Philosophy as an Aid to Invention and Creativity — Dave Shafer, Optical Design

Wednesday, March 27, 2024 3:30pm to 5:30pm

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1160 Camino de Cruz Blanca, Santa Fe, NM 87505

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The philosopher Edmund Husserl (1859-1938) was the founder of phenomenology, a field that led eventually to Sartre’s existentialism, among other offshoots.  Phenomenology is a systematic way of investigating certain aspects of human experience.  Psychologist Clark Moustakas (1902-1987) refined some of these techniques and developed transcendental phenomenology, mainly for therapeutic use.  The goal is to have everything perceived freshly, as if for the first time.  That means approaching an experience while devoid of prejudices, and any prior assumptions.  As Husserl put it – “to go back to the things themselves” without ourselves, our personalities, and our history getting in the way of us having direct unmediated experiences.  

A quite unintended use of this idea turns out to be a very powerful way to approach problem solving in any field and to be more inventive and creative.  We will show some examples of this in my own field of hi-tech optical system designs, which has led me to have over 200 patents so far, but mostly some everyday non-technical use will be demonstrated.   The key is always to identify and question assumptions you have made.

Dave Shafer has designed hi-tech optical systems for the last 57 years, for astronomy, medicine, space surveillance, laser fusion, cinematography cameras, top secret military projects, and the manufacture of state of the art computer chips.  One of his unusual telescope designs went to Saturn while another landed on a comet.  He designed a novel stereo viewer for Salvador Dali.  All the computer chips in the world today are made using an incredible high-tech optical system he invented about 20 years ago, where the optical surfaces are made accurate to a few atoms! Over 50 billion dollars worth of this design has been made and used so far.

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