by Luke Setzer
A prominent Objectivist scholar recently asked me:
I read your summary of The Neo-Tech Discovery on the web. I have to ask you: Looking at Neo-Tech advertising materials and its web page, it all looks to me like a complete scam. I see no concrete or checkable fact presented, no argument or even what I could really call a theory, and the testimonials on the web page have a suspiciously uniform style of writing. Since you have actually read one of these books, can you tell me if there is anything to this at all?
What these people are doing, basically, is using Objectivism as a launching pad for their own theory of self-improvement via "collapse of personal mysticism". Where they veer way off-course into their own variant of mysticism is through their baseless assertions about
As you and I both know, arbitrary assertions are readily dismissable in the Objectivist epistemology. Why these folks have to pervert Objectivism into a bunch of mumbo-jumbo is beyond me, but here's their publicly stated reasoning:
The founder of the Neo-Tech company, Wallace Ward (aka Frank Wallace), started with the benevolent intention of "collapsing mysticism worldwide". There's job security for sure. Anyway, his first publication, The Neo-Tech Reference Encyclopedia, took an Objectivist look at 100 or so books and offered a thumbnail review of them. It also supplied a set of 144 "primary concepts" that were basically Objectivist treatments of various everyday situations from romantic relationships to church attendance. This publication was commercially unsuccessful, so Wallace had to regroup and start again.
While all this was happening, Wallace was also pursuing the development of life-extension technology. He was storing hard currency in a safe in the floor for start-up of an overseas research company that would be free of FDA regulations. Apparently, he was not paying taxes on this money, and his ex-girlfriend turned him in to the IRS. He spent a few years in federal prison. While there in 1986, he pounded out The Neo-Tech Discovery, a book that condensed the original Neo-Tech manuscript into "114 Advantages". This book was published by his family under the newly reorganized Neo-Tech Publishing (NTP) company and became a commercial success.
Since that time, many other books have poured from that company. The most notable one is The Neo-Tech System, which explains how to set up a publishing company similar to NTP. The interesting thing about their approach is the use of 100% accountability. There are no "employees", only a set of interdependent contractors, each of whom is responsible for his own bottom line.
With the arrival of the Internet, NTP has opted to publish some of their books on the Web and make money marketing other materials. One is Kevin Trudeau's Mega Memory system. Trudeau and Ward met each other in prison. Ward was in jail for tax evasion, Trudeau for credit card fraud. Trudeau has been heavily involved in Scientology in the past, and now he's a Neo-Tech advocate. This could have several interpretations, so I'll just leave it at that.
You can now read The Neo-Tech Discovery in its entirety on the web at http://www.neo-tech.com/advantages/. This book is really the "hook" to get people started. The actual attitudes offered in this particular work are largely in line with Objectivism. It's only later that the mumbo-jumbo is introduced.
Why did Wallace do this? Somewhere among the literature, he points out that he needed to make Neo-Tech larger-than-life in order to persuade people to his point of view. He claims that the concepts of "Civilization of the Universe", etc. are merely "metaphors" for the evolution of man into the ultimate being--one who controls existence through his conscious effort and productivity. However, a candid survey of the writings tells a different story, namely, the treatment of these concepts as already having concrete referents. This is dishonest concept-formation, which is ironic since Neo-Tech is supposed to mean "fully integrated honesty".
How do I know all this? Back in 1992, I received a card in the mail advertising Neo-Tech. It promised all sorts of things and had a money-back guarantee, so I ordered it. To my surprise and delight, it was Objectivism redressed. Now, take into account that I had adopted Objectivism as my worldview in 1988-89, but had not yet met anyone who shared that outlook. Here comes Neo-Tech, my first exposure to anyone outside of Ayn Rand who advocated Objectivism. Since I was pleased with Neo-Tech, I ordered the companion business volume, The Neo-Tech System. These books were not cheap ($65 for the first one, $99 for the second one), but were pretty big, and since many self-improvement systems are expensive anyway, I didn't have a real problem with the cost.
By 1995, NTP was on the web. I joined their e-mail list and newsgroup. This is where the problems really started, because at this point, Wallace had gone the mystical Zonpower route. The interesting thing was to see Neo-Tech advocates lock horns, not just with "conventional" mystics and socialists, but with regular Objectivists as well (of both the ARI and TOC variety). I spent considerable time and effort trying to give NTP "the benefit of the doubt". But I finally just gave them "the doubt", threw in the towel, and committed myself to studying fully-grounded, garden-variety Objectivism.
I would like to see a commercially successful self-improvement company rise that uses Objectivism as its foundation. I don't think there has been one since the NBI disintegrated. However, NTP just ain't it. We'd have better luck trying to convert Stephen Covey and Hyrum Smith from Mormonism to Objectivism. Then they could do some slight alterations to the FranklinCovey training company and publish a new book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Objectivists.
Well, this might be more information than you wanted. But I do want to emphasize one key point: The fact that the (mostly) non-mystical Neo-Tech Discovery was commercially successful shows that there is a hunger out there for self-improvement material based on Objectivism. Many of NTP's claimed "benefits" are true within the context of many people's lives. For example, a devout Mormon who gives 10% of his gross income to the church could dump his personal mysticism, withdraw his church financing, and see an instant jump in his income of 10% as a result. This would be great except that NTP's own views degenerate into mysticism as well. But you get the idea.
Bob Bidinotto made an excellent point in his tape "Organized Individualism: Building the Objectivist Community" when he said that Objectivists need to lead by example. We need to demonstrate the daily benefits we each enjoy through our worldview. A Christian who is successful in his health, wealth, romance and finance is not going to be very motivated to change his views if he thinks his success comes from obedience to Biblical teachings. Showing how we can enjoy those same or greater benefits without the dead weight of supernaturalism, mysticism or self-sacrifice is key to persuasion.