This morning, while walking to the office, I happened to find myself directly beneath the take-off path of a Boeing 747, on its way to somewhere distant and possibly exotic.
The combination of the immense scale of the aeroplane, the sound that it made – a metallic ringing as it approached, a swooshing as it went over, and rolls of thunder as it moved away – and the sight of it accelerating through the air – was awe inspiring.
The Boeing-747 is the product of thousands of years of clear and effective scientific and technical thinking – through ideas, hypotheses, fact-finding and experimentation, with results documented for others to check, reflect on and improve on. Through this long, collaborative process of sifting observations and hypotheses for underlying truths, our society has attained the knowledge to produce powered, high-speed, intercontinental passenger transport through the air.
The other half of the story is the creation of collaborative organisations to combine this knowledge with tools and materials to make the aircraft, and yet further organisations to operate the aircraft and the infrastructure which supports powered flight as an option for mass transport (such as fuel-generation plants, airports and air-traffic-control). And all of this needs to be embedded within an economy which generates the resources to finance this activity and encourages it to be profitable, so that it contributes resources to society, rather than being a net drain on society’s resources. This requires good, collaborative decision-making, especially regarding incentives for the simultaneous achievement of profitability and safety.
It’s no mean feat. In truth, it’s extraordinary.
And yet, every minute of every day, safe, profitable powered flight occurs all over the globe. And legions of intelligent, hard-working people are employed productively in both making it happen, and in making it more profitable and more safe.
A Boeing-747 in take-off is a magnificent testament to the power of clear, effective thinking, and good decision-making.