Monday, November 22, 2010

OMR Again

A recent thread on the Math Forum regarding multiple choice testing got me thinking about OMR again, and the energy simulation games that might use it. SimCity could add this module with practically no changes to the underlying framework I bet. Perhaps I should write to Maxis. Or should we start over from scratch, using open source Python, perhaps Blender?

OMR, for those who don't know, is a stadium-shaped city projected for middle America back in the time of the Union Tank Car dome, the apogee of that kind of technology in North America, at least until EPCOT. Actually that Baton Rouge dome opened for business in 1958, the year I was born, so I guess I'm a little off on my time line. The plan for Old Man River City came out of the civil rights movement and was part of the "war on poverty", envisioned as a public work fueled by a "peace dividend" (although that wasn't the term used).

The prime contractor irrigation system, set up during WW2, proved too lucrative to just turn off, and indeed was ramped up under Eisenhower under the direction of Congress, which saw pork barreling of defense spending (so-called "ear marks") as the ticket to staying in power.

ICBMs became cruise missiles which then morphed into drones. Each generation of technology required its "theater" for live guinea pig testing, usually overseas, although paramilitary goods had their domestic applications as well, among police forces, private security services, hunters, and survivalists.

After-market military equipment remains an important ingredient in most scouting programs. Many homeless people use military grade sleeping bags.

President Eisenhower could see the writing on the wall and realized that war, once hugely profitable, could be commodified and sold to the American people as a permanent way of life. Robert McNamara, fresh from a job with Ford Motor Company, helped "create the space" for all subsequent secretaries of defense.

If allowed to build aircraft carriers, tanks and missiles (along with a defense against missiles) white collar voters would prove grateful and loyal, regardless of any party affiliation. These were the family wage jobs one needed to pursue the American dream of happiness, preferably in a suburban setting.

Not all Americans would sucker for this plan, but enough of them would to keep LAWCAP in ascendancy through the arc of the Cold War, and on into its War on Terror.

The architects of this economy took Europe's religious feuds as their gold standard, a time-tested recipe for prolonging hostilities. As long as Jews and Muslims couldn't see eye-to-eye, the money changers would have a field day in the temple, while Christians could be counted on to arm all sides.

The term "beltway bandit" was common currency in the news stories and referred to that privileged cast frequenting the "revolving door" twixt the arms bazaar and DC-based agencies. "Privatization" (a euphemism for cannibalizing public resources) transferred much of this know-how overseas, helping "level the playing field" as billionaires spread around the globe more evenly.

The hoi polloi made do with their impoverished schools, decaying infrastructure, and nursed their hatreds for the designated scapegoats du jour. They were told that any living standard advantages they enjoyed were a consequence of weapons research, and for many decades this folk myth was accepted.

As America fell further and further behind in the standings, some deeper thinkers came to question this central dogma, including many CEOs of well-known companies, who saw the mindless waste more in terms of its opportunity costs.

OMR, a symbol for any number of futuristic projects, large and small, stayed in the closet, amidst other esoterica. Not even the science fiction writers out of Hollywood dared touch it, lest old civil rights memes get reactivated. Positive futurism had the potential to "go viral" and the advice from PR firms was to "keep a lid on it" if serious about getting sponsors and advertisers.