Innovation per se is not stupid. Pushing the envelope can be socially salutary; but not when it is done only for its own sake, or for the sake of notoriety, of fashion, or of fame. There is a difference between Evel Knievel and Planck, e.g.; or, between the insane, inane and therefore utterly stupid useless absurd extravagances of the fashion industry on the one hand, and the experiments at the bleeding edges of the changing limits of practically useful and therefore generally appealing clothing design (whether for purposes of mere fabulous sexual allure at one end of the spectrum, or of survival in harsh environments at the other) as fabrics and materials – and preferences – all evolve.
Excursus: It is interesting to me to note as an outdoorsman – as, indeed, for a few years one of only a few hundred world class professional outdoorsmen operating in the most extreme environments on the planet, and so quite familiar with the territory in all her dimensions, economic and geographic, and above all practical – that while fabrics and technology in outdoor gear and clothing have improved massively over the past 40 years, fashion among outdoorsmen has changed not at all. Our packs, tents, sleeping bags, clothing and equipment work better than what I started with, by an order of magnitude. But they still look pretty much the same. Nobody in that world appears to be the least bit interested in looking different than anyone did in 1970. They only want their gear to work properly.
It’s an SWPL thing. No other sort of person is even interested in that world. So racist.
*All* of the improvements in gear over the last 70 years rely on petrochemicals (starting with Dacron). None of the outdoor equipment manufacturers who rail online about CO2 and climate change want to notice the uncomfortable fact that almost all their products are almost entirely petrochemical (the zipper pulls are still metal). Sad! But one cannot blame them, after all. Their market – outdoorsmen – are passionately devoted to the preservation of wilderness; and while no competent outdoorsman can be ignorant of natural history, and so live, many are indeed ignorant of theoretical science, engineering, and manufacturing. The outdoor equipment manufacturers are stuck between a rock and a hard place: the rock of materials science, and the hard place of their market.
God bless them, all. I know that they are working hard on a way to manufacture polyester (or something like it, that works and also biodegrades) from hemp (or something like it). They may save us, yet. To hell with plastic. In that I am at one with their better angels.
There is an historical analogy, for what it is worth. There is a symbiosis between the military and the outdoorsmen. For almost a century, the latter have informed the former. In terms of equipment rather than of weaponry, the 10th Mountain Division is mostly a New England winter camping thing, with input from Finland and Mountain Hardwear. Radical innovations in outdoor gear pioneered by such firms as North Face and Patagonia now totally permeate the military equipment of all Western nations. Lo, it turns out that as a Grand Canyon whitewater boatman all those years ago, I was an R&D salient of the military industrial complex. Tant pis! But, this has been, emphatically, *not wrong.* It is just the way things *should* work, in any proper society. The only problem – for the outdoorsmen, and for their vendors, who are all likewise chthonic libertarians – Montani semper liberi! – is that the libertarian outdoorsmen see the military as their adversaries.
They are wrong so to think.
The men of the 10th Mountain Division are of all people the most reliable support of the values of such firms as Patagonia. And vice versa. Hell, despite their PC PR, Patagonia probably knows this full well, from their long and fruitful relations with the 10th Mountain. The 10th Mountain Division is *entirely staffed* by men convenient to the wilderness mission of Patagonia. Those men must love the woods. I cannot conceive of two demographics more completely inclined to agree on this or that topic relevant to the wilderness I so love.
Other than with respect to war. Patagonia wishes there were no such thing. The 10th Mountain knows it shall ever be so.
OK, enough said re that.
Anybody here reading from the 10th Mountain, please correct my errors.
Societies do need, always, to push at the envelope, if only because the shape of the envelope – the shape of the environing context of decisions – constantly changes. But societies need to push the envelope only *when and where they really do need to push the envelope.*
Pushing the envelope of development in the absence of a compelling need to adapt to new circumstances is almost always eo ipso at least a bit disastrous, whether in large part or in small.
Both the development of doctrine in Christianity under the oversight of the episcopal Magisterium and the development of the Standard Model of Physics (and so of all the sciences supervenient thereto) as schooled by experiment are basically salutary. They are healthy for society, mostly because they are so careful and judicious. Crucial to both those procedures is the presumption that most new ideas are probably wrong. As most such must in logic be: I can throw new notions like the phlogiston or Arianism at the wall all day long, and almost all of them are going to turn out stupid, if not actively evil (is there a difference?). So both those cultural procedures of commensal epistemology put new ideas to the test. Almost all fail, and then fall by the wayside, mostly forgotten – so that, eventually, they show up again in new clothes, and must be batted down again.
With its emphasis on the unrolling implications of previous judicial decisions, and of the due care and caution instantiated in the doctrine of stare decisis, the development of positive civil law in the common law tradition is another example – at least, in common law jurisdictions – of such fundamentally disciplined and so salutary approaches to innovation.
Innovation is the devil’s playground. We cannot but go there, if we are to live – for, life is just new things happening; so that the devil’s playground is whatever happens to us. But, so, we must go there with eyes open.
Be careful, then. Caveat, lector.
And remember: wu wei; first, do no harm; ergo, first consider doing nothing. Wait. Measure thrice, cut once. Then, onward, and be of good cheer.