Science and technology
working with nature- civil and hydraulic engineering to aspects of real world problems in water and at the waterfront - within coastal environments
Given a mechanical civilisation the process of invention and improvement will always continue, but the tendency of capitalism is to slow it down, because under capitalism any invention that does not promise fairly immediate profits are suppressed. This saying of George Orwell (1903 – 1950) touches upon some very important issues associated with industrialization (mechanical civilisation) and capitalism. They are – the potential for unstoppable forward march of industrialization and some inhibitive effects of capitalism on it. In modern understanding, capitalism is an immediate profit making system in which the investor of the capital (primarily meant to be private) owns the enterprise – utilizing the services of machines and human labor. The human labor force that contributes to building up the capital - is not entitled to claim any share of the enhanced capital - it is only the executives who can claim so - the reward to them comes in the guise of shares, generous contract packages and hefty bonuses.
The general principle of capitalism – perhaps without so much forceful emphasis on immediate profit making – is the earliest form of doing trades and commerce in human history. In earlier times, in all cultures ideas like harmony (some terms like sustainability were not vogue then) and symmetry were thought important for a healthy society (although one can argue whether such a healthy society was ever achieved). But as we shall see later, the 18th century definition of capitalist economy by Adam Smith (1727 – 1790) – twisted this term giving it a meaning that gave impetus to myopic view, shortsightedness and selfishness – stoking mistrusts and animosity among individuals – with all the meandering outbursts of f-word, flash anger and cursing associated with them.
A 20th century American economist – Milton Friedman (1912 – 2006) gave further boost to Adam Smith’s theory by proposing the so-called Friedman Doctrine in 1970. It says . . . there is one and only one social responsibility of business – to use its resources and engage in activities designed to increase its profits . . . He further stressed that businessmen with a social conscience . . . are unwitting puppets of the intellectual forces that have been undermining the basis of a free society . . . In this doctrine the definition of social responsibility is twisted – in order to justify the triumphant victory of money-making freedom. With such definitions that reinforced the forces of modern capitalism – the vicious dog-eat-dog-world is unleashed – and turned governing democracy into capitocracy. In recent times with the unregulated and unguarded internet dependent communications and activities (see Artificial Intelligence - the Tool of No Limit) - the works of bad actors - have only been proliferating many times.
Realizing the importance of the capitalist context of industrialization – let us attempt to delve further into it in simple terms – through the lens of critical thinking, so to say – because it is necessary to orient ourselves to the true perspectives associated with this topic.
. . .
First, it is interesting to note that the immediate profit making – fits right into a democratic politician’s narrative – because his or her political lifetime and thinking revolves around short time scales from one election to another. One may, therefore infer that modern democracy – representing nothing more than party dictatorships rotating every few years – is perhaps the right tool to promote capitalism – because politicians can brag and campaign about how many material gains (even the bad ones – that become apparent in later times - and are gained at the expense of tax-payers) they made during their tenure. Further, the philosophy of large international financial institutions like IMF and World Bank also fits right into this paradigm – because they press and put conditions on poor countries (who appeal for help to ride over difficult times and alleviate debt servicing) to minimize costs for immediate profit making – by cutting wages and benefits to the hard working labor force, or sell state-owned enterprises to private ownerships.
The rationale of Orwell observation can simply be outlined like this. Some industrialization processes of innovative and humane nature (such as extensive basic research; scientific exploration; nature, wildlife and environment protection, public welfare and health care; etc) that do not promise immediate profit (in monetary terms, but profits in terms of longterm benefits and others do accumulate) – largely remain outside the interest areas of capitalist enterprises. It also says why a capitalist system pampers majority (having an eye on large consumer base and labor force) – ethnic, religious or otherwise – by downplaying and ignoring the equal rights for minorities - more so for minority of minorities. Although governing principles of any country spell out equality in paper. Or, why some communities brag about or campaign for demographic changes in their favor – to implant longterm changes in a society.
His observation also implies – why significant impact making individuals – the discoveries they make in the innovative efforts of laying out enlightened scientific principles, methods, ideas, and philosophies – remain poor and unappreciated during their lifetime. The selfish capitalist societies, however do not hesitate to profit from their discoveries at a later time.
The observation further indicates that in smaller economies, industrialization may struggle to take-off because in such economies it is difficult to ensure immediate return of investments; or even in large economies where conditions are too stringent to function smoothly. However nowadays, governmental grants, guarantees, tax-incentives and bailout promise are attracting private capitals to venture in (one such area being the gov-private partnership). It is not difficult to see that the burden of all these gov initiatives falls ultimately on the shoulders of general public – with the gov levying taxes and gradually impoverishing people to make gov-private capitals fat and successful.
In a capitalist system power is bestowed upon the owner of material wealth (money, to be exact) – and everyone else is a labor – irrespective of who they claim to be – whether white or blue color (although top white-color executives are treated as an associate and shareholder, while the lower white colors and blue-colors remain voiceless servants). Everything else – the immaterial wealth (such as happiness, see Happiness), is considered unimportant and therefore is taken out of the equation, or takes back seat. In such societies, the governing seats of power must withhold and promote the proliferation of private capital by assisting to find new markets for industrial goods and services.
While such actions are incumbent upon the gov to assure the security of capital growth and flow – it does not and is reluctant to take any initiative or responsibility to assure job security to the labor force. However, the movement for organized labor force has paved a way - and Labor Unions are allowed in most countries. But, the capitalist outfit has its hand on it as well by imposing legal restrictions - in the manners of who and where such unions can be organized. Thus, another asymmetric system is imposed to allow a small fraction of the labor force the privilege of collective bargain power - while most are left out of the loop.
Here, the rules of business take precedence over principles (as Dr BR Ambedkar, 1891-1956, outlined it, see The Mahatma – a Tribute). Further, to hide wealth distribution among the people it serves – the gov defines measures of social progress in terms of total money worth such as GDP. With the assurance of such gov supports – while many materialistic progresses were achieved – the capitalist system also ushered-in fierce and ruthless aggressiveness and corrupt practices – unleashing the greedy rush to acquire material wealth – within its borders and in transborder activities. In such rush, terms like winners and losers – are used to view everyone and everything to worship the winners and hate the losers – making the society highly confrontational, conspiratorial and conflict-ridden. The power of such social attitude is that, those who are called losers – sadly believe that they are really losers – thus inflicting scars of depression, worthlessness and hopelessness upon themselves. Further – there are constant temptations in capitalist entities to compromise quality of products and services, and fairness – unless enforcement of consensus based Standards, Codes and Manuals is in place.
Adam Smith (considered the father of modern capitalist economy) asks that the adopter and proponent of the immediate profit-making capitalist system – must shelve the ideal of benevolence and fellow-feeling from their vocabulary. Further, they must use the tools of communication to convince the populace – about the merit and necessity of the system. His definition applied in industrialization endeavors reduced people into labor force and consumers – other aspirations, needs and wishes of people have secondary or no place in it. And, the tools of communication his theory implies – as one can understand, are the education-system, media, industry sponsored advertisements, political processes, elitist schools and intellectual accomplices or lackeys – all impregnated with the subtle flavors of propaganda in favor of capitalism. Even beliefs associated with philosophies and religions are used as a tool to promote capitalist system.
As an example, if one sees for long – the various programs in the mainstream media that accompany plethora of advertisements – one is likely to be totally brainwashed to the extent of believing that – media, politicians, consuming, and the powerful people of positions and wealth are the only things that matter in life and in social living (see leadership quality people want to see in Leadership and Management) – nothing else – people, values, nothing whatsoever matters. Thus, the capitalist power is dictatorial – having its hands on the string to control the behavior of people and whatever the system of gov is. Corruption, coercion and the deliberate promotion and sustenance of utter social asymmetry – are the rules of business within the capitalist power circles. In these rules, power and wealth connections take precedence over competence.
Perhaps one can have a glimpse of it from the fact that – a person’s character is influenced by the company he or she keeps. One sad aspect of it is that – with the advent of TV technology in people’s daily lives – some got accustomed to learn certain things from what are broadcast on TV – getting highly influenced by the contents and polished advertisements placed by corporate entities, political parties, government and others. Not to speak of media (news, views and entertainment) in manipulation of information – so much so that such entities want people to know what they want them to know. These wealthy Shepherd direction setters – often targeting young people more than any other age group – take full advantage of this human psychology – to veer things to their liking – to turn people into nothing more than a Docile Lamb. With the dawn of internet age – another similar but more aggressive dimension has been added to this process.
The power of effective communication (so much so that some words like socialism and communism have become hated terms in some countries) is such that – the fall-out from this mechanistic force became clear only in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Destruction and degradation of Nature, Environment and Wild Life are only some of the fall-outs (see more in Warming Climate and Entropy; The Sanctity of Nature’s Wonders). The capitalist force required markets for its products and services, and raw-materials and slave labors as the means of production and for its sustenance. This gave birth to forceful colonization, eradication and destruction of native culture of countries in Asia, Africa and Americas – with the colonists forcing their own belief-system upon the colonial peoples. The colonists used them as sacrificial goats to build their prosperity and wealth.
Adam Smith was emboldened by R Descartes (1596 – 1650) Res Extensa or matter philosophy – that ignored and did not see the importance of Res Cogitans or human mind (see more in The Power of Mind; Symmetry, Stability and Harmony; the All-embracing Power of Sublimities) in everything a society needs to do for the benefit of mankind. Descartes philosophy – and its remnants continuing to govern social thinking today – in turn relied upon the developments of classical science (17th - 19th century). This period of deterministic science is basically defined by the foundation laid down by Galileo (1564 – 1642) and Newton (1642 – 1727).
The period of modern science (20th century -) began with the pioneering 20th century science based on Relativity (see Einstein’s Unruly Hair), Quantum Mechanics and Uncertainty (see The Quantum World). It directs one to see the effects of mind – the observer-observed or subject-object relationship – in scientific findings. Although it is accepted by scientific community – the greater industrialization and management processes are far from accepting and linking the matter with the immatter. One can only hope that things will change and that Adam Smith’s economic theory and industrialization processes will be reformulated for the greater benefit of mankind.
In around the same time, the principle of Laissez- Faire took root in France – saying to let the downstream condition determine what the upstream must do (or the supply-demand-chain as it is commonly known) – the principle became very popular and got widely accepted across the board. It laid down the foundation of competition and free-market-economy. But time and again, the upstream-downstream flow has been interrupted by sanctions and counter-sanctions – with adverse consequences that affected all – in particular, the general public.
No wonder, some political thinkers saw the limitations of modern capitalist system. It is worthwhile to highlight what Sun Yet-sen (1866 – 1925), the Chinese Statesman wrote on the danger of industrialization based solely on capitalist economic system: Because of poverty, we must adopt the capitalist means of production to develop our resources to get rich. However, if we ignore the issue of social justice at the beginning of industrialization, we will sow the seeds of class warfare in the future. It is somewhat similar to a remarkable saying of Dr. BR Ambedkar on social contradictions (see Hold it There). In the 77th story (see the Revisiting the Jataka Morals-2) of the Jataka tales, the Buddha (see The Tathagata) tells a story about what could happen to a country when unwholesomeness and greed take control of a society.
Unstoppable forward march of mechanical civilization! But sometimes it comes with a heavy price. Often there surface complains about some disturbing elements of unscrupulous industrialization push – the corruption associated with it are becoming more apparent in developing economies – but undeniably happened in every developed economy during the take-off, and even in modern times. First, when policies and laws are enacted without consultation and utter disregard to the interests and concerns of people deemed to be affected by the push. Such negligence amounts to reducing the impacted peoples – to nothing but a disposable sheet of paper. The second occurs during the implementation phase of industrialization checklist procedures – for example, in cases where land acquisition is required at the cost of dislocating people and their livelihood. Among many unreported incidents – oftentimes there surfaces allegation of highhandedness on the part of administering bureaucrats and political hooligans – who do not hesitate to harass hardworking people by threatening and intimidating them. The purpose is to deprive them of any compensation money. The tactic often comes with additional forces to collect bribes and pocket the money – and to stop complaints of any sort.
. . .
With this brief note (brief, but ended up somewhat longer than I intended) outline – that gives one a necessary background for understanding the industrialization processes, it’s time to get into the topic. I have developed the shown image indicating the Standards, Codes and Manuals as the grammar and best-practice guidelines for the success of industrialization. All three – come under the disclaimer envelope where the authors and publishers of them disclaim any legal responsibility if something goes wrong with their application. The disclaimer is necessary because it is impossible for the expert authors to visualize each and every possible cases and situations of applications. For example, the British Standard BS 6349-1:2000 (Maritime Structures) says: Compliance with a British Standard does not of itself confer immunity from legal obligations. Despite such disclaimers, if there is some sort of failure using a certain standard – the reputation of that standard is tarnished.
Among the three, Standards and Codes come under the purview of certification and regulatory envelope – which means they are mostly authorized by regulatory entities in their jurisdiction to be applied as a minimum to ensure best practices – and can be referred to in legal cases (subject to the disclaimer warranties claimed by them). The manuals, on the other hand are cook-books based on Standards and Codes, and on established research findings up to the time of their writing – and are designed as a step-by-step procedure for doing something.
There is another regulatory hand that is used for controlling the practice of professional engineers. Similar to law and medical professionals, the regulation exercised by state/provincial govs within their respective jurisdictions – requires an engineer to hold a license to practice. There are few points to be made in this regard:
. . .
In simple terms, industrialization refers to the utilization of technology and machines for mass manufacturing of a product – with the machine-driven customization of processes that lay importance on smoothness of work-flow, efficiency and cost-minimization. The customization includes starting with the procurement of raw materials, and ends at marketing the finished products. Although the processes started with manufacturing – the same principle now governs all economic sectors including services sector and gov businesses. To ensure smooth and timely operation of these processes – acceptable standards of measure, definitions and specifications of things – the consensus-based best practices guidelines have become necessary – as a grammar that can be safely applied routinely across the board in specific areas of operation.
The predecessor to such industrialization was hand-tool customization – and its envelope included many earliest standardization efforts that shaped social cohabitation, trade and commerce. During that time – economic activities were more of a family affair in the form small businesses where the relation between employer and employee was one of sustainable cooperation and complementarity. Industrialization, riding on the capitalist bandwagon, while contributed to the development and accumulation of material wealth – destroyed that kind of relationship, making things highly mechanistic – turning it into hour-to-hour counting of works vis-à-vis wages. Modern societies are waking up to realize that – such a mechanistic relationship is unsustainable – and is responsible for many social ills and negative stresses – that are ultimately affecting the productivity and interests of the labor force. While the mechanistic relationship administered through checklist procedures is forced upon the populace - exclusive luxurious clubs for the wealthy and powerful define the relationships of these privileged classes - the Shepherd Club, where decision processes and strategies are formulated - in secrecy and confidentiality - to govern the general public.
This implies that emerging developing economies must exercise due diligence – to filter out what to accept and what to reject during the processes of industrialization. Because a carbon copy adoption of developed-economy methods – without learning from their mistakes – may give birth to the same social ills they have been facing. History shows that a smart adaptation of foreign ideas and methods yields the best benefit – given that a society is heedful to their own cultural values, traditions and strengths.
The industrial revolution that started in the 18th century United Kingdom and United States of America – needed the customization of the industrial processes to achieve the full force of mass production – stressing on efficiency and lower cost of production. The science and technological development needed for starting this revolution – were provided by some remarkable discoveries and inventions which, among others included James Watt’s (1736 – 1819) steam engine invention; NLS Carnot’s (1796 – 1832) thermodynamic theory; and the technological transformation of textile industries from handlooms to machine-driven factories.
Industrialization successes needed standardization of processes to create products and services – in virtually every sectors of economic activity. Although standardization processes started in pre-industrial agrarian societies in accordance with the technological advances during that time – industrialization gave urgency, new meaning and importance to it – otherwise increased economic activities will be hindered by chaos, confusion and conflict of interests. They are the necessary grammar and best-practices guidelines required for the growth and proliferation of industrialization – capitalist or non-capitalist.
Based on the basic understandings described in these paragraphs – let us focus on engineering or applied science aspects – by narrowing down the topic to civil engineering contexts – but looking through coastal engineering perspectives, in particular. The focus is described in two headings – Standards and Codes, and Manuals.
The first of these industrialization grammatical materials are administered, authored and published by bureaucratic-technocratic organizations that thrive on gov grants/finances, participant membership/subscriptions and any other contributions. Even some manuals fall into this category. These orgs work under the umbrella of non-profit entities. With this umbrella over their head, they can take tax advantages, and can ask for donations, contributions and volunteer hours from the members of general public. The irony is that pay packages, benefits and privileges of executives of such orgs (same is the case with tax-payer funded UN organizations; for that matter with Charity Organizations and Political Parties) – even their travel habit in first and business classes – surprises the hard-working donating public who cannot even afford to travel in economy class. The reality is that such orgs are in the business of profit making – of different sort – and that is the reason why so many of them exist. Further, the trend nowadays is that many are in the business of giving certificates and awards – thus attempting to raise themselves to the rank of an undeclared authority. This practice essentially denies the relevance of education, experience and expertise – which have always been an asset for an individual – and for the entities he or she serves.
The materials they produce are not freely available – although outdated digital versions are often offered free of cost to the public. Manuals are authored by expert scientists and engineers of research institutions, industry experts as well as by standard organizations. The prime examples are the Shore Protection Manual and Coastal Engineering Manual of CERC (Coastal Engineering Research Center) – an organization owned and run by United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE). US federal gov made it mandatory that all manuals funded by it, their digital versions – must be made freely available to the general public.
. . .
STANDARDS and CODES
The earliest standardization in human history was developed within the envelope of hand-tool customization – by starting with the standards for measuring length and mass (in customary terms weight is used instead of mass, but weight is the downward gravitational force exerted by a mass). Use of forearm and finger as the measures of lengths, and different sizes of stones as the measure of mass were perhaps the earliest of such efforts (see more in Turning the Wheel of Progress).
As the societies began to take shape, the counting system, speaking and writing grammars, and the metallic coins appeared to help people communicate and doing trades and commerce. And each culture developed their own unique system – which saw the continuation of amalgamation – as means of travel improved with domestication of horses and invention of wheels and wheeled-carts. Cottage industries of various sorts – pottery, textile, mining, metallurgy, etc – began with agriculture and domestication of plants and animals. At the same time philosophical and religious moral standards started taking root to establish social order.
Before moving further, it is helpful to add a few more sentences on the history of System International or SI that has been adopted as a common measure of units across the globe. It replaced earlier arbitrary customary units of different localities and states – that gave rise to the differences in definitions and interpretation – to confusions and conflicts. Britain as the colonial superpower introduced its system – later called the FPS unit system – with the unit of a Foot for length, Pound for mass and Second for time. The colonist promoted the system wherever it set foot in.
FPS is an arbitrary unit system lacking scientific reasoning (even the unit of currency is called Pound). Therefore, the need for a common advanced standard system was felt – and the European Renaissance (~ 14 to 17th century) gave that opportunity. The gov in France took the initiative by giving the task to the Academie des Sciences – which appointed five prominent scientists of that time to define a common standard. Thus the metric decimal SI system – as a rational and systematic unit of measure was born and accepted in 1791. Decrees promulgated by French President Napoleon Bonaparte (1769 – 1821) – made it imperative that all European countries (except United Kingdom) adopt the system. It soon became very popular – and is now a global unit of measure.
But, USA, the leading superpower in the world – remained ambiguous. The National Bureau of Standards, in its Miscellaneous Publication 286, 1967, Units of Weight and Measure – International (Metric) and U.S. Customary wrote: Henceforth it shall be the policy. . . to use the units of International System (SI) as adopted in the General Conference on Weights and Measure (October 1960), except when the use of these units obviously impair communication . . . Unlike every other countries in the world (including Britain that adopted it in 1988), this exceptional clause in the declaration prevented blanket adoption of SI system in the US. While the US scientific communities switched to the SI system – media, engineering and every other sphere of activities – continue to use both – often in favor of the customary British unit.
Before moving further, a distinction has to be made between model standard and standard, and between model code and code. The difference is clarified by International Building Code (IBC). It defines a model code as: A model code is developed by a standards organization, typically using the voluntary consensus standard processes and subject matter experts. The intent of a model code is to have an industry-wide standard that can be adopted and customized by local jurisdictions, thereby saving the jurisdiction the time and expense of developing and maintaining their own code. A model code is not enforceable until it is adopted by a jurisdiction. Because of review and modification processes before a model code can be adopted by a jurisdiction, a code generally lacks behind a model code in time. The same logic applies for standard and model standard.
STANDARDS: Now let us clarify our understanding of the definitions of Standards and Codes and the differences between the two. NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology) A-119 details out the definition of Standards: the definition of terms; classification of components; delineation of procedures; specification of dimensions, materials, performance, designs, or operations; measurement of quality and quantity in describing materials, processes, products, systems, services, or practices; test methods and sampling procedures; or descriptions of fit and measurements of size and strength.
In other words, a Standard consists of technical definitions, procedures and guidelines that specify minimum requirements or instructions for creating products and services. It provides a common reference for engineers, manufacturers and bidders. Among the thousands of Standards, the voluntary consensus standards are the most familiar ones with engineers. According to NIST, these standards are developed in a manner that is open, considering balance of interest, with due and appeal processes, relying on consensus meaning general agreement rather than unanimity.
CODES: Again referring to NIST: A code is a standard that has been enacted into law by a local, regional, or national authority in their jurisdictions so that engineers and contractors are legally obligated to comply with the code. Noncompliance can result in being prosecuted. Codes are laws and regulations that have their eyes on ensuring public safety and health. Technical Regulation is a mandatory government requirement that defines the characteristics and/or performance of a product, service or process.
As a further distinction between the two: a standard is detailed in nature – in its scientific content and justifications of those contents – most often with minimum or no input from law professionals. A code, on the other hand can afford to be less detailed because it relies upon and makes references to the relevant standards. Codes come under detailed scrutiny exercised by law professionals. This is because, once enacted into a law by a certain jurisdiction – codes have legal ramifications, although the liability lies with the applicators – the contractors – builders and consultants.
As described before, Standards and Codes usually come up with some form of specifications. A specification is a set of conditions and requirements of precise and limited application describing details of a procedure, process, material, product or service for use primarily in procurement and manufacturing.
Here is a list of some Standard Organizations of some major countries. They are all members of the International Standard Organization (ISO) and works in coordination with it – to adapt ISO standards to local conditions and elements – to ratify them to regulatory Codes. It was founded in 1947 in Geneva, Switzerland as a non-governmental organization to bring together experts to share knowledge and develop voluntary, consensus based, market relevant International Standards. By 2017, it has some 163 country-representing members.
As outlined earlier, manuals are primarily written as a cook-book – that are based on Standards and Codes, and on established research findings up to the time of their writing – and are designed as a step-by-step procedure for doing something. They are specific to certain products or methods – and accompany them while released for market consumption. They are not mandatory, but are meant to be followed for whom they are primarily issued.
Some coastal manuals are not freely available to practicing engineers although the responsible organizations are dependent somehow on tax-payer funding and member subscriptions. Exceptions are USACE Coastal Engineering Manual, US DOT, EUROTOP, Rock Manual, NAVFAC – US Navy, FEMA, UNCTAD and WMO.
Here is a brief list of some institutes that author and publish manuals in their respective areas of activities.
Before finishing, let me quote a few lines from U Thant (1909 – 1974) who had a decade long tenure as the UN Secretary General (1961 – 1971): Every human being of whatever origin, of whatever station, deserves respect. We must each respect others even as we respect ourselves . . . Wars begin in the minds of men, and in those minds, love and compassion would have built the defenses of peace.
. . .
The Koans of this piece:
Sorry, you can only look but cannot go backward, because the wheel of TIME has forgotten to fit the rear gear on . . . Build, nourish and protect your own reputation—because it cannot be bought in the market with fair means . . . Why heading to hell when the heaven is next door.
. . . . .
- by Dr. Dilip K. Barua, 25 March 2023