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The Integrata Foundation: An Approach between Liberation and Alienation through Information Technology

Heilmann Dr. Wolfgang Heilmann is a German economist and honorary professor at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology . He studied economics and philosophy in Frankfurt and Tubingen, where he graduated with a degree in economics. Later on he received his doctorate with a thesis on “social utopias of the modern era” at Hans Peter .

For more details go to the end of article.   The concept of the Integrata Foundation for the Humane Use of Information Technology is expressed by its name. The humane use of information technology would pursue a course of action between the societal decoupling (liberation) and alienation caused by information technology, a tool that, in particular, should be used to attain additional benefits for society, i.e. more quality of life for every individual person and mankind as such. The objective of the Integrata Foundation is to contribute to this epochal social process of restoration for the benefit of mankind within the meaning of democratic humanism.

Foreword

This paper focuses on the humane use of information technology. The Integrata Foundation believes this technology, which is gaining a foothold in more and more areas of life, should be a tool for improving living conditions and proposes that this attribute be adopted in the decisions taken by the responsible persons in government, business and society. Humanization should take priority over rationalization and functionalization. What do we precisely mean by humane use of information technology? Naturally it concerns man; however, not so much as an individual as a citizen in today’s society. The state in its function as a democratically legitimized body binds the individual to society and provides the necessary infrastructure; accordingly it also plays an important part regarding the use of information technology. Consequently, we are addressing first and foremost responsible citizens in a democratic society as well as all persons who want to shape their lives and future in an information society. Bearing this in mind, we are concentrating on information technology. It played a decicsive part in developing the concept of our foundation and also encompasses communication technology which, in our understanding, comprises the methods and processes used for transmitting and exchanging information; and we attribute particular importance to this aspect. Nonetheless, a significant point is that we do not want to primarily concentrate on the engineering, the machines and devices, nor on the networks and services provided by telecommunication, but above all on the methods and processes used to apply them, i.e. the technology, which includes the engineering and organization, and all types of application systems and programs. This includes both the programs that are being used in millions of computers and in billions of test points and, hence, exert an influence on us as well as the myriad pro? grams broadcast by television and other media. In this connection, the question as to what use these programs have keeps coming up. As citizens we demand that this technology provide additional benefits to society. We are well aware of the additional economic benefits gained throughout 200 years of technical development: the enormous reduction in working hours and simultaneous increase in buying power made possible by the use of technology. In future, too, technology will have to ensure such development so as to secure an adequate standard of living for all people, or to create this for about two billion people. This is undoubtedly the most important task facing the world. Yet “man shall not live on bread alone”, as the prophets state in the Bible. We realize that not only material need has to be healed but ever more agonizing spiritual shallowness needs to be overcome. This is where information technology can serve its greatest purpose – the second most important task in our world so to say. It is here that we expect additional social benefits! What has information technology brought us in this respect up to now?

1. Decoupling through information technology Information and communication technology is an encompassing innovation bearing extensive consequences for individuals, business and society. We can say with certainty that industrial society was transformed into an information society within the span of several decades. This is particularly true for the wealthy western countries and so?called threshold countries. The developing countries will follow. This innovation process will transform them, too, sooner or later. Poor countries will turn into blooming areas of a humane world community, the people there will no longer suffer need and hardship, and they will mature into self?confident individuals. In the course of theoretical observation this development could be viewed as liberation from many of the evils in today’s world. Reality, however, presents a very different picture. When information technologies are set in the fore of consideration, it would be better to use the sociological term of decoupling. This refers to a process, in which the bonds between a system and its inner and outer surroundings are loosened, thereby increasing its scope of independence and autonomy. One needs to distinguish between different forms of decoupling (see also W. Heilmann: Telemedien und Soziale Prozesse, Thesen zur Informations-gesellschaft, inaugural lecture on 7 December 1999, University of Karlsruhe). 1.1 Through spatial decoupling, made possible in many jobs by information technology, tele-work, for example, has become standard in the meantime. Although it originally referred to a modern form of “work at home”, practically any type of office work now is a teleprocess between people and machines.

Through myriad combinations and types of functions of machines and processes, people working in neighboring offices mainly communicate by means of information technology and people located far away from one another work together as though they were in the same office. Distance no longer is an organizational obstacle: technology has become ubiquitary.

1.2 The ensuing independence of a certain place is augmented by the chronological decoupling made possible by teleprocesses, i.e. periods of time and points of time have gained greater independence. Studies have shown that people can divide their time more freely between work and leisure time. Moreover, the asynchronous functioning of many services and devices allow worldwide communication to be relatively independent of the time zones in which offices working together are located. In other words, one can affirm that information technology has helped modern man gain a certain sovereignty of place and time. In this respect, we have become more free.

1.3 A third dimension of decentralization, which bears considerably more liberation, is attained by the disciplinary decoupling that is connected to tele?processes. Although an employee who works at his computer at home or while traveling most likely is not doing this without some type of monitoring, he is relatively independent of his boss. Thus, the high degree of self?determination which people have achieved in their free time is transferred to working and business life. This disciplinary decoupling is supported by a series of significant developments on the labor market: part?time work and sabbaticals lessen the need for being present and new contractual relationships, such as free?lance work, are transforming the old employment contracts into agreements between two legally equal parties.

1.4 This statement does not say much about the economic or social status of the contracting partners; however, from a sociological point of view this is a considerably more far?reaching process of decoupling. Social decoupling, which we understand to refer to a loosening of the social ties between people and their social environment, goes far beyond anything that was possible in former times. Together with the spatial, chronological and disciplinary dimensions of decentralization mentioned above, man is gaining a previously unknown degree of independence and freedom through social decoupling. Does this mean that information technology brings liberation after all? Reality is nowhere close to that. Hence, Frank Schirrmacher, on the cover of his book “Payback”, actually poses the question: “Why are we forced to do what we don’t want to do in the age of information?”

2. Alienation through information technology As a matter of fact, the independence and freedom of the individual is not only guaran? teed but also threatened by information technology: • We are flooded with information. • We suffer cell phone terror. • We are bombarded by emails. • We are the victims of large?scale government surveillance. • We are being robbed and cheated through computer crime. • There is a need for education despite unprecedented educational opportunities. • Advertising lies and dulls the minds of consumers… If one takes these headlines seriously, one could gain the impression that man is in the process of sacrificing the ideal of a humane society to a powerful technology.

Who is to blame for this plight? The technology as such is neutral and can be put to good or bad use! Business practices should be scrutinized because they are mandated by people who should know better. And what about the government? The government is suffering shock from terrorism. Here, too, people carry responsibility. So, again it is ourselves we have to look to! But we – people as such – refuse to take any blame or, even worse, do not even notice any of this: even though it is we who write the programs that torture and manipulate us. “The most scary thing of all is man,” says the film expert Marcus Stiegler about the new fascination with horror in movies, comics and computer games. Do we still have sufficient control over our everyday lives? Or are we too dependent on the media, whose products blow us around like strong winds? In other words, information technology does not have only positive effects on our society, but also very alarming ones as well. As is true of any tool, computers, the internet and the media also have repercussions on the users; and, moreover, the more intensive the influence becomes, the more stronger the repercussion. From a certain point on, the mastery of man is reversed into servitude; a continuously accelerating process of alienation starts to take over. “Alienation” – as defined in German Wikipedia dated 13 December 2009 ? “is the socially advanced, irreversible process of the appropriation of nature as well as its material and spiritual transformation to culture, including the institutions, which seem heteronomous as soon as they dominate man and oppose man’s individual and collective wish? es.”

2.1 Examples from everyday life Some examples of information technology in everyday life will be given to substantiate and exemplify that alienation begins at the workplace, where we are told by a workflow or project management system what needs to be done. Many prefer this to being ordered around by a human boss. The consequences of this kind of organizational structure will soon become evident, i.e. because of the daily repetition we will have to repeatedly capture and process monitoring and control signals from more and more systems. Such impulses shape us the same way as the TV shows we watch every evening. Hence, Mathias Eckold, in the AULA show broadcast by WDR2 on 14 September 2008, which had the title “You will become what you watch…”, concludes: “We feel the power of the media even if we consider the ‘entertainment shows too stupid’, the ‘sports cover? age too extensive’, the ‘news too hungry for scandals’, and the ‘crime films too blood? thirsty’ … we are strongly influenced by them.” The power of the media will also be felt if one avoids TV and surfs in the Internet instead to gain information or education. The powerful search machines offer almost anything that man desires – also a remarkable and high?quality selection of education, art and science. Not everyone immediately finds what he is looking for or needs, but the systems are becoming better and more influential. Nonetheless, an increasingly critical awareness is growing in the general public. Hence the computer pioneer and professor of computer science, Dr. Maurer, criticizes Google “because it is expanding its opinion? forming power and gaining a monopoly by means of acquisitions”. It is offering information that more and more people are accepting uncritically, believing it to be true.

The ranking of the contributions is particularly problematic, especially when it is influenced by certain methods. The collection and evaluation of personal data is utterly unacceptable. The possibilities of misuse are obvious. In many other instances the general public is not yet aware of what has actually happened as a result of electronic media. This is so because the concrete manifestations of information and communication technology, which the citizens of our western, democratic world encounter every day, are changing our reality and, hence, also our view of reality. The reality experienced by our fathers was different from the “medial reality” known to our children. We are moving further and further away from the old world and are increasingly moving into the sphere of influence of all kinds of programs. Computers or information and communication technology affect our behavior, thinking and feeling so strongly that we find it hard to remain aware of our humanness, much less develop it further. We simply do not have time for this, and in the process, we are losing our sense of what is appropriate for us as humans and citizens. Through external control, commercial manipulation and exposure to a constant stream of media programs, we are becoming a program?controlled society in which individuals are more or less controlled by programs. And many are actually starting to think and act digitally. That’s the problem!

2.2 What the future holds in store “No, that’s not true!” many of us will say. “We are still the ones making the decisions and the computer is a stupid mathematical slave.” Norbert Hering, who spoke “about the limits of understanding between the brain and processor” at MEDICA MEDIA a couple of years ago (2002), affirms that the principle “Man in control” is still true. We would like to add: And that is how it should be! Only if this is true can we speak about humane use of information technology. Nevertheless – and we need to raise this question – aren’t there situations in which man would benefit significantly if the computer made decisions on the spot and without further inquiry, for example whenever security is concerned or utmost precision and very fast reactions are called for or in medicine? These kinds of situations will occur, but also some which would serve us less. “Cyber warfare”, the dilemma of modern warfare, probably is the worst thing that comes to mind in this respect. In this scenario not only a computer but a whole arsenal of digital tools and devices as well as complex information and communication networks would act for us. What worries us most of all, however, is the unbelievably fast interlinking of digital in? formation systems in the Internet. At first it was only an attempt at improving the ex? change of knowledge between scientists. This experiment was more successful than anticipated. Now the Internet consists of thousands of networks with millions of hubs (computers) that administer billions of websites. And this convolute is growing incessantly. It is preparing to gather the entire knowledge gained by mankind and to make it available for further use. Will we need to confront a giant brain similar to that de? scribed by Heinrich Hauser in his science?fiction novel more than 50 years ago? At any rate, it is doubtful whether it could be destroyed with the help of such simple creatures as ravenous ants.

Right now the system is still going through children’s diseases: one has to search for a while to find the information that generates knowledge (in man). Nonetheless, this – as such not intelligent – meta?brain is acquiring a body, which will be veritably omnipresent in a not so distant future. By this we mean the innumerable embedded systems that will soon be component parts of the objects we use in our daily lives, leading a more or less inconspicuous and informal life there. In connection with semantic systems, they will meter and report states, they will identify and communicate with us, and they will denounce us – not only to other people, but above all to machines and within the system network. Evidently a new species is developing, a species that at best may be indifferent towards life, but definitely not friendly: the digital species. Do we still have a chance of maintaining control of a centrally controlled computer network that computes, tests, makes decisions, reproduces itself and learns at the speed of light? Or will the digital principle triumph over the analog principle of life in the end? In other words, our considerations are not limited to the computer per se, but concern the age?old philosophical question as to man, his being and position in the world. In our times man’s position as creation’s crowning glory is being relativized. Man, the analog being, is facing the tool created by him; a tool that embodies possibilities far exceeding those of a “sorcerer’s apprentice”.

The digital omnipresence and productivity of this tool are becoming a global challenge. Will mankind be overcome by a malignant disease or simply be swept aside without protest? Will people remain masters of their life or will they be degraded to servants of digital control and surveillance systems, will they be? come strangers who do not see and much less understand, or want to understand, the whole? In this unavoidable dispute between man and computer, the Integrata Foundation takes the side of man. We do not want the hard?won freedom gained from natural and government forces in the course of many centuries to be lost to a tool. We want to live in a self?determined humane world in future.

2.3 Possible courses of action Yet who should, who can counter?act this development with even a bare chance of success? The ethical?moral standards are so high that no government institution can meet them. This can be expected even less from a commercial system; and religious institutions are out of the question for all the people who do not believe in God. Nonetheless, we would like to refer to the Global Ethic Declaration, initiated by the German theologian Hans Küng in 1993. According to German Wikipedia (18 September 2008), 6,500 persons from 125 regions and religious traditions participated. They agreed on four guiding principles, calling for a culture of non?violence, solidarity, tolerance and equal rights. Whereas one cannot but agree with these principles, they are far too elementary for the problems arising from information technology. Other people and associations, also such without any religious affiliation, are asking whether what is happening to us isn’t outside our power and decide – on the basis of fundamental considerations – to let it happen. After all, they assert, the use of modern technology, particularly in the field of information and communication, brings undisputable benefits not only to the commercial sector and government but also to every individual and all humankind. This opinion mainly is held by computer scientists and programmers, who deal with the instruments of information technology all the time. Internet professionals firmly believe that they have control over the medium, or they are so fascinated by it that they do not consider their dependence a problem but merely a bad habit. You can’t expect to be helped if you don’t see the problem. In contrast, the critical statement made recently by Frank Schirrmacher is very helpful. On the cover of his book, he points out that “a way out of the calculability of life and the threatening end of free will cannot be traced back to a refusal of technology but rather to a new way of thinking that reawakens man’s awareness of his strengths: creativity, tolerance and the ability to master unpredictable occurrences.” Nonetheless, it is doubtful whether the solution of our epochal socio-technical problem can be solved through an individual new way of thinking alone. The ideas and philosophy of the Transhumanists, by contrast, are too different from all that has been said. “Transhumanism” (Latin “trans” = beyond; Latin “humanus” = human) is a philosophical school of thought and active movement that advocates changing the human species through the use of technological methods. Its goal is to generally expand the limits of human possibility and, thus, improve the human condition in many different respects.

“Relevant technologies in this connection are, amongst others: nano-technology, genetic and bio-technology, bio?gerontology, cryonic and other bio?stasis technologies, cognitive sciences, information technology, artificial intelligence and up? loading consciousness into digital memories (German Wikipedia dated 17 December 2009). Even though Transhumanism pursues a similar goal as the Integrata Foundation, namely improving the human condition, and information technology definitely is one of the technologies with whose help this goal is pursued, we would like to point out that our focus is fundamentally different: the Transhumanists want to directly change man as a living being and, thus, improve his conditions of life. We, however, want to use technology to change the conditions of life and, thus, improve the life of man. We hope that this will also make people better. Obviously, the cultural and civilizational circumstances and values created by human activities are landmarks of an upwards development. Even the most dreadful destruction caused by wars and epidemics could not reverse this process – if one chooses a sufficiently long period of observation. Despite inconceivable human catastrophes and continuing significant differences between different regions of the world, we can assert that world culture today is better in terms of humaneness than any previous cultures known to us. However, civilization and culture did not develop linearly, there were bounds and surges.

The more significant the innovation was (hand?axe, plow, machine, computer), the greater the alienation from former conditions and the greater also the impulse for the spirit of mankind to create a new culture. Thus, alienation also can be a step towards more instead of less humaneness, and it is in this sense that we expect the alienation caused by information technology to lead to an epochal step forward for all world cultures. In the current phase of development we are still in the midst of generating IT innovations. But obvious faulty functions and defects of the system, which lead to disappointment, frustration and rejection among users are manifesting themselves. Thus, from the aspect of social politics, it is important that more and more critical voices pointing out the critical developments speak up. Yet, we must not only criticize technology, even if this already would be a form of social criticism. We must go beyond that stage and develop solutions to guide the developments in the correct and desired direction. This calls for tremendous efforts. Cultures that simply accepted results of alienation declined, were assimilated or simply perished. Since Arnold Toynbee’s “Challenge and Response”, we know that only those societies that face challenges and find solutions will give birth to a new civilization, a new culture.

The search for valid rules for dealing with alienation caused by information technology is primarily the responsibility of scientists, sociologists, psychologists, computer scientists and all those who in one way or another are professional users of information technology. Yet, what is being discussed in this paper is not only a concern of researchers. Since we are all more or less intensive users of information technology, this concerns all of us and we should all make a contribution. Followers won’t help us on, we need social politicians who will devise solutions now. The forces in society have to decide and act now. And we need practical examples for this as well as scientifically founded, pragmatic knowledge, we need the courage to make judgements and – as demanded by Popper – the courage to stand up for them. Bearing this in mind, our demand for a humane use of information technology is a call to everyone to participate in social synthesis. Efforts limited to individuals or small, widely dispersed groups are doomed to fail because of the comprehensive character of the threat of alienation. If we want the process of humanization to continue, we have to work together and act for the benefit of a democratic humanism.

3. Humane use of information technology The Integrata Foundation, in the spirit of such democratic humanism, campaigns for using information technology not only for rationalizing and functionalizing processes of life and work, but also for improving the quality of life of as many people as possible in all regions of the world. In this sense, it is first and foremost “socially” oriented, and technically oriented to a lesser extent. The necessary social synthesis means that we must act. We should all act like Jiu?Jitsu fighters, who absorb the strength of their opponent, bind it with their own strength and then force the opponent to his knees. Information technology must be willfully used as a tool, with which the world can be made more humane, both on a large and small scale. Our concrete goal can be summarized as follows:

3.1 More quality of life through information technology! The call for more quality of life forms the core of the foundation’s purpose. It is to be achieved by systematically using the possibilities offered by information technology. This task is primarily the responsibility of professionals working in the many fields of application as well as computer scientists and programmers, in other words anyone who organizes the use of information technology. Basically, they derive their specific tasks from their professions, which may be in businesses, scientific institutions or social organizations. Thus, we have a diverse and colorful setting, in which the pursuit of more quality of life isn’t coming into its own. Consequently, this situation is to be shifted towards a more humane form of information technology. For this reason it is necessary to highlight the fields of application which characterize the conditions of life in our society and, accordingly, to determine where it would be best to initiate improvements. The question as to a definition of humane is not posed in an absolute but only in a relative sense, as an alternative. This pragmatic way of proceeding is very old, perhaps as old as mankind itself. We looked for alternatives for our time and, using the highly complex term of “quality of life” as a framework, drew up the following list of ten issues, which we believe could and need to be improved at the present time. Thus, the ten is? sues devolve into ten criteria of quality of life: 1. Conserving and restoring physical and spiritual health.

2. Preserving inner and outer security, while protecting the freedom and dignity of man.

3. Creating and safeguarding freedom of movement and humane traffic conditions to ensure personal encounters.

4. Rebuilding the trust between communication partners by appropriate information and free communication.

5. Opening up the access to education and job training based on an individual’s abilities and, at the same time, also ensuring the ideological neutrality of educational institutions and entertainment.

6. Creating employment opportunities and possibilities to earn a living which are tailored to people and available in sufficient number and quality so as to promote common welfare and prosperity for everyone.

7. Developing information technology further so that it can be used as a helpful leadership by people of people in business and society.

8. Promoting the participation of citizens in public opinion?making and forming the community in such a way that freedom, order and justice are equally balanced.

9. Protecting nature and the environment against overexploitation and destruction, and promoting natural processes for the benefit of future generations. 10. Overcoming the lack of meaning and time of modern man and finding a dignified form of life with leisure for culture and religion.

3.2 The HumaniThesia portal

The HumaniThesia portal, which is still under construction, will be dedicated to research and presentation of the whole scope of topics related to the humane use of information technology. It will be open to users without any charge as soon as an internal pilot project has been completed. The central focus of the portal will be the ten criteria of quality of life. A forum will be set up for each cluster of topics, where the respective criterion can be discussed. The discussions will be open to all participants, amongst these also the Integrata Foundation. Depending on the intensity and productiveness of the discussions, interim results will be formulated and stored as such in the “Arguments” block of the portal by an editor (see Figure below)

 

Schematic HumanIThesia2

 

In addition, the “Arguments” block will provide relevant articles, contributions, manuscripts of lectures and other publications or links to such sources of information, and it will be built up like a reference work. It will also contain ethical?moral assessments, maxims, manifests and – vice-versa – critical contributions about the humane use of in? formation technology. We ascribe special importance to the “Examples” block, which will include practical proposals for improving the conditions of life with information technology as well as visions and concepts, projects, application examples and other relevant works, such as screenplays and TV spots that look into the subject critically. The “Teaching Texts and Compendia” make up a third block of information that will be made available to the public. These are teaching materials and web?based training modules on the core questions regarding the humane use of information technology. A glossary explaining the terms used in the portal, in particular the technical terms used by the Integrata Foundation, and a list of relevant literature will round off the portal. (Please see also: W. Heilmann. “HumaniThesia. Konzept eines Internet-Portals zur humanen Nutzung der Informationstechnologie.” www.humanithesia.org.) It is hoped that the HumaniThesia portal will become a center for discussing and implementing trend-setting examples of the humane use of information technology in the near future. The best proposals will be awarded the Wolfgang Heilmann Prize, which already has been granted ten times.

3.3 The Wolfgang Heilmann Prize Every year the Integrata Foundation awards the Wolfgang Heilmann Prize, named for the founder, to outstanding work that describes how modern control technology can be implemented to generate humane forms of work and employment, that significantly contributes to improving the conditions of life and promises to lead to a better quality of life. Pragmatic factors are at the foreground of the foundation’s considerations, i.e. it honors works that put forth conceptual proposals over and beyond the progress of knowledge. Such works can take the form of scientific contributions, project descriptions and other texts as well as screenplays. However, grand schemes are given lower ratings than concrete projects or best?practice presentations, because the latter are more likely to change our world, even if only in small details. It goes without saying that far reaching and concrete concepts are particularly prize?worthy. Since the establishment of the Integrata Foundation in 1999, the following topics have been announced and honored with prizes. For more detailed information about the prize?winners and their work, please go to www.integrata-stiftung.de/Preis. 1999: Tele-Services: Tele?cooperation, electronic commerce 2000: Tele-Learning: Job training and further training in a networked world 2001: Knowledge management as a contribution to the humane use of information technology 2002: Tele-Medicine: The humane use of information technology in medicine 2003: Tele-Management: Management in virtual organizations 2004/5: De-congestion of traffic through telematics and tele-cooperation 2005/6: More humane use of communication technology 2006/7: Security, information and media competence 2007/8: Citizen?centered applications of information and communication technologies 2009/10: More quality of life through information technology The prize is endowed with Euro 10,000.00 and can be divided among up to three prize? winners. A jury made up of experts from science, business and society chooses the winner. Decisions taken by the jury are final and cannot be contested. The members of the jury sit on the panel voluntarily. Up until now, the prize?worthy works were found after publication of a corresponding announcement. After the HumaniThesia portal is launched, the proposals submitted there will be included in the selection process. This means that every outstanding proposal published in the portal during a year has a chance of receiving the prize. In this way, we hope to offer an incentive to people, above all young people, and to win them over for the ideas promulgated by the foundation. The conflict between man and computer as well as the spiritual struggle for a more humane world must be borne by all social forces together. This will only prove successful in the long run if every new generation puts forth its ideas. It remains to be hoped that very many people from all areas of life, young and old, will take part in the HumaniThesia portal and help guide the development of information technology in the right direction – for the well?being of every individual person and mankind as a species.

The goal of the foundation is not to conserve the ash but to pass on the fire of humanity.

Bibliography Heilmann, Wolfgang. “Telemedien und soziale Prozesse, Thesen zur Informationsgesell? schaft.” Inaugural lecture, University of Karlsruhe, 7 December 1999. Hering, Norbert. “Über die Grenzen des Verstehens zwischen Gehirn und Prozessor.” Lecture, MEDICA MEDIA, Düsseldorf, 20 November 2002. Schirrmacher, Frank. Payback, 1st edition,

About the Author Dr. Wolfgang Heilmann is a German economist and honorary professor at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology . He studied economics and philosophy in Frankfurt and Tubingen, where he graduated with a degree in economics. Later on he received his doctorate with a thesis on “social utopias of the modern era” at Hans Peter . After working for IBM and in the engineering industry Heilmann founded the initially constructed as a “joint venture for integrated data processing” Integrata who converted in 1989 into a corporation. For the following ten years Dr. Heilmann served as corporation’s chief executive officer. In recognition of his business and social merits Heilmann 1995, the Federal Cross of Merit on Ribbon awarded. Dr. Heilmann is the founder of  Integrata Foundation for Humane Use of Information Technology, which has set itself the goal of improving the quality of life of all people through the use of information technology. The Foundation awards the Wolfgang Heilmann Prize for outstanding proposals for improving the use of computers in society.

BUSINESS AND SOCIETY

Dr. V.E.”Bill” Haloulakos is an AIAA National Distinguished Lecturer and a contibutor to The Business Thinker

Business and modern society are inseparable.

Business causes society to become organized, educated and civilized.

A modern society cannot exist without a business activity as a partner.

American society was built on and by business.

That’s the primary reason that the country progressed so fast to become the superpower that it is. The benefits to the world that originated in the United States are beyond measure. Its business innovations have created many industries whose products are helping the entire world. The technology spin offs from the American space program have changed and are still changing the world and our lives.  Most notably, American Agriculture has saved millions of people from famine. Former Soviet leader Nikita Krushchev went to his grave still thinking, talking about and admiring the Iowa cornfields!

 

EARLY HISTORY

Business and society have been interwoven with one another since the beginning of recorded human history. Obviously business needs society for it needs customers. Similarly society needs business for its products and services it provides as well as the organizational structure that assures a smooth operation. Society has existed from the inception of humans on earth and it is constantly and continuously evolving. At first it consisted of the family unit then it transformed into the tribal unit, then into groups of tribes, nations, empires, etc. From the early beginnings the need to trade and exchange goods and services between the various society groups started an activity that eventually led to the concept of business. It became apparent that individuals and small groups could not efficiently produce all the goods and services on their own and found it more convenient or economical to turn to others for some of their needs and “these others” would likewise get some of their needs fulfilled by this mutual exchange of goods and services. Originally this was in the form of barter trade but as the time progressed money was invented and from then on the concept of business sort of came on its own and this interweaving of business and society took a new form.

The earliest humans were hunters and foragers but as times passed they became agriculturalists and farmers, thus growing their own food by cultivating the earth and domesticating animals to help them in their farming tasks and transportation of products plus also providing for their own meat needs. Then the next advancement came in the form of tools, such as plows and improved hunting weapons. One major advance came with the building of water sailing vessels and eventually larger ships with which they were able to navigate the seas and the oceans. With sea-going ability one sees the building of significant trade and the creation of empires. The Phoenicians and later the Greeks, primarily the Athenians, were able to spread their influence in the Mediterranean World and even beyond the Pillars of Hercules, today’s Straights of Gibraltar, into the Atlantic Ocean. With all this trading capability new products were found in far away places and were transported into major population centers and from there, in order to facilitate their flow from the harbors to the consumers, the concept of the middleman shopkeeper/trader was generated. Thus, the idea of handling products by buying and selling them at a profit started becoming more and more widespread which eventually became the modern business enterprise.

SEAFARING BUSINESS NATIONS

With the expansion of seafaring trade, nations and states that actively engaged in it prospered and became very influential in human history. Even small city-states, like Venice, became strong and prosperous simply by their seafaring trade. Later on we see the expansion of colonial states the likes of Spain, Portugal, France, the Netherlands and Great Britain. All these states left their indelible mark in the world, which is ubiquitous to this day. It stands to reason, therefore, to promote such society/business community interrelationship for it improves the life of the people. It was in the western world, primarily Britain, where the industrial revolution occurred that resulted in the extraordinarily spectacular creation of wealth and the improvement of the life of all humanity. In fact this led to the most humane system business/society relationship where many millions of persons were enriched and it also resulted in the formation of the greatest system of true philanthropy known as Capitalism.

Yes, Modern-Day Responsible Capitalism is the best example of true philanthropy.

It creates an environment of economic progress and free enterprise which allows individuals to improve themselves, provides employment for many people, who in turn improve their lot and that of their families, expands wealth, which then provides opportunity for all, including for the “not so entrepreneurial” individuals as well.

It’s worth noting here how quickly a nation that withdrew from its maritime ventures lost its superior standing. This was China, when in the late 1300s and early 1400s had a fleet of over 400 ocean-going vessels that routinely navigated the world’s oceans and according to the book “1421” by Gavin Menzies, William Morrow, 2002, as well as the 1990 NASA Space Exploration Initiative (SEI) report to President Geo. H. W. Bush, they had circumnavigated the Globe and had also made stops along the coasts of what is now the United States. They used to routinely go around the Cape of Good Hope and up the west coast of Africa. But there was unrest back home in China. People would protest the expenditure of the national wealth to such far away places while there were so many poor to feed at home and they recalled the fleet back to port and in 1432, i.e. 60 years before Christopher Columbus’ voyage, they burned the entire fleet to the water line! NOW WE KNOW THE REST OF THE STORY!

Would the world today be different if a Chinese fleet had sailed into Palos de Frontera in 1492, instead of Columbus sailing out?

 

BUSINESS AND SOCIETY IN THE US 

The United States (US) from its very inception and formation recognized the value of maritime activity and seafaring capabilities. One should not forget that it was the new US nation with its meager navy, at the direction of President Thomas Jefferson, in the early 1800s that undertook the task of confronting and successfully fighting the Barbary Coast, i.e. North African Moslem, pirates while the “sophisticated and smart” Europeans were paying ransom to them. That also happens to be the origin of the US Marines’ hymn

“… to the shores of Tripoli…” It was this American intervention that ended that piracy practice back then which had been thriving for many years, very similar to what’s happening today off the coast of Somalia. One would then think that what we may need today is a Jefferson-like president to resolve the Somalia piracy scourge.

By the way, we can mention here that the Barbary pirates were one of the main contributing factors in the US’ abandonment of the Articles of Confederation and the adoption of the Constitution with a strong central government that enabled the president to operate and mobilize a real Navy to far away places, such as the Mediterranean Sea. Our “good friends” the British, with their formidable navy, they would protect the sea-lanes from the pirates, but they would not extend their protection to the US shipping.

(See “Our Oldest Enemy: A History of America’s Disastrous Relationship with France” by John J. Miller).

The US Revolutionary War against Britain, “THE MOTHER COUNTRY”, was fought over the issues of taxation without representation, a truly money and business issue, and it was over the moment the issue was settled and the new Nation was formed. The US was founded on the basis of free business enterprise unencumbered by government interference and regulations and that’s the main reason for its rapid and tremendous growth. It was that free business spirit that triggered the westward movement that helped spread the 13 original colonies to a nation spreading “from sea to shining sea” in less than 75 years! The idea of American Society and Business being interrelated can perhaps best be accented by the famous saying of  “The Business of America IS Business” by US President Calvin Coolidge. The idea of free and unimpeded free trade was one of the very fundamental principles of the new American nation. From the very early days of the John Adams and the Thomas Jefferson presidencies special efforts were made to secure the free flow of traffic in the nation’s waterways, This was especially true for the Mississippi river and the access to the port of New Orleans, as it again reverted from Spain back to France during the Napoleonic years in 1800. As a matter of fact President Jefferson sent Robert Livingston and James Monroe to France to discuss the accessibility to the port of New Orleans with Napoleon, which resulted in the unbelievable LOUISIANA PURCHASE, thus doubling the size of the United States and also, following the Lewis and Clarke expedition, sparking the westward expansion to the Pacific Ocean. As the multitude of migrants, first initiated by the Mountain Men, moved westward communities were established on the basis of economic principles, i.e. communities were economically viable quite often by the discovery of mines or the establishment of trading posts. It should be noted that when mining became economically unattractive, usually by the exhaustion of the mined ores, many of these communities were abandoned and eventually became “ghost towns”. It was the economic viability of the area that determined whether a settlement continued its existence or it was abandoned. Here we should note an observation made by an American survey group that visited Siberia in the early 1990s, following the collapse of the Soviet Union, to assess its state of underdevelopment. They said that “Siberia was not underdeveloped, it was mis-developed”! The point being that Siberian settlements were primarily or exclusively were determined by the central government authorities of  St. Petersburg and/or Moscow from the days of the Tsars through the Communist Soviet Regime.

One of the noted developments in the American West was the discovery of gold and the ensuing “Gold Rush” in California. People looking for riches came from all over the world, among them the later famous archeologist and excavator of historic Troy Henry Schliemann, boosting the population by 410% between 1850 and 1860, thus enabling it to join the United States as a state without the requirement of an intermediate territorial status. The discovery of gold and the ensuing statehood gave California its state seal composed of the Archimedean EUREKA and Goddess Athena who, according to the ancient Greek legend, was born as an adult. They say that became possible by the application of “the alternate version of the Golden Rule ‘he who has the gold makes the rules’.

Business requires organization and commitment. Hence it causes society to also organize and become civilized. People become producers and learn to care for each other. The great American business tycoons, the likes of oilman John D. Rockefeller (the original), steel magnet Andrew Carnegie, automaker (the original) Henry Ford, aviator pioneer Howard Hughes, to just mention a few, established huge business enterprises and in the process of enriching themselves they also enriched millions of others and also created everlasting educational and philanthropic institutions that continue to thrive and benefit mankind to this day. They were very much aware that they could not accomplish their goals alone but needed the help of millions of others, hence the enrichment of all these “others”. Besides they had numerous spin effects that usually go unrecognized. Case in point, how often does one hear how the “original” John D. Rockefeller saved the whales from extinction?

He did so by producing, refining and marketing petroleum products that ended up being used to light the household lamps, which up to then were using whale oil with the whales being hunted almost to the point of becoming extinct! Thus, use of whale oil became economically noncompetitive and their hunting ceased or was substantially reduced.

The next significant event, other than the US Civil War, was the Golden Spike at the Utah Promontory Point where the east-west railroads met on May 4, 1869. From then on, westward moving pioneers did not need to walk across the prairies, they simply rode the trains. This substantially increased the population, and formed major cities across the land. Business of all kinds, mining, agriculture, ranching and manufacturing literally exploded and the export trade to other lands flourished. In Northern New England ice farms were created where the ice was plowed, to get it into manageable chunks, and were shipped to far away places before the days of mechanical refrigeration. Apple growers in the state of Washington expanded their orchards and their apple production because they could export them to far away places. The results of all this expanded business activity enriched many people and helped create a more prosperous civilized society.

One could not help but wonder as to why, although free-market capitalism has helped the world so much and it has elevated the standard of living of all people, it still does not enjoy the good name it so naturally deserves but it is referred to by many people with disdain. The opinion of this writer here is that business people are very busy doing and producing and do not have the time to hit the streets with protests.

 

CLOSURE AND COMMENTS 

The American Society was formed and organized on the basis of the work ethic and strong religious roots. All of the top private universities were founded by religious orders, quite often as schools on theology. Harvard University, for example, established in 1636, although not officially associated with a church, it primarily trained Congregational and Unitarian clergy. Likewise, Yale University as well was originally chartered as the “Collegiate School” by 17th century clergymen who sought to establish a college to train clergy. Similar stories can be told about other universities, e.g. the University of Southern California founded in 1880 by the Methodist Church. The fact that these institutions of higher learning have become secular and continue to flourish bespeaks of the dynamism and the wisdom the founding business principles and spirit. It should also be noted that all these schools make it a point to have very large endowments, i.e., money.

The phenomenal growth experienced by the westward movement of the American pioneers can only be attributed to the free enterprise business spirit and its integration into the society. Self-governing communities were established with their own local legal authorities, locally controlled schools and so on. This rather unique phenomenon caused the French nobleman Alexis de Tocqueville, who was originally sent to study the American prisons, to write his famous book Democracy in America where among many other comments he exclaimed, “these people do not need an elite to govern them… Just imagine that these ordinary people organize and run their own legal and educational systems…” The common thread uniting all these new communities was that the settlers owed allegiance to the United States of America. There were few exceptions to this, such as Brigham Young’s Mormons, who originally considered themselves as independent and were busy establishing their independent country of Deseret, came around into becoming the state of Utah part of the United States.