Editor’s Note: Friends and members of The Atlas Society are among our greatest resources -- providing energy, ideas, and support that actively shape our work. Their individual stories are testaments to Ayn Rand’s ideals of reason, achievement, and ethical self-interest. Arno Vigen is the CFO of telecom company AireSpring and an inventor whose interests include exploring the boundaries of science, especially physics. The Atlas Society Contributing Editor, Marilyn Moore, Ph.D., interviewed Arno about his work and family, the role Ayn Rand played in shaping his outlook, and his advice for young people preparing for careers in science and technology.
MM: Can you tell me about your background? Where did you grow up?
AV: I grew up in California in the 1960s and 1970s, then graduated from UCLA with a BA in Mathematics. Since my parents were divorced, I worked two or three jobs to put myself through university, and to graduate without the type of debt that the current system uses to enslave the current generation.
I have four children, two children out in the world, employed with zero college debt, of course, and two more still at home. The first two are independent and fully self-sufficient. I hope I gave them that spirit to achieve their goals by the power of their mind. I couldn’t be prouder.
I earned my CPA, working in a Beverly Hills tax firm, yet that was just a stepping stone to running companies. My goal is not observing others and finding loopholes, but being a creator of value. I am Growth. I am under-the-hood, in the details. It is my nature.
For example, in 1994, I went into the former Soviet Union to privatize the national telephone company of Armenia. The Berlin wall had just fallen, and I went into the belly of the beast, a communist state, with logic and passion to transform that company. I have seen firsthand what Ayn Rand described of a state-enterprise, and battled to transform that into a professional company. We built the first cellular system, we built fiber across the country, and in the process, we went from 9% completed calls to 50%, paying off $60 million in debt from the extra dollars generated by more completed inbound calls, mostly from relatives overseas.
Yet, that political system is dangerous. I went through one coup with tanks on every corner, with the telecommunications system under siege, and just after we sold, the telephone service that I helped build stopped another coup. The entire Cabinet was shot at a meeting of Parliament, but one of them had his cell phone. He called the building security, no answer. He called his Cabinet office, no answer. So, he called the Armenian Ambassador in Canada, and got a perfect connection around the world. From Canada, the military response was organized, and the country was saved. Yet, in that, my friend, the Minister of Finance, died.
Later at Justice Technology, we won the Inc. 500 award for the #1 Fastest Growing Private Company in the USA going from near nothing to $91 million in revenue in four years. Its successor, TPx Communications, is now going public with a $2+ billion valuation.
My current company, AireSpring, has grown to over 200 staff around the world, and processes 100 million calls a day. My Big Data algorithms change the routing logic every day to make us a Top 20 carrier in the USA, and the 2nd largest carrier with zero debt.
MM: You are the CFO of AireSpring, a major telecommunications company. How did you get involved in telecommunications? Is AireSpring a family business?
AV: Originally, I worked as a CPA, then in home décor, so telecom was just the next available position. My first job in telecom was at IDB WorldCom early on, which was eventually sold to the company LDDS, which used our name to become WorldCom. I was on three of the 59 acquisition teams in five years, but I made the right decision to leave. With their partner Enron cooking the books, the WorldCom executives all went to jail for stock fraud a decade after I left. So, I have been in telecom almost three decades.
Yes, AireSpring is family-owned, and I am just an executive. Funny enough though, in my interview, they asked, “are you worried, we use the Hubbard Management System. Some people would say this family is a member of a cult, you know L. Ron Hubbard, Tom Cruise.” I laughed, and said, “Well, they would say I am a member of a different cult, the cult of Ayn Rand.”
No, I have not become a Scientologist. They don’t try to convert, and I couldn’t convert them. Not going to happen. It is challenging enough to run a business professionally. It works because over the years I contribute in ways unlike them, and that is valuable.
Yet, I learned a lot. Hubbard operates like running a ship; he was in the Navy. As such, it is all top-down and controlled, which keeps things tidy and focused. There is a language and a viable logic underlying the operating system. It works, even if it is very different from one where each person’s mind is unleashed.
I think I get great results with very different people because I don’t throw out those other ideas because one part does not match mine. So long as the morals start with a) reality, and b) no-force, then we can work together. Yes, I find ways for individual minds to contribute more in my divisions than the overall system generally does. Yet, I believe in ownership, and it is their asset. If I only worked for Objectivists, the job market would get very limited.
That is similar to the Atlas Society, and why I am a donor and member. We all love Ayn Rand, yet there is a variety of added ideas, and a genuine interest to learn from each other person’s mind. That sets Atlas apart to me. I want to learn from the other members; that helps me grow faster. Each of us is not done advancing the mind. I have new ideas, and crave others with that Growth passion.
MM: You are a long-time Objectivist. When did you first become aware of Ayn Rand, and how has she influenced you?
AV: My elder brother introduced me to many books including Ayn Rand’s at about 12 years old, and I took to the novels instantly. It was the first time that you can see logic with passion. As I grew up, the idea of logic was the character, Mr. Spock from Star Trek. While about exploration and science, I hated the morals, because in that show logic was a running joke. Oh, you need science occasionally, but the real decisions are tactical and emotional, as in the Captain Kirk character. Logic was there to use, but never to make the decision. Logic is incomplete. Worse, Mr. Spock’s character never had a goal, a purpose, and Ayn Rand was my first inspiration that I could be both objective and purposeful. It has guided my life in a world that glorifies emotion as the only valid goal. Ayn Rand’s core is that purpose as a passion works as validly as the societal definitions. She pushed back on a society that relegates my objective passions as invalid, but at their disposal.
However, it is Sonia, my spouse, that taught me more about Ayn Rand. You see, she studied it under Dr. Ridpath, at York University in Toronto. You see, Sonia and I met back when online dating was just starting. She had in her profile, “I want a man as strong as Rearden Metal,” and I understood the reference. Hence, we are a match. Sonia has studied more extensively than I, and she helped me improve the philosophical rigor that Ayn Rand taught. Sonia escaped communism in 1971 from Romania, and like me, has lived the real-life impact of that political system. We share this great bond of a solid moral system.
MM: How long have you been involved with The Atlas Society?
AV: I joined the Atlas Society three years ago at FreedomFest. I bonded immediately with the people who gathered at the booth. To me, the members that I met have a) purpose, b) passion, and c) objective values at their core.
Of course, educating the next generation with similar mindsets needs our help. Kids are the future. That focus at the Atlas Society is great work, and needs our help. I support it every year.
MM: You’ve developed an expansion of the Myers-Briggs personality typing system for scientists called GATESOUP (SOPFP), which is an acronym for “Goal, Audience, Theme, Enough elements, Support, Organization of ideas, Focus, Poetry, and Punctuation and the rest of the rules.” How does it work, and what triggered your interest in developing it?
AV: You’re mixing two separate concepts, kedarf and GATESOUP. They are different aspects of persuasive communications, and in that sense, personality. Kedarf is the intelligent process concept. GATESOUP is a structure for values in persuasive communications, which is entirely different.
First, Myers-Briggs is a system to understand the process of intelligent thinking starting from the clinical analysis and writings of the student of Freud––Carl Gustav Jung. It has four nodes or traits, each with two choices. It is a concept without a framework. These four concepts are independent without correlation as currently taught. That framework of two choices at four attributes has value. It is a great predictor of careers. It is a good predictor of relationship success. It is a 2-choices for 4 variables called Myers-Briggs Type Indicators (MBTI). 2-to-the-fourth power is 16 personality types.
Now, the missing concept that I have added to that is the underlying framework. MBTI is four (4) of the six (6) steps of the complete intelligent process. In doing that process over and over again so many times each day, it is natural that a person will engrain certain choice preferences. These are highly personal, yet consistent, and a part of a person’s identity. It is not whether you have the ability to process one way or the other, but that each person usually has one or two in which there is a strong preference based upon their nature or nurture.
I call the six steps for their initials, kedarfTM, and each of them relates to the fuzzy concept of Myers-Briggs. They are the choices in the repeating steps of the intelligent process. Each step has knowable choices in ways to accomplish that step:
Now, with a valid concept as the framework for Myers-Briggs, it is 10x more powerful. I have a series of books on implementing that structure from which students can learn. I work to take good concepts, and transform them into proper concepts with understandable causation.
For example, Ayn Rand’s preference was verbal, and I am a visual person as you can tell because I cannot explain my concept without a picture. She loved pattern matching, and I prefer structure at the extreme. Both are valid choices. They are the process preference part of our personality.
This actually leads to the next conceptual structure. That communication is about two people who have enough in common to understand each other. Now, the process is fine, but you still need to understand the values and the situation.
Yet, I, as a structure person, am not a natural writer. I need help to evaluate and translate words. So, I devised another hierarchy for the way my mind works. It is a persuasive communication valuation system with the initials GATESOUP, well almost:
I find well-written nonsense that does not take into account the goals or the audience; those two are always most important. Because I work via structure, my writing takes time to work through each step. I must not add a lower step, like poetry, if that is not the audience or the goal.
When you get to deep debates about the structure of philosophy, my above methods, deductive structure, have a very high hurdle. The weaknesses of the above deductive methods are many. Your students need to understand the caution needed. Test my ideas. Is the order correct? Are the concepts valid? Deductive systems open the door to lazy philosophy and bad concepts getting hidden. Ayn Rand focused on inductive reasoning as the only valid method, and I agree. However, when the inductive process is done, you do get a moral choice in these steps. There is an ultimate political question, “Are you taking from another person without consent?” That is the top of a structured deductive process. I don’t need to re-analyze if that question is a valid moral concept, it is the highest human concept. I don’t waste time on the inductive process when the question boils down to one I already did.
That combination of applying inductive reasoning fully, then leads to other discoveries, like my patents and books. The goal of thinking is to find and exploit new patterns.
MM: One thing you are interested in is applying Ayn Rand’s ideas beyond literature and philosophy into science. Why?
AV: Most people like Ayn Rand for politics. But, like politics, the world of physics and chemistry today is just as challenged for sound philosophy. University physics is a world where any reading of a Wikipedia page on a physics topic will baffle 99% of the people. It is filled with concepts “only the experts understand,” and those strange concepts, which are unfathomable to general folk, magically drive results. They include causes, elementary particles, and dimensions that do not exist. Ayn Rand hated the “only experts understand” basis for physics. Yet, that is the physics world today.
Take for instance, the proton. Per all universities today, and Wikipedia, a proton is the combination of three quarks. Yet, quarks are something that no person has every separately observed. They go further; they says these three are connected by a force, a gluon, that no one has even measured, and that magically appears, but disappears beyond a specific range of subatomic distance.
Read the Wikipedia description of a neutron:
The quark content of the neutron. The color assignment of individual quarks is arbitrary, but all three colors must be present. Forces between quarks are mediated by gluons.
Composition: 1 up quark, 2 down quarks
That would all be valid if you could find a quark, observe it, separate it. Yet, for almost a century, the best scientists have achieved is a few nanosecond blips that might be one of these elementary particles; logic says that one cannot build a million-year atom of Carbon-14 with a nanosecond subatomic elementary particle.
The current definition also has a unit of ½, called spin, when everything else is an integer. Both the elementary particles, and their forces, only apply to these subatomic calculations. The ‘color’ is nothing to do with ‘color’ we know. They state that ‘spin’ is not an object rotating. It is not a system with any continuity in the larger, observable world. Spin is not the spin of the macro-world. Color is not the color of the macro-world. Physics today is the realm of extra dimensions, warped spacetime; heck, they even call one factor the imaginary ‘i’ number in equations. The great challenge is that current university physics adds new dimensions and elementary particles, like the above, or like 12-dimension string theory, so it matches the results they observe or want.
It is science without a valid philosophic basis, without Ayn Rand. Ayn Rand taught that defining an object is a careful process; one cannot use something that does not exist to define something else. That logical failure is the sign of mysticism. Any time you have a concept defined by an unknowable concept. This physics example is quite extreme; it is defined by an unknowable force which is held together by an unobservable force.
Like politics, this mysticism of physics was predicted by Ayn Rand; it is a core conflict in the storyline of Atlas Shrugged. When Ayn Rand was alive, the creation of quantum physics, the current system without sound philosophy, was coming true in universities, and that conflict has not changed in the half century since then. This physics mysticism happened, and continues to happen, just as powerfully as did her political predictions.
You see, to get a physics degree, one must swear fealty to Einstein, Schrodinger, and Feynman.
Ayn Rand would turn over in her grave!
Instead, Ayn Rand would admire Sir Isaac Newton. Newton found that the same force that makes an apple fall to earth is the same force that keep planets apart. Newton gave the world a philosophically sound system of physics. What works here also works far away; the Newtonian rules don’t change. Observations and science fully connect. That the fundamental rules for the particles and forces are the same at every distance and in fixed directions and time.
It is Einstein, Schrodinger, and Feynman that must manipulate the metaphysical, objective standards. They require a form of mysticism.
MM: Ayn Rand had concerns about science. In Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology, for example, she argued that without a more rigorous understanding of what science is or isn’t, science would collapse under the weight of ultimately unscientific claims. Here is a quote:
“No single mind can hold all the knowledge available to mankind today, let alone hold it in minute detail. Yet that knowledge has to be integrated and has to be kept open to individual understanding and verification, if science is not to collapse under the weight of uncorrelated, unproved, contradictory minutiae. Only the most rigorous epistemological precision can implement and protect the advance of science. Only the strictest, contextually absolute definitions of concepts, can enable men to integrate their knowledge, to keep expanding their conceptual structure in severely hierarchical order by forming new concepts, when and as needed, and thus to condense information and to reduce the number of mental units with which they have to deal.”
Do you agree with Rand?
AV: I agree with the rigor section fully. The core concepts, as always, are spot on. Those tools are necessary to build a valid conceptional structure.
She properly predicted how impossibly divergent from reality the current physics has become. The current system should collapse because of contradictory minutiae. It needs a replacement based upon rigorous definitions for each concept. Yet, mysticism is still winning . . . even if Ayn Rand is right.
Yet, I think that others twist statements like the opening sentence. That sentence is not the logical start of the issue at hand; Ayn Rand should not start with that. We cannot give the mystics any openings. Yet, Ayn Rand here opened the door to exactly that. No man can understand all knowledge might be a true statement, but the mystics then take that premise to drive their argument. “But you said you cannot know.” Hence, we get the corruption of Kant, and the physics Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle. We lose the battle because we open the door to their premise – mysticism. I would eliminate the first sentence as unconnected to the issue.
Instead, my work, and life’s passion, makes such things–– supposedly unknowable–– 1,000% more knowable. When you get the underlying concept correct, the complexity goes away. Politics is so complex, but ‘don’t take other people’s money’ is a simple concept. Quantum mechanics is extremely complex, but that is only because it starts with the wrong philosophical concept. I would replace the opening with the idea that we can understand anything to which we apply the effort.
I would further teach that complexity is so often a red flag. People that say “You cannot understand” tell me that most often that person has not built a proper basis. What I discover is understandable. Proper concepts are not complex, they are timeless and simple. If I spend the time, then the concepts are understandable.
Look, it took me three years, but that is just the rigor step. There is no reason to do something unless you do it right.
MM: You particularly admire Rand’s fictional “motor of the world.” In case some readers don’t know, what is the motor of the world, and how has it inspired you?
AV: In Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand describes a scientific breakthrough, the motor of the world; it was both physical and metaphorical. In the novel, that discovery was the result of the battle of two professors––a philosopher and a scientist––and because of that choice, the unlimited power, the motor of the world, got discovered and the rest of the story unfolds. A philosophically sound physics is required, and she predicted it. Heck, Ayn Rand demanded it!
All atmospheric energy is caused by actual subatomic particles rotating. Yes, actual particles rotating in 3D, not a probability. A rotating nucleo-static-magnetics force (axial, isotropic (meaning that ‘bagel’ iron-filing magnet-like shape), at 1/distance-cubed, repulsive-in-both hemispheres when static) causes the strength to go up and down. That is a motor. The weakly-named concept is called electromagnetic waves. Again, a poor concept as they mix two words, but use the physics definition of only the first. In physics, another force going up and down is this magical wave function. No, that is a subatomic particle’s magnet-like force, with two poles, rotating in 3D space and 1D time. The concept is simple.
Even far away, from far galaxies, this energy is recognizable and usable. There is enough energy unused because its basic nature remained hidden; there are great new advances in science starting with my mind. Nuclear power enhanced with its nuclear waste reduced and fully reused in the same system. A replacement for gasoline to drive a motor, without CO2 produced for less than the equivalent of $1 per gallon. Water heaters without fossil fuels or fumes, yet better providing energy consumption. Those are current inventions and projects of mine.
So remember, my corollary to Sir Isaac Newton:
“An object, including every subatomic particle, in rotation will continue its rotation unless acted, or acting, upon another object.”
If you understand this corollary to Newton, then you can unleash the motor of the world, like me. But, don’t try it with mysticism; don’t try it without Newton; don’t try it without Ayn Rand.
Is the world ready for this breakthrough? We will see. Will you help build a world ready to receive it?
MM: You are also an inventor with 12 patents, both issued and pending, in nanotechnology, energy, chemical engineering, and related software. How do you get so much done?
AV: When you have purpose, you focus. I am like Howard Roark, another Rand character. This year so far I have completed two books: one on the nature of photons as a result of knowable 3D quantum entanglement, and another on re-calculation of the Dirac quantum equations to a fix the concept of his 1931 paper that lead to his Nobel Prize. Each takes a fuzzy quantum non-concept, and replaces with valid concepts. It gets their quantum results and more . . .
Yes, Sonia worries that I don’t sleep enough, but the growth of one’s mind provides the energy and passion.
MM: Last question, what advice would you give to young people who are planning a career in science and technology?
AV: My great achievements have all been attempting the impossible, but where I know that a solution exists. I learned quantum theory from scratch last year; because I must know it to transcend it. I knew its fundamental flaw, non-existence, but I learned details that make the replacement better. So, take the time to learn with rigor . . . and skepticism.
Going in 1994 into the former Soviet Union, seems a horrible task, yet the work was easy. I knew telecommunications, and I knew business practices. The concepts of sound business were foreign to everyone there, but a young team absorbed them, and we changed from no-profit state-enterprise providing a failing service to a growing enterprise providing value. Our initial $2 million investment for 49%, reinvested, grew to a $158 million in sales four years later. More importantly for your students, four of those people have worked for me ever since in various projects and companies around the world, each achieving professional careers. So, find mentors that love helping people grow.
In science, students study all the concepts, and if you have learned the epistemology, then the choice of where you can become a leader is easy. Identify the poor concepts, and operate using the sound ones. The concepts that are most complex and most mystic are the ones that have opportunity. So, if you want more than a basic career, find the mysticism, and open it to the light. So, your students will have an impact because they have the tools of the mind to bring light, and passion, and change the world.
Senior Editor Marilyn Moore thinks that Ayn Rand is a great American writer, and with a Ph.D in literature, she writes literary analysis that proves it. As Director of Student Programs, Moore trains Atlas Advocates to share Ayn Rand’s ideas on college campuses and leads discussions with Atlas Intellectuals seeking an Objectivist perspective on timely topics. Moore travels nationwide speaking and networking on college campuses and at liberty conferences.