Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Human Accrued Continuity Omnibus

Yes, I'm a dork, and if you catch the joke with the acronym, you have no room to throw stones.

Anyway. 

At irregular intervals, the imp of the perverse will scrabble the idea into the back of my skull that I really ought to try my hand at some sort of alternate history, which generally results in me doing forty straight hours of fascinating but ultimately inadequate research. Human events are connected in all sorts of weird, fun ways. One dude, albeit one powerful dude, William Randolph Hearst, near-single handedly drums up US sentiment against Spain and helps drag us into a war of colonial acquisition- a war which provides a backdrop against which an officer by the name of Theodore Roosevelt can distinguish himself on the national stage, ultimately making it possible for him to run for president and securing a legacy which aids to power other members of his family including his somethingth cousin/nephew-in-law Franklin Delano who nearly ends up president of the United States for life and creates the New Deal programs and so on. And less direct paths- the books and people that the powerful and the insane cite as inspiration.

I don't tend to think of history as the story of powerful charismatic dudes directing a horde of mindless chess pieces, but there are undeniable bottlenecks- places where things break if just one pieces is out of alignment. Maybe instead of Nietszsche's rants on will and superhuman men, what really breaks through the shell of a young, impressionable Adolph Hitler is a bit of translated Buddhism- or a little bit of Thoreau. Or maybe instead of quite so much Thoreau, Gandhi reads a little more Nietzsche and decides that what an oppressed India needs to get itself out from under the thumb of British oppression is a bit of the ol' triumph of will? 

At any rate, yeah, the small links that make up a long chain of events.

It's too much work for one person to chronicle that sort of thing- what inspires people, what leads to what.

But it's really not too much work for crowdsourcing.

This is just kind of a twinkle in the eye idea. I'm sure it's doable, likely with existing technology. An interlinked series of causes and consequences that you can click through and follow, maybe even in some sort of automatic graph ("magic box, I'd like to view a tree of consequences of the invention of rum, four iterations down, please"). 

Heck, it's possible somebody's already started doing it.

I'm just saying I think it would be cool. 

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