Dan Drezner pre-empts a post I’ve been toying with writing for the last couple of weeks by discussing the usefulness of Douglas Adams’ Somebody Else’s Problem Field to the understanding of international politics. There’ve been books on Star Trek and International Relations Theory, Harry Potter and International Relations Theory etc, etc. Why hasn’t somebody written the Hitchhiker’s Guide to International Relations? Adams made far punchier contributions to the understanding of IR than either Rowling or Rodenberry; not only the SEP Field, but the Babel Fish theory of the effects of globalization.
The Babel fish, said the Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, is small, yellow and leech-like, and probably the oddest thing in the Universe. It feeds on brainwave energy received not from its own carrier but from those around it. It absorbs all unconscious mental frequencies from this brainwave energy to nourish itself with. It then excretes into the mind of its carrier a telepathic matrix formed by combining the conscious thought frequencies with nerve signals picked up from the speech centres of the brain which has supplied them. The practical upshot of all this is that if you stick a Babel fish in your ear you can instantly understand anything said to you in any form of language. The speech patterns you actually hear decode the brainwave matrix which has been fed into your mind by your Babel fish.
The poor Babel fish, by effectively removing all barriers to communication between different races and cultures, has caused more and bloodier wars than anything else in the history of creation.