Sunday, December 25, 2005

Air Power

A company called Magenn has developed a new type of wind turbine that solves many of the problems of conventional windmills. Theirs is a dirigible wind turbine that can float high above the ground, taking advantage of stronger winds at high altitude. Since the device is tethered rather than tower-mounted, it is far easier and less expensive to deploy than a high-powered conventional wind turbine.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Intelligent Evolution

My own conclusion is that man has been given the capability to alter and accelerate the evolutionary transformation of the a priori physical environment that is to participate objectively, directly, and consciously in universal evolution and I assume that the great, complex integrity of omni-coordinate and inter-accommodative yet periodically unique and nonsimultaneously co-operative generalized principles, and their myriad of special case realizations, all of which we speak of as universe and may think intuitively of as God, is an intellectual invention system which counts on man’s employing these capabilities. If he does not do so consciously, events will transpire so that he functions subconsciously in the inexorable evolutionary transformations.

--R. Buckminster Fuller, Education Automation
The previous article, “ID Theory: A ‘Design’ for Failure” argued that the scientific contentions of “Intelligent Design” theory, even if proven true beyond doubt, do not accomplish their proponents’ aim of offering scientific support for the anthropomorphic deity of the Abrahamic religions and a system of human values based thereon.

What then are we to make of the panoply of elegance, beauty, and what looks very much like “design” in the world around us? Looking at the geodesic structures of viruses, diatoms and compound eyes, the Fibonacci spirals in Nautilus shells, pine cones and galaxies, or the fractal branching of trees, lightning bolts and river deltas, it is not hard to imagine we’re seeing the signature of a “Designer” or “Designers” written in elegant mathematics.

Evolutionary scientists maintain that all of the “design” in Nature can be traced to the workings of evolutionary mechanisms that need no help from any “outside” intelligence:

Behe's contention that each and every piece of a machine, mechanical or biochemical, must be assembled in its final form before anything useful can emerge is just plain wrong. Evolution produces complex biochemical machines by copying, modifying, and combining proteins previously used for other functions. Looking for examples? The systems in Behe's essay will do just fine.

He writes that in the absence of ‘almost any’ of its parts, the bacterial flagellum ‘does not work.’ But guess what? A small group of proteins from the flagellum does work without the rest of the machine -- it's used by many bacteria as a device for injecting poisons into other cells. Although the function performed by this small part when working alone is different, it nonetheless can be favored by natural selection.

The key proteins that clot blood fit this pattern, too. They're actually modified versions of proteins used in the digestive system. The elegant work of Russell Doolittle has shown how evolution duplicated, retargeted, and modified these proteins to produce the vertebrate blood-clotting system.”

-- Kenneth R. Miller

In other words, evolution is able to form complex systems by taking elements that work in other systems and adapting them, in concert with other elements, to function in entirely different ways, with each stage of the process being functional enough to enhance the survivability of the organism. Doesn’t that seem just a little bit…clever?

Isn’t the idea that a natural process can “recycle” a protein from the digestive system and convert it to the function of clotting blood without any help from an “outside” intelligence even more awe-inspiring and mind-boggling than the notion of a humanlike person doing it, no matter how “super” he may be?

The evolutionary process itself qualifies as an “Intelligent Designer.” What is “intelligence?” For the purposes of this essay, “intelligence” will be defined as “the ability to identify, integrate, and utilize information. We humans tend to operate on an anthropocentric mode that assumes that only humans (and perhaps super-human beings such as aliens or gods) are intelligent, and everything else is non-intelligent.

However, there is no reason to assume without proof that intelligence cannot exist on a broad spectrum of amplitude (how “intelligent” something is) and frequency (how fast information is processed). Let us consider the humble electron. It has a negative electric charge that enables it to “detect” the presence of other charges. If it detects another negative charge (e.g. an electron), both will react by moving away from each other. If it detects a positive charge, such as that of a proton, it will be drawn toward the source, joining with it to form a new entity, a hydrogen atom.

By itself, the electron has a very, very minimal ability to “identify, integrate, and utilize” a very simple information set—the presence or absence of electromagnetic charges. Likewise for its counterpart the proton. But if you get enough hydrogen atoms together, their mutual interactions (their ability to “detect” each other via electromagnetism and gravity, and “respond” by drawing together) will be sufficient to generate a vast cloud of gas collapsing on itself to form a star. By forming a star, the hydrogen is able to engage in a whole new form of interaction: fusion into helium, and then into a range of other, heavier elements as the star perishes in a supernova explosion.

These new heavy elements then gather together into new solar systems with planets, which eventually generate life, and that life evolves to greater intelligence until it is able to think about that ancient star that gave itself to forge the “stuff” that made the intelligences possible. In a sense, the star has become aware of itself.

At each stage, the material “identifies, integrates, and utilizes” information to self-organize, bootstrapping itself to “intelligence” of higher amplitude and frequency. The “intelligence” of Universe (such as that in the “hydrogen-atom network” that is a cloud of hydrogen gas) is not noticeable to us because we are operating at such a high frequency that it is a major scientific accomplishment on our part to discover that the hydrogen clouds are doing something as interesting as giving birth to stars.

Even unambiguously "intelligent designers"--humans--have taken to using evolutionary processes to design new technologies. Using computers programmed with evolutionary algorithms (also called genetic algorithms), scientists can not only demonstrate the workings of evolution by natural selection, they can put the process to practical use.

If we look at the ordinary sort of "intelligent design," say, an architect creating a bridge, we can see an evolutionary process at work. First, the architect considers the "environment"--the span that is to be crossed by the bridge, the amount of traffic it must bear, the resources available for construction, the nature of the land at each end of the bridge (basaltic rock, clay, granite bedrock under soil, etc.), and so forth.

Then, the architect will consider evolutionary ancestors: other types of successful bridges (suspension, wooden tressel, stone with arches, etc.). Then the architect starts sketching out possible designs and seeing how well they meet the design criteria (the "environment," which now includes the architect's aesthetic preferences). Modeling different bridge designs in his mind, on paper using physics equations, or using computer models, the architect will winnow out designs that won't work (those that cannot support the traffic volume, are too expensive to build, etc.) ultimately resulting in a final bridge design that gets built.

All of this can easily be seen as an evolutionary process. The major difference is that in "design," the evolutionary process of "mutation" (the addition of new information) and selection takes place in a "virtual" environment of a human mind (perhaps supplemented by the virtual environent of a computer simulation) instead of out in the world.

By looking at designed artifacts, it is possible to trace their evolutionary ancestry back to common ancestors. Automobiles can be traced back to the Model T, and to "primitive ancestors" like Henry Ford's quadricycle and the Stanley Steamer, which clearly show descent from other "species"--the horse-drawn wagon, the bicycle, the locomotive.

Though "design evolution" has a greater degree of flexibility than the biological variety (it can produce a mutant offspring of a wagon, bicycle, and a locomotive, while biological evolution cannot produce an offpsring of a horse, eagle, and a lizard to combine elements of the three), the process is the same. In "intelligent design" it is human ideas of structure, rather than genes, that evolve.

A Thought Experiment

Imagine a race of intelligent nano-scale organisms, about the size of virus particles. Being as small as they are, their quantum-molecular computer brains can process information millions of times faster than ours, since their thoughts need traverse only the tiniest distances.

Now, some of these creatures make their way to Earth, and take up residence in a neuron in someone’s brain. Eventually, they forget their origins, and come to think of the neuron as their world. But they begin a process of scientific discovery, and come to learn the astonishing fact that their neuron is not the Universe, but only one of billions. Then, with long-range scientific observations, they discover that, over a process of millions of their years, electrical charges move from neuron to neuron.

At first, these impulses seem totally random, obviously a ‘natural’ process. But a few microseconds—and many virus-years later—some of their scientists begin to suspect there’s some kind of order to the pulses. Taken alone, each appears random, but treated as a whole, they seem to form cohesive patterns incompatible with purely random chance.

Two theories spring up among the virus-people. One claims that the pattern the impulses seem to form must be the result of Intelligent Design. Therefore, there is a Super-Virus that resides in some dimension beyond the physical universe telling each neuron when to fire, according to His Divine Plan. The other school of thought teaches that the impulses are just an unguided, random product of ordinary chemical processes, and they produce a great volume of scientific data explaining how a neuron fires, showing how each aspect of the electrochemical reactions involved takes place without any need for an invisible Super-Virus to pull the strings.

Both “sides” are wrong in one sense, and right in another. Could this be our situation in relation to Universal evolutionary processes, with time-scales in the millions and billions of years?

A critic could argue that this sort of “cosmic intelligence” is not real intelligence because it is not self-reflective and volitional. Electrons don’t choose to combine with protons, nor do they perceive and reflect on the electrical charges in their environment the way we perceive and reflect on things in ours. However, our self-reflective consciousness appears to be an emergent property of networked interactions of…electrons, in our brains. [1] It could also be argued that we are the self-reflective, volitional aspect of “cosmic intelligence.” Furthermore, as "designers, we manifest the process of evolution in an accelerated, volitionally-directed form.

In the words of Buckminster Fuller:

We are quite possibly the most complex of the problem-solving challenges of the invention that is eternally regenerative Scenario Universe. In this way, each of us might be a department of the mind of what we might call God.

--R. Buckminster Fuller, Synergetics 2: Further Explorations in the Geometry of Thinking, p. 64 (311.14)

[1]Neuroscience has provided quite compelling evidence that consciousness is a function of the brain, and that alterations to our brain (via damage) or brain chemistry (through drugs or medication) can alter or even totally transform our consciousness. This article, though written by an author that favors "spirit" rather than the brain as the seat of consciousness, fairly presents the evidence of both sides. One problem for the notion of "spirit-based" consciousness that he does not address is that the concept of "spirit" remains undefined and un-verified

Thursday, December 08, 2005

ID Theory--A "Design" For Failure

“Intelligent Design” (ID) proposes that intelligence is necessary to explain the origins of life and Universe. Proponents claim that certain biological structures are “irreducibly complex”—that they had to be created all at once as functioning wholes, and could not have arisen by any possible evolutionary process from simpler structures.

Another angle on this is the concept of “specified complexity.” For example, if an astronomer receives a series of radio pulses that express the Fibonacci series, a list of the first 200 prime numbers, or pi calculated to a thousand digits coming from a star, the obvious conclusion would be that she is receiving a signal generated by an alien intelligence, rather than some odd natural radio source. This is because these numerical sequences can be “specified” in advance as an orderly pattern an intelligence would be inclined to send as an identifier, as opposed to “finding” a pattern after the fact, like the “scheme of Biblical prophecy” that was supposedly “encoded” in the chambers and corridors of the Great Pyramid of Giza.

ID proponents claim that both kinds of evidence for intelligent design can be found in nature, in complex structures like the flagella of bacteria or the intricate mechanisms of the cell. Evolutionists counter that all or most of these conundrums can be explained within current evolutionary theory. For a well-balanced presentation of both sides, click here.

Some of the largest—and least-discussed—problems with ID lie with its central explanatory mechanism: whatever intelligence(s) is/are responsible for the “design.”

In order for any explanatory mechanism to qualify as an answer to a question in science, it must at least be defined. For example, if a physicist wishes to propose an entity called the “electron” as the explanatory mechanism behind lightning bolts, static charges, and electrical current, he must, at the very least, be able to define what an electron is: what its properties are, including a mathematical description of how it fits with or supplants physics-as-known. Armed with this information, it becomes possible to devise experiments to detect “electrons” or falsify the claim of their existence.

What do ID theorists say about the source of design in Universe? If you read some of the articles on main ID websites, such as the Discovery Institute or the Intelligent Design Network it is clear that they propose “a non-physical intelligence” as their cause. Though they won’t come right out and say it, it’s fairly apparent from their literature Who they have in mind:

A little science estranges a man from God; a little more brings him back.

Francis Bacon (1561–1626)

Sooner or later everyone asks the question, “Where do we come from?” The answer carries profound, life-molding implications. Until this question is answered we cannot solve another fundamental question that is key to ethics, religion, and the meaning of life (if any): “Are we here for a purpose?”

There are two possible answers: the universe and life and its diversity—natural phenomena—are the product of 1) a combination of only natural laws and chance (the “naturalistic hypothesis)”; or 2) a combination of law, chance, and design—the activity of a mind or some form of intelligence that has the power to manipulate matter and energy (the “design hypothesis”). The latter produces purpose, the former does not.

--Harris Calvert

Here is where their problems begin. Even if we grant that the DNA molecule, bacterial flagella, eyes, etc. must have been designed, that in itself does nothing to prove that there is a single Designer, or that the Intelligence(s) responsible have any resemblance whatsoever to anything worshipped by any Earthy religion. Since most major design projects these days (such as a design for a new jet airliner) require a number of designers working together, it is as sensible—if not more so—to propose that there must be a pantheon of Designers responsible for life. An “Intelligent Design By Committee” theory could even be used to explain some of the flawed or useless “designs” found in nature, such as the vermiform appendix or a snake’s vestigial legs.

The Designer(s) cannot be shown to be "non-physical" just by looking at the designs. The Designers could have been alien genetic engineers, or the perhaps evolutionary process itself could be found to be "intelligent." Even in the case of the "finely tuned" cosmological constants that make this universe seem to be especially formed so as to be habitable, it is possible to hypothesize that our Universe was created by an incredibly advanced, billion-year-old supercivilization with motives and technologies as inconcievable to us as ours are to bacteria.

Furthermore, the very concept of "non-physical" (or "spiritual," to use the religious term) is, as of yet, entirely undefined. We may know what it's not--not matter/energy or anything else man can know and detect scienfically--but we have no information on what it is. Therefore, in scientific terms, it is not even possible to discuss a "non-physical" entity as a causal explanation until the Intelligent Design theorists can explain what they're talking about.

ID theorists (as well as the older "Scientific Creationist" movement) will reply that this is a "materialist bias." While some scientists are no doubt "biased" against religion and the supernatural, others have no problem going to church on Sunday. Science itself is not "biased" against religion any more than music theory is biased against quarks and asteroids. Science is the systematic study of the natural world and natural processes. The non-detectable, non-quantifiable, and unknowable-to-humans is, by definition, outside of the purview of science.

ID theorists have no way of determining from any “evidence for design” that the Designer(s) created us “for a purpose.” He/She/They could have done it to relieve boredom, express Him/Her/Themselves artistically, or for some utterly alien reason we cannot begin to fathom. We simply cannot know any of this by looking at bacteria, DNA molecules, or “fine-tuned” cosmological constants.

Given the existence of Ebola and hurricanes (both of which are exquisitely “designed” to do what they do), we could read the tea leaves of the Universe and conclude that life is not merely “without purpose,” but governed by one or more brutally sadistic deities whose intended purpose for at least some of us is to derive pleasure from watching us suffer.

In order for ID theorists to accomplish their goal of providing scientific support for Western monotheism and a "purpose" for our lives as defined in the holy books of the Abrahamic religions, they must do more than establish that some particular feature of the natural world is "designed." They must demonstrate that the design emanates from their particular Designer of choice, and that the "purpose" they believe He has imbued us with is an accurate reflection of His intentions. In short, ID theory as a prop for religion--even if its every scientific propositon were validated incontrovertibly--is nothing more than a giant non-sequitor.

Does this mean we're trapped in a dismal "materialist" Universe governed by pointless, random chance, with no possibility of valid ethics or a purpose to life? Not necessarily. Stay tuned.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Open Source Hardware

A pair of new technological developments promise to unleash human creativity and revolutionize invention, prototyping, and manufacturing. Let's say you have an idea for a brilliant new invention, or an elegant design for an existing product, but you don't have the money or the space for a machine shop. No problem. To create your vision, you need only go down the street...or, in a future not too far away, just hit "print."

The Fab Lab

"When Makeda Stephenson compared flight simulator games sold in computer stores and didn't find anything she liked, she didn't stop there. The 13-year-old used a set of computer-controlled manufacturing tools at a community centre in Boston to make her own simulator - one that lets her 'fly' an airplane of her design over an alien planet born of her imagination.

In a room filled with computers and tabletop-size manufacturing equipment, Stephenson created a pilot's control yoke with motion sensors she fashioned from a melange of old electronic toys and parts. A computer program she wrote with help from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology guides the plane's movements on her computer screen.

She did it all through a teen learning program at one of seven so-called Fabrication Labs that MIT has established in places as distant as Norway and Ghana. Each lab has tool sets that, at about $US25,000 ($34,000), would be out of reach of most fledgling inventors."

Imagine her parents' delight when she came home and explained "what she did at school today!" Now, imagine the effect on human intelligence and achievement if every interested 13-year-old had access to this sort of learning-and-doing opportunity. While the $25,000 ($35,000 Aus.) price tag for such a Fab Lab may be out of reach of most hobbyists, it's not out of reach of a private or government school, big church, neighborhood group or civic organization.

An entrepreneur with some startup capital could operate one in a local shopping mall and rent time to the aforementioned schools, churches, civic and neighborhood groups, filling in any empty time slots by renting to interested artists, tinkerers, and craftspeople.

Deployed to the developing world, Fab Labs give people the ability to "bootstrap" their communities by creating needed technologies that either do not exist in useable-by-them form or are too expensive to order and deliver. Fab Labs in India made it possible for people to create a device to adjust the timing on the diesel engines their livelihood depend on, and for women to easily fabricate new pattern-stamps for their indigenous Chikan embroidery. Think of it as an "Industrial-Revolution-in-a-Box."

"'If you give people access to means to solve their own problems, it touches something very, very deep,' says Neil Gershenfeld, an MIT physicist and computer scientist who is among the movement's chief proponents. 'Somehow it goes back to nest-building, or mastering your own environment.

"'There's this deep thing inside that most people don't express that comes tumbling out when they get access to these tools,' he says."

For those of you who share a libertarian bent, or even an old-fashioned belief in self-reliance, go back and read those last two sentences again. There is the Design Science Revolution in a nutshell. You can quote Mises or Hayek at someone all day and not touch anything "very, very deep." Empower people with an artifact like this, and you reach beyond mere intellectual assent to pro-freedom ideas, down to the defining element of human nature that has existed at least since Homo habilis--man is a maker, the creative animal.

The beauty of this artifact-based revolution is that it goes far beyond mere politics. The "five triangles" that arise from unleashing human ingenuity on a mass scale will bring benefits we cannot even imagine. It has been said that only about a thousand people participated directly in creating the Rennaissance. Contemplate a modern techno-Rennaissance with a million, ten million, a billion participants.

For a fascinating discussion of this technology from Neil Gershenfeld, click here.

The 3-D Printer (the article in this link requires you to view an ad to access)

The 3-D Printer is an even more revolutionary development. It is a "printer" that produces three-dimensional artifacts by "laying down" one layer at a time. These devices already exist, and are used to "print" out designs from digital images so their creators can see and feel what they will be like in reality. Currently, this technology is very expensive. However, just like high-resolution laser printers that were once affordable only by print shops and can now be bought at Wal-Mart, 3-D printers are coming down in price. Combined with the new technology of "printing" circuits on paper or even cloth, it will be possible to "print out" a cell phone or coffeemaker.

The most obvious implication of this is that you will be able to create your own design for any artifact you can print, or download designs from the 'net. There is no reason, in principle, that you need be limited to small scale artifacts. Imagine logging on to the website of the local OmniMat, uploading a design for a car or washing machine you got from the 'net, paying a fee based on the amount of materials used plus profit for the OmniMat, and an industrial-sized 3-D printer starts spray-printing your artifact in layers of Liquid Metal.

This technology will provide benefits for the environment and savings in high fuel costs, since it will no longer be necessary to ship a cell phone or a Toyota all the way from Japan. Instead, only electrons need be transported. But what about all those "good manufacturing jobs" (and jobs in the shipping industry) that will be lost?

As the title of this post implies, these technologies offer us an age of "open source hardware" that provides the increased creativity, function, and reduced price (all the way down to "free") we find in open source software. Free software, information, stories, etc. we've all become used to, since these things can be replicated on the Internet at no cost. But free stuff? Isn't that impossible?

Remember, that all a 3-D printer needs to make something is the base materials, the equivalent of "ink" for a conventional printer. All that is needed to create a truly free (or nearly free) economy of "stuff" is a hypothetical device I'll call an Enzymatic Separator. An EnSep is basically a technological analog of a stomach, a device that breaks down garbage into its component parts the way a stomach breaks down a pizza into simpler molecules that can then be used to provide energy or be assembled into tissues.

There is no reason in principle why such a device could not be created. You already have a functional "1.0 version" in your gut. Developments in bioengineering and nanotechnology, or even advances in conventional recycling technology will make some form of "Enzymatic Separator" a reality. A "first step" called a thermal depolymerizer already exists, a device that can turn waste into oil.

Combine these technologies with renewable energy, and we have an economy in which "resources" and "energy" are free or close to it, and "stuff" can be printed out at the touch of a button. With "costs" reduced to such an extent, alot less "work" would be needed to be able to afford them. Humans could spend most or all of their "work" time in creative pursuits, furthering the "techno-Rennaissance" even more.

Buckminster Fuller envisioned a future in which humans would no longer have to "work for a living" because their needs would be provided by their "sun income" (their share of the sun energy that comes free to Earth every day). This suite of technologies may make that dream come true.

Friday, December 02, 2005

A Design Science Revolution vs. the Other Kind

What is the best way to “change the world?” As the members of any activist group, left, right, libertarian, religious, secular, or other can testify, “reforming people” is no easy task. Consult the literature or Internet presence of any activist organization—regardless of its particular orientation—and you will hear the voices of frustration. Why won’t people “wake up” to what really matters (to the activists)? Why won’t they make the needed changes to society?

Most people are now and always have been more interested in securing access to the necessities and pleasures of life for themselves and their families than anything as abstract as “reforming society.” Revolutionaries and reformers frequently bemoan this “bourgeois” sentiment and try to change through guilt-tripping harangues, or even brute force. Yet, isn’t securing access to the good things of life for everyone the stated goal of most “reform” movements? Reformers of different stripes may differ on what those “good things” are (a society governed by Christian or Islamic moral values, a healthy biosphere, a secular, rational order freed from the bonds of superstition, access to various material and cultural values ranging from health care to jobs to leisure time), but all claim to advocate “the good life” in some form. And so, they find themselves attempting to “wake people up” from their individual pursuit of “the good life” to join the activist group in pursuit of…the good life.

When an ideology gains access to the levers of power and uses them to force the bourgeoisie to “wake up” and undertake the needed “reforms,” the results have ranged from the uniformly bad to the utterly horrifying. From Stalin’s purges and Mao’s Cultural Revolution, each killing people in the tens of millions, to the War on Poverty and the War on Drugs (neither of which has even come close to eliminating its target), no government-imposed “reform” can claim anything approaching unalloyed success, and many became outright atrocities.

The core premise of any political “reform” movement, regardless of its ideology, is that the activists “know better” than all those “other people” what they ought to be doing with their lives. The people need to “wake up,” but the activists, presumably, are already awake. It is easy to see how such a superior attitude (right or wrong) could invite resistance from the people, and abuse of power on the part of the “reformers.”

Another problem with any proposed reform calling for major changes in society is that people must be willing to face large-scale alterations in their lifestyle before they can find out if the reform will actually work or not. Naturally, this results in people ignoring, or actively resisting the reformers. Imposing the reforms by government fiat, as in Communist and Fascist societies resulted in a death toll well over a hundred million.

After being “tried” at such horrendous cost, the collectivist “reforms” proved to be a dismal failure. At the opposite end of the spectrum, the dream of a government-less freetopia of absolute liberty in which private enterprise provides all “state services” is one that will almost certainly never be tried, at least as long as its advocates’ strategy involves persuading 300 million Americans to rebuild their society from the ground up as an *experiment.*

Is there another way to create positive change in the world, one that can work far more effectively than political “reform,” while respecting the freedom of individuals and avoiding the disasters—and the dark temptations of power—inherent in the political process?

Imagine going back in time to 1895 and proposing the following series of “reforms:”

  • Workers should not live in tenements in cities, but in more spacious homes located outside the city in which they work.
  • People should commonly relocate to different cities or even different states every few years as they pursue new career opportunities and improvement of lifestyle.
  • The vast majority of the American population should be able to travel anywhere in the country within a few days, whether or not railroad links to and from these locations should prove profitable.
  • Teenagers should be able to travel more than a day’s ride on horseback away from their parents as a routine part of courtship and social activity with their peers.

What are the chances that you could gain a political consensus in favor of these reforms, to the point of funding the massive amount of railroad construction and subsidies necessary to make them possible? How long would you spend wishing that people would “wake up” to the value of “universal transportation?”

Though impossible to accomplish by government fiat or crusading advocacy, all were accomplished by one man who created two artifacts: Henry Ford, the assembly line, and the mass-produced, affordable automobile. Ford did not have to urge people to “wake up” from their bourgeois lives and adopt the reforms his creations generated. People went to work for him, and bought his cars in pursuit of their bourgeois lives. By the time the government got involved in a major way—creating the national freeway system—driving was already the true American national pastime.

Though it is possible to complain about various side-effects of the automobile revolution, the historical example is clear: create and market a technological artifact that provides services demonstrably superior to the status quo, and you can cause sweeping changes in society. This approach, called a “Design Science Revolution” has decisive advantages over the other kind:

It is not necessary for all of society to “change” in order to see if the Revolution will work. Each person trying the artifact can decide if it improves their lives or not.

The artifact itself is its own demonstration. No one need read weighty treatises by Marx or Ludwig von Mises and engage in debates over who is right. Failed Design Science Revolutions will be rejected long before they can cause destruction comparable to that caused by totalitarian “reforms” by governments.

The “revolution” is entirely non-coercive.

The “revolution” is self-supporting, even profitable for the “revolutionaries.” Henry Ford never had to ask for donations.

There is no need to scold people or try to get them to “wake up.”

The need for political involvement is minimal, confined to preventing the power-structure from banning the artifact. There is no need to worry that an activist group could grow into a bloated lobbying operation that depends on the continued existence of the problem for its existence and the high salaries of its officers.

There is, however, one major caveat that would-be Design Science Revolutionaries should keep in mind as they create their artifacts: the need to think comprehensively and make sure their artifact will not cause worse problems than it solves. This is best expressed in the following parable, a paraphrase of an anecdote by Buckminster Fuller:

“Draw a triangle in the sand,” the Teacher said. The Student took her staff and drew a triangle. “Now, how many triangles have you drawn?” “I have drawn one,” the Student replied.

“Not so,” said the Teacher, “you have drawn five.” The Student looked on, uncomprehending. “The first triangle is the area within the lines you have drawn. But the World is a sphere, so all of the area outside the lines is also a triangle. Now these triangles are ‘spherical’ triangles, being inscribed upon a spherical surface. The two I have mentioned, viewed from outside the sphere, are convex spherical triangles. But from the perspective of the inside of the sphere, there are two concave spherical triangles. And then, there are the lines themselves, the structure you have created, which divides the surface of the World into insides and outsides, thus creating the other four triangles.”

“But I only meant to create one triangle!” the Student protested. But the Teacher replied, “Even so, you are responsible for all five.”

Likewise, the creator of an artifact (“structure”) is responsible for all its effects, desired and undesired. Hence, the would-be Design Science Revolutionary must think in whole-system terms in order to best insure that their artifact helps to create the world they truly want. As in the parable, this means viewing the artifact and its effects from multiple, broad perspectives.

As a program of "reform," the Design Science Revolution represents the manifestation and application of intelligence to the challenges we face on Earth.