[ExI] Meta question

Anders anders at aleph.se
Fri Aug 19 09:14:59 UTC 2016

I was deeply moved by Spike's story about the Messerschmitt engineer. 
Yes, this is what real moral education is about.

One should regularly check that one is not working for the bad guys. Or 
has become one of them.

On 2016-08-17 21:57, spike wrote:
> *From:*spike [mailto:spike66 at att.net]
> **
> **
> *>…*I am struggling to tone down the political content of my own 
> posts, but I am thinking about writing a full explanation, after which 
> you read, you may understand why I keep talking about hearing the 
> footsteps…spike
> I decided to go ahead and explain some things.
> When I was a young controls engineer just starting out my career, I 
> went to work for a company that did anti-crime technology, which 
> sounded really cool, but had very little funding or market, so I was 
> assigned as a TDY over to support a USNavy effort while they tried to 
> sell these early 80s remote controlled flying camera drones (!)  We 
> sold zero point zero of the RC cams, and I ended up working with the 
> Navy full time for the next several years.
> I was in an engineering society in 1985.  We had a keynote speaker who 
> I will never forget.  He was introduced as a retired Boeing engineer 
> who became an engineering professor at one of the local schools, then 
> retired from that.  But he explained in his crisp German accent, that 
> wasn’t how he started.  He went to work in 1936 just out of the 
> university for an aircraft company in Augsburg Germany, as a 
> structural engineer on the team led by Willy Messerschmitt.
> The war came along; he and his colleagues were busy developing war 
> technology, particularly a plane designed around the anticipated jet 
> engine.  They had no particular political ideology in general; they 
> were engineers and scientists, the math geeks of the day.
> So they came up with a plane and had built some prototypes of the 
> Me262, began testing them with those marvelous jet engines.  Since 
> that plane was the fastest thing in the air, there was little reason 
> to think anything would be coming up from behind.  So the engineers 
> designed the 262 as a fighter plane, but it could carry bombs aft.
> During this time, which was already way into the war, they got orders 
> from Berlin asking them to see what engineering changes would be 
> needed to use the 262 as a bomber.  It is difficult to retrofit a 
> fighter as a bomber however, for several reasons.  The tactic used by 
> the allies to fight an ME262 was a head-on guns-ablazin’ joust.  The 
> allies already knew the Kraut had the option of just shoving the 
> throttles forward and getting out of town; they couldn’t catch it.  
> So… head-on attacks.
> The German engineers anticipated this (as German engineers do) and had 
> armor up front with a long slopey nose up there, so that a bullet 
> hitting at an oblique angle would likely be deflected.  They put the 
> guns up there too, so that if facing a head-on barrage, the guns would 
> keep firing.  It was one hell of a flying weapon.
> By this time, British bombs began falling on London, and the orders 
> came in to study a bomber version of the ME262, so they did, but soon 
> found out that the expendable parts were all forward.  Removing them 
> would make the aircraft so tail-heavy, most of the weight would need 
> to be replaced with useless ballast.  The existing ballast mount was 
> structurally insufficient for the amount needed to rebalance, so they 
> (being clever German engineers) found a way to shorten the tail, 
> reduce aerodynamic surface area which reduced its maneuverability, 
> increase the capacity of the bomb bay which put even more weight aft, 
> and so on, but when they were finished, the plane had some big 
> problems: the armor around the pilot was now easily penetrable from 
> any direction, he had little defense in a head-on attack.  All he 
> could do was run away quickly in an air battle.
> The engineering team made a report that the ME262 couldn’t be 
> effectively retrofitted as a bomber.  “Fortunately, Herr Hitler was an 
> idiot.”  (His words, not mine, hard to forget after these three decades.
> They received word that Der Fuhrer was coming to the factory.  They 
> assumed he was coming to give them a pep talk on their work, but when 
> the haggard Fuhrer showed up, he gave no speeches, but rather asked to 
> see the jet fighter, and began asking technical questions, 
> specifically: how much does that armor around the pilot weigh, and 
> what do those guns weigh.  When they told him, he ordered that it be 
> removed, that the lowered weight be replaced with every bomb they 
> could get aboard the aircraft, even if it had to be carried externally 
> (which that aircraft was never designed to do and was poorly suited 
> for the task.)  They tried to explain the notion of balance and how 
> removing a thousand kg of armor might only allow a hundred kg of extra 
> bombs.  But he did come there to listen, he came there to issue 
> orders.  He wanted to make a 1940s version of a stealth bomber, which 
> would take off from a forward base in France, fly across the channel 
> all alone, unarmored and unarmed except for the bombs, drop the 
> ordnance over London and fly back.  Everything about that plane was 
> wrong for that mission.
> Hitler was accustomed to hearing Ja vol, heil Hitler, and guys jumping 
> to it.  He didn’t ask for anyone to point out the insanity of the 
> plan.  But the young engineers realized that if der Fuhrer was issuing 
> crazy nonsensical orders to his premier aircraft designers and not 
> listening to their logical objections, he was doing likewise up, down 
> and across the entire military.  He and at least three others 
> concluded that Hitler was crazy, stupid, completely blinded by having 
> arbitrary power, or perhaps all of these, and that the war was lost.  
> This was in 1943.  He decided to try to escape. He and one other guy 
> somehow made it to Switzerland where they waited out the war, and 
> later he ended up in the USA, working on passenger airliners for Boeing.
> During his talk, one of the most memorable things was the emotion in 
> this man’s voice.  He spoke of waking up and realizing to his horror 
> that he was working for the bad guys.  So overwhelming was this 
> feeling that he chose to leave his family, his childhood friends, 
> colleagues, everything he had grown to know and love, take a huge risk 
> of getting killed; to not work for the bad guys.
> Any American who works in, with or for the military knows what an 
> awesome force is at our disposal, and why it is that military 
> discipline is taken so very seriously.  We know that power corrupts, 
> and the military wields astonishing power.  It isn’t a game.  I am not 
> even talking about the nukes; I have very little firsthand knowledge 
> of that world, never worked in it.  I mean the appalling destructive 
> power of the conventional military.  If the US military decides to 
> destroy something, it can make that happen, and it will stay destroyed.
> I have been out of that world for several years now, but… I am getting 
> that dreaded feeling right now.  I woke up one day in the spring of 
> this year realizing that regardless of which of the major political 
> parties prevails in November, we will be led by the bad guys. We are a 
> nation of astonishing, appalling military might, and we are about to 
> choose between leaders who we do not trust with all that power.  Even 
> followers of either of the two majors will sheepishly admit they are 
> not big fans of their party’s leader, but the other one is worse.  
> Still, plenty of us will openly admit that these are both very bad 
> choices.
> If you read that story, you understand better where I am, and why I am 
> getting the dreaded feeling described by my German colleague, of 
> having worked for the bad guys.
> spike
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Dr Anders Sandberg
Future of Humanity Institute
Oxford Martin School
Oxford University

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