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What if innovation does not lead to profit?

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Axiomatic
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What would be the selfish motivation for producing a product based upon an innovative idea that would not lead to profit, but would lead to people everywhere having free access to unlimited energy?

I am aware that Tesla's theories were perhaps not 100% scientifically sound, but suppose for a moment that his theories were correct, what would be the selfish motivation for businesses to fund and achieve that end?

The only argument I can come up with myself is more Spinozian ethically than Objectivist.

What do you think?

Edited by Axiomatic
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What would be the selfish motivation for producing a product based upon an innovative idea that would not lead to profit, but would lead to people everywhere having free access to unlimited energy?

Selfishness does not equate to taking a product to market and making money.

Selfishness merely defines the beneficiary of one's actions; it states that an action is done for one's own interest. It does not even define what is in one's interest. Defining what is and is not in one's interest is for the science of ethics.

Objectivism happens to prove that one's interest consists in the sustenance and/or the enhancement of one's life. In addition it proves that it is a contradiction to have someone other than one's self as the beneficiary of one's actions because such non-selfish actions, require that a person, chooses to use his mind to evaluate a certain object as a value, (i.e., for one's own life sustainance and/or enhancement;) then prepare a plan to obtain it, then execute that plan to produce the value; and then finally the contradiction of giving the object away rather than benefiting from its use.

Scenario

Further if someone invented a novel power source why would people have "free access to it"?

Why couldn't the inventor profit from its development, marketing, distribution, maintenance, and upgrades?

Things are just not invented and produced out of thin air, and they are not applied, used, marketed with no effort.

Specifically the scenario is about energy, and energy is not an end-in-itself, it is a means to powering other life sustaining and/or enhancing values such as lights, cars, heaters, coolers, harvesters.

Since all these existing products run using current standards and methods, to utilize this new energy source would certainly require either producing new versions of all powered products to use the new power source; or it would require retrofitting the old devices to use the new power source.

If this new source of energy as an identity, i.e., it is something; then it can be measured, and its use can be measure similarly the way energy is measured today in something like WATTS. Therefore a fee could be charged for its use.

There are many ways to charge for the use of a product.

Edited by phibetakappa
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I realize that O'ist ethics state that it is in ones interests and does not define what the interest is, but the context I gave was specific to Business.

Concerning Tesla's technology in regard to your example. Tesla's towers could not be 'metered' and as such if one was in the vicinity of a tower they could theoretically tap power through an antenna from anywhere they so chose to any amount they so chose.

Theoretically by Telsa's standard at least it was require very little effort and investment by modern standards to build such a device and produce cheap (if not ultimately free) energy for the surrounding inhabitance. Given this, it would be much more profitable for a business to stay dependent on other fuels as a source for energy, as one could derive more profit from that specific source.

If this was viable, then my question still stands.

I understand that one self-interest may be to produce this technology for oneself and ones locals for mutual benefit, but for a business, if something is not ultimately profitable, what would be the point in the investment?

Edited by Axiomatic
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What would be the selfish motivation for producing a product based upon an innovative idea that would not lead to profit, but would lead to people everywhere having free access to unlimited energy?

I am aware that Tesla's theories were perhaps not 100% scientifically sound, but suppose for a moment that his theories were correct, what would be the selfish motivation for businesses to fund and achieve that end?

The only argument I can come up with myself is more Spinozian ethically than Objectivist.

What do you think?

By what standard do you hold that something is innovative if it does not lead to profit? Such an idea would be judged to be wasteful if not worthless. If there ever were to be something like "free energy" (science fiction aside), the energy would need equipment to generate it, transport it, deliver it, maintain it, a social organization (companies) for formulating policy and organizing labor to produce the goods, etc. Each of these steps require profit, which means, in reality, there never will be "free energy". Perhaps cheaper energy, but lower prices for products happens in all industries that are innovative.

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-------------------

I understand that one self-interest may be to produce this technology for oneself and ones locals for mutual benefit (hence my Spinozian conclusion), but for a business, if something is not ultimately profitable, what would be the point in the investment?

None.

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I realize that O'ist ethics state that it is in ones interests and does not define what the interest is, but the context I gave was specific to Business.

But? But what?

the context is business, as opposed to what? non-business? I was talking about business and all work.

Profit is a economic outcome, all though it is a proper end-goal of a business to make a profit, often one works without making a profit or even knowing one is going to make a profit for a long time. This is the idea behind an investment.

Further, if this is a business as you say, then the scientist in the scenario is working for a salary?

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Concerning Tesla's technology in regard to your example. Tesla's towers could not be 'metered' and as such if one was in the vicinity of a tower they could theoretically tap power through an antenna from anywhere they so chose to any amount they so chose.

Theoretically by Telsa's standard at least it was require very little effort and investment by modern standards to build such a device and produce cheap (if not ultimately free) energy for the surrounding inhabitance. Given this, it would be much more profitable for a business to stay dependent on other fuels as a source for energy, as one could derive more profit from that specific source.

First, Tesla's technology is not real.

What about the mechanism to collect the energy on the devices that would use the power?

Since you did not read the rest of my post, here it is again:

Scenario

Further if someone invented a novel power source why would people have "free access to it"?

Why couldn't the inventor profit from its development, marketing, distribution, maintenance, and upgrades?

Things are just not invented and produced out of thin air, and they are not applied, used, marketed with no effort.

Specifically the scenario is about energy, and energy is not an end-in-itself, it is a means to powering other life sustaining and/or enhancing values such as lights, cars, heaters, coolers, harvesters.

Since all these existing products run using current standards and methods, to utilize this new energy source would certainly require either producing new versions of all powered products to use the new power source; or it would require retrofitting the old devices to use the new power source.

If this new source of energy as an identity, i.e., it is something; then it can be measured, and its use can be measure similarly the way energy is measured today in something like WATTS. Therefore a fee could be charged for its use.

There are many ways to charge for the use of a product.

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Theoretically by Telsa's standard at least it was require very little effort and investment by modern standards to build such a device and produce cheap (if not ultimately free) energy for the surrounding inhabitance.

Given this, it would be much more profitable for a business to stay dependent on other fuels as a source for energy, as one could derive more profit from that specific source.

This doesn't make sense.

It would require a MASSIVE effort to get rid or refit all the existing powered devices.

It would be much more profitable for a business to utilize the cheapest energy sources it could given its purpose.

Given this, it would be much more profitable for a business to stay dependent on other fuels as a source for energy, as one could derive more profit from that specific source.

Specifically, this last statement does not make sense. Given there would be an even cheaper source of power than say, nuclear power, why would a business continue to use other fuels?

Every potential saving for a company is potential profit at the end of the month/year etc.

Edited by phibetakappa
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The sub-plot of Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged is about John Galt's generator, which is the exact scenario you are talking about, i.e., he creates a new motor that runs of static electricity producing an unlimited, cheap supply of power.

Except the novel's story is much more interesting because Galt not only selfishly makes the new generator, and brings it into existence, but does not share it with the world via a business out side of Atlantis.

John Galt can hardly be called a altruist.

Neither could Quentin Daniels the young engineer Dagny has following up on Galt's discarded prototype of his generator.

Daniels is paid by Dagny for his work. But the story tells us he would have died just to hear the secret of the generator.

Ayn Rand tells us that both Galt and Daniels are selfish. How is this the case?

Edited by phibetakappa
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By what standard do you hold that something is innovative if it does not lead to profit? Such an idea would be judged to be wasteful if not worthless. If there ever were to be something like "free energy" (science fiction aside), the energy would need equipment to generate it, transport it, deliver it, maintain it, a social organization (companies) for formulating policy and organizing labor to produce the goods, etc. Each of these steps require profit, which means, in reality, there never will be "free energy". Perhaps cheaper energy, but lower prices for products happens in all industries that are innovative.

Exactly. One can make money during all phases of the development of the product.

If a product is something, it has to be applied and utilized by some method; this means there will be many opportunities to exploit the various markets that the new product gives rise to.

Just like any other product, profit is not an unlimited thing. As supply meets demand and/or as supply eventually becomes greater than demand the profit margin will shrink. Then investors will start looking for other places to invest there money. E.g., maybe in all the new gadgets, devices that can better utilize the new power source. Maybe the power delivery method can be improved. E.g., maybe data could be piggy backed on the the power system. Or maybe the voltage can be increased for the system.

But the supply will not instantly and effortlessly meet/exceed demand. Effort is required not only from the wholesaling side of the new energy vendor but from the distributor, consumer and all the secondary service markets that will be needed. E.g., repair services for new devices utilizing the new technology. In other words, there will be time and opportunity to make money on some aspect related to the new energy source.

Edited by phibetakappa
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I realize that O'ist ethics state that it is in ones interests and does not define what the interest is, but the context I gave was specific to Business.
If I understand that you mean by that, there is no such context. There is no context "business" that exists independent of "man" or for that matter "a specific man". When we speak of "context", we don't mean "pretending that there exists nothing else in the universe", we mean "paying attention in particular to this fact".

A Warren Buffett type businessman might well have no interest in a remarkable scientific and engineering achievement, since his only interest would be the acquisition of money, rather than the production of something. The interest would have to come from a man who recognizes the objective significance of such an invention. A scientist or engineer would obviously have selfish motivations for creating such a device; but he might have trouble finding someone to help him financially in reaching his goal.

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What would be the selfish motivation for producing a product based upon an innovative idea that would not lead to profit, but would lead to people everywhere having free access to unlimited energy?

In a Capitalist society, an inventor would benefit greatly from such a product, no matter what the specifics of it are. In a society where his invention would simply be stolen from him, I don't think it would ever be moral for a great man to dedicate his life to such a project, and give it to the masses, it certainly wouldn't be moral for businessmen to give away their wealth for it. Why would it be? (if anything, simply leaving that society would be pretty much the only moral option, just as Galt did, in AS)

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Concerning Tesla's technology in regard to your example. Tesla's towers could not be 'metered' and as such if one was in the vicinity of a tower they could theoretically tap power through an antenna from anywhere they so chose to any amount they so chose.

Solution: Don't charge for the energy (since it cannot be metered, by hypothesis). Instead sell or rent the antennas, complete with a maintenance warranty. A genuine Tesla Power Pickup, for a reasonable price. They would sell like Gillette ™ razor blades. Such items could be protected by patent law.

Bob Kolker

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Selfishness does not equate to taking a product to market and making money.

Selfishness merely defines the beneficiary of one's actions; it states that an action is done for one's own interest. It does not even define what is in one's interest. Defining what is and is not in one's interest is for the science of ethics.

Objectivism happens to prove that one's interest consists in the sustenance and/or the enhancement of one's life. In addition it proves that it is a contradiction to have someone other than one's self as the beneficiary of one's actions because such non-selfish actions, require that a person, chooses to use his mind to evaluate a certain object as a value, (i.e., for one's own life sustainance and/or enhancement;) then prepare a plan to obtain it, then execute that plan to produce the value; and then finally the contradiction of giving the object away rather than benefiting from its use.

Yeah.

I have known scientists that work in basic science, whose results may not be applicable or translatable to specific technological innovations during their lifetime.

They get a salary that keeps them alive and comfortable, although without luxuries.

They keep working as scientists because they like to use their mind. They have curious minds and have the urge to keep them active. They would not conceive a life without intelectual undertakings.

And they love applause, of course. THey like to be admired. When they get recognition in academic circles, and get their name publised in the major journals, or a lab or a prize named after them, they feel as if they had earned one million dollars.

The same could be said of philosohy teachers at universities...

Fulfillment and self-interest does not equal money necessarily.

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What would be the selfish motivation for producing a product based upon an innovative idea that would not lead to profit, but would lead to people everywhere having free access to unlimited energy?

I am aware that Tesla's theories were perhaps not 100% scientifically sound, but suppose for a moment that his theories were correct, what would be the selfish motivation for businesses to fund and achieve that end?

The only argument I can come up with myself is more Spinozian ethically than Objectivist.

What do you think?

Your question is arbitrary. Might as well beleive that unicorns are real and wishes always come true.

There is no such thing as free energy. Anything taken from nature, or generated from nature (following the laws of reality) requires effort. You need equipment to generate or harvest the energy and that equipment needs to be maintained. There can be cheaper energy, but never free of effort. Cheaper energy is definitely profitable, especially if you can produce it cheaper than your competitors.

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  • 1 month later...

I agree that there are some flaws with the hypothetical situation. For instance, it can never be completely free to pruduce the energy and there are always ways to make money from it. But to "play along," there are selfish motives for producing an energy for nothing and distributing it to people for nothing. It is an awesome engineering achievement worthy of pride. Also, imagine every store and industry operating without the cost of electricity? The overhead cost would go down and inevitably prices go down, which benefits you. And if for no other reason, at least you get free energy out of it :D

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  • 2 weeks later...
What would be the selfish motivation for producing a product based upon an innovative idea that would not lead to profit, but would lead to people everywhere having free access to unlimited energy?

I am aware that Tesla's theories were perhaps not 100% scientifically sound, but suppose for a moment that his theories were correct, what would be the selfish motivation for businesses to fund and achieve that end?

The only argument I can come up with myself is more Spinozian ethically than Objectivist.

What do you think?

The urge to see my pet theory proved correct is sufficiently selfish. Selfish does not necessarily equate to monetary or financial gain.

I record physics and math books for the blind and dyslexic. I do it as a volunteer. My selfish motives are:

1. If I ever need the service I will not come as an empty handed beggar man, if I ask for it.

2. Seeing an audio book with difficult material (equations and diagrams particularly) done right is a major motive for me. The perfection of the product moves me a great deal.

Here is a sample task. Do chapter 2 of Sean Carrol's -Space Time and Geometry- purely as a read-aloud. Not so easy, right? One has to be good at the task and that takes focus, concentration, attention to detail and the desire to turn out a grade A product. All of that are manifestations of the Ego. The only people who do the kind of stuff I do and do it well are very selfishly motivated.

Bob Kolker

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I'm not sure what your point is???

ARI is a non-profit and I see nothing wrong or contradictory about that.

I didnt say anything was "wrong or contradictory", what I did say is that its interesting (my opinion), and that it pertains to the topic (fact).

"What would be the selfish motivation for producing a product based upon an innovative idea that would not lead to profit, but would lead to people everywhere having free access to unlimited energy?"

substitute "information" where "energy" sits......

j.

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