Recommended Posts

Writer Jeff Riggenbach:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atlas_Shrugged

"Rand's overall message with regard to science seems clear: the role of science in human life and human society is to provide the knowledge on the basis of which technological advancement and the related improvements in the quality of human life can be realized. But science can fulfill this role only in a society in which human beings are left free to conduct their business as they see fit."

Which begs the question - has the time arrived?

Dennis

Link to post
Share on other sites

Writer Jeff Riggenbach:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atlas_Shrugged

"Rand's overall message with regard to science seems clear: the role of science in human life and human society is to provide the knowledge on the basis of which technological advancement and the related improvements in the quality of human life can be realized. But science can fulfill this role only in a society in which human beings are left free to conduct their business as they see fit."

Which begs the question - has the time arrived?

Dennis

Has the time for what arrived?

The time for technological advancement? We are in one of the most productive periods of developing new technologies that has occurred in our written history.

Ba'al Chatzaf

Link to post
Share on other sites
We are in one of the most productive periods of developing new technologies that has occurred in our written history.

But that only supports his point. If quality of life is not improving at a similar rate to that of technology and science, then we're doing it wrong.

Link to post
Share on other sites
We are in one of the most productive periods of developing new technologies that has occurred in our written history.

But that only supports his point. If quality of life is not improving at a similar rate to that of technology and science, then we're doing it wrong.

I agree. But the wrong is in the area of morality and politics, not science and technology. Technology is alive and well. I wish I could say the same for the art of governance.

Ba'al Chatzaf

Link to post
Share on other sites

Ayn Rand followed the traditional "scientistic" model that theories in science lead to engineering applications which technicians maintain. We can argue this, as indeed, some new theories did lead directly to some new inventions. The atomic bomb would be an example of that. It could not have been tinkered into existence. However, we have argued the transistor here, with Ba'al Kolker maintaining that quantum mechanics made it possible to invent, while I pointed to the Fleming Valve and cat's whisker diode as the grandparents of transferred resistance crystals. Thermodynamics is a perfect example of where technical and engineering tinkering provided over 100 years of experience from which theoreticians could induced or adduce general laws. Understanding thermodynamics did allow better engines, of course.

We know also, that Rand did not question the Enlightenment story that the Middle Ages were time of superstition when the Church suppressed learning. IN fact, the Church adopted, nurtured, and supported much science, especially astronomy. If you want to find example of persecution, look to Classical Athens when Anaxagoras was exiled for claiming that the Sun is a hot rock, larger than the Peloponnesus and very far away. Aspasia was threatened with trial, and her student Socrates later was condemned after a public trial.

But all in all, generally, in Europe, most times and places have been open to technical advance. China's long history provides many counter-examples, running decades, generations, and centuries, of stagnation, when material advanced were discouraged or even punished. Yet, China's history is also punctuated with thrilling inventions and the adoption of imported ideas. China's history is a case study in support of Rand's broad claim that when science (learning in general) enjoys a free environment, people prosper. When it does not, they do not.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Michael,

I cleaned up your HTML formatting. I have no idea why it wouldn't format. I even loaded it into an HTML editor I use for simple web pages (NVU) and it wouldn't format.

So I tried online. It worked with the following one, so I am posting the link for your reference if you ever need it: Online HTML Editor.

btw - This was the second online editor I tried. The first one didn't work, either. I don't know what you put in that text, but it had a nasty disposition. Maybe an evil spirit or something... :)

Michael

Link to post
Share on other sites

We are in one of the most productive periods of developing new technologies that has occurred in our written history.

But that only supports his point. If quality of life is not improving at a similar rate to that of technology and science, then we're doing it wrong.

Yes, well pointed out. Also, above all, quality of thinking.

Of course, quality of life can be taken to mean our physical quality, health, and that has improved vastly, so I'm interpreting you to mean what really counts (rationality, individual freedom...).

Tools of technology can cut both ways.

Ease and quantity of communication has advanced beyond belief in recent decades, but as far as I'm concerned, not the quality of communication. As ever, information is neutral, until a thinking mind absorbs it and assesses it.

Collectivized "opinion" as usual vies with individual judgment - in the same age-old proportion, probably - and hugely more of each.

The big plus is that it is all "out there", quickly accessible.

As partial analogy, I read recently that lifespan has increased

about 11 years since the 1970's. Quite ubelievable. But the downside? Much of that 'stolen' time is given over to a far higher incidence of dread diseases - heart disease, cancers, diabetes, Alzheimer's.

More - Faster: may not be necessarily better, when man's consciousness falls behind, - or when the tools of technology dominate as ends in themselves, not the means to the end of the rational person.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Ayn Rand followed the traditional "scientistic" model that theories in science lead to engineering applications which technicians maintain. We can argue this, as indeed, some new theories did lead directly to some new inventions. The atomic bomb would be an example of that. It could not have been tinkered into existence. However, we have argued the transistor here, with Ba'al Kolker maintaining that quantum mechanics made it possible to invent, while I pointed to the Fleming Valve and cat's whisker diode as the grandparents of transferred resistance crystals. Thermodynamics is a perfect example of where technical and engineering tinkering provided over 100 years of experience from which theoreticians could induced or adduce general laws. Understanding thermodynamics did allow better engines, of course.

The cats whisker crystal was a clever invention with no decent theory to explain its operation. It was not until quantum theory was sufficiently well developed that three gentlemen a Bell Labs were able to come up with a design that could be manufactured in bulk with predictable properties and results. No quantum theory of solids = no extensive development of compact low power electronics. That that means life as we know does not happen and I am not talking to you ever a world wide computer network powered by transistor devices.

Ba'al Chatzaf

Link to post
Share on other sites

Bob, I can goto the UT Engineering library and get books on transistor production and theory, but can you suggest a resource to substantiate your claim that Shockley's group depended on quantum theory to design semiconductors that could be mass produced.

Bob, we only built what was available. A kind of television based on selenium crystals was claimed in the 1890s. Telephone's big app was supposed to be the ability to dial up concerts and lectures. I saw a Scientific American from August (I thnk) 1929 and the ad on the back cover was for a new model RCA radio with a jack for television * (*when available). In the Charlie Chaplain movie Modern Times, the foreman gets an order from a supervisor who appears on a huge screen. The fax was known as a "wire photo" and has roots in the 1890s, though was launched in the 1920s, including the RCA "radiophoto." (See Wikipedia here) All of these came when quantum mechanics was still being argued out. We just did it with transistors because that's how we did it. We could have done it earlier without quantum theory.

August 1948

... Before transistors could be put into the phone system or sold to others, they'd have to be substantially improved. ... even slamming a door hard enough could stop one of those early transistors from working. On top of that, no two transistors worked the same way. http://www.pbs.org/transistor/background1/events/makingtrns.html and then continuing here http://www.pbs.org/transistor/science/info/junctw.html to tell about Gordon Teal's cooking techniques for pure crystals.

whYNOT: It is ironic that we now live long enough to have diseases that never killed us before. I worked with a runner who often said that runners live longer, but you spend all the extra time running. I think that both of those while cute miss the bigger picture.

MSK: Thanks for the link to the HTML Editor. I put it under Favorites. The problem happens on my Macintosh. (I am on my Windows machine now.) It does not always happen. Editing a post does seem to trigger the tags. I wrote that one on my PC here, but locked up when the memory and disk drive began swapping. So, I powered down, went to the Mac, logged in again and edited the post. When this happens, I have cleaned up many embedded formating tags in the past. Those did not seem so bad, so I left it. Thanks for sweeping up after me. You shouldn't have to do that.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks, Bob. As interesting as all that was, I did not find the evidentiary link, your assertion that the mass production of solid state electronics was impossible until the inventors worked out the quantum mechanics. However, I have some time and some interest, so let me see what I can find. Also, the UT Libraries have both of James Kakalios's science comic books:

The amazing story of quantum mechanics : a math-free exploration of the science that made our world (Gotham Books 2010)
and The physics of superheroes (Gotham Books 2005). I hope they are entertaining.
Link to post
Share on other sites

We are in one of the most productive periods of developing new technologies that has occurred in our written history.

But that only supports his point. If quality of life is not improving at a similar rate to that of technology and science, then we're doing it wrong.

I agree. But the wrong is in the area of morality and politics, not science and technology. Technology is alive and well. I wish I could say the same for the art of governance.

Ba'al Chatzaf

The cart will follow the horse, eventually.

--Brant

Link to post
Share on other sites

We are in one of the most productive periods of developing new technologies that has occurred in our written history.

But that only supports his point. If quality of life is not improving at a similar rate to that of technology and science, then we're doing it wrong.

I agree. But the wrong is in the area of morality and politics, not science and technology. Technology is alive and well. I wish I could say the same for the art of governance.

Ba'al Chatzaf

The cart will follow the horse, eventually.

--Brant

Which is the whole point - the imminent financial collapse and Marxist influences over Western governments has already curtailed many kinds of investments and R&D work. It is a case of the seen and unseen. Everyone sees the information electronics revolution for sale at Wal-Mart - you don't see the medical device manufacturers who are closing shop [one here locally], the food industry which started ramping up automation before the DOT.com bubble but has now largely retreated in many sectors to slow all mechanical and/or hand-placed work - early 1980's style. You don't see the many advanced technology programs put on hold at the end of the Cold War that only now 20+ years later are starting to be recreated [reinventing the wheel] by the next generation.

Yes hand held information systems in the form of smart phones are a wonderful thing [the seen]. Basic economics tells us redistribution of wealth is destroying the unseen at an alarming rate. Government funded science has encouraged the destruciton of an entire generation of theoretical physicists - it is not clear how many generations it will take to recover. Government funded science is in bed with government politics redistributing wealth via climate fear mongering without any science behind it. Failures in morality and politics are beginning to unravel science and technology - the cart will follow the horse, soon.

Dennis

Link to post
Share on other sites

Epistemological problem: We cannot empirically corroborate our claims of the unseen damages. By definition it has to do with what was not. Using counterfactual definite assertions has its problems.

For example: my sig : If my grandma had balls she would have been my grandpa.

Ba'al Chatzaf

Link to post
Share on other sites

Epistemological problem: We cannot empirically corroborate our claims of the unseen damages. By definition it has to do with what was not. Using counterfactual definite assertions has its problems.

I see this as the same issue running through many discussions - both economic and scientific - on this forum and throughout society. There are many historical examples of important discoveries being lost then uncovered or rediscovered again after years, decades, or even centuries have gone by. You can't calculate unseen damages even upon rediscovery because of the chaotic and often exponential economic effects they can have - yet we know of many things that now have value that were not available for long periods of time and logic indicates much more - previously discovered - remains unknown even now, much less project that which died before it was born because of societies ills. Economic calculation and planning does not rely on what we can empirically corroborate alone - if it did Marxist central planning with "seen" results - even though it never has adequate information to correctly plan - would seem reasonable.

As 95% of patents never make it to a profit - much remains unseen, as most ideas never make it to a patent - much remains unseen, as most of human history was not productive to science and technology development much of what could have been seen never came to be. As redistribution is the new majority normal more and more will never come to be and/or never be seen. The damage is very real and though not empirical it is very much a part of economic calculation.

Dennis

Link to post
Share on other sites

As 95% of patents never make it to a profit - much remains unseen, as most ideas never make it to a patent - much remains unseen, as most of human history was not productive to science and technology development much of what could have been seen never came to be. As redistribution is the new majority normal more and more will never come to be and/or never be seen. The damage is very real and though not empirical it is very much a part of economic calculation.

Dennis

You imply there is a record of the 95 percent of patents that do not make a profit. If there is a record, then the 95 percent are NOT unseen.

Ba'al Chatzaf

Link to post
Share on other sites

As 95% of patents never make it to a profit - much remains unseen, as most ideas never make it to a patent - much remains unseen, as most of human history was not productive to science and technology development much of what could have been seen never came to be. As redistribution is the new majority normal more and more will never come to be and/or never be seen. The damage is very real and though not empirical it is very much a part of economic calculation.

Dennis

You imply there is a record of the 95 percent of patents that do not make a profit. If there is a record, then the 95 percent are NOT unseen.

Ba'al Chatzaf

What I meant is that even when we have a written record of patents 95% never make it to the market for evaluation by the 99.9999% of the population that does not read the patent record. To the extent this part is seen it tells us much remains unseen.

In my home town in Nebraska [Verdigre] a local farm machinery mechanic and his partner invented and patented a new kind of disc which they tested and demonstrated worked better than any disc's on the market [disc to break up clods in the field when farming]. To their joy the rights were purchased by a large farm machinery manufacturing firm. To their dismay the disc was never intended for the market - only to prevent others from making it while they continued to sell their existing product line. By the time the patent would expire the mechanics would have been retired or dead - thus the end of the line for the new discs.

Dennis

Link to post
Share on other sites

In a related problem - there is much more interest in solving "seen" versus "unseen" problems. When I was in the Air Force one of the jobs I did was modeling field effect transistors [FET] in GaAs used for high power electronics - radars in particular. One day a co-worker was talking about the main failure mechanism in high power microwave frequency circuits and half joking wonders if I can solve the problem since I do modeling. I had in fact already solved the problem but didn't know it was a problem until he told me it was. I took a couple days to redo the modeling specific to that task then showed our boss the solution. He about fell out his chair since apparently it was a real problem known to many - but not me. He immediately figured out a real world implementation to fabricate my solution [i wasn't into the electronic fabrication end of things], in a matter of a couple weeks we had it sent in to be patented. My boss relayed the solution to contractors and a short time later the solution was being implemented in an existing contract the AF had with Hughes Electronics for high power GaAs electronics. I was told later it also went into the next generation of cell phones.

I had approached my boss [and other bosses] and the Air Force in general with many innovative things before [spending 10 or 100x the effort needed for the FET solution - some implemented later] but I was always trying to fix a problem before it was recognized as a problem. I was fixing the "unseen" problems trying to get ahead on things. I had been briefed on some secret programs here and there which were fixing "unseen" problems and working ahead of what was known to the outside world - that is what I wanted to do. Unfortunately I found out that you can actually invent things but not have the clearance or be in the right organization to be involved any further. Working on the "unseen" in a bureaucracy is the exception seldom allowed. I found out later this is even more true in large private industry.

Anyway the unseen is still out there still not being seen. The unseen problems and the unseen solutions still exist. It remains a part of the economic calculus - not seen. The invisible Black Swan ready to bite.

Dennis

Link to post
Share on other sites

In my home town in Nebraska [Verdigre] a local farm machinery mechanic and his partner invented and patented a new kind of disc which they tested and demonstrated worked better than any disc's on the market [disc to break up clods in the field when farming]. To their joy the rights were purchased by a large farm machinery manufacturing firm. To their dismay the disc was never intended for the market - only to prevent others from making it while they continued to sell their existing product line. By the time the patent would expire the mechanics would have been retired or dead - thus the end of the line for the new discs.

This is why I am against intellectual property rights. If people were free to experiment with workarounds--alternatives to forceful prevention of replication and imitation--everything would have worked itself out by now and we wouldn't see so much resources allocated to enforcing laws that are often expensive to enforce or complete lost causes.

Anyway, I think many people attribute the technological advancements of the 90's to increased government spending. Unfortunately the demand created by government spending does not necessarily represent the demands of producers (the people who give money its value). And although we did advance seemingly quickly after government started to grow since the early 90's, so does an athlete perform better after taking a performance enhancing drug... but the athlete surely wouldn't try to sustain him/herself on such a drug.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Pithy posts, Dennis! Thanks. You offer much to think (and worry) about. The "unseen" (unknown) is a deep epistemological problem. You presented an array of inter-related problems; and, as I said, they deserve investigation. In the mean time, allow me to offer these reflections.

You identified two classes of the unseen, positive and negtive. I suggest trade secrets as an example of positive unseens. Among the negatives, you cited the affect of taxes and regulations on medical device manufacturers. I posted a new topic about this just before yesterday here in Poltiics. So, that, at least, is a seen (by us). I grant though that very much else remains unseen. I met T. J. Rodgers once and he told me that government regulations require him to exercise his stock options even though the money is more profitable as capital in Cypress. Instead, last time, he went to Europe... and came home early, "sick and fucking tired of eurotrash and eurosocialism." The money was wasted, channeled into unproductive trade.

Your minor thesis is that getting the government back to only its basic functions would remove a huge inventory of unseen losses. That is easy to accept. Bastiat said so, too.

Your major thesis - the epistemological problem of the unperceived - is less tractable, and more interesting, itself a unseen problem you seek to solve.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Your major thesis - the epistemological problem of the unperceived - is less tractable, and more interesting, itself a unseen problem you seek to solve.

The epistemological problem of the unperceived seems related to two other problems I have become interested in over the years - innumeracy and compartmentalization [some form of axiomatic holistic reasoning being the ideal]. The question of visual-spatial analytical reasoning seems to relate to all of these issues. I have mentioned anecdotal examples of all of these issues in various posts.

The unperceived can be related to visual-spatial analytical reasoning in some instances by thinking in patterns and perceiving what is both present and missing in the pattern. That is in fact how I often understand things in context as much by what is not said or not presented as much as what is. I don't just think about the seen - the empirically observable - but the patterns.

The inability to perceive cause and effect patterns seems to plague a large percentage of people.

A number of events over the years have shaped my understanding of what other people do and do not understand. Humans as individual owner/operators exhibit a wide range of abilities. It is the exceptions or exceptional that help define the boundaries of the pattern.

Understanding the value of what has been lost in the "unseen" is indeed a difficult problem - which is why those who can buy the "seen" with other people's money are so successful.

Dennis

Link to post
Share on other sites

The inability to perceive cause and effect patterns seems to plague a large percentage of people.

Also the ability to perceive cause - effect when there is none plagues many folk. It is the famous post hoc fallacy running rampant.

Ba'al Chatzaf

Link to post
Share on other sites

The inability to perceive cause and effect patterns seems to plague a large percentage of people.

Also the ability to perceive cause - effect when there is none plagues many folk. It is the famous post hoc fallacy running rampant.

Ba'al Chatzaf

One of my favorites is that WWII brought us out of the depression when in fact there were radical changes in policies favoring growth after WWII.

Dennis

Link to post
Share on other sites

One of my favorites is that WWII brought us out of the depression when in fact there were radical changes in policies favoring growth after WWII.

Dennis

Before the U.S declared war on the Axis there were already war industries producing arms for lend-lease to Britain. By the end of 1940 industrial unemployment was over. Anybody who wanted an industrial job and was able to do it, could get a job. And there were secondary and tertiary side effects from the industrial employment. All sorts of shops and store catered to the workers in the factories who had money to spend.

The man who ended the Depression in the U.S was not FDR. It was Adolph Hitler.

Ba'al Chatzaf

Link to post
Share on other sites

One of my favorites is that WWII brought us out of the depression when in fact there were radical changes in policies favoring growth after WWII.

Dennis

Before the U.S declared war on the Axis there were already war industries producing arms for lend-lease to Britain. By the end of 1940 industrial unemployment was over. Anybody who wanted an industrial job and was able to do it, could get a job. And there were secondary and tertiary side effects from the industrial employment. All sorts of shops and store catered to the workers in the factories who had money to spend.

The man who ended the Depression in the U.S was not FDR. It was Adolph Hitler.

Ba'al Chatzaf

Somewhere there is a cartoon. A guy is reading the story of the broken window from Hazlitt's book "Economics in One Lesson". He gets half way thru the story. Suddenly he hears a crash. The other guy is smashing all the windows in the block. The cartoon is titled 'economics in half a lesson'.

Why are some people not able to recognize the broken window fallacy when it is on a large scale such as a war? Or do they really think it is not a fallacy when it is on a large scale?

Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now