This is part two of a three-part series. For part one, click here.
I and members of my family are minority investors in Dr. Kelly’s majority-owned company, fouRy LLC, or 4Ry. I have performed and will continue to perform, various services for 4Ry, for which I may be compensated. The opinions and analyses are mine alone. This blog post is neither a solicitation of investment nor an offer to sell securities. 4Ry is a Delaware Limited Liability Corporation and its trademark application is pending.
Dr. Kelly wisely realized he needed help on the business development side. David Bird has a BS and MS in mechanical engineering and control systems from UCLA and an MBA from Notre Dame. He’s a hybrid between business and science who both understands the technology and has the business experience necessary for its commercial implementation. He developed a network of contacts that got Kelly’s technology in front of people with technical expertise and clout within companies, academia, and the government.
Many of them have recognized the technology’s potential and moved forward with it. The STA is undergoing evaluation at several consumer product companies for personal-care spray applications. Industrial companies are looking at the STA for coating applications. Agricultural companies will test the STA for spraying pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides, as well as for foliar fertilization (fertilizing plants through their leaves rather than their roots). Nondisclosure agreements and other confidentiality considerations prevent listing other prospective users and uses.
Most technological advancement, as Thomas Edison noted, is far more about perspiration than inspiration. Innovation really happens after the “Eureka!” moment. The STA must be adapted for each particular application, then tested and further adapted. One exciting possibility for drones would be the application of pesticides. Using conventional pesticides is virtually impossible, because the pesticides and their containers, laden with water and propellants, are too heavy for drones. The STA eliminates the water and propellants and allows a much smaller container to be used. Drone operators can precisely target where drones spray. Using an STA, the spray would ground to the plants, not drift away on random air drafts. It would coat both the tops and undersides. Less pesticide would be required, and less would reach the earth and wash into water supplies.
This is an intriguing prospect, however, you don’t really know how things work until they’re tried out under real life conditions. Rutgers University’s engineering and agricultural departments are working together on field testing STA pesticide spraying from drones, generating data in a series of experiments that may last up to a year. Innovation requires persistence and patience as well as perspiration.
It also requires a degree of precision with which most people are wholly unacquainted. There is no room for “almost” or “close enough,” the usual slop factors. The dimensions of the inner mechanisms of the STA are measured in microns; time is measured in milliseconds. Adaptive adjustments are of corresponding magnitudes. The substances that pass through the sprayer must either be capable of carrying a charge or modified so that they can. Calibrations are exact, results painstakingly recorded, and outcomes described, analyzed, and replicated. Wishful thinking or unshakeable preconceptions would destroy the project; you must go where the facts, observation, evidence, and logic take you.
This is how science and technology work. Most people never stop and wonder at what went into the lights, televisions sets, computers, phones, toilets, microwaves ovens, dishwashers, automobiles, and all the other products of inventive minds they use everyday, or ponder what their lives would be without them. Invention is the essential cornerstone of economic progress, just as logic is the foundation of philosophy. Their union has lifted humanity from the caves.
As an investor in invention, I understand that the endeavor is fraught with business risks. There is a nontrivial possibility I’ll lose my investment. More worrisome than the business risks, however, is the intellectual, legal, and political assault on logic, invention, and honest enterprise, which will, unless stopped and reversed, return humanity to the caves, if humanity is fortunate enough to survive it.
The term “social sciences”—often derisively termed “soft sciences” by practitioners of the hard sciences—is actually a misnomer. It links the word science to decidedly unscientific endeavors, clashes of opinion that ignore facts and evidence, shun observation, and reject logic. Perhaps this would be acceptable if the anti-intellectuals could be confined to their own pretentious preening and groups. Unfortunately, they and their mentally stunted progeny have nothing but contempt, usually outright hatred, for those who have the required intellectual equipment to understand and deal with reality and are successful doing so. Like a horde of mosquitos carrying a deadly disease, these lethal pests are infecting everything from which they can draw blood, and left unchecked, will inexorably wipe out the host population. Unfortunately, even a container of pesticide equipped with Dr. Kelly’s sprayer can’t wipe them out.
One can pick from a number of reputable economics textbooks and business publications and never see the words “logic” or “invention,” the foundations of economic progress. Instead, they peddle the patently illogical: government spending and debt are the basis of prosperity; central banks swapping their fiat debt for governments’ fiat debt or other financial assets will create a tide of “wealth effects” that will lift all boats; debt-based speculation is equivalent to deferred consumption, saving, and investment; incomes can be raised by forcing employers to pay uneconomic wages; something can be had for nothing, and so on.
Some of the most pernicious bromides pertain to invention itself. Great ideas are supposedly a dime a dozen. If so, that values Dr. Kelly’s great ideas at less than one cent per idea. Truly great ideas are virtually priceless. Dr. Kelly has put forty years into ESD and STA, and he’s the first to admit that he has much more to learn, and that his inventions could stand further improvement. If even one or two of the potential applications pans out and 4Ry has a tenable business strategy, the value to its customers, employees, and owners will be enormous, measured in the billions of dollars. (Note I didn’t say “stakeholders,” a detestable term that supposedly gives all who claim it a “stake” in a company, justifying much nonsense and destructive intervention.)
If other great ideas are so common, where are they? The next “killer app” doesn’t qualify. We’ve been warned ad nauseam about global warming. Where are the non-fossil fuel power sources that will cool the planet and don’t require massive subsidies? California, beset by drought, sits next to the world’s largest body of water. Where is economic water desalination that would solve California’s—and everyone else’s—fresh water problems? Surely the technological solutions to these and many other pressing problems must by floating around among all those great less-than-a-penny ideas.
More evil than dime-a-dozen is the notion that invention requires no intellectual property protection, that inventors will just keep inventing because they like to invent, and humanity will be their beneficiaries. The most extreme form of this abomination holds that invention is public property. The person or persons directly responsible for an invention have no property right to it, but everyone else does. Promoted by those with nothing to contribute, this makes slaves of those who would contribute the most, a page straight out of Karl Marx and his intellectual descendant’s playbook. All those who support Dr. Kelly’s enslavement are invited to work without recompense in their chosen field of endeavor for the next forty years.
The public property advocates ignore the dearth of invention and innovation in those regimes that have put their ideas into practice, the strong correlation between the degree of intellectual property protection in a legal order and the prevalence of invention, and the intuitively obvious connection between the two. Of course, ignoring evidence, logical connections, and the obvious are cornerstones of what passes for their metaphysics, which renders them incapable of inventing anything. Ergo, the resort to theft.
Next, Part Three: One or the Other
A NOVEL SET IN THE MOST INVENTIVE PERIOD IN
HISTORY: THE INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION