James Watt: steam engine

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pages: 420 words: 124,202

The Most Powerful Idea in the World: A Story of Steam, Industry, and Invention by William Rosen

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Albert Einstein, All science is either physics or stamp collecting, barriers to entry, collective bargaining, computer age, Copley Medal, creative destruction, David Ricardo: comparative advantage, decarbonisation, delayed gratification, Fellow of the Royal Society, Flynn Effect, fudge factor, full employment, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, Islamic Golden Age, iterative process, Jacquard loom, James Hargreaves, James Watt: steam engine, John Harrison: Longitude, Joseph Schumpeter, Joseph-Marie Jacquard, knowledge economy, moral hazard, Network effects, Paul Samuelson, Peace of Westphalia, Peter Singer: altruism, QWERTY keyboard, Ralph Waldo Emerson, rent-seeking, Ronald Coase, Simon Kuznets, spinning jenny, the scientific method, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thomas Malthus, transaction costs, transcontinental railway, zero-sum game, éminence grise

., Philosophers and Machines. 21 Watt didn’t discover the existence of latent heat Ibid. 22 Heating the cylinder walls Hills, “The Origins of James Watt’s Perfect Engine.” 23 “ran on making engines cheap” James Patrick Muirhead, The Life of James Watt, with Selections from His Correspondence (London: J. Murray, 1858). 24 “steam was an elastic body” Birmingham Central Library (Birmingham, England) and Adam Matthew Publications, The Industrial Revolution: A Documentary History. Series Three: The Papers of James Watt and His Family Formerly Held at Doldowlod House (Marlborough, England: A. Matthew, 1998). 25 “nearly as perfect” F. M. Scherer, “Invention and Innovation in the Watt-Boulton Steam Engine Venture,” in Kranzberg, ed., Technology and Culture: An Anthology (New York: Schocken Books, 1972). 26 “I can think of nothing else” Watt to Lind, April 29, 1765, in Robinson and Musson, James Watt and the Steam Revolution. 27 “the invention was complete” Scherer, “Invention and Innovation in the Watt-Boulton Steam Engine Venture.” 28 “A Company for carrying on an undertaking” Charles Mackay, Josef Penso de la Vega, and Martin S.

The argument between those who believe legal protection for inventions promotes innovation or retards it continues to this day. For both sides of the debate, Exhibit A is often the litigation between James Watt and Jonathan Hornblower. HORNBLOWER, THE SON OF a onetime steam engine mechanic (the steam engines in question were reputedly Newcomen’s) and nephew of another,* followed them into the family business when he hired on with Boulton & Watt to install engines in Cornwall in the late 1770s. By 1781, either by native ingenuity or careful observation, he was able to draft a patent for a revolutionary new kind of steam engine that coordinated two separate cylinders, one at higher pressure than the other, and used the pressure exhausted from one cylinder to drive the other. This both increased the machine’s output by as much as a third, and, by running each cylinder in a sort of syncopated rhythm, reduced the “dead spots” where the piston reversed direction (this is known as “smoothing out the power curve”).

Fridson, Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds (New York: Wiley, 1996). 29 “I am going on with the Modell” Watt to Roebuck, September 9, 1765, in Robinson and Musson, James Watt and the Steam Revolution. 30 As a result, he tried dozens of combinations Scherer, “Invention and Innovation in the Watt-Boulton Steam Engine Venture.” 31 “Cotton was proposed” Birmingham Central Library and Adam Matthew Publications, The Industrial Revolution: A Documentary History. Series One: The Boulton and Watt Archive and the Matthew Boulton Papers from the Birmingham Central Library. 32 “Dear Jim… Let me suggest a method” Ibid. 33 “what I knew about the steam engine” Ibid. 34 “my principal hindrance” Muirhead, Life of James Watt. 35 “relief amidst [his] vexations” Birmingham Central Library and Adam Matthew Publications, The Industrial Revolution: A Documentary History.


pages: 229 words: 71,872

Fred Dibnah's Age of Steam by David Hall, Fred Dibnah

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cable laying ship, clean water, Fellow of the Royal Society, Isaac Newton, James Watt: steam engine, North Sea oil, railway mania

When I was a lad, there were 200 factory chimneys sticking up in between rows of houses. It was an incredible skyline, and of course most other industrial towns in Lancashire and the northern half of England were pretty much the same. What you’ve got to think is that at the bottom of every one of those chimneys was a steam engine of one sort or another. A steam engine is virtually indestructible, some of them were literally made in James Watt’s period back in the eighteenth century. There’s a great mill in Bolton called the Gilner Mill that was still driven right up to 1947 by a beam engine with Watt’s parallel motion. A steam engine really is a fascinating thing. When it is running it comes alive in a strange way. It has an unbelievable smell about it for a start. Even people who come to my garden now notice it when they go near my boiler. We had an old guy come in the other day, eighty-odd years old, and he was sniffing away and he said, ‘That brings back memories of my youth.’

Railways became the great symbol of Victorian industrial and technical ingenuity, which formed the basis of the prosperity of the country at this time. It was an exciting period when anything seemed to be possible. It was the Age of Steam. Of course, the development of the steam engine carried on right up to the 1920s when it became obvious that the steam turbine was a much better piece of equipment and much more economical. In fact, the steam turbine is still our main source of electricity. Its invention revolutionized electricity generation and, although he’s nothing like as well known, the man who invented it, Charles Parsons, and his steam turbine were to the twentieth century what James Watt and the steam engine were to the nineteenth. Steam locomotives continued to be built and operated on the railways until the 1960s and many of the great steam-driven mill engines and colliery winding engines were used until the same time to provide direct steam power.

At first this was performed by human beings and animals – reasonably efficient for a time but, by the end of the seventeenth century, as populations grew and towns expanded, there was an increasing need to get more and more raw materials like coal, tin and iron ore. There had to be another source of power for the pumping operations. Steam was the answer. The steam engine is really a fairly simple machine. The principles of steam power are based around two major properties. First, the expansion of steam in an enclosed cylinder pushing a piston which is connected to a crankshaft by a connecting rod. And second, the sudden condensation of steam, which creates a vacuum in the cylinder, making it easier for the steam to push the piston back along the cylinder to its starting place. Thomas Newcomen invented the first successful steam engine in 1705, but later in the eighteenth century it was greatly improved by James Watt. Before this time, though, it had been known for many centuries that steam was capable of moving a mass. From the ancient world up to the beginning of the Industrial Revolution men of science had tried to find ways of harnessing it in some way.


pages: 218 words: 63,471

How We Got Here: A Slightly Irreverent History of Technology and Markets by Andy Kessler

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Albert Einstein, Andy Kessler, automated trading system, bank run, Big bang: deregulation of the City of London, Bob Noyce, Bretton Woods, British Empire, buttonwood tree, Claude Shannon: information theory, Corn Laws, Douglas Engelbart, Edward Lloyd's coffeehouse, fiat currency, fixed income, floating exchange rates, Fractional reserve banking, full employment, Grace Hopper, invention of the steam engine, invention of the telephone, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, Jacquard loom, Jacquard loom, James Hargreaves, James Watt: steam engine, John von Neumann, joint-stock company, joint-stock limited liability company, Joseph-Marie Jacquard, Leonard Kleinrock, Marc Andreessen, Maui Hawaii, Menlo Park, Metcalfe's law, Metcalfe’s law, packet switching, price mechanism, probability theory / Blaise Pascal / Pierre de Fermat, profit motive, railway mania, RAND corporation, Robert Metcalfe, Silicon Valley, Small Order Execution System, South Sea Bubble, spice trade, spinning jenny, Steve Jobs, supply-chain management, supply-chain management software, trade route, transatlantic slave trade, transatlantic slave trade, tulip mania, Turing machine, Turing test, William Shockley: the traitorous eight

He had a backlog of orders for cannons from King George, who was trying to put down those pesky colonists in the New World. Wilkinson desperately needed a source of power to operate his bellows to smelt iron ore to pore into cannon casts. He stumbled on the solution while watching a funky new steam engine pumping out his own flooded coalmines. This almost 3.0 steam engine would have a profound influence on industry, but that wasn’t so obvious at first. *** It was, of course, James Watt’s steam engine, but it still wasn’t all that good. Back in 1763, James Watt was employed at Glasgow University, with the task of fixing a Newcomen steam engine. Fifty years after Newcomen’s invention, five horsepower was still not very efficient, plus it broke down all the time. And, someone had to constantly seal the cylinder to prevent the steam from leaking out and the vacuum from weakening.

. *** John Fitch was the first to hook up a crude steam engine to paddle wheels. In 1787, he steamed a ship from Philadelphia to Burlington, New Jersey. Sure, this was only 20 miles, but it beat tacking a sailboat back and forth to get up stream. He received a patent for this 44 HOW WE GOT HERE steamboat in 1791, one of the first the new United States granted. But like Watt’s original steam engine in 1770, Fitch’s cylinder and pistons leaked badly, and Fitch didn’t have John Wilkinson to come along with his cannon barrel-boring tool. The leaky cylinder meant that Fitch, with probably a 3 horsepower engine, had economic problems, as he couldn’t run cargo or passengers cheap enough and soon failed. Back in England, James Watt wasn’t resting on his laurels. His steam engine patent was to expire in 1800, so he kept inventing.

Livingston cut a deal with his old pals in the French government for an 18-year monopoly to run steamships in Orleans, part of their Louisiana Possession, at the mouth of the Mississippi River, knowing full well it would be purchased by the U.S. It’s nice to have connections. *** James Watt, meanwhile, was still haunted by the bad rap that the early high-pressure steam engines got when their boilers exploded, and he refused to use high-pressure steam. But others eventually would. High-pressure steam provided much more horsepower for the same displacement cylinders and the same weight engines. Watt’s engine was all right for factories, even for paddleboats on a flat river, but pulling 30 tons of coal uphill on a railroad track would have required an impractically large, low pressure Boulton and Watt steam engine. Until 1800, the Watt patent ruled. Richard Trevithick, a bright engineer who worked with Watt’s assistant, learned a lot about steam engines and eventually designed his own, using condensers similar to Watt’s.


pages: 607 words: 133,452

Against Intellectual Monopoly by Michele Boldrin, David K. Levine

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accounting loophole / creative accounting, agricultural Revolution, barriers to entry, cognitive bias, creative destruction, David Ricardo: comparative advantage, Dean Kamen, Donald Trump, double entry bookkeeping, en.wikipedia.org, endogenous growth, Ernest Rutherford, experimental economics, financial innovation, informal economy, interchangeable parts, invention of radio, invention of the printing press, invisible hand, James Watt: steam engine, Jean Tirole, John Harrison: Longitude, Joseph Schumpeter, Kenneth Arrow, linear programming, market bubble, market design, mutually assured destruction, Nash equilibrium, new economy, open economy, peer-to-peer, pirate software, placebo effect, price discrimination, profit maximization, rent-seeking, Richard Stallman, Silicon Valley, Skype, slashdot, software patent, the market place, total factor productivity, trade liberalization, transaction costs, Y2K

Later drafts of this chapter benefited enormously from the arrival of Google Book Search, which allowed us to check many original historical sources about James Watt and the steam engine we would have never thought possible before. 4. Lord (1923) gives figures on the number of steam engines produced by Boulton and Watt between 1775 and 1800, and The Cambridge Economic History of Europe (1965) provides data on the spread of total horsepower between 1800 and 1815 and the spread of steam power more broadly. However, Kanefsky (1979) has largely discredited Lord’s numbers, which is why we use figures on machines and horsepower from Kanefsky and Robey (1980). Our horsepower calculations are based on 510 steam engines generating about 5,000 horsepower in the United Kingdom in 1760. During the subsequent forty years, we estimate that about 1,740 engines generating about 30,000 horsepower were added, which leads to our estimate that the total increased at a rate of roughly 750 horsepower each year.

As might be expected, when the patents expired “many establishments for making steam-engines of Mr. Watt’s principle were then com-menced.” However, Watt’s competitors “principally aimed at . . . cheapness rather than excellence.” As a result, we find that, far from being driven out of business, “Boulton and Watt for many years afterwards kept up their price and had increased orders.”7 In fact, it is only after their patents expired that Boulton and Watt really started to manufacture steam engines. Before then, their activity consisted primarily of extracting hefty monopolistic royalties through licensing. Independent contractors produced most of the parts, and Boulton and Watt merely oversaw the assembly of the components by the purchasers. In most histories, James Watt is a heroic inventor, responsible for the beginning of the Industrial Revolution.

So it is also at the end of the industry life cycle that wealthy, mature, and technologically stagnant firms are the breeding ground of monopolistic restrictions purchased through the constant lobbying of politicians and regulators. The Industrial Revolution and the Steam Engine It has been argued that the Industrial Revolution took place when it took place (allegedly, sometime between 1750 and 1850) and where it took place (England) largely because patents giving inventors a period of monopoly power were first introduced by enlightened rulers at that time and in that place. The exemplary story of James Watt, the prototypical inventor-entrepreneur of the time, is often told to confirm the magic role of patents in spurring invention and growth. As we pointed out in the introduction, this is far from being the case. The pricing policy of Boulton and Watt’s enterprise was a classical example of monopoly pricing: over and above the cost of the materials needed to build the steam engine, they would charge royalties equal to one-third of the fuel cost-savings attained by their engine in comparison to the Newcomen engine.


pages: 782 words: 245,875

The Power Makers by Maury Klein

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Albert Einstein, Albert Michelson, Augustin-Louis Cauchy, British Empire, business climate, invention of radio, invention of the telegraph, Isaac Newton, James Watt: steam engine, Louis Pasteur, luminiferous ether, margin call, Menlo Park, price stability, railway mania, Right to Buy, the scientific method, trade route, transcontinental railway, working poor

CHAPTER 1: THE MACHINE THAT CHANGED THE WORLD 1. Quoted in Hills, Power from Steam, 1. 2. H. W. Dickinson, James Watt: Craftsman and Engineer (Cambridge, Eng., 1936), 1–28. 3. Ibid., 29–35. Unless otherwise indicated, the descriptions of Watt’s experiments are drawn from this source. 4. Isaac Asimov, Biographical Encyclopedia of Science and Technology (Garden City, N. Y ., 1982), 194 –96. This is the second revised edition. See also Dickinson, James Watt, 35–36, and Eric Robinson and A. E. Musson (eds.), James Watt and the Steam Revolution (New York, 1969), 39–40. 5. Dickinson, James Watt, 35–36; H. W. Dickinson, A Short History of the Steam Engine (New York, 1939), 66 –69; Hills, Power from Steam, 51–54; Robert H. Thurston, A History of the Growth of the Steam Engine (Ithaca, 1939 [1878]), 80–88. 6. This description is drawn from Ruth Schwartz Cowan, A Social History of American Technology (New York, 1997), 29–39. 7.

Both works give more detailed explanations of how the atmospheric steam engine works. See also the brief but clear explanation at /www.egr.msu.edu/~lira/supp/steam/. 21. H. W. Dickinson, Matthew Boulton (Cambridge, Eng., 1937), 38, 79–80. 22. Ibid., 80–82. Boulton’s letter can also be found in Robinson and Musson, Watt and the Steam Revolution, 62– 63. 23. Dickinson, James Watt, 38– 43, 67–77. See also Watt’s patent application of 1769 in Robinson and Musson, Watt and the Steam Revolution, 60– 61. 24. Quoted in Dickinson, James Watt, 57. 25. Dickinson, Matthew Boulton, 76, 83; Dickinson, James Watt, 79. 26. Dickinson, Matthew Boulton, 83–84; Dickinson, James Watt, 81–85. 27. Dickinson, Matthew Boulton, 36, 75–76, 84 –88; Thurston, History, 103. 28. Dickinson, James Watt, 85–94, 114 –15. 29. Sanford P. Bordeau, Volts to Hertz: The Rise of Electricity (Minneapolis, 1982), 32; Dickinson, Short History, 71–74.

Impressive (and correct) as this conclusion was, it did not persuade most scientists to abandon caloric theory.6 Practical engineers grappling with early versions of the steam engine found a useful analogy that seemed to reinforce the caloric theory. They understood hydraulic power, the way a waterwheel derived its energy from the fall of water to a lower level. It was easy to equate steam pressure to this fall of water. James Watt, who accepted the caloric theory, formulated a law that any given amount of saturated steam contained the same amount of caloric at all temperatures. Gifted French scientist Nicolas L. S. Carnot drew a different analogy from the way water generated energy: Just as water required a lower level to generate power, so must the steam engine use the fall in temperature to create energy. In 1824 he published a book arguing that the steam engine did work only when heat fell from a higher to a lower temperature.


pages: 520 words: 129,887

Power Hungry: The Myths of "Green" Energy and the Real Fuels of the Future by Robert Bryce

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Bernie Madoff, carbon footprint, Cesare Marchetti: Marchetti’s constant, cleantech, collateralized debt obligation, corporate raider, correlation does not imply causation, Credit Default Swap, credit default swaps / collateralized debt obligations, decarbonisation, Deng Xiaoping, en.wikipedia.org, energy security, energy transition, flex fuel, greed is good, Hernando de Soto, hydraulic fracturing, hydrogen economy, Indoor air pollution, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Isaac Newton, James Watt: steam engine, Menlo Park, new economy, offshore financial centre, oil shale / tar sands, oil shock, peak oil, Ponzi scheme, purchasing power parity, RAND corporation, Ronald Reagan, Silicon Valley, smart grid, Stewart Brand, Thomas L Friedman, uranium enrichment, Whole Earth Catalog

And given that our effort requires basic physics, the first stop on our power quest is the work done by a Scotsman whose last name has become synonymous with power: James Watt. We use Watt’s name on a near-daily basis. But few people know what a “watt” is or why Watt’s work was so important. Here are the essential facts: Watt, born in 1736, made critical improvements to the steam engine. Those inventions raised the efficiency of steam engines so much that Watt, having patented the improvements, became a wealthy man.1 But Watt knew that improvements to the steam engine were not enough. He needed a metric that could help his customers understand the amount of work done by his steam engines in an hour or in a day. Given the centrality of horse-pulled power to eighteenth-century industry, and his ability to measure the work done by horses, it’s not surprising that he dubbed his new unit a “horsepower.”

Thus, you can consume more with the same budget constraint.”28 Put another way, any time you reduce the cost of consuming something (in this case, by increasing the efficiency of a machine, home, or vehicle), then people will respond by consuming more of it. Over time, the gains in efficiency get swamped by the increased consumption that follows each gain. Numerous other analysts have come to the same conclusion as Polimeni.29 We can also look at historical trends for evidence of the Jevons Paradox. James Watt’s improvements to the steam engine led to huge improvements in energy efficiency, with the immediate result being a sharp drop in coal consumption. Watt continued making improvements in the steam engine until he died in 1819, before he was fully able to appreciate the revolution he helped to ignite.30 And the dimensions of that change can be seen in the amount of energy that was consumed: Between 1830 and 1863, British coal use increased by about 1,000 percent.31 Given that energy efficiency results in increased energy use, it’s obvious that, although energy efficiency should be pursued, it cannot be expected to solve the dilemmas posed by the world’s ever-growing need for energy.

That may sound like an exaggeration, but it’s a statement that can easily be confirmed by looking back at the history of the coal business. The first railroads were built to haul coal, and the locomotives that hauled the coal also burned coal. As author Jeff Goodell wrote in his book Big Coal, the railroads were a key invention that led to more coal production because, “In effect, coal hauled itself.”5 Of course, the railroads were only part of the equation. By perfecting the steam engine, James Watt enabled British mines to produce coal more economically, because his engines pumped water and lifted coal out of the mines.6 The idea that hydrocarbons beget more hydrocarbons can also be seen by looking at the Cardinal coal mine in western Kentucky. The mine produces more than 15,000 tons of coal per day. And the essential commodity that facilitates the mine’s amazing productivity is electricity.


pages: 323 words: 92,135

Running Money by Andy Kessler

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Andy Kessler, Apple II, bioinformatics, Bob Noyce, British Empire, business intelligence, buy low sell high, call centre, Corn Laws, Douglas Engelbart, family office, full employment, George Gilder, happiness index / gross national happiness, interest rate swap, invisible hand, James Hargreaves, James Watt: steam engine, joint-stock company, joint-stock limited liability company, knowledge worker, Leonard Kleinrock, Long Term Capital Management, mail merge, Marc Andreessen, margin call, market bubble, Maui Hawaii, Menlo Park, Metcalfe’s law, Network effects, packet switching, pattern recognition, pets.com, railway mania, risk tolerance, Robert Metcalfe, Sand Hill Road, Silicon Valley, South China Sea, spinning jenny, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Toyota Production System, zero-sum game

Something was needed to get this water out of the mines or the iron business would rust before it even started. Many had tried to harness the power of steam for hundreds of years. But just a few years earlier in 1706, a steam engine invented by Thomas Newcomen actually, kind of, sort of worked. It was a clanky contraption that theoretically could lift two tons of water up 165 feet. Sometimes it did, most times it didn’t. But miners were desperate, and Newcomen engines were the only game in town for the next 60 years. In 1763, a technician named James Watt was employed at Glasgow University. His task was to maintain—more like fix—a Newcomen steam engine that the university owned. It was, as techies like to say, a POS, a piece of shit. It was a terrible kludge, literally held together by wet rope. It broke all the time. So like all good engineers, Watt took it apart to figure out how it worked.

He needed to crank 15-foothigh bellows to blow enough air to heat up the coke to an intense Wilkinson and Watt 57 enough heat. His boring tool also needed a source of power to turn. It required teams of horses, which were expensive to feed, let alone clean up after. James Watt’s steam engines were in the area, pumping water out of coal mines, and Wilkinson thought he could use one to crank his bellows instead of horses. So, Wilkinson tried one. Success? Nope. Instant failure. There was barely any power from Watt’s engine to pump the bellows. So Wilkinson took the steam engine apart and probably started laughing. Watt’s cylinder was awful— as jagged as England’s shoreline. Even wrapped with wet hemp, it leaked steam with every stroke, robbing the engine of most of its power. While Watt was proud of his 3⁄8 of an inch from true cylinders, Wilkinson had his lathe and knew he could make Watt’s cylinders truer.

Maybe I would have invested in the Boulton & Watt IPO, or maybe I would have waited until they screwed up, their stock hit $3 and then bought a couple of million shares. But there had to have been more great investments, more waterfalls related to the steam engine. Where were they? I have historic capital I’d like to test out and conceptually put to work. If I can find them, the plot to that Industrial Revolution will make more sense and I can better invest in the Silicon Valley sequel. It took a while, but I found five more barriers that got busted during the Industrial Revolution, each time lowering the cost of clothing and other goods and providing more scale to the economic engine. James Watt wasn’t resting on his laurels. His steam engine patent was to expire in 1800, so he kept inventing. In 1782, he invented the double-acting, noncondensing engine. Instead of just using a vacuum to “pull” down the piston, the double-acting engine used steam to push the piston, first in one direction and then in the other.


pages: 1,205 words: 308,891

Bourgeois Dignity: Why Economics Can't Explain the Modern World by Deirdre N. McCloskey

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Admiral Zheng, agricultural Revolution, Albert Einstein, BRICs, British Empire, butterfly effect, Carmen Reinhart, clockwork universe, computer age, Corn Laws, creative destruction, dark matter, David Ricardo: comparative advantage, Donald Trump, Edward Lorenz: Chaos theory, endogenous growth, European colonialism, experimental economics, financial innovation, Fractional reserve banking, full employment, George Akerlof, germ theory of disease, Gini coefficient, greed is good, Howard Zinn, income per capita, interchangeable parts, invention of agriculture, invention of air conditioning, invention of writing, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, James Watt: steam engine, John Maynard Keynes: technological unemployment, John Snow's cholera map, joint-stock company, Joseph Schumpeter, Kenneth Arrow, Kenneth Rogoff, knowledge economy, long peace, means of production, Naomi Klein, New Economic Geography, New Urbanism, Paul Samuelson, purchasing power parity, rent-seeking, road to serfdom, Robert Gordon, Ronald Coase, Ronald Reagan, sceptred isle, Scientific racism, Scramble for Africa, Shenzhen was a fishing village, Simon Kuznets, Slavoj Žižek, spinning jenny, Steven Pinker, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thorstein Veblen, too big to fail, total factor productivity, transaction costs, tulip mania, union organizing, Upton Sinclair, urban renewal, V2 rocket, very high income, working poor, World Values Survey, Yogi Berra

The argument is another way of seeing that the Modern Jump cannot have been the result of the mere seizing of computable prospects of profit. Two percent of the entire social gain from the high-pressure steam engine is of course immense. But most inventions were, Mokyr note, “micro,” that is, little improvements of existing inventions, not revolutions in the way of doing business. As Mokyr then says, “the standard pecuniary incentive system [which does 304 not in any case explain what it is meant to explain] was supplemented by a more complex one that included peer recognition and the sheer satisfaction of being able to do what one desires.” “When one loves science,” the chemist Claude Louis Berthollet wrote to James Watt, “one has little need for fortune which would risk ones happiness,” though as George Grantham observes Berthollet was in fact paid well as a high civil servant.75Horace could not have put it better, or Adam Smith, the supposed prophet of profit, who declared the poor man sunning himself by the side of the road more happy than a prince.

The historical demographer Wrigley has long claimed that the substitution of mineral fuel for wood and animal power made the Industrial Revolution. In one sense Wrigley is obviously correct, since wood could not have fueled the steam engines and blast furnaces of England—though observe that the United States used wood to power steamboats on the Mississippi and charcoal to refine iron in Pennsylvania well into the nineteenth century. But coal deposits do in fact correlate with early industrialization. The coal-bearing swath of Europe from Midlothian to the Ruhr started early on industrial growth. As Jones observes, however, a capability of exploiting an endowment may matter more. English coal was important from an early date in heating London’s homes, blackening the Black Country, eventually running Manchester’s steam engines for cotton mills—though Manchester, New Hampshire’s cotton mills kept using falling water. It is hard to imagine big electricity generating stations running on logs.

And at the time both the radical and the conservative Enlightenment of course were fiercely opposed by the reactionary powers, with galley and with rope. The historian of technology Christine MacLeod dates the final apotheosis of the inventor in Britain to the early nineteenth century. Certainly the shift in rhetoric beginning in the seventeenth century needed constant tending, as ideologies do. MacLeod tells for example of 16 the remarkable campaign to put by 1834 a big statue of the inventor James Watt (in Westminster Abbey, in among the kings and priests and poets. A contemporary asked in vexation “what this vast figure represents, what class of interests before unknown [well, hardly ‘unknown'], what revolution in the whole framework of modern society.” 14 He was behind the curve. MacLeod notes that the Times as early as April 22, 1826 had declared that inventors were “the elect of the human race.”15 She detects during the 1830s “a marked alteration in the attitudes of judges and juries towards patentees. . . .


pages: 483 words: 134,377

The Tyranny of Experts: Economists, Dictators, and the Forgotten Rights of the Poor by William Easterly

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air freight, Andrei Shleifer, battle of ideas, Bretton Woods, British Empire, business process, business process outsourcing, Carmen Reinhart, clean water, colonial rule, correlation does not imply causation, creative destruction, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, Deng Xiaoping, desegregation, discovery of the americas, Edward Glaeser, en.wikipedia.org, European colonialism, Francisco Pizarro, fundamental attribution error, germ theory of disease, greed is good, Gunnar Myrdal, income per capita, invisible hand, James Watt: steam engine, Jane Jacobs, John Snow's cholera map, Joseph Schumpeter, Kenneth Arrow, Kenneth Rogoff, M-Pesa, microcredit, Monroe Doctrine, oil shock, place-making, Ponzi scheme, risk/return, road to serfdom, Silicon Valley, Steve Jobs, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thomas L Friedman, urban planning, urban renewal, Washington Consensus, World Values Survey, young professional

The bottom line is that the private return to invention will be generous but not exorbitant compared to the social return. Innovation will happen in a decentralized market system, and growth will happen thanks to innovation. James Watt was able to anticipate returns from his steam engine, not only because of his patent, but also because of his temporary monopoly on the steam engine. He continued to make better steam engines than anyone else, as he continually tinkered to improve the fuel efficiency of his engines. By the mid-1780s James Watt had perfected an engine that would not be overtaken for another fifty years. His son James Watt Jr. (1769–1848) took over the business for many years after his father had retired. THE SPREAD OF TECHNOLOGY The other new wrinkle in Romer’s theory is extremely important because it gives us a simple theory of how technology spreads.

The West’s respect for the individual and his or her property rights carried it into the realm of ideas, where one can get “intellectual property rights” for his or her idea. This has the strong advantage of raising the returns to invention, to get inventors to do more of what is so beneficial to society. By the time he installed his first steam engine in 1776, James Watt had been working on his steam engine for twelve years. He kept going with financing from a factory owner with deep pockets. Watt’s spending twelve years improving an invention and a factory owner’s financing him only happened because Watt had gotten a patent on his steam engine. Conventional wisdom is that patents are the main or only way the West solved the inadequate incentives for invention problem. But there is also an even more bottom-up solution that was first sketched out by Joseph Schumpeter early in the twentieth century in his famous theory of “creative destruction.”

China was famous for its precocious technological innovations (such as gunpowder and the compass), which is consistent with the population and technology story. But the population story is of no help in explaining why the Western edge of Eurasia would pull ahead beginning in the late eighteenth century and leave the Eastern edge far behind. Why did the West invent the steam engine and railroad, and not the East? We need something else. That something else is already on the table: the Western idea of the individual that emerged from the Enlightenment. That miraculous year 1776 is again the key symbol: Jefferson declares all men equal, Adam Smith declares all men free to choose, and James Watt installs his first steam engine. There are two key mechanisms by which the new Western idea of the individual helped innovation: the challenge to authority and the private return to innovation. QUESTION AUTHORITY The challenge to authority is also a challenge to the idea of conscious direction of technical innovation, or of development in general.


pages: 778 words: 227,196

The Age of Wonder by Richard Holmes

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Ada Lovelace, Albert Einstein, British Empire, Copley Medal, Dava Sobel, double helix, Edmond Halley, Etonian, experimental subject, Fellow of the Royal Society, invention of the printing press, Isaac Newton, James Watt: steam engine, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, John Harrison: Longitude, music of the spheres, placebo effect, polynesian navigation, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, Solar eclipse in 1919, Stephen Hawking, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions, Thomas Malthus, trade route, unbiased observer, University of East Anglia, éminence grise

He worked immensely hard, giving his first Bakerian Lecture to the Royal Society in 1829, and also accepting a simultaneous post as Professor of Chemistry at the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich. He expanded his work on electromagnetism, and began the construction of the first electrical generators, by producing an ‘alternating’ electrical current. This would lead to electrical dynamos that would ultimately revolutionise industry as much as James Watt’s steam engine. His experiment with magnetic coils and a galvanometer (which was made to move without physical contact), carried out at the Institution’s laboratory on 29 August 1831, was said to have ended ‘the Age of Steam’ at a stroke, and begun the new ‘Age of Electricity’.48 Faraday also took on from Davy the great task of educating the public in scientific matters. In 1826 he began his series of Friday Evening Discourses, in which a whole range of scientific topics were carefully presented and vividly explained to a general audience.

During a long and eccentric career he invented the patent empyreal air-stove, the Celestine harpsichord and the eidouranion or transparent orrery, a portable device for projecting an illuminated model of the solar system and the main constellations. His Course of Lectures on Natural and Experimental Philosophy (1805) was eagerly read by the young Shelley, and covered the basics of Romantic science including astronomy, chemistry, electricity, geology and meteorology. JAMES WATT, 1736-1819. Engineer and member of the Lunar Society. In partnership with Matthew Boulton he developed new forms of steam engine, for use in mines and textile manufacture. The international unit of electricity, the watt (a measure of the overall power of an electrical current), was named after him. Helped Davy construct his gas-breathing devices at Bristol. His ailing son Gregory Watt junior was a gifted geologist, and an early friend of Davy’s at Bristol until his premature death in 1804.

Stansfield, Thomas Beddoes MD: Chemist, Physician, Democrat, Reidel Publishing, Boston, 1984, pp162-4 31 HD Mss Truro, Davies Giddy Mss DG 42/8 32 HD Mss Truro, Davies Giddy Mss DG 42/4 33 See Holmes, Coleridge: Early Visions 34 John Ayrton Paris, The Life of Sir Humphry Davy, 2 vols, 1831, vol 1, p38 35 See David Knight, Humphry Davy: Vision and Power, Blackwell Science Biographies, 1992 36 Richard Lovell Edgeworth 1793, quoted in Fullmer, p106 37 Treneer, pp30-1 38 HD Archive Notebook 20a; and Fullmer, p169 39 HD Works 2, p85 40 HD Works 2, p84 41 HD Works 2, pp85-6; see HD Archive Ms Notebook B (1799) 42 HD Archive Mss Box 13(h) pp15-17 and Box 13(f) pp33-47 43 See Fullmer, pp163-6 44 From author’s visit and photographs, May 2006. See also John Allen, ‘The Early History of Varfell’, in Ludgvan, Ludgvan Horticultural Society, no date 45 Golinski, pp157-83 46 Reply from James Watt, Birmingham, 13 November 1799, in JD Fragments, pp24-6 47 HD Works 3, pp278-9 48 HD Works 3, pp278-80; on Davy’s impetuosity and courage see Oliver Sacks, Uncle Tungsten: Memories of a Chemical Boyhood, Picador, 2001 49 Joseph Cottle, Reminiscences, vol 1, 1847, p264 50 HD Works 3, pp246-7; James Watt, Birmingham, 13 November 1799, in JD Fragments, pp24-6; equipment partly illustrated in Fullmer, p216 51 Treneer, p72 52 Fullmer, p213 53 Ibid., p214 54 HD Works 3, p272 55 HD, Researches Chemical and Philosophical chiefly concerning Nitrous Oxide, London, 1800, p461.


pages: 829 words: 229,566

This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate by Naomi Klein

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1960s counterculture, activist fund / activist shareholder / activist investor, battle of ideas, Berlin Wall, big-box store, bilateral investment treaty, British Empire, business climate, Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty, carbon footprint, clean water, Climategate, cognitive dissonance, colonial rule, Community Supported Agriculture, complexity theory, crony capitalism, decarbonisation, deindustrialization, dematerialisation, Donald Trump, Downton Abbey, energy security, energy transition, equal pay for equal work, Exxon Valdez, failed state, Fall of the Berlin Wall, feminist movement, financial deregulation, food miles, Food sovereignty, global supply chain, hydraulic fracturing, ice-free Arctic, immigration reform, income per capita, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Internet Archive, invention of the steam engine, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, James Watt: steam engine, light touch regulation, market fundamentalism, moral hazard, Naomi Klein, new economy, Nixon shock, Occupy movement, offshore financial centre, oil shale / tar sands, open borders, patent troll, Pearl River Delta, planetary scale, post-oil, profit motive, quantitative easing, race to the bottom, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Rana Plaza, Ronald Reagan, smart grid, special economic zone, Stephen Hawking, Stewart Brand, structural adjustment programs, Ted Kaczynski, the scientific method, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, trade route, transatlantic slave trade, transatlantic slave trade, trickle-down economics, Upton Sinclair, uranium enrichment, urban planning, urban sprawl, wages for housework, walkable city, Washington Consensus, Whole Earth Catalog, WikiLeaks

As the Industrial Revolution matured and workers in the mills started to strike and even riot for better wages and conditions, this decentralization made factory owners highly vulnerable, since quickly finding replacement workers in rural areas was difficult. Beginning in 1776, a Scottish engineer named James Watt perfected and manufactured a power source that offered solutions to all these vulnerabilities. Lawyer and historian Barbara Freese describes Watt’s steam engine as “perhaps the most important invention in the creation of the modern world”—and with good reason.25 By adding a separate condenser, air pump, and later a rotary mechanism to an older model, Watt was able to make the coal-fired steam engine vastly more powerful and adaptable than its predecessors. In contrast, the new machines could power a broad range of industrial operations, including, eventually, boats. For the first couple of decades, the new engine was a tough sell.

Or as one of Watt’s early biographers put it, the generation of power “will no longer depend, as heretofore, on the most inconstant of natural causes—on atmospheric influences.”27 Similarly, when Watt’s engine was installed in a boat, ship crews were liberated from having to adapt their journeys to the winds, a development that rapidly accelerated the colonial project and the ability of European powers to easily annex countries in distant lands. As the Earl of Liverpool put it in a public meeting to memorialize James Watt in 1824, “Be the winds friendly or be they contrary, the power of the Steam Engine overcomes all difficulties. . . . Let the wind blow from whatever quarter it may, let the destination of our force be to whatever part of the world it may, you have the power and the means, by the Steam Engine, of applying that force at the proper time and in the proper manner.”28 Not until the advent of electronic trading would commerce feel itself so liberated from the constraints of living on a planet bound by geography and governed by the elements. Unlike the energy it replaced, power from fossil fuel always required sacrifice zones—whether in the black lungs of the coal miners or the poisoned waterways surrounding the mines.

Put another way, if extractive energy sources are NFL football players, bashing away at the earth, then renewables are surfers, riding the swells as they come, but doing some pretty fancy tricks along the way. It was precisely this need to adapt ourselves to nature that James Watt’s steam engine purportedly liberated us from in the late 1770s, when it freed factory owners from having to find the best waterfalls, and ship captains from worrying about the prevailing winds. As Andreas Malm writes, the first commercial steam engine “was appreciated for having no ways or places of its own, no external laws, no residual existence outside that brought forth by its proprietors; it was absolutely, indeed ontologically subservient to those who owned it.”9 It is this powerfully seductive illusion of total control that a great many boosters of extractive energy are so reluctant to relinquish.


pages: 200 words: 60,987

The Invention of Air: A Story of Science, Faith, Revolution, and the Birth of America by Steven Johnson

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Albert Einstein, Chance favours the prepared mind, conceptual framework, Copley Medal, Danny Hillis, discovery of DNA, Edmond Halley, Edward Lloyd's coffeehouse, Isaac Newton, James Watt: steam engine, Kevin Kelly, planetary scale, side project, South Sea Bubble, stem cell, Stewart Brand, the scientific method, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions, zero-sum game

But word of Priestley’s situation soon began to circulate among the Midlands industrialists, originating most likely with Wilkinson, and by early spring of 1781, a group had formed that would collectively keep Priestley in business for the next thirteen years. These were the shining lights of industrial and intellectual England outside the metropolis of London: Wilkinson; Wedgwood; the “toymaker” Matthew Boulton, whose small metal goods had become the signature export of Birmingham; James Watt, the steam-engine pioneer; and the physician, poet, and naturalist Erasmus Darwin, Charles’s grandfather. The men constituted the core members of the legendary Lunar Society, Birmingham’s version of the Club of Honest Whigs. The Lunaticks—as they playfully referred to themselves—had first assembled in the mid-1760s, scheduling meetings during the full moon to assist their passage home after a long night of boozy debate.

They were all, for different reasons, enormously valuable contributions to the project of making sense of historical change. And they were all fundamentally correct, at least in their contention that class identity, capital, and technological acceleration would be prime movers in the coming centuries, and that each one had an independent life, outside the direct control of human decision-makers. Humans made the steam engine, but the steam engine ended up remaking humanity, in ways that the original inventors never anticipated. The contemporary view of intellectual progress is dominated by one book: Thomas Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, published in 1962, from which the now conventional terms “paradigm” and “paradigm shift” originate. By some measures, Kuhn’s book was the most cited text in the last quarter of the twentieth century, and it regularly ranks among the most influential books of the entire century.

That economic and geographic situation instilled a deep-seated opposition to the archaic structures of the British establishment. Most of the Lunar Men were religious Dissenters as well, and thus doubly ostracized by the Parliamentary system. Recall Priestley’s line about the “English hierarchy” with its potentially “unsound constitution.” If they had reason to “tremble at an air pump,” they had even more to fear from a steam engine. Herein lies the unique value proposition the Lunar Men saw in Joseph Priestley: as a scientist, he could improve the efficiency of their steam engines and ironworks; and as a famously prolific political engagé, he could fight for the reform that those booming factories had made necessary. Birmingham lay at a rare historical nexus: rapidly accumulating wealth that was simultaneously dedicated to overthrowing the status quo. No wonder, then, that Priestley’s published voice grew bolder during his Birmingham years.


pages: 240 words: 75,304

Time Lord: Sir Sandford Fleming and the Creation of Standard Time by Clark Blaise

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British Empire, creative destruction, Dava Sobel, James Watt: steam engine, John Harrison: Longitude, Khartoum Gordon, Robert Gordon, Silicon Valley, transcontinental railway, traveling salesman, Upton Sinclair

Unless the ever-deeper mines of Newcastle could be pumped dry, England faced a serious crisis in providing sufficient coal for the open-hearth ovens of its growing iron industry. It took another half-century for the expansive power of steam, and—with the addition of an exterior condenser unit—the contractive force of the vacuum, to be combined in a single effective energy source, James Watt and Matthew Boulton’s reciprocating steam engine (1769). It is the basic invention from which all rotary movement (thanks to Watt’s further refinements), including the railway locomotive, takes off. But steam power had to be wedded to rails before the story of standard time could truly begin. Learning to take coals from Newcastle underlay the eventual development of standard time. In the Tyneside coalfields in 1630, young Master Beaumont introduced a system of wooden tracks that permitted a single horse to haul upwards of sixty bushels at a time.

It was the slow increase in speed and power—the fusion of rails and steam—that undermined the standards of horse- and sail power and, eventually, the sun itself in measuring time. Gradually, all those new ideas and new applications, moving in the same direction but at varying speeds, created a new comprehension of time and space. And so it took two centuries of steady incremental invention to bring the reciprocating steam engine, in the form of the locomotive, and the iron rail together. Once that happened, the pace of change increased geometrically. The early Industrial Age, which closed the Romantic era (James Watt and John Keats both died in 1819), had challenged, or had at least redefined, the Romantic assumption that life was a contest between “mechanical” and “organic” sources of inspiration. The Quarterly Review in 1825 had laid down the challenge, boldly but myopically: “What can be more palpably absurd and ridiculous than the prospect held out of locomotives travelling twice as fast as stagecoaches!”

STEAM TECHNOLOGY was about more than speed, power, and punctuality. Steam transformed more than the landscape. Steam was hot, loud, smoky, smelly, and dangerous, but there was also something intuitive about its working, and its direct successor, the internal combustion engine. One can imagine the 1850s version of the 1950s teenage grease-monkey, working on a steam engine, polishing, oiling, improving its efficiency. The leap from a James Watt to a Gottlieb Daimler or a Henry Ford is not unimaginable. Steam was sophisticated, but apprenticeable. Unlike electricity, it was visible, a celebration of practice over theory. With steam, mountains could be bored and harbors dredged. Rivers were crossed, ships’ designs turned from wood and sail to steel and iron, hold capacities and passenger cabins expanded a hundredfold, with a need to fill their holds with thousands of tons of coal for ocean passage.


pages: 207 words: 52,716

Capitalism 3.0: A Guide to Reclaiming the Commons by Peter Barnes

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Albert Einstein, car-free, clean water, collective bargaining, corporate governance, corporate personhood, corporate raider, corporate social responsibility, dark matter, diversified portfolio, en.wikipedia.org, hypertext link, Isaac Newton, James Watt: steam engine, jitney, money market fund, new economy, patent troll, profit maximization, Ronald Coase, telemarketer, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, transaction costs, War on Poverty, Yogi Berra

All operating systems contain feedback loops—if certain conditions are detected, do this; if others are detected, do that. These feed- Time to Upgrade | 9 back loops can be virtuous (the reaction fixes the problem) or vicious (the reaction makes the problem worse). A stable system has lots of virtuous loops and is good at weeding out vicious loops. Sometimes, in human-made systems, virtuous loops have to be consciously added. Consider the steam engine of eighteenth-century inventor James Watt. Watt’s design included two critical mechanisms: the steam-driven engine itself, and a centrifugal governor to keep the engine from getting out of control. When the latter detects a potentially dangerous behavior—speeding—it automatically corrects that behavior. Illth and Thneeds More than a century ago, English economist John Ruskin observed that the same economic system that creates glittering wealth also spawns what he called illth—poverty, pollution, despair, illness.

What’s particularly nice about Capitalism 3.0 is that we can install it one piece at a time. We needn’t shut the machine down, or delete the old operating system, before installing the new one. Indeed, we’re not even replacing most of the old operating system, which is fine as it is. Rather, we’re attaching add-ons, or plug-ins, that allow for a gradual and safe transition. A formula for describing this is: Corporations + Commons = Capitalism 3.0 Like the governor of James Watt’s steam engine, these add-ons will curb our current engine’s unchecked excesses. When illth of one sort gets too great, the new bits of code will turn the illth valve down, or give authority to trustworthy humans to do so. If money circulates too unequally, the new code will alter the circulation, not by redistributing income but by pre distributing property. It will make similar adjustments when there’s too much corporate distortion of culture, communities, or democracy itself. 164 | MAKING IT HAPPEN What’s also nice about the new operating system is that, once installed, it can’t be easily removed.

If an “unmanaged commons” is inevitably self-destructive, and a “managed commons” is, by definition, either socialism or privatism, we are still left with only three alternatives: tragedy, statism, or privatism. In this book I describe a fourth alternative: trusteeship. See www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/280/5364/682. 19 feedback loops: For some reason, scientists call virtuous feedback loops negative and vicious ones positive. I’ll stick with the more intuitive adjectives. 19 James Watt’s design: Here’s how Watt’s governor works. As the engine speeds up, a spindle spins faster and centrifugal force lifts two flyballs on hinged arms. This movement decreases the size of the air inlet valve, slowing the engine. Modern equivalents include thermostats on heaters, shutoff valves on toilets, and cruise control on cars. 110 the Once-ler replies: Theodor Seuss Geisel, The Lorax (New York: Random House, 1971).


pages: 493 words: 145,326

Fire and Steam: A New History of the Railways in Britain by Christian Wolmar

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accounting loophole / creative accounting, Beeching cuts, carbon footprint, collective bargaining, computer age, Corn Laws, creative destruction, cross-subsidies, financial independence, hiring and firing, James Watt: steam engine, joint-stock company, railway mania, rising living standards, Silicon Valley, South Sea Bubble, strikebreaker, union organizing, upwardly mobile, working poor, yield management

One was even purchased to drive the fountains for Prince von Schwarzenberg’s palace in Vienna. Working in the second half of the eighteenth century, James Watt made steam commercially viable by improving the efficiency of engines, and adapting them for a wide variety of purposes. Boulton & Watt, his partnership with the Birmingham manufacturer Matthew Boulton, became the most important builder of steam engines in the world, providing the power for the world’s first steam-powered boat, the Charlotte Dundas, and ‘orders flooded in for engines to drive sugar mills in the West Indies, cotton mills in America, flour mills in Europe and many other applications’.3 Boulton & Watt had cornered the market by registering a patent which effectively gave them a monopoly on all steam engine development until the end of the eighteenth century. Steam power quickly became commonplace in the nineteenth century: by the time the concept of the Liverpool & Manchester railway was being actively developed in the mid-1820s, Manchester alone had the staggering number of 30,000 steam-powered looms.4 However, putting the engines on wheels and getting such a contraption to haul wagons presented a host of new problems.

When the Bill for the Grand Junction returned to Parliament, the usual opponents argued strongly against its authorization but surprisingly those who stood to gain so obviously from the cheaper and quicker transport – the Staffordshire iron and pottery makers – jumped on the bandwagon and tried to extract their tuppennyworth, demanding exorbitant sums for land as well as compensation for disturbance. Opposition may have been boosted by the fact that the Grand Junction was a project initiated from the north end of the line, without the involvement of any prominent Birmingham or even Midlands investors, and therefore the local benefits were not immediately apparent. Remarkably, a key objector was James Watt, none other than the son of the great steam-engine pioneer and the owner, thanks to his father’s legacy, of considerable canal interests. He lived in Aston Hall and refused to cede any of his land to the railway company. Reluctant to force a confrontation in Parliament with such a powerful opponent, the company was obliged to reroute the line around the estate to connect with the London & Birmingham at Curzon Street in a station alongside the Grand Junction’s terminus.

Even more remarkably, the parliamentary Bill for the sixty-two-mile-long Newcastle & Carlisle, which won parliamentary approval in 1829, envisaged the railway to be exclusively horse-drawn and went as far as including a clause that specifically ruled out the use of ‘steam locomotives and moveable steam engines’.20 The thirty-three-mile Cromford and High Peak railway, a virtual contemporary of the Liverpool & Manchester, used a mix of traction methods and was a bizarre hybrid of canal and railway. The railway, authorized in 1825 and opened five years later, was designed to carry minerals and freight but not passengers21 between two canals across the Peak District. It was built on canal principles with horses being used to pull wagons along the flat sections of track while the nine inclines were worked by stationary steam engines which hauled the wagons up the gradients – the rail equivalent of a flight of locks. Within a couple of years, steam engines had replaced the horses on the flat sections but stationary engines were still used for the inclines which ranged from 1 in 16 to 1 in 7.5, far too steep to be operated by conventional locomotives.22 Despite these contemporary examples, directors of the Liverpool & Manchester were not taken in by the short-term advantages of using horses.


pages: 540 words: 168,921

The Relentless Revolution: A History of Capitalism by Joyce Appleby

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1919 Motor Transport Corps convoy, agricultural Revolution, anti-communist, Asian financial crisis, asset-backed security, Bartolomé de las Casas, Bernie Madoff, Bretton Woods, BRICs, British Empire, call centre, collateralized debt obligation, collective bargaining, Columbian Exchange, commoditize, corporate governance, creative destruction, credit crunch, Credit Default Swap, credit default swaps / collateralized debt obligations, David Ricardo: comparative advantage, deindustrialization, Deng Xiaoping, deskilling, Doha Development Round, double entry bookkeeping, epigenetics, equal pay for equal work, European colonialism, facts on the ground, failed state, Firefox, fixed income, Ford paid five dollars a day, Francisco Pizarro, Frederick Winslow Taylor, full employment, Gordon Gekko, Henry Ford's grandson gave labor union leader Walter Reuther a tour of the company’s new, automated factory…, Hernando de Soto, hiring and firing, illegal immigration, informal economy, interchangeable parts, interest rate swap, invention of movable type, invention of the printing press, invention of the steam engine, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, James Hargreaves, James Watt: steam engine, Jeff Bezos, joint-stock company, Joseph Schumpeter, knowledge economy, land reform, Livingstone, I presume, Long Term Capital Management, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Wolf, moral hazard, Parag Khanna, Ponzi scheme, profit maximization, profit motive, race to the bottom, Ralph Nader, refrigerator car, Ronald Reagan, Scramble for Africa, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley startup, South China Sea, South Sea Bubble, special economic zone, spice trade, spinning jenny, strikebreaker, the built environment, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thomas L Friedman, Thorstein Veblen, total factor productivity, trade route, transatlantic slave trade, transatlantic slave trade, transcontinental railway, union organizing, Unsafe at Any Speed, Upton Sinclair, urban renewal, War on Poverty, working poor, Works Progress Administration, Yogi Berra, Yom Kippur War

By that they mean that workshops, if they are clustered together, will be able to draw on a pool of skilled laborers, specialized services, and raw materials at lower prices, an unintended and beneficial consequence of what was really a limitation.34 By 1800, sixteen hundred Newcomen engines were in operation in England; one hundred in Belgium; and forty-five in France. The Netherlands, Russia, and Germany had a few; Portugal and Italy, none.35 Something new was needed to make steam engines economically viable in places where coal was scarce, but in the meantime the success of Newcomen’s machines in solving the drainage problems of coal mines turned England into Europe’s principal mining center with 81 percent of its tonnage. James Watt, a Scottish instrument maker, entered the picture when he was given a Newcomen engine to repair. This encounter inspired him to become a mechanical engineer. Though largely self-taught, Watt drew on the knowledge from the savants he knew in Glasgow. He remained an avid reader and book collector throughout his life.36 Experimenting with the precision of a laboratory scientist, Watt puzzled over the terrible waste of steam during the heating, cooling, and reheating of the cylinders in Newcomen’s engines.

Those in the know advised mineowners, who might be the Church of England, an Oxford college, or noblemen whose land had mineral deposits, to buy a steam engine. Around the same time Abraham Darby figured out how to use coke, a solid derivative of burning coal, instead of carbon from wood in blast furnaces. In a nice symbiosis, his steam engines used coal under their boilers and were used to pump water from the mines that were producing the coal. As with so many other inventions, it took almost a half century before cast iron could be made easily with coke, using the pumping action of steam engines to blast air into the furnaces.33 Newcomen’s steam engine replaced both waterwheels and bellows in mining and ironmaking, the first of an endless succession of substitutions. The machines were profligate with fuel, but England had a lot of coal. It did mean that steam engines had to be used near the coalfields in the center of England.

Like the use of steam as a force to move objects, the condenser drew upon a basic property of nature, in this case atmospheric pressure. Through a long career of making steam engines and training steam engineers, much of it spent at his factory in Birmingham, Watt continued to work on his design, transforming it, as one scholar recently noted, from “a crude and clumsy contraption into a universal source of industrial power.” The average capacity of Watt’s late-eighteenth-century models was five times that of waterwheels, and they could be located anywhere.37 A horse could expend ten times more energy than a man. Watt started with that statistic to specify a unit of artificial energy. One “horse power” measured the force needed to raise 550 pounds one foot in a second, or about “750 Watts.” Among those industrialists who saw the possibilities of the steam engine was Watt’s son. Assiduously guided through mathematics and physics by his father, the young Watt applied himself to designing engines for ships, as did a cluster of Americans eager to find a way to carry passengers and freight up the Hudson and through the lower Mississippi rivers in the first decade of the nineteenth century.


pages: 462 words: 150,129

The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves by Matt Ridley

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23andMe, agricultural Revolution, air freight, back-to-the-land, banking crisis, barriers to entry, Bernie Madoff, British Empire, call centre, carbon footprint, Cesare Marchetti: Marchetti’s constant, charter city, clean water, cloud computing, cognitive dissonance, collateralized debt obligation, colonial exploitation, colonial rule, Corn Laws, creative destruction, credit crunch, David Ricardo: comparative advantage, decarbonisation, dematerialisation, demographic dividend, demographic transition, double entry bookkeeping, Edward Glaeser, en.wikipedia.org, everywhere but in the productivity statistics, falling living standards, feminist movement, financial innovation, Flynn Effect, food miles, Gordon Gekko, greed is good, Hans Rosling, happiness index / gross national happiness, haute cuisine, Hernando de Soto, income inequality, income per capita, Indoor air pollution, informal economy, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), invention of agriculture, invisible hand, James Hargreaves, James Watt: steam engine, Jane Jacobs, John Nash: game theory, joint-stock limited liability company, Joseph Schumpeter, Kevin Kelly, knowledge worker, Kula ring, Mark Zuckerberg, meta analysis, meta-analysis, mutually assured destruction, Naomi Klein, Northern Rock, nuclear winter, oil shale / tar sands, out of africa, packet switching, patent troll, Pax Mongolica, Peter Thiel, phenotype, Plutocrats, plutocrats, Ponzi scheme, Productivity paradox, profit motive, purchasing power parity, race to the bottom, Ray Kurzweil, rent-seeking, rising living standards, Silicon Valley, spice trade, spinning jenny, stem cell, Steve Jobs, Steven Pinker, Stewart Brand, supervolcano, technological singularity, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thorstein Veblen, trade route, transaction costs, ultimatum game, upwardly mobile, urban sprawl, Vernor Vinge, Vilfredo Pareto, wage slave, working poor, working-age population, Y2K, Yogi Berra, zero-sum game

MIT Sloan School of Management working paper 4576-06. http://web.mit.edu/evhippel/www/papers/vonhippelfauchart2006.pdf. p. 264 ‘Yet there is little evidence that patents are really what drive inventors to invent.’ There is a lively debate going on about whether James Watt’s aggressive enforcement of his broadly worded patents on steam engines in 1769 and 1775 actually shut down innovation in the steam industry. See Rolt, L.T.C. 1960. George and Robert Stephenson. Longman. (‘With coal so readily available, the north country colliery owners preferred to forgo the superior economy of the Watt engine rather than pay the dues demanded by Messrs. Boulton and Watt.’); also www.thefreemanonline.org/featured/do-patents-encourage-or-hinder-innovation-the-case-ofthe-steam-engine/; Boldrin, M. and Levine, D.K. 2009. Against intellectual monopoly. Available online: http://www.micheleboldrin.com/research/aim.html; and Von Hippel, E. 2005.

A famous print entitled ‘The Distinguished Men of Science of Great Britain Living in the Year 1807–8’, the year that Parliament abolished the slave trade, depicts fifty-one great engineers and scientists all alive at the time – as if they were gathered together by an artist in the library of the Royal Institution. Here are the men who made canals (Thomas Telford), tunnels (Marc Brunel), steam engines (James Watt), locomotives (Richard Trevithick), rockets (William Congreve), hydraulic presses (Joseph Bramah); men who invented the machine tool (Henry Maudslay), the power loom (Edmund Cartwright), the factory (Matthew Boulton), the miner’s lamp (Humphry Davy) and the smallpox vaccine (Edward Jenner). Here are astronomers like Nevil Maskelyne and William Herschel, physicists like Henry Cavendish and Count Rumford, chemists like John Dalton and William Henry, botanists like Joseph Banks, polymaths like Thomas Young, and many more.

The industry that was transformed first and most, cotton spinning and weaving, was of little interest to scientists and vice versa. The jennies, gins, frames, mules and looms that revolutionised the working of cotton were invented by tinkering businessmen, not thinking boffins: by ‘hard heads and clever fingers’. It has been said that nothing in their designs would have puzzled Archimedes. Likewise, of the four men who made the biggest advances in the steam engine – Thomas Newcomen, James Watt, Richard Trevithick and George Stephenson – three were utterly ignorant of scientific theories, and historians disagree about whether the fourth, Watt, derived any influence from theory at all. It was they who made possible the theories of the vacuum and the laws of thermodynamics, not vice versa. Denis Papin, their Frenchborn forerunner, was a scientist, but he got his insights from building an engine rather than the other way round.


pages: 361 words: 105,938

The Map That Changed the World by Simon Winchester

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British Empire, Isaac Newton, James Hargreaves, James Watt: steam engine, mortgage debt, spinning jenny, the market place, the scientific method, Thomas Malthus, trade route, traveling salesman

But then came technologies that allowed miners to dig deeper, to pursue seams for longer, and as a result through the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries the industry advanced at a prodigious rate. Chain pumps were brought in from Germany, and mines became drier. Thomas Newcomen invented the atmospheric engine, allowing pits to go deeper, and allowing drowned mines to be pumped out and worked again. At around the time of Smith’s birth, as we have seen, James Watt came along with his condensing steam engine, and mines could be dug to reach seams four and five hundred feet deep; and then again a decade later, once Watt’s double-acting steam engine had been perfected and its rocking beams had been adapted to move huge iron wheels, so everything changed. Air could be pumped down to the miners, water could be pumped from where it gathered, elevators could be created that would speed workers down to the coalface and that would haul them and their coal back up to the surface again.

As indeed it was: For the first time in British history the word industry was no longer being used simply to describe the nobility of human labor and had come instead to mean what it does today: the systematic and organized use of that labor, generally with the assistance of mechanical devices and machines, to create what would thenceforth be called manufactured goods. The Industrial Revolution, in short, was at hand, and three creations from Smith’s birth year are well worth noting, since they more than anything suggest the temper of the times. As it happened, for instance, 1769 was the year of grant of patent for James Watt’s first condensing steam engine—perhaps the most important invention of the entire era. Josiah Wedgwood, who had been busily making fine pottery in Staffordshire for some years past, opened his great factory, known as Etruria, near Hanley, also in 1769. And the great field of textile making, which was being steadily revolutionized by a cannonade of new inventions, was most notably advanced by the creations of Richard Arkwright—who made the first water-powered cotton-spinning frame, also in 1769.* Watt, Wedgwood, and Arkwright—a holy trinity from the brave new world that was coming into being—were now unknowingly ushering in the man who would change the view of that world for all time.

Edmund Burke made what was perhaps his most famous speech in 1788 when he was opening for the Commons the impeachment proceedings against Warren Hastings, the governor-general of India who, by a coincidence of which the Smith family was only too well aware, had also been born in Churchill. Unlike Smith’s small cottage on Junction Road, the house in which Warren Hastings was born still stands. There is some greater fairness in the nomenclature of contemporary geography, however—notably the existence in modern Churchill both of a Hastings Hill and a William Smith Close. * Joseph Priestley and Erasmus Darwin, along with Josiah Wedgwood and James Watt, were all Lunaticks, members of Birmingham’s Lunar Society, which met monthly on the occasion of the full moon. Freethinking, radical ideas were welcomed by a group that was principally involved in applying scientific discovery to the newly flourishing world of industry. * The word is first used in English in its modern sense in 1735, though only rarely—and probably not until 1795 can it be considered a mature and full-fledged concept.

Guns, germs, and steel: the fates of human societies by Jared M. Diamond

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affirmative action, Atahualpa, British Empire, California gold rush, correlation does not imply causation, cuban missile crisis, discovery of the americas, European colonialism, Francisco Pizarro, Hernando de Soto, invention of movable type, invention of the wheel, invention of writing, James Watt: steam engine, Maui Hawaii, QWERTY keyboard, the scientific method, trade route

In reality, even for the most famous and apparently decisive modern inventions, neglected precursors lurked behind the bald claim “X invented Y.” For instance, we are regularly told, “James Watt invented the steam engine in 1769,” supposedly inspired by watching steam rise from a tea- kettle's spout. Unfortunately for this splendid fiction, Watt actually got the idea for his particular steam engine while repairing a model of Thomas Newcomen's steam engine, which Newcomen had invented 57 years ear- lier and of which over a hundred had been manufactured in England by the time of Watt's repair work. Newcomen's engine, in turn, followed the steam engine that the Englishman Thomas Savery patented in 1698, which followed the steam engine that the Frenchman Denis Papin designed (but did not build) around 1680, which in turn had precursors in the ideas of the Dutch scientist Christiaan Huygens and others.

In 1942, in the middle of World War II, the U.S. government set up the Manhattan Project with the explicit goal of inventing the technology required to build an atomic bomb before Nazi Germany could do so. That project succeeded in three years, at a cost of $2 billion (equivalent to over $20 billion today). Other instances are Eli Whitney's 1794 invention of his cotton gin to replace laborious hand cleaning of cotton grown in the U.S. South, and James Watt's 1769 inven- tion of his steam engine to solve the problem of pumping water out of British coal mines. These familiar examples deceive us into assuming that other major inventions were also responses to perceived needs. In fact, many or most inventions were developed by people driven by curiosity or by a love of tinkering, in the absence of any initial demand for the product they had in mind. Once a device had been invented, the inventor then had to find an application for it.

That makes it difficult for an inventor to foresee whether his or her awful prototype might eventually find a use and thus warrant more time and expense to develop it. Each year, the United States issues about 70,000 patents, only a few of which ultimately reach the stage of commercial production. For each great invention that ulti- mately found a use, there are countless others that did not. Even inventions that meet the need for which they were initially designed may later prove more valuable at meeting unforeseen needs. While James Watt designed his steam engine to pump water from mines, it soon was supplying power to cotton mills, then (with much greater profit) propelling locomotives and boats. THUS, THE COMMONSENSE view of invention that served as our start- ing point reverses the usual roles of invention and need. It also overstates the importance of rare geniuses, such as Watt and Edison. That “heroic theory of invention,” as it is termed, is encouraged by patent law, because an applicant for a patent must prove the novelty of the invention submit- ted.


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Why the West Rules--For Now: The Patterns of History, and What They Reveal About the Future by Ian Morris

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For decades, this inefficiency restricted steam power to the single job of pumping out coal mines, and even for that, one owner complained, “the vast consumption of fuel of these engines is an immense drawback on the profit of our mines … This heavy tax amounts almost to a prohibition.” For any business that had to ship coal from mines to factories, steam engines were just too expensive. Engines were, however, fun for professors. Glasgow University bought a miniature example, but when none of the scholars could get it to work, it made its way in 1765 to the workshop of James Watt, Mathematical Instrument Maker to the University. Watt got it going, but its inefficiency sinned against his craftsman’s soul. In between other tasks he obsessed about better ways to evaporate and condense water, until, as he told it, I had gone to take a walk on a fine Sabbath afternoon … when the idea came into my mind, that as steam was an elastic body it would rush into a vacuum, and if a communication was made between the [heated] cylinder and an exhausted vessel, it would rush into it, and might there be condensed without cooling the cylinder … I had not walked further than the Golf-house when the whole thing was arranged in my mind.

Already in the eighteenth century there was a flourishing Chinese diaspora in Southeast Asia; other things being equal, the kind of geographical interdependence that characterized the Atlantic economy might have emerged in the nineteenth century. But other things were not equal. It took Westerners two hundred years to get from Jamestown to James Watt. If the East had been left in splendid isolation, if it had moved down the same path as the West across the nineteenth and twentieth centuries toward creating a geographically diversified economy, and if it had moved at roughly the same pace as the West, a Chinese Watt or Japanese Boulton might at this very moment be unveiling his first steam engine in Shanghai or Tokyo. But none of those ifs eventuated, because once the West’s industrial revolution began, it swallowed the world. THE GRADGRINDS As late as 1750, the similarities between the Eastern and Western cores were still striking.

Emphasis in original. 491 “ ’Twas in truth”: William Wordsworth, The Prelude (1805), Book 9, lines 161–69. Wordsworth was speaking specifically of the French Revolution. 494 “the vast consumption”: Mineralogia Cornubiensis (1778), cited from Landes 2003, pp. 99–100. 494 “I had gone”: James Watt, as told to Robert Hart, 1817 (the walk took place in 1765), cited from Uglow 2002, p. 101. 495 “rather successful”: James Watt, letter to James Watt, Sr., December 11, 1774 (James Watt Papers, Birmingham City Archives, 4/60), cited from Uglow 2002, p. 248. 495 “If we had”: Matthew Boulton, letter to James Watt, summer 1776, cited from Uglow 2002, p. 256. 495 “It crept into”: Daniel Defoe, Weekly Review, January 31, 1708, cited from Ferguson 2003, p. 17. 501 “The poverty”: Adam Smith, Wealth of Nations (1776), book 1, chapter 8. 503 “has pitilessly torn”: Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, The Communist Manifesto (1848), chapter 1. 503 “energy and perseverance”: Samuel Smiles, Industrial Biography (1863), pp. 325, 332. 503 “Facts alone”: Charles Dickens, Hard Times (1854), chapter 1. 504 “a triumph of fact”: ibid., chapter 5. 504 “He listened patiently”: Friedrich Engels, The Condition of the Working Class in England (1844), chapter 12. 504, 505 “What the bourgeoisie” and “Let the ruling classes”: Marx and Engels, Communist Manifesto, chapters 1, 4. 506 “We consider it”: Anonymous, “The First Half of the Nineteenth Century,” The Economist 9 (1851), p. 57. 507 “Here I am, gentlemen!”

The Economic Singularity: Artificial intelligence and the death of capitalism by Calum Chace

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3D printing, additive manufacturing, agricultural Revolution, AI winter, Airbnb, artificial general intelligence, augmented reality, autonomous vehicles, banking crisis, basic income, Baxter: Rethink Robotics, Berlin Wall, Bernie Sanders, bitcoin, blockchain, call centre, Chris Urmson, congestion charging, credit crunch, David Ricardo: comparative advantage, Douglas Engelbart, Elon Musk, en.wikipedia.org, Erik Brynjolfsson, Flynn Effect, full employment, future of work, gender pay gap, gig economy, Google Glasses, Google X / Alphabet X, ImageNet competition, income inequality, industrial robot, Internet of things, invention of the telephone, invisible hand, James Watt: steam engine, Jaron Lanier, Jeff Bezos, job automation, John Markoff, John Maynard Keynes: technological unemployment, John von Neumann, Kevin Kelly, knowledge worker, lifelogging, lump of labour, Lyft, Marc Andreessen, Mark Zuckerberg, Martin Wolf, McJob, means of production, Milgram experiment, Narrative Science, natural language processing, new economy, Occupy movement, Oculus Rift, PageRank, pattern recognition, post scarcity, post-industrial society, precariat, prediction markets, QWERTY keyboard, railway mania, RAND corporation, Ray Kurzweil, RFID, Rodney Brooks, Satoshi Nakamoto, Second Machine Age, self-driving car, sharing economy, Silicon Valley, Skype, software is eating the world, speech recognition, Stephen Hawking, Steve Jobs, TaskRabbit, technological singularity, The Future of Employment, Thomas Malthus, transaction costs, Tyler Cowen: Great Stagnation, Uber for X, universal basic income, Vernor Vinge, working-age population, Y Combinator, young professional

So a good date for its beginning is 1712, when Thomas Newcomen created the first practical steam engine for pumping water. For the first time in history, humans could generate more power than muscles could provide - wherever they needed it. The replacement of human labour by machines in manufacturing dates back considerably earlier, but they were powered by muscles or by wind or water. In the 15th century, Dutch workers attacked textile looms by throwing wooden shoes into them. The shoes were called sabots, and this may be the etymology of the word “saboteur”. A century later, around 1590, Queen Elizabeth (the First) of England refused a patent to William Lee for a mechanical knitting machine because it would deprive her subjects of employment. In the second half of the 18th century, the Scottish inventor James Watt teamed up with the English entrepreneur Matthew Boulton to improve Newcomen’s steam engine so that it could power factories, and make manufacturing possible on an industrial scale.

Mechanisation is the replacement of human and animal muscle power by machine power; a human may well continue to control the whole operation. Automation means that machines are controlling and overseeing the process as well: they continuously compare the operation to a pre-set set of parameters, and adjust the process if necessary. Although the word "automation" was not coined until the 1940s by General Electric,[xiv] this description applies pretty well to the operation of 19th-century steam engines once James Watt had perfected his invention of governors. Automated controllers which were able to modify the operation more flexibly became increasingly common in the early 20th century, but the start-stop decisions were still normally made by humans. In 1968 the first programmable logic controllers (PLCs) were introduced[xv]. These are rudimentary digital computers which allow far more flexibility in the way an electrochemical process operates, and eventually general-purpose computers were applied to the job.

In the second half of the 18th century, the Scottish inventor James Watt teamed up with the English entrepreneur Matthew Boulton to improve Newcomen’s steam engine so that it could power factories, and make manufacturing possible on an industrial scale. At the same time, iron production was being transformed by the replacement of charcoal by coal, and “canal mania” took hold, as heavy loads could be transported more cheaply by canal than by road or sea. Later, in the mid-19th century, steam engines were improved sufficiently to make them mobile, which ushered in the UK's “railway mania” of the 1840s. Projects authorised in the middle years of that decade led to the construction of 6,000 miles of railway – more than half the length of the country's current rail network. Other European countries and the USA emulated the UK's example, usually lagging it by a decade or two. Toward the end of the 19th century, Sir Henry Bessemer's method for converting iron into steel enabled steel to replace iron in a wide range of applications.


pages: 238 words: 73,824

Makers by Chris Anderson

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3D printing, Airbnb, Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, Apple II, autonomous vehicles, barriers to entry, Buckminster Fuller, Build a better mousetrap, business process, commoditize, Computer Numeric Control, crowdsourcing, dark matter, David Ricardo: comparative advantage, death of newspapers, dematerialisation, Elon Musk, factory automation, Firefox, future of work, global supply chain, global village, industrial robot, interchangeable parts, Internet of things, inventory management, James Hargreaves, James Watt: steam engine, Jeff Bezos, job automation, Joseph Schumpeter, Kickstarter, Lean Startup, manufacturing employment, Mark Zuckerberg, means of production, Menlo Park, Network effects, profit maximization, QR code, race to the bottom, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, Ronald Coase, Rubik’s Cube, self-driving car, side project, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley startup, Skype, slashdot, South of Market, San Francisco, spinning jenny, Startup school, stem cell, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Steven Levy, Stewart Brand, supply-chain management, The Nature of the Firm, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, transaction costs, trickle-down economics, Whole Earth Catalog, X Prize, Y Combinator

But after his death, as I went through his scores of patent filings, including a clock timer for a stove and a Dictaphone-like recording machine, I couldn’t help but observe that of his many ideas, only the sprinklers actually made it to market at all. Why? Because he was an inventor, not an entrepreneur. And in that distinction lies the core of this book. It used to be hard to be an entrepreneur. The great inventors/businessmen of the First Industrial Revolution, such as James Watt and Matthew Boulton of steam-engine fame, were not just smart but privileged. Most were either born into the ruling class or lucky enough to be apprenticed to one of the elite. For most of history since then, entrepreneurship has meant either setting up a corner grocery shop or some other sort of modest local business or, more rarely, a total pie-in-the-sky crapshoot around an idea that is more likely to bring ruination than riches.

As yarn prices started to fall and opposition from local spinners grew, one mob came to his house and burned the frames for twenty new machines. Hargreaves left for Nottingham, where the booming cotton hosiery industry needed more cotton thread. He died a few years later, in 1778, having made a little money from his invention, but still far from rich. While this was happening, the American colonies were declaring independence and war. James Watt invented the steam engine in 1776. Although the exact timing with the Declaration of Independence is a coincidence, the connection between the two is not. Britain was finding it increasingly difficult to support its empire on resource extraction from its colonies alone, especially as they became more difficult to manage. It needed to increase production at home, where the political and military costs were lower.

The ancient Egyptians had looms, after all, and the Chinese had silk-spinning frames as early as 1000 BCE. The hand-powered spinning wheel was introduced in China and the Islamic world in the eleventh century, and the foot treadle appeared in the 1500s. You only have to look at illustrated fairy tales to see spinning wheels in widespread use. But the earlier machines didn’t launch an industrial revolution, while Hargreaves’s invention, along with the steam engine and even more sophisticated power looms that came later, did. Why? Historians have been debating this for centuries, but they agree on a few reasons. First, unlike silk, wool, and hemp, which were used in many of the earlier machines, cotton was a commodity that could reach everyone. It was simply the cheapest and most available fiber in the world, even more so once the expanding British trade empire brought bales of the stuff from India, Egypt, and the New World.


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Civilization: The West and the Rest by Niall Ferguson

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Admiral Zheng, agricultural Revolution, Albert Einstein, Andrei Shleifer, Atahualpa, Ayatollah Khomeini, Berlin Wall, BRICs, British Empire, clean water, collective bargaining, colonial rule, conceptual framework, Copley Medal, corporate governance, creative destruction, credit crunch, David Ricardo: comparative advantage, Dean Kamen, delayed gratification, Deng Xiaoping, discovery of the americas, Dissolution of the Soviet Union, European colonialism, Fall of the Berlin Wall, Francisco Pizarro, full employment, Hans Lippershey, haute couture, Hernando de Soto, income inequality, invention of movable type, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, James Hargreaves, James Watt: steam engine, John Harrison: Longitude, joint-stock company, Joseph Schumpeter, Kitchen Debate, land reform, land tenure, liberal capitalism, Louis Pasteur, Mahatma Gandhi, market bubble, Martin Wolf, mass immigration, means of production, megacity, Mikhail Gorbachev, new economy, Pearl River Delta, Pierre-Simon Laplace, probability theory / Blaise Pascal / Pierre de Fermat, profit maximization, purchasing power parity, quantitative easing, rent-seeking, reserve currency, road to serfdom, Ronald Reagan, savings glut, Scramble for Africa, Silicon Valley, South China Sea, sovereign wealth fund, special economic zone, spice trade, spinning jenny, Steve Jobs, Steven Pinker, The Great Moderation, the market place, the scientific method, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions, Thomas Malthus, Thorstein Veblen, total factor productivity, trade route, transaction costs, transatlantic slave trade, transatlantic slave trade, upwardly mobile, uranium enrichment, wage slave, Washington Consensus, women in the workforce, World Values Survey

James Neilson’s blast furnace, patented in 1828, hugely improved the coke-smelting process invented by Abraham Darby in 1709. Iron output at Darby’s Coalbrookdale furnace leapt from 81 tons a year in 1709 to 4,632 in 1850. Likewise, Thomas Newcomen’s 1705 steam engine was of little practical use; but James Watt’s addition of a separate condenser greatly improved it, and Richard Trevithick’s high-pressure version was better still. Newcomen’s engine had burned 45 pounds of coal to produce a single horsepower hour. A late nineteenth-century steam engine could do the same with less than 1 pound.8 By 1870 Britain’s steam engines together were generating 4 million horsepower, equivalent to the work of 40 million men. Feeding such a large human workforce would have required three times Britain’s entire wheat output.9 None of this was as intellectually profound as the big scientific breakthroughs of the seventeenth century, though Boulton’s and Watt’s membership of the Birmingham Lunar Society, which also counted the pioneering chemist Joseph Priestley among its luminaries, shows how close the connections were between the two revolutions.10 Rather, it was a cumulative, evolutionary process of improvement characterized by tinkering, sometimes carried out by men with minimal scientific education.

It was always more likely that the latter, with its distinctive culture of experimental tinkering and patient observation, would produce the technological advances without which there could have been no Industrial Revolution (see Chapter 5).45 The line that led from Newton’s laws to Thomas Newcomen’s steam engine – first used to drain the Whitehaven collieries in 1715 – was remarkably short and straight, though Newcomen was but a humble Dartmouth ironmonger.46 It is not accidental that three of the world’s most important technological innovations – James Watt’s improved steam engine (1764), John Harrison’s longitude-finding chronometer (1761) and Richard Arkwright’s water frame (1769) – were invented in the same country, in the same decade. When Newton died in March 1727 his body lay in state for four days at Westminster Abbey, before a funeral service in which his coffin was borne by two dukes, three earls and the Lord Chancellor.

With remarkable speed, the new technology was therefore copied and replicated on the continent and across the Atlantic. The first true cotton mill, Richard Arkwright’s at Cromford in Derbyshire, was built in 1771. Within seven years a copy appeared in France. It took just three years for the French to copy Watt’s 1775 steam engine. By 1784 there were German versions of both, thanks in large measure to industrial espionage. The Americans, who had the advantage of being able to grow their own cotton as well as mine their own coal, were a little slower: the first cotton mill appeared in Bass River, Massachusetts, in 1788, the first steam engine in 1803.23 The Belgians, Dutch and Swiss were not far behind. The pattern was similar after the first steam locomotives began pulling carriages on the Stockton and Darlington Railway in 1825, though that innovation took a mere five years to cross the Atlantic, compared with twelve years to reach Germany and twenty-two to arrive in Switzerland.24 As the efficiency of the technology improved, so it became economically attractive even where labour was cheaper and coal scarcer.


pages: 258 words: 83,303

Why Your World Is About to Get a Whole Lot Smaller: Oil and the End of Globalization by Jeff Rubin

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air freight, banking crisis, big-box store, BRICs, carbon footprint, collateralized debt obligation, collective bargaining, creative destruction, credit crunch, David Ricardo: comparative advantage, decarbonisation, energy security, food miles, hydrogen economy, illegal immigration, immigration reform, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), invisible hand, James Watt: steam engine, Just-in-time delivery, market clearing, megacity, North Sea oil, oil shale / tar sands, oil shock, peak oil, profit maximization, reserve currency, South Sea Bubble, the market place, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, trade liberalization, zero-sum game

The concept was described over a century ago by the British economist William Stanley Jevons. Jevons observed that after the huge efficiency gains following the advent of James Watt’s steam engine, coal consumption initially dropped, then rose tenfold between 1830 and 1860. The same phenomenon occurred with efficiencies in steel production in that era. The Bessemer process for producing steel was one of the greatest fuel-saving innovations in the history of metallurgy, but its ultimate effect was to increase, not reduce, the industry’s demand for fuel due to the subsequent surge in steel production. While each ton of Bessemer steel or increase in horsepower of James Watt’s steam engine might require less fuel than before, skyrocketing increases in the demand for steel and power overwhelmed the efficiency gains, leading to significantly greater fuel consumption.

More travelers means more planes in the air; more planes means more jet fuel burned. Overall fuel consumption in aviation has risen by 150 percent in the United States. The engineers did their jobs. And their innovations accomplished what they were meant to—namely, allowing us to use energy more efficiently. But in neither case did that efficiency lead to the conservation of any energy. Like James Watt’s steam engine or Bressemer’s energy-saving steel process for coal use, improvements in the energy efficiency of vehicles and airlines have simply meant more people on the roads and more people in the skies. THE REBOUND EFFECT AT HOME The same perverse patterns between improved fuel efficiency and increased fuel usage found throughout the transportation sector can also be found in the average home, where roughly another 20 percent of energy usage in the economy occurs.


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Triumph of the City: How Our Greatest Invention Makes Us Richer, Smarter, Greener, Healthier, and Happier by Edward L. Glaeser

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affirmative action, Andrei Shleifer, Berlin Wall, British Empire, Broken windows theory, carbon footprint, Celebration, Florida, clean water, congestion charging, declining real wages, desegregation, diversified portfolio, Edward Glaeser, endowment effect, European colonialism, financial innovation, Frank Gehry, global village, Guggenheim Bilbao, haute cuisine, Home mortgage interest deduction, James Watt: steam engine, Jane Jacobs, job-hopping, John Snow's cholera map, Mahatma Gandhi, McMansion, megacity, mortgage debt, mortgage tax deduction, New Urbanism, place-making, Ponzi scheme, Potemkin village, Ralph Waldo Emerson, rent control, RFID, Richard Florida, Rosa Parks, school vouchers, Seaside, Florida, Silicon Valley, Skype, smart cities, Steven Pinker, strikebreaker, the built environment, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, the new new thing, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, trade route, transatlantic slave trade, upwardly mobile, urban planning, urban renewal, urban sprawl, William Shockley: the traitorous eight, Works Progress Administration, young professional

Tall buildings became possible in the nineteenth century when American innovators solved the twin problems of crafting tall buildings without enormously thick lower walls and of safely moving up and down in them. Elisha Otis didn’t invent the elevator; Archimedes allegedly built one, possibly in Sicily, twenty-two hundred years ago. And Louis XV had his own personal lift in Versailles so that he could visit his mistress. Yet for the elevator to become mass transit, it needed a good source of power, and it needed to be safe. Messrs. Matthew Boulton and James Watt provided the early steam engines used to power industrial elevators, which were either pulled up by a rope or pushed up hydraulically. As engines improved, so did the speed and power of elevators, which could haul massive amounts of coal out of mines or grain from boats. But humans were still pretty wary of traveling long distances upward in a machine that could easily break and send them hurtling downward. Otis, tinkering in a Yonkers, New York, sawmill, took the danger out of vertical transit.

The next step after the omnibus was to power carriages with something other than equine muscle. Matthew Boulton understood that the steam engine could move wheels, and Richard Trevithick built the first functioning train in 1804. As steam engines became more reliable and coaches more comfortable, entrepreneurs started laying down rail networks. Intra-urban systems were built on existing roads, in tunnels, and on elevated rails. Building at street level was cheap but used valuable city real estate and created lots of noise and smoke. London, the world’s largest city, with the greatest demand for faster transport, pioneered the underground rail system in 1863. More than twenty-five thousand people started using it almost immediately. Running steam engines in tunnels may be better for pedestrians, but it isn’t great for the riders sitting in smoky cars.

There is no such thing as a successful city without human capital. Today, especially in the developed world, skilled people have usually been well educated in traditional schools—although their most important knowledge is usually acquired after graduation. At other times, and in poorer places today, human capital is more likely to come in the form of intelligent, energetic entrepreneurs who, like Henry Ford or James Watt, received little formal education. The best cities have a mix of skills and provide pathways for those who start with less to end with more. But different cities have found different ways to attract talent. In some cases, either raw political power or sensible probusiness policies attract skilled people. Tokyo became one of the largest cities in the world in the seventeenth century when the Tokugawa shogunate made it Japan’s de facto capital.


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A Culture of Growth: The Origins of the Modern Economy by Joel Mokyr

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Andrei Shleifer, barriers to entry, Berlin Wall, clockwork universe, cognitive dissonance, Copley Medal, creative destruction, David Ricardo: comparative advantage, delayed gratification, deliberate practice, Deng Xiaoping, Edmond Halley, epigenetics, Fellow of the Royal Society, financial independence, framing effect, germ theory of disease, Haber-Bosch Process, hindsight bias, income inequality, invention of movable type, invention of the printing press, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, Jacquard loom, Jacquard loom, Jacques de Vaucanson, James Watt: steam engine, John Harrison: Longitude, Joseph Schumpeter, knowledge economy, labor-force participation, land tenure, law of one price, Menlo Park, moveable type in China, new economy, phenotype, price stability, principal–agent problem, rent-seeking, Republic of Letters, Ronald Reagan, South Sea Bubble, statistical model, survivorship bias, the market place, The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, transaction costs, ultimatum game, World Values Survey, Wunderkammern

The central finding was one of fairly high correlation on some matters such as religion where the correlation was .57 but a much lower correlation for belief on “contentious issues” such as horoscopes and UFOs. The conclusion is that individuals clearly choose whether they want to adopt the default option or adopt a different belief, acquired horizontally or obliquely. 4 The classic example is the development of the steam engine in the eighteenth century; the exact understanding of how and why a steam engine worked and what determined its efficiency were not really mastered until the second quarter of the nineteenth century, but some knowledge of atmospheric pressure and the behavior of steam under pressure was essential for the machine to be built at all. Much of the improved understanding was the result of practical experimentation with the engine. 5 Moreover, more widely diffused and more accessible knowledge of other techniques facilitated the rate of technological progress because many inventions involved the recombination of other technological components and analogies from different techniques.

As already noted earlier, Newcomen’s atmospheric engine required some notions that had been developed by experimental philosophers, above all the realization of atmospheric pressure and that a vacuum was possible and could be exploited (Wootton, 2015, pp. 500–8). This is not to suggest by any means that the concepts of energy were well understood: the well-worn adage that science owed more to the steam engine than the steam engine owed science is certainly apt. Yet it still is undeniable that without the work of a long line of well-trained natural philosophers beginning with that of the Neapolitan Giambattista della Porta via the discovery of the atmosphere by Torricelli in 1643 and all the way to Denis Papin, who built the first workable model of an atmospheric engine in the 1690s, it is hard to see Newcomen’s device succeeding (Kerker, 1961; Cohen 2012, pp. 476–78, 729; Wootton, 2015, pp. 490–95).

Newton’s impact on the supply of scientists and research is an example of model-based bias: young scientists and mathematicians all knew of his fame and fortune, and the social prestige of a career in science would never be the same.16 Newton’s patronage job as master of the mint and the many attractive offers he declined amply demonstrate his celebrity and prestige.17 His career illustrated the social status that a truly successful scientist could attain in a society that began to value useful knowledge. He was knighted, elected to Parliament, and became quite wealthy.18 In 1727 he was given a splendid funeral and interned in a prominent place in Westminster Abbey. Voltaire remarked that he was buried like a well-loved king. No wonder that his life provided an iconic model that other would-be scientists were hoping to follow, much like James Watt’s career did for engineers a century later (MacLeod, 2007). In early eighteenth-century France, the new science was especially valued and became part of high society and a new political culture in which a powerful alliance was created between the savants of the Republic of Letters and the royal administration (Shank, 2008, p. 88). The effective allocation of talent and human capital in the very extreme upper tail of the distribution of talent is sensitive to such signals.19 As president of the Royal Society, Newton was the uncontested leader of Britain’s intellectual community for decades, surrounded by admiring and fawning students (most notably John Keill, Richard Bentley, Samuel Clarke, Henry Pemberton, and William Whiston).


pages: 543 words: 147,357

Them And Us: Politics, Greed And Inequality - Why We Need A Fair Society by Will Hutton

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Andrei Shleifer, asset-backed security, bank run, banking crisis, Benoit Mandelbrot, Berlin Wall, Bernie Madoff, Big bang: deregulation of the City of London, Bretton Woods, capital controls, carbon footprint, Carmen Reinhart, Cass Sunstein, centre right, choice architecture, cloud computing, collective bargaining, conceptual framework, Corn Laws, corporate governance, creative destruction, credit crunch, Credit Default Swap, debt deflation, decarbonisation, Deng Xiaoping, discovery of DNA, discovery of the americas, discrete time, diversification, double helix, Edward Glaeser, financial deregulation, financial innovation, financial intermediation, first-past-the-post, floating exchange rates, Francis Fukuyama: the end of history, Frank Levy and Richard Murnane: The New Division of Labor, full employment, George Akerlof, Gini coefficient, global supply chain, Growth in a Time of Debt, Hyman Minsky, I think there is a world market for maybe five computers, income inequality, inflation targeting, interest rate swap, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, James Dyson, James Watt: steam engine, joint-stock company, Joseph Schumpeter, Kenneth Rogoff, knowledge economy, knowledge worker, labour market flexibility, liberal capitalism, light touch regulation, Long Term Capital Management, Louis Pasteur, low-wage service sector, mandelbrot fractal, margin call, market fundamentalism, Martin Wolf, mass immigration, means of production, Mikhail Gorbachev, millennium bug, money market fund, moral hazard, moral panic, mortgage debt, Myron Scholes, Neil Kinnock, new economy, Northern Rock, offshore financial centre, open economy, Plutocrats, plutocrats, price discrimination, private sector deleveraging, purchasing power parity, quantitative easing, race to the bottom, railway mania, random walk, rent-seeking, reserve currency, Richard Thaler, Right to Buy, rising living standards, Robert Shiller, Robert Shiller, Ronald Reagan, Rory Sutherland, Satyajit Das, shareholder value, short selling, Silicon Valley, Skype, South Sea Bubble, Steve Jobs, The Market for Lemons, the market place, The Myth of the Rational Market, the payments system, the scientific method, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, too big to fail, unpaid internship, value at risk, Vilfredo Pareto, Washington Consensus, wealth creators, working poor, zero-sum game, éminence grise

This is a world of tumult, where productive entrepreneurs challenge boundaries and build on each other’s technological achievements in conditions of considerable uncertainty, even if there is an inevitability about where collective knowledge will drive technology. Thus, it fell to Gutenberg to combine iron and copper moulds with new advances in inks to create a printing press, but he could not have dreamed of the implications of what he was achieving. Equally, while James Watt patented the steam engine, it would fall to others to perfect what he had begun – exploiting the pool of common knowledge – when the patent expired in 1800. They surely all hoped to profit from their innovations, but they could only dimly foresee the dramatic impact of what they were doing. Capitalism in these terms does not regulate itself into an equilibrium or organise itself into optimal outcomes because of spontaneous proclivities to buy cheap and sell dear in the quest for profit.

This was symbolic of a strategic thrust that also witnessed the progressive abolition of the Navigation Acts, the repeal of the Corn Laws (which had kept corn prices artificially high), the liberalisation of companies’ right to incorporate, the widespread granting of rights to build canals and railways and the repeal of the regulations that had determined the inflows of apprentices in various trades. Industry boomed. At this time, Britain was responsible for the creation and development of four great GPTs – the steam engine, the factory system, the railway and the iron steamship – which underpinned its industrial, imperial, military and technological pre-eminence. Its great inventors, scientists and technologists – Watt, Stephenson and Brunel among them – were members of a wider culture that celebrated science. Importantly, they were also outsiders, disproportionately drawn from the ranks of Protestant nonconformists and dissenters. James Watt, Josiah Wedgwood and George Stephenson were all non-conformists. Before 1829, dissenters were all prohibited from joining Parliament, the military or the civil service. Wedgwood typified the new breed: ‘everything yields to experiment’, he said, as he restlessly integrated art, industry and the latest technological processes.

The great general purpose technologies that have changed the world – such as the railway, the internal combustion engine and the internet – are transformations driven by this fecund interaction between capitalist dynamism and ever-expanding knowledge. The actors at the mobilising centre of this process are the entrepreneurs. Thus the roll-call of the great figures of the Industrial Revolution – James Watt, George Stephenson, Richard Arkwright, Josiah Wedgwood, John Harrison, Matthew Boulton and many more. These people were prepared to bet their company, their career or their fortune on the belief that the market was ready for a new process, new good or new service that they had devised and in which they had total faith. Society needs its entrepreneurs to have a burning desire to change the world for the better.


pages: 501 words: 145,097

The Men Who United the States: America's Explorers, Inventors, Eccentrics and Mavericks, and the Creation of One Nation, Indivisible by Simon Winchester

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British Empire, clean water, colonial rule, discovery of the americas, distributed generation, Donner party, estate planning, Etonian, full employment, Hernando de Soto, hive mind, invention of radio, invention of the telegraph, James Watt: steam engine, Khyber Pass, Menlo Park, Plutocrats, plutocrats, transcontinental railway, Works Progress Administration

But such contraptions were indeed coming and had been for a while. Ten years earlier, James Watt had invented the condensing steam engine. In doing so, he had opened the way for all manner of more complicated and flexible ways of designing wood- and coal-fired boilers to produce steam to push pistons and turn cranks and drive rotary engines of one kind or another and thus make things move along a road, a waterway, or a specially designed track—a railroad. Waterways were the first to benefit from the newly discovered physics of steam. John Fitch, a Connecticut button maker, watch repairer, and silversmith, took an early interest in the waterborne side of things. He proposed in 1785 that “there might be a force governed by steam,” promptly built a paddleboat with a James Watt–type engine inside, and chugged up and down the Delaware River in 1787, little more than a decade after George Washington had rowed across it on the way to war.

DC, 367–69, 371–75, 410–11 See also radio; telegraph; telephone Ellsworth, Annie, 346 Ellsworth, Henry Leavitt (patent commissioner), 346 Erie Canal about American efforts prior to, 189–95 beginning plans, 196–203 building phase, 203–6 celebrating completion, 206–9 impact of railroads on, 253 revisiting, 209–14 ethnicity, as unifying force, xvi–xviii Exclusion Act of 1882, 269n Facebook, 425 Fall River, Maine, 171 Farnsworth, Philo (inventor), 410 Farny, Henry (artist), 328, 333 Featherstonhaugh, George (geologist), 94 Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956, 305 Fessenden, Reginald Aubrey (engineer), 387–92, 406 fire. See also airplanes/air travel; automobiles; steam/steam engines fire as one of five classical elements, v, xx, xxi–xxii unifying role in America, xxii See also airplanes/air travel; automobiles; steam/steam engines On First Seeing the Grand Canyon (Powell), 72 “First Sight” (Larkin), 125 Fitch, John (creator of paddleboat), 249, 251 five classical elements, v, xx Floyd, Charles (Sergeant, Corps of Discovery), 43–44 Ford, Henry (auto maker), 278, 282, 296, 298 Fort Calhoun Nuclear Generating Station (Nebraska), 41 Fort Clatsop (Oregon), 70–71 Fort Thompson, South Dakota, 39 Four Great Surveys of the West, 112–13, 151, 160 49th Parallel (movie), 261n Frankenheimer, John (television director), 407 Franklin, Benjamin, 79, 336 Frémont, John Charles (military officer/explorer), 94, 100, 105–6 French and Indian War (aka Seven Years’ War), 178–79 frontier thesis, 24–32, 377–79.

See geological survey and mapping Susquehanna River, 169 Syracuse, New York, 205 telegraph beginnings of an industry, 331–35 development by Samuel Morse, 337–41 electricity and its use for, 335–37 first public message, 328, 345–47 government role and funding, 343–44 overcoming technical problems, 341–45 rival systems to Morse, 347–48 undertaking cross-country construction, 348–49 unifying role in America, 349–51, 413 telephone about invention and patenting, 351–53 beginnings of an industry, 326–27 comparison to telegraph, 351 development, 355–57 first successful demonstration, 353–54 first transcontinental call, 354–55 television beginnings of an industry, 412–13 derided as “vast wasteland,” 416–17 first public demonstration, 409–10 impact of cable networks, 415–17 predictions for its future, 410–12 unifying role in America, 407–8, 413–14 See also electricity/electric lights Telford, Thomas (canal engineer), 189 Tesla, Nikola (inventor), 369–72, 387 Texas, annexation by U.S. (1845), 106 Thompson, Benjamin (aka Count Rumford, inventor), 190 Thompson, David (explorer), 35n Thoreau, Henry David (poet), 92 Tiffany, Charles (jeweler), 145, 150 Tocqueville, Alexis de (political thinker), 198 Todd, James, 155–60 The Tonight Show (television show), 407–9 Topeka, Kansas, 308–9 Trail of Tears, xxiii Transcontinental Convoy of 1919, 280–94 transcontinental highways about Thomas MacDonald and, 294–96 government role and funding, 296–300 numbering system and routes, 300–304 planning/building Alaska Highway, 299, 310–12 planning/building Interstate Highway System, 304–10 See also roads/roadways/road building transcontinental railroad authorization by Congress, 266–67 beginning surveys for, 258 Ceremony of Golden Spike, 273 construction, 267–72 crossing Missouri River, 276 meeting at Promontory Summit, xiii, 103, 117, 272–76 role of “Crazy Judah,” 258–59, 261–66, 275, 433 See also railroads; Union Pacific Railroad transcontinental telegraph, 348–51 transcontinental telephone, 354–57 transcontinental television, 409–10 transportation. See automobiles; railroads; rivers/river exploration; steam/steam engines Treaty of Paris (1763), 178 Troost, Gerard (geologist), 90 Turner, Frederick Jackson, 29–31 Tuskegee experiment, xxiii Tuskegee Institute, Alabama, 288 Twain, Mark (author), 225, 236 Umatilla Army Depot (Oregon), 68 unifying forces in America automobiles, 237 Canal Era in America, 413 earth, xxi electricity/electric lights, 385 ethnicity, xvi–xviii fire, xxii Internet, 425–28 Lewis and Clark expedition, xix metal, xxii Mississippi River, 227–29 race/race relations, xvii, 403 radio, 395–96, 402–3, 406, 413, 416 railroads, 237, 257–58, 413 rivers/river exploration, 229–30 roads/roadways/road building, 413 steam/steam engines, 237 telegraph, 349–51, 413 television, 407–8, 413–14 water, xxi–xxii wood, xxi Union Pacific Railroad, 24, 53–54, 117, 139, 238, 266, 267, 270–78, 309–10.


pages: 879 words: 233,093

The Empathic Civilization: The Race to Global Consciousness in a World in Crisis by Jeremy Rifkin

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agricultural Revolution, Albert Einstein, back-to-the-land, British Empire, carbon footprint, collaborative economy, death of newspapers, delayed gratification, distributed generation, en.wikipedia.org, energy security, feminist movement, global village, hydrogen economy, illegal immigration, income inequality, income per capita, interchangeable parts, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Internet Archive, invention of movable type, invention of the steam engine, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, James Watt: steam engine, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, labour mobility, Mahatma Gandhi, Marshall McLuhan, means of production, megacity, meta analysis, meta-analysis, Milgram experiment, new economy, New Urbanism, Norbert Wiener, off grid, out of africa, Peace of Westphalia, peak oil, peer-to-peer, planetary scale, Simon Kuznets, Skype, smart grid, smart meter, supply-chain management, surplus humans, the medium is the message, the scientific method, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, The Wisdom of Crowds, theory of mind, transaction costs, upwardly mobile, uranium enrichment, working poor, World Values Survey

While historians are fond of identifying coal as the defining energy and the steam engine as the defining technology of the Industrial Revolution, reality didn’t conform quite so neatly to the official chronicle. Coal was already in widespread use as a thermal source in scattered parts of England by the 1760s, and it wasn’t until 1776, at the dawn of the American Revolution, that James Watt invented and patented the modern steam engine. Even with the emergence of coal and steam power in the last quarter of the eighteenth century, most mills continued to operate by water and wind power. The textile industry, which was the first to be transformed into what we might consider a factory mode operated by men working with machinery, increased its output tenfold between 1760 and 1787, and it was powered by watermills.24 The first steam engines, using coal as an energy source, were employed in the British cotton industry in the late 1780s.

Martin Luther, and the reformers who followed, encouraged the mass production of bibles in vernacular so that each Christian convert could be versed in God’s word and be prepared to stand alone before his or her maker, without having to rely on the Church’s emissaries—the priesthood—to interpret God’s will. The Great Schism of Christianity, beginning with the Reformation and followed by the Counter-Reformation, the Thirty Years’ War, and the Peace of Westphalia—which helped establish the modern notion of national sovereignty—changed the social and political face of Europe.47 But the full economic impact of the print revolution had to await the invention of the steam engine by James Watt in 1769.48 The print revolution converged with the coal, steam, and rail revolution to create the First Industrial Revolution. Between 1830 and 1890, in both Europe and North America, print communications underwent a revolution. Efficient steam-powered print presses made the print production process both quick and cheap.49 Public schooling and mass literacy were introduced on both continents, and within two generations produced the first nearly fully literate populations in history.

Between 1787 and 1840, British cotton production “jumped from 22 million to 366 million pounds,” while the cost of production plummeted.25 After 1830, coal-powered steam technology crossed the English Channel and began to be harnessed in earnest. Belgium doubled its steam engines in use between 1830 and 1838. By 1850, the country had become one of the most industrialized on the continent, with 2,300 engines producing 66,000 horsepower.26 The Krupps introduced the steam engine into Germany in 1835.27 Even with these advances in coal-powered steam technology, the reality is that as late as 1848, the year of the great European Revolution, French hydraulic power “accounted for two and a half times more power than steam engines. . . .” Of the 784 firms in the French steel industry in 1845, 672 were still using watermills for their energy. Even in the French textile industry at the time, hydraulic energy powered more factories than coal-fired steam technology.28 In the next two decades, the advantage would turn to steam power in most European countries.


pages: 1,197 words: 304,245

The Invention of Science: A New History of the Scientific Revolution by David Wootton

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agricultural Revolution, Albert Einstein, British Empire, clockwork universe, Commentariolus, commoditize, conceptual framework, Dava Sobel, double entry bookkeeping, double helix, en.wikipedia.org, Ernest Rutherford, Fellow of the Royal Society, fudge factor, germ theory of disease, Google X / Alphabet X, Hans Lippershey, interchangeable parts, invention of gunpowder, invention of the steam engine, invention of the telescope, Isaac Newton, Jacques de Vaucanson, James Watt: steam engine, John Harrison: Longitude, knowledge economy, lone genius, Mercator projection, On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres, Philip Mirowski, placebo effect, QWERTY keyboard, Republic of Letters, spice trade, spinning jenny, the scientific method, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions

The fact that the outcome of the Scientific Revolution as a whole was not foreseen or sought by any of the participants does not make it any the less a revolution – but it does mean it was not a neat epistemological break of the sort described by Koyré.vii So, too, when first Thomas Newcomen (1711) and then James Watt (1769) invented powerful new steam engines, neither foresaw that the age of steam would see the construction of a great railway system girdling the Earth – the first public steam railway did not open until 1825. It is this sort of revolution, a revolution of unintended consequences and unforeseen outcomes, that Butterfield intended to evoke by the term ‘the Scientific Revolution’. If we define the term ‘revolution’ narrowly as an abrupt transformation that affects everybody at the same time, there is no Scientific Revolution – and no Neolithic Revolution, or Military Revolution (following the invention of gunpowder), or Industrial Revolution (following the invention of the steam engine) either. But we need to acknowledge the existence of extended, patchy revolutions if we want to turn aside from politics and understand large-scale economic, social, intellectual and technological change.

Merton in his classic study of 1938, Science, Technology and Society in Seventeenth-century England, in which he emphasized the role of Puritanism in encouraging useful knowledge, followed Hessen in arguing that seventeenth-century science was indeed intended, through and through, to have practical applications, despite his own rejection of Hessen’s Marxist assumptions.6 A series of studies, however (those of Alfred Rupert Hall being particularly influential), have claimed to show that, whatever the intentions of scientists may have been, in practice, the new science had virtually no influence on technological progress. A key case-study was provided by Watt’s steam engine (1765). Watt developed his new engine in Glasgow, where Joseph Black had proposed the concept of latent heat (c.1750). Black later collaborated with Watt and invested in his new engine. Was Watt familiar with the concept of latent heat when he devised his new engine, and did the new theory inform his new technology? He insisted that he was not, and historians came (almost reluctantly) to take him at his word.7 Lawrence Joseph Henderson is frequently quoted as saying (apparently in 1917), ‘Science owes more to the steam engine than the steam engine owes to science.’8 After all, Sadi Carnot finally produced a satisfactory theory of the steam engine only in 1824, more than a hundred years after Newcomen’s first engine, and sixty years after Watt’s.

This is, in part, a book about the air pump (although historians of the air pump and of vacuum experiments have failed to read it),74 and it provides an illustration and description of Papin’s most recent (and last) model.75 Papin’s pump consists of a cylinder with a piston; the piston is sealed by a layer of water, and Papin describes with care how to achieve this.76 The method used corresponds to the method initially used by Newcomen–though he later found a better one.77 The cylinder, like the piston of Newcomen’s steam engine, has a number of valves and inlets which open and close with the action of the piston. (Papin was the first to make an air-pump in which the valve action was automatic.) There is one valve closed by a weight, although it is not in this case a safety valve; however, Papin describes the operation of such a valve. Thus the basic technology of the steam engine’s piston is laid out because that technology overlaps with the technology of the air pump – it is precisely because of these overlaps that Papin could go on three years later to build the first steam engine.vii Papin’s 1687 air pump, from A Continuation of the New Digester. But the Continuation does more than that. It provides the reader with the line of thinking that led Papin to the invention of the steam engine. Here is what he says: I might also reckon among the uses of this Engine [the air-pump] the strength it can afford to produce great effects without the encumbrance of great weights: For a tube very even and well workt may be made very light and yet being emptyed of Air it will endure the pressure of the Atmosphere: Nevertheless a plug very exact at one end of that tube would be pressed towards the other with a very great strength, at least if the tube was of a pretty great Diameter: for example if it was a foot Diameter the plug would be press’t with the strength of about 1800 pounds.


pages: 297 words: 77,362

The Nature of Technology by W. Brian Arthur

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Andrew Wiles, business process, cognitive dissonance, computer age, creative destruction, double helix, endogenous growth, Geoffrey West, Santa Fe Institute, haute cuisine, James Watt: steam engine, joint-stock company, Joseph Schumpeter, Kenneth Arrow, Kevin Kelly, knowledge economy, locking in a profit, Mars Rover, means of production, Myron Scholes, railway mania, Silicon Valley, Simon Singh, sorting algorithm, speech recognition, technological singularity, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions

A great deal of time. Which explains a puzzle within economics. Usually several decades lie between the coming of enabling technologies that bring a new domain into being and the domain’s full impact. The enabling technologies of electrification, the electric motor and generator, arrived in the 1870s, but their full effects on industry were not felt until well into the 1910s and 1920s. James Watt’s steam engine was developed in the 1760s, but steam power did not come into prevalent use until the 1820s. In more modern times, the enabling technologies of digitization, the microprocessor and the Arpanet (the forerunner of the Internet), were available by the early 1970s; but again, their impact in digitizing the economy has still not been fully realized. If you accept the adoption story, these delays must be caused by the time people take to find out about the new way of doing things and decide it would improve their circumstances.

Yet—and this is another source of wonder for me—this thing that fades to the background of our world also creates that world. It creates the realm our lives inhabit. If you woke some morning and found that by some odd magic the technologies that have appeared in the last six hundred years had suddenly vanished: if you found that your toilet and stove and computer and automobile had disappeared, and along with these, steel and concrete buildings, mass production, public hygiene, the steam engine, modern agriculture, the joint stock company, and the printing press, you would find that our modern world had also disappeared. You—or we, if this strange happening befell all of us—would still be left with our ideas and culture, and with our children and spouses. And we would still have technologies. We would have water mills, and foundries, and oxcarts; and coarse linens, and hooded cloaks, and sophisticated techniques for building cathedrals.

And I suspect that because we feel technology to be the cause of much disharmony in our world, at some unconscious level we feel it to be intellectually distasteful—unworthy perhaps of deep study. We also feel vaguely that because we have created technology, we already understand it. And there is another reason. The people who have thought hardest about the general questions of technology have mostly been social scientists and philosophers, and understandably they have tended to view technology from the outside as stand-alone objects. There is the steam engine, the railroad, the Bessemer process, the dynamo, and each of these is a boxed-up object with no visible insides—a black box, to use economic historian Nathan Rosenberg’s term. Seeing technologies this way, from the outside, works well enough if we want to know how technologies enter the economy and spread within it. But it does not work well for the fundamental questions that interest us. It is like viewing the animal kingdom as a collection of separate black-boxed species: lemurs, macaques, zebras, platypuses.


pages: 242 words: 68,019

Why Information Grows: The Evolution of Order, From Atoms to Economies by Cesar Hidalgo

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Ada Lovelace, Albert Einstein, Arthur Eddington, assortative mating, Claude Shannon: information theory, David Ricardo: comparative advantage, Douglas Hofstadter, Everything should be made as simple as possible, frictionless, frictionless market, George Akerlof, Gödel, Escher, Bach, income inequality, income per capita, industrial cluster, information asymmetry, invention of the telegraph, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, James Watt: steam engine, Jane Jacobs, job satisfaction, John von Neumann, New Economic Geography, Norbert Wiener, p-value, Paul Samuelson, phenotype, price mechanism, Richard Florida, Ronald Coase, Rubik’s Cube, Silicon Valley, Simon Kuznets, Skype, statistical model, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Steven Pinker, The Market for Lemons, The Nature of the Firm, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, total factor productivity, transaction costs, working-age population

Adam Smith decomposed the economy into land, labor, and machinery—the last being a mixture of what modern economists refer to as physical capital and technology.1 Smith equated machinery, or fixed capital, with an increase in people’s ability to produce work, and hence he saw the accumulation of physical capital as a determinant of economic growth. “The intention of fixed capital is to increase the productive powers of labour, or to enable the same number of labourers to perform a much greater quantity of work,” he wrote.2 Smith saw improvements in mechanics, such as those embodied in the steam engine created by his contemporary James Watt, as improvements in the ability of people to produce work: “Improvements in mechanics . . . enable the same number of workmen to perform an equal quantity of work with cheaper and simpler machinery.”3 During the twentieth century Smith’s ideas were mathematized by economists, who used calculus and differential equations to create models of economic growth that hinged on the accumulation of different forms of capital.

The idea of crystallized imagination should make it clear that Chile is the one exploiting the imagination of Faraday, Tesla, and others, since it was the inventors’ imagination that endowed copper atoms with economic value. But Chile is not the only country that exploits foreign creativity this way. Oil producers like Venezuela and Russia exploit the imagination of Henry Ford, Rudolf Diesel, Gottlieb Daimler, Nicolas Carnot, James Watt, and James Joule by being involved in the commerce of a dark gelatinous goo that was virtually useless until combustion engines were invented.10 Making a strong distinction between the generation of value and the appropriation of monetary compensation helps us understand the difference between wealth and economic development. In fact, the world has many countries that are rich but still have underdeveloped economies.


pages: 369 words: 98,776

The God Species: Saving the Planet in the Age of Humans by Mark Lynas

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Airbus A320, back-to-the-land, Berlin Wall, carbon footprint, clean water, Climategate, Climatic Research Unit, David Ricardo: comparative advantage, decarbonisation, dematerialisation, demographic transition, Haber-Bosch Process, ice-free Arctic, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), invention of the steam engine, James Watt: steam engine, megacity, meta analysis, meta-analysis, moral hazard, Negawatt, New Urbanism, oil shale / tar sands, out of africa, peak oil, planetary scale, quantitative easing, race to the bottom, Ronald Reagan, special drawing rights, Stewart Brand, University of East Anglia

Why us, then? Our mastery of fire was a product of the adaptability and innovativeness with which evolution had already equipped us long before, and that no other species had heretofore possessed. Humanity’s Great Leap Forward was not about evolution, but adaptation—and could therefore move a thousand times faster. I don’t want to oversimplify: The Stone Age did not end in 1764 with James Watt’s invention of the steam engine. Clearly great leaps in human behavior and organization took place over preceding millennia with the advent of language, trade, agriculture, cities, writing, and the myriad other innovations in production and communications that laid the foundations for humanity’s industrial emergence. But I would argue that the true Anthropocene probably did begin in the second half of the eighteenth century, for it was then that atmospheric carbon dioxide levels began their inexorable climb upward, a rise that continues in accelerated form today.

But climate change has an evil twin, whose very existence was barely noted until comparatively recently, but which is now considered by the planetary boundaries expert group to be sufficiently critical to the Earth system to deserve separate consideration. This new boundary is the acidification of the world’s oceans, which, as they absorb the carbon dioxide released by human burning of fossil fuels, are gradually turning more hostile to many forms of marine life. Homo sapiens currently releases 10 billion tonnes of carbon per year—a million tonnes every hour. Since James Watt’s invention of the steam engine in 1784, humans have released more than half a trillion tonnes of carbon from geological safe storage underground into the atmosphere.1 Up to 85 percent of this liberated carbon, somewhere between 340 and 420 billion tonnes, has soaked into the oceans.2 This is a stroke of luck for us, because rates of greenhouse warming are sharply reduced as a result: Were the oceans not performing this free service, the Earth’s temperature would be rising at double or triple today’s rate.


pages: 463 words: 118,936

Darwin Among the Machines by George Dyson

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Ada Lovelace, Alan Turing: On Computable Numbers, with an Application to the Entscheidungsproblem, Albert Einstein, anti-communist, British Empire, carbon-based life, cellular automata, Claude Shannon: information theory, combinatorial explosion, computer age, Danny Hillis, Donald Davies, fault tolerance, Fellow of the Royal Society, finite state, IFF: identification friend or foe, invention of the telescope, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, Jacquard loom, Jacquard loom, James Watt: steam engine, John Nash: game theory, John von Neumann, Menlo Park, Nash equilibrium, Norbert Wiener, On the Economy of Machinery and Manufactures, packet switching, pattern recognition, phenotype, RAND corporation, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, spectrum auction, strong AI, the scientific method, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Turing machine, Von Neumann architecture, zero-sum game

“I am quite mad of this Scheme,” Darwin continued, providing Boulton with a prospectus for a three-wheeled vehicle propelled by twin cylinders and an ingeniously differential rear-wheel drive. “By ye management of the steam cocks ye motion may be accelerated, retarded, destroy’d, revised, instantly & easyly. And if this answers in Practise as it does in theory, ye Machine can not fail of success.” Boulton, the original pioneer of mass production (from belt buckles to steam engines), was too far in debt to act on Darwin’s suggestion at the time, but the concept would resurface, like Darwinism, first in the age of railroads and then in the age of automobiles. A few years later, when James Watt developed the condenser engine, it was Darwin who promoted the Boulton & Watt partnership that brought the Industrial Revolution—and, soon enough, the “fiery chariot”—to life. Below Darwin’s signature was appended a prophetic postscript: “I think four wheels would be better—adieu.”28 Science fiction, as well as the automobile, owes Erasmus Darwin a founding credit.

He therefore resolved to relinquish Bacchus, but his affection for Venus was retained to the last period of life.”25 Erasmus Darwin was a ringleader of the Industrial Revolution, helping to spark the evolution of machines as surely as some unknown Cambrian ancestor of ours ignited the diversification of metazoan life. As Charles’s son Francis Darwin (1848–1925) remarked, “Erasmus had a strong love of all kinds of mechanism, for which Charles Darwin had no taste.”26 In the 1760s, inspired by the Birmingham visits of Benjamin Franklin and drawing on his friendships with Matthew Boulton, Josiah Wedgwood, James Keir, William Small, and James Watt, Darwin founded the Lunar Society of Birmingham, an informal association of natural philosophers and industrialists whose meetings were scheduled to allow the full moon to assist its members home. The group of self-styled “Lunaticks” formed a nucleus for the industrialization of Britain, and either directly or via the interlocking relationships of the Lunar Society Erasmus Darwin had a hand in the origin of almost every species of mechanism explicit or implicit in the technologies of today.

Nor does it mean that replicators will thereafter keep the field to themselves. Under the neo-Darwinian regime—not so much a consequence of the origins of life as a consequence of the origins of death—replicators will, in the long run, win. But there is no law against changing the rules. Intelligence and technology are bringing Lamarckian mechanisms into play, with results that may leave the slow pace of Darwinian trial and error behind. “And though steam engines are as the angels in heaven, with respect to matrimony, yet in their reproduction of machinery we seem to catch a glimpse of the extraordinary vicarious arrangement whereby it is not impossible that the reproductive system of the mechanical world will be always carried on,” noted Samuel Butler in 1865.63 Seven years later he was more explicit about the reproductive strategies of machines: “Surely if a machine is able to reproduce another machine systematically, we may say that it has a reproductive system.


pages: 210 words: 56,667

The Misfit Economy: Lessons in Creativity From Pirates, Hackers, Gangsters and Other Informal Entrepreneurs by Alexa Clay, Kyra Maya Phillips

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3D printing, Airbnb, Alfred Russel Wallace, Berlin Wall, Burning Man, collaborative consumption, conceptual framework, creative destruction, double helix, fear of failure, game design, Hacker Ethic, Howard Rheingold, informal economy, invention of the steam engine, James Watt: steam engine, Joseph Schumpeter, Kickstarter, lone genius, Mark Zuckerberg, mass incarceration, megacity, Occupy movement, peer-to-peer rental, Ronald Reagan, Rosa Parks, sharing economy, Silicon Valley, Steve Jobs, Steven Levy, Stewart Brand, supply-chain management, union organizing, Whole Earth Catalog, Whole Earth Review, Zipcar

While it seems contrary to share intellectual property, in the case of the steel industry, Allen writes, “collective invention spread costs among the firms in the industry.”13 Given the economic constraints of many small businesses in today’s economy, this concept sounds far more prudent than far-fetched. As relayed in Charlie Leadbeater’s book, We-Think, the tin and copper mines in Cornwall, in the southwest of England, provide another example of how industries can succeed through the dissemination of intellectual property. To make the process of mining easier and safer, James Watt invented the now-well-known “Watt engine,” a design that cut down the amount of coal required by two thirds.14 Watt marketed and sold the engine with his partner, Matthew Boulton, spreading the innovation within the Cornish mining industry. The inventors patented their design and decided to charge mine owners a royalty. Cornish miners rebelled, setting up unauthorized adaptations of the original Watt machine.

Each added to the collective unconscious of the technical community.11 This scenario invokes the notion of a collective unconscious or simultaneous invention. If an idea is “in the air” and capable of being thought of by many, can it be owned by anyone? INVENTION IS COLLECTIVE The term “collective invention” was popularized by economic historian Robert C. Allen in writing about one of the most mainstream, formal-market industries: steel. With steam engine technology, there were a plethora of firms eager to exchange information, practices, techniques, and designs, to the extent that no single inventor was responsible for major innovations in the steel sector. As Allen states with reference to the blast furnace industry in England: If one examines a sector like the blast furnace industry and determines the inventions whose diffusion were important for the growth in efficiency, it proves impossible to attribute their discovery to any single inventor.

In the nineteenth century, many English anti-patent campaigners argued that innovation wasn’t endowed to a “special breed of heroes” but to the everyman. They felt that the itch to invent was inborn. In a nod to collective innovation, they didn’t feel that any one inventor could or should claim credit or royalties when “there is no need to reward him who might be lucky enough to be the first to hit on the thing required.”20 Arriving at the invention of the steam engine or the cotton gin was attributed to right time, right place. If you hadn’t done it, well, someone else would have. You just got there first. It seems, then, that the patent system has always been an instrument of extraction, a collusion between the wealthy and their government. Historian Adrian Johns notes in his book Piracy: The Intellectual Property Wars from Gutenberg to Gates that these same anti-patent Englishmen felt that lower-class inventors were “hopeless in the face of big capital” due to the cost of patent fees, which in 1860 ranged from £100 to £120 (around $585), or approximately four times per capita income.


pages: 282 words: 82,107

An Edible History of Humanity by Tom Standage

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agricultural Revolution, amateurs talk tactics, professionals talk logistics, Bartolomé de las Casas, British Empire, carbon footprint, Columbian Exchange, Corn Laws, demographic transition, Deng Xiaoping, Eratosthenes, financial innovation, food miles, Haber-Bosch Process, invisible hand, James Watt: steam engine, Louis Pasteur, Mikhail Gorbachev, special economic zone, spice trade, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thomas Malthus, trade route, transatlantic slave trade, women in the workforce

Coal enabled a rapid expansion in the production of iron and steel, which had previously been smelted using wood. And, of course, coal was used to power steam engines, a technology that emerged from the coal industry itself. Once England’s outcropping surface deposits of coal had been depleted, it was necessary to sink mine shafts, and to ever greater depths—but the deeper they went, the more likely they were to flood with water. The steam engine invented by Thomas Newcomen in 1712, building on the work of previous experimenters, was built specifically to pump water out of flooded mines. Early steam engines were very inefficient, but this did not matter very much since they were powered by coal—and in a coal mine the fuel was, in effect, free. Hundreds of Newcomen engines had been installed in mines around England by 1800. The next step was taken by James Watt, a Scottish inventor who was asked to repair a Newcomen engine in 1763 and quickly realized how its wasteful design could be improved upon.

Sullivan Typeset by Westchester Book Group Printed in the United States of America by Quebecor World Fairfield To Kirstin, my partner in food—and everything else CONTENTS INTRODUCTION Ingredients of the Past PART I THE EDIBLE FOUNDATIONS OF CIVILIZATION 1 The Invention of Farming 2 The Roots of Modernity PART II FOOD AND SOCIAL STRUCTURE 3 Food, Wealth, and Power 4 Follow the Food PART III GLOBAL HIGHWAYS OF FOOD 5 Splinters of Paradise 6 Seeds of Empire PART IV FOOD, ENERGY, AND INDUSTRIALIZATION 7 New World, New Foods 8 The Steam Engine and the Potato PART V FOOD AS A WEAPON 9 The Fuel of War 10 Food Fight PART VI FOOD, POPULATION, AND DEVELOPMENT 11 Feeding the World 12 Paradoxes of Plenty EPILOGUE Ingredients of the Future ACKNOWLEDGMENTS NOTES SOURCES INTRODUCTION INGREDIENTS OF THE PAST There is no history of mankind, there are only many histories of all kinds of aspects of human life.

This led to the discovery of the New World, the opening of maritime trade routes between Europe, America, and Asia, and the establishment by European nations of their first colonial outposts. Along the way, it also revealed the true layout of the world. As European nations vied to build global empires, food helped to bring about the next big shift in human history: a surge in economic development through industrialization. Sugar and potatoes, as much as the steam engine, underpinned the Industrial Revolution. The production of sugar on plantations in the West Indies was arguably the earliest prototype of an industrial process, reliant though it was on slave labor. Potatoes, meanwhile, overcame initial suspicion among Europeans to become a staple food that produced more calories than cereal crops could from a given area of land. Together, sugar and potatoes provided cheap sustenance for the workers in the new factories of the industrial age.


pages: 565 words: 151,129

The Zero Marginal Cost Society: The Internet of Things, the Collaborative Commons, and the Eclipse of Capitalism by Jeremy Rifkin

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3D printing, active measures, additive manufacturing, Airbnb, autonomous vehicles, back-to-the-land, big-box store, bioinformatics, bitcoin, business process, Chris Urmson, clean water, cleantech, cloud computing, collaborative consumption, collaborative economy, Community Supported Agriculture, Computer Numeric Control, computer vision, crowdsourcing, demographic transition, distributed generation, en.wikipedia.org, Frederick Winslow Taylor, global supply chain, global village, Hacker Ethic, industrial robot, informal economy, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), intermodal, Internet of things, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, James Watt: steam engine, job automation, John Markoff, John Maynard Keynes: Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren, John Maynard Keynes: technological unemployment, Julian Assange, Kickstarter, knowledge worker, labour mobility, Mahatma Gandhi, manufacturing employment, Mark Zuckerberg, market design, mass immigration, means of production, meta analysis, meta-analysis, natural language processing, new economy, New Urbanism, nuclear winter, Occupy movement, off grid, oil shale / tar sands, pattern recognition, peer-to-peer, peer-to-peer lending, personalized medicine, phenotype, planetary scale, price discrimination, profit motive, QR code, RAND corporation, randomized controlled trial, Ray Kurzweil, RFID, Richard Stallman, risk/return, Ronald Coase, search inside the book, self-driving car, shareholder value, sharing economy, Silicon Valley, Skype, smart cities, smart grid, smart meter, social web, software as a service, spectrum auction, Steve Jobs, Stewart Brand, the built environment, The Nature of the Firm, The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, The Wisdom of Crowds, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions, Thomas L Friedman, too big to fail, transaction costs, urban planning, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, web application, Whole Earth Catalog, Whole Earth Review, WikiLeaks, working poor, zero-sum game, Zipcar

What we call capitalism today emerged alongside the shift to a new communication/energy matrix in the last decade of the eighteenth century and the first few decades of the nineteenth. A Coal-Powered Steam Infrastructure In 1769, James Watt invented and patented the modern steam engine powered by coal.7 The cotton industry became the first to deploy the new technology. The productivity gains were dramatic. Between 1787 and 1840, British cotton production “jumped from 22 million to 366 million pounds” while the cost of production plunged. By 1850, coal-powered steam engines could be found across Europe and America. Still, as late as 1848—the year of the great European revolutions—hydraulic power “accounted for two and a half times more power than steam engines” in France. Hydraulic energy continued to be used in more French factories than coal-fired steam technology. For example, of the 784 firms in the French steel industry, 672 were still using water mills for their energy.8 The energy mix quickly changed in the second half of the nineteenth century.

Yujiro Hayami and Yoshihisa Godo, Development Economics: From the Poverty to the Wealth of Nations (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005), 341. 2. Maurice Dobb, Studies in the Development of Capitalism (New York: International Publishers, 1947), 143. 3. Adam Smith, An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (Edinburgh: Thomas Nelson, 1843), 20. 4. Ibid. 5. Ibid., 21. 6. Ibid., 22. 7. Carl Lira, “Biography of James Watt,” May 21, 2013, http://www.egr.msu.edu/~lira/supp/steam /wattbio.html (accessed January 7, 2014). 8. Jean-Claude Debeir, Jean-Paul Deléage, and Daniel Hémery, In the Servitude of Power: Energy and Civilization through the Ages (London: Zed Books, 1992), 101–104. 9. Eric J. Hobsbawm, The Age of Capital, 1848–1875 (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1975), 40. 10. Eric J. Hobsbawm, The Age of Revolution, 1789–1848 (New York: Vintage Books, 1996), 298. 11.

For an increasing number for young people, the emerging social economy on the Commons offers greater potential opportunity for self-development and promises more intense psychic rewards than traditional employment in the capitalist marketplace. (The migration of employment from the capitalist market economy to the social economy on the Collaborative Commons will be addressed more fully in chapter 14.) If the steam engine freed human beings from feudal bondage to pursue material self-interest in the capitalist marketplace, the Internet of Things frees human beings from the market economy to pursue nonmaterial shared interests on the Collaborative Commons. Many—but not all—of our basic material needs will be met for nearly free in a near zero marginal cost society. Intelligent technology will do most of the heavy lifting in an economy centered on abundance rather than scarcity.


pages: 437 words: 115,594

The Great Surge: The Ascent of the Developing World by Steven Radelet

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Admiral Zheng, agricultural Revolution, Asian financial crisis, bank run, Berlin Wall, Branko Milanovic, business climate, business process, call centre, Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty, clean water, colonial rule, creative destruction, demographic dividend, Deng Xiaoping, Dissolution of the Soviet Union, Doha Development Round, Erik Brynjolfsson, European colonialism, F. W. de Klerk, failed state, Francis Fukuyama: the end of history, Gini coefficient, global supply chain, income inequality, income per capita, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), invention of the steam engine, James Watt: steam engine, John Snow's cholera map, Joseph Schumpeter, Kenneth Arrow, land reform, low skilled workers, M-Pesa, megacity, Mikhail Gorbachev, off grid, oil shock, out of africa, purchasing power parity, race to the bottom, randomized controlled trial, Robert Gordon, Second Machine Age, secular stagnation, Simon Kuznets, South China Sea, special economic zone, Steven Pinker, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thomas Malthus, trade route, women in the workforce, working poor

Human welfare and average incomes began to improve slowly, in some parts of the world, starting in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, but progress was incremental and not widespread. That pattern began to change rapidly in the nineteenth century, as the impacts of the industrial revolution took hold, and increasing numbers of people began to escape the ravages of extreme poverty. James Watt’s invention of the steam engine in the 1770s ignited a surge of new innovations and technologies, including the transformation from hand to machine production, the introduction of mechanized cotton spinning (and with it the mass production of textiles), Jethro Tull’s (earlier) development of the horse-drawn seed drill (which helped increase food and agricultural production), the shift in energy sources from wood and charcoal to much cheaper coal, and the large-scale production of chemicals and iron.

As developing countries have become more integrated with the global economy over the last two decades, they have been able to take advantage of computers, the internet, cell phones, containerized shipping, cheaper and safer air travel, new plant varieties and agricultural techniques, and new medicines. Part of the importance of the recent global integration of developing countries is that it has taken place exactly when it did: during a period of some of the greatest advances in technology in the last two hundred years. Just as the industrial revolution can be traced to James Watt’s invention of the steam engine, which drove innovations and changes across the economic landscape, much of the current technological revolution can be traced back to the semiconductor and the computer, a history that Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee recount in The Second Machine Age: Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies.14 There are multiple examples, but I will focus on technological advances in four areas that have been important to developing countries: transportation, agriculture, information, and health.

Managing the peaceful rise of China will be one of the most important global challenges of the next two decades, with profound effects on global development progress. TECHNOLOGY AND INNOVATION We live in a period of some of the most dramatic technological changes in history—what Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee called “the second machine age.”10 Many view the microprocessor as the single most important invention since the steam engine kicked off the industrial revolution. Advances in information technology, energy, transportation, health, and agriculture have propelled the world economy forward. Developing countries have not fully reaped the benefits of existing powerful technologies, not to mention those of the future. The internet has barely begun to reach many of the poorest countries; its continued spread will create new economic opportunities, reduce costs, and facilitate the exchange of ideas and innovations.


pages: 298 words: 81,200

Where Good Ideas Come from: The Natural History of Innovation by Steven Johnson

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Ada Lovelace, Albert Einstein, Alfred Russel Wallace, carbon-based life, Cass Sunstein, cleantech, complexity theory, conceptual framework, cosmic microwave background, creative destruction, crowdsourcing, data acquisition, digital Maoism, digital map, discovery of DNA, Dmitri Mendeleev, double entry bookkeeping, double helix, Douglas Engelbart, Douglas Engelbart, Drosophila, Edmond Halley, Edward Lloyd's coffeehouse, Ernest Rutherford, Geoffrey West, Santa Fe Institute, greed is good, Hans Lippershey, Henri Poincaré, hive mind, Howard Rheingold, hypertext link, invention of air conditioning, invention of movable type, invention of the printing press, invention of the telephone, Isaac Newton, Islamic Golden Age, Jacquard loom, James Hargreaves, James Watt: steam engine, Jane Jacobs, Jaron Lanier, John Snow's cholera map, Joseph Schumpeter, Joseph-Marie Jacquard, Kevin Kelly, lone genius, Louis Daguerre, Louis Pasteur, Mason jar, mass immigration, Mercator projection, On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres, online collectivism, packet switching, PageRank, patent troll, pattern recognition, price mechanism, profit motive, Ray Oldenburg, Richard Florida, Richard Thaler, Ronald Reagan, side project, Silicon Valley, silicon-based life, six sigma, Solar eclipse in 1919, spinning jenny, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Stewart Brand, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, The Great Good Place, The Wisdom of Crowds, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions, transaction costs, urban planning

Despite this new protection, most commercial innovation during this period takes a collaborative form, with many individuals and firms contributing crucial tweaks and refinements to the product. The history books like to condense these slower, evolutionary processes into eureka moments dominated by a single inventor, but most of the key technologies that powered the Industrial Revolution were instances of what scholars call “collective invention.” Textbooks casually refer to James Watt as the inventor of the steam engine, but in truth Watt was one of dozens of innovators who refined the device over the course of the eighteenth century. 1800-present Let us pause for a moment on the cusp of the modern age and take a few bets as to what pattern will form in the final two centuries of the millennium. I think most of us would expect to see a dramatic consolidation of innovative activity in the first quadrant, as capitalism enters its mature period, spanning the ages of mass production and the consumer society.

Joseph Priestley and Carl Wilhelm Scheele independently isolated oxygen between 1772 and 1774. The law of the conservation of energy was formulated separately four times in the late 1840s. The evolutionary importance of genetic mutation was proposed by S. Korschinsky in 1899 and then by Hugo de Vries in 1901, while the impact of X-rays on mutation rates was independently uncovered by two scholars in 1927. The telephone, telegraph, steam engine, photograph vacuum tube, radio—just about every essential technological advance of modern life has a multiple lurking somewhere in its origin story. In the early 1920s, two Columbia University scholars named William Ogburn and Dorothy Thomas decided to track down as many multiples as they could find, eventually publishing their survey in an influential essay with the delightful title “Are Inventions Inevitable?”

PIANO (1700S) Employed by the Medici court, Bartolomeo Cristofori sought to improve upon the harpsichord and clavichord by creating a similar instrument that would allow the player both expressive control and a larger spectrum of volume. He called it a “pianoforte,” which has since been shortened to “piano.” TUNING FORK (1711) Designed by the British musician John Shore, the tuning fork, or “pitch-fork,” produced a very pure tone by which instruments could be accurately tuned. STEAM ENGINE (1712) Expanding upon the earlier, more primitive inventions of Denis Papin and Thomas Savery, Thomas Newcomen, an English blacksmith, utilized atmospheric pressure to propel a piston upward and downward by condensing steam, allowing an engine to pump water out of wells. It was the first commercially successful device of its kind. MERCURY THERMOMETER (1714) While crude thermometers were conceived by both Galileo Galilei and Isaac Newton, German physicist Daniel Gabriel Fahrenheit invented the first fully functioning mercury thermometer: a glass tube containing mercury that registered temperature according to the degree of heat applied to it, demarcating both the boiling and freezing temperatures of water.


pages: 220 words: 73,451

Democratizing innovation by Eric von Hippel

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additive manufacturing, correlation coefficient, Debian, hacker house, informal economy, information asymmetry, inventory management, iterative process, James Watt: steam engine, knowledge economy, meta analysis, meta-analysis, Network effects, placebo effect, principal–agent problem, Richard Stallman, software patent, transaction costs, Vickrey auction

After Allen’s initial observation, a number of other authors searched for free revealing among profit-seeking firms and frequently found it. Nuvolari (2004) studied a topic and time similar to that studied by Allen and found a similar pattern of free revealing in the case of improvements made to steam engines used to pump out mines in the 1800s. At that time, mining activities were severely hampered by water that tended to flood into mines of any depth, and so an early and important application of steam engines was for the removal of water from mines. Nuvolari explored the technical history of steam engines used to drain copper and tin mines in England’s Cornwall District. Here, patented steam engines developed by James Watt were widely deployed in the 1700s. After the expiration of the Watt patent, an engineer named Richard Trevithick developed a new type of highpressure engine in 1812. Instead of patenting his invention, he made his Why Users Often Freely Reveal Innovations 79 design available to all for use without charge.


pages: 272 words: 64,626

Eat People: And Other Unapologetic Rules for Game-Changing Entrepreneurs by Andy Kessler

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23andMe, Andy Kessler, bank run, barriers to entry, Berlin Wall, Bob Noyce, British Empire, business process, California gold rush, carbon footprint, Cass Sunstein, cloud computing, collateralized debt obligation, collective bargaining, commoditize, computer age, creative destruction, disintermediation, Douglas Engelbart, Eugene Fama: efficient market hypothesis, fiat currency, Firefox, Fractional reserve banking, George Gilder, Gordon Gekko, greed is good, income inequality, invisible hand, James Watt: steam engine, Jeff Bezos, job automation, Joseph Schumpeter, knowledge economy, knowledge worker, libertarian paternalism, low skilled workers, Mark Zuckerberg, McMansion, Netflix Prize, packet switching, personalized medicine, pets.com, prediction markets, pre–internet, profit motive, race to the bottom, Richard Thaler, risk tolerance, risk-adjusted returns, Silicon Valley, six sigma, Skype, social graph, Steve Jobs, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, transcontinental railway, transfer pricing, wealth creators, Yogi Berra

I spent pages and pages of my book How We Got Here on James Watt, a University of Glasgow flunky who studied latent heat and tinkered for years until he came up with a more efficient steam engine, selling off two thirds of his future invention to venture capitalist Matthew Boulton in exchange for capital to fund his work. The whole thing was a profit deal! Watt’s steam engine was originally built to pump water out of flooded mines, replacing horses that would walk around in circles running a manual pump. Boulton and Watt charged one third of the annual costs of the horses mine owners no longer needed. They all gladly, uh, ponied up. A few horses were out of a job, and a lot more miners were hired. But Boulton and Watt plowed their profits back into scores of innovations and their steam engine ended up powering jennies and yarn pullers and looms, displacing entire villages of cottage workers, who later were employed in the very manufactories that eliminated their jobs.

My message is quite simple: If it can be had for free, it will be had for free or close to free. A Free Radical shouldn’t get in the way of this. Instead, use it to your advantage. The best advice is to go upstream. I wrote about an old upstream story in my book How We Got Here, which incidentally was both sold and given away free off my Web site—and still is! British clergyman and businessman Edmund Cartwright figured out that he could use cheap power from water wheels and steam engines to run looms, getting rid of the expensive people who then operated them. He knew that once Richard Arkwright’s patent on cotton spinning expired, there would be a flood of producers turning out ever cheaper yarn. Yeah, yeah, not quite zero marginal cost, but thread and yarn did get so incredibly cheap the cost might as well have been zero. Not wanting to get in the way of that flood, Cartwright patented his mechanical loom “up the stack” in horizontal-speak, or perhaps better, closer to a final product than the yarn makers.


pages: 235 words: 62,862

Utopia for Realists: The Case for a Universal Basic Income, Open Borders, and a 15-Hour Workweek by Rutger Bregman

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autonomous vehicles, banking crisis, Bartolomé de las Casas, basic income, Berlin Wall, Bertrand Russell: In Praise of Idleness, Branko Milanovic, cognitive dissonance, computer age, conceptual framework, credit crunch, David Graeber, Diane Coyle, Erik Brynjolfsson, everywhere but in the productivity statistics, Fall of the Berlin Wall, Francis Fukuyama: the end of history, Frank Levy and Richard Murnane: The New Division of Labor, full employment, George Gilder, George Santayana, happiness index / gross national happiness, Henry Ford's grandson gave labor union leader Walter Reuther a tour of the company’s new, automated factory…, income inequality, invention of gunpowder, James Watt: steam engine, John Markoff, John Maynard Keynes: Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren, John Maynard Keynes: technological unemployment, Kevin Kelly, Kickstarter, knowledge economy, knowledge worker, Kodak vs Instagram, labour market flexibility, labour mobility, low skilled workers, means of production, megacity, meta analysis, meta-analysis, microcredit, minimum wage unemployment, Mont Pelerin Society, Nathan Meyer Rothschild: antibiotics, Occupy movement, offshore financial centre, Paul Samuelson, Peter Thiel, post-industrial society, precariat, RAND corporation, randomized controlled trial, Ray Kurzweil, Ronald Reagan, Second Machine Age, Silicon Valley, Simon Kuznets, Skype, stem cell, Steven Pinker, telemarketer, The Future of Employment, The Spirit Level, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thomas Malthus, Thorstein Veblen, Tyler Cowen: Great Stagnation, universal basic income, wage slave, War on Poverty, We wanted flying cars, instead we got 140 characters, wikimedia commons, women in the workforce, working poor, World Values Survey

Welcome, my friends, to the Second Machine Age, as this brave new world of chips and algorithms is already being called. The first began with the Scottish inventor James Watt, who during a stroll in 1765 came up with an idea for improving the efficiency of the steam engine. It being a Sunday, the pious Watt had to wait another day before putting his idea into action, but by 1776, he’d built a machine able to pump 60 feet of water out of a mine in just 60 minutes.23 At a time when nearly everyone, everywhere was still poor, hungry, dirty, afraid, stupid, sick, and ugly – the line of technological development began to curve. Or rather, to skyrocket, by an angle of around 90 degrees. Whereas in 1800, water power still supplied England with three times the amount of energy as steam, 70 years later English steam engines were generating the power equivalent of 40 million grown men.24 Machine power was replacing muscle power on a massive scale.

Indeed, ever more countries are arriving in the “Land of Plenty,” at the top right of the diagram, where the average income now tops $20,000 and life expectancy is over 75. Source: Gapminder.org Historians estimate that the average annual income in Italy around the year 1300 was roughly $1,600. Some 600 years later – after Columbus, Galileo, Newton, the scientific revolution, the Reformation and the Enlightenment, the invention of gunpowder, printing, and the steam engine – it was… still $1,600.3 Six hundred years of civilization, and the average Italian was pretty much where he’d always been. It was not until about 1880, right around the time Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone, Thomas Edison patented his lightbulb, Carl Benz was tinkering with his first car, and Josephine Cochrane was ruminating on what may just be the most brilliant idea ever – the dishwasher – that our Italian peasant got swept up in the march of progress.

Whereas in 1800, water power still supplied England with three times the amount of energy as steam, 70 years later English steam engines were generating the power equivalent of 40 million grown men.24 Machine power was replacing muscle power on a massive scale. Now, two centuries later, our brains are next. And it’s high time, too. “You can see the computer age everywhere but in the productivity statistics,” the economist Bob Solow said in 1987. Computers could already do some pretty neat things, but their economic impact was minimal. Like the steam engine, the computer needed time to, well, gather steam. Or compare it to electricity: All the major technological innovations happened in the 1870s, but it wasn’t until around 1920 that most factories actually switched to electric power.25 Fast forward to today, and chips are doing things that even ten years ago were still deemed impossible. In 2004 two prominent scientists authored a chapter suggestively titled “Why People Still Matter.”26 Their argument?


pages: 398 words: 100,679

The Knowledge: How to Rebuild Our World From Scratch by Lewis Dartnell

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agricultural Revolution, Albert Einstein, Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, clean water, Dava Sobel, decarbonisation, discovery of penicillin, Dmitri Mendeleev, global village, Haber-Bosch Process, invention of movable type, invention of radio, invention of writing, iterative process, James Watt: steam engine, John Harrison: Longitude, lone genius, mass immigration, nuclear winter, off grid, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, technology bubble, the scientific method, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions, trade route

* As they achieved an impressive degree of sophistication in the late nineteenth century, windmills became controlled by a centrifugal governor—two heavy balls that swing out on arms—that automatically regulated the spacing between milling stones to suit the variable wind speed. Today we instantly associate this control system with the steam engine, where it acts to close the throttle valve admitting high-pressure steam into the piston if it begins to whirl too rapidly, but James Watt had in fact borrowed it wholesale from windmill technology. * If you have any of the old-style tooth fillings you can even demonstrate this in your own mouth. Chewing a piece of aluminum foil introduces a second metal that reacts with the mercury-silver filling in your tooth, your own saliva serving as the electrolyte. Be careful trying this, though, as the electrical current produced will be delivered right to the nerve endings in your filled teeth!

Rather than using the sucking effect of steam condensing in the cylinder, build the steam up to a higher pressure and you can use the expansive force of the hot gas—the same whoosh as in an espresso machine—to drive the piston first one way within the cylinder, then back again from the other side. The primary output of a steam engine (as with any piston-based heat engine, like the car motor we’ll return to in Chapter 9) is the plunging back and forth of the piston. This is fine for pumping water from mines, but for most applications you’ll want to transform that reciprocating motion into a smooth rotation. The crank will perform this conversion for you, just as we saw for windmills, and produce an action suitable for driving machinery or a vehicle’s wheels. You might think that steam engines represent exactly the sort of transitional technological level that you would aspire to leapfrog over during a reboot, straight to internal combustion engines or steam turbines, which we’ll explore in detail later. But steam engines offer two major advantages over more advanced alternatives, and so you may need to recapitulate this developmental stage.

Being able to convert the other way, though, would be exceedingly useful. Thermal energy can be provided on demand, by burning any of a number of fuels, and the capability to transform this heat into mechanical power would release you from reliance on the vagaries of wind or water and also offer a power plant for mechanical transport. The first machine in history able to effect this transformation—to convert heat into useful motion—was the steam engine. The central concept behind the steam engine goes all the way back to the ages-old mystery, well known to Galileo in the late 1500s, that a suction pump can’t raise water more than about 10 meters up a pipe. The explanation of this is that the air itself exerts a pressure, a force squeezing everything on the Earth’s surface, including the column of water. The implication is that the atmosphere itself can be made to do work for you.


pages: 339 words: 88,732

The Second Machine Age: Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies by Erik Brynjolfsson, Andrew McAfee

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2013 Report for America's Infrastructure - American Society of Civil Engineers - 19 March 2013, 3D printing, access to a mobile phone, additive manufacturing, Airbnb, Albert Einstein, Amazon Mechanical Turk, Amazon Web Services, American Society of Civil Engineers: Report Card, Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, autonomous vehicles, barriers to entry, basic income, Baxter: Rethink Robotics, British Empire, business intelligence, business process, call centre, Chuck Templeton: OpenTable, clean water, combinatorial explosion, computer age, computer vision, congestion charging, corporate governance, creative destruction, crowdsourcing, David Ricardo: comparative advantage, digital map, employer provided health coverage, en.wikipedia.org, Erik Brynjolfsson, factory automation, falling living standards, Filter Bubble, first square of the chessboard / second half of the chessboard, Frank Levy and Richard Murnane: The New Division of Labor, Freestyle chess, full employment, game design, global village, happiness index / gross national happiness, illegal immigration, immigration reform, income inequality, income per capita, indoor plumbing, industrial robot, informal economy, intangible asset, inventory management, James Watt: steam engine, Jeff Bezos, jimmy wales, job automation, John Markoff, John Maynard Keynes: Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren, John Maynard Keynes: technological unemployment, Joseph Schumpeter, Kevin Kelly, Khan Academy, knowledge worker, Kodak vs Instagram, law of one price, low skilled workers, Lyft, Mahatma Gandhi, manufacturing employment, Marc Andreessen, Mark Zuckerberg, Mars Rover, mass immigration, means of production, Narrative Science, Nate Silver, natural language processing, Network effects, new economy, New Urbanism, Nicholas Carr, Occupy movement, oil shale / tar sands, oil shock, pattern recognition, Paul Samuelson, payday loans, price stability, Productivity paradox, profit maximization, Ralph Nader, Ray Kurzweil, recommendation engine, Report Card for America’s Infrastructure, Robert Gordon, Rodney Brooks, Ronald Reagan, Second Machine Age, self-driving car, sharing economy, Silicon Valley, Simon Kuznets, six sigma, Skype, software patent, sovereign wealth fund, speech recognition, statistical model, Steve Jobs, Steven Pinker, Stuxnet, supply-chain management, TaskRabbit, technological singularity, telepresence, The Bell Curve by Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray, The Signal and the Noise by Nate Silver, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, total factor productivity, transaction costs, Tyler Cowen: Great Stagnation, Vernor Vinge, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, winner-take-all economy, Y2K

And the sudden change in the graph in the late eighteenth century corresponds to a development we’ve heard a lot about: the Industrial Revolution, which was the sum of several nearly simultaneous developments in mechanical engineering, chemistry, metallurgy, and other disciplines. So you’ve most likely figured out that these technological developments underlie the sudden, sharp, and sustained jump in human progress. If so, your guess is exactly right. And we can be even more precise about which technology was most important. It was the steam engine or, to be more precise, one developed and improved by James Watt and his colleagues in the second half of the eighteenth century. Prior to Watt, steam engines were highly inefficient, harnessing only about one percent of the energy released by burning coal. Watt’s brilliant tinkering between 1765 and 1776 increased this more than threefold.9 As Morris writes, this made all the difference: “Even though [the steam] revolution took several decades to unfold . . . it was nonetheless the biggest and fastest transformation in the entire history of the world.”10 The Industrial Revolution, of course, is not only the story of steam power, but steam started it all.

Paul David, an economic historian at Stanford University and the University of Oxford, examined the records of American factories when they first electrified and found that they often retained a similar layout and organization to those that were powered by steam engines.9 In a steam engine–driven plant, power was transmitted via a large central axle, which in turn drove a series of pulleys, gears, and smaller crankshafts. If the axle was too long the torsion involved would break it, so machines needed to be clustered near the main power source, with those requiring the most power positioned closest. Exploiting all three dimensions, industrial engineers put equipment on floors above and below the central steam engines to minimize the distances involved. Years later, when that hallowed GPT electricity replaced the steam engine, engineers simply bought the largest electric motors they could find and stuck them where the steam engines used to be. Even when brand-new factories were built, they followed the same design.

.* The ability to generate massive amounts of mechanical power was so important that, in Morris’s words, it “made mockery of all the drama of the world’s earlier history.”11 FIGURE 1.2 What Bent the Curve of Human History? The Industrial Revolution. Now comes the second machine age. Computers and other digital advances are doing for mental power—the ability to use our brains to understand and shape our environments—what the steam engine and its descendants did for muscle power. They’re allowing us to blow past previous limitations and taking us into new territory. How exactly this transition will play out remains unknown, but whether or not the new machine age bends the curve as dramatically as Watt’s steam engine, it is a very big deal indeed. This book explains how and why. For now, a very short and simple answer: mental power is at least as important for progress and development—for mastering our physical and intellectual environment to get things done—as physical power.


pages: 323 words: 90,868

The Wealth of Humans: Work, Power, and Status in the Twenty-First Century by Ryan Avent

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3D printing, Airbnb, American energy revolution, assortative mating, autonomous vehicles, Bakken shale, barriers to entry, basic income, Bernie Sanders, BRICs, call centre, Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty, Clayton Christensen, cloud computing, collective bargaining, computer age, creative destruction, dark matter, David Ricardo: comparative advantage, deindustrialization, dematerialisation, Deng Xiaoping, deskilling, Dissolution of the Soviet Union, Donald Trump, Downton Abbey, Edward Glaeser, Erik Brynjolfsson, eurozone crisis, everywhere but in the productivity statistics, falling living standards, first square of the chessboard, first square of the chessboard / second half of the chessboard, Ford paid five dollars a day, Francis Fukuyama: the end of history, future of work, gig economy, global supply chain, global value chain, hydraulic fracturing, income inequality, indoor plumbing, industrial robot, intangible asset, interchangeable parts, Internet of things, inventory management, invisible hand, Jacquard loom, James Watt: steam engine, Jeff Bezos, John Maynard Keynes: Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren, Joseph-Marie Jacquard, knowledge economy, low skilled workers, lump of labour, Lyft, manufacturing employment, Marc Andreessen, mass immigration, means of production, new economy, performance metric, pets.com, price mechanism, quantitative easing, Ray Kurzweil, rent-seeking, reshoring, rising living standards, Robert Gordon, Ronald Coase, savings glut, Second Machine Age, secular stagnation, self-driving car, sharing economy, Silicon Valley, single-payer health, software is eating the world, supply-chain management, supply-chain management software, TaskRabbit, The Future of Employment, The Nature of the Firm, The Spirit Level, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thomas Malthus, trade liberalization, transaction costs, Tyler Cowen: Great Stagnation, Uber and Lyft, Uber for X, very high income, working-age population

But among the most impressive exhibits on display was the Corliss steam engine: a behemoth of a mechanical device, seventy feet high and weighing 650 tonnes. The 1,400 horsepower Corliss engine drove a system of belts that powered the whole of the fair’s machinery hall. George Corliss, an American engineer, patented his engine in 1849, more than eighty years after James Watt made his most critical contributions to steam-engine design. At the time, American manufacturers used a total of less than 2 million horsepower (or roughly the output of a large turbine in a modern power plant), most of which was generated by water. A half-century later, American manufacturers used more than 10 million horsepower in operating their factories, the vast majority of which was generated by steam engines, and the American economy was overtaking Britain as the world’s leading industrial and technological power.6 Economic historians label things such as steam power as a ‘general purpose technology’: an advance that can be used to do things more effectively across many different facets of life.

A half-century later, American manufacturers used more than 10 million horsepower in operating their factories, the vast majority of which was generated by steam engines, and the American economy was overtaking Britain as the world’s leading industrial and technological power.6 Economic historians label things such as steam power as a ‘general purpose technology’: an advance that can be used to do things more effectively across many different facets of life. A steam engine could be hooked up to any production facility that previously relied on wind or water or animal power. It could be affixed to transport devices – boats, cars, train engines – to make them go farther, faster, with more horsepower. Steam could be used to boost productivity in all sorts of contexts and industries. It is the general-purpose technologies – such as steam and electricity – that generate economic revolutions. And computing is a fantastically powerful general-purpose technology. Engineers tinkered with computing machines for millennia, but the pace of advance in mechanical computing truly picked up in the nineteenth century.

‘He becomes an appendage of the machine, and it is only the most simple, most monotonous, and most easily acquired knack, that is required of him.’6 At the time, ever more of the manufacturing sector was moving towards a factory model. That was in part due to the economic logic of production with large capital equipment. These machines were often big, power-hungry things running in line with water wheels or steam engines. The capitalists who invested enormous sums in their hulking machines had a great interest in seeing that the machines were not damaged through carelessness, but were manned diligently to the greatest extent possible. Big machinery was therefore a powerful force behind the migration of workers into centralized plants.7 Humanity had to be moulded to fit the demands of industrial economic structures and the machines that powered them.


pages: 843 words: 223,858

The Rise of the Network Society by Manuel Castells

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Apple II, Asian financial crisis, barriers to entry, Big bang: deregulation of the City of London, Bob Noyce, borderless world, British Empire, capital controls, complexity theory, computer age, computerized trading, creative destruction, Credit Default Swap, declining real wages, deindustrialization, delayed gratification, dematerialisation, deskilling, disintermediation, double helix, Douglas Engelbart, Douglas Engelbart, edge city, experimental subject, financial deregulation, financial independence, floating exchange rates, future of work, global village, Gunnar Myrdal, Hacker Ethic, hiring and firing, Howard Rheingold, illegal immigration, income inequality, Induced demand, industrial robot, informal economy, information retrieval, intermodal, invention of the steam engine, invention of the telephone, inventory management, James Watt: steam engine, job automation, job-hopping, John Markoff, knowledge economy, knowledge worker, labor-force participation, labour market flexibility, labour mobility, laissez-faire capitalism, Leonard Kleinrock, low skilled workers, manufacturing employment, Marc Andreessen, Marshall McLuhan, means of production, megacity, Menlo Park, moral panic, new economy, New Urbanism, offshore financial centre, oil shock, open economy, packet switching, Pearl River Delta, peer-to-peer, planetary scale, popular capitalism, popular electronics, post-industrial society, postindustrial economy, prediction markets, Productivity paradox, profit maximization, purchasing power parity, RAND corporation, Robert Gordon, Robert Metcalfe, Shoshana Zuboff, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley startup, social software, South China Sea, South of Market, San Francisco, special economic zone, spinning jenny, statistical model, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Ted Nelson, the built environment, the medium is the message, the new new thing, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions, total factor productivity, trade liberalization, transaction costs, urban renewal, urban sprawl, zero-sum game

Wagner, Michael Waldholz, Michael Waldrop, M. Mitchell Waliszewski, Kasimierz Walker, Richard Wall, Toby D. Wall Street Journal, The Wallerstein, Immanuel Walnut Creek Wang, Georgette Wang, Yeu-fain Warburg Dillon Read warfare; continuing; deaths; life-cycle; news reporting; social acceptability; state; time factors Wark, McKenzie Warme, Barbara Warnken, Jurgen Watanabe, Susumu Watanuki, Joji water power Watson, James Watt, James Watts, Duncan J. web browsers Weber, Max Webster, Andrew WebTV Weiss, Linda Welch, Finis welfare state welfarism Wellman, Barry Westney, D. Eleanor Wexler, Joanie Wheeler, James O. Whightman, D. W. Whitaker, D. H. Whitley, Richard Whitrow, G. J. Wieczorek, Jaroslaw Wieviorka, Michel Wilkinson, Barry Williams, Frederick Williams, R. Williams, Raymond Williamson, Oliver E.

A last and essential lesson from the industrial revolutions that I consider relevant to this analysis is controversial: although they both brought a whole array of new technologies that actually formed and transformed an industrial system in successive stages, at their core there was fundamental innovation in the generation and distribution of energy. R. J. Forbes, a classic historian of technology, affirms that “the invention of the steam engine is the central fact in the industrial revolution,” followed by the introduction of new prime movers and by the mobile prime mover, under which “the power of the steam-engine could be created where needed and to the extent desired.”35 And although Mokyr insists on the multifaceted character of the industrial revolution, he also thinks that “the protestations of some economic historians notwithstanding, the steam engine is still widely regarded as the quintessential invention of the industrial revolution.”36 Electricity was the central force of the second revolution, in spite of other extraordinary developments in chemicals, steel, the internal combustion engine, telegraphy and telephony.

The widespread use of electricity from the 1870s onwards changed transportation, telegraphy, lighting, and, not least, factory work by diffusing power in the form of the electrical engine. Indeed, while factories have been associated with the first industrial revolution, for almost a century they were not concomitant with the use of the steam engine that was widely used in craft shops, while many large factories continued to use improved waterpower sources (and thus were known for a long time as mills). It was the electrical engine that both made possible and induced large-scale organization of work in the industrial factory.37 As R. J. Forbes wrote (in 1958): During the last 250 years five great new prime movers have produced what is often called the Machine Age. The eighteenth century brought the steam-engine; the nineteenth century the water-turbine, the internal combustion engine and the steam-turbine; and the twentieth the gasturbine. Historians have often coined catch-phrases to denote movements or currents in history.


pages: 336 words: 92,056

The Battery: How Portable Power Sparked a Technological Revolution by Henry Schlesinger

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Albert Einstein, Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, British Empire, Copley Medal, Fellow of the Royal Society, index card, invention of the telegraph, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, James Watt: steam engine, Livingstone, I presume, Menlo Park, Metcalfe’s law, popular electronics, Ralph Waldo Emerson, RFID, Robert Metcalfe, Stephen Hawking, the scientific method, transcontinental railway, Upton Sinclair, Vannevar Bush, Yogi Berra

Committees were formed, and scientists commissioned to look into the matter. After years of haggling and no small amount of backroom politicking between the French and British, the standard units of watt, ampere, and volt emerged. The term “volt,” after Alessandro Volta, the Italian inventor of the battery, was pushed hard by the French in large part because of his support of Napoleon. Watt, for James Watt, who perfected the steam engine for industrial use, had nothing to do with electricity at all. However, he had coined the idea of horsepower as a unit of measurement, primarily as a way to make his engine’s power understandable to potential buyers accustomed to equine-powered machinery. What would come to be known as the amp or ampere, was named after André-Marie Ampère, the French mathematician turned physicist who studied electromagnetic fields.

Eventually his invention became known as the “German chimes.” However, a few years later when Benjamin Franklin unwisely used a lightning rod to pull an electrostatic charge down into his parlor from approaching storm clouds to ring bells, they quickly became known as “Franklin chimes.” Gordon is also credited with creating the first electric motor. An ingenious device, it was based on the same principle as the ancient steam engine known as the aelopile of Hero, invented by the Alexandrian mathematician around 200 BC, which released steam through two openings on opposite sides that sent the sphere spinning on a spitlike device. Called the “electric whirl,” Gordon’s motor was a metallic star that pivoted at its center. When subjected to an electrical charge at the points, it spun. Electricity was also big news in the eighteenth century, particularly in England where the British Magazine, the Universal Magazine, the London Magazine, and other popular publications regularly reported news of the latest electrical experiments.

This measurement is significant not only because it reveals how batteries were still measured in terms of metallic surface area, but because Moll’s less powerful magnet was also considerably less efficient, requiring some 170 square feet of surface area to power it up. By the standards of the day, Henry’s electromagnets were impressive devices. Never before had electricity been used to perform such heavy lifting, hoisting more than a man could manage without levers or pulleys—and doing it with the mysterious power of electricity generated by careful arrangement of metal and chemicals. Unlike a steam engine whose complex mechanical workings could be more or less understood through careful examination of boilers or gears, one needed to know the principles of electromagnetism and batteries to fully grasp the workings of the magnet. It did not take a great leap of imagination to see that the power generated by the simple device would someday find use in industry. Henry himself had seen the practical potential for electromagnets, writing, “At the conclusion of the series of experiments which I described in Silliman’s Journal, there were two applications of the electro-magnet in my mind: one the production of a machine to be moved by electro-magnetism, and the other the transmission of or calling into action power at a distance.”


pages: 179 words: 42,006

Startup Weekend: How to Take a Company From Concept to Creation in 54 Hours by Marc Nager, Clint Nelsen, Franck Nouyrigat

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Amazon Web Services, barriers to entry, business climate, invention of the steam engine, James Watt: steam engine, Mark Zuckerberg, minimum viable product, pattern recognition, Silicon Valley, transaction costs, web application, Y Combinator

And while innovation is moving at Internet speed, this won't be limited to just Internet commerce startups. It will spread to the enterprise, and ultimately, to every other business segment. When It's Darkest, We See the Stars What does it mean that we are at the cusp of a revolution as important as the scientific and industrial ones? Revolutions are not obvious when they are happening. When James Watt launched the Industrial Revolution with the invention of the steam engine in 1775, no one said, “This is the day everything changes.” When Karl Benz drove around Mannheim in 1885, no one said, “There will be 500 million of these driving around in a century.” And certainly in 1958, when Noyce and Kilby invented the integrated circuit, the notion of a quintillion (10 to the 18th power) transistors being produced each year seemed ludicrous.


pages: 225 words: 54,010

A Short History of Progress by Ronald Wright

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Albert Einstein, Atahualpa, Bretton Woods, British Empire, clean water, Columbian Exchange, cuban missile crisis, Francis Fukuyama: the end of history, Haber-Bosch Process, Hernando de Soto, invention of agriculture, James Watt: steam engine, Jane Jacobs, land reform, Mahatma Gandhi, mass immigration, nuclear winter, out of africa, Parkinson's law, Ronald Reagan, Thomas Malthus, urban sprawl

Much of this was caused by the clearing of new land on which to raise beef and soybeans for the booming (mainly European) demand in GM-free food (BBC World News, April 8, 2004). 68. A state of affairs maintained, to a large degree, by the consumerist pornography of advertising. 69. George W. Bush’s astronomical deficits seem designed to cripple the American state in all fields except the military. The result, if this goes on, will be to make America more like Latin America, where the army is often the only effective public institution. 70. James Watt, speaking in 1981. As noted above, social Darwinism claims that the poor are inferior, and that the best thing for the progress of the human race is to let them die. 71. Bush’s attorney general, John Ashcroft, has said, “In America, there is no king but Jesus.” See Lewis Lapham, “Reading the Mail,” Harper’s, November 2003, p. 9. 72. Crosby, Ecological Imperialism, p. 92. See Laurie Garrett, The Coming Plague: Newly Emerging Diseases in a World Out of Balance (New York: Penguin, 1994), for a survey of potential medical catastrophes.

From Dickens’s portrait of “Coketown” in Hard Times ([1854] 1969, p. 65): “It was a town of machinery and tall chimneys, out of which interminable serpents of smoke trailed themselves for ever and ever, and never got uncoiled. It had a black canal in it, and a river that ran purple with ill-smelling dye, and vast piles of building full of windows where there was a rattling and a trembling all day long, and where the piston of the steam-engine worked monotonously up and down, like the head of an elephant in a state of melancholy madness. It contained several large streets all very like one another, and small streets still more like one another, inhabited by people equally like one another, who all went in and out at the same hours, with the same sound upon the same pavements, to do the same work, and to whom every day was the same as yesterday and tomorrow.” 40.


pages: 196 words: 57,974

Company: A Short History of a Revolutionary Idea by John Micklethwait, Adrian Wooldridge

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affirmative action, barriers to entry, Bonfire of the Vanities, borderless world, business process, Corn Laws, corporate governance, corporate raider, corporate social responsibility, creative destruction, credit crunch, crony capitalism, double entry bookkeeping, Etonian, hiring and firing, industrial cluster, invisible hand, James Watt: steam engine, joint-stock company, joint-stock limited liability company, Joseph Schumpeter, knowledge economy, knowledge worker, laissez-faire capitalism, manufacturing employment, market bubble, mittelstand, new economy, North Sea oil, race to the bottom, railway mania, Ronald Coase, Silicon Valley, six sigma, South Sea Bubble, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, strikebreaker, The Nature of the Firm, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thorstein Veblen, trade route, transaction costs, tulip mania, wage slave, William Shockley: the traitorous eight

By 1769, through a mixture of graft, intellectual curiosity, and shrewd marriage, he was already, in Josiah Wedgwood’s judgment, “the first manufacturer in England.” His Soho Manufactory, which employed eight hundred workers to turn out metal boxes, buttons, chains, and sword hilts, was so famous that guided tours had to be arranged. (People were equally amazed by Boulton’s centrally heated mansion, Soho House.) Then, in 1774, he went into partnership with James Watt (1736–1819), the Scottish pioneer of the steam engine, whose first partner-backer had just gone bust following a poor mining investment. On March 8, 1776, they demonstrated Watt’s machine in Birmingham: it rapidly became indispensable to the coal industry and then cotton mills. By the time they retired in 1800, handing the business over to their sons, Boulton and Watt counted among the richest people in the country, and Britain was producing 15 million tons of coal a year, about five times the total production of continental Europe.


pages: 294 words: 86,601

Mind Wide Open: Your Brain and the Neuroscience of Everyday Life by Steven Johnson

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Columbine, double helix, epigenetics, experimental subject, Gödel, Escher, Bach, James Watt: steam engine, l'esprit de l'escalier, pattern recognition, phenotype, Steven Pinker, theory of mind, zero-sum game

But I suspect that most successful people genuinely enjoy success, and seek out more of it because they like the way successes make them feel. If you’re the kind of person who doesn’t like to dwell on your accomplishments, get over it. If it’s good news, by all means dwell. We’ve kept the core insights of the Freudian model: the divided self and the unconscious. But the guiding metaphors have changed: the brain is more Charles Darwin than James Watt, more ecosystem than steam engine. Our unconscious thoughts are not repressed by an austere censor, and many feelings of unpleasure that they trigger are signs of a functional psyche, not a dysfunctional one. The brain is more likely to free-associate than speak in code, though any free-associating sojourn is likely to lead back to emotionally charged memories. And where those charged memories are concerned, the brain needs to do more than just understand their origins to shake them off-it needs to make new emotional associations.

What happens to a voice that goes unheard? Does it come back to haunt us, as Freud imagined? This is one of those places where Freud’s metaphoric scaffolding ended up misleading him. If you think of the brain as a kind of steam engine, filled with energy that seeks release, then repressed drives are either stored somewhere in the brain or they discover indirect outlets to liberate themselves. It’s the first law of thermodynamics applied to the mind: the conservation of psychic energy. But all that changes if you use another metaphor: the brain as Darwinian ecosystem, instead of steam engine. This is a metaphor proposed by the brilliant neuroscientist Gerald Edelman, who won a Nobel Prize for his research into the immune system in the early ’70s, and who has subsequently devoted much of his research to the brain.

If they succeed subsequently, as can so easily happen with repressed sexual instincts, in struggling through, by roundabout paths, to a direct or to a substitutive satisfaction, that event, which would in other cases have been an opportunity for pleasure, is felt by the ego as unpleasure. As a consequence of the old conflict which ended in repression, a new breach has occurred in the pleasure principle at the very time when certain instincts were endeavoring, in accordance with the principle, to obtain fresh pleasure. The apparatus in question, of course, is the human psyche, though it might as well be a steam engine, given Freud’s emphasis on its surging, shifting energy. Like almost all his writing, this is a complex, combinatorial language, filled with negations of negations and participatory metaphors. For all its complications, though, I think this passage does an admirable job of conveying both the insights and the blind spots of the Freudian model, at least when viewed through the lens of modern neuroscience.


pages: 322 words: 88,197

Wonderland: How Play Made the Modern World by Steven Johnson

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Ada Lovelace, Alfred Russel Wallace, Antoine Gombaud: Chevalier de Méré, Berlin Wall, bitcoin, Book of Ingenious Devices, Buckminster Fuller, Claude Shannon: information theory, Clayton Christensen, colonial exploitation, computer age, conceptual framework, crowdsourcing, cuban missile crisis, Drosophila, Edward Thorp, Fellow of the Royal Society, game design, global village, Hedy Lamarr / George Antheil, HyperCard, invention of air conditioning, invention of the printing press, invention of the telegraph, Islamic Golden Age, Jacquard loom, Jacquard loom, Jacques de Vaucanson, James Watt: steam engine, Jane Jacobs, John von Neumann, joint-stock company, Joseph-Marie Jacquard, land value tax, Landlord’s Game, lone genius, mass immigration, megacity, Minecraft, moral panic, Murano, Venice glass, music of the spheres, Necker cube, New Urbanism, Oculus Rift, On the Economy of Machinery and Manufactures, pattern recognition, peer-to-peer, pets.com, placebo effect, probability theory / Blaise Pascal / Pierre de Fermat, profit motive, QWERTY keyboard, Ray Oldenburg, spice trade, spinning jenny, statistical model, Steve Jobs, Steven Pinker, Stewart Brand, supply-chain management, talking drums, the built environment, The Great Good Place, the scientific method, The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere, trade route, Turing machine, Turing test, Upton Sinclair, urban planning, Victor Gruen, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, white flight, white picket fence, Whole Earth Catalog, working poor, Wunderkammern

It strongly suggests that the conventional narrative of industrialization is flawed both in terms of the sequence of events and the key participants. The great takeoff of industrialization, for instance, has inevitably been told as the work of European and North American men—heroes and villains both—building steam engines and factories and shipping networks. But those dyers tinkering with calico prints on the Coromandel coast, creating new designs for the sheer beauty of it; those English women enjoying the “agreeable amusements” of shopping on Ludgate Hill—these were all active shapers of the modern reality of industrialization, as important, in a way, as the James Watts and Eli Whitneys of conventional history. The account is necessarily murky because so few contemporaries found it necessary to take note of these new shopfronts until the calico craze had threatened to decimate the English economy.

The immense value of the cotton trade had already set a generation of British inventors off in search of mechanical tools that could mass-produce cotton fabrics: beginning with John Kay’s flying shuttle, patented in 1733, followed several decades later by Richard Arkwright’s spinning (or water) frame, then Eli Whitney’s cotton gin, not to mention the endless refinements to the steam engine rolled out during the 1700s, many of which were originally designed to enhance textile production. (Steam engines would eventually power a wide range of industrial production and transportation, but their initial application was dominated by mining and textiles.) Instead of deflating the British economy, the Calico Madams unleashed an age of British industrial and economic might that would last for more than a century. That cotton changed the world is indisputable.

Float valves that prefigure the design of modern toilets, flow regulators that would eventually be used in hydroelectric dams and internal combustion engines, water clocks more accurate than anything Europe would see for four hundred years. The two books contain some of the earliest sketches of technology that would become essential components in the industrial age, enabling everything from assembly-line robots to thermostats to steam engines to the control of jet airplanes. Pages from the Banu Musa’s The Book of Ingenious Devices These two books of “ingenious” machines deserve a prominent place in the canon of engineering history, in part as a corrective to the too-frequent assumption that Europeans single-handedly invented most modern technology. But there is something else about these two books that doesn’t quite fit the standard account of groundbreaking scientific work, something that is immediately visible to the nonengineer flipping through their pages.


pages: 456 words: 123,534

The Dawn of Innovation: The First American Industrial Revolution by Charles R. Morris

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air freight, British Empire, business process, California gold rush, clean water, colonial exploitation, computer age, Dava Sobel, en.wikipedia.org, glass ceiling, hiring and firing, if you build it, they will come, interchangeable parts, Isaac Newton, Jacquard loom, Jacquard loom, James Hargreaves, James Watt: steam engine, John Harrison: Longitude, joint-stock company, lone genius, manufacturing employment, new economy, New Urbanism, old age dependency ratio, On the Economy of Machinery and Manufactures, purchasing power parity, QWERTY keyboard, refrigerator car, Robert Gordon, spinning jenny, Stephen Hawking, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, trade route, transcontinental railway, traveling salesman

Even as much safer designs became available in the last half of the century, they were strongly resisted because of their cost. As steam engines proliferated, disasters kept rising. A study covering 1867–1870 showed about a hundred major explosions a year, killing about 200 people and injuring a similar number.34 The dominance of efficiency over any other value may have also been characteristic of American industries. Evans died in 1819; by then his Mars Works in Philadelphia had produced more than one hundred steam engines for both water transportation and industrial power. After his patents expired in 1824, his designs were widely copied and improved on. Robert L. Stevens, an important railroad executive, may have been the most original American contributor to steam-engine technology after Evans. There was an adroit division of labor in the early manufacturing and distribution of Evans-model steam engines. Eastern manufacturers, who had the most advanced metals operations, constructed the pistons, the flywheel, shafts, and other moving parts, while local contractors, perhaps with on-site supervision from the eastern supplier, executed the heavy castings for the engine housing and boiler and assembled the engine.

By then Corliss had already conceived the mechanisms that one of his rivals, who later became an industry historian, called “the most famous steam engine that has appeared since the time of Watt.” 57 One of the machine-shop partners capitalized a new company to develop Corliss’s ideas. Corliss got one-third interest plus royalty payments on sales, in return for his patents and a small capital contribution. The first engine sold that same year for $8,600 without the boiler, and its success quickly led to several more sales. By the time of the final patent award in 1849, they were already building a new and expanded factory. The company was renamed the Corliss Steam Engine Company in 1857, and by 1864 Corliss had purchased full ownership. The standard American high-pressure steam engine of the 1840s was based on the slide valve. There is a steam chest along one side of the cylinder: as the slide valve moves back and forth, it alternately admits and vents steam on both sides of the piston.

The fly-shuttle foot-pedal heddle loom was a highly rationalized machine that quickly pressured the capacity of the hand-spinning industry, forcing the pace of mechanization. Mechanized spinning shifted the pressure back to weaving. The fly-shuttle loom almost cried out for mechanization; the challenge lay in tuning the pressures on the threads to produce acceptable cloth while minimizing breakage, the way a skilled human did by feel. It was much the same with the steam engine. Galileo’s pupil Evangelista Torricelli did much of the early basic science, and a Frenchman, Denis Papin, constructed early working models. The first useful industrial-scale steam engine was built by Thomas Newcomen in 1712 to lift water out of a tin mine—flooding of underground mines was a chronic problem. It used a vacuum to produce work. Steam entered a cylinder and raised a piston; a jet of water cooled the cylinder, and the steam condensed, causing the piston to fall, and thereby lift water.


pages: 624 words: 104,923

QI: The Book of General Ignorance - The Noticeably Stouter Edition by Lloyd, John, Mitchinson, John

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Admiral Zheng, Albert Einstein, Barry Marshall: ulcers, British Empire, discovery of penicillin, Dmitri Mendeleev, Fellow of the Royal Society, Ignaz Semmelweis: hand washing, invention of the telephone, James Watt: steam engine, Kuiper Belt, Magellanic Cloud, Mars Rover, Menlo Park, Olbers’ paradox, On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres, placebo effect, Pluto: dwarf planet, trade route, V2 rocket, Vesna Vulović

After his execution, his head was embalmed and presented to his wife. She carried it with her at all times in a velvet bag until she died twenty-nine years later and it was returned to Raleigh’s tomb at St Margaret’s, Westminster. Who invented the steam engine? a) James Watt b) George Stephenson c) Richard Trevithick d) Thomas Newcomen e) A Heron from Egypt Heron (sometimes called Hero) takes the prize, some 1,600 years before Newcomen’s engine of 1711. Heron lived in Alexandria around AD 62, and is best known as a mathematician and geometer. He was also a visionary inventor and his aeolopile or ‘wind-ball’ was the first working steam engine. Using the same principle as jet propulsion, a steam-driven metal sphere spun round at 1,500 rpm. Unfortunately for Heron, no one was able to see its practical function, so it was considered nothing more than an amusing novelty.

Do marmots kill people? How do lemmings die? What do chameleons do? How do polar bears disguise themselves? How many galaxies are visible to the naked eye? What man-made artefacts can be seen from the moon? Which of these are Chinese inventions? Where did Marco Polo come from? What is Croatia’s most lasting contribution to world business? Who introduced tobacco and potatoes to England? Who invented the steam engine? Who invented the telephone? What’s quite interesting about Scotland, kilts, bagpipes, haggis, porridge, whisky and tartan? Where does Chicken Tikka Masala come from? Is French toast from France? Who invented champagne? Where was the guillotine invented? Where was ‘La Marseillaise’ written? How many prisoners were freed by the storming of the Bastille? Who said, ‘Let them eat cake’?

F. 1 sleep, healthy amount of 1 sloths as most dangerous animal 1 metabolism of 1 three-toed 1 two-toed 1, 2 Slovakia, smallest dog from 1 smallpox 1, 2 smoking 1, 2, 3, 4 snakes charming of 1 poisonous, not venomous 1 probability of a bite 1 rattlesnakes on 1970s TV 1 tolerant of poison 1 snow, Eskimo words for 1 soccer 1 Solanges, Comte de 1 solanine 1 sound barrier, first invention to break 1 South Africa 1, 2, 3 South America 1, 2, 3 cannibalism in 1 flamingos in 1 guinea pigs in 1 peanuts in 1 Spanish pronunciation in 1 South China tigers 1, 2 Spain 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 cannibalism in 1 pronunciation in, and the ‘lisp’ 1 Spam 1 Spears, Britney 1 Spencer, Herbert 1 sperm and division of labour 1 of dogs 1 sensitivity to scents 1 sperm whales 1 Sphinx 1 spiders 1, 2, 3 spirulina 1 Spitfire 1 ‘sport of kings’ 1 squirrels, fur of 1 stamps 1 stars Boomerang Nebula 1 names of constellations 1 Olbers’ paradox 1 shape of 1 visible 1 steam engine, inventor of 1 stomach ulcers, cause of 1 Stone Age peoples, habitats of 1 strawberries 1 Strutt, William John, Lord Rayleigh 1 Stuart, Gilbert 1 Suetonius 1 suicide rate, highest 1 Sundblom, Haddon 1, 2 superconductors 1, 2 superstitions, and pragmatism 1 ‘survival of the fittest’, coining of term 1 Sweden 1, 2, 3 suicide rate in 1 Swiss Family Robinson, surname of 1 Switzerland biscuits in 1 inventions of 1 St Bernards 1 Swiss rolls 1 synaesthesia 1 Tammann, Gustav 1 Tanzania 1 tartans, origins of 1 Taylor, David 1 Taylor, Montague 1 Tchaikovsky, Pyotr Ilyich 1 tea 1, 2, 3 teeth celluloid 1, 2 decay of, and bacteria 1 dental statistics (modern) 1 Washington’s false teeth 1, 2, 3 ‘Waterloo teeth’ 1 Teflon, discovery of 1 telephone, inventor of 1 television, effects on health 1 Tennant, Smithson 1 Thailand 1, 2 capital of 1 chicken ancestor in 1 Theory of Relativity, inventor of 1 thermoception 1 Thom, Charles 1 Thoreau, Henry David 1 Thule 1 Tibet 1 tigers 1 age of, when dangerous 1 highest concentration of 1 see also South China tigers tobacco 1 chemicals in 1 introduced to England 1 as a medicine 1 unusual fertilisers for 1 as world’s biggest killer 1 togas 1 Tokyo 1 toothpaste, bears and 1 Tour de France 1 Toynbee, Arnold 1 Trafalgar, Battle of 1 transport car accidents 1, 2 hydrofoil 1 railways 1 rickshaws 1 Treaty of Madrid 1 Treaty of Versailles 1 trees ‘anti-greenhouse effect’ 1 and loofahs 1 ozone released from 1 role of forest fires 1 in thunderstorms 1, 2 world’s most useful 1 Truman, Harry S. 1 tsunamis 1, 2 tulips, origins of 1 tungsten 1 Turkey 1, 2, 3, 4 turkeys farming techniques 1 origins of 1 Turner, Herbert Hall 1 Turner, J.


pages: 349 words: 114,038

Culture & Empire: Digital Revolution by Pieter Hintjens

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4chan, airport security, anti-communist, anti-pattern, barriers to entry, Bill Duvall, bitcoin, blockchain, business climate, business intelligence, business process, Chelsea Manning, clean water, commoditize, congestion charging, Corn Laws, correlation does not imply causation, cryptocurrency, Debian, Edward Snowden, failed state, financial independence, Firefox, full text search, German hyperinflation, global village, GnuPG, Google Chrome, greed is good, Hernando de Soto, hiring and firing, informal economy, intangible asset, invisible hand, James Watt: steam engine, Jeff Rulifson, Julian Assange, Kickstarter, M-Pesa, mass immigration, mass incarceration, mega-rich, mutually assured destruction, Naomi Klein, national security letter, new economy, New Urbanism, Occupy movement, offshore financial centre, packet switching, patent troll, peak oil, pre–internet, private military company, race to the bottom, rent-seeking, reserve currency, RFC: Request For Comment, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, Richard Stallman, Satoshi Nakamoto, security theater, selection bias, Skype, slashdot, software patent, spectrum auction, Steve Crocker, Steve Jobs, Steven Pinker, Stuxnet, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, The Wisdom of Crowds, trade route, transaction costs, union organizing, wealth creators, web application, WikiLeaks, Y2K, zero day, Zipf's Law

The calculation is simple: imagine if email had been patented -- how much money would the patent holder (let's call him the "inventor" or "job creator" for effect) have earned? If email had been patented -- which happily it was not -- then we would have suffered two decades of stagnation and suspension of cost gravity. This has happened often in history, notably during the Industrial Revolution, with James Watt's steam engine patents. As Michele Boldrin and David K. Levine wrote, in their book "Against Intellectual Monopoly", "During the period of Watt's patents the United Kingdom added about 750 horsepower of steam engines per year. In the thirty years following Watt's patents, additional horsepower was added at a rate of more than 4,000 per year." Any expensive product or service that is widely used, yet immune to cost gravity -- such as medicines or mobile phone calls -- is protected by a patent cartel.

The best currencies are highly portable (I can carry them with me), anonymous (I can spend them without others discovering), and scalable to any size of market. Two thousand years ago, we invented clean water, hot baths, social security, highways, concrete, and civil engineering, and built continent-wide trading empires. We invented public and private law as the basis for modern legal systems, and the free market. It all went well except for the lead in the water. Two hundred and fifty years ago, we invented the steam engine and decided it was more profitable to build factories than grow sugar. We invented "intellectual property" on the basis that if we didn't own the ideas in our minds, we would stop thinking. About five decades ago, we invented the Internet as a few megabytes of technical protocols anyone could implement for free. The notion of open and free protocols was radical at the time. By the end of the twentieth century, investors were pouring billions into businesses whose only model was "spend money."

Nor do any of the other 10 or so firms claiming patents on the 802.11 WiFi standard. The end result is that firms like Buffalo that are doing real innovation are taxed by private interests who make no products and do no innovation at all. In the worst cases, where patents hit a really crucial area of technology, cost gravity slows down for two decades while the monopoly owner tries to bully the industry into licensing deals. It happens over and over, from steam engines to touch screens. Patent holders and their wealth offer such a powerful example of the "success of strong private property rights," and the costs remain hidden. Who is measuring expected cost gravity, and raising the alarm bells when it doesn't happen? Answering the Pro-Patent Arguments Now let's give the pro-patent arguments a fair and open trial before we take them out back and shoot them.


pages: 424 words: 140,262

Blood, Iron, and Gold: How the Railways Transformed the World by Christian Wolmar

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banking crisis, Beeching cuts, British Empire, Cape to Cairo, invention of the wheel, James Watt: steam engine, joint-stock company, Khartoum Gordon, Mahatma Gandhi, railway mania, refrigerator car, side project, South China Sea, transcontinental railway, tulip mania, urban sprawl

He created something of a cottage industry, making sixty engines himself and, after his patents ran out, a further three hundred were built by other engineers over the next half-century, many for export to countries such as the USA, the German states and the Austrian Empire where one was even used to drive the fountains for Prinz von Schwarzenberg’s palace in Vienna. Towards the end of the eighteenth century, it was James Watt who made steam power commercially viable by improving the efficiency of steam engines, and adapting them for a wide variety of purposes. The engines manufactured by the company he formed with Matthew Boulton were used to provide power for everything from ships and looms to sugar mills in the West Indies and cotton mills in the USA, but not for developing steam locomotives. Other inventors did try to put steam engines on wheels. The first to do so was the Frenchman Nicholas Cugnot whose fardier was intended to be used as an artillery tractor. On a test run in Paris, it reached a speed of 2.5 mph but hit a wall, overturned and was declared a public danger by the city authorities.

Yet, in this difficult transitional period for the railways, there were still doubts as to whether diesel or steam technology represented the future. While the introduction of the early diesel services proved popular, the romance of powerful steam engines remained enticing and technological improvements appeared to suggest that steam still represented the future for rail. Certainly steam engines, helped by improvements, put up a good fight before being outdone by the two superior and more efficient technologies of diesel and electric traction. Although various radical changes to the basic steam engine were tried, such as the Russian locomotives which used a combination of both diesel and steam power, the future of the technology seemed to lie more in attempts to refine rather than radically change traditional design.

As the putative railways increased in sophistication and length, wagons were coupled together to improve efficiency and by the 1750s, iron rails were introduced which proved far more durable than the wooden ones. The other major technical development required for the establishment of the railways was, of course, the steam engine and, later, the development of self-propelled locomotives, a far more complex and difficult process. Again, the idea of steam power dated to classical times but the first working steam engines were probably those of John Newcomen, an ironmaster from Devon who built them in the early years of the eighteenth century. Applying principles which had been observed by a French scientist, Denis Papin, who had noticed that a piston contained within a cylinder was a potential way of exploiting the power of steam, Newcomen developed the idea to produce engines to pump water from the mines.


pages: 1,104 words: 302,176

The Rise and Fall of American Growth: The U.S. Standard of Living Since the Civil War (The Princeton Economic History of the Western World) by Robert J. Gordon

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3D printing, Affordable Care Act / Obamacare, airline deregulation, airport security, Apple II, barriers to entry, big-box store, blue-collar work, Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty, clean water, collective bargaining, computer age, creative destruction, deindustrialization, Detroit bankruptcy, discovery of penicillin, Donner party, Downton Abbey, Edward Glaeser, en.wikipedia.org, Erik Brynjolfsson, everywhere but in the productivity statistics, feminist movement, financial innovation, full employment, George Akerlof, germ theory of disease, glass ceiling, high net worth, housing crisis, immigration reform, impulse control, income inequality, income per capita, indoor plumbing, industrial robot, inflight wifi, interchangeable parts, invention of agriculture, invention of air conditioning, invention of the telegraph, invention of the telephone, inventory management, James Watt: steam engine, Jeff Bezos, jitney, job automation, John Markoff, John Maynard Keynes: Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren, labor-force participation, Loma Prieta earthquake, Louis Daguerre, Louis Pasteur, low skilled workers, manufacturing employment, Mark Zuckerberg, market fragmentation, Mason jar, mass immigration, mass incarceration, McMansion, Menlo Park, minimum wage unemployment, mortgage debt, mortgage tax deduction, new economy, Norbert Wiener, obamacare, occupational segregation, oil shale / tar sands, oil shock, payday loans, Peter Thiel, pink-collar, Productivity paradox, Ralph Nader, Ralph Waldo Emerson, refrigerator car, rent control, Robert X Cringely, Ronald Coase, school choice, Second Machine Age, secular stagnation, Skype, stem cell, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Steven Pinker, The Market for Lemons, Thomas Malthus, total factor productivity, transaction costs, transcontinental railway, traveling salesman, Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, Unsafe at Any Speed, Upton Sinclair, upwardly mobile, urban decay, urban planning, urban sprawl, washing machines reduced drudgery, Washington Consensus, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, We wanted flying cars, instead we got 140 characters, working poor, working-age population, Works Progress Administration, yellow journalism, yield management

The importance of the horse became apparent when in the fall of 1872 horses in cities throughout the northeast caught a virulent strain of horse flu and could not be used for work: City life came to a standstill … Streetcar companies suspended service, undelivered freight accumulated at wharves and railroad depots, consumers lacked milk, ice, and groceries, saloons lacked beer, work halted at construction sites, brickyards, and factories, and city governments curtailed fire protection and garbage collection.53 A full century after James Watt’s steam engine, why were cities so dependent on horses rather than steam-powered devices? Disadvantages of steam engines within the narrow confines of cities included the ever-present danger of fires started by sparks, their acrid black smoke, their deafening noise, and their heavy weight, which cracked street pavements. LEISURE, FROM NEWSPAPERS TO SALOONS By 1870, the American invention of the telegraph had announced the joining together of the transcontinental railway, had in 1861 made the Pony Express obsolete, and had allowed local print newspapers to report the events of national and world affairs on the day that they happened, including daily chronicles of carnage in the Civil War.

Individual inventors were the developers not just of new goods, from electric light to the automobile to processed corn flakes to radio, but also of new services such as the department store, mail-order catalog retailing, and the motel by the side of the highway. Although this book’s coverage begins in 1870, we should not neglect the role of individuals before that year. Among the Americans notable for pre-1870 inventions are Samuel F. B. Morse for his 1844 invention of the telegraph and Cyrus McCormick for his 1834 invention of the reaper. They were preceded by many British inventors going back to Thomas Newcomen and James Watt (the inventors of the steam engine) and George Stephenson (who shares in the invention of the railroad). Most studies of long-term economic growth attempt to subdivide the sources of growth among the inputs, particularly the number of worker-hours and the amount of physical capital per worker-hour, and the “residual” that remains after the contributions of labor and capital are subtracted out. That residual, defined initially in Robert Solow’s pioneering work of the 1950s, often goes by its nickname “Solow’s residual” or by its more formal rubric “total factor productivity” (TFP).

In addition to their role in pulling plows, reapers, and other moving machines, “horses produced stationary power for threshing, corn shelling, grinding, baling, binding, and winnowing by means of the sweeps and treadmills similar to those used to power horse ferries.”30 The use of horses on the farm in the last two-thirds of the nineteenth century paralleled their increasing use as the prime movers of intra-urban transportation, as shown in chapter 5. Mechanization of agriculture lagged behind that of manufacturing, in part because steam engines were too expensive and bulky to be purchased by individual farmers. Thus the horse became dominant over the steam engine in farming and intra-urban transportation for the same reasons—its bulkiness and expense (additional factors inside cities were noise that disturbed citizens and vibration that destroyed the streets).31 Unsolved until the arrival of the internal combustion engine was the problem of devising a self-propelled steam engine that could operate “on soft, uneven ground without sinking in or tipping over. In other words, a self-propelled steam engine had to be like a horse.”32 Though drought, heat, and insects were particular problems in the Great Plains, even farmers in the most fertile areas of the Midwest within 200 miles of Chicago were suffering by the late 1880s.


pages: 476 words: 120,892

Life on the Edge: The Coming of Age of Quantum Biology by Johnjoe McFadden, Jim Al-Khalili

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agricultural Revolution, Albert Einstein, Alfred Russel Wallace, bioinformatics, complexity theory, dematerialisation, double helix, Douglas Hofstadter, Drosophila, Ernest Rutherford, Gödel, Escher, Bach, invention of the printing press, Isaac Newton, James Watt: steam engine, Louis Pasteur, New Journalism, phenotype, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, Schrödinger's Cat, theory of mind, traveling salesman, uranium enrichment, Zeno's paradox

He also demonstrated some of his father’s engineering insight, writing a remarkable book entitled Reflections on the Motive Force of Fire (1823), which is often credited as initiating the science of thermodynamics. Sadi Carnot drew inspiration from the design of steam engines. He believed that France had been defeated in the Napoleonic wars because it hadn’t harnessed the power of steam to build heavy industry in the way that England had. However, although the steam engine had been invented and successfully commercialized in England, its design had been mostly down to trial and error and the intuition of engineers such as the Scottish inventor James Watt. What it lacked was any theoretical foundation. Carnot sought to rectify this situation by describing in mathematical terms how any heat engine, such as those that drove steam trains, could be used to do work via a cyclical process that is to this day known as the Carnot cycle.

Some of the instruments are still knocked into a different beat when an occasional crisp bag is popped by a rowdy spectator, but, with a wave of his baton, the conductor is able to bring them back into sync to deliver the music of photosynthesis. Reflections on the motive force of life In chapter 2 we peered inside a steam engine to discover that its motive force involved capturing the random motion of the sea of billiard-ball-like molecules and directing the molecular turbulence toward driving the piston within the cylinder. We then asked whether life can be entirely accounted for by the same “order from disorder” thermodynamic principle that drives steam engines. Is life just an elaborate steam engine? Many scientists are convinced that it is, but in a subtle way that needs a little elaboration. Complexity theory studies the tendency of certain forms of random chaotic motion to generate order through the phenomenon of self-organization.

At a molecular level, there is only chaos—but chaos with a slight bias that can generate order at a macroscopic level: order from chaos, as this principle is sometimes termed.7 Order from chaos is conceptually quite similar to Erwin Schrödinger’s “order from disorder,” which, as we have already described, lies behind the motive force of steam engines. But, as we have discovered, life is different. Although there is plenty of disorderly molecular motion inside living cells, the real action of life is a tightly choreographed motion of fundamental particles within enzymes, photosynthetic systems, DNA and elsewhere. Life has built-in order at a microscopic level; and so “order from chaos” cannot be the only explanation for life’s fundamental distinguishing features. Life is nothing like a steam train. However, recent research suggests that life may operate along the lines of a quantum version of the steam engine. The principle of how steam engines work was first outlined in the nineteenth century by a Frenchman, Sadi Carnot. He was the son of Napoleon’s minister of war, Lazare Carnot, who obtained a commission in the engineer corps of Louis XVI’s army.


pages: 523 words: 159,884

The Great Railroad Revolution by Christian Wolmar

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1919 Motor Transport Corps convoy, accounting loophole / creative accounting, banking crisis, Bay Area Rapid Transit, big-box store, collective bargaining, cross-subsidies, intermodal, James Watt: steam engine, Ponzi scheme, quantitative easing, railway mania, Ralph Waldo Emerson, refrigerator car, Silicon Valley, strikebreaker, too big to fail, trade route, transcontinental railway, traveling salesman, union organizing, urban sprawl

His invention proved to be crucial in keeping the tin and copper-ore industry viable in Cornwall, since all the mines had reached a depth where they were permanently flooded and existing waterpower pumps were insufficient to drain them. By 1733, when Newcomen’s patents ran out, around sixty of his engines had been produced. Working in the second half of the eighteenth century, Scottish inventor and engineer James Watt made steam commercially viable by improving the efficiency of engines and adapting them for a wide variety of purposes. Boulton & Watt, his partnership with Birmingham manufacturer Matthew Boulton, became the most important builder of steam engines in the world, cornering the market by registering a patent that effectively gave them a monopoly on all steam-engine development in the UK until the end of the eighteenth century. Steam power quickly became commonplace in the early nineteenth century, and it was Boulton & Watt that provided the engine for the world’s first “practical” steamboat, the Charlotte Dundas, which made its short maiden voyage on a Glasgow canal in 1803.

It was not, therefore, the competition of canals and railroads that did in the turnpikes, but their own shortcomings: “Many turnpike companies had failed even before this [railroad and canal] competition appeared and those which lasted after about 1830 [the advent of the railroads] had for the most part already demonstrated their financial unprofitability.”14 Moreover, railroads would have the advantage of a technology that ultimately proved to be their most effective weapon. Whereas steam engines were quickly adapted to operate on rails, they could not function on roads because they were too heavy and appropriate steering mechanisms had not yet been devised. A road carriage had to be light enough to spare the road surface while having to carry all the paraphernalia of its own heavy and hot machinery in addition to the payload of passengers or freight, all crammed into a single vehicle and perhaps, at most, one trailer.

The engines in steamships may have been precursors of those used in locomotives, but they were different in several respects: most notably, they could be far bigger, since they did not have to drag their weight along on land, and they could be less efficient, since ships had the capacity to carry vast quantities of fuel. Nevertheless, thanks to the steamships, by the time serious thought was being given to railroads, the key requirements for locomotive technology were in place. However, it was one thing to fit a large steam engine into a ship, where space was not at a premium, and quite another getting it down to a size small enough to move itself under its own power. To progress from the production of steam power to the development of a railroad required two significant steps. First, the engine had to be put on wheels to make it mobile, and then the wheels had to be placed on rails. As we have seen, this second step was essential because of both the primitive nature of the roads and the absence of any steering mechanism.


pages: 313 words: 84,312

We-Think: Mass Innovation, Not Mass Production by Charles Leadbeater

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1960s counterculture, Andrew Keen, barriers to entry, bioinformatics, c2.com, call centre, citizen journalism, clean water, cloud computing, complexity theory, congestion charging, death of newspapers, Debian, digital Maoism, double helix, Douglas Engelbart, Edward Lloyd's coffeehouse, frictionless, frictionless market, future of work, game design, Google Earth, Google X / Alphabet X, Hacker Ethic, Hernando de Soto, hive mind, Howard Rheingold, interchangeable parts, Isaac Newton, James Watt: steam engine, Jane Jacobs, Jaron Lanier, Jean Tirole, jimmy wales, John Markoff, John von Neumann, Kevin Kelly, knowledge economy, knowledge worker, lone genius, M-Pesa, Mark Shuttleworth, Mark Zuckerberg, Marshall McLuhan, Menlo Park, microcredit, new economy, Nicholas Carr, online collectivism, planetary scale, post scarcity, Richard Stallman, Shoshana Zuboff, Silicon Valley, slashdot, social web, software patent, Steven Levy, Stewart Brand, supply-chain management, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, the market place, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, The Wisdom of Crowds, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions, Whole Earth Catalog, Zipcar

Ideas live within communities as much as they do in the heads of individuals, as shown for example in the 18th-century Cornish tin-mining industry just before the industrial revolution. Cornwall was the Silicon Valley of its day, home to the most impressive innovations in industrial technology. Cornish tin and copper mines posed the trickiest problems for engineers and so demanded the greatest ingenuity. The deeper the mines went, the more prone to flooding they became. In 1769 the inventor James Watt came up with an engine design that incorporated a separate condenser, which cut the amount of coal needed by two-thirds. This transformed the economics of mining. The Watt engine, which he marketed with his business partner Matthew Boulton, quickly spread through Cornish mines – but the mine-owners became disenchanted.30 Boulton and Watt charged them a royalty fee equivalent to a third of the amount of money that a mine saved each year after the installation of their engine, the design of which was protected by a very broad patent enforced ferociously.

The open and collaborative period that followed produced near continuous innovation for more than 30 years, as a host of practitioner-engineers improved upon Woolf and Trevithick’s design. None of this innovation was patented. By 1845, engines in Cornish mines were more than three times more efficient than the Boulton and Watt engine of 1800. They became known as ‘Cornish’ engines in recognition of the cumulative, collaborative and collective nature of the innovation. During this period Cornwall had the fastest rate of steam-engine innovation in the world and the lowest rate of patenting in Great Britain. The Cornish engine story prefigures today’s contest between Microsoft and open-source software: sharing can be a highly effective basis for commercial endeavour. In Cornwall rival firms released to one another ideas that brought significant cost reductions to all. They did so because the mine-owners had a strong shared interest and independent mine engineers were keen to make known what they had achieved.

., ‘On “Digital Maoism: The Hazards of the New Online Collectivism” By Jaron Lanier’, Edge (2006). http://www.edge.org/discourse/digital_ maoism.html 29 Paul A. David, ‘From Keeping “Nature’s Secrets” to the Institutionalization of “Open Science”‘, in Rishab Aiyer Ghosh (Ed.), Code (Cambridge, MA/London: MIT Press, 2005) 30 Alessandro Nuvolari, ‘Open Source Software Development: Some Historical Perspectives’, Eindhoven Centre for Innovation Studies Working Paper 03.01 (2003); Koen Frenken and Alessandro Nuvolari, ‘The Early Development of the Steam Engine: An Evolutionary Interpretation Using Complexity Theory’, Eindhoven Centre for Innovation Studies Working Paper 03.15 (2003) Chapter 3 1 Andrew Brown, In the Beginning Was the Worm (Pocket Books, 2003) 2 Eric S. Raymond, The Cathedral and the Bazaar (O’Reilly, 2001) 3 Doc Searls, ‘Making a New World’, in Chris DiBona, Danese Cooper and Mark Stone (Eds), Open Sources 2.0 (O’Reilly, 2006) 4 Glyn Moody, Rebel Code: Linux and the Open Source Revolution (Penguin, 2002) 5 Like many radical innovations Linux is not as revolutionary as it first seems.


pages: 636 words: 202,284

Piracy : The Intellectual Property Wars from Gutenberg to Gates by Adrian Johns

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active measures, banking crisis, Berlin Wall, British Empire, Buckminster Fuller, business intelligence, commoditize, Corn Laws, demand response, distributed generation, Douglas Engelbart, Douglas Engelbart, Edmond Halley, Ernest Rutherford, Fellow of the Royal Society, full employment, Hacker Ethic, Howard Rheingold, informal economy, invention of the printing press, Isaac Newton, James Watt: steam engine, John Harrison: Longitude, Marshall McLuhan, Mont Pelerin Society, new economy, New Journalism, Norbert Wiener, pirate software, Republic of Letters, Richard Stallman, road to serfdom, Ronald Coase, software patent, South Sea Bubble, Steven Levy, Stewart Brand, Ted Nelson, the scientific method, traveling salesman, Whole Earth Catalog

It was about to be instrumental in the elevation of what had once been called (and denigrated as) “projectors” into an admired class of “inventors.” That elevation was at least as consequential as the farbetterknown shift from “natural philosophers” to “scientists.” Indeed, it could be said that the Industrial Revolution emerged as a transition from the age of projects to the age of invention. The pivotal figure in this transformation was James Watt, who had staunchly defended his patented steam engine and was apotheosized after his death in 1819. Yet there was still not really such a thing as a patents system in Britain. Each grant was still an individual grace proffered by the Crown out of its goodwill. Obtaining one was an expensive and dauntingly bureaucratic operation. It took at least ten discrete steps, and applicants had to go through a long series of clerks’ offices with fees levied at every one; the process had originated in Tudor legislation intended to secure an income for clerks.

And both were much less clearly distinct from the realm of radical and materialist pirate printers like Richard Carlile, William Benbow, and Thomas Tegg – the nineteenthcentury successors to Hills and Rayner – than their denizens liked to admit. from reform to abolition Agitation to reform the operation of patenting can be traced back a long way. As early as the 1780s, in the midst of fears aroused by Pitt’s proposed free trade arrangement with Ireland, James Watt and his friends had banded together to urge major changes. Among the themes Watt articulated were a number that became key to the subsequent century’s debate. Should patents be admissible for merely introducing a device from abroad, for example? Watt thought so, and this practice had in fact long been accepted, but increasingly others rejected it. Should one be able to patent a principle as well as a device?

At the level of individual enterprises, it was a time, as Daniel Defoe proclaimed, of “projects.” Projects were ambitious proposals for schemes of all kinds – inventions, trade ventures, lotteries, and so on. They were nothing new; a century earlier, Elizabethan London had been full of projectors. But now the projectors sought their investment less through court patronage than in the avowedly public realm of coffeehouse and pamphlet. From treasurehunting expeditions to new steam engines for draining mines, projects of all kinds sought investment from lay subscribers lured by print and tempted by the promise of future returns. The phenomenon seemed to characterize a new age. And, of course, the book trade depended on projecting too. To propose a subscription for a new atlas or history meant asking others to trust that that project would be brought to fruition. At Garraway’s or Jonathan’s coffeehouses, customers might find themselves looking at printed proposals for a new edition of the church fathers or a new fendrainage scheme, and the rhetoric in both would be remarkably congruent.


pages: 405 words: 117,219

In Our Own Image: Savior or Destroyer? The History and Future of Artificial Intelligence by George Zarkadakis

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3D printing, Ada Lovelace, agricultural Revolution, Airbnb, Alan Turing: On Computable Numbers, with an Application to the Entscheidungsproblem, anthropic principle, Asperger Syndrome, autonomous vehicles, barriers to entry, battle of ideas, Berlin Wall, bioinformatics, British Empire, business process, carbon-based life, cellular automata, Claude Shannon: information theory, combinatorial explosion, complexity theory, continuous integration, Conway's Game of Life, cosmological principle, dark matter, dematerialisation, double helix, Douglas Hofstadter, Edward Snowden, epigenetics, Flash crash, Google Glasses, Gödel, Escher, Bach, income inequality, index card, industrial robot, Internet of things, invention of agriculture, invention of the steam engine, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, Jacquard loom, Jacquard loom, Jacques de Vaucanson, James Watt: steam engine, job automation, John von Neumann, Joseph-Marie Jacquard, liberal capitalism, lifelogging, millennium bug, Moravec's paradox, natural language processing, Norbert Wiener, off grid, On the Economy of Machinery and Manufactures, packet switching, pattern recognition, Paul Erdős, post-industrial society, prediction markets, Ray Kurzweil, Rodney Brooks, Second Machine Age, self-driving car, Silicon Valley, speech recognition, stem cell, Stephen Hawking, Steven Pinker, strong AI, technological singularity, The Coming Technological Singularity, The Future of Employment, the scientific method, theory of mind, Turing complete, Turing machine, Turing test, Tyler Cowen: Great Stagnation, Vernor Vinge, Von Neumann architecture, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, Y2K

According to analysis by anthropologist Ian Morris,3 the Industrial Revolution is the most significant event in human history. Everything about our world changed after that, including the level of sophistication in our social organisation, the ways in which we build our cities and fight our wars, how we share and process information, as well as the amount of energy we can harness and use.4 The key technology that ignited the Industrial Revolution was the steam engine. James Watt’s ingenious improvement of the efficiency of the steam engine, introduced in 1775, transformed the global economy by mechanising labour. Many historians refer to this period as the ‘first machine age’, when machines became an integral part of human society and changed it forever. By the time Charles Babbage came of age, Great Britain, the first country to industrialise, was the unchallenged imperial, economic and naval power.

In this sense, the Analytical Engine was a technological singularity that happened in a world not ready yet to make something useful of it. Similarly to Hellenistic innovations such as the Hero’s Steam Engine and Hipparchus’ Antikythera Mechanism, Babbage’s great invention was well before its time. Nevertheless, Babbage’s achievement is profoundly remarkable. He had invented a machine that could perform multiple functions without the need to reconfigure its mechanical parts. By separating hardware from software, Babbage created unlimited possibilities for computation. Arguably, the full significance and repercussions of this separation are yet to be fully comprehended, and in all probability it will take several more decades to do so. Like Watt’s steam engine, which heralded the start of the ‘first machine age’ of the Industrial Revolution in the late eighteenth century, modern computers are currently ushering in the ‘second machine age’12 through the digital transformation of our economy and societies.

Andronicus and Archimedes were two of many stellar engineers of the Hellenistic period, the era that follows the conquests of Alexander the Great and the ‘export’ of classical Greek civilisation to the Near East and Egypt. During this period – which lasts until the total conquest of the Greek world by the Romans during the reign of Octavian4 – a creative explosion takes place in engineering, mathematics and medicine. Inventions and ideas from Alexandria and Antioch are transplanted into Rome, and inform European civilisation ever after. The steam engine of Hero of Alexandria, the astrolabe of Hipparchus, the mathematics of Euclid are all examples of this creative outburst. Hydraulics and pneumatic systems are discovered. As a consequence, the use of water and steam to cause the movement of inanimate objects through clever engineering creates a new paradigm shift concerning the concept of life. From the third century BC life is increasingly described not as static mud animated by divine will, but in terms of dynamically moving fluids within a mechanical body, a metaphor that will dominate Western thought for the next sixteen centuries.


pages: 259 words: 73,193

The End of Absence: Reclaiming What We've Lost in a World of Constant Connection by Michael Harris

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4chan, Albert Einstein, AltaVista, Andrew Keen, augmented reality, Burning Man, Carrington event, cognitive dissonance, crowdsourcing, dematerialisation, en.wikipedia.org, Filter Bubble, Firefox, Google Glasses, informal economy, information retrieval, invention of movable type, invention of the printing press, invisible hand, James Watt: steam engine, Jaron Lanier, jimmy wales, Kevin Kelly, lifelogging, Loebner Prize, Marshall McLuhan, McMansion, moral panic, Nicholas Carr, pattern recognition, pre–internet, Republic of Letters, Silicon Valley, Skype, Snapchat, social web, Steve Jobs, the medium is the message, The Wisdom of Crowds, Turing test

What concerns me is that the current technologies have been converted from being means to being ends. [The Internet] seems to have become an end in and of itself. And how might we describe that end? So much of our inventiveness, it turns out, wells up from, and then perpetuates, a deep desire to gather the world into our arms. The harnessing of magnetism leads to the compass, making expansive seafaring possible. James Watt’s invention of the modern steam engine in 1765 obliterates distance. The telegraph, the transatlantic cable, and the telephone cast larger and larger lassos to draw home the voices of faraway lovers, peers, and purveyors of news. Motion pictures, at the end of the nineteenth century, reap a world’s worth of glittering images and deliver them to enthralled viewers in the dark. We crowded the world into our small lives.


pages: 387 words: 110,820

Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture by Ellen Ruppel Shell

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barriers to entry, Berlin Wall, big-box store, cognitive dissonance, computer age, creative destruction, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, delayed gratification, deskilling, Donald Trump, Edward Glaeser, fear of failure, Ford paid five dollars a day, Frederick Winslow Taylor, George Akerlof, global supply chain, global village, greed is good, Howard Zinn, income inequality, interchangeable parts, inventory management, invisible hand, James Watt: steam engine, Joseph Schumpeter, Just-in-time delivery, knowledge economy, loss aversion, market design, means of production, mental accounting, Pearl River Delta, Ponzi scheme, price anchoring, price discrimination, race to the bottom, Richard Thaler, Ronald Reagan, side project, Steve Jobs, The Market for Lemons, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thomas L Friedman, trade liberalization, traveling salesman, ultimatum game, Victor Gruen, washing machines reduced drudgery, working poor, yield management, zero-sum game

The first contract known to stipulate interchangeable parts, it was a resounding step in the inexorable march toward low price. WHITNEY’S FAMOUS GIN, though not the font of mass production he claimed, nonetheless played a critical role in lowering the price of textiles. The gin separated cotton fiber from seed, cleaning more cotton in minutes than a battalion of humans could in a day. With the adaptation of James Watt’s steam engine as a power source, cotton cleaning became almost entirely mechanized, and within a few years of the gin’s patenting in 1774, the blizzard of cotton fiber spread beyond New England’s booming textile industry to Europe and as far away as Russia. The value of the U.S. cotton crop rose from $150,000 to more than $8 million in a decade. World demand for fabric that was cheaper than linen and cooler than wool made cotton a very desirable commodity, accounting for more than 50 percent of all American exports by the middle of the nineteenth century.

Sears Sears, Richard Warren Sears catalog secondary processing system, of brain Sedona, Arizona selection, in discount stores selective discounting self-service ideal Sennett, Richard Shaiken, Harley shipping containers Shiv, Baba Shoppers World Discount Department Store shopping carts Shore, Steve shrimp farming imports of taste of wild vs. farm-raised Silk, Tim slavery, cotton production and Smith, Adam Smith, Christopher H. Smith, Merit Roe Smithfield Foods Soberman, David A. Sold American (McGovern) Southdale Spartan stagflation staleness factor standard of living post-World War II era during World War II, Starbucks steam engine Stichting Ingka Foundation strikes subsidies, farm subsistence farming suburbs decentralized shopping Korvette’s move into Subway Sudan Summers, Lawrence supermarkets Suri, Rajneesh ”A Survey of Outlet Mall Retailing: Past, Present and Future” (Coughlan and Soberman) Sysco Corporation tainted goods, from China Target taste, cheap food and Taylor, Frederick Winslow television Testament of a Furniture Dealer, The (Kamprad) textile industry Thailand Thaler, Richard Thomas, Dana thrift Tiffany Time Timmer, Peter Tommy Bahama ”Toward a Positive Theory of Consumer Choice” (Thaler) toy imports traditional marketplace Treasure Island Triangle Shirtwaist fire of 1911 Truman, Harry Trump, Donald Tversky, Amos Two Guys Ultimatum Game unemployment in 2008, Feds targeting of employment to fight inflation in Great Depression Uniform Product Code [UPC] unions.


pages: 311 words: 89,785

Crossing the Heart of Africa: An Odyssey of Love and Adventure by Julian Smith

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blood diamonds, British Empire, Cape to Cairo, James Watt: steam engine, Livingstone, I presume, Scramble for Africa, trade route

But there was a problem: she was rich and he was not. In the late nineteenth century, the concept of marriage was shifting from purely practical to one that was more romantic. But among the upper classes of Victorian England (and her colonies, such as New Zealand), marriage was still more akin to a business merger than a starry-eyed union of hearts. Gertrude was a direct descendant of James Watt, the Scottish inventor of the steam engine. She lived in a forty-room Mediterranean-style villa overlooking the Pacific Ocean, with double tennis courts and a retinue of servants. Grogan came from a respectable family, but after being kicked out of Cambridge and serving in the army, he was painfully aware of how little he had to offer a wife except “a skinful of amoeba, malaria germs and similar parasitic mementoes … [and] … a head full of vagrant ideas.”

The Graf eluded them until July 1916, when it turned out she was unarmed; her guns had been fake. As the British closed in, her captain ordered the three engineers who had brought her all the way from Germany to sink the ship to keep her out of enemy hands. The poor bastards filled the Graf with sand and sent her to the bottom near the settlement of Kigoma, near Ujiji. Less than ten years later, the British refloated the ship, replaced her steam engines with twin diesels, and recommissioned her the MV Liemba. Her strange story inspired C. S. Forester’s 1935 novel The African Queen. Today she is the oldest passenger ship in the world. You made it halfway! All downhill from here—I’m thinking of you every day. I opened Laura’s next card on the Liemba’s rear deck, sitting on a pile of orange life jackets. The day is almost over and the sky and water are different shades of silver.


pages: 385 words: 111,807

A Pelican Introduction Economics: A User's Guide by Ha-Joon Chang

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Affordable Care Act / Obamacare, Albert Einstein, Asian financial crisis, asset-backed security, bank run, banking crisis, banks create money, Berlin Wall, bilateral investment treaty, borderless world, Bretton Woods, British Empire, call centre, capital controls, central bank independence, collateralized debt obligation, colonial rule, Corn Laws, corporate governance, corporate raider, creative destruction, Credit Default Swap, credit default swaps / collateralized debt obligations, David Ricardo: comparative advantage, deindustrialization, discovery of the americas, Eugene Fama: efficient market hypothesis, eurozone crisis, experimental economics, Fall of the Berlin Wall, falling living standards, financial deregulation, financial innovation, Francis Fukuyama: the end of history, Frederick Winslow Taylor, full employment, George Akerlof, Gini coefficient, global value chain, Goldman Sachs: Vampire Squid, Gordon Gekko, greed is good, Gunnar Myrdal, Haber-Bosch Process, happiness index / gross national happiness, high net worth, income inequality, income per capita, information asymmetry, intangible asset, interchangeable parts, interest rate swap, inventory management, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, James Watt: steam engine, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, John Maynard Keynes: Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren, John Maynard Keynes: technological unemployment, joint-stock company, joint-stock limited liability company, Joseph Schumpeter, knowledge economy, laissez-faire capitalism, land reform, liberation theology, manufacturing employment, Mark Zuckerberg, market clearing, market fundamentalism, Martin Wolf, means of production, Mexican peso crisis / tequila crisis, Northern Rock, obamacare, offshore financial centre, oil shock, open borders, Pareto efficiency, Paul Samuelson, post-industrial society, precariat, principal–agent problem, profit maximization, profit motive, purchasing power parity, quantitative easing, road to serfdom, Robert Shiller, Robert Shiller, Ronald Coase, Ronald Reagan, savings glut, Scramble for Africa, shareholder value, Silicon Valley, Simon Kuznets, sovereign wealth fund, spinning jenny, structural adjustment programs, The Great Moderation, The Market for Lemons, The Spirit Level, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thorstein Veblen, trade liberalization, transaction costs, transfer pricing, trickle-down economics, Vilfredo Pareto, Washington Consensus, working-age population, World Values Survey

Starting from Abraham Darby’s coke-smelting technique in steel-making and John Kay’s flying shuttle for textile weaving in the early eighteenth century, an endless stream of technologies has emerged to change the world. We discussed some of these in Chapter 3. The steam engine, the internal combustion engine, electricity, organic chemistry, steel ships, (wired and wireless) telegraphy, aeroplanes, computers, nuclear fission, semiconductors and fibre optics are only the most important examples. Today, genetic engineering, renewable energy, ‘advanced’ materials (e.g., graphene) and nano-technologies are emerging to transform the world yet again. In the early days of the Industrial Revolution, new technologies were often developed by individual visionaries. As a result, until the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, many technologies were known by their inventors’ names – Kay’s flying shuttle, Watt’s steam engine, the Haber–Bosch process and so on. From the late nineteenth century, with technologies becoming increasingly complex, fewer and fewer of them have been invented by individuals.

Much of technological progress in complex modern industries happens through incremental innovations originating from pragmatic attempts to solve problems arising in the production process. This means that even production-line workers are involved in innovation. Indeed, Japanese automobile firms, especially Toyota, have benefited from a production method that maximizes worker inputs into the innovation process. Gone are the days when a genius like James Watt or Thomas Edison could (almost) single-handedly perfect new technologies. That is not all. When they innovate, firms draw on research output and research funding provided by various non-commercial actors – the government, universities and charitable foundations. The whole society is now involved in innovation. Having failed to appreciate the role of all these ‘other guys’ in the innovation process, Schumpeter came to the mistaken conclusion that the diminishing room for individual entrepreneurs will make capitalism less dynamic and atrophy.


pages: 443 words: 98,113

The Corruption of Capitalism: Why Rentiers Thrive and Work Does Not Pay by Guy Standing

3D printing, Airbnb, Albert Einstein, Amazon Mechanical Turk, Asian financial crisis, asset-backed security, bank run, banking crisis, basic income, Ben Bernanke: helicopter money, Bernie Sanders, Big bang: deregulation of the City of London, bilateral investment treaty, Bonfire of the Vanities, Bretton Woods, Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty, carried interest, cashless society, central bank independence, centre right, Clayton Christensen, collapse of Lehman Brothers, collective bargaining, credit crunch, crony capitalism, crowdsourcing, debt deflation, declining real wages, deindustrialization, Doha Development Round, Donald Trump, Double Irish / Dutch Sandwich, ending welfare as we know it, eurozone crisis, falling living standards, financial deregulation, financial innovation, Firefox, first-past-the-post, future of work, gig economy, Goldman Sachs: Vampire Squid, Growth in a Time of Debt, housing crisis, income inequality, information retrieval, intangible asset, invention of the steam engine, investor state dispute settlement, James Watt: steam engine, job automation, John Maynard Keynes: technological unemployment, labour market flexibility, light touch regulation, Long Term Capital Management, lump of labour, Lyft, manufacturing employment, Mark Zuckerberg, market clearing, Martin Wolf, means of production, mini-job, Mont Pelerin Society, moral hazard, mortgage debt, mortgage tax deduction, Neil Kinnock, non-tariff barriers, North Sea oil, Northern Rock, nudge unit, Occupy movement, offshore financial centre, oil shale / tar sands, open economy, openstreetmap, patent troll, payday loans, peer-to-peer lending, Plutocrats, plutocrats, Ponzi scheme, precariat, quantitative easing, remote working, rent control, rent-seeking, ride hailing / ride sharing, Right to Buy, Robert Gordon, Ronald Coase, Ronald Reagan, savings glut, Second Machine Age, secular stagnation, sharing economy, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley startup, Simon Kuznets, sovereign wealth fund, Stephen Hawking, Steve Ballmer, structural adjustment programs, TaskRabbit, The Chicago School, The Future of Employment, the payments system, Thomas Malthus, Thorstein Veblen, too big to fail, Uber and Lyft, Uber for X, Y Combinator, zero-sum game, Zipcar

Meanwhile, data from the European Patent Office analysed by the OECD in 2015 suggest that the average technological and economic value of patented inventions has been falling, probably reflecting growing defensive filings.8 Privatising innovation can actually impede scientific advance by making it harder for inventors to build on the inventions of others and by stifling the exchange of ideas. James Watt’s patent to protect his invention of the steam engine prevented further development of the technology until after his patent expired.9 Had César Milstein applied for a patent for his creation of monoclonal antibodies, many advances in cancer treatment would have been delayed.10 The decision of Tim Berners-Lee and CERN (the European Organization for Nuclear Research), where he worked, not to patent his 1989 invention of the World Wide Web paved the way for an explosion in information and communication technologies.

Wages may adjust; occupations may change in character, for better or worse; some jobs may evolve into something else; some may be replaced by others; some technological and organisational changes may induce more work and labour.21 One of the unsung effects of occupational disruption is, as we shall see, a transfer of rental income from professions and crafts to those who own the technological apparatus. A once popular theory known as ‘Kondratieff long waves’ states that every sixty years or so the production structure is transformed by a technological revolution based on some marvellous invention: the water mill in the thirteenth century; the printing press in the late fifteenth century; the power loom and the steam engine in the eighteenth; the steel industry and electricity in the late nineteenth; and the car and Fordist mass production in the early twentieth. While there is little support for Kondratieff’s precise theory, clearly there have been periods of breakthroughs interspersed with periods of relative stability. The globalisation era has coincided with a seismic revolution associated with the internet and its offspring in information and communications technology.22 For this narrative, two aspects deserve emphasis.


pages: 490 words: 150,172

The Pencil: A History of Design and Circumstance by Henry Petroski

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business climate, Douglas Hofstadter, Gödel, Escher, Bach, Isaac Newton, James Watt: steam engine, Khartoum Gordon, Menlo Park, On the Economy of Machinery and Manufactures, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Richard Feynman, the scientific method, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thorstein Veblen

Many persons refused him help lest they should be thought to betray the secrets of their trade, and others were equally reluctant to enter into the nature of their profession, fearing that a free communication of their own thoughts would expose their ignorance of its principles, or would prove that its excellence did not depend upon any thing secret, or that could be concealed. Martin’s perception of the fears of mechanics is probably not exaggerated. James Watt, whose improvements in steam engines brought him fame and fortune, found that the production of copies of business letters was proving boring and time-consuming for him, and “yet their confidential and technical nature, coupled with Watt’s thriftiness, probably precluded using a copy clerk.” This situation prompted Watt to “discover a method of copying writing simultaneously,” by pressing tissue paper moistened with special liquids on the original written in a special ink.

This story of initial enthusiasm, early discouragement, repeated frustration, constant distraction, prolonged determination, total isolation, and, finally, a serviceable but far from perfect product has all the ring of an honest recollection of a real engineering endeavor, an odyssey from idea to crude prototype to artifact to improved artifact as full of adventure as Ulysses’ travels. And this is a story of research and development that can be repeated, mutatis mutandis, with “leadpencil” erased and “light bulb,” “steam engine,” or “iron bridge” written in its place. That the true course of development can be so easily forgotten, or not easily appreciated, especially by those who reap the benefits of the pioneers, is shown clearly by the romantic picture painted by someone who himself did not innovate so much as help make the pencils developed by others: In 1812 William Munroe, a cabinet maker by trade, pounded some plumbago with a hammer, mixed it in a spoon with some adhesive substance, and filled the compound into some cedar wood cases.

It became Johann Staedtler’s intention to establish a factory that would incorporate mills to grind graphite, kilns to bake leads, and machines to cut, slot, and shape wood for pencil cases, which at the time were being made out of imported Florida cedar as well as domestic alder and lime. Staedtler’s was an innovative and ambitious undertaking in the inaugural year of the first German railway, running between Nuremberg and Fürth, and only a year before the introduction of the first stationary steam engine in the area, but he was to succeed admirably. In addition to making black-lead pencils out of graphite and clay, the company also manufactured fine colored leads, using cinnabar and other natural pigments for the crayons, as colored pencils were called. While sixty-three different types of pencils would be shown by the firm at the 1840 Nuremberg Industrial Exhibition, J. S. Staedtler, as the firm is still known today, began by concentrating on the manufacture of red-ocher crayons, which the family business had long specialized in and which young Johann Staedtler had vastly improved upon while still with his father’s concern.


pages: 550 words: 154,725

The Idea Factory: Bell Labs and the Great Age of American Innovation by Jon Gertner

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Albert Einstein, back-to-the-land, Black Swan, business climate, Claude Shannon: information theory, Clayton Christensen, complexity theory, corporate governance, cuban missile crisis, Edward Thorp, horn antenna, Hush-A-Phone, information retrieval, invention of the telephone, James Watt: steam engine, Karl Jansky, knowledge economy, Leonard Kleinrock, Metcalfe’s law, Nicholas Carr, Norbert Wiener, Picturephone, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, Robert Metcalfe, Sand Hill Road, Silicon Valley, Skype, Steve Jobs, Telecommunications Act of 1996, traveling salesman, uranium enrichment, William Shockley: the traitorous eight

He would later look back and see the early 1970s as a perfect example of what engineers sometimes call “steam engine time.” This term refers to the Scottish engineer James Watt, the inventor of the first commercially popular steam engine, whose name is also memorialized in the term we use to measure power. In the late 1700s, Watt made startling improvements upon more basic ideas of how to use compressed steam to run heavy machinery. The knowledge needed to make such an engine had by then coalesced to the point that his innovation was, arguably, inevitable. By the 1970s, the mobile business was ready to happen, Engel was sure, even if the marketers had their doubts. The technology was there. It was now just a matter of who was going to do it, and how fast they could make it work. “It was,” he says, “steam engine time for cellular.” The FCC’s decision to consider proposals for mobile radio had been the spark.

Pierce had grown up happily in Iowa and Minnesota; he admired his parents and was especially close with his mother, in part because (as he once told an interviewer) she had a sharper mind than his father.6 His father sold women’s hats to clothing stores, a job that often took him out of town for weeks on end, leaving Pierce’s mother in charge at home. He was always interested in technical things, even before he could understand them. Before he learned how to read, he would ask his mother to get him library books on electromotive force; as he grew older, he and his friends played with electric motors and steam engines, crystal radio sets and vacuum tube receivers. In the mid-1920s, Pierce, an only child, moved with his parents to California. At his high school in Long Beach, he discovered that algebra came easily to him. Then he discovered that geometry came easily to him. Then he discovered that chemistry came easily to him. He graduated first in his class. Later he would say that during these years he saw “a glimmer of the dawning of the idea that things can be understood, and that learning, in science at least, is understanding.”

The FCC’s decision to consider proposals for mobile radio had been the spark. But a number of other technologies made it steam engine time, too. To Engel’s colleague Dick Frenkiel, it seems unlikely that the early cellular pioneers at Bell Labs could have actually implemented their designs in the 1950s. “Cellular is a computer technology,” Frenkiel points out. “It’s not a radio technology.” In other words, engineering the transmission and reception from a mobile handset to the local antennas, while challenging, wasn’t what made the idea innovative. It was the system’s logic—locating a user moving through the cellular honeycomb, monitoring the signal strength of that call, and handing off a call to a new channel, and a new antenna tower, as a caller moves along. One necessary piece of hardware for this logic was integrated circuits, those silicon chips on which a tiny circuit and thousands of transistors could be etched.


pages: 532 words: 133,143

To Explain the World: The Discovery of Modern Science by Steven Weinberg

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Albert Einstein, Alfred Russel Wallace, Astronomia nova, Brownian motion, Commentariolus, cosmological constant, dark matter, Dava Sobel, double helix, Edmond Halley, Eratosthenes, Ernest Rutherford, fudge factor, invention of movable type, Isaac Newton, James Watt: steam engine, music of the spheres, On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres, Pierre-Simon Laplace, probability theory / Blaise Pascal / Pierre de Fermat, retrograde motion, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions

The description of Strato’s work by Simplicius is presented in an English translation by M. R. Cohen and I. E. Drabkin, A Source Book in Greek Science (Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Mass., 1948), pp. 211–12. 4. H. Floris Cohen, How Modern Science Came into the World (Amsterdam University Press, Amsterdam, 2010), p. 17. 5. For the interaction of technology with physics research in modern times, see Bruce J. Hunt, Pursuing Power and Light: Technology and Physics from James Watt to Albert Einstein (Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, Md., 2010). 6. Philo’s experiments are described in a letter quoted by G. I. Ibry-Massie and P. T. Keyser, Greek Science of the Hellenistic Era (Routledge, London, 2002), pp. 216–19. 7. The standard translation into English is Euclid, The Thirteen Books of the Elements, 2nd ed., trans. Thomas L. Heath (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1925). 8.

But Hero was right; as we will see in Chapter 14, in the seventeenth century Huygens was able to deduce the principle of shortest distance (actually shortest time) from the wave nature of light. The same Hero who explored the fundamentals of optics used that knowledge to invent an instrument of practical surveying, the theodolite, and also explained the action of siphons and designed military catapults and a primitive steam engine. The study of optics was carried further about AD 150 in Alexandria by the great astronomer Claudius Ptolemy (no kin of the kings). His book Optics survives in a Latin translation of a lost Arabic version of the lost Greek original (or perhaps of a lost Syriac intermediary). In this book Ptolemy described measurements that verified the equal-angles rule of Euclid and Hero. He also applied this rule to reflection by curved mirrors, of the sort one finds today in amusement parks.

If Archimedes by his measurements of specific gravity had identified a gilded lead crown as being made of solid gold, he would have become unpopular in Syracuse. I don’t want to exaggerate the extent to which science-based technology was important in Hellenistic or Roman times. Many of the devices of Ctesibius and Hero seem to have been no more than toys, or theatrical props. Historians have speculated that in an economy based on slavery there was no demand for laborsaving devices, such as might have been developed from Hero’s toy steam engine. Military and civil engineering were important in the ancient world, and the kings in Alexandria supported the study of catapults and other artillery, perhaps at the Museum, but this work does not seem to have gained much from the science of the time. The one area of Greek science that did have great practical value was also the one that was most highly developed. It was astronomy, to which we will turn in Part II.


pages: 428 words: 121,717

Warnings by Richard A. Clarke

active measures, Albert Einstein, algorithmic trading, anti-communist, artificial general intelligence, Asilomar, Asilomar Conference on Recombinant DNA, Bernie Madoff, cognitive bias, collateralized debt obligation, complexity theory, corporate governance, cuban missile crisis, data acquisition, discovery of penicillin, double helix, Elon Musk, failed state, financial thriller, fixed income, Flash crash, forensic accounting, friendly AI, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Internet of things, James Watt: steam engine, Jeff Bezos, John Maynard Keynes: Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren, knowledge worker, Maui Hawaii, megacity, Mikhail Gorbachev, money market fund, mouse model, Nate Silver, new economy, Nicholas Carr, nuclear winter, pattern recognition, personalized medicine, phenotype, Ponzi scheme, Ray Kurzweil, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman: Challenger O-ring, risk tolerance, Ronald Reagan, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, self-driving car, Silicon Valley, smart grid, statistical model, Stephen Hawking, Stuxnet, technological singularity, The Future of Employment, the scientific method, The Signal and the Noise by Nate Silver, Tunguska event, uranium enrichment, Vernor Vinge, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, women in the workforce, Y2K

Instinctively, many of us feel these are the types of things “serious people” don’t waste time discussing, let alone believing could be possible. As a result, due to our personal reluctance to appear amateur, we often quickly dismiss highly unconventional ideas, especially if they have only hitherto been explored on the big screen. *INVISIBLE OBVIOUS: For centuries, people had watched steam escape from the teakettle, but it took James Watt to realize this mundane daily phenomenon was a miraculous source of power that would fuel the steam engine and the Industrial Revolution. Richard Farson notes, “The most important discoveries, the greatest art, and the best management decisions come from taking a fresh look at what people take for granted or cannot see precisely because it is too obvious.”5 Farson calls this the “Invisible Obvious.” Not only can we be blinded to things because of their ubiquity or obviousness, we can also be blind to critical information because of how powerfully our attention can focus in other directions.

It suggests that even lawyers, doctors, and investment managers will soon find themselves competing and losing to weak-AI software that can more rapidly assess the relevant data and make decisions with “deep, specialized, and often tacit knowledge.”25 A 2013 McKinsey Global Institute study predicts that weak AI will depose 140 million full-time knowledge workers worldwide.26 The idea is certainly not new. In 1933, John Maynard Keynes predicted widespread unemployment “due to our discovery of means of economising the use of labour outrunning the pace at which we can find new uses for labour.”27 Technological evolution is part and parcel of the history of humanity; the introduction of the wheel, gunpowder, the steam engine, the car, the adding machine, have all led to systemic societal transformation. Most would contend that the world is better for it. The much-derided “buggy-whip maker,” who lost his job with the advent of the horseless carriage is a popular symbol of the workers left behind by technological progress. Forgotten in that analogy are the buggy-making firms (and presumably their employees) who were able to pivot and profit in the new auto industry.28 Ng and others think weak AI will be far more disruptive.

., 213 Roper, William, 214 Ross, Bill, 136 Ross, Lee, 184 Royal Academy, 345 Royal Air Force, 10 Royal Navy, 9 Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute, 253 Rubenstein, Ariel, 380n Ruby, Jack, 99 Rumsfeld, Donald, 28–29 Russo, Rene, 219 Rutgers University, 261 Sagan, Carl, 273–77 Sago Mine disaster, 129–30 Salling, John Peter, 122 Samuel, Arthur, 381n San Bruno pipeline explosion of 2010, 293–94 Sandler O’Neill & Partners, 154 Sandworm, 285 Sanriku earthquake of 869, 77–81, 91, 97–98 Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX), 157 Sarin, 23, 230 Satisficing, 116, 117, 180–81, 319, 322, 359 Savage, Stefan, 297–98 Scacco, Gus, 149 Scanning for problems, 354–56 Scarface (movie), 99 Scenario modeling, 360, 363–64 Schapiro, Mary, 118–19 Schlesinger, Michael, 240–41 Schneider, Stephen, 241 Science (journal), 242 Science Story (show), 226 Scientific American, 278–79 Scientific method, 248–49 Scientific reticence, 79–80, 186–87, 234, 248–49, 259, 335 “Scope neglect,” 174 Sea-level rise, 238, 244–60, 360 Search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI), 304 Seawalls, and Fukushima nuclear disaster, 77, 85, 89–90, 92–93 Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), 100, 105–12, 114–20, 189–90 Security by obscurity, 270 Seismologist Warns, A (Ishibashi), 91–92 Selection effect, 380n Self-confidence, 184, 240, 365 Self-interest, of critics, 187–88 Sendai, Japan, 80, 81, 82 Sentinel intelligence, 3, 16, 356 “Separation of parts” policy, 270 September 11 attacks, 7–9, 230, 361–62 Seven Pillars of Wisdom: A Triumph (Lawrence), 57 Sextus Empiricus, 185 Shearson Lehman, 162 Shia Muslims, 63 Shoemaker, Gene, 306–7 Shultz, George, 280 Siberian Unified Dispatch Control Center (SUDCC), 290 Siegel, Jeremy, 157–58 Siegfried Line, 10 Sieur de Bienville, Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne, 41 Signal and the Noise, The (Silver), 15 Signal from noise, separating, 356–58 Silver, Nate, 13, 15 Silver mining, 128–29 Simon, Herbert, 180–81, 322 Simons, Daniel, 175 Singularity, the, 209 60 Minutes (TV show), 119, 162, 244 Skepticism, 151–53, 168, 185, 240, 248–49 Skynet, 205 Smith & Wesson, 99, 109 Snowden, Edward, 211 Solid rocket boosters, and Challenger disaster, 11–13 Somalia, 65 Soothsayers, 1–2 “Sophistication effect,” 187 South Africa, 42–43 Soviet Union, 25–26, 266, 267–68, 271, 273–74, 277–78 Spaceguard goal, 312–17, 319 Space Shuttle Challenger disaster, 11–13 SpaceX, 202 Spanish flu pandemic of 1918, 195, 198, 217, 221–24 Spielberg, Steven, 101 Split-strike conversion, 103–5 SSH (Sayano-Shushenskaya Hydro), 289–2917 Stalin, Joseph, 174, 213 Standard project hurricane (SPH), 52–53 “Standing start,” 266 Stanford University, 89, 184, 192, 226, 337, 338 Steam engine, 174–75 Stock trading. See also Financial crisis of 2008 weak AI and, 211–12 Storm, The (van Heerden), 51 Stuxnet, 291–92 Subprime mortgage crisis, 147–48, 153–54, 157, 162 Suh, Simona, 117–18 Sunni Muslims, 63 Sunshine Mine disaster of 1972, 128–29 Sun Yat-sen University, 340 SUNY Downstate Medical Center, 186 Super Aegis II, 214 Superintelligence, 201, 203–16 Supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA), 292, 293 Surveillance, 359–60 “Swarm boats,” 214 Swine flu, 195–98, 218 Symposium Greek Restaurant (New York City), 237, 252–53 Syria, 57–74 Ford scenario, 65–66, 67–69 slippery slope of intervention, 70–74 Syrian Civil War, 60–61, 62–64, 72–73 Szostak, Jack, 327 Tactical nuclear weapons, 267–69 “Take It Easy” (song), 305 Tamiflu, 225, 233 Taubenberger, Jeffery, 222 Team Louisiana Report, 55 Technical expertise, 182–83 Technological evolution, 212–13 Technological singularity, 209 Tectonic plates, 80, 81 “Tells,” 25–27, 29–30, 36–37 Tenet, George, 8 Terminator, The (movie), 205 Tesla, 202 Tetlock, Philip, 13–15 Thierry de la Villehuchet, René, 102–3, 109, 113 “Tickling the dragon’s tail,” 83 Titan III rockets, 11–12 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami of 2011, 81–82, 84–85 Tohoku Electric Power Co., 91 Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), 76–78, 86–98, 92–98 Toon, Owen, 273, 278–79 Trenberth, Kevin, 253 Troy, 1–2 Truman, Harry, 127 TTAPS, 273–77 Tunguska event, 301–3, 316 Tunisia, 57, 58 Turco, Richard P., 273, 276–77 Turkey, 62–63 Tyrosinemia, 332, 334 UBS, 149 Ukraine power grid cyber attack of 2015, 283–85, 287–88, 289, 291 Umea University, 329 Unemployment, 212–13 United Arab Emirates (UAE), 28 United Nations Climate Change Conference (2015), 247–50 United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR), 88 Universal hackability, 296–300 University of California, Berkeley, 13–14, 226, 327, 329 University of California, San Diego, 297 University of Colorado, 254, 328 University of Hawaii, 256, 315, 326 University of Iowa, 238, 243 University of Massachusetts, 296 University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, 332 University of Tokyo School of Engineering, 92 Upper Big Branch Mine disaster, 121–22, 130–37 accident report, 133 Cassandra system, 137–38, 140–41 ventilation system, 133–37 Van Allen, James, 238 Van Heerden, Ivor, 41–55 background of, 41, 42–43 coastal restoration program, 43–44, 53 government failures and, 50–55 New Orleans Scenario, 45, 46–50, 52 resignation of, 44 Veracode, 295 Vinge, Vernor, 202 Vulnerabilities, and complexity, 366–67 Wall Street Journal, 115, 119, 154, 158, 163 Ward, Grant, 106 Warfare and AI, 199, 200, 213–14 Warning, the, 168, 170, 170–76 Warsaw Pact, 278 Washington Post, 243, 340 Waterman Award, 328–29 Watson (computer), 202, 209 Watson, James, 328 Watt, James, 174–75 Weak AI, 201, 210–13 Weapons of mass destruction (WMDs), 30–31, 358 Webster, Robert G., 223–25, 231–32, 235–36 Weidner, David, 158, 163 Weiss, Joe, 283–84, 286–89, 291–96, 298–300 West Antarctic Ice Sheet, 239, 246, 360 West Berlin, 25 Wharton School, 157–58 White, Ryan, 227, 384n White House National Warning Office, 355–56 Principals Committee, 29 Situation Room, 26–27, 181 Whitney, Meredith, 143–46, 148–54, 160–65 background of, 151, 153–54 Citigroup downgrade, 143–46, 154, 156–60, 164–65 Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE), 315–16 Wiesel, Elie, 113 Wilson, E.


pages: 406 words: 88,820

Television disrupted: the transition from network to networked TV by Shelly Palmer

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barriers to entry, call centre, commoditize, disintermediation, en.wikipedia.org, hypertext link, interchangeable parts, invention of movable type, Irwin Jacobs: Qualcomm, James Watt: steam engine, Leonard Kleinrock, linear programming, Marc Andreessen, market design, Metcalfe’s law, pattern recognition, peer-to-peer, recommendation engine, Saturday Night Live, shareholder value, Skype, spectrum auction, Steve Jobs, subscription business, Telecommunications Act of 1996, There's no reason for any individual to have a computer in his home - Ken Olsen, Vickrey auction, Vilfredo Pareto, yield management

All rights reserved. 13-Television.Glossary v2.qxd 3/20/06 7:29 AM Page 218 218 G L O S S A RY Waste Model advertisers purchase air time based upon a “best guess” of who is watching rather than an actual census or who is watching. Watchman® Sony’s brand of personal sized, portable televisions. Watt A watt is a unit of power equal to one joule of energy per second. The watt was named for the Scottish engineer and inventor James Watt (1736-1819). Wax Cylinders The earliest method of recording and reproducing sound was on phonograph cylinders. WiFi Short for ‘wireless fidelity’. A term for certain types of wireless local area networks (WLAN) that use specifications conforming to IEEE 802.11b-g. WiFi has gained acceptance in many environments as an alternative to a wired LAN. Many airports, hotels, and other services offer public access to WiFi networks so people can log onto the Internet and receive emails on the move.

Or, the railroad company could have recognized the airplane as an important way to move people from place to place and embraced the brave new world. They could have started buying real estate for airports and converting their workforce — but wait, was Copyright © 2006, Shelly Palmer. All rights reserved. xiii 0-Television.Prelims v6sp.qxd 3/20/06 7:19 AM Page xiv xiv I N T R O D U C T I O N there a way for steam engine mechanics to become gasoline engine mechanics? How about a way for railroad engineers to be retrained (no pun intended) as pilots? No.There was no practical way to transition the railroad company into an airline.The only real way for them to invest was with cash, a hope and a prayer. There are some who take the logic of this business case and apply it willy-nilly to several modern businesses — like the television industry.


pages: 411 words: 95,852

Britain Etc by Mark Easton

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agricultural Revolution, Albert Einstein, British Empire, credit crunch, financial independence, garden city movement, global village, Howard Rheingold, income inequality, intangible asset, James Watt: steam engine, knowledge economy, knowledge worker, low skilled workers, mass immigration, moral panic, Ronald Reagan, science of happiness, sexual politics, Silicon Valley, Simon Kuznets, Slavoj Žižek, social software

By 2009 it was 10 per cent, the lowest proportion since records began. There may be profit in making niche, high-tech or patented products, but churning out widgets or Wispa bars is not the way to go. So, we prospered when the rules changed in the nineteenth century. We failed to adapt when the rule book was revised in the twentieth century. But we do have a chance to redeem ourselves in the twenty-first century. The rules are changing again. Just as James Watt was critical in developing the technology for Britain’s success in the industrial revolution, another Briton, Tim Berners-Lee is credited with the invention that is transforming the global economy today. The World Wide Web has powered a new period of globalisation. In the nineteenth century, it was about access to and the effective use of industrial machines. In the twenty-first century, it is about access to and the effective use of knowledge.

It is understanding that changed relationship with knowledge that will be key to deciding how the British NetGen fares in an increasingly globalised world. We talk about globalisation as though it is something new. One could argue that the process began some 5,000 years ago when trade links were forged between Sumerian and Harappan civilisations in Mesopotamia and the Indus Valley. But one has to turn the clock back less than two centuries to see new technology transforming the global market: the steam engine was shrinking the planet. The railways revolutionised domestic communication and the development of steam-powered ocean-going ships dramatically accelerated business in the expanding worldwide web of trade. Farmers who would once have taken their crops to market on the back of a cart were able to sell goods around the planet. Huge quantities of agricultural products from as far afield as New Zealand, Australia and the United States were shipped to Europe to feed the hungry masses driving the industrial revolution.


pages: 308 words: 84,713

The Glass Cage: Automation and Us by Nicholas Carr

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Airbnb, Airbus A320, Andy Kessler, Atul Gawande, autonomous vehicles, Bernard Ziegler, business process, call centre, Captain Sullenberger Hudson, Checklist Manifesto, cloud computing, computerized trading, David Brooks, deliberate practice, deskilling, digital map, Douglas Engelbart, drone strike, Elon Musk, Erik Brynjolfsson, Flash crash, Frank Gehry, Frank Levy and Richard Murnane: The New Division of Labor, Frederick Winslow Taylor, future of work, global supply chain, Google Glasses, Google Hangouts, High speed trading, indoor plumbing, industrial robot, Internet of things, Jacquard loom, Jacquard loom, James Watt: steam engine, job automation, John Maynard Keynes: Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren, John Maynard Keynes: technological unemployment, Kevin Kelly, knowledge worker, Lyft, Marc Andreessen, Mark Zuckerberg, means of production, natural language processing, new economy, Nicholas Carr, Norbert Wiener, Oculus Rift, pattern recognition, Peter Thiel, place-making, Plutocrats, plutocrats, profit motive, Ralph Waldo Emerson, RAND corporation, randomized controlled trial, Ray Kurzweil, recommendation engine, robot derives from the Czech word robota Czech, meaning slave, Second Machine Age, self-driving car, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley ideology, software is eating the world, Stephen Hawking, Steve Jobs, TaskRabbit, technoutopianism, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, turn-by-turn navigation, US Airways Flight 1549, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, William Langewiesche

Sensory organs, a calculating brain, a stream of messages to control physical movements, and a feedback loop for learning: there you have the essence of automation, the essence of a robot. And there, too, you have the essence of a living being’s nervous system. The resemblance is no coincidence. In order to replace a human, an automated system first has to replicate a human, or at least some aspect of a human’s ability. Automated machines existed before World War II. James Watt’s steam engine, the original prime mover of the Industrial Revolution, incorporated an ingenious feedback device—the fly-ball governor—that enabled it to regulate its own operation. As the engine sped up, it rotated a pair of metal balls, creating a centrifugal force that pulled a lever to close a steam valve, keeping the engine from running too fast. The Jacquard loom, invented in France around 1800, used steel punch cards to control the movements of spools of different-colored threads, allowing intricate patterns to be woven automatically.


pages: 355 words: 92,571

Capitalism: Money, Morals and Markets by John Plender

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activist fund / activist shareholder / activist investor, Andrei Shleifer, asset-backed security, bank run, Berlin Wall, Big bang: deregulation of the City of London, Black Swan, bonus culture, Bretton Woods, business climate, Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty, central bank independence, collapse of Lehman Brothers, collective bargaining, computer age, Corn Laws, corporate governance, creative destruction, credit crunch, Credit Default Swap, David Ricardo: comparative advantage, deindustrialization, Deng Xiaoping, discovery of the americas, diversification, Eugene Fama: efficient market hypothesis, eurozone crisis, failed state, Fall of the Berlin Wall, fiat currency, financial innovation, financial intermediation, Fractional reserve banking, full employment, God and Mammon, Gordon Gekko, greed is good, Hyman Minsky, income inequality, inflation targeting, information asymmetry, invention of the wheel, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, James Watt: steam engine, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, John Maynard Keynes: Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren, John Meriwether, joint-stock company, Joseph Schumpeter, labour market flexibility, liberal capitalism, light touch regulation, London Interbank Offered Rate, London Whale, Long Term Capital Management, manufacturing employment, Mark Zuckerberg, market bubble, market fundamentalism, mass immigration, means of production, Menlo Park, money market fund, moral hazard, moveable type in China, Myron Scholes, Nick Leeson, Northern Rock, Occupy movement, offshore financial centre, paradox of thrift, Paul Samuelson, Plutocrats, plutocrats, price stability, principal–agent problem, profit motive, quantitative easing, railway mania, regulatory arbitrage, Richard Thaler, rising living standards, risk-adjusted returns, Robert Gordon, Robert Shiller, Robert Shiller, Ronald Reagan, savings glut, shareholder value, short selling, Silicon Valley, South Sea Bubble, spice trade, Steve Jobs, technology bubble, The Chicago School, The Great Moderation, the map is not the territory, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thorstein Veblen, time value of money, too big to fail, tulip mania, Upton Sinclair, Veblen good, We are the 99%, Wolfgang Streeck, zero-sum game

Whether his way of doing business was genuinely novel at that time I do not know, but it has certainly been much followed by later property developers, while predatory litigation has become a widely used weapon in big business. In short, Barbon is Mandeville’s theory personified, being both vicious and economically creative. But that does not make him a stereotypical entrepreneur. In practice, individual entrepreneurs are to be found at all points of the ethical spectrum. At the virtuous end are people like the English entrepreneur Matthew Boulton, who, with the Scottish engineer James Watt, developed the steam engine that was central to the industrial revolution that began in the second half of the eighteenth century. As well as being a leader in modern production methods, Boulton, a high-minded non-conformist like so many early English industrial innovators, was a model employer who pioneered a workers’ insurance scheme. Steeped in the scientific inquisitiveness that is the mark of the really creative entrepreneur, he was a founder member of the Lunar Society, a famous discussion group that included Joseph Priestley, discoverer of oxygen, Josiah Wedgwood, the ceramics entrepreneur, and Erasmus Darwin, whose views prefigured the evolutionary thinking of his grandson Charles.


pages: 293 words: 91,412

World Economy Since the Wars: A Personal View by John Kenneth Galbraith

central bank independence, full employment, income inequality, James Hargreaves, James Watt: steam engine, John Maynard Keynes: Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren, joint-stock company, means of production, price discrimination, price stability, road to serfdom, Ronald Reagan, spinning jenny, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thorstein Veblen, union organizing, War on Poverty

Most important, in all the earlier stages of development there was no close and predictable correlation between the supply of educated men and the nature of their training and the rate of technological innovation. Inventions were more often the result of brilliant flashes of insight than the product of long prepared training and development. The Industrial Revolution in England was ushered in by the invention of the flying shuttle by John Kay, the spinning jenny by James Hargreaves, the spinning frame by (presumptively) Richard Arkwright and, of course, by James Watt's steam engine. These represented vast improvements in the capital which was being put to industrial use. But only in the case of Watt could the innovation be related to previous education and preparation. Kay and Hargreaves were simple weavers with a mechanical turn of mind. Arkwright had been apprenticed as a boy as a barber and a wigmaker and was barely literate. However, with the development of a great and complex industrial plant, and even more with the development of a great and sophisticated body of basic science and of experience in its application, all this has been changed.


pages: 537 words: 200,923

City: Urbanism and Its End by Douglas W. Rae

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agricultural Revolution, barriers to entry, business climate, City Beautiful movement, complexity theory, creative destruction, desegregation, edge city, ghettoisation, Gunnar Myrdal, income per capita, informal economy, interchangeable parts, invisible hand, James Watt: steam engine, Jane Jacobs, joint-stock company, Joseph Schumpeter, manufacturing employment, New Economic Geography, new economy, New Urbanism, Plutocrats, plutocrats, Saturday Night Live, the built environment, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, the market place, urban planning, urban renewal, War on Poverty, white flight, Works Progress Administration

The force of steam which she ordinarily carries is four to six inches on an average [2–3 pounds] but on this voyage she seldom had more than one inch, often less. . . . Yet under all these disadvantages the boat completed her voyage . . . without any aid from sail.26 This voyage was part of a slow-starting transformation, a century after the first working steam engine in 1712 and half a century after James Watts’ demonstration of a well-regulated steam engine in 1765. So long as the transition to coal-steam energy generation remained immature, cities faced the ancient trade-off between access to transport and access to energy. As David Nye writes, Early American cities were located either at tidewater or along broad, navigable streams that could not be used to produce much water power. As a result, cities were the sites of trade and skilled artisanal labor, but they contained few mills or factories.

Manufacturing centers of this era were consequently much smaller than industrial cities of a later generation. 8 C R E AT I V E D E S T R U C T I O N Even in the most profitable years of water-driven manufacturing, rival technology gathered steam, and soon enough its promise was touted everywhere, as for example in the May 12, 1849, issue of Scientific American: A water-mill is necessarily located in the country afar from the cities, the markets, and the magazines of labor, upon which it must be dependent. Water appears to run very cheaply, but it always rents for a pretty high price, and the [capital] cost of dams, races, water wheels etc is on the average quite as great as that of a steam engine and equipage. . . . A man sets down his steam-engine where he pleases—that is, where it is most to his interest to plant it, in the midst of the industry and markets, both for supply and consumption of a great city—where he is sure of always having hands near him, without loss of time in seeking for them, and where he can buy his raw materials and sell his goods, without adding the expense of double transportation.8 By 1870, the creative edge of capital had moved into steam-driven plants producing consumer goods—clocks, doorknobs, hammers, rubber boots—faster and cheaper than ever before.

Each member of the inner ring of nineteenth-century satellite towns—Branford, Hamden, North Haven, East Haven, Orange, and Woodbridge—was an 48 I N D U S T R I A L C O N V E R G E N C E Table 2.2. Selected Manufacturing Firms in New Haven, 1845 Industry, by product Coaches, wagons, sleighs Latches, locks, handles Indian rubber suspenders Clocks Carriage springs, etc. Castings (metal) Chairs, cabinets Worsted fabric Tin and sheet iron Sashes, blinds Paper Leather Soap, candles Hats, caps Files Cordage Steam engines, boilers Brass foundries Musical instruments Total of samples Firms Total capital Total employment Mean employment 24 3 1 1 4 4 9 4 8 3 1 6 4 3 2 2 2 2 2 85 $287,600 $ 74,500 $ 14,000 $ 40,000 $ 38,500 $ 64,900 $ 26,050 $ 8,000 $ 24,400 $ 14,800 $ 50,000 $ 29,600 $ 12,200 $ 3,500 $ 3,500 $ 4,700 $ 2,000 $ 1,000 $ 2,000 $ 701,250 460 115 100 90 74 71 71 37 35 32 30 27 16 15 10 8 6 4 3 1,204 19.2 38.3 100.0 90.0 18.5 17.8 7.9 9.3 4.4 10.7 30.0 4.5 4.0 5.0 5.0 4.0 3.0 2.0 1.5 14.2 Source: Tyler, 1846.


pages: 384 words: 122,874

Swindled: the dark history of food fraud, from poisoned candy to counterfeit coffee by Bee Wilson

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air freight, Corn Laws, food miles, James Watt: steam engine, Louis Pasteur, new economy, Ralph Nader, Ronald Reagan, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Unsafe at Any Speed, Upton Sinclair

“It ought never to be forgotten,” he wrote, “that it is to manufactories carried on by machinery, and abridgment of labour, that this country is indebted for her riches, independence, and prominent station among the nations of the world.”15 Well he might believe in progress and in Britannia, given his own personal progression from German obscurity to British fame and wealth. Accum’s career was one of dramatic upward mobility, from humble origins in Westphalia to a glittering and lucrative position as part of the scientific establishment of London. The sixth of seven children, he was born in Buckeburg on 29 March 1769—the birth year of both Napoleon and Wellington, as well as the great scientist Cuvier, and the year that “James Watt patented his steam engine and Arkwright his spinning frame.”16 But nothing suggested that Accum’s birth would lead to similar greatness. Only two of his siblings reached maturity, a sister, Wilhelmina, and a brother, Phillip; the other four died, two of smallpox. Accum’s father was a soapmaker, a converted Jew, born Herz Marcus, who at the age of twenty-eight changed his name to Christian Accum, probably for reasons of love; soon afterwards, he married Accum’s mother, Judith Suzanne Marthe Bert la Motte, a devout Huguenot.

In 1815, he published his Practical Treatise on Gas-Light, the first work in any language on the subject, beautifully illustrated with pictures of gas chandeliers and lamps, published by Accum’s great friend, Rudolph Ackermann. In this work, one can see Accum’s passionate belief in industrial progress. Accum pleads with his readers to ignore the “common clamour” that rises up against all “improvements in machinery,” whether the steam engine, new spinning and threshing machines, or gaslight. “It ought never to be forgotten,” he wrote, “that it is to manufactories carried on by machinery, and abridgment of labour, that this country is indebted for her riches, independence, and prominent station among the nations of the world.”15 Well he might believe in progress and in Britannia, given his own personal progression from German obscurity to British fame and wealth.

Investment: A History by Norton Reamer, Jesse Downing

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activist fund / activist shareholder / activist investor, Albert Einstein, algorithmic trading, asset allocation, backtesting, banking crisis, Berlin Wall, Bernie Madoff, break the buck, Brownian motion, buttonwood tree, California gold rush, capital asset pricing model, Carmen Reinhart, carried interest, colonial rule, credit crunch, Credit Default Swap, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, debt deflation, discounted cash flows, diversified portfolio, equity premium, estate planning, Eugene Fama: efficient market hypothesis, Fall of the Berlin Wall, family office, Fellow of the Royal Society, financial innovation, fixed income, Gordon Gekko, Henri Poincaré, high net worth, index fund, information asymmetry, interest rate swap, invention of the telegraph, James Hargreaves, James Watt: steam engine, joint-stock company, Kenneth Rogoff, labor-force participation, land tenure, London Interbank Offered Rate, Long Term Capital Management, loss aversion, Louis Bachelier, margin call, means of production, Menlo Park, merger arbitrage, money market fund, moral hazard, mortgage debt, Myron Scholes, negative equity, Network effects, new economy, Nick Leeson, Own Your Own Home, Paul Samuelson, pension reform, Ponzi scheme, price mechanism, principal–agent problem, profit maximization, quantitative easing, RAND corporation, random walk, Renaissance Technologies, Richard Thaler, risk tolerance, risk-adjusted returns, risk/return, Robert Shiller, Robert Shiller, Sand Hill Road, Sharpe ratio, short selling, Silicon Valley, South Sea Bubble, sovereign wealth fund, spinning jenny, statistical arbitrage, survivorship bias, technology bubble, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, time value of money, too big to fail, transaction costs, underbanked, Vanguard fund, working poor, yield curve

For instance, Johannes Gutenberg’s revolutionary printing press of the fifteenth century clearly facilitated the diffusion of knowledge that made the Industrial Revolution—and its necessary technological innovations and inventions—possible in the first place. Among the other facilitating technologies of the Industrial Revolution was James Hargreaves’s spinning jenny, a spinning frame with multiple spindles that vastly increased production volume in the textile industry. Combined with the flying shuttle, the spinning jenny took the textile industry into the next competitive era. James Watt’s late eighteenth-century steam engine changed most industries using mechanical power, especially transportation and agriculture, quite significantly. The previous costs of producing this mechanical power, no matter the application, were generally higher than the costs of heating water to steam, and thus enormous cost savings were realized and industrial and transportation projects became more feasible. All of these technologies of the Industrial Revolution made life easier for their innumerable users and facilitated much of the economic growth and societal advancement of the Industrial Revolution era.13 The Nature of Capital Demands in the Industrial Revolution Over the long term, the Industrial Revolution influenced investment by creating a surplus shared by many beyond those in the upper echelons of society.

See Standard & Poor’s 500 speculation: art, stamps, coins, and wine, 283; in derivatives, 221; excesses, 197; impacts of, 232; value and, 4–5 spinning jenny, 71 split-strike conversion, 151–52 sponsor, 286–87 Stabilizing an Unstable Economy (Minsky), 214 Stagecoach Corporate Stock Fund, 284–85 Standard & Poor’s 500 (S&P 500), 187, 228, 285, 305–6, 309 Stanford, Allen, 153–56 Stanford, Leland, 155 Stanford Financial Group, 154 Starbucks, 277 State Street Corporation, 299 State Street Global Advisors, 299 State Street Investment Trust, 141 statistical arbitrage, 267 steam engine, 71 steamships, 90 Stefanadis, Chris, 94 sterling, 65 stock company, 134 stock exchanges: national or international, 94; new, 96; regional, 94–95 stock market: dislocations, 205; in England, 86–87; in Paris, 85 stock ownership: age and, 93–94; direct and indirect, 91, 93; gender and, 93–94; regulations prohibiting too much, 123; study of, 96; in United States, 90–94, 97 stock ticker, 89–90; network, 95 stones (horoi), 27, 60 Strong, Benjamin, 200–203, 206, 226 strong-form efficiency, 249 Studebaker-Packard Corporation, 111 sub hasta (public auction), 50 subprime, 39 subprime-mortgage lending, 223 Suetonius, 59 sugar consumption, in England, 75, 77 Sumerian city-states, 15–16 supply curve, 229 Supreme Court, 108 survivorship bias, 252 swap spread, 266 Swensen, David, 296, 328 SWFs.


pages: 410 words: 114,005

Black Box Thinking: Why Most People Never Learn From Their Mistakes--But Some Do by Matthew Syed

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Airbus A320, Alfred Russel Wallace, Arthur Eddington, Atul Gawande, Black Swan, British Empire, call centre, Captain Sullenberger Hudson, Checklist Manifesto, cognitive bias, cognitive dissonance, conceptual framework, corporate governance, creative destruction, credit crunch, crew resource management, deliberate practice, double helix, epigenetics, fear of failure, fundamental attribution error, Henri Poincaré, hindsight bias, Isaac Newton, iterative process, James Dyson, James Hargreaves, James Watt: steam engine, Joseph Schumpeter, Lean Startup, mandatory minimum, meta analysis, meta-analysis, minimum viable product, publication bias, quantitative easing, randomized controlled trial, selection bias, Silicon Valley, six sigma, spinning jenny, Steve Jobs, the scientific method, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions, too big to fail, Toyota Production System, US Airways Flight 1549, Wall-E, Yom Kippur War

Amateurs and artisans, men of practical wisdom, motivated by practical problems, worked out how to build these machines, by trying, failing, and learning. They didn’t fully understand the theory underpinning their inventions. They couldn’t have talked through the science. But—like the Unilever biologists—they didn’t really need to.* And this is where the direction of causality can flip. Take the first steam engine for pumping water. This was built by Thomas Newcomen, a barely literate, provincial ironmonger and Baptist lay preacher, and developed further by James Watt. The understanding of both men was intuitive and practical. But the success of the engine raised a deep question: why does this incredible device actually work (it broke the then laws of physics)? This question inspired Nicolas Léonard Sadi Carnot, a French physicist, to develop the laws of thermodynamics. Trial and error inspired the technology, which in turn inspired the theory.

20 Years Later (documentary), 159 Scared Straight program, 150–54, 159–67 Campbell Corporation’s systematic review of, 164–65 Finnckenauer’s randomized control trial (RCT) of, 160, 162–64 Scheck, Barry, 67, 68, 70, 77, 78, 80, 82, 84, 85, 117 Schulz, Kathryn, 78–79, 81 Schumpeter, Joseph, 130 science, 41–45, 48 ancient Greeks and, 278–79 Bacon’s criticism of medieval, 279–80, 283 failure and, 266 history of, 277–82 Lysenko and, 108–10 method and mindset of, 51–52 scurvy, 56 second victim, 239 selection bias, 161–62 self-esteem, 74, 75–76, 82, 90, 97, 98, 101, 274 self-handicapping, 272–74 self-justification, 18, 87, 88–89, 90, 97–99 and Iraq War decisions, 92–93 Shapiro, Arnold, 153, 166 Shepherd-Barron, John, 196 Shirley, Michael, 69 Shoemaker, Paul, 102 Shoesmith, Sharon, 236, 239 signatures, 11, 18, 24, 52 Simeone, Diego, 274 Simons, Daniel, 117 Sims, Peter, 139–40, 144 Singer, Paul, 95 Skiles, Jeffrey, 38, 39 Slemmer, Mike, 138–40 soccer, 135–36, 253–55, 274–76, 289–90 social hierarchies, as inhibiting assertiveness, 28–29 Social Science and Medical Journal, 89 social tolerance, 285 social workers, 236–38, 239 social world, 283–87 Socrates, 278 software design, 138–40 South Korean ferry disaster, 12 Soyfer, Valery, 109 speed-eating, 187–88 Spelling Bees, 263 Speziale, Angelo, 165–67 sports, 132n, 135–36, 266, 289–90. See also cycling; Formula One; soccer Staker, Holly, 63, 64, 70, 82–83, 119, 120, 121 Stalin, Joseph, 109 Stanton, Andrew, 210, 212 steam engine, 132 Stern, Sam, 179 Stewart, William Glen, 240, 241–42, 243, 244, 245, 246, 247–49 stigmatization, 40, 97, 105 stock market, 101, 264 Stone, Jeff, 91 stroller, collapsible, 195, 199 structure of systems that learn from failure, 125–49 cumulative selection/adaptation and, 128–29, 130, 292 free markets systems and, 129–31, 284 guided missile approach of success and, 146 lean start-ups and, 141–45 narrative fallacy and, 135–38, 147–49 perfectionism, dangers of, 140–41 software design and, 138–40 technological change and, 131–35 testing and, 128–31 Unilever nozzle and, 125–26, 128, 129, 137, 147, 286 success, 7, 15, 19, 266–67 blind spot created by, 48 failure and, 39–40 Sullenberger, Chesley, 38, 39, 40–41 Sun, 236 Supreme Court, U.S., 84–85 surgery, 3–6, 15–16, 18 Swinmurn, Nick, 143 Syria, 92 systematic review, 164–65 system safety, 17, 18, 45 Taleb, Nassim Nicholas, 44–45, 133, 135 Tavris, Carol, 75, 93 Taylor, John, 95, 96 TD-Gammon, 134–35 Team Sky, 171–73, 179 technology/technological change, 19, 39, 131–35 bottom-up testing and learning and, 132–34 linear model of, 131–33 theory and, 133–34 Tellis, Gerard J., 205 temporal difference learning, 134–35 testing, 128–49 AIDS/HIV, strategies to combat, 147–49 lean start-ups and, 141–45 narrative fallacy as obstacle to, 135–38, 147–49 perfectionism, dangers of, 140–41 randomized control trials (RCTs) (See randomized control trials (RCTs)) of Scared Straight program efficacy, 160–65 software design and, 138–40 technological change and, 131–35 Tetlock, Philip, 99 theory, 133–34, 212 theory of relativity, 42, 133, 192, 195, 202 thermodynamics, laws of, 132 Think Like a Freak (Kobayashi), 187–88 Thomas, Dorothy, 201 Thompson, W.

Great Britain by David Else, Fionn Davenport

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active transport: walking or cycling, Albert Einstein, Beeching cuts, British Empire, call centre, car-free, carbon footprint, clean water, colonial rule, Columbine, congestion charging, credit crunch, David Attenborough, Etonian, food miles, glass ceiling, global village, haute cuisine, illegal immigration, Isaac Newton, James Watt: steam engine, land reform, Livingstone, I presume, Mahatma Gandhi, mass immigration, mega-rich, negative equity, new economy, North Sea oil, Northern Rock, offshore financial centre, period drama, place-making, Skype, Sloane Ranger, South of Market, San Francisco, Stephen Hawking, the market place, trade route, transatlantic slave trade, transatlantic slave trade, upwardly mobile, urban planning, urban renewal, urban sprawl, Winter of Discontent

He threatened to invade Britain and hinder the power of the British overseas, before his ambitions were curtailed by navy hero Viscount Horatio Nelson and military hero the Duke of Wellington at the famous Battles of Trafalgar (1805) and Waterloo (1815). Return to beginning of chapter THE INDUSTRIAL AGE While the Empire expanded abroad, at home Britain had become the crucible of the Industrial Revolution. Steam power (patented by James Watt in 1781) and steam trains (launched by George Stephenson in 1825) transformed methods of production and transport, and the towns of the English Midlands became the first industrial cities. This population shift in England was mirrored in Scotland. From about 1750 onwards, much of the Highlands region had been emptied of people, as landowners casually expelled entire farms and villages to make way for more-profitable sheep farming, a seminal event in Scotland’s history known as the Clearances (Click here).

Over the next few centuries Birmingham established itself in the field of industry, starting off with the wool trade in the 13th century, and becoming an important centre for the metal and iron industries from the 16th century onwards. It was also here that, in the mid-18th century, the pioneers of the Industrial Revolution formed the Lunar Society, which brought together geologists, chemists, scientists, engineers and theorists, including Erasmus Darwin, Matthew Boulton, James Watt, Joseph Priestly and Josiah Wedgwood, all of whom contributed to the ideas and vision of the times. By this time, Birmingham had become the largest town in Warwickshire, and the world’s first true industrial town, its population tripling by the end of the century. It had also become polluted, dirty and unsanitary. In the mid-1800s, under enlightened mayors such as Joseph Chamberlain (1836–1914), Birmingham became a trendsetter in civic regeneration, but WWII air raids and postwar town planning were later to give the city an unattractive face.

Return to beginning of chapter SIGHTS City Centre A walking tour Click here covers the main sights. Two buildings designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh – the Glasgow School of Art and the Scotland School Church – are also in this area (Click here). GEORGE SQUARE Glasgow’s main square is a grand public space, built in the Victorian era to show off the city’s wealth and dignified by statues of notable Glaswegians and famous Scots, including Robert Burns, James Watt, General Sir John Moore and, atop a column, Sir Walter Scott. Overlooking the east side is the City Chambers ( 0141-287 4018; George Sq; admission & tours free) – the seat of local government – built in the 1880s at the high point of the city’s prosperity. The interior is even more extravagant than the exterior, and the building has been used as a movie location, standing in for the Vatican (in Heavenly Pursuits) and the British Embassy in Moscow (in An Englishman Abroad).


pages: 566 words: 122,184

Code: The Hidden Language of Computer Hardware and Software by Charles Petzold

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Bill Gates: Altair 8800, Claude Shannon: information theory, computer age, Donald Knuth, Douglas Engelbart, Douglas Engelbart, Dynabook, Eratosthenes, Grace Hopper, invention of the telegraph, Isaac Newton, Jacquard loom, Jacquard loom, James Watt: steam engine, John von Neumann, Joseph-Marie Jacquard, Louis Daguerre, millennium bug, Norbert Wiener, optical character recognition, popular electronics, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, Richard Stallman, Silicon Valley, Steve Jobs, Turing machine, Turing test, Vannevar Bush, Von Neumann architecture

(A brief reality check: If you actually try to measure the resistance of a flashlight lightbulb with an ohmmeter, you'll get a reading much lower than 4 ohms. The resistance of tungsten is dependent upon its temperature, and the resistance gets higher as the bulb heats up.) As you may know, lightbulbs you buy for your home are labeled with a certain wattage. The watt is named after James Watt (1736–1819), who is best known for his work on the steam engine. The watt is a measurement of power (P) and can be calculated as P = E x I The 3 volts and 0.75 amp of our flashlight indicate that we're dealing with a 2.25-watt lightbulb. Your home might be lit by 100-watt lightbulbs. These are designed for the 120 volts of your home. Thus, the current that flows through them is equal to 100 watts divided by 120 volts, or about 0.83 ampere.


pages: 410 words: 119,823

Radical Technologies: The Design of Everyday Life by Adam Greenfield

3D printing, Airbnb, augmented reality, autonomous vehicles, bank run, barriers to entry, basic income, bitcoin, blockchain, business intelligence, business process, call centre, cellular automata, centralized clearinghouse, centre right, Chuck Templeton: OpenTable, cloud computing, collective bargaining, combinatorial explosion, Computer Numeric Control, computer vision, Conway's Game of Life, cryptocurrency, David Graeber, dematerialisation, digital map, distributed ledger, drone strike, Elon Musk, ethereum blockchain, facts on the ground, fiat currency, global supply chain, global village, Google Glasses, IBM and the Holocaust, industrial robot, informal economy, information retrieval, Internet of things, James Watt: steam engine, Jane Jacobs, Jeff Bezos, job automation, John Conway, John Markoff, John Maynard Keynes: Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren, John Maynard Keynes: technological unemployment, John von Neumann, joint-stock company, Kevin Kelly, Kickstarter, late capitalism, license plate recognition, lifelogging, M-Pesa, Mark Zuckerberg, means of production, megacity, megastructure, minimum viable product, money: store of value / unit of account / medium of exchange, natural language processing, Network effects, New Urbanism, Occupy movement, Oculus Rift, Pareto efficiency, pattern recognition, Pearl River Delta, performance metric, Peter Eisenman, Peter Thiel, planetary scale, Ponzi scheme, post scarcity, RAND corporation, recommendation engine, RFID, rolodex, Satoshi Nakamoto, self-driving car, sentiment analysis, shareholder value, sharing economy, Silicon Valley, smart cities, smart contracts, sorting algorithm, special economic zone, speech recognition, stakhanovite, statistical model, stem cell, technoutopianism, Tesla Model S, the built environment, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, The Future of Employment, transaction costs, Uber for X, universal basic income, urban planning, urban sprawl, Whole Earth Review, WikiLeaks, women in the workforce

The willingness on the part of manufacturers to alienate their own developer community is worrisome enough, because the members of that community have historically contributed technical innovations critical to the fabricator’s evolution, and there is every reason to suppose that they would have continued to do so indefinitely, if only they were able to in a way that comported with their values. But the withdrawal of innovation behind a scrim of intellectual property law once it has been consolidated is also a disturbing brake on development, because that law—precisely as it is intended to—keeps fabricator prices artificially high, and their supply constrained. Just as James Watt refused to license his steam engine, suppressing the development of that technology over the quarter century that elapsed between his first commercial model and the expiry of his patents in 1800, the evolution of digital fabrication has been hobbled by practices aimed at securing a remunerative monopoly.30 During the period that Stratasys enforced its patents, the practice of 3D printing went more or less nowhere.


pages: 796 words: 242,660

This Sceptred Isle by Christopher Lee

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agricultural Revolution, Berlin Wall, British Empire, colonial rule, Corn Laws, cuban missile crisis, Edward Lloyd's coffeehouse, failed state, financial independence, glass ceiling, half of the world's population has never made a phone call, James Hargreaves, James Watt: steam engine, Khartoum Gordon, Khyber Pass, mass immigration, Mikhail Gorbachev, Monroe Doctrine, new economy, Northern Rock, Ronald Reagan, sceptred isle, spice trade, spinning jenny, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, trade route, urban decay

In the first decade of the century, twenty-two new patents were registered. By the 1760s the figure was 205. By the last decade of the eighteenth century there would be more than 900 new inventions. In 1769 a one-time barber and wigmaker patented a machine that would make him a famous, rich, dark satanic mill-owner. His name was Richard Arkwright and his invention was a spinning frame powered by water. In the same year, James Watt patented his steam engine and Josiah Wedgwood opened another pottery. The Royal Academy had just been established and its first president, Joshua Reynolds, gave the first of his Fifteen Discourses, in which he claimed history painting to be the most noble form of art. Tobias Smollett left England for ever, William Smith, the founder of English geology, was born and, in the summer of 1769, the men of Hambledon were having a lean season on the cricket field.

And at the end of the eighteenth century there was a larger population to be taxed. The century began with a population of less than six million, but by the end of the century it was more than ten million. And by 1800 the National Debt, which had been about £19 million at the beginning of the century, was closer to £500 million. However there had been a 400 per cent increase in cotton output and a four-fold increase in coal mining; the steam engine was invented, the first canal opened and the first edition of The Times was printed. And it was the century of the Georges, the third of whom they said was insane. However, the momentous event at the end of the century was the Union of Great Britain with Ireland. It was more than a significant constitutional moment. Ireland and Britain joined together because Ireland was, to the British, fast becoming a failed State in rebellion.

And if the docks couldn’t work, then neither could the hauliers nor the markets. Thousands were laid off. The Poor Laws were supposed to help but, in many cases, they failed to do so – a reminder that this was a period when the advances of the age outstripped the social needs of the people. Many of those freezing London dockers would have started their working lives loading and unloading sailing ships. Now there were vessels with steam engines even though sail was by no means finished – the famous Cutty Sark wasn’t launched until 1869, the year the Suez Canal opened. (Sailing cargo ships were a common enough sight on the oceans.) The railways now criss-crossed the country and, as transport spread, so did suburbs of tightly packed housing, especially small houses, 20 per cent of which often contained two families. In industry, Joseph Whitworth had patented his standard sizes in threads and screws.


pages: 824 words: 268,880

Blue Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson

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anthropic principle, cognitive dissonance, Colonization of Mars, dark matter, epigenetics, gravity well, James Watt: steam engine, land tenure, new economy, phenotype, stem cell, the scientific method, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith

In fact Sax had always believed that the amplitude of emotional response exhibited in the people around him could be turned down a fair bit with no very great loss to humanity. Of course it wouldn’t work to try consciously to damp one’s emotions, that was repression, sublimation, with a resulting overpressure elsewhere. Curious how useful Freud’s steam-engine model of the mind remained, compression, venting, the entire apparatus, as if the brain had been designed by James Watt. But reductive models were useful, they were at the heart of science. And he had needed to blow off steam for a long time. So he and Desmond walked around Chernobyl, throwing rocks at it, laughing, talking in a halting rush and flow, not so much a conversation as a simultaneous transmission, as they were both absorbed by their own thoughts.

Astounding, really, that Michel could consider psychology any kind of science at all. So much of it consisted of throwing together. Of thinking of the mind as a steam engine, the mechanical analogy most ready to hand during the birth of modern psychology. People had always done that when they thought about the mind: clockwork for Descartes, geological changes for the early Victorians, computers or holography for the twentieth century, AIs for the twenty-first . . . and for the Freudian traditionalists, steam engines. Application of heat, pressure buildup, pressure displacement, venting, all shifted into repression, sublimation, the return of the repressed. Sax thought it unlikely steam engines were an adequate model for the human mind. The mind was more like— what?— an ecology— a fell-field— or else a jungle, populated by all manner of strange beasts.

Perhaps he had better talk about wave mechanics after all. He explained the groundswell, the cross chop, the negative and positive interference patterns that could result. But then he said, “Did you remember much about Earth, during the Underhill experiment?” “No.” “Ah.” This was probably some kind of repression, and exactly the opposite of the psychotherapeutic method that Michel would probably have recommended. But they were not steam engines. And some things were no doubt better forgotten. He would have to work on once again forgetting John’s death, for instance; also on remembering better those parts of his life when he had been most social, as during the years of work for Biotique in Burroughs. So that across the cockpit from him sat Counter-Ann, or that third woman she had mentioned— while he was, at least in part, Stephen Lindholm.

England by David Else

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active transport: walking or cycling, Albert Einstein, back-to-the-land, Berlin Wall, British Empire, call centre, car-free, carbon footprint, colonial rule, Columbine, congestion charging, David Attenborough, David Brooks, Etonian, food miles, glass ceiling, haute cuisine, Isaac Newton, James Watt: steam engine, Mahatma Gandhi, mass immigration, new economy, New Urbanism, out of africa, period drama, place-making, sceptred isle, Skype, Sloane Ranger, South of Market, San Francisco, Stephen Hawking, the market place, trade route, transatlantic slave trade, transatlantic slave trade, unbiased observer, upwardly mobile, urban planning, urban renewal, urban sprawl, Winter of Discontent

Meanwhile, the British Empire – which, despite its title, was predominantly an English entity – continued to grow in the Americas, as well as in Asia, while claims were made to Australia after James Cook’s epic voyage in 1768. Return to beginning of chapter THE INDUSTRIAL AGE While the Empire expanded abroad, at home Britain had become the crucible of the Industrial Revolution. Steam power (patented by James Watt in 1781) and steam trains (launched by George Stephenson in 1830) transformed methods of production and transport, and the towns of the English Midlands became the first industrial cities. The industrial growth led to Britain’s first major period of internal migration, as vast numbers of people from the countryside came to the cities in search of work. At the same time, medical advances improved life expectancy, creating a sharp population increase, so for many ordinary people the effects of Britain’s economic blossoming were dislocation and poverty.

Over the next few centuries Birmingham established itself in the field of industry, starting off with the wool trade in the 13th century, and becoming an important centre for the metal and iron industries from the 16th century onwards. It was also here that, in the mid-18th century, the pioneers of the Industrial Revolution formed the Lunar Society, which brought together geologists, chemists, scientists, engineers and theorists, including Erasmus Darwin, Matthew Boulton, James Watt, Joseph Priestly and Josiah Wedgwood, all of whom contributed to the ideas and vision of the times. By this time, Birmingham had become the largest town in Warwickshire, and the world’s first true industrial town, its population tripling by the end of the century. It had also become polluted, dirty and unsanitary. In the mid-1800s, under enlightened mayors such as Joseph Chamberlain (1836–1914), Birmingham became a trendsetter in civic regeneration, but WWII air raids and postwar town planning were later to give the city an unattractive face.

To help get your bearings, take the hugely entertaining free guided tour with any of the Tudor-garbed Beefeaters. Hour-long tours leave every 30 minutes from the Middle Tower; the last tour’s an hour before closing. TOWER BRIDGE London was still a thriving port in 1894 when elegant Tower Bridge was built. Designed to be raised to allow ships to pass, electricity has now taken over from the original steam engines. A lift leads up from the modern visitors’ facility in the northern tower to the Tower Bridge Exhibition (Map; 7403 3761; www.towerbridge.org.uk; adult/child £6/3; 10am-6.30pm Apr-Sep, 9.30am-6pm Oct-Mar; Tower Hill), where the story of its building is recounted with videos and animatronics. If you’re coming from the Tower, you’ll pass by Dead Man’s Hole, where corpses that had made their way into the Thames (through suicide, murder or ­accident) were regularly retrieved.


pages: 626 words: 181,434

I Am a Strange Loop by Douglas R. Hofstadter

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Albert Einstein, Andrew Wiles, Benoit Mandelbrot, Brownian motion, double helix, Douglas Hofstadter, Georg Cantor, Gödel, Escher, Bach, Isaac Newton, James Watt: steam engine, John Conway, John von Neumann, mandelbrot fractal, pattern recognition, Paul Erdős, place-making, probability theory / Blaise Pascal / Pierre de Fermat, publish or perish, random walk, Ronald Reagan, self-driving car, Silicon Valley, telepresence, Turing machine

If this all seems topsy-turvy, it certainly is — but it is nonetheless completely consistent with the fundamental causality of the laws of physics. CHAPTER 4 Loops, Goals, and Loopholes The First Flushes of Desire WHEN the first mechanical systems with feedback in them were designed, a set of radically new ideas began coming into focus for humanity. Among the earliest of such systems was James Watt’s steam-engine governor; subsequent ones, which are numberless, include the float-ball mechanism governing the refilling of a flush toilet, the technology inside a heat-seeking missile, and the thermostat. Since the flush toilet is probably the most familiar and the easiest to understand, let’s consider it for a moment. A flush toilet has a pipe that feeds water into the tank, and as the water level rises, it lifts a hollow float.

., on self-referential sentences skivaganzas slaughterhouse, tour of slavery sleazeball, as familiar but blurry pattern slider on wire determining identity sliding scale: of consciousness; of élan mental; of symbol repertoire slingshots slippery slope of teleological language slow vs. fast: controlling of bodies by brains; feeding of brains by perceptual systems; Sluggo, daydreaming about himself smallest uninteresting integer “small-souled men” small-souled vs. large-souled beings smiling like Hopalong Cassidy snippets of other people’s talk and inner worlds “snow”, elusiveness of concept “s0 + s0 = ss0” “soap digest rack” explained in Sanskrit “soap opera”: causality attached to the concept of; as deeply nested concept; as very real pattern soaring up to into the sky soaring up to into this guy soccer ball, as goal-seeker social hierarchies, position in, in self-symbol Socrates, as dialogue character software beings inside us soil of novels and of souls Solar System, vagueness of the notion solid-state physics Sommerfeld, Arnold “Song of Myself ” (Whitman) Sophie’s Choice soul: and ability to think; architecture of; as dot located on a line; as efficient shorthand; expressed on face; of flea; floating up into heaven; higher-level, forged in marriage; as illusion; lacking in animals, dogma of; lacking in women, dogma of; likened to butterfly swarms; living in brains of other souls; of mosquito; of mouse; as pattern; as region along a line; serial number of; sizes of; slow growth of; sudden extinction of; traditional immortality of; in Twinwirld; value of; as wispy aura soul merger: speculated about before Carol’s death; wedding ceremony as soular corona soular eclipse souledness: correlation with musical taste; degrees of; increasing with age; not limited to 100 hunekers soulless creatures souls: deep vs. shallow alignment of; hierarchy of values of soul-shards, survival of soul-soil sound transmission, predictability of soup can in cart, reliability of behavior of speaking in unison spectrum of mentalistic verbs speech, unpredictability of one’s own sperms Sperry, Roger splashtacular scuba specials splits in oneself (or in one self ) as suggesting presence of two or more selves spotting the gist spouse, death of, as trauma spying on dog in kennel via webcam squabbles among subselves for dominance in brain squares; sums of two squirting chemicals, in brain “ss0 + ss0 = sssss0”, as conceivable PM theorem stable volume of audio feedback Stanford Elementary School Stanford University Stanley (robot vehicle); claimed to be “thinking”; counterfactual version of; episodic memory of; episodic projectory of; episodic subjunctory of; hopes and fears of; irrelevance of location of computer; self-image of; supposedly having “algorithmic equivalent of self-awareness”; what is lacking for an “I” to exist in it Star Wars statistical mechanics statistical mentalics statistical robustness of coin flips steam-engine governor steering wheels, reliability of Stephen, the stoning of sticking a formula’s Gödel number inside the formula itself storytelling technique, efficacy of strange loop: as core of “I”-ness; definition of; enhanced by élan mental; essence of; existence of; flavorings of; Gödel’s discovery of; growth of; illusory, in Drawing Hands; lack of, in mosquito; less than one per neonate brain; as level-crossing feedback loop; many per brain; nonphysicality of; one per brain; one privileged one, per brain; as paradoxical; in Principia Mathematica; seeming lack of identity; of selfhood, as trap; small size, in dog; as soul-less; as ungraspably elusive; “vanilla”; various “sizes” of; and video feedback Strange Loops #641 and #642: dialogue between; names of; rift between strangeness (of loops), essence of strength of PM is its doom strings of symbols; edible vs. inedible strong force in physics stuff of consciousness; see also feelium, élan mental subjectless formula fragment by Gödel subjectless sentence fragments subjunctive replays of episodes subjunctory, see episodic subselves; see also “i” substrate of thought: improbability of a mind postulating it; invisibility of; irrelevance of details of subsymbolic frenzy, imperceptibility of subwoofers producing rumbles “suffer along with”, meaning of “compassion” suffrage inside brain, at desire level Sullivan, Maxine sunflowers as desire-possessing systems Super-PM, just as incomplete as PM super-prim numbers Suppes, Patrick C.


pages: 552 words: 168,518

MacroWikinomics: Rebooting Business and the World by Don Tapscott, Anthony D. Williams

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accounting loophole / creative accounting, airport security, Andrew Keen, augmented reality, Ayatollah Khomeini, barriers to entry, bioinformatics, Bretton Woods, business climate, business process, car-free, carbon footprint, citizen journalism, Clayton Christensen, clean water, Climategate, Climatic Research Unit, cloud computing, collaborative editing, collapse of Lehman Brothers, collateralized debt obligation, colonial rule, commoditize, corporate governance, corporate social responsibility, creative destruction, crowdsourcing, death of newspapers, demographic transition, distributed generation, don't be evil, en.wikipedia.org, energy security, energy transition, Exxon Valdez, failed state, fault tolerance, financial innovation, Galaxy Zoo, game design, global village, Google Earth, Hans Rosling, hive mind, Home mortgage interest deduction, interchangeable parts, Internet of things, invention of movable type, Isaac Newton, James Watt: steam engine, Jaron Lanier, jimmy wales, Joseph Schumpeter, Julian Assange, Kevin Kelly, knowledge economy, knowledge worker, Marc Andreessen, Marshall McLuhan, mass immigration, medical bankruptcy, megacity, mortgage tax deduction, Netflix Prize, new economy, Nicholas Carr, oil shock, old-boy network, online collectivism, open borders, open economy, pattern recognition, peer-to-peer lending, personalized medicine, Ray Kurzweil, RFID, ride hailing / ride sharing, Ronald Reagan, Rubik’s Cube, scientific mainstream, shareholder value, Silicon Valley, Skype, smart grid, smart meter, social graph, social web, software patent, Steve Jobs, text mining, the scientific method, The Wisdom of Crowds, transaction costs, transfer pricing, University of East Anglia, urban sprawl, value at risk, WikiLeaks, X Prize, young professional, Zipcar

Tackling climate change will not only require unprecedented transformations in our systems of commerce and industry, it will also require fundamental changes to our way of life. Luckily, we already have most of the necessary tools as well as the strongest motivating factor: the lack of alternatives. 6. WIKINOMICS MEETS THE GREEN ENERGY ECONOMY Humanity’s ability to transform raw materials into energy powered the rise of modern civilization and shaped the fortunes of nations throughout history. James Watt’s coal-fired steam engine was the spark that set off the industrial revolution in Britain and triggered a period of enormous technological, social, and economic transformation. Roughly a century later, the invention of electric power and lighting furthered the rise of industrial capitalism and helped sweep a youthful United States into international prominence. After all, electrified factories fueled by oil set the stage for mass production and the rise of large-scale business enterprises.

Nevertheless, many of their legacies remain with us today: the birth of modern nation-states; the expansion of political rights and freedoms; the rise of the university, the media, and the industrial corporation; and a Cambrian explosion of science, medicine, knowledge, and cultural expression. Clearly, the printing press can’t account for all of this. European imperialism, the assembly of large standing armies, and other powerful inventions such as the mariner’s compass, gunpowder, and the steam engine were influential in shaping the modern world. But it is equally true that one can’t begin to understand how today’s world came into existence without comprehending how a modest innovation in movable type helped broaden the distribution of power and knowledge in society. Thanks largely to the Internet we are crossing a similar chasm today. Long-standing monopolies and power imbalances are once again being challenged as more people from more regions of the world now connect, collaborate, and compete on the global stage.


pages: 768 words: 291,079

The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists by Robert Tressell

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Berlin Wall, British Empire, Corn Laws, cuban missile crisis, full employment, James Watt: steam engine, Khartoum Gordon, laissez-faire capitalism, Louis Pasteur, means of production, Murano, Venice glass, Thomas Malthus, union organizing, Upton Sinclair, upwardly mobile, wage slave, Winter of Discontent, women in the workforce

(p. 49). 277 half a dozen drapers’ shops: Blatchford repeatedly used the example of a street in which six privately employed milkmen deliver milk, but only one publicly employed postman delivers mail. 279 [Diagram]: Both the ‘Oblong’ and the diagram in ‘The Undeserving Persons’ (p. 148) are refinements of Blatchford’s diagram of social classes and their respective proportions of national income (Merrie England, p. 56). 282 block ornaments: small pieces of meat standing on display on butchers’ blocks or counters as advertisements (and so exposed to dirt, heat, and insects) and which would be sold cheaply at the end of the day. adulterated tea: the adulteration of tea had been banned by Act of Parlia- ment in 1725 and was reinforced by the Food and Drug Act of 1875. 286 Watt and Stevenson . . . already existing: James Watt (1736–1819) radically improved the steam engine design of Thomas Newcomen (1663–1729). Explanatory Notes George Stephenson (1781–1848), designer of ‘Rocket’, gained expertise in his field by taking apart steam engines made by both Newcomen and Watt. Richard Trevithick (1771–1833) was running steam engines as locomotives some years before Stephenson. Trevithick certainly died in great poverty, although Watt and Stephenson both died wealthy men. In his ironically entitled chapter ‘The Self-Made Man’ in Merrie England, Blatchford deals with the issue of invention as improvement dependent on anonymous forerunners. 287 the poor shall always be with us: ‘For ye have the poor with you always’ (Mark 14: 7). 295 the Man of Sorrows . . . to lay His head: ‘He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief ’ (Isaiah 53: 3); ‘Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man hath not where to lay His head’ (Luke 9: 58). 298 Jim Scalds . . . technical education: technical education was a long-term theme of British politics, gathering force from the 1860s and marked by a Parliamentary Select Committee on Scientific Education (1868), a Royal Commission on Technical Education (1882), and Technical Instruction Acts (1889 and 1891).

Most of the men who invented the machinery lived and died unknown in poverty and often in actual want. [The inventors too were robbed by the] exploiter-of-labour class. ‘There are no men living at present who can justly claim to have invented the machinery that exists today. The most they can truthfully say is that they have added to or improved upon the ideas of those who lived and worked before them. Even Watt and Stevenson merely improved upon steam engines and locomotives already existing.* Your question has really nothing to do with the subject we are discussing: we are only trying to find out why the majority of people have to go short of the benefits of civilisation. One of the causes is––the majority of the population are engaged in work that does not produce those things; and most of what is produced is appropriated and wasted by those who have no right to it. . . . .

The Dream Machine: J.C.R. Licklider and the Revolution That Made Computing Personal by M. Mitchell Waldrop

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Ada Lovelace, air freight, Alan Turing: On Computable Numbers, with an Application to the Entscheidungsproblem, Albert Einstein, anti-communist, Apple II, battle of ideas, Berlin Wall, Bill Duvall, Bill Gates: Altair 8800, Byte Shop, Claude Shannon: information theory, computer age, conceptual framework, cuban missile crisis, Donald Davies, double helix, Douglas Engelbart, Douglas Engelbart, Dynabook, experimental subject, fault tolerance, Frederick Winslow Taylor, friendly fire, From Mathematics to the Technologies of Life and Death, Haight Ashbury, Howard Rheingold, information retrieval, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, James Watt: steam engine, Jeff Rulifson, John von Neumann, Leonard Kleinrock, Marc Andreessen, Menlo Park, New Journalism, Norbert Wiener, packet switching, pink-collar, popular electronics, RAND corporation, RFC: Request For Comment, Robert Metcalfe, Silicon Valley, Steve Crocker, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Steven Levy, Stewart Brand, Ted Nelson, Turing machine, Turing test, Vannevar Bush, Von Neumann architecture, Wiener process, zero-sum game

The system automatically counteracts the changes in temperature, and the room stays pretty close to comfortable. In a world where no device is ever perfectly accurate or reliable, the two men recognized, some such self-correcting mechanism was essential for any kind of effective operation. And indeed, many specific examples of feedback mecha- nisms were already well known. In the late eighteenth century, for example, the Scottish inventor James Watt had equipped his new steam engine with a simple "governor" for safety: if the engine ever started going too fast, the governor de- vice would automatically cut back the power and force it to slow down. By 1868 such governor devices had become common enough that the Scottish physicist James Clerk Maxwell published a pathbreaking mathematical analysis of them. And of course, in Wiener and Bigelow's own fire-control system, the attacking aircraft's predicted trajectory was constantly being updated through feedback from its actual trajectory.

It was no coincidence that seventeenth-century philosophers such as Rene Descartes had described even plants and animals as organic clockwork mechanisms. Then, during the In- dustrial Revolution of the nineteenth century, the defining technology had been that of the steam engine, which was capable of converting vast amounts of energy and heat into work. And again it was no coincidence that scientists of that era had conceived of living organisms as biological heat engines, mechanisms that burned food to do useful physiological work. But now, said Wiener, in the twentieth century, we could perceive the begin- nings of a new revolution. Unlike clocks and steam engines, he argued, the emerging technologies of the modern age didn't just operate blindly, forging ahead without any reference to the world around them. Rather, they operated responsively, taking in information from their surroundings to guide their future actions.

"They already exist as thermostats, automatic gyrocompass ship-steering systems, self-propelled mis- siles-especially such as seek their target-anti-aircraft fire-control systems, auto- matically controlled oil-cracking stills, ultra-rapid computing machines, and the MISSOURI BOYS 23 like. . . . Scarcely a month passes but a new book appears on these so-called con- trol mechanisms, or servomechanisms, and the present age is as truly the age of servomechanisms as the nineteenth century was the age of the steam engine or the eighteenth century the age of the clock."11 By the same token, said Wiener, the dominant sciences of the past had largely been physical sciences, dealing with matter, energy, motion, and intensity. But the central sciences of the modern era would increasingly deal with systems-level issues such as communication, control, organization, and information-whether in "the animal or the machine," as he put it.


pages: 1,199 words: 384,780

The system of the world by Neal Stephenson

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bank run, British Empire, cellular automata, Edmond Halley, Fellow of the Royal Society, high net worth, Isaac Newton, James Watt: steam engine, joint-stock company, large denomination, place-making, the market place, trade route, transatlantic slave trade

Just as you have probably grown used to the presence of that Dome,” Daniel said, nodding down Fleet to St. Paul’s, and obliging Mr. Threader to turn around and rediscover it, “we might grow accustomed to multitudes of black slaves, or steam-engines, or both. I speculate that the character of England is more constant. And I flatter us by asserting, furthermore, that ingenuity is a more essential element of that character than cruelty. Steam-engines, being a product of the former virtue, are easier to reconcile with the English scene than slavery, which is a product of the latter vice. Accordingly, if I had money to bet, I’d bet it on steam-engines.” “But slaves work and steam-engines don’t!” “But slaves can stop working. Steam-engines, once Mr. Newcomen has got them going, can never stop, because unlike slaves, they do not have free will.” “But how is an ordinary investor to match your level of confidence, Dr.

Queen Anne has recently been forced to create a large number of such titles in order to pack the House of Lords with Tories, the party that she currently favors. Daniel has spent the twelve days of Christmas with Will’s family at his seat near Lostwithiel, and Will has talked him into making a small detour en route to London. Book 6 Solomon’s Gold Dartmoor 15 JANUARY 1714 In life there is nothing more foolish than inventing. —JAMES WATT “MEN HALF YOUR AGE and double your weight have been slain on these wastes by Extremity of Cold,” said the Earl of Lostwithiel, Lord Warden of the Stannaries, and Rider of the Forest and Chase of Dartmoor, to one of his two fellow-travelers. The wind had paused, as though Boreas had exhausted his lungs and was drawing in a new breath of air from somewhere above Iceland. So the young Earl was able to say this in matter-of-fact tones.

Newcomen to erect a frightful Engine; now that we have the Asiento, I need only send a ship southwards, and in a few weeks’ time I shall have all the slaves I need, to pump the water out by stepping on tread-mills, or, if I prefer, to suck it out through hollow straws and spit it into the sea.” “Englishmen are not used to seeing their mines and pastures crowded with Blackamoors toiling under the lash,” Daniel remarked. “Whereas, steam-engines are a familiar sight!?” asked Mr. Threader triumphantly. Daniel was overcome with tiredness and hunger, and leaned his head back with a sough, feeling that only a miracle could get him out of this conversation whole. At the same moment, they arrived at the Fleet Bridge. They turned right and began back-tracking westwards, since the driver had over-shot their destination. Daniel, who, as always, had a view out the rear window of the vehicle, was confronted suddenly by the astonishing sight of a colossal stone egg rising up out of the street less than half a mile away, reigning over the low buildings of London like a Khan over a million serfs.


pages: 859 words: 204,092

When China Rules the World: The End of the Western World and the Rise of the Middle Kingdom by Martin Jacques

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Admiral Zheng, Asian financial crisis, Berlin Wall, Bob Geldof, Bretton Woods, BRICs, British Empire, credit crunch, Dava Sobel, deindustrialization, Deng Xiaoping, deskilling, discovery of the americas, Doha Development Round, energy security, European colonialism, failed state, Fall of the Berlin Wall, Francis Fukuyama: the end of history, global reserve currency, global supply chain, illegal immigration, income per capita, invention of gunpowder, James Watt: steam engine, joint-stock company, Kenneth Rogoff, land reform, land tenure, Malacca Straits, Martin Wolf, Naomi Klein, new economy, New Urbanism, one-China policy, open economy, Pearl River Delta, pension reform, price stability, purchasing power parity, reserve currency, rising living standards, Ronald Reagan, Scramble for Africa, Silicon Valley, South China Sea, sovereign wealth fund, special drawing rights, special economic zone, spinning jenny, Spread Networks laid a new fibre optics cable between New York and Chicago, the scientific method, Thomas L Friedman, trade liberalization, urban planning, Washington Consensus, Westphalian system, Xiaogang Anhui farmers, zero-sum game

Even in technology, there appears to have been little to choose between Europe and China, and in some fields, like irrigation, textile weaving and dyeing, medicine and porcelain manufacture, the Europeans were behind. China had long used textile machines that differed in only one key detail from the spinning jenny and the flying shuttle which were to power Britain’s textile-led Industrial Revolution. China had long been familiar with the steam engine and had developed various versions of it; compared with James Watt’s subsequent invention, the piston needed to turn the wheel rather than the other way round.6 What is certainly true, however, is that once Britain embarked on its Industrial Revolution, investment in capital- and energy-intensive processes rapidly raised productivity levels and created a virtuous circle of technology, innovation and growth that was able to draw on an ever-growing body of science in which Britain enjoyed a significant lead over China.7 For China, in contrast, its ‘industrious revolution’ did not prove the prelude to an industrial revolution.


pages: 654 words: 204,260

A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson

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Albert Einstein, Albert Michelson, Alfred Russel Wallace, All science is either physics or stamp collecting, Arthur Eddington, Barry Marshall: ulcers, Brownian motion, California gold rush, Cepheid variable, clean water, Copley Medal, cosmological constant, dark matter, Dava Sobel, David Attenborough, double helix, Drosophila, Edmond Halley, Ernest Rutherford, Fellow of the Royal Society, Harvard Computers: women astronomers, Isaac Newton, James Watt: steam engine, John Harrison: Longitude, Kevin Kelly, Kuiper Belt, Louis Pasteur, luminiferous ether, Magellanic Cloud, Menlo Park, Murray Gell-Mann, out of africa, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, Stephen Hawking, supervolcano, Thomas Malthus, Wilhelm Olbers

Tiring of field and flock, in 1768 he moved to Edinburgh, where he founded a successful business producing sal ammoniac from coal soot, and busied himself with various scientific pursuits. Edinburgh at that time was a center of intellectual vigor, and Hutton luxuriated in its enriching possibilities. He became a leading member of a society called the Oyster Club, where he passed his evenings in the company of men such as the economist Adam Smith, the chemist Joseph Black, and the philosopher David Hume, as well as such occasional visiting sparks as Benjamin Franklin and James Watt. In the tradition of the day, Hutton took an interest in nearly everything, from mineralogy to metaphysics. He conducted experiments with chemicals, investigated methods of coal mining and canal building, toured salt mines, speculated on the mechanisms of heredity, collected fossils, and propounded theories on rain, the composition of air, and the laws of motion, among much else. But his particular interest was geology.

In 1875–78, Gibbs produced a series of papers, collectively titled On the Equilibrium of Heterogeneous Substances, that dazzlingly elucidated the thermodynamic principles of, well, nearly everything—“gases, mixtures, surfaces, solids, phase changes . . . chemical reactions, electrochemical cells, sedimentation, and osmosis,” to quote William H. Cropper. In essence what Gibbs did was show that thermodynamics didn't apply simply to heat and energy at the sort of large and noisy scale of the steam engine, but was also present and influential at the atomic level of chemical reactions. Gibbs's Equilibrium has been called “the Principia of thermodynamics,” but for reasons that defy speculation Gibbs chose to publish these landmark observations in the Transactions of the Connecticut Academy of Arts and Sciences, a journal that managed to be obscure even in Connecticut, which is why Planck did not hear of him until too late.


pages: 829 words: 186,976

The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail-But Some Don't by Nate Silver

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airport security, availability heuristic, Bayesian statistics, Benoit Mandelbrot, Berlin Wall, Bernie Madoff, big-box store, Black Swan, Broken windows theory, Carmen Reinhart, Claude Shannon: information theory, Climategate, Climatic Research Unit, cognitive dissonance, collapse of Lehman Brothers, collateralized debt obligation, complexity theory, computer age, correlation does not imply causation, Credit Default Swap, credit default swaps / collateralized debt obligations, cuban missile crisis, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, diversification, Donald Trump, Edmond Halley, Edward Lorenz: Chaos theory, en.wikipedia.org, equity premium, Eugene Fama: efficient market hypothesis, everywhere but in the productivity statistics, fear of failure, Fellow of the Royal Society, Freestyle chess, fudge factor, George Akerlof, haute cuisine, Henri Poincaré, high batting average, housing crisis, income per capita, index fund, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Internet Archive, invention of the printing press, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, James Watt: steam engine, John Nash: game theory, John von Neumann, Kenneth Rogoff, knowledge economy, locking in a profit, Loma Prieta earthquake, market bubble, Mikhail Gorbachev, Moneyball by Michael Lewis explains big data, Monroe Doctrine, mortgage debt, Nate Silver, negative equity, new economy, Norbert Wiener, PageRank, pattern recognition, pets.com, Pierre-Simon Laplace, prediction markets, Productivity paradox, random walk, Richard Thaler, Robert Shiller, Robert Shiller, Rodney Brooks, Ronald Reagan, Saturday Night Live, savings glut, security theater, short selling, Skype, statistical model, Steven Pinker, The Great Moderation, The Market for Lemons, the scientific method, The Signal and the Noise by Nate Silver, The Wisdom of Crowds, Thomas Bayes, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions, too big to fail, transaction costs, transfer pricing, University of East Anglia, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, wikimedia commons

I will start by buying the first beer for anybody on this list, and the first three for anybody who should have been, but isn’t. —Nate Silver Brooklyn, NY NOTES INTRODUCTION 1. The Industrial Revolution is variously described as starting anywhere from the mid-eighteenth to the early nineteenth centuries. I choose the year 1775 somewhat arbitrarily as it coincides with the invention of James Watt’s steam engine and because it is a nice round number. 2. Steven Pinker, The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined (New York: Viking, Kindle edition, 2011); locations 3279–3282. 3. Much of the manuscript production took place at monasteries. Belgium often had among the highest rates of manuscript production per capita because of its abundant monasteries. Relieved of their need to produce manuscripts, a few of these monasteries instead began to shift their focus to producing their wonderful Trappist beers.


pages: 695 words: 194,693

Money Changes Everything: How Finance Made Civilization Possible by William N. Goetzmann

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Albert Einstein, Andrei Shleifer, asset allocation, asset-backed security, banking crisis, Benoit Mandelbrot, Black Swan, Black-Scholes formula, Bretton Woods, Brownian motion, capital asset pricing model, Cass Sunstein, collective bargaining, colonial exploitation, compound rate of return, conceptual framework, corporate governance, Credit Default Swap, David Ricardo: comparative advantage, debt deflation, delayed gratification, Detroit bankruptcy, disintermediation, diversified portfolio, double entry bookkeeping, Edmond Halley, en.wikipedia.org, equity premium, financial independence, financial innovation, financial intermediation, fixed income, frictionless, frictionless market, full employment, high net worth, income inequality, index fund, invention of the steam engine, invention of writing, invisible hand, James Watt: steam engine, joint-stock company, joint-stock limited liability company, laissez-faire capitalism, Louis Bachelier, mandelbrot fractal, market bubble, means of production, money market fund, money: store of value / unit of account / medium of exchange, moral hazard, Myron Scholes, new economy, passive investing, Paul Lévy, Ponzi scheme, price stability, principal–agent problem, profit maximization, profit motive, quantitative trading / quantitative finance, random walk, Richard Thaler, Robert Shiller, Robert Shiller, shareholder value, short selling, South Sea Bubble, sovereign wealth fund, spice trade, stochastic process, the scientific method, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thomas Malthus, time value of money, too big to fail, trade liberalization, trade route, transatlantic slave trade, transatlantic slave trade, tulip mania, wage slave

For each one of these amazing technological developments, Needham and the other authors of Science and Civilization in China are able to point to some feature of Chinese science that could have led to a similar development. For example, Chinese hydraulic engineers created the world’s most extensive system of canals, and they were the world’s leaders in iron mining and metallurgy. They understood steam power. Why didn’t China develop the world’s first steam-powered rail system? Why were James Watt, Robert Fulton, and Alexander Graham Bell not Chinese? How could China have been so far ahead of the rest of the world technologically (and for that matter, as we have seen from this chapter—bureaucratically) and yet have stumbled on the eve of the greatest technical transformation in world history, the Industrial Revolution? One simple answer is chance. Watt, Fulton, and Bell were rare geniuses.

As will be discussed in Part III, the process to develop a system that rewards investment was a long and complex one and it took place principally in Europe. The most telling evidence is that the differential in financial development between China and the West preceded the differences in technological advancement. European financial markets did not suddenly spring up with the invention of the steam engine and the mechanization of manufacturing processes. By the time of the Industrial Revolution in Europe, commercial banks and organized securities exchanges had existed for at least two centuries. When nineteenth-century railway companies wanted to raise capital to lay track and build cars, they had access to a pre-existing widespread class of investors who were accustomed to paying good money for future promised cash flows—there was a demand for investment opportunity and the structural know-how to create products that met this demand.


Adaptive Markets: Financial Evolution at the Speed of Thought by Andrew W. Lo

Albert Einstein, Alfred Russel Wallace, algorithmic trading, Andrei Shleifer, Arthur Eddington, Asian financial crisis, asset allocation, asset-backed security, backtesting, bank run, barriers to entry, Berlin Wall, Bernie Madoff, bitcoin, Bonfire of the Vanities, bonus culture, break the buck, Brownian motion, business process, butterfly effect, capital asset pricing model, Captain Sullenberger Hudson, Carmen Reinhart, Chance favours the prepared mind, collapse of Lehman Brothers, collateralized debt obligation, commoditize, computerized trading, corporate governance, creative destruction, Credit Default Swap, credit default swaps / collateralized debt obligations, cryptocurrency, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, delayed gratification, Diane Coyle, diversification, diversified portfolio, double helix, easy for humans, difficult for computers, Ernest Rutherford, Eugene Fama: efficient market hypothesis, experimental economics, experimental subject, Fall of the Berlin Wall, financial deregulation, financial innovation, financial intermediation, fixed income, Flash crash, Fractional reserve banking, framing effect, Gordon Gekko, greed is good, Hans Rosling, Henri Poincaré, high net worth, housing crisis, incomplete markets, index fund, interest rate derivative, invention of the telegraph, Isaac Newton, James Watt: steam engine, job satisfaction, John Maynard Keynes: Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren, John Meriwether, Joseph Schumpeter, Kenneth Rogoff, London Interbank Offered Rate, Long Term Capital Management, loss aversion, Louis Pasteur, mandelbrot fractal, margin call, Mark Zuckerberg, market fundamentalism, martingale, merger arbitrage, meta analysis, meta-analysis, Milgram experiment, money market fund, moral hazard, Myron Scholes, Nick Leeson, old-boy network, out of africa, p-value, paper trading, passive investing, Paul Lévy, Paul Samuelson, Ponzi scheme, predatory finance, prediction markets, price discovery process, profit maximization, profit motive, quantitative hedge fund, quantitative trading / quantitative finance, RAND corporation, random walk, randomized controlled trial, Renaissance Technologies, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman: Challenger O-ring, risk tolerance, Robert Shiller, Robert Shiller, short selling, sovereign wealth fund, statistical arbitrage, Steven Pinker, stochastic process, survivorship bias, The Great Moderation, the scientific method, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, The Wisdom of Crowds, theory of mind, Thomas Malthus, Thorstein Veblen, Tobin tax, too big to fail, transaction costs, Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, ultimatum game, Upton Sinclair, US Airways Flight 1549, Walter Mischel, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, WikiLeaks, Yogi Berra, zero-sum game

A chance discovery led some cultures to switch from stone tools to metal tools—but as Louis Pasteur once said, chance favors the prepared mind. Writing, literacy, the printing press: these inventions allowed ideas to flow to millions of different mental environments. Each person became a test-bed for the usefulness of an idea. At the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, there may have been only a few thousand people who really understood the usefulness of James Watt’s steam engine. Today, there are millions of people who regularly think about how to improve technology, who communicate and compete with each other. With ideas at work in so many active minds and different mental environments, it’s no wonder why modern technological progress shows no signs of stopping. Not all ideas stand the test of time, of course. The history of ideas is fi lled with evolutionary cul-de-sacs and dead ends.