I was watching the History Channel yesterday, you know, the channel with nothing actually historic, only speculative. Haha, it used to be the channel about stuff that happened during the years 1938 through 1945. Now it’s the channel about stuff that might have happened. Some shows (After Humans), are about stuff that could happen someday. Is it the Speculative Future Channel? Maybe they are turning into the vacancy left by the SyFy *snicker* Channel.
But I digress.
So I was watching this show about the ancient pyramids, ruins in Peru (Machu Picchu, etc), and manna in the Bible, all these mysterious and wondrous artifacts (except manna), and how they were all achieved by alien tech. Yeah, that’s right, aliens gave us advanced technology to play with thousands of years ago. I don’t make this stuff up, that’s what the history channel was saying. It’s a fun speculative show and everybody’s all deep and mysterious.
“These tolerances are impossible, even with modern technology.”
“If someone came to me and said I wanted a stone cut like that, I wouldn’t do it for any price.”
And it goes on, one breathless expert after another speaking at length about how such feats, difficult to achieve today, would have been impossible thousands of years ago – unless they had help. Help from aliens.
Yeah, that makes sense, I think. Just because something seems impossible or difficult you’ve got to pull out the aliens card. I’m more a fan of Occam’s Razor. There’s a simpler explanation, one that actually has plenty of evidence in existence today.
It goes a little something like this: Engineers are not particularly good at documentation. You can actually stop reading here, because that’s it.
Even in our time, clever engineers fail to document stuff that has to be rediscovered as little as ten years later. Engineers are so enamored of their works, so convinced at their own brilliance of cleverness, that the construction or solutions are believed to be, by them, self evident. How could you not know what it does, it’s so simple, they say. There’s an old gripe about how clever programmers always think their solutions are self documenting because they are so elegant and perfect. The pyramids? Whatever their purpose, I’m sure engineers of the era couldn’t possibly conceive of someone NOT KNOWING what they do. It’s obvious. It’s always obvious to someone, except when that someone has been dead for 4500 years.
Without fail we must rediscover these “simple” solutions over and over again. Remember, concrete? The ancient Romans used it all over the place, but its secret was lost for 13 centuries until 1756. “Bah, write it down!? You must be an idiot. It’s so simple. No way is anybody going to forget this. Oh, shit, the Visigoths! They weren’t covered in our disaster recovery plan.”
I suppose there’s also the problem that people just don’t have a multi-generation mindset when it comes to passing information forward. We might think of our kids, but beyond that, it’s all a hazy blur of “somebody else’s problem.”
And bam! You forget how to make concrete.
So, it wasn’t the aliens that gave us awesomely advanced technology to make mind bogglingly beautiful and intricate structures. We just forgot to write it down and back it up. “That’s the next contractor’s problem,” they said.