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Science

The Jefferson-Madison Debates: Are Today’s Education and Politics Entering the Age of Star Trek?

May 12th, 2018 // 9:02 am @

“A shoe, too, is no longer a finished product, but an endless process of reimagining our extended feet, perhaps with disposable covers, sandals that morph as you walk, treads that shift, or floors that act as shoes.” —Kevin Kelly 

“We have long argued that as the Web extends in usage…increased access to factual information would improve the quality of public discourse. However, the opposite seems to be occurring.” —Don and Alex Tapscott

Given how much technology has changed the world in the past twenty years, and how differently we now live, it’s easy to assume that the Internet Revolution has brought the big change—and this era of massive shifts will slowly relax back into some kind of normality. But the truth is that we are just at the very beginning stages of the Information Age. The changes have just begun.

Following are a few of the major developments still ahead, as described by the experts on current technologies. As you think about each of these, consider the ramifications of these trends as they relate to the future of education, career, the economy, and the type of education needed for the emerging economy:

1. Autonomous vehicles. Self-driving cars are a reality.[i] How long they will co-exist with human drivers before the laws require all cars to be driven electronically remains to be seen.[ii] Self-driving planes, boats, and trucks will also change our lives drastically. Flying vehicles are next. As drone technology improves, taking people as passengers may not be too far away.

2. 3D Printing (additive manufacturing).[iii] This will revolutionize transportation, shipping, and manufacturing. Things that can be printed out in our own homes don’t need to be built in factories, or shipped by truck, airplane, or even drone. 3D printing will also have significant impact in medicine by printing certain medical implants.[iv] In fact, 3D printers now print food, including candy—and some people think it even tastes good.[v] One taste tester wrote: “It tastes like an after-dinner mint mixed with a sugar cube.”[vi]

3. 4D Printing. The printers will print smartobjects that are self-learning, and self-altering in response to their environment.[vii]

4. New Smart Materials. As Klaus Schwab, Founder of the World Economic Forum, put it: Some are “self-healing, self-cleaning, metals with memory that revert to their original shapes, chemicals and crystals that turn pressure into energy, and so on…. Take advanced nanomaterials [nano means smaller than the human eye can see] such as graphene, which is about 200-times stronger than steel, a million times thinner than a human hair, and an efficient conductor of heat and electricity. When graphene becomes price competitive…it could significantly disrupt the manufacturing and infrastructure industries.”[viii]

5. iMoneyCenter. As Forbes put it: “Your cellphone will become a global bank. Mobile money accounts already outnumber traditional bank accounts in parts of the developing world, and new technology will turbocharge that trend, allowing payments to anyone, anywhere, in local currencies.”[ix]

6. RFID (Radio Frequency Identification). Tiny tags can be put on pretty much anything, or anyone, and track where it is at any time, all over the world.[x] This technology is cheap and easy to use. The tags can even contain sensors that keep track of how well the item is doing, and what it is doing.[xi]

New Normal

Kevin Kelly said of the various kinds of small digital devices that are being created: “A few are shrinking to the size of the period following this sentence. These macroscopic measurers can be inserted into watches, clothes, spectacles, or phones, or inexpensively dispersed in rooms, cars, offices, and public spaces.[xii] Sensors can be built to watch and listen. He also wrote: “Massive tracking and total surveillance are here to stay.”[xiii]

The machines are becoming ubiquitous.[xiv] Moreover, a lot of people like it this way. One report summarized the trend as “Our Love-Hate Affair With AI.”[xv]

The ramifications of the new era of machines for freedom and relationships of all kinds are immense.[xvi]

7. Gene Mapping and Synthetic Biology. This is popularly called the creation of “Designer Babies.” “It will provide us with the ability to customize organisms by writing DNA.”[xvii] “Today, a genome can be sequenced in a few hours for less than a thousand dollars.”[xviii] And at some point scientists foresee artificial memory implanting into peoples’ brains.[xix] Just download what you want to know—facts, dates, formulas, etc. Gene Mapping will impact agriculture and the energy sector (by producing biofuels) as well as medicine and education.[xx]

8. Personalized Medications. Medicine, from those used to treat advanced diseases to simple aspirin, will be personalized for each individual—“tailored to your DNA.”[xxi] These will likely be very expensive at first, further widening the gap between the upper and other classes.

9. Non-Communicative Relationships. A number of popular magazines each month present articles that tell men and women they need to turn off their electronic gadgets and talk to their spouse or significant other. The articles are detailed and specific, with advice like “look your spouse in the eye while you talk to her,” and “actually listen to the words he says and try to connect with his logic and feelings,” etc.

The volume of such articles suggests that this is a serious problem. Relationships are often victims of addiction to electronic devices, texts, messages, and other incoming communication that is more highly valued than interaction with the live person in the same room.

Relationships and Roboticships

Moreover, emerging technology will very likely throw a serious monkey-wrench into many relationships. VR (Virtual Reality[xxii]) is incredibly advanced now, and will soon be on the market in extensive ways. A person can slip on a VR helmet or glasses and be transported mentally to a whole new world. Some VR research and development is focused on porn, although the tech world prefers the term “alternative relationships.” How will this impact marriage, family, education, and stable relationships?

Robotics have reached the point that lifelike “partner dolls,” sometimes called “sex dolls”, that talk and interact are already available.[xxiii] Soon, experts say, they’ll be easily accessible online and sold in our corner neighborhood stores.[xxiv] It’s a potential revolution in lifestyles, and the impact on relationships will certainly be real.[xxv] It is unclear how this will influence marriage and family, but the prospects seem quite negative.

A number of apps try to fulfill the same need—for relationships in an electronic format.[xxvi] If we find it difficult now to put down our phones or take off our headphones to engage in meaningful conversation and relationships, imagine how difficult it will be to turn off the robots, apps, and VR glasses.[xxvii] VR, and lifelike personal relationship robots, can be programmed (or told by the user) to never argue, nag, disagree, shout, or storm away.[xxviii] Again, such devices won’t take the place of quality, mature relationships, but they could very well hurt or make such relationships more difficult.[xxix]

10. The Rise of the Algorithms. Online technology now employs numerous advanced algorithms and AI technologies that are learning to do everything from sensing where our eyes are gazing (in order to know our interests and sell to us)[xxx] to what our politics are (as mentioned above, this could be to allow providers like Facebook and Google, or others, to determine what news feeds to send us—to promote their own political goals), to how empty the milk carton in our fridge is (in order to order a fresh one).

Schwab said: “Amazon and Netflix already possess algorithms that predict which films and books we may wish to watch and read. Dating and job placement sites suggest partners and jobs—in our neighborhood or anywhere in the world—that their systems [algorithms] figure might suit us best.

The Man AI in Charge

“What do we do? Trust the advice provided by an algorithm or that offered by family, friends, or colleagues? Would we consult an AI-driven robot doctor with a near perfect diagnosis success rate—or stick with the human physician with the assuring bedside manner we have known for years?”[xxxi]

AI is tasked with watching us and learning from us, and as AIs become smarter, some of them will be incredibly effective forecasters. Companies may even be valued based on their AI. For example, Kelly wrote: “Amazon’s greatest asset is not its Prime delivery service but the many millions of reader reviews it has accumulated over the decades.”[xxxii] These reviews, and the AI that runs them, learns from them, and uses them to help predict what books each user is likely to enjoy, is a huge asset.

The concept of establishing corporate boards of directors made up entirely of Artificial Intelligence is discussed openly and seriously.[xxxiii] Do we want algorithms in charge of everything?

In education, the possibilities are seemingly endless—and just as alarming. Kelly wrote: “The tiny camera eyes that now stare back at us from any screen can be trained with additional skills…researchers at MIT have taught the eyes in our machines to detect human emotions. As we watch the screen, the screen is watching us, where we look, and how we react.

“Since this perception is in real time, the smart software [algorithms] can adapt it what I’m viewing. Say I am reading a book and my frown shows I’ve stumbled on a certain word; the text could expand a definition.”[xxxiv]

This means that the text of the book is changing before you read it, based on what you have read so far and how you reacted. In other words, the computer is in effect censoring what you read before you even read it.

What about the author’s intent? Well, that depends. The AI, or the people who commission and oversee the AI, may decide to carefully protect the original text, or they may not. They may edit, censor, distract, etc.—whatever they think best achieves their goals.

Remember that thing called Thinking?

They may even have different ways of dealing with different people—like Google gaming the search system so that people who look up a certain Republican candidate get the most negative articles about him on the first page, while those who search for his Democratic opponent get the most flattering articles (or vice versa).

Or they might simply guide your searches to the companies who paid them the most to do so. If these guides are personalized and targeted to each individual user (like in the movie Minority Report), different readers will literally be getting a very different education. One student will read very different things than a second student, while the third reads yet another thing—all determined by AI and/or those who program and control the AI.

Kelly continued: “Or, if it realizes I am reading the same passage, it could supply an annotation for that passage. Similarly, if it knows I am bored by a scene in a video, it could jump ahead or speed up the action.”[xxxv] If we choose such functions on a menu, that’s one thing. But what happens if the big businesses or the cyber-governmental-industrial-complex just decides that this kind of censorship is best for the people? Or for a certain group or type of people, such as those from a certain religion or political party?

On purely educational grounds, having the computer supply definitions, commentaries and links is bad for thinking. It teaches rote dependence on experts, even if the expert is an AI. If we don’t have to question, ponder, or debate the books we read, we’ll be thinking a lot less. The words censorship and brainwashing aren’t farfetched in this context.

What about politics? The media and party-media machines already spread a lot of false information. What will happen when algorithms take over the media spin? It will personalized to each reader, each person using the Internet (or whatever kind of Supernet or Skynet takes its place). As such, the AI will learn how to confuse each person the most effectively. Again, this isn’t far from the personalized billboards and ads in the movie Minority Report.

(Un)Locked Doors

On an even larger scale, if an algorithm claims to predict which of various candidates would make the best president, prime minister, judge or senator, do we just give up voting altogether? After all, the voters seldom put in leaders who truly deliver what they promised. Or will the experts try to convince us that an algorithm-based AI should be our president and Congress and Court and make our top government decisions—getting rid of human error altogether?

And in all this, let’s not forget that someone can access the algorithms. All computers can be hacked—so far. As author Marc Goodman put it: “There’s never been a computer system that’s proven unhackable.”[xxxvi] Bigger technologies mean bigger hacks, with more drastic impact on people.

And won’t the growth of the Internets just funnel more and more power to a few elites who control the algorithms? The answer is “Yes. Emphatically yes!”

In fact, is there any way to stop this from happening?

11. “Reshoring.” This means that when high tech processes like 3D printing, gene mapping, and RFID tagging become mainstream around the world, many industrial jobs will be lost—but a lot of high-tech jobs will move back to the most advanced nations in search of highly-trained workers with expertise in areas conducive to high tech.[xxxvii] Whether this will happen or not remains to be seen. It may not happen at all. “…many workers [may]…end up permanently unemployed, like horses unable to adjust to the invention of the tractors.”[xxxviii]

12. Portfolio Careers. These occur where a person’s career includes doing several different jobs for different employers in the same day.[xxxix] For example, one person might be a teacher during the school day, a restaurant manager during the evenings, and an eBay seller in his spare time—all to make ends meet. Portfolio careers may become very widespread in the new economy. A lot of people probably won’t like such a development, leading to increased class divisions and conflicts.[xl]

13. Even Greater Class Divide. As Schwab wrote: “…half of all assets around the world are now controlled by the richest 1% of the global population, while the lower half” of the population control less than 1% of world assets.[xli] Or as the Tapscotts put it: “…the global 1 percent owns half of the world’s wealth while 3.5 billion people earn fewer than 2 dollars a day.”[xlii]

To be continued next week …

NOTES

[i] Schwab, 15, 147-148; see also Kevin Kelly, The Inevitable, 2016, 50-51; Brynjolfsson, 14-20; See Sam Smith, “The Truth About the Future of Cars,” Esquire, April 2016, 69-74; Erin Griffith, “Disconnected,” Fortune, August 1, 2016, 44.

[ii] See Smith, 69-74.

[iii] Scwhab, 15; see also Brynjolfsson, 36-37; Kelly, 53.

[iv] Schwab, 15, 22, 161-167.

[v] Andrea Smith, “Print Your Candy and Eat it Too,” Popular Science, January 2015, 24.

[vi] Ibid.

[vii] Schwab, 16.

[viii] Ibid., 17.

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Welcome to the Era of Drones! by Oliver DeMille

March 31st, 2015 // 5:57 am @

(Transportation without Representation)

Question:

Drone w PowerlineIt’s a big thing in the print media, right now. It shows up in article after article. Where do property rights end and airspace rights begin? When the jet planes or smaller Cessna’s were flying above at 21,000 feet or even 900 feet, most people didn’t care if they went directly over one’s property.

But what happens in the coming Drone Era when drones fly 10 or 20 feet above your backyard on their way to deliver a book, a box of peaches, or toilet paper to your neighbors? (Popular Science, January 2015, page 71) Is that a violation of your property? Or your privacy? Certainly, if they run into your tree or hit your power line, you’re going to call it a bit intrusive, but what if they just fly past?

And, as more people are asking, how can you tell if they are simply delivering the morning paper or taking video of your family as they fly by? Or both? And who owns that drone that will be flying past, anyway? Amazon? WalMart? The government? Which government—state, local, federal? Or a private individual, like your teenage daughter’s stalker who is hoping to catch a glimpse of her in a swimsuit?

Sound creepy? A lot of people think so. In fact, Audi has taken advantage of this rising realization that drones are going to be part of our lives and made a commercial—a “horror” commercial, if there is even such a genre. Here’s how it unfolds:

A group of business people are standing in a lobby, waiting to go to the parking lot. A company spokesman tells them to act normal, “don’t run.” We all wonder what he means. Then the crowd leaves the building and we see the menace: a fleet of drones hovering above the parking lot like attackers in Hitchcock’s classic horror film “The Birds.”

“Stay calm,” everyone is told. But, of course, they all run away instead—sprinting for their cars, briefcases and handbags with coattails flapping in the wind as they go. There is screaming, drones dart down at the people like fighters on a sci-fi movie; everyone panics.

Except one guy. He quickly but calmly opens the door to his car, which just happens to be an Audi, and gets in. He tells the car computer to plot him a course to what seems to be his off-the-grid getaway—a cabin by the lake.

As he drives, the car is pursued by attacking drones, targeting it like an army of invading Cylons, or like X-wings racing along the surface of the Death Star. “The force, Luke. The force…”

But the Audi evades them, causing two of them to crash into each other. And “Luke” races off to safety. The voice in the commercial tells us that some technology is very helpful—no need to be afraid. If technology attacks, other, better technology will help us fight back.

It’s funny. It’s catchy. And it hits on a theme that is all too real for many people: Do we really want drones invading our personal airspace, every few minutes, all day long? Is there anything we can do to stop it? Or is it just a fait accompli?

Big Brother is Coming?

For decades, Hollywood has sold the dangers of technology gone wrong. The huge, awkward “communicators” of 1970s Star Trek have become a reality; in fact we now have phones much tinier than those once imagined on screen. On the one hand, technology is fascinating, and interesting to us all. On the other, are there real threats? Could fleets of robots be flying past our homes every day, every hour, without our permission? Answer: “Yes. Absolutely.”

Is this just “A Happy March to the Future” or should we be sounding the alarm, Paul Revere-like: “Big Brother is Coming”? Is it “A Better World!” or are we facing a major case of “Transportation without Representation!”?

Will the government be the problem in the Drone Era (sending its drones to spy on its own citizens), or will it be the solution (protecting us from private drone infringements)? Here are three thoughts on this:

  • 13% of those polled by The Atlantic believe that within ten years 75% or more of Americans will own a personal drone. (The Atlantic, November 2014, page 84)
  • Instead of checking your bags and paying the extra fees, travelers might be able to ship their luggage directly via their personal drone—the bags will be waiting for you at your hotel’s front desk. Nice.
  • From an article in Popular Science: “Humphreys [director of the Radionavigation Laboratory at the University of Texas] thinks regular Joes will want to defend their privacy too [just like governments and corporations do].” Humphreys said: “I have a sense that a shotgun is going to be first thing they’ll grab…” (op cit., Popular Science) Joe Biden will prefer a double-barreled shotgun, no doubt.

But just like in Biden’s neighborhood, in many places shooting within city limits or populated areas is illegal. And shooting the drone itself is illegal as well. (Ibid.)

Behind the Curtain

So, what about your property and privacy rights? There are a lot of questions here. If the government considers a foreign drone flying over U.S. airspace a breach of national security, how can it logically argue that a drone flying over your private property doesn’t reduce your rights—especially if it is taking pictures or shooting video?

But make no mistake, this is exactly what governments are going to argue. If the water and mineral rights for your property are separate from land ownership, for example, why would airspace be any different?

Maybe there will be an airspace market, with special plat maps and zoning commissions, and lots of extra fees paid to attorneys—so that some people can own their own, personal airspace above their yards. Certainly the Clintons and Bushes will want to get in on this, just like they owned their own computer servers.

And, if airspace goes up for sale on the private exchange, maybe some of your neighbors—and various corporations—will want to license or own the airspace just above your yard.

In all of this, one thing seems to stand out: it’s not really the drones that are scary. Audi got it wrong. It’s the people who make the decisions. Heck, now it seems that they even own the air…

Solution:

Checks and balances could help. If only the majority of voters truly believed in them anymore.

Only parents and educators have the real power to resurrect a society that truly believes in checks and balances. This is a generational battle, and if we lose it again in the current generation (like we did in the last 2), it will likely remain lost for a very long time to come.

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The Bedrock of Freedom: The Ben Carson vs. Rand Paul Debate by Oliver DeMille

February 13th, 2015 // 9:27 am @

Measles, Vaccinations, Common Core,
and the Deeper Issue We’re All Experiencing

randpaulThe disconnect right now is tearing our nation apart. Over and over, people engage in the Surface argument, while the Deeper issue is actually a lot more important.

For example, consider the national discussion of whether the government should mandate vaccinations against measles and other similar diseases. The Surface issue is whether vaccinations are safe, or whether in some cases they are hurtful to a child. But the Deeper issue is much more important: Who should make the decision about vaccinations for your children? Government? Or you as the parents?

I recently watched two interviews with U.S. presidential hopefuls that clearly illustrate this point. In the first interview, Ben Carson was asked about measles and vaccinations. He stated that vaccinations should be firmly mandated by government for all children. Period.

Rand Paul took a slightly different approach. He said that vaccinations work and that children should be vaccinated, but that the more important issue is this: Government doesn’t own such decisions about children, parents do. Parents should have the final say.

Both of these men are medical doctors, and both have a history of commitment to the principles of freedom. But in this case, one called for government mandates and the other called for sticking with freedom. Very interesting.

Force and Reason

Ben Carson went on to say that the idea that vaccinations are widely damaging has been debunked, but then he added an interesting point. He said that of course a few children are allergic or otherwise react poorly to vaccinations, but overall the benefits of widespread vaccination are worth it.

That’s reasonable. But, if reason is to be our guide, which of the following is more reasonable:

1-Educating the populace about the scientific facts, then using government force to mandate what parents must choose for their children?

2-Educating the populace about the scientific facts, then letting parents make choices for their children?

This illustrates the current growing division between those who generally trust the government and those who usually distrust it. This disconnect is now a major feature of our nation. It shows up in numerous important issues, including:

1-The government should mandate Common Core across the nation to raise standards for schools and students.

   Vs.

2-Parents should have the final say on whether or not Common Core is good for their specific children.

Or:

1-The police are justified in using deadly force as needed, because law enforcement is paramount and force is frequently necessary—and police and government agents are nearly always in the right.

   Vs.

2-The community should be very vigilant about any use of force by the police to ensure that it was truly justified, because police forces and governmental agencies sometimes overstep their bounds and aren’t held accountable.

To Trust or Not to Trust

America is split, more each year, by these two major perspectives: “We almost always trust the government to do the right thing,” versus “We don’t usually trust the government to do the right thing.”

Through most of the 20th Century, by the way, an average of 78% of Americans held the first view (trust), while today only 23% of Americans believe the government will do the right thing most of the time. That’s a huge change.

And clearly the disconnect isn’t partisan. It divides both major parties, and it also divides independents. Just look at Common Core, for example. Rand Paul and Ted Cruz are strongly against it, while Jeb Bush is a firm supporter. Bobby Jindal and Mike Huckabee supported it at the state level and then opposed it when it became a federal program. And all of these men are leading Republicans.

Or look at the vaccination issue. Some of the strongest supporters of government mandates are top Democratic politicians, while many of the communities with the lowest rates of vaccination (and highest levels of anti-vaccination activism) are university neighborhoods dominated by progressive faculty and administrators.

On the Right, many Republican voters demand that everyone get vaccinated, while a vocal opposition calls mandatory vaccination a socialistic plot. Ben Carson versus Rand Paul, so to speak, but spread through the population regardless of party.

Now, change the Surface issue, from, say, vaccinations to police use of deadly force in Ferguson, Cleveland, or New York, and the sides quickly shift.

Bad Comparisons

Here’s another example:

1-The government should regulate and then force the education of all children ages 5-16.

   Vs.

2-Parents should have the right to make the final educational decisions for their family.

This one clearly hits very close to home, but the divide is still there. Ben Carson said something really interesting while he was making his case for mandatory vaccinations. He compared them to seatbelt laws and also laws against texting while driving. I like Ben Carson, so this surprised me because these two things shouldn’t be treated the same. (He probably would have clarified this if he had time to elaborate.)

The main intent of “don’t text while you drive” laws is to protect other people from bad driving, while the focus of seat belt laws is to protect the driver.

In the case of Common Core, supporters often speak as if their major goals are to improve society, while many parents who dislike Common Core care mostly about the education of their own children. And pro-vaccinators often cite public health statistics at the same time that anti-vaccination parents point to anecdotal examples where specific children were harmed.

Simplicity and Standards

This all makes sense, if we take the time to really consider it. In short, those thinking in terms of the mass population naturally overlook the specific, individual cases (“they’re just anecdotal”) while many a concerned parent logically ignores the statistical tables (“my son isn’t just a number”) and focuses on the potential danger if her child just happens to be one of those who is harmed.

Both views have merit. Both are reasonable. Both make sense. But back to our original question: To whom are we going to give the final say?

The answer depends on what level of society is best equipped to deal with each specific situation. Consider:

  • If it’s a question about nuclear attack or foreign invasion, the federal government was designed to deal with it.
  • If it’s a question of crime or direct danger to everyone, it’s a state or provincial issue.
  • Or, if anything in level B can be handled more effectively at a local level, it should be.
  • If it’s about what’s best for an individual’s education, prosperity, or health, let the individual choose. This is the essence of freedom. If it’s about children, let’s trust the parents.

This simple little system is essential to freedom. Without such standards, freedom is quickly lost.

The Level

So, let’s get specific. Do the measles meet the “danger to everyone” level in B or C above? No. So leave such health decisions to the parents. Same with Common Core. Of course, if Ebola is the issue, level B kicks in because it truly is a “direct danger to everyone.” It may even be level A, depending on the circumstances. But Common Core and the measles are nowhere near level A. Not even close.

In fact, this system of doing things at the right level, and only at the right level, is the key to maintaining freedom and applying wisdom on nearly every issue. For example:

-Seat belts? Level D.
-Drunk driving or text-driving? Level B. (It would be level C if people didn’t travel very much, but in our current world conditions, if every local area has a different law, far too many drivers will be confused and the laws will be ineffective at protecting the life and liberty of others.)
-Police using deadly force? Level B.
-Oversight of any use of deadly force? Levels A-D.
-Compulsory school laws? Level D only. Seriously, leave to families those things best handled by families.
-Dedicated study and wise oversight of all laws? Level D.

This isn’t just the Deeper level; it is the bedrock of freedom.

******************

odemille President Obamas Free College Tuition Plan Oliver DeMille is the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestselling co-author of LeaderShift: A Call for Americans to Finally Stand Up and Lead, the co-founder of the Center for Social Leadership, and a co-creator of TJEd.

Among many other works, he is the author of A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the 21st Century, The Coming Aristocracy, and FreedomShift: 3 Choices to Reclaim America’s Destiny.

Oliver is dedicated to promoting freedom through leadership education. He and his wife Rachel are raising their eight children in Cedar City, Utah.

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On Reason, II

September 26th, 2011 // 3:51 am @

Aquinas held that angels are intellectual beings because they know all things, while men are merely rational beings because they know little and therefore must figure things out.

Descartes and Locke differentiate between intuition and reason by arguing that intuition can be believed without demonstration while reason requires that we demonstrate every step of our thinking.

Since each person must reason out each answer on his own to really use reason, the fact that others have outlined their thinking at every step makes reason easier to follow and to expand upon than intuition. Also, the argument goes, reason can be used to analyze and test intuition, while the opposite is seldom true.

The Bible discounted this view, comparing the rationalist “goats” with the more obedient and intuitive “sheep.” In much of Western culture, the term “sheep” became a negative name given to those who refuse to think things through.

Religious icon Aquinas, who certainly cannot be accused of not thinking things through,[i] argued that those who trust God’s full knowledge more than man’s limited knowledge are in fact more rational than those who believe in man’s abilities.

Ultimately, Aristotle taught, all demonstration rests on certain indemonstrable truths. Human rationalism can extend our understanding, as can science, but it cannot prove or disprove every detail.

However, rationalism is based on the assumption that there are truths in the universe, and that the use of our minds can help us learn these truths. In fact, modernism is based on this same concept.

For example, if there are no universal truths then math, logic and the scientific method are all flawed and useless. All of these depend on the ability to discover and detect truths that are out there.

Reason is the most democratic thinking method to date because it holds that each individual person can use it without depending on experts or elites.

In fact, it is how the regular people can analyze and test the words and assurances of the experts and elites. The other major methods of arriving at truth—from science, math and logic to theology, aestheticism and credentialism—depend on the assurances of experts.

Jefferson goes as far as saying that the people are bound by duty to use reason as they oversee government. The committee of founders which approved The Declaration of Independence agreed with this assessment.

A free people is a deep-thinking, well-read, independent-thinking people.



[i] His works are the longest and among the most logically and meticulously argued of the great books.

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On Reason

September 23rd, 2011 // 3:16 am @

In the American founding era, most of the leading thinkers were rationalists. This means that they believed in reason as a top method of determining truth.

Note that the general concept of reason has changed since then. When most people think of reason today, they tend to mix it with the ideas of logic, science and determinism. In the American colonial and early republican era, this was not the case.

The term “science” was often used to mean general thinking and the idea of learning, and in this sense it coincided with the rational perspective. But today’s technical science, based on a general consensus of experts along with the empirical use of the scientific method, is quite the opposite of the rationalist viewpoint.

And logic, which is actually a branch of mathematics (rather than philosophy), is very different than reason.

Reason, in the original sense, is the use of one’s own mind to test and analyze the words of the experts, the ancients, and all authority.

In the founding generation, reason was a check and balance on the smug groupthink[i] of the upper classes and elites. Most of the leading founders usually used the term “right reason” rather than simple “reason,” since this first phrase carried the connotation that all right-thinking people would come to the same conclusions if they had the benefit of adequate information.

In this view, no king, priest, aristocrat or expert can rely simply on some claim to a “divine right” of expertise to be correct—each individual citizen can test everything said by the elites simply by taking the time to obtain all needed information and then think it through.

Forrest McDonald wrote in the introduction to Empire and Nation, a collection of writings by American founders John Dickinson and Richard Henry Lee:

“In the historical view, men have such rights as they have won over the years; in the rationalist view, men are born with certain rights, whether they are honored in a particular society or not.”

Using reason, leading American founder John Dickinson wrote:

“Ought not the people therefore to watch? to search into causes? to investigate designs? And have they not a right of JUDGING from the evidence before them, on no slighter points than their liberty and happiness?”[ii]

It is always up to the people to maintain their freedom, and one of the first steps is to think—independently as they see fit—regardless of the assurances, promises and statistics of experts and elites.

Throughout history, the experts have nearly always worked for the elites, and the regular people have held reason as their first line of defense. When the regular people put expertise, tradition, authority or official promises above their own reason, they have always lost their freedoms and prosperity.

Dickinson put it this way:

“Indeed, nations, in general, are not apt to think until they feel; and therefore nations in general have lost their liberty.”[iii]



[i] This word, of course, came into usage after the American founding era.

[ii] Letters from a Pennsylvania Farmer, Letter VI.

[iii] Ibid., Letter XI.

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