Archive for May 30th, 2013

Philosophy Feeds Engineering

May 30, 2013


 An ancient silliness condemns philosophers for making commoners feel bad. Yet it’s the mark of any new philosophy worth its salt to do such a thing. Hurting warns of danger or damage, it’s a good thing, most of the time. New philosophy informs us that our old thinking  leaves something to be desired, and opportunities exist, that had been left unexploited.

 Also, new thoughts are about constructing new brain geometry, while demolishing erroneous structures. As all demolition and construction require energy, this demands pain and effort. To be as brainy a human as can be, one has to learn, that means, one has to learn to love pain and effort. Philosophers hold the whip, when they go to the public, and they talk.

 To preserve civilization, having a sustainable philosophy is more important than having the right engineering. Not that the latter is not necessary too, but the philosophy leads the engineering. Moreover, philosophy is harder to come by, because it’s less tangible, harder to demonstrate, more iconoclast thus more irritating! The case of steam power demonstrates this best.

Why Then? Philosophy Empowers Engineering

Why Then? Philosophy Empowers Engineering

 Philosophy’s importance in engineering is why two different French protestants, having fled France’s religious intolerance, developed the steam powered piston engine in the Seventeenth Century, and applied it to boats. It was not a coincidence that individuals of the same rebellious mental background did so. After twenty centuries of stasis with steam power (both ancient Egyptians and Greeks used steam power in their temples, to move large objects magically, mesmerizing the vulgum).

 The Romans could have developed steam power, 17 centuries earlier. Both the power of steam and paddles were known. Extremely intricate wheeled and teethed mechanisms were in common usage. Paddle mechanisms counted the distance a boat covered. But, after a few decades of fascist plutocracy, Greco-Romans did not see the point of steam power, or, more generally technological progress. They waited like sitting ducks until the exhaustion of their world was upon them.

 The attitude was very different in the 17C. Brains were active, so were the armies, and mental diversity was of the essence. even the rabid Louis XIV financed Dutch savant (for example Huyghens, the wave master).

 England’s Cromwell, the “Lord Protector“, was alerted on the “incredible strength and swiftness” of a French steam boat built in… the Netherlands.

 In Roman times, the same tyranny reigned over “Britannia” (UK), Lower Germany (Netherlands), and Gallia (France), and that tyranny was globally hostile to spectacular technological progress. The inventor of a steam boat would have been paid by the Greco-Roman emperor NOT to develop it (that may well have happened, from allusions in the records we have).

 The ascent of the Roman republic had been the ascent of the right engineering. Yet, when Rome became uncontrollably fascist and plutocratic, all things of the mind went down, including engineering. This was directly related to the emperors’ anti-progress mood. Hey, progress in engineering could reverse engineer itself into philosophical progress!… Emperors understood that much.

 Emperors forbade to use advanced engineering… as it would augment unemployment, they claimed meekly. The Romans could have made steam ships: they had all the ingredients. But not the right philosophy.

 The first maker of a steam boat mysteriously disappeared from the records. French engineer and German academic Denis Papin built the first piston engine that is still documented today in 1690.

 As a protestant, Papin had to flee the horrendous criminal activities of the self described sun tyrant, Louis XIV, the superstition fanatic. Papin, with the apparent collaboration of the great Leibnitz, operated a fully functional steamship more than one hundred kilometers down a German river in 1707. Papin died destitute, but several of his steam devices came to be used a century after he invented them.

 Some will say progress is neither necessary, nor welcome. And indeed Papin’s steamship was destroyed by (German) opponents of progress.

 Roman plutocracy already tried to stop progress. And succeeded. What happened? The Romans ran out of economy, finance, army, military superiority resources, finally bringing the quasi-collapse of civilization. Even before serious invasions started. The fact that advanced double curvature composite bows from Central Asia could penetrate legionaries’ armor did not help. Ultimately the Franks took over, not just because they had better weapons, but a better, less plutocratic philosophy. (As demonstrated by Charles Martel’s nationalization of the church, to pay for the largest army since the heydays of Rome, circa 720 CE.)  

 Having read PLUTOCRACY: New World Order, Oakwood, a hydrologist from Britain, opined that: There is nothing new in saying ‘our civilisation will collapse because of our evil and selfish ways’. Mankind has been predicting that since the dawn of Man. You may well respond: ‘but this time it’s different’. They all said that too.”

 Sorry to break the bad news, but everything is new about this world. The reason they said that ‘but this time its different’, is it was true, it is true, and it is more true than ever. Contrarily to what Nietzsche and much antique mythology, Greek or Indian, believed, the world is not an eternal return of the same. The world NEVER returns to the same.

 The concept of “sustainable” has to be caveat that it is valid ONLY IN DYNAMIC sense.  Ever since there are men, and they ravage.

 It is precisely because mankind has been (correctly) predicting that “our civilization will collapse because of our evil and selfish ways” that civilizations have kept improving, as they had to, due to out increasingly more powerful technologies. How did they improve? By becoming ever more moral. However horrendous exactions in the last century or so, the level of mayhem has been much less than was common in the past (we know this from many paleontological and anthropological studies; life in the Amazon had a very high probability to end with murder, for example). This is not just a factoid, but a warning…

 For example, we keep on pumping CO2, we modify the atmosphere for hundreds of thousands of years. This never happened before, ever since there were dinosaurs, and they disappeared (this is an allusion to Dekkan Super Traps, when the world reeled under a massive core eruption, with probable massive CO2 releases, followed by backlashes:

 Oakwood: If there are/were any societies in history that did not have a wealthy/privileged elite, they are/were very very rare. This seems to be the norm of human society.”

 To complain about the principle leadership was not my point in “PLUTOCRACY“. Philosophers have always been, in some sense, a privileged elite, the ultimate luxury of the top societies. Wisdom itself is privilege. So I aspire to belong to the maximally privileged elite.

 The plutocratic phenomenon happens when an elite takes control, basically to lead a maximum number of people down, the Dark Side (this is the exact opposite of wisdom uses the Dark Side to blast a mess clean).

 Besides, once again, there is nothing as a typical “human society“. There is no eternal return of the same. All civilization is un-natural, and the more technological, the less natural.

 The present rule of increasing plutocracy is increasingly exasperating. Hopefully, by finding out what is going on in the darker corners of the human mind, and acting in a timely manner, to prevent further deterioration, the future will not be dire.

 Most of us will prefer to live now, rather than in any prior period. Even common people presently live better than the greatest lords.

 The question is not whether the situation is more dire now rather than before. It obviously is, because of the very success of our species. We are now trying to fly a new vehicle, the latest version of spaceship Earth. That version of this spaceship never existed before. And thus it may crash, as all new prototypes tend to do. We don’t want to crash. It’s a very primordial urge.

 So we should not sequester civilization. Tax the rich before they get total control. Remember that not taxing the rich is a self fulfilling non linear effect. As happened to the Greco-Roman empire.

 So progress and tax, but don’t sequester, be it only for the children. Not just that we love them, and they deserve to be loved. But also because they sustain us, as we hope, weaken, and give away all we had dear, satisfying our primordial urge to the utmost.


Patrice Ayme


 P/S: And how do we avoid a civilizational crash? The question of energy is central. Not just by making it sustainable, but also making our mastery of energy great enough to address the problems we have (that is what the Romans did not do enough of, in the end).

One of the problems being that, having run out of planet (we consume already much more than the planet can sustain), we need to expand in the solar system. This is not utopia, but a clear and present necessity. But using the same basic technique as prehistoric man, or Denis Papin, that is, making a big pile of chemicals and combining them with oxygen, is not good enough for doing so. So fusion research for space propulsion ought to be financed much more than it presently is!