Posts Tagged ‘Innovation’

How Civilization Innovates When It Encourages Wild Thinking

December 13, 2016

When, How and Why Does a Civilization Innovate?

The crucial innovation is technological innovation. The rest, even science, follows. What brings technological innovation? New findings in science (oops). New findings in science, in turn, depend upon advances in philosophy. Advances in philosophy, in turn depends upon a friendly and encouraging mood of inquiry set-up by the State… And advances in philosophy depends upon new science, and new technology. Quite  a bit of a vicious, or virtuous, spiral is at work, because nonlinear effects are at work: the product reinforces the cause. This high nonlinearity explains why civilizational progress was always highly concentrated: Sumerian cities, Egypt, Mesopotamia, Phoenicia, Crete, Greece, Rome, Western Europe… China…

All of this, history shows. And logic supports. (Some day, as university professor Asimov foresaw in “Foundation“, all of this will be part of mathematical, fully computable psychohistory!)

The converse also works: a state keen to destroy advances in philosophy, or thinking in general, becomes dysfunctional: this is what happened with the Roman empire, and it happened quickly. After Theodosius I established Christianism as the state religion (complete with the state having the choice of executing heretics, that is, those who made a choice), the Roman state lost control of its north-west borders within less than two decades (the Franks were given [“Roman”] military control of three provinces in 400 CE: the two Germania and Gaul; as the Franks were, then, non-Christian, this changed history, for the better; meanwhile, civilization collapsed.) 

Same Picture All Over The West. But China Goes The Other Way. Notice the JFK-LBJ Effect, Coming Off Strong Support For Basic Research In the 1950s-1940s

Same Picture All Over The West. But China Goes The Other Way. Notice the JFK-LBJ Effect, Coming Off Strong Support For Basic Research In the 1950s-1940s

An earlier, and famous example with China: The first emperor who unified China, Qin Shi Huang, following his Prime Minister’s advice, ordered most previous books and records burned to avoid comparisons of his dictatorship with an innovative past. After the emperor’s death, from ingesting immortality conferring mercury pills (210 BCE),  the wise PM had the emperor’s eldest son and top general connived into killing themselves, and the Qin dynasty and its unification work crumbled.

Some will sneer: that was long ago, this is now. Not, not at all: mental patterns recur.  On being compared to Qin, the First Emperor, Mao, the “communist” dictator, responded:

“He [Qin] buried 460 scholars alive; we have buried forty-six thousand scholars alive… You [intellectuals] revile us for being Qin Shi Huangs. You are wrong. We have surpassed Qin Shi Huang a hundredfold. When you berate us for imitating his despotism, we are happy to agree! Your mistake was that you did not say so enough.”

Modern China is still profiting from the breakthroughs the West did. That made the Chinese very satisfied, they are the most satisfied people in the world, as living standards quickly improved.

But what when it runs out of breakthroughs? However, can the West go on with breakthroughs? I suggested to call the University of California the “Breakthrough Univerity”, because it was long the world’s best financed state university (however Ronald Reagan endeavored to destroy this, by introducing tuition, that is, a decrease of state financial support).

Mental breakthroughs depend upon massive support for thinking beyond the edge of official thinking. That means, state support.

Just to look at a small portion of (world) history and its greatest innovators: Rabelais, Montaigne, Copernicus, Bruno, Kepler, Galileo, Descartes, Leibniz, Huygens, Bullialdus, Isaac Newton, all enjoyed state support (that does not mean that the state, their own state, or other states, did not try to terrify and, or kill them; for example, Rabelais, was a top doctor, and Sorbonne professor, and some of his friends and collaborators were burned alive, after the Sorbonne decided so). Even Blaise Pascal profited from the state, and tax collection is why he invented the first general purpose computing machine (the Greeks had some for astronomy).

Bill Gates went to see Trump today, and they talked about “innovation”. It is not clear to me what Gates understand of the subject. For the primitives, Gates is science itself. For the thinker, Gates is someone without a college degree. That does not mean he cannot think. But can he think in a way which understands how breakthroughs are produced? That’s unlikely, because his success was from exploiting others’ ideas (Microsoft arose from an IBM program which used MS-DOS, a university programming language; Gates mother was an IBM director, and he got a dream contract from IBM).

Tomorrow the great geniuses of “Silicon Valley” are going to see Trump. They are geniuses in gathering money for themselves. Not in finding ideas for us all to enjoy. And their connection with the state has nothing to do with fundamental breakthrough in thinking (but more like breakthroughs in spying and corruption). Sheryl Sandberg, a sort of girlfriend from Lawrence Summers, was parachuted at Treasury under Clinton, then Google, then Facebook. Now she is a billionaire. Armed with her relationships, she is now viewed as a brain. Does greed have a brain? Yes! But not of the most superior sort.

Billionaires, at Facebook alone, have a wealth worth more than ten times what the budget for research on various disease signed by Obama, December 13, 2016, has.

Civilization innovates when the state has decided to support deep innovation. This is why Sparta failed, and Athens succeeded.

Athens succeeded because we are following, however imperfectly Athenian ideas, not Spartan ones. And Athens was a choice, but also the natural choice. The human choice. Humnity innovates, that is what it does best. The corporate fascist state, be it encouraged by Louis XIV of France, Mussolini, or Obama, is an innovation killer, if carried just a bit too far. (Louis XIV financed Huyghens, and even Molière, and many a writer; thus it is not as if Louis was unwares of the danger of fascism; still he fully indulged in it.i

If one wants productivity and progress to perk up, the state has to become as smart as it was, when John F Kennedy was president: fully supporting deep research as much as possible.

Where else are people going to get jobs, anyway?

Patrice Ayme’

Tribal Preferences Everywhere

December 18, 2015

Even In Science, Tribal Effects Dominate:

Human beings are tribal animals. A tribe is a small group of individuals, helping each other, cemented by deep emotions. Don’t say it’s over. A recent study demonstrates what some have guessed all along, namely that it flourished in science.

Max Planck — the Nobel Prize–winning physicist who launched quantum theory by discovering that energy radiation was quantized  — once made the cynical observation that science progressed “one funeral at a time”. Said he:

“A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.”

(When Hitler started to devastate Germany, Planck visited the madman, and told that imbecile that his institute and university had been destroyed by Hitler’s racial policies. Hitler later had Planck’s son killed.)

Researchers at the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) released a working paper — titled, “Does Science Advance One Funeral at a Time?” Yes it does:

Even In Science Baboons Follow The Leader Profitably

Even In Science Baboons Follow The Leader Profitably

Mining citations in the PubMed database, the researchers found evidence that when a prominent researcher suddenly dies in an academic subfield, a blooming of new ideas and innovation follow. They identified 12,935 “elite” scientists — based on the amount of funding they received, how many times they’ve published, how many patents they invented, or whether they were members of elite groups, such as the National Academies of Sciences or the Institute of Medicine. They found 452 of these elite researchers died before retirement. As science leaves a dense trail of citations, publish dates, and authors’ hierarchies, it’s possible to track changes in publishing patterns after the permanent eclipse of a prominent star.

After the death of a rock-star scientist, their frequent collaborators and tag-alongs — the junior researchers who authored papers with them, often enslaved to them — suddenly see a drop in publications. At the same time, there is a marked increase in published work by other newcomers to the field.

Verily, a PhD is mostly a tribal rite. (Warning: Elites will scream!)

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So Why Should Nations, Those Super-Tribes Of Europe, Vanish Under A Flood Of Invaders?

Plutocrats all over loudly clamoring that Syrian refugees should get preference over Natives so destitutes, they can’t even reproduce: contemplate Germany, with the world’s worst reproduction rate, and now one million mostly Muslim refugees admitted in eleven months (the European Union accepted hundreds of thousands more, including three whose calling was to kill as many people in Paris as they could).

It seems only natural that Natives would get preferential treatment above Non-Natives.

Some claim that open borders, the open society, welcoming invaders, is so superior in all ways, that it should be embraced at all costs. The argument was rolled out first by Pericles. However, within 30 years, half of the Athenian population was dead, the city occupied, and only Sparta saved Athens for eradication.

Opening up a country to the max works, as a complement. But, throughout the West, we observe decay, to the point the Natives cannot afford to reproduce. Instead, it is proposed to generously import millions of Middle Easterners… Many armed with a version of a religion which hates the West (9/11, the Paris and San Bernardino massacres were fully, or partly organized by such imports).

Who wins from importing invaders and weakening the Natives? International plutocracy, as above local laws as it is above decency, and the nations it crushes. Unsurprisingly, the same international plutocracy owns the Main Stream Media of the West. A tycoon such as Murdoch could move from Australia, colonize Britain, and then take over the USA (where he owns plenty, including Fox News and the WSJ…) And then the MSM tells the little people, and persuade them that, the worse their condition gets, the better, as long as they are generous to strangers from far-away lands (such as the aforesaid plutocrats).

The more the fate of the Natives of the West looks ominous, the more they will revolt against their oppressors. Hopefully.

And those oppressors are those who have molded minds in the West. Thus the minds of the people have to fight themselves.

This is why a site about cuddly kittens will get thousands of “likes” a day, and an enormous readership, whereas a serious site such as this one has generally to make do with none. Let the force be with you, and direct it first towards those poisonous moods and thoughts which have brought your stealthy demise.

Well, it could be worse: you could believe, as the Pope’s government does, that Mother Teresa cured cancer, because someone’s cancer supposedly went away after touching a medal of Teresa. (After that, you may want to chop off head of Shiites, should you be a Saudi prince! Because if one miracle can happen, so could any.)

Teresa was somebody who accused tens of millions of women to be murderesses, among other exploits:

Christian Morality: Cruel & Demented Sado-Masochism, All Too Often

Christian Morality: Cruel & Demented Sado-Masochism, All Too Often

Following the leader materially helps, but can be entirely nefarious, morally speaking. By condoning the Catholic Church often monstrous morality, and the exploitation of women, the Catholic church has found another diabolical leader to make a saint of.

Mother Teresa was mostly a self-interested ambition sucker, anxious to make Pope John-Paul II feel good about himself (she was hanging around the Pope’s ear in the Vatican, a plushy place if there is any!). But she is a saint says the same tribal organization which promptly made “Saint” Louis (IX), who wrote that nothing would please him more than torturing to death “unbelievers” and Jews.

What’s the main reason for tribes? Death. Giving death, avoiding death. Just study Saint Louis. Just study Teresa, and her pain and death obsessions. And tribal effect can cause death to new ideas, not just people, all over, not just science.

Plutocracy is its own tribe, and its survival depends upon free markets, open borders, tini tiny local laws which big plutocrats can fly over, and the general world order the 99% suffer from in the West.

Planck and the economic researchers we quoted above push us towards the following conclusion. You want innovation, and a blooming of art, thought, ideas, and justice, and a young world? Please help visit upon plutocracy an early demise!

Patrice Ayme’

Equality, Innovation, Civilization Sustained

December 14, 2013

Civilization is technological, or is not. Civilization is progressive, or is not. Why? Because resources get exhausted: sustainability is always unsustainable.

Some will laugh, and point out at their new renewables: the sun, the wind, sea currents. However, all would die in a full run-away greenhouse we are pointing towards. (How that could be was exposed in some of my essays, long ago, and will be left as a question, to motivate the students! After all, that’s the way I used to teach math and, or, physics!)

We need bigger solutions. Or we will keep on sinking.

When God Humbled Plutocrats

When God Humbled Plutocrats

[Roman Emperor Henry IV left out in the cold on the left; head down on the right.]

Speaking of students, Krugman is progressing in his awareness of the socio-economic situation. So is Obama who made a confused discourse about inequality (in Obama befuddled brains, the solution to inequality is more free market, Obamacare style, as he reminds us in his incoherence… and then joins stupidity to insolence by asking us if we have a better solution; well all advanced countries, but for the USA, have a solution: public health care).

Obama is a piece of flotsam moved by the tsunami of plutocracy unchained. He mentioned innovation, correctly. However his administration has made strides against it. As always, in the name of the so-called tech giants (truly plotting monopolies). As nearly always, implemented reality is the opposite of Obama’s lenifying discourses.

Intellectual Property (IP) has been seriously gutted out for the little guys (aka the inventors) since 2008.

The Obama administration has engaged in a war against “trolls“, an ill-disguised campaign for the largest corporate actors (ignoring that IP is fungible, the very principle of patents and copyright).

The Federal Circuit came up with a weird decision, AGAINST “injunctive relief”.  Large corporations can infringe in peace.

Moreover the Supreme Court decided recently that large damages amounts are more difficult to prove. NOW, if a corporation infringes on a patent, “apportionment” has to be effected.

This is a three-pronged attack against innovation.

But the pawns march on. March of the drones, all lined up behind the drone-in-chief.

The best way to get to get to Greece or Zimbabwe, as a society, is through rising inequality. Because tremendous inequality is what characterizes these societies most. In turn, it generates other ills of an overwhelming nature.

Economic inequality, at some point transmogrifies and changes dimensions, becoming fiscal and then political inequality (as presently in the USA). In the next step, even the appearance of democracy erodes (see Bush versus Gore, when a correct recount in favor of the on with the most votes was… outlawed).

Aristocracy and fascism arose from economic inequality. This was known for 26 centuries, and acted up by the creators of Greek democracies and the Roman Republic, through redistribution of wealth, or out-lawing the rise of hyper wealth.

There was a law in Rome blocking great wealth; the non-respect of this law brought civil war between the People and the plutocrats; the plutocrats won… until the Franks took over, 650 years later.

If we go full paleolithic, we will worry about food on the table, and energy. Both are under threat. Human organizations have to rise to the challenge. The distinctions between public and private, when a crisis gets strong enough, are irrelevant (look at WWII when Britain and the USA adopted economic command and control).

As we are threatened by several crises, of never seen-before severity, which are already having an impact, the time may come to avoid the self-reflective reflector jargon about neo-Keynes, post counter-counter neo Hayekism, etc…

The economists have failed to understand that, inasmuch as too much central planning is bad, so is too little. Part of economic theory ought to address the part of the economy that is public, not just the “free”-market, for profit part.

We do need governmental projects, not just government money (especially not just money sent to private banks). If Inertia Confinement Thermonuclear Fusion could be made to work well enough, for example, all our energy problems would be solved.

Fusion break-even was just achieved at LLL national laboratory; the only other project that way, worldwide, is from the French government. That sort of huge project, with potential giant, civilization changing impact, is only made possible from the largest economic entities around, governments (or even union of governments, as with the LHC, and ITER; these are not just science projects, but economic enterprises of incalculable cost… literally). The stupid sequester had an impact on thermonuclear fusion: researchers were ordered not to even reveal the breakthrough they had achieved.

The fascist plutocratic Roman imperial government was adverse to real scientific innovation (as ideas threaten plutocracy).  However, its barbarians enemies caught up with Rome technologically on the battlefield. That resulted, not just into defeat on the battlefield, but in the permanent outright replacement of Roman Army by the Franks (after experimenting with the Goths, and even the Huns).

Contemplate the Chinese dictatorship trying the first soft landing on the Moon, Luna, in 37 years; contemplate the fact China can access space at this point… But the only way Americans or Europeans get to space is by paying mentally unstable KGB dictator Putin.

Another factor in the fall of the Greco-Roman world was the exhaustion of resources. This had started early on, when, for military reasons (building the Athenian anti-Persian War Navy), Athens had eradicated the forests of Attica (500 BCE). Seven centuries later, the crisis was major, and multi-dimensional.

By 1300 CE, a similar crisis was affecting Western Europe. Half of the population died in short order (even more did during the Dark Ages). Yet, this time, innovative solutions were enacted swiftly, and civilization barely missed a stride (although, soon, horrendous religious and plutocratic wars wrecked the West).

The powerful kept supporting the loftiest intellectual ventures (just the opposite of what happened in Rome, when fake, mediocre intellectuals were supported; mediocre intellectual advice is worse than none).

Innovation is not just a central to the economy, but to the survival of civilization. But to have innovation, one needs the People experience enough equality to push for it. Although it humbles me to admit this, the Christian Church, with its strong socialist tendency (thank you Jesus), limited plutocratization: after all, kings in good standing washed the feet of the poor.

Not just this, but the Church, whatever its insanities, was viewed as of unimpeachable advice, even by the mightiest.  That’s another safeguard that has ceased to exist. The rumor has it that Pope Francis, by taking strong positions against organized crime and hyper wealth, also known as plutocracy, is endangering his life.

Even in the darkest of the Middle Ages, this was inconceivable (forgetting the special case of Philippe Le Bel). Once a (German-Italian-) Roman emperor, Henry IV, was forced to humiliate himself on his knees waiting for three days and three nights, naked below a shirt, fasting, before the entrance gate of the Pope’s castle, while a blizzard raged in January 1077.

Nothing can humiliate our plutocrats as much nowadays. It’s in our hands.

Let’s make laws. Let’s make a worldwide register of all properties. Then we can tax the pirates and profiteers, let alone run of the mill, .01% plutocrats.

Representation without taxation is a bad joke plutocrats played not just on us, but on civilization itself.

Patrice Ayme

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Note: China just made the first soft landing on the Moon in 37 years. Well, Obama is already there! OK, the Franco-American robot “Curiosity” on Mars is more sophisticated with its (French Thales) rock blasting laser. Yet, a warning: the Jade Rabbit is supposed to look for Helium 3 (a thermonuclear fuel).

Future Economics Was Seen Before

December 1, 2013

Paul Krugman says in “New Thinking…”: “We’ve had a couple of centuries of economic thought at this point, and quite a few smart people doing the thinking.”

Excuse me: economics was named and conceptualized by Xenophon, 24 centuries ago. Differently from physics, that was practiced only partly and primitively, economics was already highly advanced, 25 centuries ago.

For example, the 200 trireme Athenian Navy that later defeated the monster Persian plutocracy was built, at huge ecological cost, with a public-private partnership system.

Adam Smith himself went to learn his stuff at the feet of French “physiocrats” who flourished 240 years ago (the head of that school was the top surgeon in France).

As I have argued, the sort of public-private government sponsored technologically progressing economy we need today was fully, and self-consciously, in command of France in 1600. Hence Henri IV’s slogan “workers ought to have a chicken in every pot”. A cursory inspection of history show that, from dams in Yemen, thousands of years ago, to the Roman army building roads, to Caesar’ draining the swamps to the construction of China or Europe’s canal systems in the Middle Ages, the biggest picture, in economics, is from the government.

At this point there is plenty of evidence that, in the USA, government disfunctionality is bringing the real economy down.

The main actors and agents in today’s economics originated in government. Look at, say lasers. They were made possible by Kastler’s discovery of Optical Pumping in the Normale Sup lab 100% financed by the French government.

More recently, the same lab, still funded 100% by the French government, found how to count photons, without destroying them (that was also rewarded with a Nobel). Nothing that interests private, for profit entrepreneurs, today, but, no doubt, one of the pillars of the future sci-fi economy.

Economics will continue to be dismal as long as we don’t focus on the scientific understanding of growth and innovation.

Imperial Rome went down because of a deliberate effort against elite innovation; leaving the field to be dominated by simple generals such as Diocletian… Instead of the top-notch intellectuals the best regimes throughout history surrounded themselves with.

In physics one studies, to start with, friction-less trains of mass zero, to teach basic dynamics. Similarly fans of economic theory as taught in USA schools say that economics is like other sciences: economics starts with simplified, basic formulas.

They opine that basic market theory assumes that goods are available as needed to be purchased by consumers with “perfect knowledge.” As one advances to higher-level classes, one learns the corrections for effect of advertising, imperfect knowledge, and externalities such as polluting air and water.

Nice. And that’s indeed what is taught as “economics” in the USA and all and any organization that advocates the economic system thriving in the USA (complete with a for-profit, “marketplace“, Obamacare).

But this is all wrong.

Reducing economics to the market’s inner guts, assumes a plutophile vision of economics. It assumes that economics is all about, and only about, the “free market”. But there is no such a thing. A market is never “free”. What looks “free” is actually government regulated. Even ‘deregulation’ is government regulated.

What looked like financial deregulation under Clinton was actually the regulation of providing the largest financial actors with a number of advantages on smaller actors and over the rest of the socioeconomy.  

Even more fundamentally, giant economies, such as the Inca empire, or (a large part of) Late Rome did without free market, and thrived. Economically (that Rome thrive economically until overrun by savages is a recent and surprising discovery in 21 C archeology).

Stalin’s “free-market”-free economy thrived enough to vanquish Hitler. Nazi economists were so sure of the superiority of their free market, they thought there was no way it would not take more than a few months to destroy the “command and control” USSR. That illusion did not survive contact with Soviet made and conceived T34 tanks. To add injury to insult, the Soviets were then able to out-produce the Nazi style free market.

The UK and the USA used a command and control economic model similar to the one used by the Soviets to out-produce the Nazis. Mass production concentrated on very few types, decided from above. The USA effort was headed by a young Canadian economist, Galbraith.

Nowadays, the People’s Republic of China’s economy, which uses a lot of command and control of the economy, has been persistently doing much better economically than the “free market” West.

So “economics” is a much larger subject than just what American economists call the “free market”.

That the biggest picture, in economics, is from the government is the perspective that eludes persistently American economists. In economy, God is not the market. God is the (hopefully democratic) government.

If the government is democratic, most people will profit from the economy beyond mere subsistence, and so more minds will partake in the society, making the civilization smarter. A virtuous circle of involvement.

And what economic science ought to guide the government? Not the free market, assuredly, as this is the creature of the government. The government needs to be guided by real, all-encompassing economic science.

What could be a proper foundation for the whole science of economics? Energy. Just as in physics. Just as what is desperately in need of regulation now. See fracking, and the just uncovered fact it’s about 50% of USA greenhouse emissions right now.

Of course that will tell Obama nothing: he is not really the guy governing right now. It’s rather the creature down below that is governing, a magma of a few thousands plutocrats with crocodilian aspirations. They govern the jungle that feed them, complete with economists perched on the highest branches, eying the scraps left by the kills they gorge on. 

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Patrice Ayme

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Henri IV used the word “laboureurs” (from the Roman word, laborare, to work). That, of course gave the English “laborers”, and “labor”. So, three centuries before Henry Ford, Henri argued that workers ought to be paid enough to be well fed. Something denied to 50 million citizens of the USA (many of them working, see preceding essay). Today.