A perfection of means, and confusion of aims, seems to be our main problem. (Albert Einstein)_
We have perhaps a natural fear of ends. We would rather be always on the way than arrive. Given the means, we hang on to them and often forget the ends.
Both Mottos can be interpreted as “fallible as we are, we still are much better with means than with aims.”
You know that my blog is dedicated to problem solving (BTW I am planning to set up a special new blog only for my 20 Problem Solving Rules) therefore I am deeply interested in the sources of man-made problems. Step by step, I have discovered an inexhaustible source of such problems, a very effective recipe for failure. My satori has happened when I wrote an editorial about bureaucracy.“Somewhere a problem, a task, a purpose, an aim or a problem appears. A solution is sought. An institution, a committee, political party, group, team is created for working out and implementing the solution and for creating new improved up-to-dated solutions. Then something strange and evil happens- the institution etc. has a kind of amnesic shock and “forgets” its own mission, does care less and less about the general interest and focuses on its own group’s interest and on the people who support it. Bureaucracy appears wit its corrupt and egotistical nasty ugliness.
However this process of degradation, alienation is more general than the damned bureaucracy, in many places the aims are cannibalizing the aims and take over their status and function.
I had an other illumination moment when I read years ago that pharmaceutical industry spends more money for advertising than for research I have read a lot about Big Pharma- the art of making billions from milligrams and I have understood how it has lost its original aim- to cure illnesses and make people healthy and has replaced it with maximum profit obtainable from chronically ill people addicted to some, if possible) expensive drugs. The aim of Big Pharma is many customers not healthy people. If you are over 50 you will understand immediately what I want to say.
The most spectacular case of means-replacing-aims is that of money- not more a means of buying and selling but a kind of sacred aim, Moneytheism is the dominant religion, consumerism is a social obligation that moves society, ads are ubiquitous. To be poor is the most unpardonable sin.
It is now black humor or outright idiocy to tell that the government has the aims to serve the people. In practice, everywhere those who have won the power, democratically or not, try to get rich by all means.
A few short (ened) remarks:
a) The aims must be in consonance with the means; good aims using evil means become evil.
Means we use must be as pure as the ends we seek. (Martin Luther King, Jr.)
The end may justify the means as long as there is something that justifies the end.” (Leon Trotsky)
b) The aims are always less clear, less stable, less up-to-dated and well defined and described, less “real” than the means. Means are now, aims are in the future. In a sense, the means tend to be more powerful than the aims and this is one of the reasons why aims are easy prey for means so many times.
What really matters in life are not the goals we set, but the roads we take to achieve them. (Peter Bamm)
The Way is always more than the Purpose. (Heimito von Doderer)
c) During my career in research I have learned that if I want to create something more important and lasting, it is better to focus on methods, principles, modes of thinking, more on the processes than on products. Means – here too are more fertile than aims.
d) Collective aims are much more vulnerable to the “means eat aims” syndrome than individual, independent, original aims. The following quotation is, in part half- in part 1.5 relevant:
Brilliance is typically the act of an individual, but incredible stupidity can usually be traced to an organization. (Jon Bentley)
If you belong to a group having an aim identical with yours, consider it as your personal aim, it’s safer and smarter...
The ‘aims replaced by means’ problem is present in my all favorite activity- research too. The publications of the scientists and researchers have the aim to inform peers, colleagues and the world about their achievements, discoveries, their own contributions to the advancement of science and technology. However, because there are exclusively quantitative criteria used for the evaluation of the activity of the scientists, publications – their number- becomes an aim per se. You have to write and publish as many as possible books and papers. So you tend to divide your work in “least publishable units” see e.g. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Least_publishable_unit This problem is more serious than believed by the outsiders, quality and newness are very difficult to define and the very necessary
Scientometrics is under-used.
NOTE During spring-cleaning my blog, I have seen that I have already published 95 papers re New Energy. Please do not accuse me of salami publication; there are other reasons for being so over-productive, to not say, boring. I have written about many events, new ideas and concepts, I am a slow thinker, my own ideas are not easy to understand for me and are rarely formulated in a convincing mode; Please also take in consideration that I was swimming counter-stream. I have made a long journey in complexity, from thinking that deep degassing and VERY smart nanotechnology and perfect adjustment of a few critical parameters will solve the problem of commercial heat energy generation to the New Wave LENR+ a techno-conspiracy of organized matter multi-sequential and hyper dynamic systems to unite Metal and Hydrogen in the proper way... More important is that the best people in the field are generously helping me.
But let’s go back to aims and means, Read this please:
To forget your aim is the most common form of stupidity.
This is an exaggeration and in the same time, a euphemism. Losing your aims, replaced by some means, or in other way, is the best recipe for disaster. If this happens to you, there is no other solution than to regain your initial aims and to aim to more. Otherwise your cause is lost.
The lost aims of LENR.
Cold Fusion has appeared unexpectedly as a promise of infinite energy clean energy, as a creative solution to the huge delays and great troubles of Hot Fusion. Based on the natural simplicity in thinking everybody has expected to get a hot fusion reaction that takes place at cold, due probably to the enormous electro-chemical pressure on the surface of the palladium cathode. Soon the initial naiveties have disappeared and instead of a golden rush for more and more energy, the field had to fight desperately enough for its very survival. The starting aim, Energy became fight for survival; Enhancement was replaced fast with proving Existence. Prove that you really exist! The field was under siege for long years. Pragmatic focus became scientific focus. When it become obvious that the intensity of the desired heat release cannot be increased the aim was changed to very sensitive heat measurement and a glorious new chapter was added to the fine art of calorimetry. Disproportionate efforts but heroic ones. Milliwatts are less that watts, our bodies are sources of approximately 100Watts heat and we need much powerful sources than ourselves. Minute quantities of energy generate no enthusiasm, no enthusiasm means no funds, no funds signifies no creative ideas. Lack of creative ideas is the most destructive situation possible for research.
Cold Fusion has aimed to be a commercial heat source but was sentenced to remain a lab curiosity. I don’t know who was the first to call CF anomalous, but he/she has made a fatal error, the effect is new, unexpected even surprising (smart researchers are surprised only by the absence of surprises. Anomalous is pejorative, offensive. Do you want an anomalous oven or an anomalous car?
However many good people have discovered and are convinced that the effect, LENR exists and continued to try to solve the problem of improved processes. These people organizes meetings, the great ones have arrived this year to No 19. However the main aim of these meetings seems to be to create opportunities to many people, some of them young, to present new variants of weak and sick and unreliable LENRs or is helping theorists to apply their one-step, simple explanation to a process for which the prefix “multi” can be applied in multi-mode. Very rarely was it organized a serious, even desperate discussion re why the XXXX is this strange category of phenomena so weak and difficultly reproducible, concluding that this situation is INTOLERABLE and MUST BE CHANGED. By any means!
A last remark- one of the starting aims of Cold Fusion was to be NUCLEAR. I am increasingly thinking this is an equivalent of the cat’s color not of the cat’s mice hunting ability. (I am speaking about Deng Xiaoping’s cat not Andrea Rossi’s). I hope LENR+ is Nuclear in a quite new, harmless way.
Losing aims, due to replacement by means, or in any other way is the best recipe for failure and/or disaster for anyone and for everything.
If a field loses its aims, it loses its original identity and can be resurrected only from outside. LENR+ will regenerate the noble and useful Cold Fusion dream.