Arthur C. Clarke wrote a short story in 1953, titled Superiority. This is a wonderful read, and quite short.
The US Air Force just lost a tenth of its hyper-sophisticated F-22 fleet in a hurricane.

“This becomes sort of a self-defeating cycle where we have $400 million aircraft that can’t fly precisely because they are $400 million aircraft,” said Dan Grazier, a defense fellow at Project on Government Oversight. “If we were buying simpler aircraft then it would be a whole lot easier for the base commander to get these aircraft up and in working order, at least more of them.” — Washington Times

Short Story – Superiority – by Arthur C. Clarke


30 thoughts on “Superiority”

  1. Blumroch, I refer only to the profusion of punctuation.  My own non-fiction writing style had been described, charitably, as “stereo instructions”.  Naturally, I take this as a compliment.

  2. Haakon Dahl:
    Blumroch, I refer only to the profusion of punctuation.  My own non-fiction writing style had been described, charitably, as “stereo instructions”.  Naturally, I take this as a compliment.

    Then this is a comment you could have written from my very first comment here. I must admit I was more in favor of my unreadability, which is C-like too. 😉

    A friend of mine told me once, about the spartan help screen and error messages of a program I wrote, “Only you was able to use words so they look like a hex dump”. Naturally, I took this as a compliment. 😉

  3. Haakon Dahl:
    If you need a joke explained — ask Dime.

    If you do not need a joke explained — Never fear!  Dime will explain it.

    This reminds me of a reflection by Sacha Guitry : “[…] pour qu’une plaisanterie humoristique ait son plein rendement, il convient d’être trois : celui qui la profère, celui qui la comprend — et celui à qui elle échappe. Le plaisir des deux premiers est alors multiplié par l’incompréhension du troisième.”, i.e. *roughly* adapted : “In order a joke to be fully funny, three persons are needed : one to say the joke, one to understand it, and one *not* to understand it — the third person not understanding anything makes then the first two people enjoy the joke even more.”

    P.S. edit/fix : Reminds me of a cartoon where Garfield stares at Odie while both being on a table, pushes Odie out of the table then looks at the fourth wall and says with an evil smile : “It was not nice… but it was extremely funny.” 😉

  4. John Walker:
    As Stalin never said (but should have), “Quantity has a quality all its own”.

    I had mentionned earlier this quote was also attributed to Lenin without any serious proof (as for Stalin). This afternoon, I suddently remembered why. Thought this might interest you a little, Sir.

    I’m really getting old, for it took me time to remember why there’s no single valid attribution of the “quantity, at a certain level, becomes quality” principle to either Stalin or Lenin : it’s because in fact this is one of the dogmas of general marxism, which can be traced to various authors in one form or another, from Hegel first, then to Marx, Engels and all their followers. These are names you read when you’re young and have time to waste (or when you have to write about them with *first-hand* knowledge), before you forget them if you don’t intend to make a career in any leftist field of philosophistry. I’ve never been in awe in front of such names, I had read enough of their works, and I had forgotten everything about them, for they never interested me (besides, their writing is boring).

    It took me a few minutes researching old books and notes, in order to find a few passages in Hegel, Marx and Engels (buried with books I intended never to reread !) which, adapted or translated, allude to this transformation of quantity to quality, which hegelians and marxists apply to many fields, from physics to philosophy, from economy to military art.

    I must admit that even for your information, I was not ready to type and translate the French passages about such a minor point. 😉 Fortunately, marxists, both French and English ones, seem to like the Internet, and I’ve found a page here :

    about the topic. It’s in French, but it’s not a difficulty for someone who has read Raspail. 😉 Should you have time and/or interest in the subject, you’ll find there enough confirmations taken from Hegel’s *Logic*, Marx’s *Capital* and Engels’ *Anti-Dühring*, as well as pointers to find back the original texts. The page’s title is “”La quantité se transforme en qualité”, cette thèse dialectique de Hegel, Marx et Engels est-elle vérifiée par les sciences naturelles ?” (18 décembre 2015, by a Robert Paris).

    Ici, comme dans les sciences naturelles, se confirme la loi constatée par Hegel dans sa *Logique*, loi d’après laquelle de simples changements dans la quantité, parvenus à un certain degré, amènent des différences dans la qualité.

    From an English translation, here’s a quote from the *Anti-Dühring* by Engels :

    “This is precisely the Hegelian nodal dine of measure relations, in which, at certain definite nodal points, the purely quantitative increase or decrease gives rise to a qualitative leap; for example, in the case of heated or cooled water, where boiling-point and freezing-point are the nodes at which — under normal pressure – the leap to a new state of aggregation takes place, and where consequently quantity is transformed into quality.”

    Still by the same in the same book, this military example :

    “In conclusion we shall call one more witness for the transformation of quantity into quality, namely – Napoleon. He describes the combat between the French cavalry, who were bad riders but disciplined, and the Mamelukes, who were undoubtedly the best horsemen of their time for single combat, but lacked discipline, as follows :
    “Two Mamelukes were undoubtedly more than a match for three Frenchmen ; 100 Mamelukes were equal to 100 Frenchmen ; 300 Frenchmen could generally beat 300 Mamelukes, and 1,000 Frenchmen invariably defeated 1,500 Mamelukes.”
    Just as with Marx a definite, though varying, minimum sum of exchange-values was necessary to make possible its transformation into capital, so with Napoleon a detachment of cavalry had to be of a definite minimum number in order to make it possible for the force of discipline, embodied in closed order and planned utilisation, to manifest itself and rise superior even to greater numbers of irregular cavalry, in spite of the latter being better mounted, more dexterous horsemen and fighters, and at least as brave as the former.”

    Leftists from all times like to borrow some credit from sciences — as shown by Sokal’s canular. 😉
    So, the metamorphosis of quantity to quality is just a diffuse hegeliano-marxist article of dogma.


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