know what?  None of that mattered.  It didn’t matter that I knew how to run a company because the fact was, I didn’t have a company to run.  The sort of company I had envisioned starting was next to impossible to achieve.  I was just wasting my time.  That’s why this conversation would have been so critical to have with my past self.

We’re all fed this lie that there are these heroic entrepreneurs, working out of their garage, who invent amazing things that change the world.  We hear about the Wright brothers building the first airplane and flying around in some field.  We hear about Steve Jobs, Paul Wozniak, and Bill Gates dropping out of college to bring the world computers.  We hear about Alexander Graham Bell inventing the telephone, and so forth.

This is all B.S.  In this world we’re lied to about nearly everything, and the way the economy actually works is no exception.  The world is rarely if ever moved by heroic individuals.  It doesn’t happen that way with major economic developments, it doesn’t happen that way with big political movements, and it doesn’t happen that way in the world of ideas either.  How things really work is a giant network of people work together on a problem until it forms into a giant snowball.  That snowball then approaches a cliff-side, and then one person contributes the final push, creates an avalanche, and gets all the credit.

Let’s talk about technological developments.  Why do we have jet airplanes today?  Should we be thanking the Wright brothers?  No.  Thank the military industrial complex.  The airplanes you board today are basically modified bomber jets, developed around the time of World War II to fight the Nazis.  Why is this important to understand?  Because the research and development costs were paid for by the public.  Secondly, the planes were designed and constructed by huge teams of scientists over decades.  And finally, after the military perfects the technology, it is often handed over to private enterprise that is in close contact with powerful people in the government, and thus the airline industry comes into existence.  We have publicly funded R&D over decades, costing hundreds of billions of dollars, and the profits are all private, leading to huge private concentrations of wealth to those in the right circles of power and privilege.

How about computers?  It has little to do with Steve Jobs.  Computers were developed over decades, primarily all originating in military communication systems.  It costed hundreds of billions of dollars and decades and decades of dedicated scientists, all being funded and organized by the military to bring these things into existence.  Countless nameless people, all contributing a small part, leading to a larger whole.  Yet, is that the picture that’s painted in our minds?  No.  Instead the world is presented these heroes, who magically brought this technology to us from the heavens, like Moses bringing down the tablet of the ten commandments from Mount Sinai.  And why?  How else would they justify such huge concentrations of wealth and power?  The public would demand that Steve Jobs’ billions be taken away and put toward public services, since they funded the development of all the technology making it all possible.  Yet that’s not what happens.  Companies like Apple instead evade paying taxes by putting their money in weird tax havens overseas.

My friend Greg and I would often go out for walks and we’d try to come up with business ideas.  I remember sitting with him one afternoon in a park and I posed the question, “If I wanted to create a portable mp3 player, in my parents basement, how in the world would I do it?  I don’t have the equipment, the means, or even the know-how.  And even if I did know how, I wouldn’t have the equipment.  There doesn’t even seem to be a way for me to even get access to that super high-tech equipment to learn how to use it in the first place.  Who would I call?”  It was all mind-boggling to me at the time.  That was years ago when I saw the first iPods coming on the market.  That’s because it doesn’t work that way.  It never has.  People don’t invent things out of their basements and garages.  Not truly novel things.  Hobbyists may tinker around with things others have already made, but they don’t create truly new technology.

I’ve had to learn about all this because it is the world I’m moving into as a physicist.  You see, we physicists are one of the key components to inventing all this new technology.  We’re involved in every high-tech thing you can think of.  So how does a person like me, a regular nobody, who has spent some years at a university studying physics, doing mostly generic math and physics problems on pencil and paper, finally move into designing and building the next generation of high tech stuff?

First off, there needs to be some steady stream of money being consistently pumped into that direction, and then I enter that stream.  The source of the river is the military industrial complex.

Why do almost all new high-technologies come out of the United States?  Because we pump an insane amount of money into maintaining economic and military dominance over foreign countries.  The public thinks this all goes into ‘defense’.  It doesn’t.  It goes into a giant shadow government with its own agendas outside the public eye.  What is the shadow government?  It’s some sort of complicated network of powerful corporations, financial institutions, and other entities working to maintain power and control.

All this new technology remains hidden from the public under the guise of “national security”, and everything is deemed top secret.  Let’s talk about some of the past technologies which were developed and then passed off to industry.  You’ll recognize them.

Just to name a few, take digital cameras.  Why do those exist?  Those were developed in the 1960’s for spy satellite systems because there was no easy way to get up in space and get the film canisters.  Jet engines came out of the 1940s ballistic missile programs.  Computers were developed in the 1960s for military communication systems.  And so on.

These things take decades of research and development before any sort of commercial application can be found for them.  Computers used to be so big, they took up entire floors of office buildings.  Outside of giant corporations and the government, who would have use for such things?  A company like IBM lands a contract with the government, and this R&D goes on for decades, with the military buying all the relatively useless junk being developed by the scientists for a long time.  But eventually the technology gets to some point where it’s useful to somebody, and IBM starts selling these things to people other than the military.  That’s how things work in reality.  The public pays for all the hard research work, then the private owners of IBM reap the windfall of profits when things are finally complete.

That’s also why companies like Canon can sell you nice digital cameras.  A similar sort of process went on with them using those ancient computers, under military contract, to take pictures from space and store the images on giant magnetic tapes.  Then the military is like, “Great, you have something kind of working here, but it needs to be better.  Get to it!  Here’s a huge contract to fund it all.”  And several different companies worked on the problem, for decades, until now it’s improved to such an extent we have digital cameras on our smart-phones.

What sorts of stuff is the shadow government moving our economy toward now?  One of the biggest ones you hear about everyday is robotics and artificial intelligence.  Remember those terminator robots we all see walking around created by Boston Dynamics?  That was all paid for by the military.  They got bought out by Google, but I think the military is still heavily paying for the R&D.  The military wants all kinds of unmanned vehicles, drones, and other things like that at their disposal, so they’re paying all kinds of companies to develop it.  The military will get it first, but after a while it will trickle down to the public in the form of self-driving cars and robotic maid-servants, and companies like Google will be selling them on the market, everyone will want one, and the super-rich owners of Google will be even richer at the public’s expense.

There is also a lot of technology coming out which integrates with biology.  This is all military stuff.  Brain computer interfaces have been in development for a long time now, trying to give human pilots and personnel control over military vehicles and devices remotely.  Eventually this will become things like virtual reality headsets for gamers to control the characters on screen with their minds.  All sorts of medical technologies are being developed as well under the guise of healing injured troops.  You’ve probably all seen that stuff where they have 3D printers “printing” a new heart or kidney from a person’s DNA?  All military funded.  This is also how all sorts of prosthetics technologies are being developed, such robotic limbs.  All sorts of nano-implants are being developed under the guise of enhancing our soldiers and their effectiveness.  It just goes and on.

There are tons of dead-ends, projects that end up going nowhere, and so on, and the public ends up taking the hit for all the wasted R&D costs.   Then when something works out, the shadow government works out who will control the new technology and then we start hearing about it in the news, and its sold on the market to us by some corporation(s).

So yeah, years ago I was wasting my time sitting in my parents basement wondering what I could invent.  None of that is up to an individual like me.  There are think-tanks within the shadow government, working behind the scenes planning what technologies are most viable, and which technologies would give the nation the most economic edge, and best advantages militarily.  Huge public funds are then shifted in that direction.  The best a nobody like me can hope for is to go through a nice university program, take a job within a company funded by the military industrial complex, and get paid well to help bring this high-tech stuff into existence.  As a physicist, that’s how my world operates.

If you want to form a company, you don’t sit around in your garage tinkering with things.  You work hard and graduate from a good science and technology university.  Then you apply to get into various military programs for scientists, and they suck you into their labs.  There you get access to all the expensive labs which cost tens of millions of dollars.  You intern and work there for a while, make contacts, work your way in, learn your way around, and with time, if you’re ambitious and clever enough, make some good contacts and maybe branch out on your own.  Then money from that stream is diverted your way, your company is formed, and if successful, you may be able to develop some technology that is also commercially viable which can be sold to the public.  Sometimes this R&D is also happening within your university, and you can work with a professor on campus, get access to their lab, etc.  That’s another possible doorway in.

What I find really interesting about all of this is that the military and hidden forces behind the scenes are the ones actually dictating where our economy goes.  Strangely, the way our society develops most of its new technology is through a model which relies on things trickling down from the military.  I used to be a big proponent of slashing our huge military budget.  Now I realize why that never happens.  Our entire economy relies on it.  If you did that, technological innovation would screech to a halt, and our economy would go into a nose-dive tailspin.  That’s why every year military spending goes up and will always go up, hand in hand with economic growth.

The very nature of this system breeds corruption, vast income inequality, huge disparities in opportunity, and massive concentrations of private power.  Our society’s technological innovation model is not people focused, but is instead, by its intrinsic nature, focused around further concentrating power, spying on people, and creating weapons and other applications of force and destruction.  It’s an absolutely terrible way of doing things, but it’s how our world actually works, and it’s just one of many reasons why our world is so insane.

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