Tag: United States

The Origins of Science and the History of Science

This week we had Professor Elena Aronova come to Colby to speak about the history of science in the Soviet Union and the West. She talked about how the progress of scientific knowledge was immensely impacted by technology.  In the lecture, she first mentioned about the scientific revolution that took place in the 17th century. She also talked about how the Darwinism theory was not really about progress, but a change in science. She questions where did the historiography of science started, and she believes that it was modern history where science gains much of its momentum. Professor Elena Aronova believes that after the World War II that the progress of science has been growing exponentially.  She mentions that the acceleration in arts and science was in the 18th and 20th century, which is astounding because it is relatively recent to the broader spectrum of world history.

Professor Elena Aronova connects the scientific revolution with political revolution. In the Soviet Union, the main ideology is born which is Marxism and under this ideology the fraction the Bolshevik. The second International Congress of the History of Science and Technology was held in London in 1931. Soviet Union intellectuals related Isaac Newton’s science to the emergence of bourgeois capitalism in England. This caused a political upheaval during this time in Europe. Another scientific revolution that came out of the Soviet Union as the Vavilov scientific expedition where Nikolai Vavilov went to different countries to collect food products to improve agriculture, but he was later arrested because he was thought to be a British spy. During the Cold War, there was an exponential growth in information science and technology in the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union created an institute called the All-Union Institute of Scientific and Technical information. This was the start of the information revolution, and the All-Union Institute became a threat to the United States. During this time, United States were lagging behind in science.  However, in the end, United States won the space race, and for the better, the world has benefitted enormously from the Soviet Union and United States race for new scientific knowledge and technology. It seems as though competition between the two world superpowers at the time has driven the progress of new scientific knowledge and technology. The new technologies that came from the Cold War are the satellite, manned spaceflight, advances in computers, the programming language called BASIC needed for every personal computer, long distance calling, and DARPA the predecessor to the internet. Although there was much destructive warfare technology that has been created during this time, such as advancement in the nuclear program, long-range bomber, lasers, and intercontinental ballistic missiles, I believe the good outweighs the bad in this case. The technology like the satellite and the predecessors for computers and internet have been the bedrock of the information revolution we have today. There would be no personal computers or the internet, and nevertheless, cell phones if it weren’t for technologies like the satellite, the BASIC language, and DARPA. This technological competition between two superpower nations had some negative sides to it, but the benefits that came from innovations in technology has surpassed the negative impact of the Cold War.


Origins of Superheroes

This week we had, Professor Chris Gavaler from Washington and Lee University speak to us about the origins of superheroes. The origins of superheroes is a fascinating topic since American comic books and superheroes were essential to my early childhood development. The comic books I read were all about beings who had super abilities fighting villains, which I believe, subconsciously, embed a sense of duty to do social good in me. Frankly, serving the community with social good wasn’t the only thing I wanted to do, in my childish and naïve mind I thought I could develop superpowers within the boundaries of today’s science.

Professor Chris Gavaler’s book “Origins of Superheroes,” intertwined the ideas of eugenics, evolution, sports, and superheroes. Similar to the comic books I read during my childhood, in his book the superheroes he talks about are super beings who are good people that were providing outside justice for the society against villains. These super beings were thought to have very desirable traits and that these traits were only inheritable. This les to eugenics in the United States in the early 20th century.  Eugenics in the United States was led by wealthy Caucasians who believed that genetic quality of the human population would improve if they stopped reproduction of non-white children. People who led the eugenics in the United States believed white genes were superior and did not like the idea of diluting the white desired characteristics. The main idea that was widely accepted was that a superhuman would be created after generations of selective breeding. People believed that if they create superhuman, it will end all social problems like crime, poverty, epidemics, etc… Th.is idea of eugenics was more popularized in Nazi Germany when Hitler believed in the same ideology of superior Aryan race. Hitler wanted to make Europe with superior Aryan genes and thought eugenics would produce a pure Caucasian superhuman. Hitler believed that a new superhuman would bring greatness to Germany to the likes of ancient Greece and the Roman Empire, however through eugenics and human testing led to deaths of millions of people.

In the lecture, Professor Chris Gavaler also mentions that in the superhero universe superheroes share the same trait and the root of all other superheroes could stem from the first superhero. However, the first superhero isn’t the origin of superheroes since there are many different factors such as, cultures, religion, and eugenics that came before the first superhero. We can conclude that superheroes came from different cultures and religions from all around the world creating its own unique superhero culture.

It is not surprising people want to become extraordinary. It is human nature to become better in all aspects of life and wants change within oneself. However, eugenics or any form of testing on humans or any living thing which can lead to harm should be avoided. Today, there are many breakthroughs, in the biotechnology industry and in the fields of artificial intelligence and genetic manipulation which has promising results that can improve human traits. We should look to always progress but at the cost of negatively affecting others.

Optimism in Innovation

On October 24th lecturer professor Vittorio Loreto came to lecture about innovation. Loreto talked about how to calculate the rate of innovation. Loreto’s thoughts on innovation was that the rate of innovation was decreasing and that only reason why innovation is increasing today, is that today, many more people are trying to innovate. By Loreto’s research most people try to innovate by trying to predict the future, and most analyze historical data to predict the future like analyzing past weather patterns in trying to predict tomorrow’s weather. Loreto believes predicting patterns in this way is inaccurate and this is one of the reasons why he believes that the rate of innovation is decreasing. He uses examples of tech companies like Wikipedia, Twitter, Last.fm, and Github and that the innovation rate is decreasing. Loreto says that innovation is getting tougher because successful patents are getting increasingly prevalent, which in turn achieving monetary return more difficult. Loreto believes that competition is increasing, which is increasing innovation today but the rate of change in innovation is decreasing.


Loreto’s arguments can be disputed that tech companies like Twitter, Wikipedia, Last.fm, and GitHub have been all old established companies. One cannot expect the rate of innovation and growth for these companies to have similar growth rates during the earlier days of the companies. As companies mature their rate of growth decreases because they fully capture their market share. As the rate for growth for these companies decreases and becomes a mature company their innovation might be affected depending on their investment in R&D (research and development). Most mature companies want to please their investors, so they look to spend less on R&D and look to increase their EBITDA for short term gains. Therefore, reducing innovation for mature companies, however the increasing competition within these tech companies is what drives innovation and the tech companies looking to increase their earnings before innovation dies out. If we trace the innovations that happened in our lifetime, we see an extraordinary progress made in people’s standard of living which can be directly related to innovation and our economy. The DJIA was about 81 a century ago, and now it’s around 23,500 today and at the current rate it could reach to be over a 1 million in another century from now. U.S.’s GDP per capita more than quadrupled between 1941 and 2017. You don’t need to be an economist to see that the world is innovating. In America alone we see 75 million home owners, 260 million vehicles, hyper productive factories, smart phones, electric cars, and artificial intelligence all net gains for America starting out around 241 years ago from a land of nothingness. U.S. has amassed a wealth totaling 90 trillion dollars. I am using past data to predict future growth and innovation, which Loreto seems to disagree with.  However, it seems that I, and along with many investors, have been right when we predict the future growth of America’s economy will increase with using historical data of U.S. economy.


However, this is not only in America, but technological innovation has brought globalization which uplifted people in low-income classes all over the world dramatically in the last 20 to 30 years.  The rate of innovation in our lifetime we see that we went from very small number of people who had access to information, now we have virtually everyone having access to world’s information in their own language, and made more convenient by devices such as our tablets, smartphones, and etc.. The strongest argument can be made with Moore’s Law that there is growth in innovation. Moore’s Law states that our transistor densities doubles every two years, which means that price performance of our technology is improving by factor of 10 to 20 which is phenomenal. Not only are transistors getting better, but our fiber optics, semi-conductors, storage, and etc.. all integral part of today’s technology is improving dramatically every day and year after year. The world only recently witness an artificial intelligent computer program, AlphaGo beat the Korean go champion Lee Se Dol. This phenomenon itself is a proof that world is only getting better and innovation is continuing.


It seems very optimisitic that our world is continually innovating and the getting better. People’s lives today are so much better in terms of compared to people even 50 years ago. The innovation and economic growth led to a creation of very promising and successful world. It seems in the lecture Loreto doesn’t seem to connect how origins, chaos or order has anything to do with innovation or novelties, but nevertheless I’m confident that the world will continually find growth in innovation in the future.