Why and How to Convert Social Science to Physical Sciences
In my first paper (“A Radical but Rational Proposal to Address Climate Change: Part 1) I proposed we can’t solve climate change problem except we solve our social problems. We’ll do that by constructing social systems which enable us to cooperate to mutual benefit with each other and our environment. Social systems are physical systems just as any other known system in the universe. We’ll have to learn the physics of social systems in order to build ones capable of solving our climate problem.
I’m fairly confident I can describe the physics of social systems — and relying on those I can draw preliminary blueprints of the structure of viable social systems. In describing social systems I don’t suggest that human beings have to change in any way — stop being evil, greedy or lying; be more loving, sharing, and truthful. There’s nothing wrong with us that needs to be changed before we can solve the social problem.
When we understand the physics of social systems, changing the physical structure of social systems accordingly will resolve any problematic human behaviors without imposing punishments or brain-washing. For the record, I won’t play king, establishing the rules I think people must live by. I’ll only identify the processes by which a society must establish its rules if they are to successfully organize us in a sustainable configuration. However, past experience advises me I should justify the findings as scientifically derived before discussing them. This paper concerns the why and how of converting social sciences — the study of human behavior and human social behavior — to physical sciences yet another branch of physics. Physics originally referred to the study of the nature of things. Social systems are things.
The why is simple. There’s been no social advance in all of human history. We deal with the same social problems as any past society or civilization and are no closer to solution than they. Anything which can be described as advance has come through the development of technology based on scientific discovery. For sake of this discussion I define advance as being able to achieve something we desired and were previously unable to do physically such as travel the ocean, write letters, eliminate small pox and fly. Technology is any tool we’ve developed to accomplish work, or achieve an objective. Based on a uniform past experience, I accept we won’t solve our social problems by any means but the sci-tech process. I’m fully aware sci-tech is directly responsible for our climate problems. If we learn how to build social systems conforming to the physics of viable social systems, those social systems will moderate the sci-tech process such that it will also remain in a mutually beneficial relationship with humanity and nature.
The how is more complex, for science is as much about the process of investigation as it is about the conclusions reached. Natural science, like social sciences, is a process of logic and reason, but valid natural science insists on the collection, examination and testing of evidence to support conclusions. The means of challenging or verifying scientific conclusions is through validation and utilization — re-enactment of the process of investigation to independently reproduce and examine the evidence to determine whether claims are defensible, and then integrating the information into technology. The process, not the conclusions of process, is how we’ll escape the morass of unproven and unsuccessful belief which is the foundation of our present day dysfunctional social systems. Thus I feel it necessary to discuss process prior to discussing findings.
Twenty-years or so ago I used research, logic and reason to identify similarities in the quest for flight and the quest for what I call the human dream — the desire to live a meaningful, interesting life in a community of peers at peace and without want and fear. Both flight and the human dream have been ambitions of the human race throughout recorded history. Some people in every generation have tried to fly as others have tried to achieve the human dream. When we were incapable of flying, as it still is with respect to the human dream, it was a common belief that we would never fly because it was impossible. There are also stories handed down that long ago we could fly but lost that power for misbehaving, and if we wished to fly again we would have to repent — a parallel to the story of Eden. The similarities led me to ask the question — what if the process to flight is the process to peace?
Full disclosure — when I asked that question, I wasn’t thinking in terms of scientific process or physics. Rather I had observed that up until the moment the Wright Brothers became the first to fly in known human history, there was always something which we didn’t know which we needed to know in order to fly. By that time in my life I had already figured out that no one knows how to solve the social problems or they would have done it long ago, for I’d been preoccupied with social change for twenty years. The Wright’s found what they needed to know in order to fly and they flew, and observing that led me to ask if it was possible the human dream is in the realm of physical possibility but we can’t achieve it because there is yet something we don’t know which we must, and finding it is the only way we’ll solve our social problems.
In those days I was assuming the thing not yet known was in the vein of the philosophical, metaphysical, spiritual, or psychological — a gem of an idea more than a thing, a law of social systems more a law of morality than a law of physics. Still, I wondered if it was possible to learn how the Wrights did what they did — learn something no one else knew — and use their methods to find the thing we did not yet know that would enable us to make our way to the human dream. It’s a daunting challenge, I discovered, for it is to learn how to find a needle in a haystack when one doesn’t know what a needle or haystack is or where to look. And it can be done. It’s a common and simple, or elegant, process.
For years I studied the Wrights and their process as well as the process of other ‘first finders’, individuals who learned something no else knew and which opened up vast fields of knowledge leading to advances in technology, changing the human experience in the most dramatic ways; Copernicus, Galileo, Newton, Jenner, Franklin, George Cayley, Darwin, Mendel, Einstein, Edward Howell, the quantum scientists. I rejected social leaders for study because none could prove their claims, and none changed the human experience but only provided recipes which no one, no matter how sincere their efforts, can cook. All those social recipes, when they fail, place the blame on the experimenter’s faulty nature not the experiment itself.
I studied first finders as a universe of systems, never paying more than the slightest attention to what they learned, only how. I reduced their success to a process and applied that process to the social problem. And always, the solution began by identifying a process at work in the universe previously unidentified, though frequently it was predicted. I followed the evidence.
I wasn’t trained in the scientific process, yet I had carried it out by observing the world around me, asking questions, reaching conclusions, creating a hypothesis based on conclusions, devising an experiment to test the hypothesis, and then executing the experiment. Not once but repeatedly. Still, I can’t take credit for being a prodigy. The scientific process is something I, like you, was born to do. I learned, through study of the scientific process that it’s the process every normal-brained child executes when acquiring a language.
Learning a first language for a toddler is not an intellect pursuit. It’s an instinctive behavior though it entails using intellectual equipment to observe a system (people talking), inferring the processes at work in that system, and then learning how to wield those processes oneself (devising words and then sentences) in order to achieve for oneself what the observed system achieved for others. That’s what Jenner did when he observed the milkmaid contract cowpox and develop an immunity to small pox. He inferred the cowpox bestowed the immunity. He then found a way to test his inference. Ditto Mendel, who found the gene while working in his garden and observing a pattern which anyone with a patch of sweet peas had the opportunity to observe.
What a child does in learning a language goes beyond mimicry because all people, even quite young ones, create sentences, engage in conversations and tell stories which are unique to them and appropriate to their circumstances. They acquire the technology of language, the ability to execute the process in ways to meet their needs. Jenner went beyond mimicry when he developed a technology different than exposing people to cows until they contracted cow pox and built immunity to small pox.
As the linguist Noam Chomsky pointed out, learning language in itself is feat of genius — and better than 99.99% of the human population does it. Any person who claims human beings are irrational by nature might wish to contemplate the phenomenon of acquiring language and ask if the evidence supports the claim. The valid question to raise, in my mind, is what happens to human beings such that at some point afterchildhood people begin to behave in ways that can rightly be described as irrational. That’s a question we can answer, though we can never answer why people are irrational — because they aren’t.
Observe, infer, devise is the scientific process. I view learning language as our compulsory apprenticeship that sets the skills, for we engage that process repeatedly throughout our lives even if we’re not doing ‘science’. Given the fact every human being is born capable to wield the scientific process I suspect we’re not stealing anything from the universe by mining the laws of physics and developing technology. We can’t honestly claim to have figured out scientific process on our own if it is innate to us. O-I-D is our instinctive, not bad-boy behavior. We’re playing the game exactly as the game was set up to be played in the same way beavers build dams, bees pollinate and trees resolve carbon dioxide.
Some people suggest the negative effects of science are our punishment for using our brains to learn about the universe and engineer technology. No other species has been identified as possessing powers which it must not exercise or bad things happen. In fact, there is law of physics that no force can moderate itself. The innate nature by which we came to the scientific process suggests to me we didn’t pull ourselves up by our bootstraps in defiance of a universe that is hostile to us in a desperate bid to survive. To the contrary I think we’re more inherently suited to survive on planet earth than many other species and that is going to prove out in the foreseeable mass extinction.
Sometimes I make predictions based on what I observe. Given we‘ve learned the laws of physics relative to part of the universe using a process that is standard equipment in every normal brained human being, based on my understanding of the universe I’m willing to bet — if we survive — before the game is called for time we’ll (collectively) know every law and process and understand every system at play in the universe — including us. And with reason — because our learning these laws and processes will drive the universe forward. I can’t prove it so don’t claim to have proved it but only do what scientists do — contemplate the implications of the evidence in the same manner early pioneers of flight contemplated if we could fly around the world we could go to the moon and beyond.
I studied the ‘giants of science’ because there is a record to be studied, and learned the achievement of flight is the product of thousands of first finders. George Cayley got the physics of flight and wrote the laws of aerodynamics — I’ll arbitrarily assign that the status of initial first find relative to flight. Orville and Wilbur Wright made a number of first finds including the last needed to achieve flight. The fact is though, human flight wouldn’t have occurred had somebody not gotten fire and someone else devised the wheel; and perhaps a third person stuck a stick between two wheels; and someone else conceived language; then another person conceived that oral language could be preserved in pictures and yet another person turned that picture into a word… and it was the sum of those processes that enabled Cayley to record his findings, allowing others to investigate and advance his findings, whereupon they wrote papers discussing their findings which were collected by the Smithsonian Institute. Copies of those articles were printed off a press invented by someone who may have had no interest to learn how to fly and were sent on paper — invented long, long, ago — to Orville and Wilbur at their request. Ten thousand years set the stage for the brothers to come up to speed on the progress to flight in a matter of months and begin their investigation where, in essence, the human race left off. In science, there are no great leaps taken; every ‘advance’ is actually is an unorchestrated composition of thousands of baby steps.
I owe those I studied and their biographers respect, thanks and even admiration for being great at what they did, but the ‘giants’ of science aren’t giants. They’re more like the rose that blossoms on the bramble, a momentary burst of color that wouldn’t exist except for the bramble and the environment out of which the bramble emerges. By letting them be ordinary human beings doing ordinary human things it makes it possible for me to accept that I, truly an ordinary human being, can learn to do what they did. Today it’s obvious to me I’m going to be more bramble not a blossom, doing the grunt work for someone else in the future to look pretty. That’s because I’m unable at this juncture to create the technology that will solve the social problem and prove the science. Whoever does that will look like a miracle worker.
Technological advance is the product of the human race, though we make it out to be the work of individuals who have a right to control who may access the technology –ownership, patents, copyrights, etc. The universe has a process that, if human beings won’t share their technological advances, the technology will still be freely transferred among us through the same observe, infer devise process by which we develop technology. If someone flies and won’t share their knowledge, soon enough others will figure it out anyway simply for copying what they see, or because they already possess every bit of knowledge required to fly except the last baby steps, which they may take. And if there’s any question, as far as I’m concerned this is a blind process occurring in a law-ordered but blind universe, occurring for being embedded in the laws of physics. I’m settled I understand the mechanism that makes it work — the process and structure of the human brain, though that is beyond this paper.
The Scientific Method Used in the Investigation of Social Systems
There are three specific tools I learned and applied in the development of the field of social organization physics. The first is uniformitarianism, a conceptual frame of the universe helpful in scientific investigation. I converted it to a tool of science and I’m sure I’m not the first. The second is the observe, infer, devise process which again I developed into a skill and use methodically. I learned nuances of that process by studying the Wright Brothers. I’ll tell a portion of their story to make points by reference to it. I also use the mental experiment as utilized by Einstein, formalized as a tool he taught to the quantum scientists and which they (I accept) used to describe a part universe no one has ever seen. It’s necessary to use mental experiments to study social systems for the same reasons as Einstein and the quantum scientists used them — social systems are too remote to study directly. I chain these together, never using one without the others, for to do otherwise is to do the impossible.
Uniformitarianism is a concept of the structure of the universe which has been developed through experience and may be stated as, the same natural laws and processes operating in the universe today have always operated in the universe in the past and apply everywhere in the universe. It’s sometimes referred to as an unproven postulate — one that can’t be proven and yet what we discover about the universe constantly reaffirms the premise, so it appears to be true and reliable. I think it should be recognized as a natural law because it in my opinion it has proven out and it hasn’t yet been disproved. I treat it as natural law.
For those not familiar, here are brief explanations of terms in the premise:
Natural laws are not edicts issued by the universe but rather statements that describe how a part of the natural world has been observed to work, an example being Newton’s 3 laws of motion. We hold that what we will accept as natural law must be demonstrated and must not be able to be disproved.
Processes are the phenomenon which cannot be observed or even directly measured but which act on a system — fundamental forces, chemical reactions, changes of states of energy — and explain the observed changes in a system as it transitions from State A to State B. A system is simply a part of the universe under study. Processes are laws.
To illustrate: Flying things are systems. They change from a condition of not flying to flying and back to not flying again. There are laws of aerodynamics which describes three conditions that a system must meet in order to achieve the state of flight, or must be disengaged to come out of flight. To date, any system which has achieved flight, whether it is the product of nature or technology, has verified those laws. Any system that meets those conditions in the required configuration cannot do anything but fly. Those conditions are processes — lift, thrust and control. They are not the wing and feather of the bird but rather a description of the forces such as the ones wing and feather produce or which act on the bird, example gravity and weight. The conditions of lift and thrust are both achieved by reason of organizing other forces including lift, gravity and propulsion. Yes, lift in the context of flight is both a force and condition of physics.
We achieved flight by studying birds and other systems, reducing those systems to required processes and then learning how to build systems appropriate to us which established the required processes. A bird uses different processes than does a jumbo jet to achieve the conditions required to achieve flight. One creates its energy through consuming bugs, worm, fish, etc. while the other creates its energy through combustion of petroleum distillates. Wings are made of a wide variety of materials in nature and technology. So a flying thing can be described as a composite of essential and optional processes. But optional processes can’t be mixed and matched willy-nilly — we can’t feed the jet worms.
The universe also appears to be uniform in that the essential and optional structure is true of all systems. There’s more than one way to create heat — set wood on fire or focus sunlight with a magnifying glass. Oral language requires we use a larynx and our mouth to give voice to phonemes, the finite set of approximately 120 sounds it’s possible for a human being to make. Every language uses a subset of the common and universal phoneme population. Even different languages that use a common subset of phenomes to make their words do not create the same dictionary of words. But at the end of the day everyone uses phonemes to create language to achieve the same complex process — communication.
Oral language is a system that has the same principled structure — conditions — as the atomic system that builds the universe we live in and us. Everything in the atomic universe and the universe of a language emerges from a finite set of characters. The same is true of written language. There are other systems that can rightly be organized in the class of system I refer to as alphatomic systems. I’m not the first to see this. Still, I find it fascinating that we meet the same conditions in building our depictions of the universe as was used to build the universe. That’s an interesting coincidence to occur in a system — the human being — which is supposedly an unintended and role-less creature in the universe nothing more than the product of millions of years of mistakes — errors in genetic replications. If we are indeed an accumulation of errors think our ability to organize universes as the universe is organized it as fortunate an outcome as if one were to guess the five winning numbers in a lottery with a base set of a billion numbers. No other species demonstrates the ability to do this — how did it arise in us?
I refer to the variety in systems of common process — bird, bee, drone, helicopter; English, German, Arabic; cells, trees, buildings — as the personalities of process. Uniformitarianism is about processes not personality, but we can only observe and understand process through the study of personalities for process has no personality — it can’t be seen or directly measured. To wield uniformitarianism as a tool requires learning to see the universe as process, and the material of the universe as the means to harness process.
Uniformitarianism has been consistently self-proving across time but also deceptive in the proving. At first blush a new find often appears inconsistent with what was previously understood. It also appears to be an exception — a rarity — until further examination shows the new law or process is in fact playing everywhere and always in the universe. When Newton’s gravity failed to explain the motion of planets, it looked like a challenge to the universality of gravity. But then Einstein was able to show a different process at work in the universe did explain the motion of planets — and that process is playing everywhere and always. So a corollary of the premise is: the universe is uniform but we don’t yet comprehend how it’s uniform.
Uniformitarianism has been embraced by almost every scientist-rose or bramble — who made a first-find. All assumed there was order to what they observed in the universe and studied that part of the universe until the order, or patterns, began to imprint on their brain. At the same time, on many occasions uniformitarianism has proven a limitation, even an embarrassment. History reports Isaac Newton, on the basis of his knowledge of forces acting on bodies, when rendering his opinion on the phenomenon of light, took the position light was a particle acted on by forces. He battled fiercely and with a closed mind anyone who proposed it was a wave.
When George Cayley first submitted his laws of flight they were rejected by the physicist community which couldn’t be bothered to test the work; Cayley’s work was based on the study of bird flight and in 1810 physicists knew laws of physics pertaining to forces acting on inert bodies didn’t explain the behavior of living things. The institutions of physics wouldn’t revisit and acknowledge the correctness of Cayley’s work and admit he was first to identify the condition and force of lift for another century — until after flight was demonstrated possible by Glenn Curtiss.
Einstein, on the basis of his expertise of very, very large systems, was confident he knew the nature of the very, very tiny — the quantum world. Einstein repeatedly argued with the quantum scientists about the laws and processes at work in the quantum world and repeatedly lost. The irony is he taught the quantum scientists the formal mental experiment of scientific investigation by which they made their winning case. What better test of the validity of his method could there be?
I treat the observation of scientists breaking ground and then getting trapped in the furrow or their own making as a process of physics, explained by the laws of physics playing everywhere and always in the universe. We see it over and over where people learn one language so easily and then struggle so hard to learn a second. I seek to understand that process because it’s a process at play in our social systems. It’s the same process that allows an actor, musician, novelist, sports figure, politician, lawyer, scientist general or doctor or billionaire to believe they have a greater understanding of our social problems and how to fix them for having done something in way that is applauded as special but has absolutely nothing to do with solving social problems — and in many cases exacerbated them. I find it also to be the common process at play wherein a society confers upon an inventor, an entrepreneur or a writer great-person status and looks to them to solve social problems having nothing to do with their expertise — and ignores others who might be more capable but haven’t done something ‘great’ to prove themselves capable.
It’s an interesting dichotomy that it requires building rigid frameworks of inviolable law in order to harness an aspect of the universe and that building such a framework can impair one’s ability to understand other aspects of the universe. It leads me to doubt everything in the universe — a supernova and the lynching of a neighbor at a picnic — can be explained by one set of laws even though everything in the universe can be explained by laws of physics. In my mind that casts doubt on our explanation of how the universe came to be — an unintended initial explosion that came out of nowhere — and our associated decree the laws that governed the behavior of the universe in the early phase of the universe are the only natural laws that explain any behavior in the universe. The universe is more complex than that.
The difficulty that arises in contemplating the possible alternative structure to the universe is we’ve created two very rigid frames — creationism and the unintended and unguided big bang — and argue over them with closed minds out of an assumption one must be correct and the other wrong. It’s a process similar to arguing over left or right political policies, which both are colossal failures, or communism and capitalism, which are also equally failing. These polar frames are so ingrained it’s very, very difficult to think of a third possibility, perhaps more difficult a task than trying to think in Spanish when one’s native tongue is French. The person who embraces creationism is perplexed by evolution, and vice versa. I know of chemistry whizzes who are perplexed by physics. The universe is uniform.
I think both the present scientific and creationist explanations of the origin of the universe and the role of humanity in the universe are wrong or incorrect because the observable behavior of the universe and people contradicts both. Few questions exist for which there are only two possible answers and one is correct. For many questions (how much is 3 +1?) there are [infinity-1] wrong answers and one correct answer. Creationism and the unintended big bang in all their personalities are some of the infinite wrong answers as to the origin and structure of the universe. For the record I accept and don’t challenge the event the big bang, only how the big bang occurred.
I propose this a natural law: human beings are not model-availing, or able to use models to see something new, but model dependent. We cannot conceive a process until we see the process in motion. Until we see the process that shows us gravity, how to resolve small pox or the alternative to communism or capitalism (which are the same process) we won’t be able to conceive the alternative. And like the rest of the universe, the situation is not clean cut and dried: we have to be on the hunt in order to find what we’re looking for — otherwise we’ll be too busy defending our wrong answer which requires we ignore the evidence its wrong.
A second corollary of uniformitarianism may be stated as the most efficient way to establish an exception to the premise of uniformitarianism is to assume the premise of uniformitarianism.
Newton didn’t prove the law of gravity with respect to every object in the universe, and if someone wishes to find the object that defies gravity all she needs do is subject an object to a test that would reaffirm the law of gravity. If the test is properly and completely carried out and the object fails to reaffirm the law of gravity the exception has been established. If a person were to find such an object she could present it to another person who could also test it to verify or disprove the claim. If one refuses to test the object against the law of gravity, one can never establish it defies the law of gravity. It was a circumstance, the failure of planetary orbits to be predicted using the law of gravity, that presented the exception to the extent of the uniform nature of gravity and opened up the door for Einstein to identify the process that restored uniformity, remodeled, to the universe.
Per uniformitarianism, the proper way to show human beings are an exception to or not integral to the universe is assume we are and let the gathered evidence prove us wrong. Because we’ve never seen an event which we can prove a spontaneous event which is not a reaction to a previous reaction, we should assume the big bang must have been an action in a chain of reactions and let that be the scientific position interested parties may take up the challenge to find the evidence to prove wrong. And science should inquire what that chain of reactions might be. We should treat the big bang as we do gravity, a force at work in the universe we have no idea from whence it comes or how it is generated, which science does not spend its time speculating and building fantastic models of how gravity must be sourced.
An implication to the premise of uniformitarianism may be stated as, we can understand the past by studying the present. Everything that happened then at the level of process is happening now. The difference is the personalities of process. All we need do to explain anything in the past is observe the process occurring in the present — including the big bang. We can’t find that big bang process occurring today anywhere else.
In science there is a concept called the remote system. It’s one that can’t be studied directly for being too big (Einstein), too small ( germs, atoms, quantum mechanics) or otherwise inaccessible (the thought processes of animals). Processes in the past — e.g. big bang — are only one type of remote systems. Applying uniformitarianism, the proper procedure for explaining the behavior of a remote system is identify a similar and transparent near at hand system; identify the cause of the near at hand system’s behavior; infer the cause of behavior of the near at hand system is the cause of the behavior of the remote system, and then devise ways to test the inference.
Darwin was aware of and allegiant to the premise of uniformitarianism and the implication we learn about the past through study of the present. He gathered present-day evidence — observed natural selection among finches in the Galapagos Islands, artificial selection in his pigeon coops, and a collection of fossils which is a present day system preserving a record of species of the past — which enabled him to piece the progress of species through the acquisition and dispersal of traits to conclude that few and simplex species were the common ancestors of the many and complex species that now exist on earth. Genetics, the field opened up by Mendel, has now been used to verify almost certainly that Darwin correctly interpreted what he saw.
I think it quite possible Darwin made a similar mistake as Newton and Einstein. He speculated on the how of the process by which few and simplex species became many and complex without gathering the tangible observable evidence of the how. He predicted the process he observed in one year and one mating cycle that explained observed changes within a species also explained how sharks became chickens. He may not have made any luckier a guess than Newton made about light, or Einstein about quanta. And Darwin was speculating about the behavior of system whose present behavior he simply did not understand. He was of the school that accepted there no organization to nature; it was no more a hodgepodge of species struggling against each other to survive. It wasn’t until 40 years after he published the field of ecology began to emerge, the field of biology that describes how species interact in very specific and predictable ways and that interaction is necessary to create the environment upon which all species, collectively — including us, are dependent on for our survival. It is an interesting question to ask: had Darwin been aware of the ecological structure of nature would he have concluded species changed out of nothing more than a will to survive?
One certainly cannot produce present-day evidence to support the theory of how extraspecies evolution occurred even though its evident evolution does occur — all we’ve observed are slight variations in species, though we do treat some of those variations as the creation of new species. Still, those identified new species are superficially hardly distinguishable in structure or process from the precedent species. They execute the same processes in the matrix of the universe as the species from which they emerged — which is not true of sharks and chickens. It’s our arbitrary (we made it up) of a species that allows us to show extraspecies evolution.
It’s not an uncommon argument that we can’t see evolution occurring today to substantiate Darwin’s theory. A main argument in defense of Darwin’s theory is the process takes so long we can’t observe it, but length should not be of issue because the process should be occurring everywhere and always. We should see it in other aspects of the universe and we don’t. We’ve never met another process taking so long to occur — like the formation of the universe after the big bang — that we couldn’t find its elements playing out today.
The cause of evolution and the cause of the big bang are part of what I describe as the mythology of science, unproven theories for which there is as of yet no direct evidence. These are theories which scientist have essentially come to consensus on and shoe-horned the universe to fit, often by explaining away observed phenomenon and other evidence which contradicts the theory.
There are many unproven theories floating around the scientific universe but these two are of special interest to me because they are also theories of social science — explaining human existing and human behavior. These theories conclude we can’t solve our social problems due to inherent, irreparable faults in us. If they’re correct, we’re doomed. If they’re wrong, there’s hope. So I’m betting against them and using the skills I’ve developed through study of the scientific process to learn what we do not yet know, that if we learn it, will allow us to solve the problems that these two theories conclude are not solvable.
The Process To Flight (truncated): A Case Study in Scientific Process.
I occasionally read or hear dismissive remarks to the effect Orville and Wilbur were not scientists, but technologists; that the scientific community was not concerned with flight because it was a technology and scientists knew it was but a matter of time before we flew. The physics has already been worked out. Bullshit. The physics had been worked out but institutions of science hadn’t acknowledged them. And when flight was proven, the scientific community jumped on the bandwagon. The Wright brothers were as brilliant as any scientists who ever played the game and are stellar examples of the scientific process.
The Wrights worked outside of and without the active assistance of the institutions of science, but not without engaging a broad swath of scientific discovery and technological development. The brothers were skillful in a number of trades. Nothing they did ever disproved what was ‘known’ in science. Also, they weren’t working with fundamental particles and processes in simplistic arrays but in very complex and dynamic systems. I see anyone trying to solve social problems by scientific process will face similar circumstances. Social systems will prove to be the most dynamic complex systems in the universe we’ve encountered to date. They’ll make a jumbo jet or a Mars lander appear simple as a canoe. And if we get the physics we’ll handle social systems as gracefully as we handle the flying systems.
George Cayley wrote the laws of aerodynamics before 1810. He twice put a person in flight in an uncontrollable glider and both landed safely. That was the limit of his ‘success’. Even though he understood the conditions required to achieve flight he lacked a source of power and the ability to control a flying machine. By 1900, inventors had used steam engines to achieve powered flight, but still in uncontrollable machines — often resulting in fatal experiments. Steam was never going to be a safe form of aeronautical flight. Human flight literally had to wait on Otto Benz’s internal combustion engine, which the Wright Brothers had to modify in several ways, including innovating fuel injection.
Cayley learned the laws of flight by studying birds in flight — up close. He tethered the bird and then stimulated it to flight. He was, apparently, the first person to conceive this experiment. He captured a remote system and made it accessible at the level of mechanics. He gained sufficient proximity to the process to deconstruct it (reverse engineering), and identified lift and propulsion as the two conditions the wing was generating. Studying dead birds led him to discover hollow bones and to make the inference that weight was an important factor in flight. His experiments led him to understood the flapping wing created not one condition but two and we would be able to fly by separating the two conditions, using one system to generate power to achieve the condition of propulsion which would then organize with a fixed wing to achieve the condition of lift, simultaneously creating forward movement and elevation. He also invented the wind tunnel to study lift, bringing the wind to the machine so the machine maintained a fixed position where he could study it. Cayley is described by history as ‘uneducated’.
Cayley didn’t think in terms of object, but in terms of process — and that’s true of all successful scientists. He wasn’t an imitator –‘to fly I have to create flapping wings with feathers and hollow bones .’ He saw flight as fundamental processes and conditions which needed to be met and the trick to be performed was to figure out how to build a system that would meet those conditions. I suspect he may have been aided in reaching that conclusion by the fact there are so many flying things so unlike each other — eagles, gnats, bumblebees, dragonflies. There may be one exacting fundamental recipe for flight universal to all flying systems but it may be dressed out in countless unique personalities.
Cayley understood control of flight is about moderating the relationship between the two forces of lift and thrust, not just while in flight but to safely get into and out of the condition of flight. He studied birds for decades but made no progress on control.
Contrast that process to this. Before the Wrights, inventors in the late 1800s attempting to control flying machines sought to imitate known methods of controlling locomotion, which at that time were all leader-led systems — control one part of the system and the rest of the system follows. Photographs of some earlier machines show pilots standing in their craft as if at the helm of a ship attempting to maneuver the machine by handling a steering device attached to a rudder similar to a rudder of a ship, hoping to turn the rudder and have the rest of the machine follow. They were mimicking, attempting to succeed through the transfer of technology rather than reduce the system to process and then conceive an appropriate personality to technology. It didn’t work
When the Wrights took on the problem of control, they began where Cayley left off, studying birds in flight but they initially made no more progress than Cayley. The reason, which we can see in hindsight, was they could not gain access to the mechanical process controlling flight to inspect and understand control in the same way Cayley was able to gain mechanical access to the thrusting wing. Cayley saw — and felt — action and reaction. He could recreate it mechanically. When Cayley studied tethered birds he was studying a system that wasn’t bothering to control its flight. But had the bird controlled flight it wouldn’t have helped. No one could or has yet been able to crawl inside a bird in flight and watch the control mechanism at work — take this action and achieve this reaction.
Prior to taking on the challenge of flight, the Wrights were bicycle mechanics; makers and manufacturers at a time when bikes were perceived as the transportation machine of the future. They were on the leading edge of science and technology. George Cayley invented the wind tunnel, but the Wrights were sufficiently fluid of mind to recognize they could use their bicycles as wind tunnels. They mounted air foils on the front of bikes, pedaled to generate speed which translated to wind force on the foil and were always present to watch what occurred to the foil as the system accelerated or decelerated. Turning the bike showed them what happened to the foil in the turn. They modified air foils in hundreds of experiments, working their way to ones they thought might work. Here again they established the requisite direct access to mechanics to verify process. Still, the Wrights couldn’t make progress on control.
It was while riding a bicycle that Orville realized bicycles are controlled the same way as birds control flight. That act of recognizing a process is common to two unlike systems is the first stage of success of what’s termed a mental experiment. Orville found the near system and inferred it to explain the behavior of the far system. He was able to do this for having direct access to the near system.
Bicycles appear to be controlled as any other leader-led machine. They have a front wheel that turns independent of the rest of the machine and handlebars that control that wheel. The rider turns the handlebars, the front wheel turns and the bike follows. That happens walking the bike in the garage or at very slow speeds. In motion, however, a bicycle is a unitary transition machine where the entire system including the rider shifts in unison in order to change direction; the rider doesn’t turn the handlebars to turn the corner but leans with the bike into the turn. The front wheel moves in relationship to the frame in the turn but only in response to the system shift not to lead the system shift. Birds, Orville understood but without verification, are not leader-led systems but unitary transitions systems.
Once the Wrights recognized this difference, they also recognized snow sleds with runners which kids ride down hills are also unitary transition systems. They began to study their set of identified unitary transition systems in order to learn to control flight but, once again, were stymied to learn what they needed to know because bikes and sleds don’t fly. The unitary transition control process, though common to the three systems doesn’t achieve the same outcome in all three systems. They needed to see the unitary transition system control flight the way Cayley saw lift and thrust cause flight — up close. Since processes are everywhere and always in the universe they will be engaged in many different systems, but to facilitate advance, the process has to be studied in a system where it achieves the desired outcome if the system is to be a valid model.
The Wrights returned to studying birds but made no progress again — until they recognized kites are flying machines and systems with unitary control systems. Here was the necessary combination of process achieving targeted outcome. The mental experiment was completed and now the mechanical experiments around control could begin.
Kites are mechanically transparent systems — we built them so there are no mysteries to kites. From the ground, the person with the strings controls flight. Standing at the end of long strings controlling a kite is close enough to study the mechanics if the kite is in sight. Pulling this string and observing what happens leads to the ability to predict, ‘when I pull this string this is what will happen’. The Wrights ran numerous experiments with kites just as they did with air foils. They were perfectionists.
Once the mechanical links had been joined by the Wrights it became a matter of translating the mechanics of kites into the mechanics of a machine. In this phase, their team of workers pulled a craft across the beach at Kitty Hawk into the wind causing it to elevate like a kite while the brothers rode on it and tested their control system. When they finally flew, it was on a machine which was little more than coordinated kites upon which they lay on their belly as if they were riding on a sled, using not only their mechanical controls of cables to subtly shift the airfoils and elevators but shifting their weight to keep their machine aloft. Thereafter, the history of flight is only about incremental improvements, but all those improvements on the process to flight are achieved by the same finding and proving process that led to flight. Someone sees something that shows them something possible they had not previously seen and in a way they can achieve what they see.
When contemplating the uniform nature of the universe I sometimes wonder if we could have gotten to flight without the bicycle with its superficially leader-led control system leading us into direct awareness of the process of unitary transition. The Wrights were the first ever to fly in December, 1904. They kept it a secret. They had social ambitions — they wanted to get rich so needed to get their patents in order. Meanwhile, they kept working to improve their machines. The first person to fly publicly was Glenn Curtis, who won a contest by flying one mile on July 4, 1908 in a machine named June Bug. Before Curtis turned to flight, he was a motorcycle mechanic and manufacturer. Motorcycles are also a unitary transition system which looks like a leader-led system. And before that, Glenn Curtis was a bicycle mechanic and manufacturer. Is it coincidence or process that the first two teams to fly in controlled machines — working independent of each other but working with a shared body of knowledge with respect to advances in propulsion and lift — had such similar backgrounds?
I engage the processes run by Cayley and the Wrights to solve social problems. I identify systems belonging to the natural universe expressing processes that I accept if we were capable of expressing among us we would find ourselves in the world of our social dreams. Those systems are typically too remote to study directly. Still, I study the remote system as well as I’m able to conceive it as processes. Once I can see the process I begin searching the human-crafted universe for systems expressing the same processes. If I can’t find it, I go back and look again at the remote system. Once I find an accessible system, then I can begin the process of mining its mechanics. Once the mechanics are determined I then infer the near process to explain the behavior of the far process and seek the means to test. If I reach a conclusion a common process explains the behavior of the near and far system, I begin the process of inferring the observed process to explain the behavior of human beings, human social systems or have the potential to moderate human behavior into viable, sustainable social systems. Then I must find ways to test.
When the Wrights finally found the accessible mechanical system expressing the unitary transition process of control, kites, it turned out to be a system we had already built. We actually solved the problem of controlled flight over a thousand years ago but didn’t recognize it. I think there is a great clue here which shouldn’t be brushed aside as coincidence. The same laws and processes play always and everywhere in the universe — the universe of humanly crafted systems is part of the everywhere and always. Within that humanly crafted universe we may have already engaged every process at work in the universe including the processes pertinent to social systems. They are embedded in mechanical systems that we built, systems which are transparent to us though we may not yet see everything about them. All we need do is formulate a conception of the process we’re looking for and engage our process-seeking eyes within the universe of humanly crafted systems.
For having studied other examples besides flight, I think there is valuable information to be gained in the observation the Wrights didn’t need to figure out how to get inside the birds head or brain to learn how to solve the problem of control of flight. We don’t need to figure us out psychologically or psychiatrically — which we aren’t any success anyway — to solve our social problems. The answer is not in learning how to manipulate us but learning how the universe operates.
Einstein worked out relativity, in principle, by recognizing it as the same phenomenon as a ball rolling down the aisle of a train on a track moving in the same direction as a the earth. The same process happens over and over in science; we learn about the universe through the study of the phenomenon in a system we built and unknowingly engaged the process. I propose we’ve already solved the social problem in systems we’ve built and we don’t recognize those systems to be social system, but by definition they are. We can identify them and deconstruct them to discover what we built into them which we had no knowledge of installing or engaging but which explains why they are successful.
There is a major difference between building an airplane and building a social system. Planes don’t involve human beings; they’re made of the inert matter and energy which is extremely compliant to human organization. This stands in contrast to human beings, which resist a similar control imposed on them. (Perhaps we should take a hint here: it may be human are not intended to be manipulated by other human in the way as atoms or livestock.) Not only are human beings not receptive to being so manipulated, but all human beings are currently embroiled in layers upon layers of dysfunctional social systems. No country’s leaders, its mayors, bishops and union organizers are going to hand over the reins to allow me to run experiments to solve its social problem.
There’s no unclaimed, ungoverned place on the earth to gather a cast of thousands to run such an experiment, so no way to create what we would describe as a sterile environment, one in which the environment was void of influences which could spoil our experiment — impede our ability to establish cause and effect and therefore predictably generate cause and observe effect. It’s good these impediments are here because running those experiments would never allow us to solve our social problem. We’re going to have to do a lot of mental experimentation, but no more than the quantum scientists.
Mental experiments have been used by scientist down through history and successfully. They’ve also been used by social scientists and always unsuccessfully. The difference is not in the subject matter but in the experiment. The structure of social science mental experiments always contradicts the structure of the successful natural science mental experiments.
Valid scientific mental experiments must observe a system in two states , known state A and B, and it must seek to explain the process by which the system transitions from state A to state B.
Currently there are no established knowns but only speculations about human nature and social systems upon which to begin a mental experiment. In all the natural sciences there are different relevant knowns, including laws which have been established and which create the rigid framework of that field of science. But what is true in one field of science is always also true in another field of science — physics and biochemistry are two different fields but gravity is gravity and acts on physiological systems no differently than it acts on a flying bullet. If we look at all the fields of social science and humanities we cannot find a single universally accepted ‘known’ with respect to human behavior or social behavior. Even within a field of the social sciences — e.g. psychology, every branch has its own unique conception of what human beings are and what motivate us, its own theories of human behavior, none of which can be proven more true than another. Everything hangs on belief.
Einstein used mental experiments repeatedly in the most ingenious ways when direct experiments were literally impossible — which is anytime one is inspecting a universe too remote to access directly. He then formalized and taught his process to the quantum scientists who, utilizing the method, have (I accept) described the ‘objects’ and processes at work in a part of the universe no one’s ever seen. The mental experiment always is to piece together the mechanics of a process before one has actually ‘seen’ the process at the level of mechanics; the challenge to the mental experimenter then becomes to find the way to prove the mechanics found in the mental experiment in the material world. Sometimes, as the quantum scientists discovered, finding a way to conduct a physical experiment to prove a mental experiment can take decades. But as has been established, if the mental experiment is conducted properly the physical experiment will verify.
I’ve distilled Einstein’s mental experiments into 4 simple rules:
1.) Seek to explain the process that explains the transition from known state A to known state B
2.) Introduce no process into a mental experiment which can’t be identified near at hand and is mechanically transparent, therefore able to be studied, understood and tested for its fit in the puzzle.
3.) Allow nothing to behave in a mental experiment differently than it can in the physical world. Do not accept 3 + 9 = 20 unless 3 rocks can be put in an empty bucket, 9 more rocks added, and it can now be shown there are now 20 rocks in the bucket.
4.) Any identifiable and verifiable process, no matter how seemingly preposterous, which may explain the process needs to be assumed a viable answer and tested for fit before being rejected.
5.) If there are alternative processes identified to explain the transition choose the simplest or most elegant to test first.
Imagine giving directions to a friend how to get from their location in a city (known state A) to a second location in the city (known state B). If I tell my friend correctly the names of streets, the turns, the distances to be traveled, landmarks, etc. and she capable of following them, my friend will arrive at known state B. Both parties will have successfully performed a mental experiment — I devised it and the friend executed and proved it.
However, if I give information that does not match the reality of the city, i.e wrong names of street, wrong distances to travel, wrong addresses, wrong turns to take, landmarks that do not exist, etc.my friend will not arrive at known State B.
If there is any doubt whether a mental experiment is a valid experiment test I test it against that example.