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Three-Dimensional Venn Diagram as an Explanation of Two Kinds of Generality in Science, Invention, & Engineering

Author(s): Christopher Portosa Stevens

This paper describes a Venn Diagram with three dimensions, “Predictability,” “Generality,” and “Technological Growth”: this Venn Diagram is used to explain two kinds of generality in science, invention, and engineering instead of one kind: there is an additional kind of generality related to technological productivity and technological growth, like the technological growth related to the work of Alan Turing, Nicholas Metropolis, or Claude Shannon, in addition to generality related to the generality of predictions of some subject matter, like Ptolemy's predictive astronomy, or Copernicus' predictive astronomy, or Galileo's classical mechanics. The paper includes a provocative thought experiment on the nature of technology and biotechnology: Vico and Marx likely viewed the vast array of functional and adaptive capacities of plant and animal life as considerably greater than the technologies and inventions of human labor; in the 19th century biological adaptations of organisms, or what Vico and Marx called “natural technologies,” were unquestionably far greater than the technological adaptations of human labor and inventiveness; however, given the nature of technological growth, it may be possible for the vast array of human inventions to eclipse the number and diversity of “inventions” or functional and adaptive properties distributed across plant and animal life.

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