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Monday, 9 November 2009

Weighing Oranges with Thermometers

The great debate was, of course, last week. Thursday, to be precise, a day in which the technology of the Greeks and Romans was put on trial. As readers may be aware, the task of Team Antikythera was to defend the murderous, underachieving, pyschopathic, opthalmic, xenophobic, ignorant Romans and Greeks with enthusiasm and verve.

Given that the decrepit Classical World could hardly feed itself, depended on slave labour for it's "wealth", decimated traditional lifeways across Europe, Africa and Asia and demonstrated a disparity between rich and poor that has not been witnessed in society since - at least not until Bush's American and Thatcher/Blair's UK - the task was not, on initial assessment, one to be relished. In the face of all this, did Team Antikythera blanch? Did we flinch from the task? Did we cringe in the face of the certainty of history.

The answer, as I have surely by now telegraphed, is that we did not. Instead, we set about our task, ruthlessly misinerpreting the evidence, distorting facts and misquoting whoever would be misquoted. Moses Finley, Joel Mokyr, Price, Gibbons and, the greatest author of them all perhaps, W. Ikipeidia were trawled, copied, cut and pasted into a cohesive argument that positioned the Classical Greeks and Romans as, (and I am utterly unashamed to say this, although perhaps I should be) pioneering environmentalists who only used appropriate machinery and, through restraint and principle, voluntarily limited their use of technology in order to protect the environment. We kind of glossed over the whole mass starvations, bread and circuses, slavery and extensive mercury usage bits, as well as the fact that when the Classicals did invent anything (like vending machines and steam power) they used them as cheap props - vending machines, for example, to dispense Holy water at temples, steam and wind power to "mysteriously" open temple doors. When they actually used technology it was to create massive automatons of the Emporer that presided over the slaughter of Africans, Christians and dissidents in the arena or to make better war machines. (and some people say we cant learn anything from history!)

As should be apparent, we were in trouble, so in order to help our argumentfurther we produced a Powerpoint which included slides like the following one:

And what of the result? Well, I can announce that in this first seminar, Team Antikythera won the votes of the jury. The problem is now how to proceed. Given that we persuaded the jury (unanimoulsy) in our first debate using tactics rather than establishing a solid base for our argument (not our fault as the Greeks and Romans were patently underachievers at least in terms of technology) it is clear that in future debates the opposition teams will also try to use our tactics. We will obvioulsy have to "raise our game". Effectively, for me, this does not rule out the possibility of cheap showboating. The togas might still be useful.

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