Dreams, Fantasy, and Kool Aid: Exploring The
Meaning and Use For These Terms in Alt.space
by Professor L on May 23, 2006
Dreams, fantasy and Kool Aid are terms often used to describe various projects in the alt.space, entrepreneurial or New Space developing industries. Each term actually has a unique definition, however, as used by many spacers (spacers are those advocating an alt.space and related agenda), often the exact meaning of the term(s) are blurred leading to an incorrect usage of the word. Confusing a dream for a fantasy or saying that one person’s Kool Aid is another’s dream is not only wrong, it is misleading it helps to dumb down the alt.space industry (which by the way, needs no additional help) when instead the use of language should work to uplift this industry.
Let’s start with formal definitions for each term, then demonstrate the correct use and application of the term as applied to alt.space. And remember, it does matter how we use the terms, not just among ourselves but to the world at large. So please understand that this is not just another professorial lecture. This paper is designed to move mountains and shake the world so hang on tightly for an illuminating ride through the tunnel of enlightenment.
Let’s start with the word dream. The formal dictionary.com definition includes many uses for and ways of understanding the word. The definition I want to zero in on is #5, “a condition or achievement that is longed for; an aspiration: a dream of owning their own business.” (http://dictionary.reference.com/search?q=dream). This definition carries with it the implication that the dream is actually doable, that whatever is being dreamed, it can be achieved. It is plausible. This is fundamental to understanding the proper way to use this term. The dream must be plausible. For example, if I say I have a dream to play quarterback for the San Francisco 49’ers in the fall of 2006 (I am near 60, not a football player and replete with knee and shoulder injuries among other qualities), that would hardly qualify as a dream. Some might say it qualifies me for the institution and I would not disagree though I refuse to commit myself voluntarily. Rather than a dream, it would be correct to say that I was expressing a fantasy based on the SF 49er example.
So let’s investigate the term fantasy. Again, referring to dictionary.com, the formal definition for fantasy that I want to focus on is #6, “an unrealistic or improbable supposition.” The formal definitions go on to include an obsolete definition but this one certainly still rings true for alt.space. This obsolete definition is “hallucination.” (http://dictionary.reference.com/search?q=fantasy). Implied in the definition of the word fantasy is the fact that it is not doable, it is not something that can be achieved. This is just the opposite of a dream. These words, these concepts, well, they are hardly interchangeable.
Now let’s check out Kool-Aid. We all know that Kool-Aid is a flavored drink that took on a new definition and impact with the Jonestown mass suicides in 1978 when then Peoples Temple leader Jim Jones brought new meaning to the sentence, “drink the Kool-Aid.” To discover the proper way to use the term, I have drawn definitions from two reputable online sources.
First, let’s check Wikipedia.org. Here we find the following for the use of the term Kool-Aid for alt.space:
The idiomatic expression “drinking the Kool-Aid” is a reference to the 1978 cult mass-suicide in Jonestown, Guyana. Jim Jones, the leader of the Peoples Temple, convinced his followers to move to Jonestown. Late in the year he then ordered his flock to commit suicide by drinking grape-flavored Flavor Aid laced with potassium cyanide. In what is now commonly called the “Jonestown Massacre,” 913 of the 1100 Jonestown residents drank the brew and died. (The discrepancy between the idiom and the actual occurrence is likely due to Flavor Aid’s relative obscurity versus the easily recognizable Kool-Aid.)
One lasting legacy of the Jonestown tragedy is the saying, “Don’t drink the Kool- Aid.” This has come to mean, “Don’t trust any group you find to be a little on the kooky side,” or “Whatever they tell you, don’t believe it too strongly.”
The phrase can also be used in the opposite sense to indicate that one has blindly embraced a particular philosophy or perspective (a “Kool-Aid drinker”). This usage is generally limited to those in or commenting on United States politics, but also appears in discussions on computer technology, where someone who is a staunch advocate for a particular technology is described as having “drunk the Kool-Aid”. This is also frequently used in discussions about sports; when a fan makes an overly-optimistic prediction or hopeful statement, usually about a traditionally woeful team or franchise, others may comment that he is “drinking the Kool-Aid” This is the only usage of “Kool-Aid” that non-American speakers of English are likely to recognize. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kool_aid).
Kool-Aid is described this way by Reference.com:
“Drinking the Kool-Aid”
In 1978, 900 followers of cult leader Jim Jones committed suicide by drinking a grape-flavored drink laced with cyanide at their commune in Jonestown, Guyana. Although the drink was actually Flavor Aid (a Kool-Aid knockoff and competitor), it is often thought to have been Kool-Aid. “Drinking the Kool-Aid” has since arisen as a darkly humorous slang term, meaning that someone believes or follows the statements of another person (often a charismatic leader) without question, often to their own detriment. The term usually applies in much less drastic cases than the Jones example (such as when discussing the reality distortion field of Apple Computer head Steve Jobs). Often, the phrase is used as a pejorative comment on effective marketing or public relations campaigns, or on zealous fans of movies, books, bands, or even computer operating systems. (http://www.reference.com/browse/wiki/Kool-Aid).
Now that we are clear on what these words and terms actually mean, let’s take the next step. All together now…..
Who Cares About Any Of This Anyway?
This of course is the bottom line question to this peer reviewed paper. Who cares, why should anyone care, what value does this paper bring to humanity, how does it further space development and low cost space access, suborbital tourism, or a romp in zero-g with your partner. These are all good questions and I must say, the peers reviewing this conference paper got it immediately. I hope you do as well but in case you don’t get it, just trust me, I am a university PhD professor. OK?
Now I will tell you why you should care but alas, remember, peer reviewers are sworn to secrecy. Its sort of an NDA thing that alt.spacers will appreciate so while I really don’t know who the peers were that did this exceptional review, I just know that this paper was accepted, along with the grape flavored Kool-Aid packs I gave the peers. Their only comments on the paper when I got it back were “Thank You. The Kool-Aid was great!” Ah, back to the topic at hand. Sorry for this little digression but we all know how important peer review and NDA’s are in our community.
People should care because it is absolutely wrong to say that one’s Kool Aid is another’s slim hope for the future. Saying this means the person making the comment does not understand the words, as simple as they are, has no critical thinking, and probably has yet to be weaned from Kool Aid used extensively during childhood. If language cannot be used correctly to express an idea or concept, how can those misusing the language possibly help us access space at a lower cost, or get to space to do whatever we want to do once we get there. Look, if we don’t know the difference between a dream, a fantasy, and Kool-Aid, how the hell are we going to build, develop, manage, run a company to take us to space and bring us back alive? Just ask Frank Buck about this as he always brought ‘em back alive and he never misused language. If we think we are hoping for the future but instead are actually nurturing an hallucination, well, we got some big problems, right? If one thinks my dream to build a business with quality partners, good financing, a solid business plan and a potentially outstanding market is Kool-Aid, then they might certainly miss out on a great investment opportunity well grounded with a solid foundation. Instead, they may invest in a fantasy, in the hallucination, fed by Kool-Aid all the way. Both are risky, but risk is not the issue for this paper. Risk always needs to be weight to the most rational and logical, but this paper is already too long so risk will be covered in another paper, if there is another paper.
The Difference Does Matter:
Knowing a dream from a fantasy from Kool Aid is important. Knowing which companies have real dreams that are attainable, from fantasies that are ludicrous, fueled by Kool Aid rather and Lox and Bagels is important, not just to help you protect your hard earned money from being squandered, but from being embarrassed, humiliated, and doing in the industry all of us would like to see succeed. Lacking reality is not constructive. And its not subjective!
The Role of Serendipity:
This author clearly understands the significance of serendipity in the history of American inventions and creativity. Progress does result from luck, from chance, by accident, through serendipity, maybe even through prayer. I do not discount any of these sources for progress. But one cannot plan on progress emanating from these sources. Progress is not about chance or luck. Progress usually involves incremental, progressive steps along a recognizable path toward a goal or objective. Along the way, it helps if the researcher is open to information and even progress coming from unknown sources or clear out in left field. If the developer is not that open or misses the signs, in a free economy, there is usually someone around that will see the sign and act on it to move things forward or bypass the stated path for a completely different path to the goal, objective, or solution. Planning and developing the action plan and the steps to take is important and it is often the implementation of the action plan that enables the breakthrough even if it comes about as a result of serendipity. So the fact that serendipity is important does not mean that rational and logical paths are to be discounted or discarded. In simple language, you don’t get a free pass by leaving your brains behind.
Alt.Space and Dreams:
Dreams for the alt.space industry are absolutely crucial to its development as an industry, to its someday reaching maturity as an industry. Dreams translate nicely to hardware, to new businesses, to employment, tax revenues resulting from profits, and to great accomplishments. Alt.space must dream to be successful. But alt.space must not squander finite resources on fantasy or Kool-Aid. Know the difference. It may just make your day and your business.
Critical Thinking and Discernment:
Just because space is the subject or the business, its not an excuse to abandon critical thinking and discernment for Kool-Aid and fantasy. Yet this happens all too often. And then when this is pointed out, the reply usually goes something this: “What is Kool Aid to you is serious business to me and to others.” Nope, not true. When you hear or read that response, start wondering if the person had to take dumbbell English their first year in college (assuming they went to college) or if they some how avoided it, as in the modern world when they test out of it. If they are bending metal or making hardware, start wondering about what is being bent or made. If they are writers, question their perspective because they have already demonstrated that they have a problem in properly expressing themselves. And if they get bent out of shape for your having dared to reference this article, just smile, wish them well, tell them you will be happy to buy them a Kool-Aid and put down a quarter on the table, then politely exit to an environment that is more supportive of turning dreams into reality than chasing fantasy and Kool-Aid until death do them part. Whatever you do, don’t hang out with them. Remember the old saying, “you are known by the company you keep?” Well, think about it and act appropriately. This is the start of critical thinking and discernment.
The professor says never ever abandon critical thinking and discernment. Especially not when space or alt.space is concerned. If you want to see us become space-faring, if you want to get into space, if you want to open space up as a frontier for all of us, step up and be accountable. Know the differences in a dream, a fantasy, and Kool-Aid. Now in case you want to know how to do critical thinking and apply discernment to your business plan, investment decision, or space advocacy, Google the terms as there is plenty of quality information on the subject. As I said, this paper is already too long so a lecture on critical thinking and discernment may come about in the future but not now.
One last comment for this section. Assumption building for the business is vitally important but at least one variable in the assumption has to be based on something solid, something grounded. If all the assumptions are based on unknowns, you don’t have much. Assumption building and understanding are part and parcel of critical thinking. One of the best papers I’ve seen on explaining what I have just said comes from a speech given by Dr. Michael Crichton before a Cal Tech audience on Jan. 17, 2003. Check it out at www.crichton-official.com/speeches/index.html.
This paper has explained how to properly use the words dream, fantasy and Kool-Aid for the alt.space and actually the full space industry. Critical thinking and discernment are key components that must always be present and must never be abandoned or surrendered, especially for that which appears cool, sexy, romantic, fun, maybe profitable, or maybe possible followed by a dozen or so “ifs.” If you are not able to appropriately assess something, get help from someone who can make an objective assessment and who does know the proper use of the terms discussed in this paper. Become accountable for creating the type of space industry you want and you DREAM about. I don’t think its possible to create a space-faring world on fantasy, Kool-Aid, or Bay Mud. Solid foundations are important, just as they for a house or building. Maybe in time a space-faring culture/world can be created from a DREAM. Remember, the DREAM is plausible. And yes, you can learn what makes something plausible or not. Or you can get help until you learn it. But if you don’t ask the question and you don’t understand the difference in the terms, you might spend your energy chasing fantasy and Kool-Aid and none of us want that. None of us will profit from that chase.