Tyrants and HackersChapter 1. Body
“I am just going outside and may be some time.” It was March 1912 and with these words Lawrence Oates hobbled out of the tent to die. All four explorers knew that Oates was the slowest in their party. A few days earlier, he had tried to talk them into leaving him behind on the Antarctic ice sheet, but they refused. Now he lost himself in the blizzard. No one would ever find him, covered by his shroud of snow. The others would have to press on to the next supply dump without him. Perhaps they would make it. He never would.
Why was Oates the slowest in the party? They were all suffering from frostbite, exposure and malnutrition, but Oates was the worst. Why? We will never know for sure, but the smart money would be on his old war-wound re-opening due to scurvy. Ten years before, during the Boer War, Oates had been seriously wounded in the thigh — so seriously that when he recovered, one of his legs was an inch shorter than the other. One of the classic symptoms of scurvy is that it causes old wounds to first become painful and then to re-open.
Scurvy was always a menace to polar expeditions. In 1875 the Nares expedition had to be abandoned due to scurvy. Robert Scott, the leader of this South Pole expedition, had seen first-hand the dreadful deaths of scurvy victims: joints black, arms and legs swollen like balloons. In the end, said Scott, “death is a merciful release.” So he took expert medical advice. He had hoped that with careful precautions, this time they would be free from the disease. But to no avail. Just like all his previous expeditions, scurvy struck anyway.
Looking back on the story, the puzzle to us now is why Scott did not know the cure for scurvy. These days, even school children could tell you about James Lind and how he discovered around 1750 that lime juice was the cure. They could tell you that sailors in the Royal Navy were issued a daily lime juice ration and were called ‘limeys’ because of this. How could Scott in 1912 not know the cure?
Part I. Individuals: Me and You
Chapter 1. Body
Chapter 2. Morals
Chapter 3. Truth
Chapter 4. Tricks
Chapter 5. Science
Part II. Groups: Organisations and States
Chapter 6. Patterns
Chapter 7. Threats
Chapter 8. Promises
Part III. Time: Past and Future
Chapter 9. Blood and Gold
Chapter 10. History and Prophecy
Chapter 11. Over to You
The whole book as a PDF: Tyrants and Hackers Draft beta 3 (29 December 2011)
This is a beta release, so if you have any questions or comments, I'd be pleased to hear from you. Send me an email. Let me know what you think.