I like bloggers who like to play with big ideas. The new-mediasphere is full of these folks, but one of the most provocative and entertaining in my book is the Advertising Age columnist Jonathan Salem Baskin, whose blog is memorably named Dim Bulb.
Just in the last week Baskin has speculated on the implications of neutrinos for branding (“Don’t Bogart That Einstein”); the right niche for the U.S. Postal Service if it wants to survive (hint: think better email); and how NASA needs to reinvent itself to bring the excitement back into exploration (“Cosmic Thud”).
Here’s a sample of Baskin holding forth on what’s wrong with NASA, an agency that recently announced a new rocket design to take astronauts to Mars as the SLS or Space Launch System:
Exploration didn’t used to be so boring. Monarchs and then consortia of the rich and/or foolhardy commoners put up the money for voyages of discovery starting in the Middle Ages, though by “discovery” they meant discover profits. The New World was thus explored and exploited, as was the westward expansion of the United States. Sure, scientists tagged along on many of the gigs, but the governments involved in exploration were foremost interested in making money (or in getting undesirables off their shores, which also promised a monetary benefit).
Such uniting of individual and national lust for wealth was the engine of exploration for all of history.
NASA was an aberration to this model, created out of a few conflicting government agencies in the late 1950s so the U.S. could catch up with the Soviet space program. For almost the first time ever, exploration was offered as the absolute goal; President Kennedy told us that we had to reach the Moon, well, because. Once we got there, the exploration thing kinda lost its luster, and NASA went about doing what every other government agency does…finding things to do in order to warrant its continued funding.
No vision. No awareness of the role exploration has played in the development of nearly every society throughout history. No utilization of the profit motive as the driver for its efforts (at best it was always an after-thought, like Teflon or Tang).
Unlike most new-media gurus, Baskin has an excellent awareness of history, and he’s also good at one-liners. He describes Dim Bulb this way: “These essays celebrate the most fantastic and foolish in brand marketing, with the consistent goal of throwing novel ideas at innovative business leaders.”
The fantastic and the foolish – I like that. Sounds right in keeping with our mission at 317am.