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Foundations for Moral Technology

Gopi Krishna Vijaya

The subject of moral technology sets itself a lofty goal: to develop technology in harmony with the ethical core of humanity, and serve as a catalyst to develop man further rather than to enchain him. Achieving such a broad yet deep goal requires moving away from a vague and “castle in the air” approach toward a clear formulation of the steps needed to bring it into reality. Traditionally in embarking on a technological project one chooses a deliverable aim, such as a product or a device, and recruits talent and financial resources to achieve the aim as quickly as possible. Moral technology requires some other prerequisites on both the societal and the personal levels in addition to the above criteria. This article describes these different prerequisites – social, methodological, technical and individual. Only when these prerequisites are met satisfactorily is it possible to embark on a project relating to moral technology, in good conscience.

The Societal Level: Prepping the Soil

We currently live in a world where commercial and national-governmental interests predominantly hold sway. It is quite well known, for example, that the majority of the research funding for universities and other research groups in the US comes from industry, governmental grants (such as NSF and DoE), and the military. The situation is quite similar across the world, with slightly different distributions among the different funding agencies. A minor portion of research funding comes from private individuals or non-profit sources, and as a result, coordinated research is difficult. Nevertheless, the funding that is required for the development of moral technology must also be obtained in a moral way. What this means is that by its very nature, expectations of commercial profit or military advantage must be kept clearly away from the funding process, and support must be provided entirely on a donation basis with ‘no-strings-attached’ if such a project is to take off at all. Those who insist on these criteria may be seen as impractical idealists by most people today, yet the fact remains that without a clear and genuine interest in a given research project for its own sake and for the genuine good it can do in the world (and not to the advantage of one nation over another), one might as well abandon the very possibility of moral technology. It is not sufficient to say that technologies developed for profit or defense will trickle down to provide a benefit to the common man. It is not the ‘side effect’ that is of interest here, but rather a harmony between the funding, the main intentions and the resulting work. Without moral funding, there can be no moral technology. Freedom from financial or legal chains will be the best raw material for the formation of genuinely new ideas in a scientific field. Such freedom is practical in the real human sense. While this applied historically in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the military-dominant twentieth and twenty-first centuries seem to have forgotten it.

This task becomes especially tricky when it is observed that generally the military-industrial complex and the intelligence agencies are always on the hunt for technologies that can be converted either to a profitable product or added to a country’s weapons arsenal. For instance, a lot of the modern day computing, cell-phone[1], internet and search engine technologies[2]2 were seeded through the military, and Silicon Valley as a whole was incubated with the help of the military from day one.[3][4] Any research for research’s sake must take these social surroundings into account. It is definitely a critical requirement to create and maintain a steady supply of funds not based on special-interest groups, but rather provided from private or industrial sources not as a short-term investment but as a free gift. Otherwise the project will be compromised very quickly in the pushes and pulls already present in the technology research environment.  

And it is equally important to have a clear view of the legal terrain to allow a precise formulation of any organization dedicated to fundamental research in moral technology. This would “prepare the soil” by pulling out the weeds and clearing the ground. It is only with these safeguards that the soil can be prepared where true research can even begin.

Methodological Level: Prepping the Tools

Fundamental research in moral technology requires a good foundation in scientific thinking as well as the capacity to familiarize oneself efficiently about the merits of experimental research that has already been accomplished to date. These are the true “tools” of research, and not necessarily the equipment. For the first requirement, the greatest emphasis has to be on clear, sound thinking. Hence, schooling in some fundamental works of philosophy and phenomenology are necessary.  These include, but are not restricted to, the following books:

  • Goethean Science (Rudolf Steiner)
  • Theory of Knowledge Implicit in Goethe’s World Conception (Rudolf Steiner)
  • The Philosophy of Freedom (Rudolf Steiner)
  • Principles of Spiritual Science (Carl Unger)
  • Thinking like a Plant (Craig Holdrege)
  • Anthroposophy and Science (Peter Heusser)

The difference between deductive and inductive ways of approaching the natural world, and the higher synthesis of these two approaches in phenomenology has to be clearly understood. The deeply ingrained mental habit of making convenient models of reality in place of letting the phenomena speak for themselves is something that has to be rooted out right in the beginning. Without this, implicit ad-hoc assumptions, vague ideas, pet theories, unwarranted extrapolations, biased judgments and convenient conclusions immediately populate the mind and cloud the clarity of thinking. After sufficient rigor and experience has been obtained in this training of thought, one can now pay attention to the second requirement.

Judging the results of the physical sciences appears, at first glance, to be an insurmountable task. For one thing, there is the humongous volume of research already available, where one person cannot even be adequately aware of all the developments in a sub-sub-field of physics or technology. In addition, there is the assault of jargon: every sub-sub-field has its own terms and acronyms which can completely confuse an ‘outsider’ from the neighboring sub- sub-field, let alone one from another field. However, it is possible to navigate this ocean of experimental results if, at every step, one does not lose focus on what the phenomenon under investigation really is. In most cases, the starting point would be something like: “in the presence of a magnetic field, the current changes direction” or even “the recombination rate in material depends on the square of the charge density.” In spite of the jargon, one can always trace back the definitions and terms to identify the phenomenon being referred to and the way in which it is changing. Following that, most of the terms can be jettisoned in favor of simple descriptions. For example, “Stark Effect” can be replaced by “splitting of lines in a spectroscope in an electric field”.  Though verbose, this phrase describes the phenomenon in clear and unambiguous terms, which is vital to a proper synthesis of the results later on.

Using this approach, one will have to “sweep through” the different fields of physics and technology, in order to obtain a clear idea of the results and processes involved in the developments of the past 150 years. With this daunting task, some help is available by other investigators. The following works are indispensable in this regard:

  • Theory of Colors (J. W. von Goethe)
  • First, Second, and Third Natural Scientific Lecture Courses (Rudolf Steiner)
  • Case Against the Nuclear Atom (Dewey B Larson)
  • New Light on Space and Time (Dewey B Larson)
  • Evolution of Matter (Gustave Le Bon)
  • Man or Matter (Ernst Lehrs)
  • The Four Ethers (Ernst Marti)
  • Working With the Stars In Earthly Substance (Lili Kolisko)
  • The Living Origin of Rocks and Minerals (Walther Cloos)

With the help of these works, one can come to an understanding of how it is possible to penetrate through to the phenomena, identify the jargon, clarify the description, and provide the right concepts to match the experimental results.

While this is a good start, there is a considerable amount of work still required to clarify several subjects. This work will be called the “technical level”.

Technical Level: Tilling the field

While it is possible to embark on research afresh without necessarily worrying about what has been done by others in the subject before, this approach necessarily cuts off contact with the currents of development in the environment. Many an enterprising inventor far ahead of the time has suffered from a lack of vocabulary to communicate to peers, which has held up the integration of the new body of work as a natural progression of the older body of work. Maintaining this bridge between the old and the new is vital to long-term success, and it will ensure that new ideas at least get heard and understood.

This means that at least some researchers must make it their task to penetrate different fields of science with the thinking methodology described in the previous section. A brief outline of some of the preliminary paths to follow in several different subjects from physics is given below. Readers may be unfamiliar with some of these topics; however, interested researchers would be more familiar with the details.

Mathematics: Developing a good foundation in calculus and projective geometry, and especially the expression of a single mathematical process using arithmetic, geometry, algebra and calculus. This cross-fertilization of mathematical streams is required to obtain a numerical expression for a particular geometry or the geometry for a particular function.

Mechanics: A thorough understanding of the Principia of Newton, and the Law of Falling Bodies of Galileo, Kepler’s Astronomia Nova and the earlier scientific developments of the Arab world. Deriving the principles of gravity from phenomenological principles, and indicating where “levity” is kept aside. Developing the relationship between astronomical phenomena and modern concepts.

Optics: Providing an alternative to the particle rays, waves and complex absorption coefficients used in traditional optics, by identifying the phenomena in each case. Clarifying the relationship between wavelength and color, and building a bridge between Newton’s and Goethe’s approaches. Study of physiology in optics, and separating it out from the observations due to logical reasons, are vital.

Electricity and magnetism: Study of Faraday, Maxwell, Weber, Tesla and other pioneers of electrical engineering. Decoding the mathematics to identify geometric relations between electricity and magnetism, and thereby shedding light on more recent discoveries in these subjects, such as ferromagnetism and antiferromagnetism.

Thermodynamics: Putting the entirety of heat relations on a basis different from the atomic one currently used, with the supporting logic behind such a process. Theories of Joule, Clausius, Carnot and Boltzmann. Deriving entropy and energy laws from the phenomena. Study of phase transitions as a dimensional transition. Black-body radiation and its relation to electromagnetic thermodynamics.

Quantum Mechanics: Study of spectra of gases and their splitting under different conditions, obtaining a pattern of the interference and tunneling phenomena. Clarifying the physical nature of the complex number, as well as the inversion of geometry when dealing with “non-commuting” elements. Relationship of quantum mathematics to quaternions, and their corresponding geometric explanation. Relationship to extreme phenomena: superconductivity, superfluidity, giant magnetoresistence, laser action, liquid crystals etc.

Semiconductor Physics: Phase transitions within the solid state, as expressed through energy transitions. The nature of doping, and the plethora of “particles” and “collective excitations” found in semiconductors. Tailoring the properties through an interaction with quantum mechanics. Crystal structures and polarization phenomena: interaction of light with solid surfaces. Vibrations in the lattice. Relationship of semiconductor devices to computers.

High Energy Physics: Radioactive decay, energy levels in the “nucleus”, high speed phenomena and the particle zoo. Relativistic effects and relation to existing electromagnetic fields. Cosmic Ray and solar neutrino phenomena.

Radiation: Generation and extinguishing of different forms of radiation: X-Ray, microwave, radio, gamma, infrared and ultraviolet, and their effects on human physiology.

Along with the study of phenomenological research of the past century, familiarity with the current fields is important for gaining clear ideas of how to go forward. Without the necessary hard work, one runs the risk of re-inventing the wheel or setting up a course of study that is fully isolated in its terminology, creating a language barrier. This study and exercise also serves to discipline thought further, so that one is familiar first-hand with all the logical pitfalls that are possible in developing concepts. It also clears the ground for the individual researcher to finally break new ground with fresh research.

Individual Level: Growing the Crops

Following the groundwork laid out in the previous sections, the emphasis is now on the individual development of the researcher. This process, which is begun in the disciplining of the thought, is now carried out at a higher level in terms of the inner attitude that is carried in the researcher. Traditionally the scientific method has been caught in the paradox generated by two contrasting statements by Francis Bacon:

Man, being the servant and interpreter of Nature, can do and understand so much and so much only as he has observed in fact or in thought about the order of Nature: beyond this he neither knows anything nor can do anything.[5] 

I mean it to be a history not only of nature free and at large (when she is left to her own course and does her work her own way)—such as that of the heavenly bodies, meteors, earth and sea, minerals, plants, animals,—but much more of nature under constraint and vexed; that is to say, when by art and the hand of man she is forced out of her natural state, and squeezed and moulded. Therefore I set down at length all experiments of the mechanical arts, of the operative part of the liberal arts, of the many crafts which have not yet grown into arts properly so called, so far as I have been able to examine them and as they conduce to the end in view.[6]

The first indicates that outwardly, there is a seemingly objective and unbiased approach to derive knowledge about nature. However, the second sheds light on the contradictory inner attitude of coercing and constraining nature to do the bidding of man. This paradoxical approach has been continued to this day, especially with regard to the hard sciences like physics, chemistry, and technology.

In sharp contrast to outwardly being a “detached observer” who inwardly desires to “squeeze nature” for her secrets, the path of the researcher of moral technology is to seek to immerse oneself in the phenomena, and pursue the facts with devotion, so that the inner laws of nature are revealed as a result. While a superficial glance focusing only on experimental results may not detect much difference in the two approaches, the entire process is radically different in reality.

The researcher who sees oneself as an active participant in the experiment, whose very nature and attitude determines the ideas that one is able to discover in the experiment, and who most of all is capable of active patience instead of idle indolence or obsessive pursuit, is qualified to research moral technology. All ideas about the ether, the science of vibrations, and harmonic laws will be of no avail without this inner moral demeanor; and the researcher must spare no effort to constantly improve strength of character.

Along with this attitude of devotion, an artistic sense greatly aids the experimental process, since both the setting up of an experiment and its study will then gain a finer sensitivity. An active creative capacity in any form, be it poetry, painting or music, is a much-needed corrective. A researcher refined through artistic practice could set up an aesthetically and logically appropriate experiment rather than a high-powered behemoth of an apparatus that, while giving some impressive results, serves more to intimidate or oppress an interested visitor. When instrumentation is made with this in mind, and when an experiment can be described as beautiful, even if it takes a little time to set up, the path to research has been properly set.

On the subject of instrumentation, there is another tendency of modern research that will have to be overcome: that computing instrumentation is necessary to detect many of the subtleties in an experiment. It must be clear to the researcher of moral technology that the true instrument of any experiment is the human being. As such, the human qualities of picking up subtleties have to be trained, and not outsourced to an instrument that will then serve to isolate the researcher from the experiment with another layer in between. In the early days of experimenting, this was indeed true. James Joule, for example, said: “And since constant practice enabled me to read off with the naked eye 1/20 of a division, it followed that 1/200 of a degree Fahrenheit was an appreciable temperature.”[7] Such astonishing sensitivity of dedicated researchers has been exported to the instrument, with corresponding loss in the ability of the researcher to gain the correct and healthy ideas regarding any phenomenon. It is time to consciously rebuild these capacities, to restore experimentation as an art in its own right.

Finally, the most crucial requirement of all is that the researcher must look upon the results derived from the research as being a gift from nature, and have the willingness to share the results with other similarly dedicated researchers. It is possible, even if the research did not begin with a financial motive in mind, for it to end in the possibility of generating a product. If the profit motive or desire for fame is allowed to gain an upper hand at this point, the entire development of the research project will be short-circuited and rerouted in a different direction. In the total growth process of a research project, this care is necessary in order to yield fruits that are beneficial in the real, and not the superficial, sense. This spirit of sacrifice, where the work that was supported freely is offered freely back to society, is the central core of developing any form of moral technology.

It is thus necessary to create a foundation for research of this nature by suitable efforts on all the four levels, which serve to guide and safeguard the research over time. Only with this foundation of knowledge, discipline, and devotion will a project such as this have any chance at all of being sustained long-term in a health-giving way.

Endnotes

[1] http://www.businessinsider.com/the-us-military-is-responsible-for-almost-all-the-technology-in-your-iphone-2014-10

[2] https://qz.com/1145669/googles-true-origin-partly-lies-in-cia-and-nsa-research-grants-for-mass-surveillance/

[3] https://www.ft.com/content/8c0152d2-d0f2-11e2-be7b-00144feab7de

[4] https://www.inc.com/eric-schurenberg/inconvenient-history-of-silicon-valley.html

[5] http://www.bartleby.com/242/1.html

[6] http://www.bartleby.com/39/21.html

[7] http://worrydream.com/#!/quotes

Gopi Krishna Vijaya, PhD.

PHYSICIST

Dr. Vijaya is from Bangalore, India. He has completed his undergraduate physics training from the Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur (India), and his PhD in Physics (Solar Energy) from the University of Houston in 2014. He is currently in Salt Lake City, Utah engaged in the Postdoctoral Research of the Reciprocal System of Physics, a way to inculcate Goethean thought into modern physics. His work spans several subjects and is mainly focused on their connection to spiritual science. In the natural scientific domain, he has been the author of 13 journal publications in experimental and theoretical semiconductor physics, presented his work in multiple international conferences (IEEEPVSC, SPIE etc.), and served as a research mentor for a number of graduate and undergraduate students.

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