Reimagining Tesla’s Creativity through Technomimicry
TRANSCEND MEMBERS, 22 Sep 2014
Psychosocial Empowerment by Imagining Charged Conditions Otherwise
There is always the possibility that the future will reframe the renowned creative thinking of Nikola Tesla as “wrong” in a way strange to understanding at the present time. This is a speculative exploration of the possible nature of such a reframing — one in which Tesla is then understood to have been paradoxically both “wrong” and “right”, and necessarily so.
The acknowledged focus of Tesla’s work was on electromagnetism — more specifically on electricity. He was granted some 300 patents as a consequence of his inventions (List of Nikola Tesla patents). Many inventions were not put into patent protection. His work was central to the emergence of electrical power systems as currently known worldwide, as variously appreciated (Robert Lomas, The Man Who Invented the Twentieth Century: Nikola Tesla, forgotten genius of electricity, 1999).
For the purpose of this exercise, his unusual creativity is understood as being with respect to the handling of positively or negatively charged conditions. These are interpreted generically here rather than solely with respect to electromagnetism. His genius is known to have derived in part from his unusual capacity to imagine models and run them as simulations — mentally — without any need to articulate them in conventional design plans and test prototypes.
The possibility to be explored here is whether he was “wrong” in his focus on the material manifestation of his inventions in patents — as exemplifying and justifying his inventiveness. This had as a notable consequence the competitive outcomes with respect to intellectual property which marked his life. Those manifestations can indeed be considered an indicator that he was “right” — as the operability of his inventions makes evident.
However the question here is whether the future will consider that he was significantly “wrong” in that it was his own imaginative capacity and processes which were indicative of the longer term relevance of a neglected implication of his insight. It was indeed the patterns of his thinking that he was able to transform into working physical models. However the physical models were thus indicative of a subtler focus whose wider and more generic implications he effectively neglected — and which have been neglected in subsequent appreciation of what he exemplified.
The potential of those patterns — as articulated and tested with respect to patterns in “external” material form — thus derive from “internal” patterns of thinking. Such a possibility has been extensively argued, from a cognitive psychological perspective with respect to mathematics more generally, by George Lakoff and Rafael Nuñez (Where Mathematics Comes From: how the embodied mind brings mathematics into being, 2001).
There is a very extensive literature on Tesla, both of a biographical nature and focused on his inventions. One characteristic of that literature is concern for missing documents, their secretive appropriation by various intelligence services and defence agencies, and the development of his insights for military and related purposes.
However the concern here is not with the many conspiracy theories with which Tesla’s name is associated, notably those relating to the HAARP facility and to directed-energy weaponry. Rather the focus is on how Tesla’s thinking could prove suggestive of new approaches to individual and collective creativity in a global society — now increasingly characterized by evermore shambolic strategic governance. This contrasts with the enthusiasm of some for his focus on unlimited energy. Ironically the military applications do however reflect a very particular insight into globality offering a potentially valuable metaphor for understandings of psychosocial globality.
This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 22 Sep 2014.
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