Thursday, February 19, 2015

Synthetic Autarky : Patenting the Bomb

For centuries, nominal democracies like America and Britain have yearned to control a war-stopping super-weapon that will give them a patent monopoly against others' aggression.

A super-weapon that they alone control because they have (a) kept it top secret and (b) hold all the patents on it.

Gosh, we might just as well be talking about the actual A-Bomb !

Now the 'top secret' bit we get - totally.

But why then also seek patents over the atomic bomb's components and production as well ?

One might argue that as capitalistically minded people, the American elites knew that even in free market economies, patent holders were totally free to deny licenses to some firms or nations while offering them to others.

This would allow the iron fist of the new American totalitarian political cum military monopoly on this world-destroying atomic bomb to appear softened by the velvet glove of the traditional free market patent monopoly process.

This is part of the picture - true - but only part of it.

We might ask ourselves why were entrepreneurs, businesses and governments around the world so interested in all three forms of synthesis (chemical, physical and biological) in the heyday of the Modernity period ?

Philosophically, I might argue that we can't really invent anything physical that isn't also fully natural - we can only copyright ideas inside our heads that defy natural laws.

So if everything we synthesis is really a variant on already existing natural materials or processes - why bother ?

The publicly stated reason is that the newly synthesized variant has been made better, cheaper, faster.

The real - private - reason is that Mother Nature, is by definition, all PD (Public Domain).

Anyone and all nations can turn rubber tree sap into some sort of tire.

There is no way to create a cartel or monopoly on rubber plants for very long, because someone always ends up slipping out a few seeds or stems out past the national border guards and then starts growing rubber plants a continent away.

But Man-made synthesis allows firms (and above all nations) to erect patentable synthetic autarkical monopolies against other firms and nations and even against Mother Nature herself.

So, on the chemical front, German chemists avoided having to rely on overseas suppliers' natural guano to make fertilizer or explosives during WWI - inventing a synthetic way to fix nitrogen instead.

During the interwar years, these same chemists hoped to perfect methods to turn abundant German coal, water and air into synthetic rubber, petroleum, wood and steel substituting plastics, fabrics and medicines - the list of possibilities went on and on.

Equally hard at work on the biological front, German eugenic experts (and murderous dysgenic experts) were trying to convert the raw natural population of Germany into a synthetic Aryan race - pure, perfect, tough, resistant, resilient.

In the area of physics, German atom-smashers hoped to bust atoms of raw natural elements common in Germany into the atoms of scarce and precious elements not common in Germany.

If we forget the traditional view of a man-made patent as something that is invariantly made public when confirmed, and drill down deeper, we see it is just an inherent monopoly that needn't be made public at all.

Because when Mother Nature made rubber tree sap strong enough to work as tires, she did so world-wide : no monopoly is possible in her world as long as seeds exist along with the winds to blow them hither and yon.

But man-made objects can be synthesized inside tightly guarded buildings and kept under wraps far longer than wild rubber plants springing up here there and everywhere in tropical forests.

Man-made synthetics needn't make all the natural variants of natural materials : why bother to synthesize the body excretions of 149,999 species of beetles when only one beetle species actually produces a life-saving drug in those excretions ?

In fact, why bother keeping any of the 150,000 species of beetle alive, period, when they are only a competitor for raw materials human chemists need to synthesis some more scientific wonders ?

Why bother to live in open commensality with all the messy plentitude of Mother Nature's beings as they compete with us human synthesizers over the earth's scarce natural raw elements ?

Patentable synthetic autarkic monopoly (Modernity in a long phrase) is thus inherently plenticidal : it sees no real need for keeping anything around in the natural world beyond a few raw basic elements.

Above all, it will seek the single simple raw element required for atom-smashing-together nuclear fusion synthesis to work : basically just hydrogen.

Easy then to imagine some future modernity-oriented new human colony on some vast hydrogen gas planet.

Outside is nothing but this vast ball of natural hydrogen gas but inside the plastic bubble is a world of gaudy artificially coloured materials recreating a simulacrum of whatever the human mind and the human chemist can invent.

Too bad about the pesky gravity three times as strong as on Earth - but the DNA boffins are onto it - soon they will perfect a synthetic new body for all these former earthlings....

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