Electrical Transformer Utilitiy Haus
Design by: Rudolf Steiner, Dornach.
what the times entail
A wakeup call to Artists, Luddites, and other Technophobes.
---| two ways to proceed |---
When as human beings today we consider what should happen in the social
sphere or in any other field, there are two ways of doing this.
We can construct a programme, form programmatic concepts, and think out
how the world should develop in a certain area. We can present this in
beautiful sounding words. We can swear by these words and take them as
dogmas--but nothing will result from them, nothing at all! We can have the
most beautiful ideas about what ought to happen, but nothing will come of
them. For ideas, however beautiful, need not result in anything. In fact,
contrived programmes are the most worthless things in life.
But there is another way of proceeding. We can do something in contrast to
this programmatic approach, and many people achieve it without any special
clairvoyance. Out of a naive intuitive knowledge of the condition of the
times, can we simply ask ourselves what is bound to happen in the next
twenty or thirty years? What in our time wishes to become reality? Then,
once we have discovered what will inevitably happen, we can say to
ourselves: 'Now we must choose. We can either come to our senses and guide
the course of events in the direction they must inevitably take--in which
case matters will turn out well; or we can fail to do this and allow
matters to run their course--in which case we are asleep, simply not
awake. And then the course of events will be brought about by
'catastrophes'. In that case, revolutions, cataclysms, and so forth will
follow. No statistics, no programmes, however well thought out, are of any
value. The only thing of value is observation of what the times engender.
What the times engender must be taken up, must be penetrated: the
intentions of the present time must be governed by this.
(Rudolf Steiner, The Mission of the Archangel Michael,
pp. 133-54*, Münich, February 17, 1918).
---| the current rate of change |---
At the end of 1969, the Arpanet ... consisted of four host computers.
At its current growth rate (69 new hosts added each minute), the Internet
will comprise a Billion hosts by 2005.
(IEEE Spectrum, Jan 2001, p.31) §
---| machines, population, and labour |---
If anyone asks you how many people live on earth today, you would probably
answer 150 million people, wouldn't you? But this would mean that the
total labour possible on earth is equal to that carried out by these 150
million people. This is not the case! Because since the start of the 5th
post-Atlantian era [i.e. from Greco-Roman times], one has to take into
account the labour or an additional 500 million people. This is due to the
machines. If all labour was to be carried out by humans, we would need 500
million more people to accomplish the task.
As you can see, manual labour has somehow been replaced here on earth.
There is something that acts like humans, but is not of flesh and blood.
This fact is related to deeper layers of what shapes our current times...
In this way, we can on the one hand see the new revelation as a necessity
for developing clairvoyance. On the other hand we have, somehow rising
from the sub-earthly, an embodiment for the opponents of this new
revelation. These do not manifest themselves through flesh and blood, but
are still in our midst as we replace human abilities with mechanical
(Rudolf Steiner, Die Soziale Grundforderung unserer Zeit - In geänderter
Zeitlage, GA 186, Dornach Dec. 20, 1918)
Nothing can be more evident than the immense importance of the part
directly played by technical science in economic affairs. One example, a
really typical one, may be given here. By multiplying machines, technical
science has, to put it in a few words, succeeded in providing commodities
for public consumption and to the existence of this machinery is entirely
due the fact that from four hundred to five hundred millions of tons of
coal were brought to the surface per annum for industrial purposes before
the War. Now if one calculates the amount of economic energy and power
required by those machines, which are entirely the result of human thought
and can only be worked by human thought, the following interesting result
is arrived at. If we reckon an eight-hour day, we get the startling result
that by these machines, i.e. through the human thought incorporated in the
machines, through the inventive gift of the mind, as much energy and
working force are used as could be produced by seven to eight hundred
millions of men!
Hence, if you picture to yourself that the earth has a working population
of about 1500 million men, it has gained, by the inventive genius of human
beings in the recent periods of modern civilization, seven hundred to
eight hundred millions more. Therefore, two thousand millions of human
beings work, that is to say, the seven to eight hundred millions do not
themselves actually work, but the machines work for them. What works in
these machines? The human intellect.
It is of the utmost significance that facts like these, which might easily
be multiplied, should be grasped. For they show that technical science
cannot be treated with indifference and lightly put aside; but that it
cooperates actively and ceaselessly in industrial life and is inseparable
from it. Modern economic life is altogether unthinkable without the basis
of modern technical science and without special knowledge and expert
(Steiner, The Social Future, Lecture 2, October 25, 1919, GA0332a)
The machine does not isolate man from the great problems
of nature but plunges him more deeply into them.
(Antoine De Saint-Exupery)
---| implanting of machine forces into humans |---
Man will, in time, manage to implant the death-forces in man, related to
electrical and magnetic forces, with external machines. He will then be
able to direct his intentions, his thoughts into the machine.
(Rudolf Steiner, Individuelle Geistwesen und einheitlicher
Weltengrund, November 25, 1917, Dornach)
[this has already occured. it was on the front cover
of January 2001 WIRED magazine. --ed]
---| the passing away of handwriting and culture |---
The future presents itself from two sides. From a dying, increasingly
materialistic side, but also from the other, the unfolding of a new
spiritual world, not only in theory... but in our very lives. Therefore,
use what will be said here as a preparation for what is bound to come.
Have no illusions about the future. Neither should we have any illusions
when looking at where our culture will lead us with regards to the use of
handwriting. In the future one will speak of handwriting in the same
manner as we today speak of the Egyptians' hieroglyphs. There still exist
fragments of a spiritual culture, there is still a certain spiritual
expression in our handwriting. But soon every trace of anything spiritual
will be void in our external culture, just as the Egyptian culture has
disappeared... The same mouth that once will proclaim that there once
existed such a thing as human handwriting, will also proclaim, from a
spiritual conviction, that Christ lives in the midst of mankind.
(Rudolf Steiner, Der Weg des Christus durch die Jahrhunderte.
Gehalten am Oktober 14, 1913, GA 152)
---| should we resist technology? |---
It would be the worst possible mistake to say that we should resist what
technology has brought into modern life, that we should protect ourselves
from Ahriman, even cut ourselves off from modern life. In a certain sense
this would be spiritual cowardice. The real remedy is to make the forces
of the soul strong so that they can stand up to modern life. A courageous
approach is necessitated by world karma, and that is why true spiritual
science requires a really hard effort of soul.
(Exerpted from: Art as Seen in the Light of Mystery Wisdom,
Lecture 1, p. 18, Dornach, December 28, 1914, GA 275).
---| hothouse flowers |---
...if you have ever woken up with the after-effects of what the engines
of a steamer or a train have done to your ego and astral body... you will
feel that the effect on the ether body really is as though your physical
body were being bruised and dismembered in a machine--which is of coures,
a rather drastic comparison, but you will not misunderstand it. This is
an absolutely unavoidable side-effect of modern life, and I want to give
a word of warning right at the outset, as the kind of lecture I shall give
today can very easily arouse what I would call the vieled high-mindedness
of theosophists, which flourishes all too well in some quarters.
I am not making a general allusion, of course, let alone a particular
allusion, but when one gives a talk on matters like this, one immediately
provokes judgements. What I mean by high-mindedness of theosophists is
that it can easily happen that people immediately imagine they must take
great care not to expose their bodies to these destructive forces; that
they must protect themselves from all the influences of modern life; that
they must closet themselves in a room containing the right surroundings,
with walls of the colour recommended by theosophy, to make sure that
modern life cannot reach them in any way that would be harmful to their
I really don't want my lectures to have this effect. All this withdrawing
and protecting oneself from the influences that we necessarily have to
encounter, because of world karma, arises out of weakness. Anthroposophy
can only strengthen the human being as a whole; it is intended to develop
those forces that strengthen and arm us inwardly against these influences.
Therefore, within our spiritual movement there can never be any kind of
recommendation to cut oneself off from modern life, or to turn a spiritual
life into a kind of hothouse culture. This could never apply in the realm
of true spiritual culture. Although it is understandable that weaker
natures prefer to withdraw from modern life and go into one or another
kind of settlement where they are out of reach of it, the fact remains
that this arises not from strength but from weakness of soul. Our task,
however, consists in strengthening our soul life by filling ourselves with
the impulses of spiritual science and spiritual research so that we are
armed against the onslaughts of modern life, and so that our souls can
stand any amount of hammering and knocking and are still capable of
finding their way into the divine spiritual realms right through the
hammering and knocking of the ahrimanic spirits.
(Exerpted from: Art as Seen in the Light of Mystery Wisdom,
Lecture 1, pp. 11-12, Dornach, December 28, 1914, GA 275).
---| last words |---
In the age of natural science, since about the middle of the nineteenth
century, the civilized activities of mankind are gradually sliding
downward, not only into the lowest regions of nature, but even beneath
nature. Technical science and industry become sub-nature.
This makes it urgent for man to find in conscious experience a knowledge
of the spirit, wherein he will rise as high above nature as in his
sub-natural technical activities he sinks beneath her. He will thus
create within him the inner strength not to go under.
(From Rudolf Steiner's Last Published Communication)
---| inventor of steam-plow is 'poet of the age' |---
There is a significant poet of the fifth post-Atlantean epoch through
whose poetic works the life of the age pulses. This is Max Eyth*, who
ought to be better known because he is truly a poet of our epoch. He is
also a Swabian, the son of a schoolmaster who wanted his son also to be a
schoolmaster but karma willed otherwise. Relatively early in life he chose
a technical vocation, became a true technician, and then went abroad to
England. There he devoted himself especially to the production of
steam-ploughs and became their poet. The way he has sung with warm, loving
heart of these amazing mechanical beasts is today's true poetry. There is
a peculiar interplay of sentiment in this heart.. On the one hand, he is a
man fully devoted to technology; on the other, he is receptive to
everything that can be grasped without preconceptions by an intellect
schooled in the mechanistic-materialistic concepts of the fifth
post-Atlantean epoch. (p. 106-107)
How frequently it happens that the individuals who do discover significant
complexities of life are those wwho are engaged in practical vocations.
From this point of view the books of Max Eyth are extraordinarily
instructive: first, because he is really a great and gifted writer, and
second, because, as an entirely modern human being, he creates wholly from
the requirements of modern life. It is especially interested--permit me to
make this remark parenthetically--that those who read Eyth learn through
this mere outward exposure much that it would be important for
Theosophists to know... the peculiar fact is that often not the
individuals gifted with genius--Max Eyth was a genius--but those formed by
the life-mechanisms of the post-Atlantean epoch, see the intricacies of
modern life with special clearness because their minds are formed in a
special way. (p. 109)
* Max von Eyth (1836-1906), an engineer who introduced the steam-plough
that was developed by John Fowler to Egypt, America, and Germany.
(Rudolf Steiner, The Karma of Vocation, Sixth Lecture, Nov. 18, 1916) §
BOILER-HAUS, RAILWAYS, AEROPORTS
It is simply important that the
first step should be taken in relating
our present culture to art and in
relating spiritual science to our
present culture. Our boiler house is
a first small step in this direction,
and will lead, it is hoped, to the
solution of other problems later.
One enormous problem, for instance,
would be to find a suitable form for
the modern railway station...
(Rudolf Steiner, Impulses of Transformation
in the Evolution of Art-II, Lecture 3,
Dornach, December 30, 1914.)
Eero Saarinen's 'Solution' for Kennedy Aeroport in New York (1962):
--- The Soul's Awakening > Machines & Art ---
So much is happening that makes it clear
how our production slackens more and more
and how we're failing in our obligations.
Too many are complaining that our products
are growing worse in quality and so
the other firms are starting to outdo us.
Our well-known punctuality is lacking,
as many customers have rightly claimed.
Soon all the best friends that the firm has made
will find themselves no longer satisfied.
The one who wishes to create the new
must calmly watch the old things pass away.
I will no longer carry on the work
as up to now it has been organised.
It seems to me degrading when a business--
is profit-making in the narrowest range--
and throws the workers' output thoughtlessly
upon the general market of the world,
quite unconcerned with what becomes of it.
I've gained this view since I have realised
how human work can take noble form,
if human spirit puts its stamp upon it.
Thomasius, the artist, shall direct
the workshops that I build for him nearby.
The products made by our machines will first
be formed with art by his creative spirit
and so supply for daily human needs
things useful that are truly beautiful.
Thus craftsmanship will be combined with art
and bring good taste to ordinary life.
So I would add to what I see today,
as corpselike body in our work, the soul
that can alone bestow on it true meaning.
(The Souls Awakening, by Rudolf Steiner, pp. 30-32, 1922)
--- Constructing Machines as a Divine Service ---
Humanity must learn to deal with nature as the gods have done;
it should learn not to construct machines in an indifferent way
but to fulfill a divine service and bring sacramentalism into
everything that is produced.
Rudolf Steiner, The Karma of Vocation,
Ten Lectures in Dornach, Switzerland in November, 1916
Published by Anthroposophic Press in 1984
--- Apple: Machines with Art ---
In an industry dominated by cut-throat pricing for PC manufacturing
parts-assemblers, one company has dared to be the exception.
Like wildflowers flourishing in the cracks of an abysmyl pavement — with a
desire to ‘democratize’ computing resources, two young men changed the
world in 1976 with the invention of the first Personal Computer (‘PC’).
Apple computer again changed the industry with the introduction of
The Macintosh - the first consumer machine to employ Icons, Windows,
Menus, built-in Networking, and come standard with a Mouse.
Previously, people were always required to conform to the
commandline mode of interacting with machines without any
choice in the matter.
The Macintosh represents Machines raised to Art -- for the first time,
it made computing friendly, more humane. For the first time, it considered
what the user experience might be in getting something done; and as a result
of that, the use of menus, icons, and mice were employed.
To achive this task, Apple co-founder Steve Jobs gathered together the best
minds in the business -- technically, and artistically -- and in 1984 drove them
to create a 'computer for the rest of us' with the motto 'real artists ship!'.
If you open an original Macintosh Plus casing, engraved inside the molding
of the plastic case, you will find the 47 signitures of the engineers and
designers involved in the project.
Later, there were inspections of the factories, such that even the manufacture
would be made more artistically. When there was a seam due to the production
process in manufacturing the magnesium casing of the NeXT computer, Steve Jobs
personally flew out to the factory to ensure that there wouldn't be a seam
on the inside of the casing -- even though the consumer wouldn't see it!
--- Enlivening the Corpse of the PC Business ---
In 1997, with Apple’s fortunes floundering, Steve Jobs returned to Apple
determined to enliven the dead corpse of the computer industry, and bestow
it with meaning. He immediately commissioned British designer Jonathan Ive
(a modern-day Thomasiuis?) to make the ‘Un-PC’. Below, take a look at what
the machines had become like:
Here is what the back of the iMac looked like (in 1998):
Ask yourself this question - which machine has had ART invested into it?
Here is the product of Thomasius...!
--- Poetry in Circuitry ---
(Stephen Wozniak, and Steve Jobs - founders of Apple Computer)
Burrell Smith, the twenty-six year old 'hardware wizard' who single-handedly
designed the digital circuitry of the original Macintosh... arrived in
Silicon Valley four years ago with one suitcase, no engineering degree
and an obsession with microprocessors. Briefly, he lived in a single
unheated room, warmed over the winter by the glowing vacuum tubes
in his aged oscilloscope. Without a degree, the only job he could find
was in the service department of Apple. Repairing broken Apple II's,
he became entranced by 'the spirit of Wozniak', as expressed in
'His [Wozniak's] designs,' Smith recalls, 'were like poems.'
Smith designed the unusually compact digital circuitry of the
Macintosh in tandem with 'software artist' Andy Hertzfeld, a right-stuff
programmer who still recalls his first view of an Apple II: 'It seemed
to have this halo glow around it.' Smith and Hertzfeld often work all night,
in adjoining houses... Hertzfeld quickly adds that 'Apple isn't just the
money --it's a giant magnifying glass that takes your great stuff and
broadcasts it out to everyone.'
[Steve Wozniak is now (2003) a School-teacher in California, and teaches
children how to work with Computers, and has been an inspiration for hundreds
of thousands of people. Further information: Woz.org -- 'Welcome to a free
exchange of information, the way it always should be'.]
(Jag's House - Twentieth Aniversary of the Macintosh)
--- Steve Jobs on Design ---
It seems that Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple Computer, confronted the
same problem in incorporating a solution for thermal convection in the iMac
that Steiner encountered with the Goetheanum and the Hietzhaus.
Fortune Magazine: What has always distinguished the products of the
companies you've led is the design aesthetic. Is your obsession with design
an inborn instinct or what?
Steve Jobs: We don't have good language to talk about this kind of thing.
In most people's vocabularies, design means veneer. It's interior decorating.
It's the fabric of the curtains and the sofa. But to me, nothing could be
further from the meaning of design. Design is the fundamental soul of a
man-made creation that ends up expressing itself in successive outer layers
of the product or service. The iMac is not just the colour or translucence or
the shape of the shell. The essence of the iMac is to be the finest possible
consumer computer in which each element plays together.
On our latest iMac, I was adamant that we get rid of the fan, because it is
much more pleasant to work on a computer that doesn't drone all the time.
That was not just "Steve's decision" to pull out the fan; it required an
enormous engineering effort to figure out how to manage power better and do
a better job of thermal conduction through the machine. That is the furthest
thing from veneer. It was at the core of the product the day we started.
This is what customers pay us for--to sweat all these details so it's easy
and pleasant for them to use our computers. We're supposed to be really good
at this. That doesn't mean we don't listen to customers, but it's hard for
them to tell you what they want when they've never seen anything remotely
--- Taste ---
Ultimately it comes down to taste. It comes down to trying to expose
yourself to the best things that humans have done and then try to
bring those things into what you're doing.
The only problem with Microsoft is they just have no taste, they have
absolutely no taste, and what that means is - I don't mean that in a
small way I mean that in a big way. In the sense that they they don't
think of original ideas and they don't bring much culture into their
product... and you say why is that important - well you know
proportionally spaced fonts come from type setting and beautiful
books, that's where one gets the idea - if it weren't for the Mac
they would never have that in their products and... so I guess I am
saddened, not by Microsoft's success - I have no problem with their
success, they've earned their success for the most part. I have a
problem with the fact that they just make really third rate products.
If you talk to people that use the Macintosh they love it but you
don't hear people loving products very often you know really but you
could feel it in there, there was something really wonderful there.
(PBS Television Interview with Steve Jobs, 'Revenge of the Nerds')
--- Machines with Thought Put Into It ---
Certainly, the PC industry has never revered design, preferring blocky
beige boxes or, more recently, coloured go-faster curves devoid of real
function. He's scornful of those who use 'swoopy shapes to look good,
stuff that is so aggressively designed, just to catch the eye. I think
that's arrogance, it's not done for the benefit of the user.'
By contrast, he says, 'you won't be able to find a single thing on an
Apple that hasn't had thought put into it'...
With the first iMac the goal wasn't to look different, but to build the
best integrated consumer computer we could. If as a consequence the shape
is different, then that's how it is. The thing is, it's very easy to be
different, but very difficult to be better. That's what we have tried to
do with the new iMac.'
(THE SHAPE OF THINGS TO COME, Interview with Jonathan Ive,
Charles Arthur talks to the designer of the iMac, January 14 2002)
--- Saving Fifty Lifetimes ---
Andy Hertzfeld, engineer on the original Macintosh team:
Steve was upset that the Mac took too long to boot up when you
first turned it on so he tried motivating Larry Kenyon by telling him
well you know, how many millions of people are going to buy this
machine - it's going to be millions of people and let's imagine that
you can make it boot five seconds faster well, that's five seconds
times a million every day that's fifty lifetimes, if you can shave
five seconds off that you're saving fifty lives. And so it was a nice
way of thinking about it, and we did get it to go faster.
[currently, the Macintosh is the only computer manufactured with
less than one second 'wake-up' times, and no fan noise --2003]
(PBS, Revenge of the Nerds, Part 3)
Emotive vs Empirical Attributes
An Interview with Jonathan Ive
There’s a widespread perception that computers in general have taken on a
generic appearance, i.e., the ubiquitous beige box. Why do you think this
has been the case?
Ive: I don’t think the reasons stem from the experience of the designers
designing those products that way. I think it is driven by an industry
that has defined its agenda and what it believes the purchasing criteria
should be. That, therefore, defines the priorities for the designer. It is
an industry that has become incredibly conservative from a design
It is an industry where there is an obsession about product attributes
that you can measure empirically. How fast is it? How big is the hard
drive? How fast is the CD? That is a very comfortable space to compete in
because you can say 8 is better than 6. But it’s also very inhuman and
very cold. Because of the industry’s obsession with absolutes, there has
been a tendency to ignore product attributes that are difficult to measure
or talk about. In that sense, the industry has missed out on the more
emotive, less tangible product attributes. But to me, that is why I bought
an Apple computer in the first place. That is why I came to work for
Apple. It’s because I’ve always sensed that Apple had a desire to do more
than the bare minimum. It wasn’t just going to do what was functionally
and empirically necessary. In the early early stuff, I got a sense that
care was taken even on details, hard and soft, that people may never
You sensed this when you were an Apple customer and not yet working for
Ive: Absolutely. I still remember my first experience using a Macintosh
and falling in love with it. It was a very religious experience in terms
of understanding that even I could figure out how to use this tool and
then understanding what opportunities it offered, what I could do with it.
I think that is one of the reasons I moved halfway around the world. I
never thought I would work corporately. I always assumed that I would
consult because I liked the diversity of work. Apple was probably the one
company where I felt the heritage was so precious. I felt it was a special
company that cared about those product attributes that very often don’t
get talked about.
Undoubtedly the most radical design produced by any computer company in
recent years is the iMac. How did it come about?
Ive: Right from the beginning, this was very much driven by Steve Jobs.
Steve had a clear sense of what the product should be at all different
levels—in terms of its functional capabilities, price, market, and what it
needed to be as a designed object.
The radical form of the iMac must have provided your team with all kinds
of design headaches.
Ive: Producing it has been incredibly difficult, one of the most
challenging programs I have been involved with. When you are doing
something that is so radically new, you can’t work in functional groups.
The design team worked closely with the engineering team because for one
thing, the iMac footprint is very, very small. You have to integrate and
miniaturize, and when you do that you have thermal considerations. You
have to think about noise and fans. The iMac is truly a small, cool, quiet
product. And it is really frightfully fast.
What kind of design problems did the translucent box present?
Ive: Everything about the iMac is so incredibly different. Every minute
detail was considered, right down to the product labels, for which we used
a new printing process that has never been used on product labels before.
The labels are three-dimensional and appear to move. Because the iMac is
translucent, we even had to design the shape of the circuit board. The
translucent resin itself presented a problem because of the high volume of
products we needed to produce. We had to make sure that the colour and
level of translucency were exactly the same in the first computer and
every one thereafter.
This led us to finding a partner who does a lot of work in the candy
industry, because a lot of candies are translucent. These guys have so
much experience in how you control the compounding and a great
understanding of the science of colour control.
The mouse is another example where, because of the translucent material,
we ended up designing the insides because they were part of the outside
appearance. The mouse ball has two colours, so when you move the mouse
around, you can see the colours changing. The issues we faced were really
so fundamentally different that we had to discover new processes and new
attitudes for getting them done. Consequently, we felt incredibly
In departing so boldly from traditional design, Apple really managed to
differentiate the product. Was that the primary goal?
Ive: I think a lot of people see design primarily as a means to
differentiate their product competitively. I really detest that. That is
just a corporate agenda, not a customer or people agenda. It is important
to understand that our goal wasn’t just to differentiate our product, but
to create products that people would love in the future. Differentiation
was a consequence of our goal.
(Interview with Jonathan Ive, Designer of the iMac)
Some commentary on GNU / Linux, and Open Source
'UNIX IS, ABOVE ALL, A PHILOSOPHY OF FREEDOM.'
(Terry Ingoldsby, 1995)
Amidst the development of computing power for the masses — the PC in 1976
— and the development of web as a popular feature (1994), we see a great
debate arising about ‘intellectual property’. People are concerned that
producers of digital content (writings, music, video, data) are adequately
compensated for their efforts. In order to do this, an analogue was made —
we will sell you a number (any digital file is just a big number
consisting of 1’s and 0’s) — and to protect the ‘uniqueness’ of that
number, we will treat that number as if it weren’t really a number, but an
actually physically tangible good.
But there's one problem with this. If i have an apple and give you an
apple, I no longer have an apple. But if i have an idea and give you an
idea, then we both have the idea. These inherent properties of matter and
bits are ignored for the sake of the analogy, and here lies the crux of
problem at the heart of the intellectual property debate, and it will
never be solved until an understanding of social threefolding can be
brought to bear upon it. For the most part, the Anthroposophists have not
done this (many still resist email!) So a solution had to arise quite
(Linus Torvalds, wrote the Linux Kernal)
In order to avoid further catastrophy, a fellow by the name of Richard
Stallman proposed a system of sharing source code (the ‘recipies’ that
make the machines run) called ‘copyleft’, and ‘open source’ was born.
Together, with the efforts of thousands of volunteers and some help from a
young Finnish college student named Linus Torvalds, an entirely free
computer operating system called LINUX was made available. Everything that
you pay Microsoft to do with Windows™ can be done free-of-charge using
Linux. This is a substantial cost-savings for schools governments, and
individuals. However, companies may still sell free software, because the
‘free’ refers not to the price (although it is often, indeed, given away)
— it refers to the freedom to examine the source-code (the recipies which
determine how a computer operates).
--| Thomas Jefferson on Ideas |---
If nature has made any one thing less susceptible than all others of
exclusive property, it is the action of the thinking power called
an idea, which an individual may exclusively possess as long as he
keeps it to himself; but the moment it is divulged, it forces
itself into the possession of every one, and the receiver cannot
dispossess himself of it. Its peculiar character, too, is that
no one possesses the less, because every other possesses the whole
of it. He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction
himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at
mine, receives light without darkening me... Inventions then
cannot, in nature, be a subject of property. (Thomas Jefferson)
Source Code and the Sharing of Ideas
Proprietary instutions such as Microsoft carefully guard their
source-code. They won’t tell anyone the recpicies for how they do things.
They hoard ideas and patent them.
Open source programmers on the other hand work in the spirit of academic
community — programming is all about ideas; sharing the source code
benefits all programmers. Also, because many eyes will see this code, it
is generally more robust and reliable than proprietary code.
When students who wish to learn how a system really works. If they want to
understand the machine and have it be comprehensible — the Microsoft
solution absolutely denies them this. Windows is a closed box with the
hood bolted shut. Open source on the other hand is useful for the novice
who wants to learn. The aspiring young programmer will find a community of
helpful individuals which share their code and ideas such that the entire
community may benefit. These communities share their code so new comers
have good real-world examples to learn from. Schools especially may
benefit from this sort of arrangement.
The open-source movement is a uniquely modern phenomenon, and the ability
to infinitely replicate the best examples of the genre, and communicate
them from any individual to any other individual via the internet provided
a way for geographically disparate individuals to collaborate based only
on the love of an idea.
Thousands upon thousands of people over the last decade have contributed
to this work, and due to infinite digital replication of this work of the
‘open source community’ — many millions have reaped the benefit. Linux
began as a labour of love, and has been furthered by a dedicated community
of volunteers bound by one basic principle: it is good to share your work
That such an online community has formed and given their labour away for
the good of the many in our age — how unprecedented! Social threefolding
has taken place in the realm of computers, and for the most part,
Anthroposophists have no idea that this massive and signifcant development
even exists. Instead, they spurn computers as ‘unhealthy’, and as not
worthy of their time. Sometimes due to pressure from parents, they might
have a senior course teaching some of the basics of a proprietary
Microsoft product — exactly the model which is most detrimental to the
spirit of community.
--| FREE SOFTWARE - not as in Beer, but as in Speech |---
(Richard Stallman, founder of the Free Software Foundation)
'Free software' is a matter of liberty, not price. To understand the
concept, you should think of 'free' as in 'free speech,' not as in
Free software is a matter of the users' freedom to run, copy,
distribute, study, change and improve the software. More precisely,
it refers to four kinds of freedom, for the users of the software:
- The freedom to run the program, for any purpose (freedom 0).
- The freedom to study how the program works, and adapt it
to your needs (freedom 1). Access to the source code is
a precondition for this.
- The freedom to redistribute copies so you can help your neighbour
(freedom 2). The freedom to improve the program, and release your
improvements to the public, so that the whole community benefits.
(freedom 3). Access to the source code is a precondition for this.
(Richard Stallman, Free Software Foundation, gnu.org)
--- Atomistic vs Network-centric Thinking ---
The concept of open source software enabled the development of a true
community of individuals with social aims and objectives.
You see, whereas the Microsoft system starts out with a certain social
premise (Atomism) in the software they write — the ‘file system universe’
starts with a: C:\ because they start by thinking that the one specific
machine you’re on is the whole universe — the UNIX programmers started out
with a different social premise: Sharing. Their file system starts out
with a: ./ The dot being the network — the interconnections being
concieved of as central — and all the machines hanging like nodes or
grapes off of it. This conception is now taken for granted, but it was not
always so, and Microsoft still uses that on their ‘drives’, although
they’ve had to make concession to the UNIX standard on the world-wide-web
and using :// as the starting point for web pages. It was open source
volunteers who wrote the ‘sendmail’ programme that delivers the bulk of
the email across the net.
The http and ftp protocols essential for the functioning of the web were
created by public bodies, in order to facilitate a flourishing of ideas,
common standards were needed. Microsoft sought (and still does, with its
.net initiative) to stiffle this social and open exchange by using
‘embrace and extend’* tactics in order to promote its proprietary
standards. You see — information witheld is power gained, and Microsoft
has used this excellently to their advantage. This led to the fact that a
whole generation of web authors to write everything they did twice — once
so it would work in the Public Standards browser, and a second time so
that it would work with Internet Explorer — a waste of countless years for
the sake of one company’s proprietary behaviour.
Using systems based on Microsoft’s proprietary and closed standards
defeats the idea of community. In contrast, Open Source lays a foundation
upon which humans can thrive through the technology in a humane way.
Open source has been shown to be ‘long term credible’ by Microsoft itself
in the now infamous ‘Halloween’ documents posted by Eric S. Raymond.
* see the 'Halloween Documents' at:
--| Publically Funded Software |---
Publically Funded Software
Peruvian Open Source Documents from Congressman David Villanueva Nunez:
Governments, from India, Germany, Peru, Mexico and Brazil are now
realising the benefits to the well-being of their population; how
open-source software can serve the public, instead of lining the coffers
of a foreign software monopoly.
Proprietary formats, such as those established by Microsoft harm the free
exchange of ideas. Open Source is the only solution for members of a free
society. The Peruvian government is considering a bill mandating
open-source software for all public bureaux... The basic principles which
inspire the Bill are linked to the basic guarantees of a state of law,
• Free access to public information by the citizen.
• Permanence of public data.
• Security of the State and citizens.
To guarantee the free access of citizens to public information, it is
indespensable that the encoding of data is not tied to a single provider.
The use of standard and open formats gives a guarantee of this free
access, if necessary through the creation of compatible free software.
To guarantee the permanence of public data, it is necessary that the
usability and maintenance of the software does not depend on the goodwill
of the suppliers, or on the monopoly conditions imposed by them...
From reading the Bill it will be clear that the law:
• doesn’t forbid production of proprietary software
• doesn’t forbid the sale of proprietary software
• doesn’t specifiy which concrete software to use
• doesn’t dictate the supplier from whom software will be bought
• doesn’t limit the terms under which a software product can be licensed.
What the Bill does express clearly, is that, for software to be acceptable
for the state it is not enough that it is technically capable of
fulfilling a task, but that further the contractual conditions must
satisfy a series of requirements reguarding the license...
In the end, the only way that Microsoft’s anti-social behaviour could be
overcome was by thousands of programmers networking over the internet and
volunteering their time to make something as capable, free of charge, and
for the public good.
- Peruvian Open Source Documents from Congressman David Villanueva NuĖez
--| Books and Music for Everyone |---
Music is everybody's possession.
It's only publishers who think that people own it.
With digital, scarcity is no longer a barrier to quality, since the
inherent nature of bits works very much like ideas. The entire
proliferation of musical & literary culture can be given a great boon by
the ability to provide massive online libraries of quality music and
literature at little to no cost. Now, Quality is a decision.
Initiatives like Gutenberg, and the Steiner eLib are run entirely by
volunteers to make these works available, often, when they were
unobtainable previously, or out of print.
Rudolf Steiner eLib:
Date: Wed Sep 17, 2003
From: Markus Kasanmascheff
Subject: Steiner Authobiography
| I'm interested very much in the Rudolf Steiner Autobiography...
| Since it's hard to get it as a printed book for me here (in Budapest)
| in english language, and I need it for a friend, it would be very nice
| to get some help from you. If there is any way to get the text file,
| I would be very happy... Markus
hi markus, here you go.
i’ve attached a copy of the text file.
glad to be of service. :)
Another example — a reader who wanted a copy of Steiner's ‘Light Course’
for a long time could not obtain a copy — even if they had wanted to —
since it was out of print.
The small audience meant it was not worth it to the publisher to go to the
expense of reprinting the book. Not being in print, not many people would
be likely to find it either, and create the demand needed to publish the
book. But the expense of publishing is now no longer necessary to provide
millions with copies of books. In this case, a volunteer reader scanned in
the manuscript, and suddenly millions of people in the world were provided
access to this work, when they were unable to before.
--| Information and Manufacturing |---
...the idea that Free Software is something very special and may
have a real potential for a different society beyond labour, money,
exchange - in short: capitalism... with the potential to transform society...
In the last ten to twenty years Western societies started to base their
material production and all of society more and more on information goods.
The development of computers as universal information processors with ever
increasing capacity is shifting the focal point of production from the
material side to the immaterial, information side. I think that today the
development of the means of production in capitalism has entered a new
The most important thing in this shift in the means of production is that
information has very different features than matter. First of all,
information may be copied without loss - at least digital information
using computers. Second and equally important, the most effective way to
produce interesting information is to foster creativity. Free Software
combines these two aspects, resulting in a new form of production.
(In an Interview with Stefan Merten, FREE SOFTWARE & GPL SOCIETY
By Joanne Richardson, November 2001, Oekonux-Germany).
--| Social Threefolding and Musician's Associations |---
Online Music Distribution
Needs Social Threefolding
There are two sides to the creation of a piece of art. On one side, it is
the expression of an individual’s soul experiences. It is their product,
their art, and also (hopefully) their livelihood.
On the other side, it detaches itself from them, and through infinite
digital replication of zero cost per additional copy — the good work of a
musician can benefit millions the world over, just llike the ideas
contained in books.
So there are these two things: i) the Public good which would benefit most
from the widest proliferation of high-quality music instead of medicore
meledies. Under a scarcity model, the best is withheld, even though there
is no greater technical cost to distributing the best works widely than to
distributing the worst dreggs of culture widely.
ii) The other thing is that in order to live, an artist or musician should
be able to make some sort of living or livelihood for all the benefit they
bring to the millions who hear and appreciate their music. For the most
part, I think people want to do this.
The copyright and encryption solution is sought, because they can see no
alternative to the matter-bits analogue. Thus, the ‘intellectual property
debate’ and encryption arises. The internet does not create the problem,
in merely amplifies it. It will never cease until a threefold social
understanding is brought to bear on the problem.
Currently, for the greater part, the volume of music from which the
consumer is allowed to choose is pre-determined by Marketing forces, and
the values set are determined by the publishers using a Scarcity model.
In order for the mass of music to tend towards quality, the idea of social
threefolding may be brought to bear upon the circumstances of music
production, and the forming of 'musician's associations' — whereby peer
review amongst musicians can determine what is available to the consumer,
instead of marketing departments determining what the consumer may choose
Much work still needs to be done in this crucial area as it sinks into a
commercial cesspit of more and more manufactured marketing bands. The
entire music industry needs saving, the Anthroposophists have the 'Social
Threefolding' idea, and could apply it to MP3 Distribution and Musician's
Associations to do it. But where are they? Why do some even refuse to
listen to samples from the radio when a friend would show them the best
examples of the genre? How can one who refuses to get involved in current
musical culture have the gall to bemoan the Quality of music coming out of
Musicians and artists today are confronted with new possibilities of
distribution that are independent of any overhead beyond posting to an
internet server. MP3 files and internet distribution enable the smallest
artist to be effective by the free global distribution of their work — IF
people know about them. It costs the same to fullfill the demands of the
public with good music as it does to fill it with Spice Girls.
Open source, network distribution of music, and Social Threefolding can
offer an alternative which doesn’t deal with the notion of scarcity, but
with the richness of spiritual culture, and can provide a way of
compensating those who are spiritually (i.e. musically) productive.
Amongst the best musicians, it can amplify their benefit to millions upon
millions. This system is already in place, it merely needs to be exposed
to the ‘Social Threefolding idea’ and Associations.
This is where I am sometimes angry with Anthroposphists — they’re
suppossed to be saving our present spiritual culture... and yet again and
again, I find myself confronted with those who would insulate and isolate
themselves from anything to do with technology, and they thus yield the
entire field over to the forces that may be, without even coming out to
the party to help provide the insight that perhaps only they could
provide. In shunning technology, they have forgone the future of all
culture held under the influence of the technology they have shunned, and
it will be their responisibilty, because they did not take up and enliven
the technical culture they found themselves born into, but rather shirked
and shunned it.
For musicians who could learn of 'Musician's Associations' — only possible
with the 'Social Threefolding' idea — the other side of the problem — how
to compensate the artists through Associations is finally possible.
--- Being Socially Relevant in a Digital Age ---
The designer Paul Rand once said, ‘design is practical art’. The best art
of our Age lies in beautiful infrastructure. But it takes eyes to see. The
simplicity of Steven Wozniak’s Apple I circuit boards was a technical
Haiku, and it required an engineer to appreciate its elegance and artistry
in use of chip count and function.
With the creation of vulgar or elegant machinery, with use of free or
proprietary protocols, certain premises are today being woven into the
fabric of technology which can either aid or hinder humans in their quest
towards a socially-oriented future. Once this mighty infrastructure is
built — and it is being built — it will become extremely difficult to
change. If it has been done with the participation of socially healthy
premises, then the infrastructure will facilitate a free soctiety as well.
However, if the field is left to its own — it will render conditions
making life impossible for the free spirit. Relentless machine efficiency
will crush any flowering of culture.
Social transformation in the future will increasingly require the will to
create an infrastructure that facilitates or denies the free activities of
social culture. If Artists and Anthroposophists are to become socially
effective in the future, they will need to be fluent in the languages of
our age — C++ and Java. Otherwise, we will live in bondage to a reality
created without artistic input, whose premises are entirely atomistic,
darwinian, and materialistic.
Technology touches everything we do in our daily lives – from washing our
clothes, to cooling and heating our food, to the manufacture of goods, and
the distribution of the products of cultural and spiritual endeavour. If,
Anthroposophists refuse to enter the field of technology in an active way,
and with understanding, and abandon the entire field to forces that may –
we only invite future catastrophy.
Steiner always emphasized the need to be conversant with the latest
developments of modern culture. Too often, artistic types tend to shun the
grit-work of being a good user, barely learning the fundamentals about how
the technology works. If artists want the respect of the technical
community, they have to learn to become 'good users' and learn about some
of the technical aspects they may find distasteful, because it is only in
doing so that there is any hope of bringing their unique views on life in
a living and practical way into the infrastructure upon which they depend.
Given the present situation, are we to shirk from our responsibility to
boldly undertake the enlivening of digital culture!? Are we to stand by
and let 'the net' happen devoid of human-artistic influences altogether!?
In the Anthroposophic Society, there has been movement, but it has been
slow and reluctant. Instead of being at the forefront of current spiritual
culture, have we become the retarding influence – stuck in the future of
The networks and systems which determine the practical functioning of
hundreds of millions of people are now being created without their input
(indeed – they often pride themselves in not participating, and consider
their computer illiteracy a mark of virtue). Anthroposophists and artists
must become current, or fall away into irrelevance.
One must be able to confront an idea and experience it;
otherwise one will fall into its bondage. (R. Steiner) §
- Social Threefolding (on which everything is based):
- This Article available at:
- The Cathedral and the Bazaar:
- GNU.ORG - The Free Software Foundation:
- Interview with Stefan Merten, FREE SOFTWARE & GPL SOCIETY
- Steve Jobs on Television
- Musicians Associations & MP3:
- The Nature of Technology:
- Goetheanum Pictures:
- Apple Computer:
- Slashdot - Current Technology Issues:
- Microsoft Halloween Documents (where Microsoft admits, 'we can win so long
as we embrace and extend public standards and replace them with pervasive