Fundamental vs. applied research

Or, a techno-scientific view over philosophical activities

These expressions "Fundamental research" and "applied research" grammatically carry an essentialist mistake in themselves: the mistake of believing that a research is made more or less fundamental by the position (level) of its topical object in the foundational hierarchy of realities. However it is already trivial to observe that nowadays research activities in "fundamental physics", namely by the LHC, are a mere application of applied physics (technologies of superconductivity, super-computing etc), while any possible finding which may come from this research of "foundations" will remain hopelessly inapplicable ever to anything other than more and more pure curiosity topics in the minds of a handful of specialists without any possible benefit ever for the rest of society (unlike the fundamental physics of the first half of the 20th century). As a knowledge, I don't even see much sense to qualify it as "fundamental", since these specialists must have already followed some years long learning of prerequisites to be able to understand what these new "fundamental" discoveries are all about. These specialists are thus a mere niche of end consumers, who are quite privileged as they are paying nothing for this production, purely done for their personal consumption, all at the charge of taxpayers. Of course lots of folks pretend otherwise by recalling the past importance of some instances of "fundamental research" with their unexpected applications. Well they are just telling ridiculous lies (false advertising) to defend their favorite field of curiosity at the expense of taxpayers, no more and no less than all the rest of false advertising done elsewhere in our world, what can I say ?

A particular field of "fundamental research", the research on one of the most "fundamental" topics and a very popular and widely active one (though not explicitly appearing in official categories of scientific research) is the research in metaphysics: so many people spend time on, either following, rejecting or anyhow exploring religions, investigating the question "which religion is the true one, if any ?", "what is the goal of life", "Is there a God", "is there a life after death" and so on. That are arguably among the most fundamental questions indeed, in the sense of being questions on the foundations of reality, or foundations of life, or of being oneself alive here, or the foundations of the core convictions and choices one can have in life. However, and despite widespread assumptions, I will argue here that, unlike the status of its objects, the activity of investigating these questions is far from the most fundamental of all activities, and even far from the most fundamental of all research activities.
Because this activity itself can be the object of some other kind of investigation, some other kind of analysis, which is thus somehow more fundamental.

Here is this analysis, or at least an aspect or introduction to it: it is an economic analysis. It starts by classifying that activity of metaphysical research in its proper economic category. That is, the research about what is the true answer (information) on a common (universal, impersonal) question. Well of course there are also some closely related questions which are relative (personal), that is, which way to live can personally fit best to someone in particular, which may objectively differ from the true answer to the question of which way to live may better fit to somebody else. But let us put those aside for the sake of the present discussion, and focus on the case of these questions which, logically, as questions about universal objects rather than about individual cases, must have the same really true answer for all researchers.
So it is the activity of, from possible lists of candidate answers (hopefully containing the right one), finding out a proof for which answer is actually correct. Not only many researchers are searching for answers to the same questions, but many have more or less similar tools and basic data that the possible proofs they might find may be based on, though it depends: there can be differences of skills of investigation or discernment, differences of personal experience, differences in the selection of readings, thoughts and other stuff learned by each in their life. Anyway...
Different situations may thus happen, such as the following list with no care for exhaustivity, and with possible intermediates between them: Anyway we must remark that, insofar as personal investigation on such a topic is undertaken (and we do find bunches of people undertaking it), the whole motivation of this activity relies on the presence of significant chances of success, that is, actually finding a reliable proof that determines the right conclusion. Because if the chances of succeeding the investigation were not significant then the whole point of undertaking this investigation would be void, wouldn't it ? Is this clear ? Yes ? Are you sure ?
Well, once again, is this clear ? Because despite the actual simplicity and necessity of that remark, I'm afraid many people may have overlooked it...
...or at least, may have not thought it as far as pushing the thought up to the resulting next pending question:

How likely are the chances for these researchers to succeed their investigation, that is to find a solid proof for some conclusion (and how is this likeliness distributed among them) ?

Well we have no obviously known answer to this question under hand of course, yet we can interestingly review the range of theoretical possibilities about it. And quickly exclude one of these based on a simple observation : if the chances of success were abundant for a large majority of people, this would result in most people agreeing on the same answers, which is not what we observe. Thus, there exist at least large numbers of people who fail at that task, which thus turned out to be a too hard task for them. This roughly leaves us with two main remaining theoretical possibilities But in either case we are in trouble. In the first case, all that work is done in vain (for no result or very likely so). In the second case, people are repeating a work which was already completed before, while in principle it has no reason to be repeated, since as soon as it was completed, and if only that fact of completion was known (and at least, logically by definition, it had to be known by the one who made it), the conclusion is easy to share (publish) for free or almost, and this information is all what the rest of researchers are really looking for. Therefore anyway, the world generally suffers some terrible waste of work in this field.

Still in either case, may it be

some further economic analysis, tools and new technologies can be appropriate in search for possible solutions to this economic problem of inefficient or wasted work.
Some people may argue (assume) against this analysis, like they are raising the condition of orphanage with some kind of law of the jungle as the right standard of working conditions in this field, by saying that everyone would anyway "need" to consume one's life making one's own research, with no point expecting the research of others to be useful, in the name that the same lengthy stuff needs to be experienced the lengthy way over again by each other person just as a new stuff in order to work for each other person as a genuine stuff (something people can really know and understand), and learning again the same stuff is not really a repetition provided that it is learned by a new person each time.
But... I beg to differ, based on my experience. Concretely, what kind of waste may it be ?

First, the occurring painful repetitions of the same works are not only of the kind of "not feeling like a repetition" because of each person only doing one occurrence of the repeated work. Instead of this, I suffered having to repeatedly undergo myself many repetitions of a same tedious work : I repeatedly struggled in desperate and painful tries to explain the same difficult things over and over again... to each other person I had the misfortune of happening to debate with, since no matter how well I could once work to explain something to someone, it remains totally useless for the next time I will find another person to debate with, who will innocently remain totally ignorant of how well I could already explain that thing to the previous person, and will thus naturally bother me with the duty of fully re-explaining everything, an obligation of repetition that is hard to escape since otherwise my conclusions would clearly seem "unjustified" in his eyes. Add to this, the circumstance of not being allowed to just repeat that lengthy explanation but being obliged to continuously interrupt myself to let the other person a "right to speak" as much time, and an obligation to react to each further nonsense then heard by respective refutations... hearing in 1 minute 10 absurdities which would each require 10 minutes to debunk while I am only allowed 1 minute in total to reply while letting aside the main stuff I had wished to address... In such conditions it can become very hard for me to remain polite and not look arrogant, and if I don't remain polite then I am the bad guy, therefore I must be wrong in the other's eye.

Second, here is what I found as a quite frequent "state of the debate" on many issues. There are roughly two opposed communities of thought, X and Y, on a given issue. In community X, which has much more frequent internal communication than it has with community Y, tons of people keep repeating to each other "We have argument A on our side ! Great argument, isn't it ? If only members of Y took account of this argument, they should probably change their mind !" ; and they all find it great, and only want to hear praise for the validity of A. On the other hand, members of Y, whenever they see argument A, actually find it ridiculous, as they see some clear objection against it. And while that objection is well-known in Y, members of X either never heard of it, or overlooked it, not understanding or not ready to consider how serious it actually is. Or if the objection is actually not serious while argument A really holds, there is anyway a serious problem explaining why that objection does not hold, an explanation which was not properly undertaken. Generally, people on different sides may build their different view of the debate on wide misunderstandings (in many details) of which are the arguments, authorities or references of the other side, which of the many details of arguments are serious (such as coherent with current science).
The trouble here is not just a matter of human weakness of being biased on one's side. It is also a defect in communication technologies. The debate is spread over countless debating spaces, teachings or publications which are basically separate from each other, only possibly connected by the action of participants who may have joined or visited different spaces in parallel, and thus take an argument which looked good from one space to share it in another space. Reports of arguments are not automatically coming with the list of all possible properly explained objections and the details of how important each objection may sound in the eyes of opponents. Even with the availability of Internet as it now goes, for each argument that one reads somewhere in a publication or discussion, the list and the data of respective importance of its objections can still be hard to find even for people who want to search for this information. Indeed, not only a web search is likely to dilute any instances of links to the intended kind of web pages among tons of totally unrelated, useless search results; but in many cases it can be hopeless to even try figuring out some keywords or key expression likely to provide any relevant result at all.

In such conditions, I came to conclude that these whole works of either searching for truth or arguing for any position by participation in diverse debates on metaphysical or other issues, which I and many other people are facing in diverse roles, are currently very far from behaving like any kind of truly noble work for noble minds, which many naive idealists of philosophy or the like often assume. There is so much unnecessary waste of efforts while undertaking such activities in the current informational jungle, for the reduction of which I believe that some kind of machine assistance is direly needed. Of course the search for truth cannot be 100% automated, as humans remain the necessary source of data, but...
What, how could some people seriously hold that "that is life" and that must be accepted as natural how hard this work of search for metaphysical truth currently is, and that we should leave it this way, letting millions of people in mistake or failing long life search because "that is their way", that "they should make their own experience" or the like ???
Just imagine, as a traveler you plan to visit a big city for a week, and (without internet access with its online maps) after arrival you discover that you cannot find any good city map available. Some amateurs could have drawn some little maps showing a few streets and possible destinations, but they are very unclear and incomplete. Trying to explore the city you often get lost. While you had planned to visit some destinations you had heard of before arrival, you no more hear about these once there and you come to give up, assuming they are not there or you will never find them anyway. As you come hungry, you fail to find food as many shops remain closed just because their owner also got lost in the city and could not find the way to their own shop either. Eventually if you are lucky and hard working in your search for a good city guide, you might end up finding one during the last day of your visit, and you may not even believe it accurate after having been fooled by wrong maps too many times. Even if you finally believe it, it will only leave you the opportunity to ponder for a while how much of the really valuable attractions of the city you missed during your visit by having gone wrong ways or having arrived to places at the wrong times. Not so fun or is it ? Some may argue that this whole fuss of getting lost and spend one's time searching for a good map probably in vain, letting it a matter of luck to later find one or not, should be held as the real fun, the very great thing of the city. Still, in case your initial purpose for visiting the city was to participate in a chess contest happening at a specific place there and you failed to join on time because the city council decided that it should be more fun for you to play the game of getting lost in the city and searching for your way instead, you might get angry and consider it an abuse from their part to not let you the freedom to choose which game you really came to play there.
For all these reasons thus, I believe that there is another field of investigation that needs to be undertaken, that is much more fundamental than any research on metaphysical issues in the current environment: the search for the design of a new good online social networking architecture which, by interaction with its many users, would naturally lead to systematically classify all the relevant information: list of topics of debates; on each topic, its list of the diverse positions (opinions). For each opinion, its list of diverse arguments. For each argument, its list of counter-arguments. For each of any of these, the diverse works of exposition, and the number of supporters of any of these... and any stuff that may similarly be useful. Theoretically, such progress is possible. Such a new system would not only help for debates on metaphysics, but on many structurally similar topic as well, such as political debates, scientific debates, how to fight against fake news... It just needs to be undertaken. Together with other kinds of uses of such a new online social networking architecture, that is what I see as one of the most fundamental research activities ever, much more fundamental than the research work on any metaphysical topic. That is a kind of research activity which would receive its quality as a fundamental activity by the specific choice of the very applied (non-fundamental) object of that research, and that character as a fundamental activity which it so receives, is not a matter of its intrinsic process (of the methods how it is undertaken, which are just similar to those of the research on any other topic), but a matter of how fundamental will be the concrete consequences of that work after it is completed.

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