Drones and Trust, Air Conditioning History, and Evangelion Crawdads
I wrote something for the ICRC about drones, public trust, and why we can’t brute-force the public into being universally OK with the presence of little flying robots that are extremely hard to tell apart from one another. You can read it here.
Ever since that mind-bendingly awful heat wave hit the Pacific Northwest in late June, I’ve become obsessed with the history and politics of air conditioning. As part of my quest to become a minor-league expert on fun air conditioning facts, I picked up Salvatore Basile’s 2014 book, “Cool.” It’s a delightful wander through the history and cultural politics of air conditioning, and you should buy it.
In just the first few chapters, I learned:
For Europeans and Americans in the 1800s, people took the threat of cold extremely seriously. Heat, meanwhile, was considered a grim natural affliction that must be endured, often even unto death. As Basile writes:
“But when it came to a contraption that could cool the air — not only did many people not understand why it was necessary, but plenty of them scoffed at the notion that such a thing could even exist. Heat was a fact. Heat was a thing that heaven sent you. In those days, it was the Good Old Summertime. If the daily death reports told a different story, well, that was too bad.” — p3
To this day, it seems to me that the West assigns uneven moral value to warming your house and cooling it down, despite the objective fact that heat waves kill a a whole lot of people. (Although most studies of the topic show that cold weather kills a lot more people than hot weather does, which was sort of validating for me as a passionate cold-weather hater).
In quite a few parts of the United States, air conditioning is still viewed as a bit of a soft luxury, or a way to deny the cruel realities of nature. As someone who was born in Florida, the Land of Air Conditioning, the Northeast’s skepticism has always alternately confused and amused me.
Meanwhile, very few people are willing to keep their house much cooler than 65 degrees in the dead of a grim Northeastern winter. Even the thriftiest and most themrostat-monitoring-obsessed Dad is unlikely to demand that the family keep the home at…