What Kind of Civilization Could Prevent New Ideas from Succeeding?

Nextbigfuture has said that Elon Musk is wrong to say that immortality would be a bad thing. Elon said “It is important for us to die because most of the time people don’t change their mind, they just die,” Musk said at the WSJ event. “If you live forever, we might become a very ossified society where new ideas cannot succeed.”

When was there ever a time when civilization had to wait over 50 years for an entire living population to die before a suppressed new idea could take root and succeed?

It took about 100 years for the idea that the Earth revolved around the sun to become accepted.

In 1543, Nicolaus Copernicus detailed his radical theory of the Universe in which the Earth, along with the other planets, rotated around the Sun.

In 1610 Galileo, used his early telescope and saw for the first time in human history that moons orbited Jupiter. If Aristotle were right about all things orbiting Earth, then these moons could not exist. Galileo also observed the phases of Venus, which proved that the planet orbits the Sun

Copernicus rightly observed that the planets revolve around the Sun, it was Kepler who correctly defined their orbits. Kepler’s laws of planetary motion, published by Johannes Kepler between 1609 and 1619. At the age of 27, Kepler became the assistant of a wealthy astronomer, Tycho Brahe, who asked him to define the orbit of Mars. Brahe had collected a lifetime of astronomical observations, which, on his death, passed into Kepler’s hands. Brahe had his own Earth-centered model of the Universe. Brahe withheld the bulk of his observations from Kepler at least in part because he did not want Kepler to use them to prove Copernican theory correct. Using these observations, Kepler found that the orbits of the planets followed three laws.

The Earth orbiting the sun concept was delayed and suppressed because there was a low level of scientific inquiry and because the scientific method was still being developed and accepted. It was not the overall lifespan of people in the 1500s or 1600s that was the problem. It was that Tycho Brahe kept secret observations from Kepler until after Brahe died. Tycho suddenly contracted a bladder or kidney ailment after attending a banquet in Prague, and died eleven days later, on 24 October 1601, at the age of 54. Tycho had been suffering from an illness which he had attempted to take care of himself with his alchemy skills, but failed and rather contributed to his death.

The scientific and data driven methods became more widely adopted from the work of Francis Bacon and Descartes.

The scientific method was used even in ancient times, but it was first documented by England’s Sir Francis Bacon (1561–1626) who set up inductive methods for scientific inquiry.

René Descartes (March 1596 – 11 February 1650) laid the foundation of modern rationalism.

The Hypothetico-deductive model was developed in the 19th century.

The timeline of the scientific method is at this wikipedia article.

If it takes entire generations or three generations to get around new idea suppression then there are problems that need to be solved without resorting to choosing not to develop antiaging or aging reversal. Actually, suppressing antiaging or aging reversal concepts and advances would even be the biggest example of a bad suppression of a good concept. There is a few billion dollars per year and few hundred startups working on aging reversal. However, this level of effort and support should be expanded by ten to a thousand times.

Today, there are millions of researchers and there is private wealth, private funding and academic, government and corporate funding for research and to launch new businesses.

There was the recent suppression of the concept of orbital fuel transfer.

Boeing and parts of NASA suppressed the concept and development of orbital fuel transfer. George Sowers was leading the advanced programs group at United Launch Alliance (ULA), the rocket company co-owned by Boeing and Lockheed Martin. Sowers has described how this idea was suppressed.

One of ULA’s chief assets was its Centaur upper stage, and the company wanted to build an innovative version that could be refueled in space, and reused, called the Advanced Cryogenic Evolved Stage, or ACES. As part of this development, in 2011, ULA proposed an in-space test of depots to NASA that would cost less than $100 million.

The banned word was fuel Depot.

SpaceX is now developing fuel depots. The people who suppressed the idea are still alive at Boeing, ULA and NASA.

The concept and development of fully reusable rocket launch was attempted by the Space Shuttle and with spaceplane projects. The problem seems not so much suppression but insufficient competence and corporate cultures that were not experimenting and pivoting fast enough to each a successful solution and implementation. There was also the problem of bureaucracy. These development problems can be seen with the inability of many other rocket companies to even copy what SpaceX has done with the Grasshopper and Falcon 9 back in 2011-2013. The problem in other rocket companies like Boeing is an MBA and finance-driven leadership instead of having engineering-focused leadership. This is the reason that Boeing and ULA have not successfully developed new rockets and new rocket engines for over 20 years. This is not something that requires old age to take out the incompetence and bureaucracy at Boeing, ULA and NASA. It is taking the exceptional drive and leadership of Elon Musk and his team at SpaceX.

GM suppressed the idea of the electric car, but the people who were at GM not only were not only not eager to create the electric car. The people at GM were locked into older ideas of management and technological development. This goes to the fact that leaders and incumbent companies do not develop the next new thing. It was Apple and not Sony that developed the iPod product that displaced the Walkman.

Yes, we have to have new companies and people to replace those who will not or cannot bring us the next advance. However, this process should not be related to needing old age to remove those who are in the way.

We just need a dynamic new venture and startup ecosystem combined with early adopters and data and experiment-driven development.

Hopefully, SpaceX will totally replace Boeing, ULA, Arianne and enable the transformation of NASA. This will create a new and more dynamic space and travel industry. Tesla will replace GM, Ford, Toyota and other car companies. It will not take the death of old age of the leadership at those companies. It will take outselling those companies and creating new products, services and markets.

Cleaner and Safer nuclear energy is being suppressed by “environmentalists”, misinformation, big Coal and big Fossil Fuel. We need to solve this without waiting for the death of old age of the suppressors.

SOURCES- Arstechnica, WSJ, Wikipedia, Analysis by Brian Wang
Written by Brian Wang, Nextbigfuture.com

2 thoughts on “What Kind of Civilization Could Prevent New Ideas from Succeeding?”

  1. Most of the examples above of technological suppression were worked around by people like Musk and Jobs.
    The problem with those examples is we are talking about the business environment of the United States. Which is unique.
    And those companies that worked around the established businesses that were holding back technology mainly used Venture Capital to do it. Which is also unique to the United States. (If you haven’t watched the documentary Something Ventured you are missing out).
    In almost all other countries, the Governments (Federal and local) side with the existing technology and hold small and medium companies back.
    Because they are all in bed together (This also happens in the US. President Biden says GM is the leader in electric car development. Look at what happened to the Tucker Car Company)
    We in the US have become accustomed to blistering progress. 
    But in most of the rest of the world they are just tagging along behind us. 
    Yes there are exceptions….
    So for the United States, we do not have to wait for Comrade Stalin or his cronies to die before progress happens. Or a University President. Or the CEO of Ford. 
    So living longer lives will not slow down the United States. 
    Venezuela? France? Russia? California:) ?
    I could see them slowing down. Their governments already have too much control of the business environment.
    Only external forces (tagging along because other countries are doing it) would prompt them to progress.

    Reply

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