Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Nikola Tesla - world's greatest inventor

Nikola Tesla strikes me as the world's most important inventor. He held over 700 patents. He was far superior to Thomas Edison as this great documentary shows.

Andrew Sheldon

Friday, September 12, 2008

Ayn Rand

Objectivism, the philosophy of Ayn Rand, poses answers to many important questions, and I would suggest provides the most comprehensive value system for people. Whilst it is certainly a very valuable contribution to philosophy, her ideas are not completely developed. One of the challenges is the fact that her ideas are mostly expressed in the form of novels. The sad implication of this is that this is the first and only exposure people have to her philosophy. The implication of that is that many people disparage her on superficial terms. One must appreciate that she developed a philosophy to underpin the romantic characters depicted in her novels. Philosophy was thus secondary to her goal of developing her novels.
The assertion made by academic philosophers that she is not really a philosopher is nonsense. This highlights nothing more but the intellectual snobbery of these academics. Over a lifetime they offer no great insights, and fail to develop any standing. Imagine their affrontery to be upstaged by an woman who professes to be nothing more than a part-time philosopher. The only credible criticism I have observed of Ayn Rand's ideas over the years have come from her supporters. I would be among them. She is a formable contributor to the intellectual development of society. She stands on the shoulders of Aristotle, and I have not qualifications in saying that I stand on her shoulders, even if I don't agree with all of her ideas. Certainly I would also cringe at some of her expression as well. For the most part however she is simply misunderstood because the symbolism of her novels is taken as a philosophical treatise. Critics do this for several reasons:
1. They fail to recognise the context of her ideas. For example, they will look at their symbolism with respect to money, and consider her a materialist. In a second breath they will say she is a deluded idealist. This mistake is mostly made by Christians who are not predisposed to thinking in terms of dogma (which is not held in context) rather than principle.

I would suggest that Rand made some important contributions to philosophy:
1. She popularised philosophy - by offering a philosophical treatise in novel form she actually raised awareness of the role and importance of philosophy. Prior to her, philosophy was perceived as being irrelevant. This popularity I think has attracted the jealousy of academic philosophers who have contributed nothing to society, but who live off the State.
2. She asserted self interest: She unapologetically argued that people should act in their self interest. She actually differentiated herself from other philosophers by developing a theory of values. Other philosophers considered values as subjective. It was enough that you value something. She implied that needs, wants have no objective standing. The validity of values derives from the reasons you want them, not simply because you want them.
3. She offered an integrated philosophy defined in her books. She covers a great deal of material about an array of subjects. More importantly she left a legacy behind her. The Ayn Rand Institute continues to support the development of her ideas, funding academic research at universities.
4. She applied her philosophy to present day issues. The implication is that she is grounded. Contrast her with John Hobbes, a skeptic who in essence concludes that philosophy has nothing to contribute to a person's life.

The greatest obstacle to Rand however is the lack of rational recourse in politics. I disagree with the strategic approach Rand identified for changing the way society thinks. The idea that changing the values of intellectuals was the way to change values strikes me as self-defeating. The greatest opportunity for change is changing the way our judiciary treats ideas. This scheme is developed in our business unit Judicial Analytics.
Andrew Sheldon

Captain James Cook

Captain James Cook was an important navigator for several reasons:
1. He was highly maticulous in drawing up maps that are still used to today
2. He discovered and explored many new territories

Andrew Sheldon

Herbert Hoover - President of the USA

Herbert Hoover strikes me as one of the most capable leaders the world has ever had. I will develop this profile of him in more detail, but critical aspects of his contibution were:
1. Early career: He had an impressive early career managing gold mines in the USA, Australia ans China. He was appointed GM of the Sons of Gwalia gold mine in WA at around the age of 19yo.
2. European Reconstructions: I recall he lead a campaign to raise funds to safe the lives of Europeans suffering during WWII.
3. US Presidency: His presidency promised to offer so much give the values that he had conveyed over the early years of his career. He was short changed because the Crash of 1929 occurred just months into his administration. Of course he captured the bulk of the blame, apparently for not stimulating the economy. But to what end? There was excess productive capacity. I dare say his lack of economics knowledge was probably his downfall.
Andrew Sheldon