Dossier: Escape

The misanthropic and dystopian speculative-fiction writer J.G. Ballard once mused that the two most important inventions of the Twentieth Century were the aircraft ejection seat and the birth-control pill.

He never explained what he meant by this, but I suspect that he was pointing out how technologies of escape have profoundly shaped the direction of this civilization’s history. Both devices are used to limit the extent of the physical repercussions inherent in certain kinds of risky behavior--they’re safety nets developed in the last century that let people get away with taking big, stupid chances, whether it is piloting a fighter plane deep into enemy territory or falling into bed with someone of the opposite sex who you never want to see again.