Tuesday, March 2, 2010

What Drives Innovation and Advancement?

Time to put this one to bed once and for all, and yes, it will end up tying into space exploration and development, so hang on. Over and over again when talking about the Zeitgeist Movement and the Venus Project, I am confronted by people who say basically this, "If you get rid of money, what's the incentive?"

So here's their assumption, that the pursuit of money, the creation of personal fortune (at whatever level a person wants) is what motivates people to build the better mousetrap. So let's analyze this a bit.

Why do people want money? Here are some fundamental reasons, and there could be more picky ones if you really wanted to develop a huge list, but that's not my point here. Anyway...

-- To have a nicer home.
-- To have a nicer car.
-- To provide abundant food.
-- To have nicer quality clothes.
-- To be financially independent, meaning no debt or financial obligation to anyone.
-- To provide for self education and/or the education of ones family.
-- To be able to enjoy life at will.

Hmmm, you know, all of these sound to me like this person simply wants to have a better quality of life. They want to have a high standard of living that is relaxed, comfortable and truly free. They are not really interested in the pursuit of MONEY, they are simply interested in the pursuit of a better quality of life.

In the current system, money is the means by which that better life is to be attained, and money is a fickle beast that people fight over, kill for, and many cannot get much of, so by the very nature of the system, it's not possible for the multitude to achieve that higher quality of life, even though ALL of them want it. I don't know about you, but I've never met anyone who wants to starve, be homeless and barely survive.

Look, Galileo didn't go up against the Church (at great personal peril) for the pursuit of money. Newton didn't invent Calculus for the pursuit of money. Albert Einstein didn't develop theories on Relativity for the pursuit of money, nor did Nikola Tesla, Thomas Edison, James Watt, Louis Pasteur, and many others who have developed new and/or better systems that positively affect the human quality of life.

We are conditioned to think that money provides our incentive. Bullshit. The incentive is and has always been the human desire to better their life, which in turn betters the lives of others who use whatever was invented or created. This innovative spirit does not come with a price tag. It does not hinge on material gain, but hinges on the positive advancement of the human condition.

Now, money grubbing business bastards will twist and use this innovative spirit to fund and then rape the inventor of their knowledge for the sole purpose of making money. This happens all the time. Tesla was an eccentric and half nutty brilliant inventor, but brilliant nonetheless. JP Morgan funded and profited significantly off the man, who cared less about financial gain, and cared more about advancing the human condition. So, when he built Wardenclyffe in an effort to provide free wireless electricity, JP Morgan cut the funding. FREE?! Can you believe Tesla wanted to create a system that distributed a needed service for FREE?! JP Morgan can't make money on free things, and in the end, Tesla died a broke and broken man, but gave the world amazing technological advancement. Yeah, money is such a wonderful thing.

So to summarize, money does NOT spawn innovation. Mankind today is riding on the work of a small few, people who only cared about making a system or piece technology better. Most people have no clue how their TV works, or their cell phone, but they use it. They didn't invent it. Of the billions of people living on the planet, less than a million throughout history have provided advancement to the world, and mankind will always produce those kinds of individuals. In fact, I bet because of starvation and rampant poverty throughout the world, we LOSE thousands of brilliant minds every day that NEVER have the opportunity to provide great things for humanity.

We can produce even more brilliant altruistic people if we geared our educational system towards focusing on that goal, not the pursuit of money and material gain, but the pursuit of always trying to make things better, easier, faster and more abundant for all mankind, enabling humanity to be the free and wondrous creatures we can be.

And to tie this into space exploration and development, how can you NOT see the potential of our species among the stars the moment we adopt such a logical and rational approach to how we manage our lives.


Jason J. Dunn said...

I've also been very interested in the Zeitgeist Movement. I think it is truly the right path for humanity. It's interesting to think that our founding fathers even had some of these good intentions, just ended up riding it all on a monetary system- which worked then, just not now. Think about it, our constitution states "the pursuit of happiness." As Americans we all have the freedom to pursue happiness, but it's not guaranteed. So you're right, it's the constant pursuit of happiness that drives our innovations.

Marcel F. Williams said...

This subject reminds me of the classic BBC documentary series 'Connections' which talks about the evolution of human technology and the economic and political reasons behind it.

Fundamentally, however, over population in relation to resources is the driving force for technological change. This causes in group/ out group competition at almost every level which usually results in technological advancement.

Douglas Mallette said...

Marcel, do you think Galileo or Newton were aware of, or concerned with population issues? Only in recent history have we cared about such things, and most major innovations have occurred before then.

Now, I will agree that our desire to better manage resources is a driving force, as I said, to make systems better. It's just as much about self interest as it can be about social interest, if we only taught it that way. Good for the self can also be good for the group.

No harm in sharing. We are taught that as children, but completely lose it as we are indoctrinated into a consumer driven, me me me society. Such a shameful disconnect of fundamental values.

octo said...

> No harm in sharing.
This reminds me of an observation I made not too long ago:
We teach kids to share. We teach adults that sharing is illegal due to copyright, licensing, DRM, DMCA, EULAs, MPAA/RIAA lawyers, etc. WTF?

But now here's my other issue... In any given field of endeavor, you basically have two kinds of people. The superstars who need no reward, and the tools who do a lot of the grunt work. Just think in technical fields... For every person with true passion, how many others are there who only care about discussing their favorite sports teams? How exactly does one motivate those people?

Douglas Mallette said...

Octo - I hear you. I guess you'd have to ask yourself this, are those people (those who only care about discussing their favorite sports teams) simply bored to death with their jobs? What would they rather be doing? I bet if you took a survey, and I swear I remember seeing something on this about a year ago, you'd find a significant percentage of people are working jobs they can't stand, but they feel they don't have the opportunity to do anything else.

A banker who would rather be a musician. A store clerk who has a passion for painting. A construction worker who would rather be an Architect or Engineer.

I bet this is more prevalent in today's society than most people think.

And remember, grunt work is to be replaced by technology, such that people don't have to do it anymore, at all. So this frees people from mind numbing work and gives them the opportunity to do whatever they are passionate about, without negative ramifications to their high standard of living.

The Freeman said...

Hear hear! I totally agree with you on this subject Doug. Money has done nothing for the advancement of society, other than make it such that people with enough of it can learn the skills they need to make their inspirations reality. And that reduces the amount of brilliant minds by quite a bit.

I sometimes wonder what life would be like if I didn't have to worry about bills, paying for groceries, and being to work on time, and it's as if a wave of pleasure washes over me. I imagine being free to explore whatever took my fancy: gardening, computer programming, writing short stories, learning the harp, or even building a radio telescope. So many ideas which are essentially squashed by the 8 hour work day. Even our physical health suffers from the 9 to 5 job, unless you're working outside, or actually physically labouring and not tied to the desk like so many of us.


Norman Copeland said...

I think what's interesting about this posting subject is that it shows us as a race that fundamantally we consider evolution an advancement, that which I want to beleive is the rudamentary theology stance of our coherant specie's.

Unfortunately as Douglas is showing us, modern evolution seems to be tending to leer towards innovation for 'posing' sake, for 'showing off' sake, for 'modeling' sake.

I built spaceships with lego bricks when I was a toddler and really didn't like war games that so often crowded the play of boys, but, golly, someone bring back action man.

I'll be playing with barbie until then.


Jerry M. Weikle said...

There are different types of evolution within a species, such as humanity. There are the genetic changes that occur over millions or hundreds of thousands of years, such as those that occured with H. erectus branching into H. neanderthalus and H. sapiens.

If if there was a colony or Mars was partically Terraformed, humans living there for the next 2,000 years would not be a new species; it would be a sibling world where our species has branched out and started to adapt to the environmental conditions. Now, if, that population was genetically isolated for 400,000 years, then the population might be genetically different enough to be considered a separate species. This would be analogus to the differences between H. sapiens and H. neanderthalus.

Then there is the evolution of society and the political structures that occur within society. A comparison between Western Society and Middle Eastern or even Asian society is being used as the basis of the discussion. Societies exists and undergo changes; some for the good and some not so good. Russian society, once embracing communisim under Stalin has radically changed over the last 20 years toward democratic and capitalism. Even so, with the ideology the theology within a society, that doesn't mean that evolution of the species has occured.

Someone from Asia can easily mate and produce offspring with someone from Africa, Europe or the Americas.

At the individual level, there is cognitive evolution where one who was once opposed to certain idea's later has a change of perception and then is supportive of various idea or concepts.

To tie these aspects into space exploration and development, we have to realize that Earth can only support a certain number of humans. It is my personal opinion, that we have surpassed that number of individuals and hence the social dynamics and political instability in areas of the planet.

Yet, we argue over a piece of land or the rights to fish in a certain area. The entire arguements in the Middle East are because some people have attached feeling and meaning to something over generations. Can they not look up and see the Moon? Can they not look up and see the resources that exist there and even over on Mars?

Humans would rather argue over a damn mountain, the Temple Mount, that they belief is the place that their "God" rose up to the sky.

All the while, not able to look up and ascend themselves.

Norman Copeland said...

Gerry, It's who you share the fire with that you should consider, it's scary out there for some people, some people get better with experienced members of the community and some don't while exploring it...

zachary cummings said...

Unfortunately, your position that money doesn't motivate is untrue. You are blogging about money not being a motivation while your blog site only exists to make money. Its called affiliate marketing. Why would you have a 'buy now' on the side of your blog if you weren't motivated by money? Sorry, but your thesis stinks of hypocrisy.

Douglas Mallette said...

I forgot this blog was still active. lol

However Zach, this is a sad commentary on your part. It's not hypocritical to point out the serious flaw of monetary motivation even though we're all STUCK...STUCK...in a system that demands monetary obedience.

We're not there yet, but people are waking up to the notion that we don't need money to exist. It's made up, and by today's capabilities, it's also a very poor metric.

But hey...don't take my word for it. There is also scientific evidence that illustrates the serious flaws with money and social behavior, including innovation.

Dan Pink: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u6XAPnuFjJc