Bigger, Better, Faster (, Foundations Of Paradise By Arthur C. Clarke)


Man has always longed to build things, and as time goes on, man feels the need to outdo all previous achievements. Arthur C. Clarke's novel, Foundations of Paradise is a good example of this human characteristic.
Vannevar Morgan is an engineer living in the twenty second century, and is known by his peers to be one of the greatest engineers in the world. The creation that gave Morgan this title was the Gibraltar Bridge, connecting Europe to Africa. This bridge is situated five kilometers above the water of the Mediterranean Sea.
Dr. Morgan has in his head yet another idea that will become his final and greatest mark on the world. A new substance has been developed through years of research. It is a microcrystaline fiber that is extraordinarily strong and ten times narrower than a human hair. Morgan's idea is to use this material to build an elevator to hoist things into orbit of the Earth. This way, no rockets will be needed to blast things into orbit. Much money will be saved, along with a dramatic decrease in pollution. Morgan knows many people who have faith in his plan, including the World Bank, although many doubt the feasibility of his ideas. I can relate to this because I tend to dream big also. Many of my ideas are very grandiose and many times, I have a hard time explaining them to other people. I have found though, like Vannevar Morgan, if I keep one of my ideas in my mind for long enough and think it out, it has a good chance of coming true.
It seems like the number of difficulties encountered when an idea is put into place is directly relative to the outcome of the completed idea. A simple idea with little benefit will typically not encounter many problems in production. A grandiose idea with earth-shaking benefits, on the other hand, will have many obstacles to overcome before completion. This rule applies very heavily to the space elevator concept. It turns out that the place on which the elevator is to be built is occupied by xenophobic monks. After a few twists of fate that hardly be called luck, the monks leave their home and construction of the tower is started. The problems aren't over yet, though. The tower is built, but not without causalities, the last of which is Dr. Morgan himself. After the tower is completed, it becomes one of the most important structures on Earth. This is not unlike many construction ventures that have been completed in the past. The construction of the Hoover Dam had a human cost in the dozens of lives, and the average north-Atlantic fisherman works in the business for only four years before he is killed or forced to quit due to family or physical problems brought on by the work.
Another part of the book that deals with human ingenuity takes place 2000 years before the main story, but in the same general locale. A king, so afraid of his own mortality, creates his own heaven on earth. Although the technology is not as advanced in this era, the garden paradise and the palace in the sky serve the same purpose as the space elevator. This shows that throughout history, man has endeavored to be master of all he surveys.
Another example of man's need to outdo himself can be seen in sporting events. Every athlete longs to hold a world record, and many go to great troubles to do just that. Personally, I enjoy swimming. I am on the high school team and have went to the State level meet every year since I was a freshman. As a team, we shave our heads and legs in hopes to eliminate that extra one or two tenths of a second needed to place better. This is a good example of the great lengths that man will go to outdo himself.
All in all, Foundations of Paradise by Arthur C. Clarke has opened my eyes to the fact that Even as technology advances, the reason for it stays the same. I hope that I can live to dream big and leave my mark upon the world. I want to make it bigger, better, and