The beauty of darkness
is how it lets you see.
The unreal is more powerful than the real. Because nothing is as perfect as you can imagine it. Because its only intangible ideas, concepts, beliefs, fantasies that last. Stone crumbles. Wood rots. People, well, they die. But things as fragile as a thought, a dream, a legend, they can go on and on.
The first point to make is that, even if we deride change, even if we stand still, shielding our eyes, covering our ears, the future will be radical. I spent my time as a foreign correspondent reporting on politics, economics and war, but I came to see that the most important stories in Africa were not news stories at all. On the one hand, rapid human population growth and extermination of other species. On the other, introduction of advanced technologies capable of reordering time and space. The mobile phone is one such technology. It has contributed more to anti-poverty efforts than any single development intervention. Some development agencies were slow to wake up to the possibilities of the technology in Africa. They argued that handsets would always be too expensive for the poor and besides, how could a village incapable of taking care of a grain silo ever look after a mobile phone tower? But the price of handsets came down and investments in mobile phone towers showed that if the system is valuable enough, the system will protect itself. (I first clearly understood this on a trip to Somalia in 2009, where I interviewed an al-Qaeda Shabab commander on a stretch of the malarial Jubba river. It was during a famine and the people were hungry. Girls sent to the river to fetch water were being eaten by large crocodiles. Waterborne diseases were killing malnourished infants. The Shabab were decapitating their enemies in surrounding villages. It was impossible to imagine a society more broken down, yet the jihadist sat in his plastic chair with several mobile phones operating off separate towers. The value of the system gave the technology a resilience that machinery had historically lacked in Africa.) Then again, mobile phone operators themselves underestimated the market. The business plan for the Kenyan telecom Safaricom in 2003 was to have 500,000 mobile phone subscribers by 2013. These would be traders, priests, taxi drivers, prostitutes —people willing to pay a premium to stay in touch. Safaricom now has 21 million users. To emphasise: the uptake of advanced technology was 42 times greater than it was expected it to be. So when I think of what cargo drones can be and should be, I think of the Nokia 1100 mobile phone. Over 50 million Nokia 1100s were sold in Africa. Smart, rugged and cheap the handset was known as the Kalashnikov of communication, but where the machine gun tore at the fabric of society the handset created new possibilities.
Hope. The activity of the impotent.
The problem isn’t coming up with ideas, it is how to contain the invasion. My ideas are like uninvited guests. They don’t knock on the door; they climb in through the windows like burglars who show up in the middle of the night and make a racket in the kitchen as they raid the fridge. I don’t sit and ponder which one I should deal with first. The one to be wrestled to the floor before all others is the one coming at me with the most vehemence.
Werner Herzog, A Guide for the Perplexed(via stoweboyd)