Just done a podcast for Guardian Books with Tim Radford. Tim's new book, The Address Book, is just out. We share many interests (especially Primo Levi, Darwin), having both working in both science and the arts and, well prompted by Claire Armitstead and Richard Lea, covered a fair territory in half an hour. Check it out.
There’s a stopped clock on my local tube station with a notice pasted over it, saying “This asset has been decommissioned”. It’s been there for months, waiting for the operative who hung this asinine notice to come and do the deed and put the dead clock out of its misery.
Then there was Senator John McCain saying of the US military’s backseat role in Libya: "It's too bad and I would love to see our assets back in the fight." He wasn’t talking about stopped clocks but from NATO’s pathetic performance since that US step-back he might as well have.
Why would anybody call an A10 tank buster plane an asset? Partly, for the same reason passengers on trains are now called “customers” or hospital patients “clients”. It is managerialism run riot. In military matters, the reason is creepier: it is to obscure the fact that these weapons kill people (“collateral damage” comes from the same stable). But what earthly purpose is served by a doctor calling an expectant mother by the dehumanizing appellation “client”?
Civilization progresses by way of finer and finer distinctions. If you start to reduce the distinctions between different things, there is a loss of sensitivity of understanding. There are perhaps 2-30 million living species on the plant but, hey, why bother with names, let’s just call them all “bioforms”.
Again, perhaps the rise of the “asset” reflects a society dominated by bean-counters. Whatever the reason, it should be resisted. These “assets” are dead liabilities.
I'm a writer whose interests include the biological revolution happening now, the relationship between art and science, jazz, and the state of the planet