© last revised
Draft in Progress
He whose vision cannot cover
History’s three thousand years,
Must in outer darkness hover,
Live within the day’s frontiers.
Goethe, Westöstlicher Diwan
Epithet to Erich Neumann’s
0.01 In 1500 of the Common Era, three years before Leonardo Da Vinci began the Mona Lisa, some 400 million individuals lived, mostly from hand to mouth, in ten or so distinct civilizations spread out over five relatively isolated continental and sub-continental land masses (Durand 1977). Five hundred years later and a global self-regulating market economy of over 6 billion human beings is actively engaged in re-designing the ecology, geography and geology of all seven continents, harvesting the ocean depths, polluting the mountain peaks and encircling the globe with hundreds of artificial satellites plus one inhabited space station.
0.02 This unprecedented evolutionary ascent of a species to global dominion, achieved in some twenty-five generations, arguably resulted from the institutionalization of a new way of knowing - the experimental method. Developed by craftsmen of the late or High Middle Ages of the western European civilization (Zilsel 1945), it was first fully articulated by a late Renaissance genius, Sir Francis Bacon, as a new experimental philosophy or science. Bacon published Of the Proficience and Advancement of Learning Divine and Humane in 1605, just a year after publication of the first extant edition of Christopher Marlowe’s play Faustus in which, arguably, a bargain is struck between the Devil (a.k.a. Science & Technology) and Natural Man whose gives up his soul and place in heaven in return for dominion over the earth - here and now!
0.03 According to Bacon, dominion was to be achieved by reducing Nature’s complexity through instrumentally controlled experimental conditions, forcing her to reveal her secrets. She did. The question was first put using instruments developed in the craft workshops of the European Age of Discovery. It was here that Bacon saw the prototype of his ‘House of Solomon’, the house of wisdom and of knowledge.
0.04 Some seventy-five years later, as the European Enlightenment dawned, the ancient ‘geometry of infinitesimals’ gave way to ‘the calculus’ independently developed by the genius of Newton (1643-1727) and Leibniz (1646-1716). Calculus provided a true mathematics of motion and of force – changing spatial position expressed through time in algebraic rather than geometric form. Extended by Newton into his three laws of universal motion, calculus combined with increasingly accurate measurement instruments as the foundation for modern natural & engineering ‘experimental’ sciences. By the middle of the 18th century, in France, ‘scientific’ engineering appeared with formal training in calculus. (Kranakis 1989, 18).
0.05 And then, at the beginning of the 19th century, the first research university was founded in Berlin (1809) transforming the mandate of the university - traditional and conservative heartland of Western knowledge - from interpretation of old to the generation of new knowledge. Within the research university four distinct traditions married, mated and spawned the modern natural & engineering sciences. These were: the deductive logic of ancient Greece; medieval Scholastic analogizing; the calculus of Newton and Leibniz combined with Descartes’ analytic geometry; and, the craft tradition of instrument-making to force Nature to reveal her secrets. It is this last that converted intellectualism into “instrumental realism” (Idhe 1991). This was a new way of knowing that expanded the human senses beyond genetic potential and extended the human grasp down to the realm of the atom and quark and upwards to the moon, planets and soon beyond the limits of the solar system. [A] In the process, the experimental sciences, or the ‘Republic of Science’ (M. Polanyi 1962), made the university its home.
0.06 Knowledge gained through reductive science, however, is only one side of the Faustian coin. The other is design of that new knowledge into goods and services to satisfy human wants, needs and desires in the here and now. This involves a different and more ancient realm of knowledge acquired not through reduction but through construction or design. Outside the controlled conditions of a laboratory, knowledge from many different disciplines, sub-disciplines and specialties must be worked together to allow for the imperfections, uncertainty and exigencies of day-to-day human life. This marriage of knowledge, imperfection, uncertainty and exigency may be called technology – literally ‘artful reasoning’ or ‘reasoned art’. Today it is in industry that technology weaves its magic from strands of knowledge spun out by many different domains and practices into the design of final goods and services satisfying human wants, needs and desires. It is also industry that keeps alive and continues the medieval craft-roots of the experimental method in the guise of industrial research and development.
0.07 New knowledge about the physical world and the technological expertise to use it, is, however, only part of the explanation. Other civilizations generated new knowledge about the physical world; they even created artifacts of technological intelligence like the 2,000 years old Baghdad battery (Downes & Meyerhoff 2000) and the very intricate, bronze, geared astronomical instrument called the antikythera (Price 1959) dating from around 80 B.C.E. It was, however, only in western European civilization that both the experimental method and the cultural willingness to apply its findings to satisfy human wants, needs and desires were institutionalized, i.e., routinized. In the case of the experimental method, it was the research university. In the case of the willingness to apply new knowledge, it was the self-regulating market whose appearance, at about the same time as the research university, has been called The Great Transformation by economist Karl Polanyi (1944). It was also at this time that political democracy erupted overthrowing an ancient regime of subordination by birth and bloodline and replacing it with the individual citizen consumer. It is clear, however, in all three cases – institutionalization of the experimental method, the self-regulating market and democracy – that the reductive knowledge of the natural sciences
played, at best, a supporting role. Other forms of knowledge starred - forms that exhibit relative rather than absolute values or eternal truths like the natural sciences.
0.08 To enhance the competitiveness of nations in a global knowledge-based economy it is essential that these ‘softer’ forms of knowledge be more fully understood and their causal connexions with the hard knowledge of the natural & engineering sciences drawn. Beyond nationalist interest in competitiveness there remains, however, the question of the playing field, the planet Earth. Science and technology today pose questions affecting the future of all humanity and the planet. From climate change, human population growth, species extinction to the genomics revolution, human manipulation of space, time, matter and mind - technology - has reached global proportions. Humanity reigns supreme but lacks a convincing design for planetary governance. This will require a careful weaving of ‘can do’ and ‘should do’ into the fabric of a tent big enough and strong enough to accommodate the cultural and national diversity of human wants, needs and desires. It is towards this conscious design of human evolution (Jantsch 1975) that I dedicate this dissertation.
0.09 The Faustian coin of science and technology has, however, currency both in heaven and in hell. Humanity’s relationship to science and technology is somewhat like that of the Judaic, Christian, Islamic God towards His creation, humanity, of whom the angels of the upper circle thought:
Unlimited power, unlimited possibility of taking into one’s head, producing out of it, and bringing into being by a mere “Let there be” - such gifts had, of course, their dangers. Even All-Wisdom might not be quite adequate to avoid all the blunders and waste motions in the practice of absolute qualities like these. Out of sheer restlessness and lack of exercise; out of the purest “much wants more”; out of a capricious craving to see, after the angel and the brute, what a combination of the two would be like; out of all these motives, and impelled by them, One entangled Oneself in folly and created a being notoriously unstable and embarrassing. And then, precisely because it was such an undeniable miscreation, One set One’s heart upon it in magnificent self-will and made such a point of the thing that all heaven was offended. (Mann 1944, 4)
0.10 I wish to acknowledge my supervisor, Dr. Peter W.B. Phillips, Director of the College of Biotechnology at USASK, who provided unflagging support through the twists and turns of academic reorganization of the Interdisciplinary Program and guided this work to its completion.
0.11 To my Advisory Committee I wish to thank: George Khachatourians of the Department of Agriculture and Coordinator of the Biotechnology Initiatives at USASK for his inspiration and encouragement to undertake this effort in the first place; Professor Tom Steele of the Department of Physics & Engineering Physics whose intellectual skepticism served me well in shaping the crucial
concept of ‘tooled knowledge’; Professor Grant Isaac of the College of Commerce whose good nature and insight, particularly at the difficult beginnings of the process, encouraged me to continue; Professor Robert Hudson of the Department of Philosophy who came on board when needed and directed me towards the critically important but relatively new and emerging sub-discipline of the Philosophy of Technology; and, Professor Zaheer Baber of the Department of Sociology and Canada Research Chair in Science, Technology and Social Change for answering the call to join the Committee in spite of his busy and hectic schedule. Thank you all.
0.12 I also take the opportunity to thank: Professor Morris Altman, Head of the Economics Department for directing me towards the work of Nathan Rosenberg and his ‘Black Box’; Professor Joel Bruneau, also of the Economics Department, who encouraged development of a more formal economic epistemology; Professor Murray Fulton, Director of the Interdisciplinary Program for directing me to the critically important work of Brian Loasby; and, Professor Glen Aikenhead of the College of Education for his friendship, conversation and directing me to the work of Ken Kawasaki which highlights how our understanding of knowledge is limited by the natural language we use.
0.13 I would also like to acknowledge the support of my initial application by my former professors (then at Carleton University) and sometimes colleagues: Gilles Paquet, Director, Centre for Governance; University of Ottawa; A. L. Keith Acheson, Professor, Department of Economics, Carleton University; and, Christopher Maule, Professor, Department of Economics, Carleton University. I would also like to acknowledge and thank Richard Vanderberg, formerly of Carleton University, for introducing me to the ‘old’ activist Institutional Economics of John R. Commons. This introduction has guided my methodological footsteps ever since.
0.14 On a more personal level I wish to thank my friend and colleague Guy Morin of the federal department of Indian Affairs & Northern Development for his time and patience in hearing me out and, most of all, I wish to thank Grier and Olivia for their patience and support.
[A] HHC: The macroscopic limit to the physical grasp, as opposed to the spectral reach, of contemporary human technology is NASA's Voyager 1. Launched on September 5, 1977, the spacecraft is about to enter the solar system's final frontier where wind from the sun forming the heliosheath blows hot against the thin gas between the stars called interstellar space. (NASA News Release, “Voyager approaching solar system's outer limits”, Space Flight Now, November 5, 2003)