Technology rules our lives, so much so that some Futurists predict that humanity will be replaced by robots and artificial intelligences. How did we get here? How did we go from a world where technology remained essentially static for thousands of years to a world in which we've become slaves to our own machines?
The Lucifer archetype has been associated with knowledge and technology since antiquity, in a positive light (the Prometheus myth) and a darker sense (Satan and the Tree of Knowledge in the myth of the Fall). Which side of this powerful archetype will triumph in the future?So, how exactly did this postwar technology boom come about? Nothing like it had ever been seen in human history and we're still sorting through the breakthroughs made in that era.
To be sure, there were a lot of very great (and very well-educated) scientists working for a lot of very big (and very well-appointed) laboratories and companies. But that had been true for some time. It's even more true today and yet the innovation machine seems to be sputtering to a slow march these days. Even Moore's Law is being called into question now.
So many of the breakthroughs that have been made through all fields of science and technology have come about through the computer revolution, a revolution that would have been impossible without a single piece of technology- the simple transistor.
We take it for granted today but before solid state technology everything- radio, TV, computers- needed to be powered by hot, heavy vacuum tubes. It's why the first calculator was the size of a house and today you can get a much better one built into a pen.
The laser has also played an outsized role in the technological revolution of the 20th Century. And oddly enough, both breakthroughs would share links with the year 1947 and with the legendary Bell Laboratories.
Younger people have no concept of how radical and extreme the changes have been in our technology. Older people, particularly those who were adults during World War Two, certainly noticed how things seemed to change almost overnight.
But even so, it took a long time for the ideas that were being explored in the 50s and 60s in places like Bell Labs and Xerox's PARC to come to market. Any engineer will tell you there's a chasm between concept and application.
When I was very young we had a vacuum-tube, black and white TV set that only got VHF stations. We had one rotary telephone. We had a couple AM radios and we also had phonograph player that was more a piece of furniture than a piece of electronic equipment. Later, we had Pong. Braintree didn't get cable TV until 1984.
The graphs you see in this piece indicate what investigators or intelligence agents would call a "pattern break," an indication that something fundamental had changed, something that the target was trying to conceal. And time and again we see a steady rate of technological change suddenly shoot skyward after 1947.
In 1997, at the height of the popularity of The X-Files, a retired military intelligence officer released a book that caused a firestorm of controversy. The book was called The Day After Roswell and seemed to confirm many long-held suspicions of the UFO conspiracy community, suspicions that seemed to reaching a boiling point as the book hit the stores:
Colonel Philip J Corso explains how he gained access to the Roswell files whilst working at the Foreign Technology Desk, R+D at the Pentagon. Corso explains how the extraterrestrial technology was retrieved and reverse engineered by corporations who were granted the patents for such technology. Corso also explains how an organization was set up within the government which would seal the lid on the extraterrestrial presence and make it inaccessible to future presidental administrations...The book became an instant best-seller but many prominent researchers in the UFO field expressed skepticism about both it and about Corso himself, including Kevin Randle, Stanton Friedman, Budd Hopkins and Brad Sparks.
The timing seemed suspicious to some. Here was a Lt. Colonel from the Foreign Technology Office telling UFOlogists everything they wanted to hear exactly when they wanted to hear it. And critics noted the book was rife with basic errors of fact.
Many of errors were curious- some had nothing directly to do with Corso's Roswell claims and were the kind of mistakes that could have very easily been corrected by his co-author Bill Birnes when the book was in the editing process.
So what do we have here? A hoax? A delusional old man cashing in on the UFO craze of the time? A deliberate disinfo campaign meant to splash water on Roswell fever (which in many ways the backlash to the book did)?
Michael Salla- whose resume is strangely more fitting to a Undersecretary of State than a UFO researcher- dug into the controversy over Corso's book and found than many of the claims made against his reputation and his credibility were either false or trivial. And Thurmond's introduction made it clear that Corso had been a highly partisan Cold Warrior in the 50s and 60s, which Salla claims had made him a lot of enemies.
Roswell's official city seal
Could this then have been what is called in intelligence parlance "cooked information," a sandwich of truth and deception? Or could it have a been a kind of inoculation, a way to seed shards of information to the public but do so through an individual who might easily be dismissed by most, given his fuzzy memory and outrageous claims?
Those claims were essentially as follows:
Together with his commanding officer, Lieutenant General Arthur G. Trudeau, Corso said he developed a plan to "seed" the technologically advanced artifacts to defense contractors who were already working on similar projects. But this had to be done, for the most part, without telling the scientists involved where the artifacts had come from.
According to Corso, he eventually did figure out where to take much of the debris for reverse engineering. Companies like Bell Labs, IBM, Dow Corning and Hughes Aircraft subsequently managed to create new technological breakthroughs that gave the U.S. a decided edge in a projected military response to the aliens.
Among the products that Corso says resulted from the Roswell debris were:
Image intensifiers, which ultimately became "night vision," Fiber optics, Supertenacity fibers, Lasers, Molecular alignment metallic alloys, Integrated circuits and microminiaturization of logic boards, HARP (High Altitude Research Project), Project Horizon (a military base on the Moon to compete with both the Russians and the aliens.), Portable atomic generators (ion propulsion drive), Irradiated food, "Third Brain" guidance systems (based on the headbands reportedly used by the aliens), Particle beams ("Star Wars" antimissle energy weapons), Electromagnetic propulsion systems, Depleted uranium projectilesThat's quite a list- interesting to see the EM drive on there, which you're suddenly hearing quite a lot about these days. But it doesn't end there:
Corso maintains that the implementation of the "Star Wars" project led to the end of the Cold War. And, while neither Reagan or Chairman Mikail Gorbachev said so publicly, the U.S. and Russia now present a united front against the common alien enemy. The paranoia that had existed between the two countries since the end of World War II had now given way to a determination to fight together for the sake of mankind as a whole.In his original manuscript Corso claimed the aliens were not smiling space brothers:
"They have violated our air space with impunity and even landed on our territory. Whether intentional or not, they have performed hostile acts. Our citizens have been abducted and killed" (Dawn of a New Age, p. 77).
"The above are acts of war which we would not tolerate from any worldly source. It also appears they do not tolerate any such acts on our parts on their bases." (Dawn of a New Age, p. 77)
... the aliens have shown a callous indifference concerning their victims. Their behavior has been insidious and it appears they might be using our earth and manipulating earth life. (Dawn of a New Age, p. 98)
"Every word of it is true, and more." We then spoke 20 minutes or so discussing the "and more" to the extent he could without revealing classified material. What he said was just as fascinating and compelling as the book. UFOs are real as the airplane flying overhead. That is my unequivocal conclusion..."Critics countered that many of the technologies Corso cites were already in development, which Corso already had acknowledged to a degree. However, if you look carefully at those claims you'll find that most of what was being worked on was either theoretical science or crude prototype projects that actually bore little resemblance to the technologies as they finally emerged.
But the fact that some of these technologies were being conceived- if only theoretically- seems to fit a very old pattern, one we'll explore in depth in future posts. After all, you don't give a toddler the keys to your Lamborghini, do you now?
So if Corso were making it all up he certainly did his homework. Back when his original manuscript was written that would entail a lot of research, probably a lot of trips to the library. Corso never gave the impression that he was up to all that. Note that Corso did admit that he came into FT late, almost 15 years after Roswell.
Fiber optics is an interesting case- the science was worked on in Japan and Germany (both firmly under the US's thumb then) and England in the 1960s (many of the scientists seemed to get awards for their work in the 1970s, strangely) but was still classified when used by NASA in 1969. It was refined by Corning Glass in 1970 and apparently made ready for commercial use in 1986 by who else?
Bell Labs. Huh. Go figure.
One of Corso's most controversial claims is that the transistor- the basic building block of the entire technological revolution- came from Roswell. Critics responded that it had been in development long before.
But the truth is that the paper trail on the transistor is shockingly thin. Here's what the Wiki has:
The thermionic triode, a vacuum tube invented in 1907, enabled amplified radio technology and long-distance telephony. The triode, however, was a fragile device that consumed a lot of power.OK; this is a fucking vacuum tube. Why is included in the history of the transistor? Maybe this is why:
Physicist Julius Edgar Lilienfeld filed a patent for a field-effect transistor (FET) in Canada in 1925, which was intended to be a solid-state replacement for the triode. Lilienfeld also filed identical patents in the United States in 1926 and 1928.Well, that seems pretty weak. I mean, there's got to be more evidence than a couple lousy patent forms, right? There's got to be some kind of paper trail that can be conclusively dated, establishing the timeline of the development of this world-changing technology.
However, Lilienfeld did not publish any research articles about his devices nor did his patents cite any specific examples of a working prototype.Oh. So in other words, all the stuff that couldn't be faked doesn't exist. Even a bio of the scientist claims the history of these devices is "sketchy." The Wiki, again:
Because the production of high-quality semiconductor materials was still decades away, Lilienfeld's solid-state amplifier ideas would not have found practical use in the 1920s and 1930s, even if such a device had been built. In 1934, German inventor Oskar Heil patented a similar device.We'll learn more about the problem of semiconductor materials in the next post. It's no small problem.*
Be that as it may, it stands to reason that in between 1934 and 1947 there's gotta be a MASSIVE paper trail, right? I mean, this is the TRANSISTOR, people, the Holy Grail of modern electronics. What's the next step in the official history here?
From November 17, 1947 to December 23, 1947, John Bardeen and Walter Brattain at AT+T's Bell Labs in the United States performed experiments and observed that when two gold point contacts were applied to a crystal of germanium, a signal was produced with the output power greater than the input. Solid State Physics Group leader William Shockley saw the potential in this, and over the next few months worked to greatly expand the knowledge of semiconductors.Oh. Guess not. But Lilienfeld's work served one important purpose:
When Brattain, Bardeen, and their colleague chemist Robert Gibney tried to get patents on their earliest devices, most of their claims were rejected due to the Lilienfeld patents.Translation: A paper trail documenting the development of the Bell Labs transistor needn't be produced because of these alleged patents.
What else is curious about Lilienfeld is how he seems to fall off the radar in 1935 or so. He's said to have moved to the Virgin Islands (where he was said to have moved to get away from wheat allergies he was suffering in...the metropolitan Boston area) but there doesn't seem to be much of a track record on him from that point forward. A very mysterious story for such an apparently important scientist.†
Whatever it was exactly, something happened after Roswell- the data, the paper-trail, the radical changes in technology bear that out. Whether or not it had something to do with Roswell is another story entirely but the event did seem to act as a harbinger of major changes to come.
But that's the UFO paradox; at the same time UFOlogy is a minefield of hoaxery and humbug, UFO events so often act as powerful augurs of change.
Of course, the major problem with the Roswell narrative- and other UFO crash stories- is that we're led to believe that such an advanced technology could be defeated by primitive radar systems or electrical storms. But then again our own advanced aircraft often crash in storms or in strong winds or even when birds fly into the engines. Nature is an infinitely powerful force- don't believe otherwise.
However, I have a feeling that something else was afoot and that the alleged 'crash' may in fact have been a cover story for something far stranger- and far more complex. Something that may in fact happened some time before Roswell.
A lot of people will cite the influx of German scientists into the US through Operation Paperclip for the radical changes in technology. But the rocket scientist Hermann Oberth has been quoted as saying in 1972, “We cannot take the credit for our record advancement in certain scientific fields alone; we have been helped.”
THE ROSWELL FUNHOUSE
The levels of deceptionº over Roswell are deep. So much so that I have trouble believing any of the interpretations of the story, whether from skeptics or believers. I think something did crash, but I suspect that it was neither an alien spaceship or a weather balloon but something actually created to crash. I'll explain why in an upcoming post.
What's more the fact that a General was actually flashing a memo to reporters that contradicted the story he was telling at the press conference (and a memo I'm quite certain he was disappointed no one deciphered until fairly recently) says to me that a very complex intelligence strategy was unfolding over this event.
Corso died a year after The Day After Roswell was released (in Jupiter, Florida, of all places) and the buzz and the controversy over the book soon died down. Or at least seemed to. In UFO circles the fire was still burning because another insider came forward and told a very similar story to the one Corso had.
But his story went into depths of detail Corso barely scratched at.
TO BE CONTINUED* It's at the heart of the matter. After all, there's a chasm between an idea and an application. Men were contemplating traveling into space a long time ago. It took a long time to do it.
† What else I find curious- if not actually suspicious- are these narratives from Bell Labs about the development of the transistor I've seen in some books on the subject. This was a very sensitive project with major implications for the company. Knowing what I know about my grandfather's work at MITRE I am willing to bet that any discussion of the project would be kept within the actual working group, especially during that paranoid "Reds under every bed" postwar period.
º And outright nonsense- see the "Roswell Slides" psyop.