- The Internet
- Spread spectrum wireless communications
- Digital photography
- Forward-looking infrared
- Zodiac boats
- Night-vision cameras
- Heads-up displays
- Data encryption
- Nuclear reactors
- Flat panel displays
- Robotic prosthetics
Indeed, this list is so incomplete that the Czar asks you do not even bother to submit more. The common thread here? All of this was military technology that has crept, shifted, or jumped into common civilian use.
Specifically, American military technology. Think of how many millions of ordinary lives around the world have been changed for the better because of these things. And how trivial some of them have become: one of the major uses of SONAR today are handheld fishfinders mounted on bass boats. Kids’ shoes are almost solely Velcro, developed by the USAF for NASA. Fire and rescue personnel depend heavily on FLIR. You are reading this thanks to DARPA.
This is all stuff that was once incredibly secret, but our military deemed it so essential to improving the lives of Americans that it was given back to us, sold in thousands of commercial products.
Now, here comes the tricky part: name another military that has given so much back to the people it protects. Yes, indeed, the Romans did a lot (train gauges, driving on the right, road construction), as did the British (Silly Putty, gyroscopics, sherry), but the sheer list of American constributions just since World War II is truly astonishing. No doubt you have already thought up a couple not listed here. You may even have used some in the last 24 hours, because so much of it is out there.
Our military does a lot for us: it defends our borders, eliminates threats we don’t even think about, assures our freedom, and prevents trouble long before it starts. And, pretty often, it says “Hey, you wanna see something really cool?” And then, just like that, it gives us something neat to play with.
So go ahead. Name another military that comes close.