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

"Robert Solow", 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, James Hargreaves, James Watt: steam engine, John Harrison: Longitude, Joseph Schumpeter, Joseph-Marie Jacquard, knowledge economy, moral hazard, Network effects, Panopticon Jeremy Bentham, 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: 653 words: 155,847

Energy: A Human History by Richard Rhodes

Albert Einstein, animal electricity, California gold rush, Cesare Marchetti: Marchetti’s constant, Copley Medal, dark matter, David Ricardo: comparative advantage, decarbonisation, demographic transition, Dmitri Mendeleev, Drosophila, Edmond Halley, energy transition, Ernest Rutherford, Fellow of the Royal Society, flex fuel, income inequality, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), invention of the steam engine, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, James Watt: steam engine, joint-stock company, Menlo Park, Mikhail Gorbachev, new economy, nuclear winter, oil rush, oil shale / tar sands, oil shock, peak oil, Ralph Nader, Richard Feynman, Ronald Reagan, selection bias, Simon Kuznets, The Rise and Fall of American Growth, Thomas Malthus, Thorstein Veblen, uranium enrichment, urban renewal, Vanguard fund, working poor, young professional

He gave up the idea of building a full-sized engine based on the model, he says, because he understood that people would object to it for the same reasons they had objected to Savery’s engine: “The danger of bursting the boiler, and the difficulty of making the joints tight, and also that a great part of the power of the steam would be lost” because the piston had to work against atmospheric pressure to return to its starting position.17 Robison’s efforts to invent a steam-powered road vehicle had encouraged Watt to explore the possibilities of steam. He had almost immediately begun modeling a steam engine that worked with high pressure rather than indirectly by condensing steam to create a vacuum as the Newcomen engine did. High-pressure steam carried more energy per unit volume than did steam at atmospheric pressure, which meant a high-pressure engine could be smaller—small enough to mount on wheels. Though Watt never built one at full size, he would specify his “species of steam engine” in two patent applications several decades later, one of which included “a mode of applying it to the moving of wheel carriages.”18 The demands of his business forced him to set aside this early effort of invention, but by 1763, James Watt had learned enough about existing steam engines to understand something of how they worked.19 That winter, Anderson asked Watt to repair the model Newcomen engine that the university had purchased from Sisson in 1760.

., 108–9 (tran. ed.). 28. Landgrave fountain project: Sigvard Strandh, A History of the Machine (New York: A&W, 1979), 115. 29. Quoted in Valenti, “Leibniz, Papin, and the Steam Engine,” 10. 30. Ibid. 31. Papin, “A New Method of Obtaining,” in Muirhead, The Life of James Watt, 106. 32. Quoted in Valenti, “Leibniz, Papin, and the Steam Engine,” 10. 33. Papin’s book: Recueil de diverses Pieces touchant quelques nouvelles Machines, &c. Par Mr. D. Papin, Dr. en., Med. &c. A Cassel, 1695. 34. Papin’s book reviewed: Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London 19 (1695–1697): 481. 35. Papin superheating steam: Valenti, “Leibniz, Papin, and the Steam Engine,” 11. 36. 14 June 1699: Thomas Savery, The Miner’s Friend; or, An Engine to Raise Water by Fire, Described. And of the Manner of Fixing It in Mines; With an Account of the Several Other Uses It is Applicable Unto; and an Answer to the Objections Made Against It (London: S.

He and his partners dismantled it (the landowner claimed they stole it) for the wood in a time when wood had become scarce around London. They carted it across the Thames River to build the larger Globe Theatre in naughty Southwark, next door to a bear-baiting arena. A Frenchman, Denis Papin, concerned with feeding the poor, whose invention of the pressure cooker prepared the way for the steam engine. James Watt, of course, the Scotsman who gave us the steam engine itself, but also Thomas Newcomen before him, whose great galumphing atmospheric steam machine preceded Watt’s elegant elaboration. I visited a replica Newcomen engine in England on one of the few days a year when its keepers fire it up. It was the size of a house and a champion coal hog. (Coal isn’t cheap anymore, which is why they seldom fire it up.) I shoveled a scoopful of coal into the firebox and talked with the retired engineer who ran it.


pages: 229 words: 71,872

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

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

Albert Einstein, Andy Kessler, animal electricity, 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, James Hargreaves, James Watt: steam engine, John von Neumann, joint-stock company, joint-stock limited liability company, Joseph-Marie Jacquard, Kickstarter, Leonard Kleinrock, Marc Andreessen, Maui Hawaii, Menlo Park, Metcalfe's law, Metcalfe’s law, Mitch Kapor, 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, tulip mania, Turing machine, Turing test, undersea cable, 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

"Robert Solow", accounting loophole / creative accounting, agricultural Revolution, barriers to entry, business cycle, 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: 449 words: 129,511

The Perfectionists: How Precision Engineers Created the Modern World by Simon Winchester

Albert Einstein, British Empire, business climate, Dava Sobel, discovery of the americas, Etonian, Fellow of the Royal Society, interchangeable parts, Isaac Newton, Jacques de Vaucanson, James Watt: steam engine, John Harrison: Longitude, lateral thinking, lone genius, means of production, planetary scale, Richard Feynman, Ronald Reagan, Silicon Valley, Skype, trade route, William Shockley: the traitorous eight

It is notable that his handsome society portrait has for decades hung not in prominence in London or Cumbria, where he was born in 1728, but in a quiet gallery in a museum far away in Berlin, along with four other Gainsboroughs, one of them a study of a bulldog. The distance suggests a certain lack of yearning for him back in his native England. And the New Testament remark about a prophet being without honor in his own country would seem to apply in his case, as Wilkinson is today rather little remembered. He is overshadowed quite comprehensively by his much-better-known colleague and customer, the Scotsman James Watt, whose early steam engines came into being, essentially, by way of John Wilkinson’s exceptional technical skills. History will show that the story of such engines, which were so central to the mechanics of the following century’s Industrial Revolution, is inextricably entwined with that of the manufacture of cannons, and not simply because both men used components made from heavy hunks of iron. A further link can be made, between the thus gun-connected Wilkinson and Watt on the one hand and the clockmaker John Harrison on the other, as it will be remembered that Harrison’s early sea clock trials were made on Royal Naval warships of the day, warships that carried cannon in large numbers.

Yet what elevates Wilkinson’s new method to the status of a world-changing invention, and Bersham’s consequent elevation from the local to the world stage, would come the following year, 1775, when he started to do serious business with James Watt. He would then marry his new cannon-making technique, though this time without a brand-new patent, incautiously, with the invention that Watt was just then in the throes of completing, the invention that would ensure that the Industrial Revolution and much else besides and beyond were powered by the cleverly harnessed power of steam. The principle of a steam engine is familiar, and is based on the simple physical fact that when liquid water is heated to its boiling point it becomes a gas. Because the gas occupies some 1,700 times greater volume than the original water, it can be made to perform work.

This downstroke could then lift the far end of the rocker beam and, in doing so, perform real work. The beam could lift floodwater, say, out of a waterlogged tin mine. Thus was born a very rudimentary kind of steam engine, almost useless for any application beyond pumping water, but given that early eighteenth-century England was awash with shallow mines that were themselves awash with water, the mechanism proved popular and useful to the colliery community. The Newcomen engine and its like remained in production for more than seventy years, its popularity beginning to lessen only in the mid-1760s, when James Watt, who was then employed making and repairing scientific instruments six hundred miles away at the University of Glasgow, studied a model of its workings closely and decided, in a series of moments of the purest genius, that it could be markedly improved.


pages: 782 words: 245,875

The Power Makers by Maury Klein

Albert Einstein, Albert Michelson, animal electricity, 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: 510 words: 163,449

How the Scots Invented the Modern World: The True Story of How Western Europe's Poorest Nation Created Our World and Everything in It by Arthur Herman

British Empire, California gold rush, creative destruction, do-ocracy, financial independence, global village, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, James Watt: steam engine, Joan Didion, joint-stock company, laissez-faire capitalism, land tenure, mass immigration, means of production, new economy, New Urbanism, North Sea oil, oil shale / tar sands, Republic of Letters, Robert Mercer, spinning jenny, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, transcontinental railway, trickle-down economics, urban planning, urban renewal, working poor

“I was thinking upon the engine at the time,” he wrote later, “when the idea came into my mind that as steam was an elastic body it would rush into a vacuum, and if a communication were made between the cylinder and an exhausted vessel it would rush into it, and might be there condensed without cooling the cylinder. . . . I had not walked farther than the golf-house when the whole thing was arranged in my mind.” Contrary to myth, James Watt did not invent the steam engine. Two Englishmen, Newcomen and Thomas Savery, did that. What Watt did was typically Scottish: he perfected something created by someone else, and gave it a higher and wider application than its original inventor had imagined. Watt applied to the steam engine the idea of separate condensation, which allowed it to generate a constant motion, which, in 1781, Watt turned into a rotary motion. He had created the work engine of the Industrial Revolution. Commercial society was about to turn into industrial society, with technology as its driving force.

But just as in these other cases, the version of technology we live with most closely resembles the one that Scots such as James Watt organized and perfected. It rests on certain basic principles that the Scottish Enlightenment enshrined: common sense, experience as our best source of knowledge, and arriving at scientific laws by testing general hypotheses through individual experiment and trial and error. Science and technology give civilization its dynamic movement, like the ceaselessly moving pistons of Watt’s steam engine. To the Scots, they were the key to modern life, just as they are for us. A rapid succession of Scottish inventors, engineers, doctors, and scientists proved their point to the rest of the world. James Watt, for example, grew up in Greenock, with no formal education, but surrounded by the paraphernalia of seagoing Glasgow, since his father supplied nautical equipment to local shipbuilders.

Table of Contents Title Page Prologue Preface PART ONE - Epiphany CHAPTER ONE - The New Jerusalem I II CHAPTER TWO - A Trap of Their Own Making I II CHAPTER THREE - The Proper Study of Mankind I I II CHAPTER FOUR - The Proper Study of Mankind II I II III CHAPTER FIVE - A Land Divided I II CHAPTER SIX - Last Stand I II III CHAPTER SEVEN - Profitable Ventures I II III CHAPTER EIGHT - A Select Society: Adam Smith and His Friends I II III PART TWO - Diaspora CHAPTER NINE - “That Great Design”: Scots in America I II III IV CHAPTER TEN - Light from the North: Scots, Liberals, and Reform I II CHAPTER ELEVEN - The Last Minstrel: Sir Walter Scott and the Highland Revival I II III CHAPTER TWELVE - Practical Matters: Scots in Science and Industry I II III CHAPTER THIRTEEN - The Sun Never Sets: Scots and the British Empire I II III III CHAPTER FOURTEEN - Self-Made Men: Scots in the United States I II III IV Conclusion Sources and Guide for Further Reading Acknowledgments Copyright Page Preface People of Scottish descent are usually proud about their history and achievements. Yet even they know only the half of it. They can recite many names and details in the familiar story of their people. “Braveheart” William Wallace and Robert the Bruce; the Arbroath Declaration and Mary Queen of Scots; Robert Burns and Bonnie Prince Charlie. They point out how James Watt invented the steam engine, John Boyd Dunlop the bicycle tire, and Alexander Fleming penicillin. Yet no one else seems to pay much attention. Scots often complain that Scotland’s place among nations deserves more exposure than it gets. But their complaints have an ironic, rather than a beseeching, tone. They seem to take a perverse pride in being so consistently underestimated. The point of this book is that being Scottish is more than just a matter of nationality or place of origin or clan or even culture.


pages: 520 words: 129,887

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

addicted to oil, 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, WikiLeaks

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

Andy Kessler, Apple II, bioinformatics, Bob Noyce, British Empire, business intelligence, buy and hold, 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, Mitch Kapor, 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: 382 words: 105,166

The Reckoning: Financial Accountability and the Rise and Fall of Nations by Jacob Soll

accounting loophole / creative accounting, bank run, Bonfire of the Vanities, British Empire, collapse of Lehman Brothers, computer age, corporate governance, creative destruction, Credit Default Swap, delayed gratification, demand response, discounted cash flows, double entry bookkeeping, financial independence, Frederick Winslow Taylor, God and Mammon, High speed trading, Honoré de Balzac, inventory management, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, James Watt: steam engine, joint-stock company, Joseph Schumpeter, new economy, New Urbanism, Nick Leeson, Ponzi scheme, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Scientific racism, South Sea Bubble, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thomas Malthus, too big to fail, trade route

The techniques of cost accounting, which would seem obvious today, were consistently overlooked. Although companies did do periodic accounts for distinct elements of their factories (materials, labor, production machines, cash, payments, share payments, profit and loss), few ever did general, overall audits.14 Yet the leaders of industry knew that their wealth sat on the foundations of accurate accounting. James Watt (1736–1819), scientist, inventor of the steam engine, and Scottish Presbyterian, was deeply aware of the importance of accounting in his various enterprises and factories. As a young apprentice, Watt had borrowed money from his father, and to repay the debt—and to show his father his progress—every day, after working more than twelve hours, he still found time to keep good double-entry books.15 Watt’s partner, Matthew Boulton (1728–1809), saw the lab, factory, and account books as part of the machinery of industry.

Yet harsh reality appeared even in the successful factories of Burslem. The effects of industrial pollution on Wedgwood’s workers and their families made him wonder why science had not brought more human improvement. As war and violent revolution gripped Europe, tuberculosis ravaged Wedgwood’s and other industrial families. Joseph Priestley’s and James Watt’s daughters both suffered from it, and the lead and coal of the Wedgwood factory damaged the lungs of Josiah’s son Tom. In his later years, James Watt wrote, “Nothing now remains, as I can find it [money] can neither bring health nor happiness.” With his constant faith in science, Wedgwood spent money on research to cure these diseases, but his heart was more in profit and industry than in medical progress and human well-being.32 The horrors of industry inspired Romantic poets like William Wordsworth to lament that industry was England’s “bane” and had spread darkness “O’er hill and vale.”

Quotations are in the same volume, from Wedgwood to Bentley, October 1, 1769, 1:297; Wedgwood to Bentley, September 3, 1770, 1:375; Wedgwood to John Wedgwood, June 4, 1766, 1:87; Wedgwood to his brother, John Wedgwood, March 1765, 1:39. Also see Sidney Pollard, The Genesis of Modern Management: A Study of the Industrial Revolution in Great Britain (London: Edward Arnold, 1965), 211. 12. Yamey, Art and Accounting, 36. 13. Pollard, The Genesis of Modern Management, 210. 14. Ibid., 222–223. 15. James Watt Papers, James Watt to his father, July 21, 1755, MS 4/11 letters to father, 1754–1774, Birmingham City Library. 16. A. E. Musson and Eric Robinson, Science and Technology in the Industrial Revolution (Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 1969), 210–211; Pollard, The Genesis of Modern Management, 214, 229, 231. 17. Quotation from Josiah Wedgwood to Thomas Bentley, August 2, 1770, in Wedgwood, Correspondence, 1:357.


pages: 483 words: 134,377

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

"Robert Solow", 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, WikiLeaks, 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.


The Ages of Globalization by Jeffrey D. Sachs

Admiral Zheng, British Empire, Cape to Cairo, colonial rule, Columbian Exchange, Commentariolus, coronavirus, COVID-19, Covid-19, cuban missile crisis, decarbonisation, demographic transition, Deng Xiaoping, domestication of the camel, Donald Trump, en.wikipedia.org, endogenous growth, European colonialism, global supply chain, greed is good, income per capita, invention of agriculture, invention of gunpowder, invention of movable type, invention of the steam engine, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, James Watt: steam engine, job automation, John von Neumann, joint-stock company, Louis Pasteur, low skilled workers, mass immigration, Nikolai Kondratiev, out of africa, packet switching, Pax Mongolica, precision agriculture, profit maximization, profit motive, purchasing power parity, South China Sea, spinning jenny, The inhabitant of London could order by telephone, sipping his morning tea in bed, the various products of the whole earth, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, trade route, transatlantic slave trade, Turing machine, Turing test, urban planning, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, wikimedia commons

Yet in historical significance, the fourth event of 1776 is probably the most significant. This is the year when the inventor James Watt successfully commercialized his new steam engine. We have discussed many pivotal inventions throughout history: agriculture, animal domestication, the alphabet, gunpowder, the printing press, ocean navigation, and others. Yet with the possible exception of Gutenberg’s printing press, it is very hard to think of an invention by a single inventor as consequential as Watt’s steam engine (figure 7.1). The steam engine gave birth to the Industrial Age and the modern economy. While the steam engine is not solely responsible for economic modernity, without the steam engine most of the other technological breakthroughs of the past two centuries would not have been possible.2 7.1 James Watt’s Steam Engine, c. 1776 Source: Wikimedia Commons contributors, “File:Maquina vapor Watt ETSIIM.jpg,” Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?

7 In the course of the twenty-first century, global employment will continue to shift relentlessly to the service economy as machines increasingly take over the tasks of agriculture, mining, construction, and manufacturing. 1.4 Estimate of Employment Shares by Major Sector in the Seven Ages of Globalization The Interplay of Geography, Technology, and Institutions The economic system of any time and place rests on three foundations: geography, technology, and institutions. The three are, of course, mutually dependent. Consider the coal-burning steam engine, the most important invention of the Industrial Age. The steam engine offered a brilliant new way to create motive force in factories and transport, leading to industrialization and eventually to a vast increase in productivity and living standards (while displacing and even impoverishing many people in the short term). The invention of the steam engine in eighteenth-century Britain depended on geography—specifically, the presence of coal in England that could be mined and transported at low cost. Its invention and deployment also depended on Britain’s economic institutions. The inventor of the modern steam engine, James Watt, was out to make a profit, and he expected to do so in part because Britain offered legal protection for intellectual ideas and a market to sell the product.

Newcomen’s engine was deployed to pump water out of coal mines, but it was not very efficient. It required an enormous input of energy and was not economical to use for other applications. In the 1760s, James Watt, employed in a workshop at the University of Glasgow in Scotland making scientific instruments, began thinking about how to make Newcomen’s steam engine more efficient. Brilliantly, Watt made two great innovations to Newcomen’s engine. One involved the translation of the steam energy into motion. Rather than the alternating beam that Newcomen had used, Watt introduced rotary motion into a steam engine. Watt’s second change was even more revolutionary: the addition of a separate condenser. Newcomen’s steam engine involved heating and then cooling the boiler to create the alternation of hot and cold temperatures to create and condense steam. This wasted a tremendous amount of heat energy, meaning that Newcomen’s engine required a tremendous amount of coal, at high expense, to operate.


pages: 927 words: 216,549

Empire of Guns by Priya Satia

banking crisis, British Empire, business intelligence, Corn Laws, deindustrialization, delayed gratification, European colonialism, Fellow of the Royal Society, hiring and firing, interchangeable parts, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, James Watt: steam engine, joint-stock company, Khyber Pass, Menlo Park, Panopticon Jeremy Bentham, rent-seeking, Scramble for Africa, Silicon Valley, spinning jenny, the scientific method, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thomas Malthus, transatlantic slave trade, zero-sum game

Meanwhile, Wilkinson devised a cylinder lathe based on his cannon lathe, and it alone could accurately bore the cylinders for James Watt’s steam engines: its importance to Watt’s experiments “cannot be exaggerated.” Wilkinson was already the iron supplier for the Boulton & Watt steam engine enterprise. In typical Birmingham style, Boulton, another government contractor (on which more below), was applying the lessons of button manufacture to steam engine manufacture. Wilkinson was also one of the earliest purchasers of Boulton & Watt engines, which he used to raise water from mine shafts. He was the first to purchase their blowing engine, to blow an iron furnace at his works in Broseley, buying four more in a year. He partnered in the steam engine business: he made the main engine parts—cylinder, condenser, and piston—at his ironworks, and Soho took on the more complicated parts.

He helped fund his former Warrington Academy teacher Joseph Priestley’s experiments with air, and in 1795 (the year of the scandal around him in the Quaker church) he was a trustee for James Watt for the Soho Foundry’s investments in the manufacture of steam engines. His father and siblings lent Boulton money on a mortgage on Boulton’s shares in the Birmingham Canal Navigation Company. He and Boulton colluded to control canal construction in the city, one of the sticking issues being that competitors were not going to use Boulton’s engines. They also worked together to create an assay office in town. Both invested in the Rose Copper Company, in Swansea, in 1802. Galton Jr. assisted Boulton and Watt in steam engine orders and other business matters. The wealth acquired from gunmaking had far-flung and important repercussions in the industrial and commercial economy.

There he built a wooden Panopticon to manage thousands of unskilled workers operating machinery. Samuel also set the manufacture of navy biscuits on a production-line basis. Maudslay’s factory at Lambeth set new standards of precision engineering using lathes but also made steam engines; he sold one to the Woolwich Arsenal in 1809. Boulton puzzled over: P. Jones, Industrial Enlightenment, 89. In 1775, the Society: Aris’s Birmingham Gazette, December 25, 1775, 3. This is the primary: Mathias, The Transformation of England, 65–66, 82–83. This community also: See, for instance, BCA: MS3782/12/27/102: SGII to Matthew Boulton (and James Watt), [1782]. “culture of apartness”: P. Jones, Industrial Enlightenment, 187–88. a range of devices: Pearson, The Life, Letters and Labours of Francis Galton, 1:43–44, 47. He collected information: Uglow, The Lunar Men, 352.


pages: 626 words: 167,836

The Technology Trap: Capital, Labor, and Power in the Age of Automation by Carl Benedikt Frey

"Robert Solow", 3D printing, autonomous vehicles, basic income, Bernie Sanders, Branko Milanovic, British Empire, business cycle, business process, call centre, Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty, Clayton Christensen, collective bargaining, computer age, computer vision, Corn Laws, creative destruction, David Graeber, David Ricardo: comparative advantage, deindustrialization, demographic transition, desegregation, deskilling, Donald Trump, easy for humans, difficult for computers, Edward Glaeser, Elon Musk, Erik Brynjolfsson, everywhere but in the productivity statistics, factory automation, falling living standards, first square of the chessboard / second half of the chessboard, Ford paid five dollars a day, Frank Levy and Richard Murnane: The New Division of Labor, full employment, future of work, game design, Gini coefficient, Hyperloop, income inequality, income per capita, industrial cluster, industrial robot, intangible asset, interchangeable parts, Internet of things, invention of agriculture, invention of movable type, invention of the steam engine, invention of the wheel, Isaac Newton, James Hargreaves, James Watt: steam engine, job automation, job satisfaction, job-hopping, John Maynard Keynes: Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren, John Maynard Keynes: technological unemployment, Joseph Schumpeter, Kickstarter, knowledge economy, knowledge worker, labor-force participation, labour mobility, Loebner Prize, low skilled workers, Malcom McLean invented shipping containers, manufacturing employment, mass immigration, means of production, Menlo Park, minimum wage unemployment, natural language processing, new economy, New Urbanism, Norbert Wiener, oil shock, On the Economy of Machinery and Manufactures, Pareto efficiency, pattern recognition, pink-collar, Productivity paradox, profit maximization, Renaissance Technologies, rent-seeking, rising living standards, Robert Gordon, robot derives from the Czech word robota Czech, meaning slave, Second Machine Age, secular stagnation, self-driving car, Silicon Valley, Simon Kuznets, social intelligence, speech recognition, spinning jenny, Stephen Hawking, The Future of Employment, The Rise and Fall of American Growth, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thomas Malthus, total factor productivity, trade route, Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, Turing test, union organizing, universal basic income, washing machines reduced drudgery, wealth creators, women in the workforce, working poor, zero-sum game

Steam power became economically viable only with James Watt’s separate condensation chamber, which allowed condensation to take place without much loss of heat from the cylinder.21 However, it took several decades for the Watt engine to become viable and required a partnership with Matthew Boulton for financial backing. Watt’s steam engine was first used in 1784 in the Albion Flour Mill, in which the Boulton & Watt company had invested for promotional purposes. One year later, it was applied in cotton production and gradually spread to woollen spinning mills, sawmills, malt mills for breweries, pottery manufacturing, food processing, sugarcane mills, and iron and coal mining. Still, the immediate macroeconomic impacts of steam power were fairly limited. Calculating the so-called social savings of the steam engine, comparing it to the next best technology, the economic historian G.

.… But if a person had predicted these discoveries without being guided by any analogies or indications from past facts, he would deserve the name of seer or prophet, but not of philosopher.”48 Many of the technologies discussed here are still prototypes, but their arrival in the marketplace is not unforeseeable, and while they are still imperfect, every technological revolution began with imperfect technology. The early steam engines were used only to drain mines, and they did not even do that particularly well. Yet Thomas Savory, Thomas Newcomen, and James Watt, all realized that the steam engine was a GPT, and they conceived many applications for it. As noted above, AI is another GPT, and it is already being used to perform both mental and manual tasks. Because its potential applications are so vast, Michael and I began by looking at tasks that computers still perform poorly and where technological leaps have been limited in recent years.

As Nicholas Crafts has shown, James Watt’s steam engine delivered its main boost to productivity some eight decades after it was invented.86 When John Smeaton examined Watt’s invention, patented in 1769, he declared that “neither the tools nor the workmen existed that could manufacture so complex a machine with sufficient precision.”87 Complementary skills had to be developed to perfect the technology. But ten years later, the combined genius of Matthew Boulton and Watt saw his engine a commercial success. Writing in 1815, Patrick Colquhoun, a Scottish merchant and statistician, declared: “It is impossible to contemplate the progress of manufactures in Great Britain within the last thirty years without wonder and astonishment. Its rapidity … exceeds all credibility. The improvement of the steam engines, but above all the facilities afforded to the great branches of the woollen and cotton manufactories by ingenious machinery, invigorated by capital and skill, are beyond all calculation.”88 Yet water power remained a cheaper source of energy for some time, so that the contribution of the steam engine to productivity growth remained absent.


pages: 778 words: 227,196

The Age of Wonder by Richard Holmes

Ada Lovelace, Albert Einstein, animal electricity, 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, 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.


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More From Less: The Surprising Story of How We Learned to Prosper Using Fewer Resources – and What Happens Next by Andrew McAfee

back-to-the-land, Bartolomé de las Casas, Berlin Wall, bitcoin, Branko Milanovic, British Empire, Buckminster Fuller, call centre, carbon footprint, clean water, cleantech, cloud computing, Corn Laws, creative destruction, crony capitalism, David Ricardo: comparative advantage, decarbonisation, dematerialisation, Deng Xiaoping, Donald Trump, Edward Glaeser, en.wikipedia.org, energy transition, Erik Brynjolfsson, failed state, Fall of the Berlin Wall, Haber-Bosch Process, Hans Rosling, humanitarian revolution, hydraulic fracturing, income inequality, indoor plumbing, intangible asset, James Watt: steam engine, Jeff Bezos, job automation, John Snow's cholera map, joint-stock company, Joseph Schumpeter, Khan Academy, Landlord’s Game, Louis Pasteur, Lyft, Marc Andreessen, market fundamentalism, means of production, Mikhail Gorbachev, oil shale / tar sands, Paul Samuelson, peak oil, precision agriculture, profit maximization, profit motive, risk tolerance, road to serfdom, Ronald Coase, Ronald Reagan, Scramble for Africa, Second Machine Age, Silicon Valley, Steve Jobs, Steven Pinker, Stewart Brand, telepresence, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thomas Davenport, Thomas Malthus, Thorstein Veblen, total factor productivity, Uber and Lyft, uber lyft, Veblen good, War on Poverty, Whole Earth Catalog, World Values Survey

“The fuel of interest” is equally good as a summary of capitalism. They interact in a self-reinforcing and ever-expanding cycle, and they’re now creating a dematerializing world. Innovators come up with new and useful technologies. They then partner with entrepreneurs or become entrepreneurs themselves as James Watt did. A new company is the result. Investors such as steam-engine backer Matthew Boulton often join in to provide the capital needed for growth in its early days. The start-up enters a market and takes on incumbents like the Newcomen steam engine. Customers like the new technology better and are free to choose it. Rivals can’t just copy the new technology because it’s protected by patents. So they either have to license it or come up with innovations themselves. The start-up grows and prospers and eventually becomes the new incumbent.

—Winston Churchill, MIT Mid-Century Convocation, 1949 If Malthus was right about population oscillations and all the other ways that nature had limited the size of human communities throughout most of our time on this planet, then why is his name now widely used as a pejorative? Because the Industrial Revolution changed everything. In particular, a machine unveiled twenty-two years before Malthus published his Essay assured that the widespread famine he predicted would rank among the worst predictions anyone has ever made. The Most Powerful Idea in the World In March of the earthshaking year 1776I the inventor and investor team of James Watt and Matthew Boulton demonstrated their new steam engine at the Bloomfield coal mine outside Birmingham, England. The idea of using steam-powered machines to pump out flooded English coal mines was not new; an engine developed by Englishman Thomas Newcomen had been used for that purpose for decades. In fact, it was used for little else because the Newcomen engine was so coal hungry that it was economical to use only where its fuel was most cheap and abundant, which was right at the mouths of mines.

The World’s Wealthiest It’s easy to see how increased industrial concentration of the kind described by Van Reenen would lead to increased concentration in people’s wealth and incomes. The share prices of publicly traded superstar firms become valuable and so increase the wealth of their founders and investors. This has happened during previous bursts of tech progress—as we saw in chapter 2, both James Watt and Matthew Boulton became wealthy because of the steam engine—but wealth creation in the Second Machine Age is exceptional. Since 1925 (when systematic data collection began), six of the eight highest public-market valuations ever recorded for American companies have belonged to modern high-tech superstars such as Amazon, Alphabet (Google’s parent company), Intel, and Microsoft. The people who were smart or lucky enough to acquire large amounts of stock in these companies have become fantastically affluent.


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

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, coherent worldview, colonial rule, Community Supported Agriculture, complexity theory, crony capitalism, decarbonisation, deindustrialization, dematerialisation, different worldview, 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, Jones Act, Kickstarter, 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, renewable energy transition, 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, 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: 540 words: 168,921

The Relentless Revolution: A History of Capitalism by Joyce Appleby

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, Charles Lindbergh, 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, 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: 334 words: 100,201

Origin Story: A Big History of Everything by David Christian

Albert Einstein, Arthur Eddington, butterfly effect, Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty, Cepheid variable, colonial rule, Colonization of Mars, Columbian Exchange, complexity theory, cosmic microwave background, cosmological constant, creative destruction, cuban missile crisis, dark matter, demographic transition, double helix, Edward Lorenz: Chaos theory, Ernest Rutherford, European colonialism, Francisco Pizarro, Haber-Bosch Process, Harvard Computers: women astronomers, Isaac Newton, James Watt: steam engine, John Maynard Keynes: Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren, Joseph Schumpeter, Kickstarter, Marshall McLuhan, microbiome, nuclear winter, planetary scale, rising living standards, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, Stephen Hawking, Steven Pinker, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions, trade route, Yogi Berra

Seventeenth-century scientists had begun to understand how atmospheric pressure worked, and by the early eighteenth century, that knowledge was put to use in Newcomen steam engines to pump water from coal mines.16 But the Newcomen steam engine was inefficient and used huge quantities of coal, so it made commercial sense only in coal mines, where coal was cheap. Investors, inventors, and engineers understood that improved pumps could earn them huge profits and revolutionize the supply of coal to English homes and industries. James Watt, the engineer who eventually solved these technical problems, was a Scottish instrument maker, well connected to engineers, scientists, and businessmen. While on a Sunday afternoon stroll in 1765, Watt suddenly figured out that he could make the Newcomen engine more efficient by adding a second cylinder that acted as a condenser. But building the improved steam engine involved cutting-edge science and technology and the ability to design and bore precisely engineered pistons that could withstand high pressures.

By 1776, the work was done. The James Watt steam engine gave a first taste of energy flows so vast that they would transform human societies in just two centuries. Like the activation energies that kick-start chemical reactions, energy from fossil fuels provided a pulse of energy that started the technological equivalent of a global chain reaction. Within twenty-five years, five hundred of the new machines were at work in England, and by the 1830s, coal-fired steam engines were the main source of power in British industry. English consumption of energy soared. By 1850, England and Wales were consuming nine times as much energy as Italy, and English entrepreneurs and factories had access to prime movers of colossal power. Steam locomotives could generate two hundred thousand watts of energy (yes, James Watt gave his name to the unit), or about two hundred times the energy supplied by a two-horse plow team, one of the most important prime movers of the agrarian era.

To the natives, however, both of the East and West Indies, all the commercial benefits which can have resulted from those events have been sunk and lost in the dreadful misfortunes which they have occasioned. —ADAM SMITH, AN INQUIRY INTO THE NATURE AND CAUSES OF THE WEALTH OF NATIONS I sell here, sir, what all the world desires to have—POWER. —MATTHEW BOULTON, THE MAJOR INVESTOR IN JAMES WATT’S IMPROVED STEAM ENGINE When describing previous thresholds of increasing complexity, we have offered some educated guesses about the Goldilocks conditions that made them possible. As we approach today’s world, we can see with much more precision how new Goldilocks conditions accumulated, eventually preparing the way for the astonishing burst of innovation that would create today’s world, the world of the Anthropocene.


pages: 200 words: 60,987

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

Albert Einstein, 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: 547 words: 172,226

Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty by Daron Acemoglu, James Robinson

"Robert Solow", Admiral Zheng, agricultural Revolution, Albert Einstein, Andrei Shleifer, Atahualpa, banking crisis, Bartolomé de las Casas, Berlin Wall, blood diamonds, BRICs, British Empire, central bank independence, clean water, collective bargaining, colonial rule, conceptual framework, Corn Laws, creative destruction, crony capitalism, Deng Xiaoping, desegregation, discovery of the americas, en.wikipedia.org, European colonialism, failed state, Fall of the Berlin Wall, falling living standards, financial independence, financial innovation, financial intermediation, Francis Fukuyama: the end of history, Francisco Pizarro, full employment, income inequality, income per capita, indoor plumbing, invention of movable type, invisible hand, James Hargreaves, James Watt: steam engine, Jeff Bezos, joint-stock company, Joseph Schumpeter, Kickstarter, land reform, mass immigration, Mikhail Gorbachev, minimum wage unemployment, Mohammed Bouazizi, Paul Samuelson, price stability, profit motive, Rosa Parks, Scramble for Africa, Simon Kuznets, spice trade, spinning jenny, Steve Ballmer, Steve Jobs, trade liberalization, trade route, transatlantic slave trade, union organizing, upwardly mobile, Washington Consensus, working poor

It is not a coincidence that the Industrial Revolution started in England a few decades following the Glorious Revolution. The great inventors such as James Watt (perfecter of the steam engine), Richard Trevithick (the builder of the first steam locomotive), Richard Arkwright (the inventor of the spinning frame), and Isambard Kingdom Brunel (the creator of several revolutionary steamships) were able to take up the economic opportunities generated by their ideas, were confident that their property rights would be respected, and had access to markets where their innovations could be profitably sold and used. In 1775, just after he had the patent renewed on his steam engine, which he called his “Fire engine,” James Watt wrote to his father: Dear Father, After a series of various and violent Oppositions I have at last got an Act of Parliament vesting the property of my new Fire engines in me and my Assigns, throughout Great Britain & the plantations for twenty five years to come, which I hope will be very beneficial to me, as there is already considerable demand for them.

Innovations took place on many fronts, reflecting the improved institutional environment. One crucial area was power, most famously the transformations in the use of the steam engine that were a result of James Watt’s ideas in the 1760s. Watt’s initial breakthrough was to introduce a separate condensing chamber for the steam so that the cylinder that housed the piston could be kept continually hot, instead of having to be warmed up and cooled down. He subsequently developed many other ideas, including much more efficient methods of converting the motion of the steam engine into useful power, notably his “sun and planets” gear system. In all these areas technological innovations built on earlier work by others. In the context of the steam engine, this included early work by English inventor Thomas Newcomen and also by Dionysius Papin, a French physicist and inventor.

North of the fence: Nogales, Arizona Jim West/imagebroker.net/Photolibrary South of the fence: Nogales, Sonora Jim West/age fotostock/Photolibrary Consequences of a level playing field: Thomas Edison’s 1880 patent for the lightbulb Records of the Patent and Trademark Office; Record Group 241; National Archives Economic losers from creative destruction: machine-breaking Luddites in early-nineteenth-century Britain Mary Evans Picture Library/Tom Morgan Consequences of a complete lack of political centralization in Somalia REUTERS/Mohamed Guled/Landov Successive beneficiaries of extractive institutions in Congo: King of Kongo © CORBIS King Leopold II The Granger Collection, NY Joseph-Désiré Mobutu © Richard Melloul/Sygma/CORBIS Laurent Kabila © Reuters/CORBIS The Glorious Revolution: William III of Orange is read the Bill of Rights before being offered the crown of England by parliament After Edgar Melville Ward/The Bridgeman Art Library/Getty Images The bubonic plague of the fourteenth century creates a critical juncture (The Triumph of Death painting of the Black Death by Brueghel the Elder) The Granger Collection, NY Beneficiary of institutional innovation: the King of Kuba Eliot Elisofon/Time & Life Pictures/Getty The emergence of hierarchy and inequality before farming: the grave goods of the Natufian elite http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Natufian-Burial-ElWad.jpg Extractive growth: Soviet Gulag labor builds the White Sea canal SOVFOTO Britain falls far behind: the ruins of the Roman empire at Vindolanda Courtesy of the Vindolanda Trust and Adam Stanford Innovation, essence of inclusive economic growth: James Watt’s steam engine The Granger Collection, NY Organizational change, a consequence of inclusive institutions: the factory of Richard Arkwright at Cromford The Granger Collection, NY Fruits of unsustainable extractive growth: Zheng He’s ship alongside Columbus’s Santa Maria Gregory A. Harlin/National Geographic Stock Bird’s-eye view of the dual economy in South Africa: poverty in Transkei, prosperity in Natal Roger de la Harpe/Africa Imagery Consequences of the Industrial Revolution: the storming of the Bastille Bridgeman-Giraudon/Art Resource, NY Challenges to inclusive institutions: the Standard Oil Company Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.


pages: 801 words: 209,348

Americana: A 400-Year History of American Capitalism by Bhu Srinivasan

activist fund / activist shareholder / activist investor, American ideology, Apple II, Apple's 1984 Super Bowl advert, bank run, barriers to entry, Berlin Wall, blue-collar work, Bob Noyce, Bonfire of the Vanities, British Empire, business cycle, buy and hold, California gold rush, Charles Lindbergh, collective bargaining, commoditize, corporate raider, cuban missile crisis, Deng Xiaoping, diversification, diversified portfolio, Douglas Engelbart, financial innovation, fixed income, Ford paid five dollars a day, global supply chain, Gordon Gekko, Haight Ashbury, hypertext link, income inequality, invisible hand, James Watt: steam engine, Jane Jacobs, Jeff Bezos, John Markoff, joint-stock company, joint-stock limited liability company, Kickstarter, laissez-faire capitalism, Louis Pasteur, Marc Andreessen, Menlo Park, mortgage debt, mutually assured destruction, Norman Mailer, oil rush, peer-to-peer, pets.com, popular electronics, profit motive, race to the bottom, refrigerator car, risk/return, Ronald Reagan, Sand Hill Road, self-driving car, shareholder value, side project, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley startup, Steve Ballmer, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, strikebreaker, Ted Nelson, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, the new new thing, The Predators' Ball, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, trade route, transcontinental railway, traveling salesman, Upton Sinclair, Vannevar Bush, Works Progress Administration, zero-sum game

And the facilities could be only so large; one windmill or watermill could power only so much activity. The steam engine, however, eliminated these limitations and allowed power to be generated at a previously unimaginable scale. The principle was simple. Steam was created by heating water in a sealed enclosure. Once the steam pressure built, it could be released in such a way as to move a machine. Conceptions of the steam engine had been a long experimental process. But the techniques for scaling the theory into increasingly large units and dimensions led to an evolving series of breakthroughs and insights in the middle of the eighteenth century. The critical break came from James Watt, a Scotsman employed as an instrument maker at the University of Glasgow. Watt was obsessed with finding a solution to the loss of energy from traditional approaches to manipulating heat and steam.

The liberation of slaves: Howell’s State Trials (London: Longman, 1816), Vol. 20, 79–82, in “Black Presence: Asian and Black History in Britain,” National Archives, United Kingdom. the more progressive view: Taylor, Internal Enemy, 21–22. skilled in the letters: Chernow, Washington, 186; Meacham, Thomas Jefferson, 86. a number of Jefferson’s slaves: Taylor, Internal Enemy, 24. eight of Washington’s escaped slaves: Chernow, Washington, 441. Chapter 4: Cotton for the steam: James Watt, Specification of James Watt: Steam Engines (London: G. E. Eyre, 1855), 2–7. valued for millennia: Sven Beckert, Empire of Cotton: A Global History (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2014), 5. new ways replaced old: Adam Smith, An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, vol. 1 (1776; repr., Indianapolis, IN: Liberty Fund, 1981), 18–20. home to South Carolina: “Notes of Catharine Greene,” quoted in Edward T.

In England, on a limited scale, many of these functions had first become mechanized through the power of water mills that turned the machines: One individual sitting at a machine could turn raw cotton into thread at rates that would have seemed magical to the generation before his. With the power of the steam engine, the scale and scope of factories became much larger. As the functions became widely mechanized, increases in this labor productivity reduced the price of finished cloth, making it far more affordable and accessible. Lower prices meant much greater demand for cloth, which in turn grew the demand for labor needed in the textile factories. Counterintuitively, great labor savings through mechanization created the need for more labor overall. This became humanity’s first dividend from the Industrial Revolution. Remarkably, a friend of James Watt at the University of Glasgow best understood how this phenomenon of labor savings would unfold. Making a wide set of observations and predictions about specialized industrial processes—in which each laborer focused on a particular task rather than creating the whole as craftsmen and artisans did—Adam Smith advanced the idea of “division of labor” as a central concept in his 1776 Wealth of Nations, the treatise that defined the contours of market capitalism.


pages: 493 words: 145,326

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

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, low cost airline, 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: 240 words: 75,304

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

British Empire, creative destruction, Dava Sobel, James Watt: steam engine, John Harrison: Longitude, Khartoum Gordon, Robert Gordon, Silicon Valley, transcontinental railway, traveling salesman, undersea cable, 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: 148 words: 45,249

Losing Earth: A Recent History by Nathaniel Rich

Dissolution of the Soviet Union, energy security, ice-free Arctic, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), James Watt: steam engine, mass immigration, Mikhail Gorbachev, oil shale / tar sands, planetary scale, Ronald Reagan, spinning jenny, the scientific method

A Deluge Most Unnatural November 1980–September 1981 The meeting ended Friday morning. On Tuesday, four days later, Ronald Reagan was elected president. And Rafe Pomerance found himself wondering whether what had seemed to be a beginning had actually been the end. In the following months, Reagan floated plans to close the Energy Department, increase coal production on federal land, and deregulate surface coal mining. He appointed James Watt, the president of a legal firm that fought to open public lands to mining and drilling, to run the Interior Department. The president of the National Coal Association pronounced himself “deliriously happy.” After some debate about whether to terminate the EPA, Reagan relented and did the next best thing, appointing as administrator Anne Gorsuch, an anti-regulation zealot who proceeded to cut the agency’s staff and budget by a quarter.

For behind every political problem, there lay a publicity problem. And the climate crisis had a publicity nightmare. The Florida meeting had failed to articulate a coherent statement, let alone legislation, and now everything was going backward. Even Pomerance himself couldn’t devote much time to climate change; Friends of the Earth was busier than ever. The campaigns to defeat the nominations of James Watt and Anne Gorsuch were just the beginning; they were joined by desperate efforts to block mining in wilderness areas, uphold the Clean Air Act’s standards for air pollutants, and preserve funding for renewable energy (Reagan “has declared open war on solar energy,” said the director of the nation’s lead solar-energy research agency, after he was asked to resign). After undoing the environmental achievements of Jimmy Carter, Reagan seemed determined to undo those of Richard Nixon, Lyndon Johnson, John F.

With the carbon dioxide problem, as with its other thuggish assaults on environmental policy, the administration had alienated many of its own loyalists. But the early demonstrations of autocratic force had retreated into compromise and deferral. By the end of 1982, multiple congressional committees had begun investigating Anne Gorsuch for her indifference to enforcing the cleanup of Superfund sites, and the House voted to hold her in contempt; congressional Republicans turned on James Watt after he eliminated thousands of acres of land from consideration for wilderness designation. Both cabinet members would resign within the year. The carbon dioxide issue was beginning to trouble the public consciousness—Hansen’s own findings had become front-page news, after all. What started as a scientific story was turning into a political story. This prospect would have alarmed Hansen just a couple of years earlier; it still made him uneasy.


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

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: 386

Good Money: Birmingham Button Makers, the Royal Mint, and the Beginnings of Modern Coinage, 1775-1821 by George Anthony Selgin

British Empire, correlation coefficient, George Gilder, invention of the steam engine, Isaac Newton, James Watt: steam engine, large denomination, lone genius, profit motive, RAND corporation, school choice, seigniorage, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith

However, their lack of proof, combined with their desire to preserve what had become a crucial business relationship (Wilkinson was still their only reliable source of engine parts) , kept them from taking any action. Boulton's son, Matthew Robinson, who (together with James Watt Jr.) had recently been made a partner in what was now Boulton, Watt & Sons, also suspected John Wilkinson and, unlike his father, felt no com1 1. The rate was adjusted to a "mere" one hundred blows per minute. Wilkinson had tried once before, at New Willey in 1778, to power a forge hammer using a steam engine. But at that time, only reciprocating engines were available, and the experiment failed: instead of delivering sixty blows per minute, as it was supposed to do, the engine ended up knocking itself into little cast-iron bits (Soldon Igg8, 63). 12.

To understand Boulton's dim view of commercial coins, and of Williams's coins especially, we must delve into Boulton's reasons for becoming involved in coinage in the first place; and to do that, we must know something about Boulton's general business background. To the extent that Boulton's name rings a bell today, it is likely to do so only because he joined forces with James Watt in 1775 for the purpose of developing and manufacturing Watt's steam engine. But before he ever shook hands with Watt, Boulton was already one of Birmingham's leading figures, who, besides running what was by then the Midland's most impressive manufactury, also played a prominent role in Birmingham's civic and cultural life. Well before going into business with Watt, he helped found the famous Lunar Society, so named because its monthly meetings were held on the day of the full moon, to facilitate participants' late-night return journeys.

Although Doty claims that "the concept of a flywheel tends to go along with the idea of autolnatic machinery," a look at any contelnporary dictionary of Inechanics makes clear that the "Flys" referred to in the first iteln are merely the hand- STEAM, HOT AIR, AND SMALL CHANGE 271 direct reference to rivals' steam presses doesn't prove beyond all doubt that such presses were used only at Soho, no firm could have purchased Boulton & Watt's own presses without the fact being recorded somewhere in the company's very complete accounts, and it seems just as unlikely that any firm could have replicated Boulton's innovation without Boulton or Watt referring to the fact even once in their voluminous correspondence. Next let's look at what Birmingham's steam engines were up to during the first commercial coinage episode. 6 In 1840, the Royal Statistical Society published a survey of all steam engines ever erected in Birmingham up to that date. Using information from it and from a number of other sources, one can locate and identify the owners and principal uses of all of Birmingham's pre-17g8 rotary steam engines. Table 4 lists the engines-there were only eight of them all told-along with their locations and some other information. TABLE 4. Rotary-Motion Steam Engines in Birmingham through 1797 Erection date 1780 1783 1787 1788 1791 1792 1796 1797 Horsepower 14 25 18 18 12* 16 24 16* Firm Principal use Location Charles Twigg & Co.


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The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves by Matt Ridley

"Robert Solow", 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, hedonic treadmill, 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, Kickstarter, 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, Thales and the olive presses, Thales of Miletus, 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

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.


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

addicted to oil, Admiral Zheng, agricultural Revolution, Albert Einstein, anti-communist, Arthur Eddington, Atahualpa, Berlin Wall, British Empire, Columbian Exchange, conceptual framework, cuban missile crisis, defense in depth, demographic transition, Deng Xiaoping, discovery of the americas, Doomsday Clock, en.wikipedia.org, falling living standards, Flynn Effect, Francisco Pizarro, global village, God and Mammon, hiring and firing, indoor plumbing, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), invention of agriculture, Isaac Newton, James Watt: steam engine, Kickstarter, Kitchen Debate, knowledge economy, market bubble, mass immigration, Menlo Park, Mikhail Gorbachev, mutually assured destruction, New Journalism, out of africa, Peter Thiel, phenotype, pink-collar, place-making, purchasing power parity, RAND corporation, Ray Kurzweil, Ronald Reagan, Scientific racism, sexual politics, Silicon Valley, Sinatra Doctrine, South China Sea, special economic zone, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Steven Pinker, strong AI, The inhabitant of London could order by telephone, sipping his morning tea in bed, the various products of the whole earth, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions, Thomas L Friedman, Thomas Malthus, trade route, upwardly mobile, wage slave, washing machines reduced drudgery

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!”


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

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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The AI Economy: Work, Wealth and Welfare in the Robot Age by Roger Bootle

"Robert Solow", 3D printing, agricultural Revolution, AI winter, Albert Einstein, anti-work, autonomous vehicles, basic income, Ben Bernanke: helicopter money, Bernie Sanders, blockchain, call centre, Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty, Chris Urmson, computer age, conceptual framework, corporate governance, correlation does not imply causation, creative destruction, David Ricardo: comparative advantage, deindustrialization, deskilling, Elon Musk, en.wikipedia.org, Erik Brynjolfsson, everywhere but in the productivity statistics, facts on the ground, financial intermediation, full employment, future of work, income inequality, income per capita, industrial robot, Internet of things, invention of the wheel, Isaac Newton, James Watt: steam engine, Jeff Bezos, job automation, job satisfaction, John Markoff, John Maynard Keynes: Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren, John Maynard Keynes: technological unemployment, John von Neumann, Joseph Schumpeter, Kevin Kelly, license plate recognition, Marc Andreessen, Mark Zuckerberg, market bubble, mega-rich, natural language processing, Network effects, new economy, Nicholas Carr, Paul Samuelson, Peter Thiel, positional goods, quantitative easing, RAND corporation, Ray Kurzweil, Richard Florida, ride hailing / ride sharing, rising living standards, road to serfdom, Robert Gordon, Robert Shiller, Robert Shiller, Second Machine Age, secular stagnation, self-driving car, Silicon Valley, Simon Kuznets, Skype, social intelligence, spinning jenny, Stanislav Petrov, Stephen Hawking, Steven Pinker, technological singularity, The Future of Employment, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thomas Malthus, trade route, universal basic income, US Airways Flight 1549, Vernor Vinge, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, We wanted flying cars, instead we got 140 characters, wealth creators, winner-take-all economy, Y2K, Yogi Berra

The machine at the heart of the Industrial Revolution, the steam engine, was invented by Thomas Newcomen in 1712 to pump water out of flooded coal mines. It was more than 50 years later that James Watt, while repairing a Newcomen engine, developed it to produce more power, thereby enabling it to be deployed more widely. Moreover, the distinguished historian Jared Diamond says that Newcomen himself based his engine on earlier prototypes developed by others.32 Indeed, he claims that this is the normal pattern. We have been led to believe that the great inventors come up with a revolutionary new idea or piece of machinery out of nothing. In fact, they are usually building on foundations laid down by others. What’s more, although James Watt patented the first steam engine in 1769, it wasn’t until about a hundred years later that the full impact on labor productivity was felt.

• The development of “deep learning”. • The advent of algorithm-based decision-making. So now AI seems close to its “James Watt moment.” Just as the steam engine was in existence for some time before Watt developed it and it came to transform production, so AI, which has been on the scene for some time, is about to stage a leap forward. Moreover, its impact is likely to be felt right across the economy. Some technological improvements are specific to particular sectors or narrow aspects of production and have only limited impact on the wider scheme of things. But every so often a development occurs that unleashes a technology with general applicability. We call these general-purpose technologies (GPTs). The steam engine was a GPT and AI promises to be one, too. That is why I have thought it appropriate to refer to the decades ahead of us as “the AI economy.”

Many individuals did manage to do this, but some did not. Accordingly, during this period of “progress,” large numbers of people underwent immense suffering. Technology and the engine of growth Before we leave the Industrial Revolution and move on to more recent times, we need to get technological change into perspective. Economic history is full of inventions. And economic history books about the Industrial Revolution are fuller still. All steam engines and “spinning jennies.” This isn’t wrong, but it is partial, and it can be misleading. It is true that productivity is the key to economic growth – certainly to the growth of output per capita, which is the ultimate determinant of living standards. But there is more to productivity growth than inventions and technology. A society can enjoy increased living standards over time if it devotes a proportion of its output to real investment, over and above the amount that is necessary to replace the stuff that has been worn out by age, continued use, or wartime destruction.


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

addicted to oil, air freight, banking crisis, big-box store, BRICs, business cycle, 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.


Wonders of the Universe by Brian Cox, Andrew Cohen

a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, Albert Einstein, Albert Michelson, Arthur Eddington, California gold rush, Cepheid variable, cosmic microwave background, dark matter, Dmitri Mendeleev, Isaac Newton, James Watt: steam engine, Johannes Kepler, Karl Jansky, Magellanic Cloud, Mars Rover, Solar eclipse in 1919, Stephen Hawking, the scientific method, trade route

Time is something we all understand, and yet a plausible scientific reason as to why time marches inexorably forward wasn’t offered until the late nineteenth century, coming about as the solution to a practical problem on Earth THE ORDER OF DISORDER In 1712 the English inventor Sir Thomas Newcomen created the first commercially successful steam engine, paving the way for the Industrial Revolution. This accolade is more usually awarded to the Scottish inventor James Watt. In 1763 Watt was asked to repair a Newcomen engine by the University of Glasgow, and in doing so he developed a new steam engine which, it is appropriate to say without hyperbole, transformed the landscape of modern life. Watt’s steam engine was more efficient and more flexible than its predecessor; it used far less coal than the Newcomen for a given power output, and was therefore much cheaper to run. More importantly still, Watt’s engine could do more than pump water out of the wet mines, it could also generate the rotary motion that was needed to power the machines on the factory floor.

This was all quantified, as a result of Joule’s work, into the First Law of Thermodynamics, which is a statement of the fact that energy cannot be created or destroyed; it can only be changed from one form into another. Rudolf Clausius made the first explicit statement of the law, and laid down the foundations of the science of thermodynamics, in his landmark 1850 publication ‘On the mechanical theory of heat’. Newcomen’s engine, created in 1712, was the first commercially successful steam engine and laid the foundations for the work of other inventors, such as James Watt, which would power forward the industrial revolution in Britain. the Newcomen atmospheric engine was used to pump water out of coal mines, using a pivoted arm (top) to transfer power between the piston and the rod. the piston was driven down by the pressure of a partial vacuum in the cylinder, which drew the rod upwards. as steam in the cylinder condensed, the piston was forced up, and the rod down.

Clausius was interested in heat, which until the first half of the nineteenth century was thought to be a fluid that flowed from hot things to cold things. Clausius and others realised that this description was not able to explain the cycle of a steam engine. The foundation for Clausius’s theoretical advances was laid by one of his contemporaries, the English physicist and brewer James Joule, who was working to improve the efficiency of the steam engines in his brewery. What finer motivation for the advance of fundamental physics? The quest for cheaper beer motivated him to investigate the relationship between the work his steam engines could do, and heat. In doing so he managed to reduce the costs of beer production and lay one of the cornerstones of the science of thermodynamics. Using a series of beautifully simple experiments, Joule was able to demonstrate that mechanical work could be converted into heat.


pages: 519 words: 148,131

An Empire of Wealth: Rise of American Economy Power 1607-2000 by John Steele Gordon

accounting loophole / creative accounting, bank run, banking crisis, Bretton Woods, British Empire, business cycle, buttonwood tree, California gold rush, clean water, collective bargaining, Corn Laws, corporate governance, cuban missile crisis, disintermediation, double entry bookkeeping, failed state, financial independence, Frederick Winslow Taylor, full employment, global village, imperial preference, informal economy, interchangeable parts, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, Jacquard loom, James Hargreaves, James Watt: steam engine, joint-stock company, joint-stock limited liability company, lone genius, Louis Pasteur, margin call, Marshall McLuhan, means of production, Menlo Park, Mikhail Gorbachev, money market fund, money: store of value / unit of account / medium of exchange, moral hazard, new economy, New Urbanism, postindustrial economy, price mechanism, Ralph Waldo Emerson, RAND corporation, rent control, rent-seeking, reserve currency, rolodex, Ronald Reagan, spinning jenny, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, trade route, transaction costs, transcontinental railway, undersea cable, Yom Kippur War

Chapter Eight NEW JERSEY MUST BE FREE! THE STEAM ENGINE DEVELOPED by James Watt and patented in 1769 was something very new indeed under the sun: the first source of work-doing energy since the windmill had appeared in Persia in the seventh century. But Watt did not invent it; Thomas Newcomen had patented the first practical steam engine in 1712. Watt’s improvements, however, made the Newcomen engine four times as fuel efficient, greatly increasing the number of possible applications. When Watt developed a rotary steam engine in 1784, which converted the reciprocal up-and-down motion of the Newcomen engine into rotary motion that could turn a shaft, the steam engine’s economic potential became boundless. Until the coming of the steam engine, only human beings, draft animals, falling water, and windmills were available to do work.

In the United States, however, with its industry at first centered in New England, where water power was abundant, steam was adopted only slowly for industrial purposes. As late as 1832 a census of 249 factories east of the Appalachians showed only 4 were steam-powered. But almost from the moment that James Watt patented his rotary steam engine, men were at work trying to apply it to the task of moving boats through the water. The advantages of steam were more than obvious. Small vessels could be moved by oars, paddles, or sculls worked by men; large ones could move only by wind pushing on sails. The “fuel” for sailing ships is free, as they are, in the last analysis, solar-powered. But a sailing ship can only go where—and when—the wind is willing to take it. The tubby merchant ships of the eighteenth century could barely make headway against wind forward of the beam and often had to go hundreds, even thousands of miles out of their way to find a favorable slant.

Returning to the United States for the first time in nearly twenty years in 1806, Fulton settled in New York City and set about building a steamboat to run on the Hudson River. When completed, it was 146 feet long and 12 feet wide, with a flat bottom and straight sides. The wrought-iron paddle wheel mechanism and the copper boiler were constructed locally, but the twenty-four-horsepower steam engine came from James Watt’s firm in England. On the morning of August 1, 1807, the North River Boat, as Fulton rather unimaginatively named it (only after his death would it come to be remembered as the Clermont), set off from the Christopher Street dock. A large crowd had assembled to see it off, many of them undoubtedly expecting the vessel—which someone likened to a sawmill placed on a raft and set afire—to sink or explode.


pages: 477 words: 75,408

The Economic Singularity: Artificial Intelligence and the Death of Capitalism by Calum Chace

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, post-work, precariat, prediction markets, QWERTY keyboard, railway mania, RAND corporation, Ray Kurzweil, RFID, Rodney Brooks, Sam Altman, 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, uber lyft, 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: 687 words: 189,243

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

"Robert Solow", Andrei Shleifer, barriers to entry, Berlin Wall, business cycle, 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, information asymmetry, invention of movable type, invention of the printing press, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, Jacquard loom, Jacques de Vaucanson, James Watt: steam engine, Johannes Kepler, 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: 598 words: 140,612

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

affirmative action, Andrei Shleifer, Berlin Wall, British Empire, Broken windows theory, carbon footprint, Celebration, Florida, clean water, congestion charging, declining real wages, desegregation, different worldview, 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, Thales and the olive presses, 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.


pages: 238 words: 73,824

Makers by Chris Anderson

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, IKEA effect, 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, private space industry, profit maximization, QR code, race to the bottom, 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.


pages: 790 words: 150,875

Civilization: The West and the Rest by Niall Ferguson

Admiral Zheng, agricultural Revolution, Albert Einstein, Andrei Shleifer, Atahualpa, Ayatollah Khomeini, Berlin Wall, BRICs, British Empire, business cycle, 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, Kickstarter, 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, undersea cable, 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: 339 words: 94,769

Possible Minds: Twenty-Five Ways of Looking at AI by John Brockman

AI winter, airport security, Alan Turing: On Computable Numbers, with an Application to the Entscheidungsproblem, artificial general intelligence, Asilomar, autonomous vehicles, basic income, Benoit Mandelbrot, Bill Joy: nanobots, Buckminster Fuller, cellular automata, Claude Shannon: information theory, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, Danny Hillis, David Graeber, easy for humans, difficult for computers, Elon Musk, Eratosthenes, Ernest Rutherford, finite state, friendly AI, future of work, Geoffrey West, Santa Fe Institute, gig economy, income inequality, industrial robot, information retrieval, invention of writing, James Watt: steam engine, Johannes Kepler, John Maynard Keynes: Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren, John Maynard Keynes: technological unemployment, John von Neumann, Kevin Kelly, Kickstarter, Laplace demon, Loebner Prize, market fundamentalism, Marshall McLuhan, Menlo Park, Norbert Wiener, optical character recognition, pattern recognition, personalized medicine, Picturephone, profit maximization, profit motive, RAND corporation, random walk, Ray Kurzweil, Richard Feynman, Rodney Brooks, self-driving car, sexual politics, Silicon Valley, Skype, social graph, speech recognition, statistical model, Stephen Hawking, Steven Pinker, Stewart Brand, strong AI, superintelligent machines, supervolcano, technological singularity, technoutopianism, telemarketer, telerobotics, the scientific method, theory of mind, Turing machine, Turing test, universal basic income, Upton Sinclair, Von Neumann architecture, Whole Earth Catalog, Y2K, zero-sum game

Written at the height of the Cold War, it contains a chilling reminder of the dangers of totalitarian organizations and societies, and of the danger to democracy when it tries to combat totalitarianism with totalitarianism’s own weapons. Wiener’s Cybernetics looked in close scientific detail at the process of control via feedback. (“Cybernetics,” from the ancient Greek for “helmsman,” is the etymological basis of our word “governor,” which is what James Watt called his pathbreaking feedback control device that transformed the use of steam engines.) Because he was immersed in problems of control, Wiener saw the world as a set of complex, interlocking feedback loops, in which sensors, signals, and actuators such as engines interact via an intricate exchange of signals and information. The engineering applications of Cybernetics were tremendously influential and effective, giving rise to rockets, robots, automated assembly lines, and a host of precision-engineering techniques—in other words, to the basis of contemporary industrial society.

As to that original coinage, Wiener had reached back to the ancient Greek to borrow the word for “steersman” (κυβερνήτης/kubernétés), a masculine figure channeling power and instinct at the helm of a ship, who read the waves, judged the wind, kept a hand on the tiller, and directed the slaves as they mindlessly (mechanically) churned their oars. The Greek had already migrated into modern English via Latin, going from kuber- to guber—the root of “gubernatorial” and “governor,” another term for masculine control, deployed by James Watt to describe his 19th-century device for modulating a runaway steam engine. Cybernetics thus took ideas that had long analogized people and devices and generalized them to an applied science by adding that “-ics.” Wiener’s three c’s (command, control, communication) drew on the mathematics of probability to formalize systems (whether biological or mechanical) theorized as a set of inputs of information achieving outputs of actions in an environment—a muscular, fleshy agenda often minimized in genealogies of AI.

To me, and from today’s vantage point seventy years on, his tools seem woefully inadequate for describing the mechanisms underlying biological systems, and so he missed out on how similar mechanisms might eventually be embodied in technological computational systems—as now they have been. Today’s dominant technologies were developed in the world of Turing and von Neumann, rather than the world of Wiener. In the first industrial revolution, energy from a steam engine or a waterwheel was used by human workers to replace their own energy. Instead of being a source of energy for physical work, people became modulators of how a large source of energy was used. But because steam engines and waterwheels had to be large to be an efficient use of capital, and because in the 18th century the only technology for spatial distribution of energy was mechanical and worked only at very short range, many workers needed to be crowded around the source of energy. Wiener correctly argues that the ability to transmit energy as electricity caused a second industrial revolution.


pages: 1,205 words: 308,891

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

Airbnb, Akira Okazaki, big-box store, Black Swan, book scanning, British Empire, business cycle, buy low sell high, Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty, clean water, Columbian Exchange, conceptual framework, correlation does not imply causation, Costa Concordia, creative destruction, crony capitalism, dark matter, Dava Sobel, David Graeber, David Ricardo: comparative advantage, deindustrialization, demographic transition, Deng Xiaoping, Donald Trump, double entry bookkeeping, en.wikipedia.org, epigenetics, Erik Brynjolfsson, experimental economics, Ferguson, Missouri, fundamental attribution error, Georg Cantor, George Akerlof, George Gilder, germ theory of disease, Gini coefficient, God and Mammon, greed is good, Gunnar Myrdal, Hans Rosling, Henry Ford's grandson gave labor union leader Walter Reuther a tour of the company’s new, automated factory…, Hernando de Soto, immigration reform, income inequality, interchangeable parts, invention of agriculture, invention of writing, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, Islamic Golden Age, James Watt: steam engine, Jane Jacobs, John Harrison: Longitude, John Maynard Keynes: technological unemployment, Joseph Schumpeter, Kenneth Arrow, knowledge economy, labor-force participation, lake wobegon effect, land reform, liberation theology, lone genius, Lyft, Mahatma Gandhi, Mark Zuckerberg, market fundamentalism, means of production, Naomi Klein, new economy, North Sea oil, Occupy movement, open economy, out of africa, Pareto efficiency, Paul Samuelson, Pax Mongolica, Peace of Westphalia, peak oil, Peter Singer: altruism, Philip Mirowski, pink-collar, plutocrats, Plutocrats, positional goods, profit maximization, profit motive, purchasing power parity, race to the bottom, refrigerator car, rent control, rent-seeking, Republic of Letters, road to serfdom, Robert Gordon, Robert Shiller, Robert Shiller, Ronald Coase, Scientific racism, Scramble for Africa, Second Machine Age, secular stagnation, Simon Kuznets, Social Responsibility of Business Is to Increase Its Profits, spinning jenny, stakhanovite, Steve Jobs, The Chicago School, The Market for Lemons, the rule of 72, The Spirit Level, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thomas Malthus, Thorstein Veblen, total factor productivity, Toyota Production System, transaction costs, transatlantic slave trade, Tyler Cowen: Great Stagnation, uber lyft, union organizing, very high income, wage slave, Washington Consensus, working poor, Yogi Berra

Surprisingly, in northwestern Europe and later elsewhere, betterment tested by success in domestic and foreign trade—and, as I’ve said, in scientific, artistic, sporting, journalistic, and political “markets” as well—came to be seen as splendid heroism, such as Henry Ford’s assembly line or Steve Jobs’s iPad. Why did Leonardo da Vinci in 1519 conceal many of his (not entirely original) engineering dreams in secret writing, whereas James Watt, of steam-engine fame (famous too for his fiercely defended anti-betterment patents), would in 1825, six years after his death, be honored with a planned statue in Westminster Abbey?43 Why did bourgeois Shakespeare in 1610 sneer loftily at the bourgeoisie, yet gentrified Jane Austen in 1810 smiled amiably at it? The answer to why England or why Europe, I argue here, does not lie in some thousand-year-old superiority, such as English common law, or in the deep genetic ancestry of Europeans.

Well after the theorizing of the steam engine by Carnot, as Lawrence Joseph Henderson put it in 1917, the science of thermodynamics owed more to the steam engine than the steam engine owed to science. Margaret Jacob argues plausibly for an ideal cause working earlier through a material one. The steam engine, itself a material consequence of seventeenth-century ideas about the “weight of air,” inspired new ideas in the 1740s about machinery generally. Yet it is doubtful that the inventor of the “atmospheric” steam engine, Newcomen, an artisan familiar with pumps, knew much about high science. Science didn’t make the modern world. Technology did, in the hands of newly liberated and honored instrument makers and tinkerers.25 (Jacob hates the word “tinkerers.” She wants high science to be the hero.) Superheating in compound marine engines and mainline locomotives, practical finally very late in the nineteenth century, might be attributed to theory—but its basic principle is that of a pressure cooker.

Bituminous pavement. The classic case is the steam engine. Although the discovery of the atmosphere clearly played a role in the early steam engine, most of its betterments were matters of tinkering, and high and low skills of machine-making. Eastern science perhaps could just as well have formed the basis for an industrial revolution, and until the late seventeenth century it was clearly better than the European. The European tinkering was informed, true, by a scientific method of obsessive calculation and experimentation. But until lately the bulk of technological change was not applied science, with rare exceptions such as Franklin’s lightning rods on church steeples or Humphrey Davy’s and George Stephenson’s safety lamps in coal mining. Well after the theorizing of the steam engine by Carnot, as Lawrence Joseph Henderson put it in 1917, the science of thermodynamics owed more to the steam engine than the steam engine owed to science.


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Darwin Among the Machines by George Dyson

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, James Watt: steam engine, John Nash: game theory, John von Neumann, low earth orbit, Menlo Park, Nash equilibrium, Norbert Wiener, On the Economy of Machinery and Manufactures, packet switching, pattern recognition, phenotype, RAND corporation, 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.


Growth: From Microorganisms to Megacities by Vaclav Smil

2013 Report for America's Infrastructure - American Society of Civil Engineers - 19 March 2013, 3D printing, agricultural Revolution, air freight, American Society of Civil Engineers: Report Card, autonomous vehicles, Benoit Mandelbrot, Berlin Wall, Bernie Madoff, Bretton Woods, British Empire, business cycle, colonial rule, complexity theory, coronavirus, decarbonisation, deindustrialization, dematerialisation, demographic dividend, demographic transition, Deng Xiaoping, disruptive innovation, Dissolution of the Soviet Union, endogenous growth, energy transition, epigenetics, happiness index / gross national happiness, hydraulic fracturing, hydrogen economy, Hyperloop, illegal immigration, income inequality, income per capita, industrial robot, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), invention of movable type, Isaac Newton, James Watt: steam engine, knowledge economy, labor-force participation, Law of Accelerating Returns, longitudinal study, mandelbrot fractal, market bubble, mass immigration, McMansion, megacity, megastructure, meta analysis, meta-analysis, microbiome, moral hazard, Network effects, new economy, New Urbanism, old age dependency ratio, optical character recognition, out of africa, peak oil, Pearl River Delta, phenotype, Pierre-Simon Laplace, planetary scale, Ponzi scheme, Productivity paradox, profit motive, purchasing power parity, random walk, Ray Kurzweil, Report Card for America’s Infrastructure, Republic of Letters, rolodex, Silicon Valley, Simon Kuznets, South China Sea, technoutopianism, the market place, The Rise and Fall of American Growth, total factor productivity, trade liberalization, trade route, urban sprawl, Vilfredo Pareto, yield curve

Steam provided the first source of inanimate kinetic energy that could be produced at will, scaled up at a chosen site, and adapted to a growing variety of stationary and mobile uses. The evolution began with simple, inefficient steam engines that provided mechanical energy for nearly two centuries of industrialization, and it has reached its performance plateaus with large, highly efficient steam turbines whose operation now supplies most of the world’s electricity. Both converters must be supplied by steam generated in boilers, devices in which combustion converts the chemical energy of fuels to the thermal and kinetic energy of hot (and now also highly pressurized) working fluid. Boilers The earliest boilers of the 18th century were simple riveted copper shells where steam was raised at atmospheric pressure. James Watt was reluctant to work with anything but steam at atmospheric pressure (101.3 kPa) and hence his engines had limited efficiency.

Emma Maersk. https://www.wartsila.com/resources/customer-references/view/emma-maersk. Wärtsilä. 2009. Wärtsilä RT-flex96C and Wärtsilä RTA96C technology review. http://wartsila.com. WaterAid. 2015. Undernutrition and Water, Sanitation and Hygiene. London: WaterAid. Watkins, G. 1967. Steam power—an illustrated guide. Industrial Archaeology 4:81–110. Watt, J. 1769. Steam Engines, &c. 29 April 1769. Patent reprint by G. E. Eyre and W. Spottiswoode, 1855. https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/0d/James_Watt_Patent_1769_No_913.pdf. Watts, P. 1905. The Ships of the Royal Navy as They Existed at the Time of Trafalgar. London: Institution of Naval Architects. WBCSD (World Business Council for Sustainable Development). 2004. Mobility 2030: Meeting the Challenges of Sustainability. Geneva: WBCSD. WCED (World Commission on Environment and Development). 1987.

During the last two decades of the 19th industry, large steam engines were also used to rotate dynamos in the first coal-fired electricity-generating stations (Thurston 1886; Dalby 1920; von Tunzelmann 1978; Smil 2005). The development of stationary steam engines was marked by increases of unit capacities, operating pressures, and thermal efficiencies. The most important innovation enabling these advances was a compound steam engine which expanded high-pressure steam first in two, then commonly in three, and eventually even in four stages in order to maximize energy extraction (Richardson 1886). The designed was pioneered by Arthur Woolf in 1803 and the best compound engines of the late 1820s approached a thermal efficiency of 10% and had slightly surpassed it a decade later. By 1876 a massive triple-expansion two-cylinder steam engine (14 m tall with 3 m stroke and 10 m flywheel) designed by George Henry Corliss was the centerpiece of America’s Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia: its maximum power was just above 1 MW and its thermal efficiency reached 8.5% (Thompson 2010; figure 3.4).


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More: The 10,000-Year Rise of the World Economy by Philip Coggan

"Robert Solow", accounting loophole / creative accounting, Ada Lovelace, agricultural Revolution, Airbnb, airline deregulation, Andrei Shleifer, anti-communist, assortative mating, autonomous vehicles, bank run, banking crisis, banks create money, basic income, Berlin Wall, Bob Noyce, Branko Milanovic, Bretton Woods, British Empire, business cycle, call centre, capital controls, carbon footprint, Carmen Reinhart, Celtic Tiger, central bank independence, Charles Lindbergh, clean water, collective bargaining, Columbian Exchange, Columbine, Corn Laws, credit crunch, Credit Default Swap, crony capitalism, currency peg, debt deflation, Deng Xiaoping, discovery of the americas, Donald Trump, Erik Brynjolfsson, European colonialism, eurozone crisis, falling living standards, financial innovation, financial intermediation, floating exchange rates, Fractional reserve banking, Frederick Winslow Taylor, full employment, germ theory of disease, German hyperinflation, gig economy, Gini coefficient, global supply chain, global value chain, Gordon Gekko, greed is good, Haber-Bosch Process, Hans Rosling, Hernando de Soto, hydraulic fracturing, Ignaz Semmelweis: hand washing, income inequality, income per capita, indoor plumbing, industrial robot, inflation targeting, Isaac Newton, James Watt: steam engine, job automation, John Snow's cholera map, joint-stock company, joint-stock limited liability company, Kenneth Arrow, Kula ring, labour market flexibility, land reform, land tenure, Lao Tzu, large denomination, liquidity trap, Long Term Capital Management, Louis Blériot, low cost airline, low skilled workers, lump of labour, M-Pesa, Malcom McLean invented shipping containers, manufacturing employment, Marc Andreessen, Mark Zuckerberg, Martin Wolf, McJob, means of production, Mikhail Gorbachev, mittelstand, moral hazard, Murano, Venice glass, Myron Scholes, Nelson Mandela, Network effects, Northern Rock, oil shale / tar sands, oil shock, Paul Samuelson, popular capitalism, popular electronics, price stability, principal–agent problem, profit maximization, purchasing power parity, quantitative easing, railway mania, Ralph Nader, regulatory arbitrage, road to serfdom, Robert Gordon, Robert Shiller, Robert Shiller, Ronald Coase, Ronald Reagan, savings glut, Scramble for Africa, Second Machine Age, secular stagnation, Silicon Valley, Simon Kuznets, South China Sea, South Sea Bubble, special drawing rights, spice trade, spinning jenny, Steven Pinker, TaskRabbit, Thales and the olive presses, Thales of Miletus, The Great Moderation, The inhabitant of London could order by telephone, sipping his morning tea in bed, the various products of the whole earth, The Rise and Fall of American Growth, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, The Wisdom of Crowds, Thomas Malthus, Thorstein Veblen, trade route, transaction costs, transatlantic slave trade, transcontinental railway, Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, universal basic income, Unsafe at Any Speed, Upton Sinclair, V2 rocket, Veblen good, War on Poverty, Washington Consensus, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, women in the workforce, Yom Kippur War, zero-sum game

Wrigley estimates that a third of England would have had to be covered in trees to supply the energy created by coal in 1800.14 The ability to exploit coal, a present from the primeval past, was like one of those fortunate bequests that restored the wealth of the heroes and heroines of Victorian novels. James Watt developed a more efficient form of steam engine that used a separate condenser, allowing the cylinder to be kept hot, thereby saving energy. Watt’s engines made rotary motion possible and thus allowed for more sophisticated uses than simply pumping water. But Watt’s fierce defence of his patent rights (along with his partner, Matthew Boulton) limited the widespread adoption of engines before 1800. By that date only 2,200 steam engines had been built in Britain, some two-thirds of which were Newcomen engines, and only a quarter Boulton and Watt engines.15 Water power was still very important and, as late as 1830, industry generated equal quantities of power from steam and water.16 Gradually, in the first half of the 19th century, steam engines became adopted by the cotton business, one of Britain’s leading industries.

When this author was at school, the revolution was dated to around 1760, largely based in England, and was linked to a series of inventions including textile machinery like the spinning jenny and the steam engine developed by James Watt. But the picture is a lot more complex and uncertain than the school textbooks suggested. In the mid-18th century, around 70% of humans were still living in “agrarian empires” of one kind or another, whether in China, India, Japan, Russia, or under the Habsburg monarchy.1 The term “revolution” implies a sudden change but that is not what the numbers (such as we have) appear to suggest. British economic growth per capita did not rapidly accelerate in the years after 1760 and may even have slowed (the country had already made a significant switch from agriculture by this stage).2 Adam Smith, whose book The Wealth of Nations appeared in 1776, knew about the steam engine but did not seem to think it heralded a new era. Few steam engines were in use before 1800, as noted in the previous chapter.

Sure enough, the spinning jenny, the water frame and the mechanical mule all emerged in the 1760s and 1770s, massively improving the productivity of spinners. As the efficiency of textile production improved, the price of finished goods fell and this increased demand for the product. Manufacturers were able to benefit from economies of scale. Steam engines were introduced to pump water. But producers had long used water and wind power for other purposes like grinding grain or treating textiles. There was every incentive to try to adapt steam engines for similar purposes. At some mines, the coal that powered engines was transported from the pithead on rails; again, this led to the adaptation of steam engines to run on those rails. Iron rails were better than wooden ones and this boosted demand for the iron industry. Even more fundamentally, the introduction of printing (another technological advance) made it easier for knowledge of the new techniques to spread more quickly than in the past.


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

Andrei Shleifer, asset-backed security, bank run, banking crisis, Benoit Mandelbrot, Berlin Wall, Bernie Madoff, Big bang: deregulation of the City of London, Blythe Masters, Boris Johnson, Bretton Woods, business cycle, 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 cost airline, 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.


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Between Human and Machine: Feedback, Control, and Computing Before Cybernetics by David A. Mindell

Alan Turing: On Computable Numbers, with an Application to the Entscheidungsproblem, Charles Lindbergh, Claude Shannon: information theory, Computer Numeric Control, discrete time, Frederick Winslow Taylor, From Mathematics to the Technologies of Life and Death, James Watt: steam engine, John von Neumann, Menlo Park, Norbert Wiener, Paul Samuelson, Ronald Reagan, Silicon Valley, Spread Networks laid a new fibre optics cable between New York and Chicago, telerobotics, Turing machine

., the sign of the feedback signal is reversed). In analogy to James Watt’s flyball governor on a steam engine, when the engine speeds up, the spinning balls slow it down, and when the balls spin slower, they speed up the engine. Hence the feedback is negative. In Black’s time, however, even the specific-sounding term negative feedback had yet to acquire a stable definition. The idea of positive feedback had become current in the 1920s with the introduction of the regenerative amplifier. Positive feedback, or regeneration , in a radio amplifier increased the sensitivity of a receiving tube by sending a wave back through an amplifier many times. Black insisted that his “negative feedback” referred to the opposite of regeneration: gain was reduced, not increased. Yet in the analogous steam-engine governor Black’s sense of negative means that the power required to spin the balls reduces the power output of the engine (as opposed to the balls’ triggering an action that slows it)—hardly a significant effect for a steam engine.

The term contre-rolle originally referred to a register for accounts, and control has a history that runs through economics, science, and politics before making its way into engineering. 25 The historian James Beniger labeled as “the control revolution” the transformation of business and technology that occurred from the late nineteenth to the early twentieth century. 26 The two preeminent historians of feedback control, Otto Mayr and Stuart Bennett, have both written extensively and insightfully about the history of feedback control. James Watt’s centrifugal flyball governor for steam engines, for example, became the first feedback mechanism to be widely employed by technologists and to enter popular consciousness. The device, derived from the rotating pendulums used to regulate windmills, appeared in 1788, and the spinning balls became familiar icons of mechanical motion. Mayr chronicles the history of these and similar feedback mechanisms before 1800 and begins to connect it to intellectual and political currents in Britain and France.

Nevertheless, between theory and practice, by the end of the nineteenth century the basic issues surrounding governor design—speed of response, time constants, stability (freedom from oscillation or hunting), and accuracy (steady state stability)—were well known. 3 A popular textbook provides a window into the state of regulation theory at the start of the twentieth century. Governors and the Governing of Prime Movers , by Professor Willibald Trinks, of the Carnegie Institute of Technology, appeared in 1919. Trinks noted that engineering students learned about steam-engine governors in a course on steam engineering and about pressure regulators in a hydraulics course; rarely was the subject treated as a whole. Trinks aimed to unify the study of regulating mechanisms by defining a governor as “both a measuring device and a motor,” introducing the connection between perception and articulation that would characterize control systems in the twentieth century. Extensively citing European and American publications, Trinks analyzed stability, the “promptness” of the governor’s return to equilibrium, the natural period of vibration, and a host of other behaviors for a variety of governors.


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The Narrow Corridor: States, Societies, and the Fate of Liberty by Daron Acemoglu, James A. Robinson

Affordable Care Act / Obamacare, agricultural Revolution, AltaVista, Andrei Shleifer, bank run, Berlin Wall, British Empire, California gold rush, central bank independence, centre right, collateralized debt obligation, collective bargaining, colonial rule, Computer Numeric Control, conceptual framework, Corn Laws, corporate governance, creative destruction, Credit Default Swap, credit default swaps / collateralized debt obligations, crony capitalism, Dava Sobel, David Ricardo: comparative advantage, Deng Xiaoping, discovery of the americas, double entry bookkeeping, Edward Snowden, en.wikipedia.org, equal pay for equal work, European colonialism, Ferguson, Missouri, financial deregulation, financial innovation, Francis Fukuyama: the end of history, full employment, income inequality, income per capita, industrial robot, information asymmetry, interest rate swap, invention of movable type, Isaac Newton, James Watt: steam engine, John Harrison: Longitude, joint-stock company, Kula ring, labor-force participation, land reform, Mahatma Gandhi, manufacturing employment, mass incarceration, Maui Hawaii, means of production, megacity, Mikhail Gorbachev, Nelson Mandela, obamacare, openstreetmap, out of africa, PageRank, pattern recognition, road to serfdom, Ronald Reagan, Skype, spinning jenny, Steven Pinker, the market place, transcontinental railway, War on Poverty, WikiLeaks

Leading the way were textiles, where a series of innovative breakthroughs in spinning, such as the water frame, the spinning jenny, and the mule revolutionized productivity. Similar innovations occurred in weaving, with the introduction of the flying shuttle and various types of power looms. Equally transformative were the novel forms of inanimate power starting with Thomas Newcomen’s atmospheric engine and then James Watt’s steam engine. The steam engine not only made mining much more productive by enabling the pumping of water out of mines, but also changed transportation and metallurgy. The landscape for transport was reconfigured both because of steam trains in the nineteenth century and because a series of canals and new roads linked up major cities starting in the late seventeenth century. Many other industries, including machine tools and agriculture, were also revolutionized because of cheaper and higher-quality iron, made possible thanks to the replacement of charcoal by coke in iron smelting and the production of pig iron in blast furnaces and then steel with the Bessemer process.

So different people could pursue distinct approaches in order to innovate better, succeed where others failed, and perhaps more important in the process, formulate completely new problems and ideas. We see the significance of this type of experimentation in some of the iconic technologies of the Industrial Revolution, such as the steam engine. Innovators and entrepreneurs such as Robert Boyle, Denis Papin, Thomas Savory, Thomas Newcomen, John Smeaton, and James Watt all approached the problem of using steam power differently and experimented in their own ways in a cumulative process that ultimately led to much more efficient and powerful steam engines. Both the nature of experimentation, with plenty of false starts and a multitude of disparate approaches, and its critical role in innovative breakthroughs are perhaps best illustrated by the quest for a way for ships to tell their longitude at sea.

Consider Richard Arkwright, who invented the water frame and set up arguably the world’s first modern factory at Cromford, Derbyshire, in 1771. Arkwright was the youngest of seven children whose father was a tailor, poor enough that he was unable to send Richard to school. But Arkwright ended up with a knighthood, ascending to the heights of English society. Or take the case of James Watt, the inventor of the Watt steam engine, who came from a middle-class Scottish family. Within ten years of his death in 1819 James Watt had a statue of himself in Westminster Abbey (and there is also a memorial tablet there for John Harrison). The Abbey houses the tombs of many English kings and queens and famous people, such as William Wilberforce, the man who spearheaded the campaign to abolish the slave trade in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.


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

British Empire, Charles Lindbergh, 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, Joi Ito, 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.


Scotland Travel Guide by Lonely Planet

agricultural Revolution, British Empire, carbon footprint, clean water, demand response, European colonialism, James Watt: steam engine, land reform, North Sea oil, oil shale / tar sands, Piper Alpha, place-making, smart cities, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, upwardly mobile, urban decay, urban sprawl

Although Scotland accounts for only 10% of Britain’s population, it has produced more than 20% of leading British scientists, philosophers, engineers and inventors. Scots established the modern disciplines of economics, sociology, geology, electromagnetic theory, anaesthesiology and antibiotics, and pioneered the steam engine, the pneumatic tyre, the telephone and the TV. Given the weather in Scotland perhaps it’s not surprising that it was a Scot – the chemist Charles Macintosh (1766–1843) – who invented the waterproof material for the raincoat that still bears his name. James Watt (1736–1819) didn’t invent the steam engine (that was done by an Englishman, Thomas Newcomen), but it was Watt’s modifications and improvements – notably the separate condenser – that led to its widespread usefulness in industry. The chemical engineer James Young (1811–83), known as ‘Paraffin’ Young, developed the process of refining crude oil and established the world’s first oil industry, based on extracting oil from the oil shales of West Lothian.

It’s quite an extensive collection, with displays charting the history of steam power and Clyde shipping. There’s also a pictorial history of Greenock through the ages, while upstairs there are very good temporary exhibitions and small displays from China, Japan and Egypt. The natural history section highlights the sad reality of species extinction in the modern world. Greenock was the birthplace of James Watt , the inventor whose work on the steam engine was one of the key developments of the Industrial Revolution. A statue of him marks his birthplace; behind this looms the spectacular Italian-style Victoria Tower on the municipal buildings, constructed in 1886. SHIPBUILDING ON THE CLYDE One of the earliest permanent Lower Clyde shipyards was established in 1711 by John Scott at Greenock. Initial construction was for small-scale local trade but by the end of the 18th century large ocean-going vessels were being built.

START: GEORGE SQ FINISH: GLASGOW CATHEDRAL DISTANCE: 1.5 MILES DURATION: 1½ HOURS Walking Tour: Glasgow This stroll takes you to Glasgow Cathedral through trendy Merchant City, once headquarters for Glasgow industrialists. The tourist office on George Square is a good starting point. The square is surrounded by imposing Victorian architecture: the old post office, the Bank of Scotland and the grandiose City Chambers . Statues include Robert Burns, James Watt, and, atop a Doric column, Sir Walter Scott. Walk one block south down Queen St to the Gallery of Modern Art . This striking colonnaded building was once the Royal Exchange and now hosts some of the country’s best contemporary art displays. The gallery faces Ingram St, which you should cross and then follow east four blocks to Hutcheson’s Hall . Built in 1805, this elegant building is now maintained by the National Trust for Scotland (NTS).


pages: 242 words: 68,019

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

"Robert Solow", Ada Lovelace, Albert Einstein, Arthur Eddington, assortative mating, business cycle, 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, Joi Ito, 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: 879 words: 233,093

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

agricultural Revolution, Albert Einstein, animal electricity, 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, hedonic treadmill, 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, Mahatma Gandhi, Marshall McLuhan, means of production, megacity, meta analysis, meta-analysis, Milgram experiment, Nelson Mandela, new economy, New Urbanism, Norbert Wiener, off grid, out of africa, Peace of Westphalia, peak oil, peer-to-peer, planetary scale, scientific worldview, Simon Kuznets, Skype, smart grid, smart meter, social intelligence, 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.


The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable by Amitav Ghosh

Alfred Russel Wallace, Berlin Wall, Bernie Sanders, British Empire, carbon footprint, Donald Trump, double helix, Fellow of the Royal Society, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), invisible hand, James Watt: steam engine, Mahatma Gandhi, market fundamentalism, megacity, Naomi Klein, non-fiction novel, Ronald Reagan, spinning jenny, Upton Sinclair, upwardly mobile, urban planning

Harris, What’s Wrong with Climate Politics and How to Fix It (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2013), 109. 126 to much of the world: Thus, for example, vulcanologist Bill McGuire cites 1769 CE as a key date in the history of the Anthropocene because that was the year when Richard Arkwright invented the spinning jenny, a machine that would serve as a critical link in the transition to carbon-intensive forms of production: ‘Arkwright’s legacy,’ writes McGuire, ‘is nothing less than the industrialization of the world.’ See Bill McGuire, Waking the Giant, Kindle edition, loc. 363. For Timothy Morton, on the other hand, the key moment is April 1784, a date about which, he asserts, ‘we can be uncannily precise’ because that was when James Watt ‘patented the steam engine’. See Timothy Morton, Hyperobjects, loc. 210. 126 ‘particularly the U.S.’: Anil Agarwal and Sunita Narain, Global Warming in an Unequal World: A Case of Environmental Colonialism (New Delhi: Centre for Science and Environment, 1991), 1. 126 removed from each other: These connections and processes are explored at length by Jack Goody in The Eurasian Miracle (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2010). 127 and the Indian subcontinent: Sheldon Pollock, The Language of the Gods in the World of Men: Sanskrit, Culture, and Power in Premodern India (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2009), 437–52. 127 by the Islamic expansion: Ibid., 489–94. 127 across the Eurasian landmass: Cf.

The vessel’s engine is said to have been sent from Birmingham to Calcutta in 1817 or 1818, little more than a decade after Robert Fulton made history by launching the first commercial steamboat on the Hudson River in 1807. The first marine steam engines to see commercial service in India were purchased by a group of Calcutta businessmen from a British trader in Canton in 1823. The two engines were mounted on a locally built vessel, which was launched upon the Hooghly under the name Diana. Although the Diana attracted much attention, the venture was a commercial failure. But the import of steam engines continued at a steady pace: the records of one of Britain’s most important manufacturers of steam engines show that India was the company’s second-largest market after the Netherlands. Around this time, several steam engines were also built in Calcutta. The skills for the making and maintenance of these machines were abundantly available in and around the city.

But he was outdone by his relative, the engineer Ardeseer Cursetjee Wadia, who entered into apprenticeship in the Bombay Dockyard in 1822 at the age of fourteen and was eventually elected a Fellow of the Royal Society. Ardeseer wrote in his memoirs: ‘My enthusiastic love of science now led me to construct, unassisted, a small steam engine of about 1 HP. I likewise endeavored to explain to my countrymen the nature and properties of steam; and to effect this point I had constructed at a great expense in England, a marine steam-engine, which, being sent out to Bombay, I succeeded with the assistance of a native blacksmith in fixing in a boat of my own building.’ It will be evident from this that Indian entrepreneurs were quick to grasp the possibilities of British and American steam technology. There is no reason to suppose that they would not have been at least as good at imitating it as were their counterparts in, say, Germany or Russia, had the circumstances been different.


pages: 437 words: 115,594

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

"Robert Solow", 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 pandemic, 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, Nelson Mandela, 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, standardized shipping container, 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: 427 words: 111,965

The Weather Makers: How Man Is Changing the Climate and What It Means for Life on Earth by Tim Flannery

Alfred Russel Wallace, carbon footprint, clean water, cross-subsidies, decarbonisation, Doomsday Clock, hydrogen economy, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), James Watt: steam engine, South China Sea, Stephen Hawking, uranium enrichment, Y2K

Fifty years later, hundreds of them were at work in mines across the nation, and England’s coal production had grown to 6 million tonnes per year. The ingenious James Watt improved on Newcomen’s design and, with the assistance of his able business partner Matthew Boulton, created a market for a new, improved steam engine. Boulton never doubted the enormous potential of his business. When George III asked him how he made his living, he replied, ‘I am engaged, your Majesty, in the production of a commodity which is the desire of kings.’ When the King asked what he meant, Boulton simply said, ‘Power, your Majesty.’4 In 1784 Watt’s associate and friend William Murdoch produced the first mobile steam engine, transforming coal into a transport fuel, and from that moment on it was clear that the new century—the nineteenth—was to be the century of coal.

In the hydrogen and nuclear economies the production of power is likely to be centralised, which would mean the survival of the big power corporations. Pursuing wind and solar technologies, on the other hand, opens the possibility that people will generate most of their own power, transport fuel and even water (by condensing it from the air). If we follow this second path, we will have opened a door to a world the likes of which have not been seen since the days of James Watt, when a single fuel powered transport, industrial and domestic needs alike, the big difference being that the fuel will be generated not by large corporations, but by every one of us. THIRTY-ONE OF HYBRIDS, MINICATS AND CONTRAILS What is it that roareth thus? Can it be a Motor Bus? Yes, the smell and hideous hum Indicat Motorem Bum… How shall wretches live like us Cincti Bis Motoribus?

Despite the attraction they may have held for Scandinavians and others afflicted by hard winters, his ideas were soon forgotten. Yet quietly, and without a systematic plan, industry was performing Arrhenius’s bidding and increasing the amount of coal burned. Regardless of these advances climatologists seemed uninterested in the role greenhouse gases play in determining climate. Then in 1938 a steam engineer named Guy Callendar addressed the Royal Meteorological Society in London on the subject. Callendar had an amateur interest in climate trends, and his thorough compilation of statistics, he believed (correctly as it turned out), showed that the world was warming. Moreover, he announced that he knew the cause—the burning of coal and other fossil fuels in industrial machines.7 Unfortunately, Callendar’s prescient study was dismissed by the academicians as the dabbling of an amateur, and soon after the warming trend went into reverse, bringing a temporary end to this line of inquiry.


pages: 1,197 words: 304,245

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

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, Johannes Kepler, John Harrison: Longitude, knowledge economy, lateral thinking, lone genius, Mercator projection, On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres, Philip Mirowski, placebo effect, QWERTY keyboard, Republic of Letters, social intelligence, 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: 369 words: 98,776

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

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, undersea cable, 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: 733 words: 184,118

Tesla: Inventor of the Electrical Age by W. Bernard Carlson

1960s counterculture, Albert Einstein, Clayton Christensen, creative destruction, disruptive innovation, en.wikipedia.org, Henri Poincaré, invention of radio, Isaac Newton, James Watt: steam engine, Joseph Schumpeter, Menlo Park, packet switching, popular electronics, Robert Gordon, Ronald Reagan, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, undersea cable, yellow journalism

The lesson to be drawn from Tesla and Peck is that we need to understand and appreciate how inventors and entrepreneurs forge relationships that foster a balance between imagination and analysis: the businessperson “grounds” the inventor’s dreams in existing business practices and expectations but at the same time the inventor “inspires” the businessperson to see new possibilities in the technology. Alexander Graham Bell had this sort of relationship with his father-in-law, Gardiner Hubbard, as did Thomas Edison with William Orton of Western Union, but we should ask the same questions about the relationship between steam-engine pioneers James Watt and Matthew Boulton or Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs with Mike Markula in the early days of Apple Computer.22 For ideas to become disruptive technology, inventors must balance imagination and analysis not only in their own minds but also in relationships with their backers. In thinking about how inventors interact with their backers, it’s now time to turn from ideals to illusions. My impression is that even for an inventor like Tesla it can be very difficult to fully grasp an ideal; at any given moment, one can visualize in the mind’s eye some facets of the ideal but not necessarily all of them.

Moreover, the oscillations produced were completely isochronous, so much so that Tesla boasted that they could be used to run a clock.13 Tesla called this new machine his oscillator and he filed patent applications covering several versions in August and December 1893. He unveiled this new invention in a lecture he gave at the Chicago World’s Fair.14 FIGURE 10.2. Tesla’s oscillator, or combination steam engine and generator. This device consisted of three units: a generator at the top, an air spring in the middle, and a steam engine at the bottom. All three units were connected to the shaft that runs up the middle. When steam (or compressed air) was introduced into the cylinder of the steam engine, a piston on the main shaft moved upward and pushed a second wider piston, constituting an air spring. The air compressed behind this wider piston created a cushion which eventually pushed back on both pistons, thus reversing the motion of main shaft (center).

On the basis of this idea, the engineer calculated for Peck and Brown how a large-scale system of pipelines, pumps, engines, boilers, and condensers could be used to generate a seemingly inexhaustible supply of steam from the ocean, which could then be piped to steam engines. Although Peck and Brown found this plan interesting, they were concerned that it would require a huge amount of capital to build the proposed pilot plant. At the same time, they wondered how to distribute all the power that a huge steam plant might generate: how could the power be transmitted to numerous factories, shops, and homes?18 Already interested in an ambitious plan like this ocean-steam idea, then, Peck and Brown were naturally drawn to Tesla’s ideas about converting the heat from burning coal directly into electricity. The possibility of generating electricity directly from heat was highly appealing to inventors and investors because of the cost and complexity of using steam engines and dynamos. To generate electricity in the 1880s (or even today), one had to burn coal, which heated a boiler and produced steam.


pages: 297 words: 77,362

The Nature of Technology by W. Brian Arthur

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: 280 words: 74,559

Fully Automated Luxury Communism by Aaron Bastani

"Robert Solow", autonomous vehicles, banking crisis, basic income, Berlin Wall, Bernie Sanders, Bretton Woods, capital controls, cashless society, central bank independence, collapse of Lehman Brothers, computer age, computer vision, David Ricardo: comparative advantage, decarbonisation, dematerialisation, Donald Trump, double helix, Elon Musk, energy transition, Erik Brynjolfsson, financial independence, Francis Fukuyama: the end of history, future of work, G4S, housing crisis, income inequality, industrial robot, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Internet of things, Isaac Newton, James Watt: steam engine, Jeff Bezos, job automation, John Markoff, John Maynard Keynes: technological unemployment, Joseph Schumpeter, Kevin Kelly, Kuiper Belt, land reform, liberal capitalism, low earth orbit, low skilled workers, M-Pesa, market fundamentalism, means of production, mobile money, more computing power than Apollo, new economy, off grid, pattern recognition, Peter H. Diamandis: Planetary Resources, post scarcity, post-work, price mechanism, price stability, private space industry, Productivity paradox, profit motive, race to the bottom, RFID, rising living standards, Second Machine Age, self-driving car, sensor fusion, shareholder value, Silicon Valley, Simon Kuznets, Slavoj Žižek, stem cell, Stewart Brand, technoutopianism, the built environment, the scientific method, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thomas Malthus, transatlantic slave trade, Travis Kalanick, universal basic income, V2 rocket, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, Whole Earth Catalog, working-age population

Increasingly efficient engines powered by fossil fuels untied economic production from organic labour and unreliable forms of renewable energy. The general-purpose technology on which this was based was steam power, the first commercial application of which was Thomas Newcomen’s 1712 atmospheric engine. And yet it wasn’t until the closing decades of the century that capturing the power of steam proved transformational. While the steam engine was not a new creation, an improved version designed by James Watt turned it from a tool of marginal use to the focal point of what became the Industrial Revolution. Just as with agriculture twelve thousand years earlier, this was a shift so big that there was no reverse gear. The consequences of all of this were extraordinary. The combination of steam power and fossil fuels re-oriented production around the factory system, and allowed the creation of national and global infrastructures through railway networks and ocean-going steamships.

Yes, there was progress, as civilisations emerged and empires conquered, but fundamentally, the same sources of light, energy and warmth were available five thousand years ago as five hundred years ago. Life expectancy depended more on geography, social status and war than on technology and, until the last few centuries, most people’s ‘work’ involved subsistence agriculture. Then, around the middle of the eighteenth century, a new transformation began. The steam engine – along with coal – became the backbone of the Industrial Revolution and the first machine age. While it had taken all of recorded history for the world’s human population to reach 1 billion, it would take little more than a century to double once more. Now, new vistas of abundance opened up, with extended life expectancy, near-universal literacy, and increased production of just about everything.

Information Unbound: The Third Disruption This tendency to perpetually innovate as a result of competition, to constantly supplant work performed by humans and maximise productivity, would ultimately lead to a Third Disruption, one whose fullest conclusions are no less dizzying than the two which preceded it. This Third Disruption has already started, with evidence of its arrival all around us. As with the Second Disruption its basis is a general-purpose technology: the modern transistor and integrated circuit, contemporary analogues to Watt’s steam engine over two centuries ago. While the Second Disruption was marked by a relative freedom from scarcity in motive power – coal and oil rather than muscle and wind moving wheels, pulleys, ships, people and goods – the defining feature of the Third Disruption is ever-greater abundance in information. For some this signals the completion of the Industrial Revolution, marking an era in which machines are increasingly able to perform cognitive as well as physical tasks.


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

Airbnb, Alfred Russel Wallace, Berlin Wall, Burning Man, collaborative consumption, conceptual framework, creative destruction, different worldview, disruptive innovation, 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: 272 words: 64,626

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

23andMe, Andy Kessler, bank run, barriers to entry, Berlin Wall, Bob Noyce, British Empire, business cycle, 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, Kickstarter, 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

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, 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: 267 words: 72,552

Reinventing Capitalism in the Age of Big Data by Viktor Mayer-Schönberger, Thomas Ramge

accounting loophole / creative accounting, Air France Flight 447, Airbnb, Alvin Roth, Atul Gawande, augmented reality, banking crisis, basic income, Bayesian statistics, bitcoin, blockchain, Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty, carbon footprint, Cass Sunstein, centralized clearinghouse, Checklist Manifesto, cloud computing, cognitive bias, conceptual framework, creative destruction, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, disruptive innovation, Donald Trump, double entry bookkeeping, Elon Musk, en.wikipedia.org, Erik Brynjolfsson, Ford paid five dollars a day, Frederick Winslow Taylor, fundamental attribution error, George Akerlof, gig economy, Google Glasses, information asymmetry, interchangeable parts, invention of the telegraph, inventory management, invisible hand, James Watt: steam engine, Jeff Bezos, job automation, job satisfaction, joint-stock company, Joseph Schumpeter, Kickstarter, knowledge worker, labor-force participation, land reform, lone genius, low cost airline, low cost carrier, Marc Andreessen, market bubble, market design, market fundamentalism, means of production, meta analysis, meta-analysis, Moneyball by Michael Lewis explains big data, multi-sided market, natural language processing, Network effects, Norbert Wiener, offshore financial centre, Parag Khanna, payday loans, peer-to-peer lending, Peter Thiel, Ponzi scheme, prediction markets, price anchoring, price mechanism, purchasing power parity, random walk, recommendation engine, Richard Thaler, ride hailing / ride sharing, Sam Altman, Second Machine Age, self-driving car, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley startup, six sigma, smart grid, smart meter, Snapchat, statistical model, Steve Jobs, technoutopianism, The Future of Employment, The Market for Lemons, The Nature of the Firm, transaction costs, universal basic income, William Langewiesche, Y Combinator

This option lies at the heart of Fukoku’s decision to employ Watson. It’s the same rationale that, from time immemorial, has led firms to supplant humans with machines, from the steam engine to the factory robot. The strategy predates the Industrial Revolution. And it was well before the windmill replaced humans grinding grains and the printing press supplanted scribes. In fact, the ancient invention (or perhaps discovery) of the wheel itself enabled cargoes to be transported much more efficiently than through human carriage. The strategy to favor machines over humans gathered speed with the introduction of John Kay’s flying shuttle and James Watt’s steam engine in the eighteenth century. Initially, machines often were only marginally more efficient. They required considerable institutional support (such as appropriate laws, financial instruments, and the like), but improvements over time (including organizational changes) increased their efficiency by leaps and bounds, and they ultimately became indispensable in virtually all sectors.

An adjustment here or there can save the structure; at the very least it will ensure that everybody falls safely into the many arms that make up the roof of the pinya. A delicate give-and-take is essential to achieving the goal, as has been the case for generations of castellers. Despite the importance of the moments when humans first tamed fire, invented the wheel, or developed the steam engine, these discoveries and inventions pale compared to our human ability to coordinate. Without coordination, a flame would not warm more than one human being; the wheel could not transport but a single individual; and the steam engine would have no tracks to roll on and no factory to operate in. If there is a single crucial thread that has persisted through human history, it is the importance of coordination, whether our aim is to build a castell or a country. Close coordination played a transformative role in human evolution; in fact, our very existence has depended on it.

But that’s okay, because the insurance sector is relatively inefficient: a lot of paper gets processed and pushed around; it’s labor intensive and has seen limited automation. Profitability depends on setting premiums at the right level and assessing claims efficiently, but these decisions, although fairly straightforward, weren’t standardized enough to have been easily automated until sophisticated data-driven machines like Watson arrived. In that sense, insurance today is like steel production before the invention of Watt’s steam engine. Fukoku’s strategy to start automating these clerical decision processes is likely to pay off nicely. Installing Watson cost the company $1.7 million in up-front investment. Yearly maintenance is estimated to be around $130,000, and the company aims to save roughly $1.1 million per year on salaries. Their return on investment within two years is much faster than for heavy machine-based automation in manufacturing.


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

"Robert Solow", 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, longitudinal study, 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: 339 words: 88,732

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

"Robert Solow", 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 cycle, business intelligence, business process, call centre, Charles Lindbergh, 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, G4S, 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, post-work, 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: 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

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: 282 words: 82,107

An Edible History of Humanity by Tom Standage

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, Kickstarter, 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: 603 words: 182,826

Owning the Earth: The Transforming History of Land Ownership by Andro Linklater

agricultural Revolution, anti-communist, Anton Chekhov, Ayatollah Khomeini, Big bang: deregulation of the City of London, British Empire, business cycle, colonial rule, Corn Laws, corporate governance, creative destruction, Credit Default Swap, crony capitalism, David Ricardo: comparative advantage, facts on the ground, Francis Fukuyama: the end of history, full employment, Gini coefficient, Google Earth, income inequality, invisible hand, James Hargreaves, James Watt: steam engine, joint-stock company, joint-stock limited liability company, Joseph Schumpeter, Kibera, Kickstarter, land reform, land tenure, light touch regulation, market clearing, means of production, megacity, Mikhail Gorbachev, Mohammed Bouazizi, Monkeys Reject Unequal Pay, mortgage debt, Northern Rock, Peace of Westphalia, Pearl River Delta, plutocrats, Plutocrats, Ponzi scheme, profit motive, quantitative easing, Ralph Waldo Emerson, refrigerator car, Right to Buy, road to serfdom, Robert Shiller, Robert Shiller, Ronald Reagan, spinning jenny, The Chicago School, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thomas Malthus, Thorstein Veblen, too big to fail, trade route, transatlantic slave trade, transcontinental railway, ultimatum game, wage slave, WikiLeaks, wikimedia commons, working poor

Richard Arkwright, who in 1775 built and patented a water-powered frame for carding cotton and spinning it into long, tough thread, spent an estimated £2,200 in four years in unsuccessful attempts to defend his patent. Despite winning some cases, John Kaye found that every woollen manufacturer who pirated his patented flying shuttle had banded together to fight his claims for compensation, until the expense forced him to give up. Even James Watt, the canniest of patent holders, worried constantly about whether the risk of allowing competitors to build variants of his improved steam engine, outweighed the danger, if he went to court, of the judge removing his numerous patents altogether because of their inadequate specifications. “We had better bear with some inconvenience than lose all [in a lawsuit],” he told his partner, Matthew Boulton, “yet if we do not vindicate our rights we run a risk of losing all that way.”

As late as 1806, an unsuccessful plea was made in court to regard a patent “not in the light of monopoly . . . but as a bargain with the public,” but the argument no longer carried any weight. By the start of the nineteenth century, it was plain to lawyers and inventors, and even to pirates, that an idea detached from the uncharted wasteland of the mind belonged to the encloser, at least for a limited time, by the same natural right that made a plot of land the property of the improver. James Watt and Matthew Boulton’s partnership in the Soho Works in Birmingham was built on that insubstantial concept. What they sold for the most part was the blueprint for a steam engine, not the machine itself, and the price was simply a portion of the savings that it produced for its new owner. The creation of this new kind of property was essential in determining the pattern of industrialization that began to transform the country during the eighteenth century. When it came later to other countries, industrialism was often imposed by government direction, as in Germany, or developed by bureaucratic intervention, as in France.

It had brought into existence a widely dispersed, politically powerful, highly capitalized class of property owners. It offered an incentive to obtain profit from the land and from innovation. And most amorphously but recognizably, it fostered a highly personalized, self-motivated outlook on the use to which possessions might be put. When Samuel Garbett, cofounder of the Carron Ironworks, Britain’s first mass-production armaments factory, wrote in 1782 to Matthew Boulton, partner of the inventor James Watt and owner of the Soho manufactory, about founding a bank to invest in new industrial ventures, he picked out two vital ingredients that only the descendants of the land revolution could supply. “Nothing but real and well known landed property joined with ministerial connections,” he said, “can make a bank at Birmingham so lucrative as to be worth your or my notice as principals.” Land represented capital, and influence with government ministers provided the political protection that every new property required.


pages: 220 words: 73,451

Democratizing innovation by Eric von Hippel

additive manufacturing, correlation coefficient, Debian, disruptive innovation, hacker house, informal economy, information asymmetry, inventory management, iterative process, James Watt: steam engine, knowledge economy, longitudinal study, 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: 398 words: 100,679

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

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, low earth orbit, mass immigration, nuclear winter, off grid, 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: 301 words: 89,076

The Globotics Upheaval: Globalisation, Robotics and the Future of Work by Richard Baldwin

agricultural Revolution, Airbnb, AltaVista, Amazon Web Services, augmented reality, autonomous vehicles, basic income, business process, business process outsourcing, call centre, Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty, Cass Sunstein, commoditize, computer vision, Corn Laws, correlation does not imply causation, Credit Default Swap, David Ricardo: comparative advantage, declining real wages, deindustrialization, deskilling, Donald Trump, Douglas Hofstadter, Downton Abbey, Elon Musk, Erik Brynjolfsson, facts on the ground, future of journalism, future of work, George Gilder, Google Glasses, Google Hangouts, hiring and firing, impulse control, income inequality, industrial robot, intangible asset, Internet of things, invisible hand, James Watt: steam engine, Jeff Bezos, job automation, knowledge worker, laissez-faire capitalism, low skilled workers, Machine translation of "The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak." to Russian and back, manufacturing employment, Mark Zuckerberg, mass immigration, mass incarceration, Metcalfe’s law, new economy, optical character recognition, pattern recognition, Ponzi scheme, post-industrial society, post-work, profit motive, remote working, reshoring, ride hailing / ride sharing, Robert Gordon, Robert Metcalfe, Ronald Reagan, Second Machine Age, self-driving car, side project, Silicon Valley, Skype, Snapchat, social intelligence, sovereign wealth fund, standardized shipping container, statistical model, Stephen Hawking, Steve Jobs, supply-chain management, TaskRabbit, telepresence, telepresence robot, telerobotics, Thomas Malthus, trade liberalization, universal basic income

The colossal shift of the population from country to city, and the economy from agriculture to industry required astronomical amounts of energy—amounts that would have been impossible to satisfy with firewood, water, and wind power.3 The next century and a half witnessed a “waltz” between steam power and mechanization. Steam engines got stronger, lighter and more fuel efficient as machine manufacturing got more precise. In turn, better steam engines made it easier and more worthwhile to develop better machinery. The process was cumulative. An especially notable milestone in this process came a half century after Newcomen took the horse out of horsepower. In 1769, James Watt’s steam engine put the watt into wattage. While this progress was revolutionary at the time—especially compared with the previous stagnation—it was slow by today’s standards. It was nothing like the eruptive pace of the digital technology that is driving the Globotics Transformation.

Or, in the more rotund nineteenth-century phraseology of Jean-Baptiste Say: “As each of us can only purchase the productions of others with his own productions—as the value we can buy is equal to the value we can produce, the more men can produce, the more they will purchase.”4 Globalization exaggerated both the push and pull factors in sectors that were open to trade. But the trade half of the tech-trade team lagged far behind. Steam power fired the starting gun on globalization a full century after Newcomen’s steam engine unleased automation. The reason, quite simply, was that it took decades of refinements to make steam engines that were compact enough to put on wheels and ships. Modern Globalization Starts Railroads dramatically reduced the cost of moving goods. For the first time in history, the interiors of the world’s great land masses were linked to the global economy. Steamships had an equally radical impact on seaborne transportation. The year 1819 saw the first steamship cross the Atlantic.

Innovation explodes as people try to get rich by working through the nearly infinite combinations of components in search of valuable digital products. In their breakthrough book, The Second Machine Age, Erik Brynjolfsson and Andy McAfee point out the implications. A big difference between digital technology and traditional technology is that new products and components can be reproduced costlessly, instantly, and perfectly. Imagine how much faster the Industrial Revolution would have spread if Newcomen’s steam engine could have been reproduced costlessly, instantly, and perfectly. Self-driving cars are an example of Varian’s law. They are one of the sure-fire, high-tech wonders of the future. Yet they use no breakthrough technology. They are a recombination of existing technologies like GPS, Wi-Fi, advanced sensors, anti-lock brakes, automatic transmission, traction and stability control, adaptive cruise control, lane control, and mapping software—all integrated by tons of processing power, and an AI-powered white-collared robot.


pages: 298 words: 81,200

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

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, James Hargreaves, James Watt: steam engine, Jane Jacobs, Jaron Lanier, Johannes Kepler, 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: 294 words: 86,601

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

Columbine, double helix, epigenetics, experimental subject, Gödel, Escher, Bach, James Watt: steam engine, l'esprit de l'escalier, lateral thinking, pattern recognition, phenotype, social intelligence, 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: 286 words: 87,168

Less Is More: How Degrowth Will Save the World by Jason Hickel

air freight, Airbnb, basic income, Bernie Sanders, Big bang: deregulation of the City of London, Boris Johnson, Bretton Woods, British Empire, capital controls, cognitive dissonance, coronavirus, corporate governance, corporate personhood, COVID-19, David Graeber, decarbonisation, declining real wages, deindustrialization, dematerialisation, Elon Musk, energy transition, Fellow of the Royal Society, Fractional reserve banking, Francis Fukuyama: the end of history, full employment, gender pay gap, income inequality, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), invention of the steam engine, James Watt: steam engine, Jeff Bezos, John Maynard Keynes: Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren, land reform, liberal capitalism, longitudinal study, Mahatma Gandhi, Mark Zuckerberg, McMansion, means of production, meta analysis, meta-analysis, microbiome, moral hazard, mortgage debt, Naomi Klein, new economy, offshore financial centre, oil shale / tar sands, out of africa, passive income, planetary scale, plutocrats, Plutocrats, quantitative easing, rent control, rent-seeking, Ronald Reagan, Scramble for Africa, secular stagnation, shareholder value, sharing economy, Simon Kuznets, structural adjustment programs, the scientific method, The Spirit Level, transatlantic slave trade, trickle-down economics, universal basic income

As these results trickled out, UNEP had no choice but to change its position, admitting that green growth was a pipe dream: absolute decoupling of GDP and material use is simply not possible on a global scale. What’s going on here? What explains these bizarre results? The thing about technology Back in 1865, during the Industrial Revolution, the English economist William Stanley Jevons noticed something rather strange. James Watt had just introduced his steam engine, which was significantly more efficient than previous versions: it used less coal per unit of output. Everyone assumed that this would reduce total coal consumption. But oddly enough, exactly the opposite happened: coal consumption in England soared. The reason, Jevons discovered, was that the efficiency improvement saved money, and capitalists reinvested the savings to expand production.

Asked to explain this odd name, Verily’s CEO Andy Conrad said it had been chosen because ‘only through the truth are we going to defeat Mother Nature’. Two Rise of the Juggernaut Capitalism can no more be ‘persuaded’ to limit growth than a human being can be ‘persuaded’ to stop breathing. Murray Bookchin I still remember when I first learned about the history of capitalism in school. It was a happy story that started with the invention of the steam engine in the eighteenth century and worked its way through a parade of technological innovations, from the flying shuttle all the way up to the personal computer. I remember marvelling at the glossy pictures in the textbook. As this story would have it, economic growth is like a fountain of money that springs forth from technology itself. It’s a wonderful tale, and it leaves us with the hopeful impression that with the right technology, we should be able to get growth more or less out of thin air.

Enclosure, colonisation, dispossession, the slave trade … historically, growth has always been a process of appropriation: the appropriation of energy and work from nature and from (certain kinds of) human beings. Yes, capitalism has driven some extraordinary technological innovations, and these innovations have driven an extraordinary acceleration of growth. But the main contribution that technology makes to growth is not that it produces money out of thin air, but rather that it enables capital to expand and intensify the process of appropriation.1 This was true well before the steam engine. Even in the early 1500s, innovations in sugar-milling technology allowed plantation owners to put more land under sugar than they otherwise would have been able to process. Similarly, the invention of the cotton gin enabled producers to expand cotton monoculture. New wind-powered pumps were used to drain Europe’s wild wetlands, opening vast tracts of land to farming. The development of bigger blast furnaces allowed for faster iron smelting, which in turn paved the way for more mining.


pages: 323 words: 90,868

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

"Robert Solow", 3D printing, Airbnb, American energy revolution, assortative mating, autonomous vehicles, Bakken shale, barriers to entry, basic income, Bernie Sanders, BRICs, business cycle, 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, disruptive innovation, 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, 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, post-work, 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 Rise and Fall of American Growth, The Spirit Level, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, trade liberalization, transaction costs, Tyler Cowen: Great Stagnation, Uber and Lyft, Uber for X, uber lyft, 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.


Wealth and Poverty of Nations by David S. Landes

"Robert Solow", Admiral Zheng, affirmative action, agricultural Revolution, Atahualpa, Ayatollah Khomeini, Bartolomé de las Casas, British Empire, business cycle, Cape to Cairo, clean water, colonial rule, Columbian Exchange, computer age, David Ricardo: comparative advantage, deindustrialization, deskilling, European colonialism, Fellow of the Royal Society, financial intermediation, Francisco Pizarro, germ theory of disease, glass ceiling, illegal immigration, income inequality, Index librorum prohibitorum, interchangeable parts, invention of agriculture, invention of movable type, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, James Watt: steam engine, John Harrison: Longitude, joint-stock company, Just-in-time delivery, Kenneth Arrow, land tenure, lateral thinking, mass immigration, Mexican peso crisis / tequila crisis, MITM: man-in-the-middle, Monroe Doctrine, Murano, Venice glass, new economy, New Urbanism, North Sea oil, out of africa, passive investing, Paul Erdős, Paul Samuelson, Philip Mirowski, rent-seeking, Right to Buy, Scramble for Africa, Simon Kuznets, South China Sea, spice trade, spinning jenny, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, trade route, transaction costs, transatlantic slave trade, Vilfredo Pareto, zero-sum game

On the contrary: it takes a lot of small and large improvements to turn an idea into a technique. Take steampower. The first device to use steam to create a vacuum and work a pump was patented in England by Thomas Savery in 1698; the first steam engine proper (with piston) by Thomas Newcomen in 1705. Newcomen's atmospheric engine (so called becuase it relied simply on atmospheric pressure) in turn was grossly wasteful of energy because the cylinder cooled and had to be reheated with every stroke. The machine therefore worked best pumping water out o f coal mines, where fuel was almost a free g o o d . 1 188 T H E WEALTH AND POVERTY OF NATIONS A long time—sixty years—passed before James Watt invented an en­ gine with separate condenser ( 1 7 6 8 ) whose fuel efficiency was good enough to make steam profitable away from the mines, in the new in­ dustrial cities; and it took another fifteen years to adapt the machine to rotary motion, so that it could drive the wheels o f industry.

N o technique drew so closely on experiment—a long inquiry into vacuums and air pressure that began in the sixteenth century and reached fruition in the late seventeenth in the work o f Otto von Guericke ( 1 6 0 2 - 1 6 8 6 ) , Evangelista Torricelli ( 1 6 0 8 - 1 6 4 7 ) , Robert Boyle ( 1 6 2 7 - 1 6 9 1 ) , and Denys Papin (> 1 6 4 7 - 1 7 1 2 ) , German, Italian, English, French. To be sure, the scientists o f the eighteenth century could not have explained why and how a steam engine worked. That had to wait for Sadi Carnot ( 1 7 9 6 - 1 8 3 2 ) and the laws of thermodynamics. But to say that the en­ gine anticipated knowledge is not to say that the engine builder did not draw on earlier scientific acquisitions, both substantive and method­ ological. James Watt made the point. His master and mentor Joseph Black ( 1 7 2 8 - 1 7 9 9 ) did not give him the idea for the separate con­ denser, but working with Black gave him the practice and method to probe and resolve the issue. Even at that, the heroic inventor did not give full credit.

Britain was not the only country with techniques worth learning or stealing (although by now it had the lion's share of the potential loot), and British manufacturers had no more scruples than their Continental rivals. Besides, it takes two to tango, and skilled craftsmen, like savants and artists, took all o f Europe as their home. One of the most valuable secrets o f French metalworkers, for example, was the gilding, usually on brass or bronze, known as ormolu (or moulu)—bright, shiny, phony, hence immensely profitable. Matthew Boulton gained fame as James Watt's partner in the manufacture o f steam engines, but he began as master maker o f buttons, buckles, watch chains, candlesticks, and all manner o f metal objects. Boulton put money and men out in every direction to learn this French technique; also to seduce French craftsmen and artists, with their tools 4 * Jars also visited metallurgical installations in Styria, B o h e m i a , the L i è g e district ( n o w B e l g i u m ) , a n d S w e d e n .


pages: 843 words: 223,858

The Rise of the Network Society by Manuel Castells

"Robert Solow", Apple II, Asian financial crisis, barriers to entry, Big bang: deregulation of the City of London, Bob Noyce, borderless world, British Empire, business cycle, 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, laissez-faire capitalism, Leonard Kleinrock, longitudinal study, 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

Albert Einstein, animal electricity, 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, Thales of Miletus, the scientific method, Thomas Davenport, 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: 322 words: 88,197

Wonderland: How Play Made the Modern World by Steven Johnson

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, 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: 307 words: 92,165

Fabricated: The New World of 3D Printing by Hod Lipson, Melba Kurman

3D printing, a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, additive manufacturing, barriers to entry, Berlin Wall, carbon footprint, cloud computing, crowdsourcing, dumpster diving, en.wikipedia.org, factory automation, game design, global supply chain, invisible hand, James Watt: steam engine, Jeff Bezos, Kickstarter, Lean Startup, lifelogging, Mars Rover, Marshall McLuhan, microcredit, Minecraft, new economy, off grid, personalized medicine, Ray Kurzweil, Richard Feynman, stem cell, Steve Jobs, technological singularity, the market place

RepRap To learn more about 3D printing and get an alternative perspective on intellectual property, we journeyed to the tall rolling hills of southwestern England to speak with one of 3D printing’s most influential people, Adrian Bowyer, creator of the iconic RepRap printer. “Patents do inhibit development—it’s unquestionably the case,” said Adrian. “It’s in the nature of patents that they give a monopoly to whoever holds them for 20 years.” He continued, “James Watt patented various vital aspects of the steam engine. Yet, you look at steam engine development and nothing happened for 20 years during the life of Watt’s patent. When that patent lapsed, there was a great flaring of steam engine innovation and then the industrial revolution.” When Adrian and his students created RepRap in 2004, they didn’t know it at the time but RepRap printers would become a game-changing technology and intellectual property experiment. The RepRap project emerged from the University of Bath.

The people who first embraced personal computers were similar demographically to the people who have embraced home-scale 3D printers. There’s another complicating factor that increases the allure of personal computing and industrial revolution metaphors: 3D printing is more than a single technology. It’s a broad platform technology that will drag along other technologies in its wake. Similarly transformative technologies like the steam engine or telegraph also sent shock waves in every which direction. The experience economy In their book The Experience Economy, authors Joseph Pine and James Gilmore predict that a company’s competitive advantage will be increasingly based on the intensity of customer experience. Pine and Gilmore explain that the economy has evolved several times already, from an agrarian economy, to an industrial economy, to today’s service economy.2 In Pine and Gilmore’s experience economy, a product’s value falls somewhere into a continuum of intensity of experience.

Imagine you’re the attorney defending the family of the amateur car enthusiast who died in the car crash. Where would you assign fault? On the person who made the faulty design file? The person who 3D printed and sold it? The website that advertised the part? Perhaps the manufacturer of the car the faulty wheel was installed onto, the printer manufacturer, or the material supplier? Standards can help set clear boundaries of responsibilities. In the early days of steam engines, boilers used to blow up, frequently causing injury and damage. It was insurance companies that insisted on delineating responsibilities by setting clear standards of production. A set of criteria were eventually created that specified the minimum requirement to certify a boiler for a certain operating steam pressure, such as material thickness, safety margins and pressure release valves. A boiler that did not meet the standard would likely not be insured.


pages: 456 words: 123,534

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

air freight, American ideology, 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, 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, undersea cable

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: 396 words: 117,897

Making the Modern World: Materials and Dematerialization by Vaclav Smil

2013 Report for America's Infrastructure - American Society of Civil Engineers - 19 March 2013, additive manufacturing, American Society of Civil Engineers: Report Card, British Empire, decarbonisation, deindustrialization, dematerialisation, Deng Xiaoping, energy transition, Fellow of the Royal Society, global pandemic, Haber-Bosch Process, happiness index / gross national happiness, hydraulic fracturing, income inequality, indoor plumbing, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), James Watt: steam engine, megacity, megastructure, oil shale / tar sands, peak oil, post-industrial society, purchasing power parity, recommendation engine, rolodex, X Prize

Famines were infrequent, but prevailing diets were barely adequate, monotonous, and overwhelmingly cereal-based; high infant mortality reduced the average life expectancy at birth to less than 40 years; housing was crowded, unhygienic, and uncomfortable; wood (and charcoal made from it) and crop residues (mostly cereal straws) were the dominant fuels; human and animal muscle were the most important prime movers; and wood, stone, and clay (shaped and fired as bricks) furnished the basic building materials, while possession of objects made from metals and alloys (iron, copper, bronze, brass) was uncommon. Only in England did coal displace wood as the dominant fuel. James Watt's (still quite inefficient) steam engines began to offer the first competition to windmills and waterwheels as reliable, and increasingly powerful, prime movers, while replacement of charcoal by coal made it possible to build larger blast furnaces, to produce more iron, and to lower the cost of many common iron objects. But even in the UK diets were often marginal, life expectancies were short, and the material possessions of most people were limited.

The heaviest working horses (English Clydesdales, French Percherons) weigh nearly 1 t and develop more than 1 hp (745 W), that is, again, specific power close to 1000 g/W during prolonged pulls (Smil, 1994). By the mid nineteenth century the specific mass of many steam engines was below 500 g/W and by the late nineteenth century the best design (triple-expansion engines) rated less than 100 g/W, still too heavy to energize affordable road transport. Internal combustion engines changed that. In 1874, Otto's first (noncompression and stationary) internal combustion engine had a nearly 4-m tall cylinder and was very heavy: at about 900 g/W its mass/power ratio was several times that of the best contemporary steam engines. Compression lowered the engine's size and weight and reduced the ratio to about 270 g/W by 1890, less than that of the small stationary steam engines used in workshops and factories. The first order-of-magnitude improvement came with the introduction of gasoline-powered engines, designed during the 1880s by Karl Benz, Gottlieb Daimler, and Wilhelm Maybach.

The rate's inverse (W/g), commonly known as power-to-weight ratio (or specific power), is one of the most revealing characteristics used when assessing and comparing the performance of engines or machines; and its variant, thrust-to-weight ratio, is used for gas turbines and rocket engines deployed in commercial and military jet propulsion and in launching payloads to space. The baseline for comparison is the performance of the first fuel-powered mechanical prime movers, steam engines of the eighteenth century. By 1750, after decades of marginal improvements, a standard-sized, Newcomen, inefficient steam engine developed about 15 kW, weighed nearly 9.6 t, and had a mass/power ratio of about 640 g/W (Smil, 2008). Three decades later even Watt's famous improved design (patented in 1765) remained a very heavy machine (9.2 t, 15 kW) rated at just over 600 g/W. This was the same order of magnitude as the specific mass for the two most important animate prime movers, hard-working men and large draft horses.


pages: 313 words: 84,312

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

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, disruptive innovation, 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, Johannes Kepler, John Markoff, John von Neumann, Joi Ito, Kevin Kelly, knowledge economy, knowledge worker, lateral thinking, lone genius, M-Pesa, Mark Shuttleworth, Mark Zuckerberg, Marshall McLuhan, Menlo Park, microcredit, Mitch Kapor, 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: 225 words: 54,010

A Short History of Progress by Ronald Wright

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: 486 words: 150,849

Evil Geniuses: The Unmaking of America: A Recent History by Kurt Andersen

affirmative action, Affordable Care Act / Obamacare, airline deregulation, airport security, always be closing, American ideology, American Legislative Exchange Council, anti-communist, Apple's 1984 Super Bowl advert, artificial general intelligence, autonomous vehicles, basic income, Bernie Sanders, blue-collar work, Bonfire of the Vanities, bonus culture, Burning Man, call centre, Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty, Cass Sunstein, centre right, computer age, coronavirus, corporate governance, corporate raider, COVID-19, Covid-19, creative destruction, Credit Default Swap, cryptocurrency, deindustrialization, Donald Trump, Elon Musk, ending welfare as we know it, Erik Brynjolfsson, feminist movement, financial deregulation, financial innovation, Francis Fukuyama: the end of history, future of work, game design, George Gilder, Gordon Gekko, greed is good, High speed trading, hive mind, income inequality, industrial robot, interchangeable parts, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, James Watt: steam engine, Jane Jacobs, Jaron Lanier, Jeff Bezos, jitney, Joan Didion, job automation, John Maynard Keynes: Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren, John Maynard Keynes: technological unemployment, Joseph Schumpeter, knowledge worker, low skilled workers, Lyft, Mark Zuckerberg, market bubble, mass immigration, mass incarceration, Menlo Park, Naomi Klein, new economy, Norbert Wiener, Norman Mailer, obamacare, Peter Thiel, Picturephone, plutocrats, Plutocrats, post-industrial society, Powell Memorandum, pre–internet, Ralph Nader, Right to Buy, road to serfdom, Robert Bork, Robert Gordon, Robert Mercer, Ronald Reagan, Saturday Night Live, Seaside, Florida, Second Machine Age, shareholder value, Silicon Valley, Social Responsibility of Business Is to Increase Its Profits, Steve Jobs, Stewart Brand, strikebreaker, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, The Future of Employment, The Rise and Fall of American Growth, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Tim Cook: Apple, too big to fail, trickle-down economics, Tyler Cowen: Great Stagnation, Uber and Lyft, uber lyft, union organizing, universal basic income, Unsafe at Any Speed, urban planning, urban renewal, very high income, wage slave, Wall-E, War on Poverty, Whole Earth Catalog, winner-take-all economy, women in the workforce, working poor, young professional, éminence grise

But most jobs are fairly “narrow” and don’t require a lot of high-level creative problem-solving. I used to hire freelance transcribers and translators, but in the last few years I’ve replaced them with software that does the work a little roughly but well enough to serve my needs. The first industrial revolution took off around 1800 when steam technology improved from impractical to okay after James Watt designed an engine that captured 3 percent of the energy of the coal it burned instead of his forerunners’ 1 percent. (Two centuries later the giant steam engines that still generate most of our electricity still operate at less than 40 percent efficiency.) The good enough beats the perfect. As for when and how many particular jobs will be taken over by machines, either disembodied AI or robots, the estimates range widely, but pre-pandemic most predicted that between 15 and 30 percent of current jobs in the United States and the rest of the developed world will be eliminated during the next ten to twenty years, with many more “at risk.”

Reagan helped: he fast-tracked Murdoch for U.S. citizenship so that his company could get around the federal law forbidding foreigners from owning stations, then waived the federal rule forbidding anyone from owning a TV station and a newspaper in the same city, as Murdoch suddenly did in New York and Boston. The footings were now in place to build the important final piece of the right’s counter-Establishment. *1 The one right-wing fanatic in Reagan’s first cabinet was Interior Secretary James Watt, a Pentecostal Christian who’d run the new anti-environmental-regulation law firm funded by Joseph Coors. Watt was forced out after two years for what he said about a federal commission he oversaw, a remark I doubt would have cost him his job in a current Republican administration: “We have every kind of mix you can have. I have a black, I have a woman, two Jews and a cripple.” *2 Painless victory was also a new principle in geopolitics: less than a decade after we’d slunk and then rushed out of Vietnam in defeat, the Reagan administration managed a restoration of America’s sense of military supremacy by invading the tiny Caribbean nation of Grenada (pop. 95,985) and brushing its Communist regime out of existence at the cost of just eighteen U.S. service members’ lives.

You probably imagine, as I did, that the average European’s standard of living gradually improved as the Middle Ages ended in the 1400s. In fact, in the economies of America and Britain, measured by the average person’s share of total production, as the economist Robert Gordon says, “there was virtually no economic growth before 1750.” And that changed only because in the 1760s and ’70s practical large-scale steam engines were perfected, just as manufacturing was being otherwise mechanized. Suddenly life was transformed: the industrial revolution began at the same moment as our Revolution. In fact, one reason Americans fought the war was because the English back home weren’t eager for the colonies to industrialize and had even banned some kinds of manufacturing in America. When victory came, it seemed all of a piece, like providence or destiny: an amazing new nation, amazing new technology, amazing new systems of manufacture and transportation—land of the free, home of the new.


pages: 636 words: 202,284

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

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: 333 words: 76,990

The Long Good Buy: Analysing Cycles in Markets by Peter Oppenheimer

"Robert Solow", asset allocation, banking crisis, banks create money, barriers to entry, Berlin Wall, Big bang: deregulation of the City of London, Bretton Woods, business cycle, buy and hold, Cass Sunstein, central bank independence, collective bargaining, computer age, credit crunch, debt deflation, decarbonisation, diversification, dividend-yielding stocks, equity premium, Fall of the Berlin Wall, financial innovation, fixed income, Flash crash, forward guidance, Francis Fukuyama: the end of history, George Akerlof, housing crisis, index fund, invention of the printing press, Isaac Newton, James Watt: steam engine, joint-stock company, Joseph Schumpeter, Kickstarter, liberal capitalism, light touch regulation, liquidity trap, Live Aid, market bubble, Mikhail Gorbachev, mortgage debt, negative equity, Network effects, new economy, Nikolai Kondratiev, Nixon shock, oil shock, open economy, price stability, private sector deleveraging, Productivity paradox, quantitative easing, railway mania, random walk, Richard Thaler, risk tolerance, risk-adjusted returns, Robert Shiller, Robert Shiller, Ronald Reagan, savings glut, secular stagnation, Simon Kuznets, South Sea Bubble, special economic zone, stocks for the long run, technology bubble, The Great Moderation, too big to fail, total factor productivity, trade route, tulip mania, yield curve

Again, as it turned out, cinema reinvented itself and has become a fast-growing sector in the entertainment industry, with global ticket sales reaching a record $41.7 billion in 2018.7 Even vinyl records are making a comeback among the younger generation attracted by their retro appeal, with over 4 million chart-eligible albums sold in the UK alone in 2018.8 Technology and Growth in the Cycle One aspect of the current technology boom that has dominated the equity cycle in the past 10 years or so is that economic growth and productivity growth have generally been low. Some have argued that this is a paradox and that it illustrates the limited impact of such technologies and that stock prices must therefore be overvaluing their potential. But there is strong evidence from history that previous waves of technology have also resulted in slower growth in productivity and economic activity than is generally believed. For example, although James Watt marketed a relatively efficient engine in 1774, it took until 1812 for the first commercially successful steam locomotive to appear, and it wasn't until the 1830s that British output per capita clearly accelerated. Several academic studies have shown that the improvements in productivity in Britain in the late 19th century were small.9 Productivity growth was slow during the last decades of the 18th century, and it did not improve until 1830.

We saw similar patterns in the technology boom of the 1990s as the belief that technology would boost data usage resulted in a surge in value across telecom and media companies, as well as new technology companies. As it turned out, the ultimate winners in the emerging technology spaces were often not those that people expected, or that even existed, in the first wave. Furthermore, many telecom and media companies have been disrupted by the very technological innovations that, 20 years ago, were expected to be so transformative. During the railway boom, the steam engine spawned the development of the railways, and the network effect and connectivity then enabled other technologies to develop. This pattern has also been evident over the past two decades. The development and rapid take-up of the internet has enabled the development, and rapid penetration, of the smartphone. This has itself spawned an industry of companies based on the apps used on these phones (think of the revolution in taxi and food delivery services, for example) and, in turn, the ‘internet of everything’ (the world of connected appliances).

In this context, it makes sense that the digital revolution has not yet boosted productivity.11 New technologies often have huge potential for productivity growth but can be difficult to adopt efficiently until there is a reorganisation in the manufacturing process and, in many cases, there exists a global standard in the technology. At the same time, the requirement to build out the full network effects can slow the initial penetration and therefore the productivity boost. The use of the steam engine, and coal for smelting, was also subject to these network effects. Coal transport was eventually a major boost to growth and productivity but could not be fully adopted until transport networks were in place. Equally, the large fixed costs of investment could be recouped only when enough new users had switched to the new power source. At the same time, the use of steam power required the building of factories and then the building of canals to facilitate the transportation of raw materials and finished products.


pages: 476 words: 120,892

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

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, 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: 405 words: 117,219

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

3D printing, Ada Lovelace, agricultural Revolution, Airbnb, Alan Turing: On Computable Numbers, with an Application to the Entscheidungsproblem, animal electricity, 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, Jacques de Vaucanson, James Watt: steam engine, job automation, John von Neumann, Joseph-Marie Jacquard, Kickstarter, 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, social intelligence, 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: 196 words: 57,974

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

affirmative action, barriers to entry, Bonfire of the Vanities, borderless world, business process, Charles Lindbergh, 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: 424 words: 140,262

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

banking crisis, Beeching cuts, British Empire, Cape to Cairo, invention of the wheel, James Watt: steam engine, joint-stock company, Khartoum Gordon, Kickstarter, 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.


The Big Oyster by Mark Kurlansky

clean water, colonial rule, East Village, James Watt: steam engine, joint-stock company, Louis Pasteur, Ralph Waldo Emerson, transcontinental railway, women in the workforce

Livingston had been a deputy to the Continental Congress, law partner of the first Supreme Court chief justice, John Jay, and a native New Yorker who was serving as the U.S. ambassador to France. Fulton could not interest Livingston in his submarine either. Livingston had a long-standing interest in steamboats, though, which was why he had been on board Fitch’s invention on the Collect. Being from New York City, Livingston immediately grasped the significance of Fulton’s idea for using the steam engine. The engine Fulton wanted to use had been developed by James Watt, a Scot who is also sometimes credited with inventing steam engines but had not—Thomas Savery did in 1698— 1 0 0 • T h e B i g O y s te r to drive two paddle wheels and power a vessel. Livingston contracted Fulton to build a boat with steam-powered paddle wheels that would work the Hudson River between New York City and Albany. Their first prototype in 1803 sank in the Seine. The French were nevertheless impressed with the theory.

The oyster dredge, a new and controversial tool, was introduced. 1 3 0 • T h e B i g O y s te r The fact that there was so much controversy over the oyster dredge demonstrates that the New York oyster fishery, poor as its management was, was far ahead of most fisheries. Virtually the same technique, stern dragging, was raising comparatively little controversy in the fisheries targeting cod, flounder, and other bottom fish until the midtwentieth century. The crisis of overfishing became apparent in oyster beds more than a century before it became apparent in fish stocks. Dredging and bottom dragging were first done under sail, but it was the steam engine that made them dangerously efficient. An oyster dredge dragged a heavy bar along the bed with a netting basket behind it. Immediately it was seen that such a device could clear out the ocean floor. Victor Coste vehemently opposed oyster dredges. In an 1858 report to the French emperor Napoléon III, he stated, “Six weeks of daily dragging would be enough to denude the whole coast of France.” The French started calling the oyster dredge the “oyster guillotine.”


The Rough Guide to England by Rough Guides

active transport: walking or cycling, Airbnb, Albert Einstein, bike sharing scheme, Bob Geldof, Boris Johnson, British Empire, car-free, Columbine, congestion charging, Corn Laws, deindustrialization, Downton Abbey, Edmond Halley, Etonian, food miles, haute cuisine, housing crisis, Isaac Newton, James Watt: steam engine, John Harrison: Longitude, Kickstarter, low cost airline, Neil Kinnock, offshore financial centre, period drama, plutocrats, Plutocrats, the market place, trade route, transatlantic slave trade, University of East Anglia, upwardly mobile, urban sprawl

Unlike the more specialist industrial towns that grew up across the north and the Midlands, “Brum” – and its “Brummies” – turned its hand to every kind of manufacturing, gaining the epithet “the city of 1001 trades”. It was here that the pioneers of the Industrial Revolution – James Watt, Matthew Boulton, Josiah Wedgwood, Joseph Priestley and Erasmus Darwin (grandfather of Charles) – formed the Lunar Society, an extraordinary melting pot of scientific and industrial ideas. They conceived the world’s first purpose-built factory, invented gas lighting and pioneered both the distillation of oxygen and the mass production of the steam engine. Thus, a modest Midlands market town mushroomed into the nation’s economic dynamo, with a population to match: in 1841 there were 180,000 inhabitants; just fifty years later that number had trebled. Now Britain’s second-largest city, with a population of over one million, Birmingham has long outgrown the squalor and misery of its boom years and today its industrial supremacy is recalled – but only recalled – by a crop of recycled buildings, from warehouses to old factories, and an extensive network of canals.

The Industrial Revolution England’s triumph over Napoleon was underpinned by its financial strength, which was itself born of the Industrial Revolution, the switch from an agricultural to a manufacturing economy that transformed the face of the country within a century. The earliest mechanized production was in the northern cotton mills, where cotton-spinning progressed from a cottage industry to a highly productive factory-based system. Initially, river water powered the mills, but the technology changed after James Watt patented his steam engine in 1781. Watt’s engines needed coal, which made it convenient to locate mills and factories near coal mines, a tendency that was accelerated as ironworks took up coal as a smelting fuel, vastly increasing the output from their furnaces. Accordingly, there was a shift of population towards the Midlands and the north of England, where the great coal reserves were located, and as the industrial economy boomed and diversified, so these regions’ towns mushroomed at an extraordinary rate.

St Paul’s church St Paul’s Square, B3 1QZ • Ring for opening times • 0121 236 7858, stpaulsjq.church On St Paul’s Square, an attractive ensemble of old houses flank St Paul’s church, whose rational symmetries, dating to the 1770s, are an excellent illustration of Neoclassical design. To the people who paid for it (by public subscription), though, there was much more to the building than aesthetics: gone were the mysteries of the medieval church, replaced by a church of the Enlightenment and one that proved popular with the new industrialists – both Matthew Boulton and James Watt had family pews here, though Watt never actually turned up. Jewellery Quarter Birmingham’s long-established Jewellery Quarter is located to the northwest of Snow Hill station. Buckle- and toy-makers first colonized this area in the 1750s, opening the way for hundreds of silversmiths, jewellers and goldsmiths, and today there are still several hundred jewellery-related companies in the district.


pages: 1,000 words: 247,974

Empire of Cotton: A Global History by Sven Beckert

agricultural Revolution, Bartolomé de las Casas, British Empire, colonial exploitation, colonial rule, Corn Laws, creative destruction, crony capitalism, deindustrialization, European colonialism, Francisco Pizarro, imperial preference, industrial cluster, James Hargreaves, James Watt: steam engine, joint-stock company, laissez-faire capitalism, land tenure, Mahatma Gandhi, market fundamentalism, race to the bottom, Silicon Valley, spice trade, spinning jenny, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, transaction costs, transatlantic slave trade, union organizing, women in the workforce

The stretched roving was then twisted into yarn and wound onto the spindles as the carriage was pushed back in. Unlike with the water frame, which operated continuously, yarn was produced in five-foot bursts, but was stronger and finer than yarn produced on water frames. The mule was first powered by water (which remained the dominant source of power until the 1820s), but later mostly by steam engines (which James Watt patented in 1769).13 With spinning no longer a laggard, pressure shifted back to weaving. First came a vast expansion of home-based weaving. With new machines and an abundant supply of thread, this was a golden age for weavers all over the Lancashire and Cheshire countryside, as tens of thousands of cottagers spent endless hours on their looms working up the rapidly increasing output of British spinning factories.

., Istoriia otechestvennoi tekstil’noi promyshlennosti (Moscow: Legprombytizdat, 1992), 268–69; For Atkinson see Edward Atkinson, Cotton: Articles from the New York Herald (Boston: Albert J. Wright, 1877), 31. 25. As reflected, for example, in the Proceedings of the Manchester Chamber of Commerce; in M8/2/1/16, Proceedings of the Manchester Chamber of Commerce, 1919–1925, Manchester Library and Local Studies, Manchester. 26. Times, October 3, 1923, 9; see also James Watt Jr. to Richard Bond, Esq., July 7, 1934, in DDX1115/6/26, Liverpool Records Office, Liverpool; as quoted in Spector-Marks, “Mr. Ghandi Visits Lancashire,” 44. 27. “Textile Shutdown Visioned by Curley: New England Industry Will Die in Six Months Unless Washington Helps, He Says,” New York Times, April 15, 1935. The importance of wage costs to the geographic location of textile production is also one of the (three) core findings of a multiyear research project at the Institute for Social History in Amsterdam.

They acquired cotton from the slave plantations of the Americas and sold the products of their mills to markets in the most distant corners of the world. The cotton men debated the affairs of the world with surprising nonchalance, even though their own occupations were almost banal—making and hawking cotton thread and cloth. They owned noisy, dirty, crowded, and decidedly unrefined factories; they lived in cities black with soot from coal-fueled steam engines; they breathed the stench of human sweat and human waste. They ran an empire, but hardly seemed like emperors. Only a hundred years earlier, the ancestors of these cotton men would have laughed at the thought of a cotton empire. Cotton was grown in small batches and worked up by the hearth; the cotton industry played a marginal role at best in the United Kingdom. To be sure, some Europeans knew of beautiful Indian muslins, chintzes, and calicoes, what the French called indiennes, arriving in the ports of London, Barcelona, Le Havre, Hamburg, and Trieste.


pages: 256 words: 84,034

The Stonemason: A History of Building Britain by Andrew Ziminski

James Watt: steam engine, trade route

Large castings became possible and the component parts of steam boilers, engines and pumps once made of brass were instead cast as multiples in iron. Without these engines and the new world they powered, the further development of trade along quiet backwater routes such as the Kennet and Avon to the rest of the nation and burgeoning empire, would have been unthinkable. Thomas Newcomen put together the first successful piston steam engine in the first decade of the eighteenth century. Scotsman James Watt, with his business partner Matthew Boulton, created the even more efficient engine in 1781, one that reduced the consumption of coal by three quarters. This is what the elder at Crofton evolved from. As it wheezed its way to the end of its cycle, I retired with the help of an amiable boiler man, happy to spend the chill autumnal evening beside the boiler’s warm oily glow on my foam mat and bivvy bag reflecting on the changes that this technology wrought to our world.

Leaving the bridge in my wake, I saw the distant polluting pall of the pumping station’s chimney smeared across the chilly blue sky before I heard, carried along the waterway, the engine’s wheezing beats. The brick stabling seemed only just able to contain the two beasts inside, as the engines gurgled and grunted their way through the day. The elder, built by Boulton and Watt at the Soho Works in Smethwick near Birmingham, is the world’s oldest steam engine still capable of carrying out its original job in the place it was designed for. It has been running on and off since the year of Napoleon’s retreat from Moscow. The other engine was built by Harvey & Co. of Hayle, Cornwall, in 1846. I thought the great brick chimney a piece of architecture far more worthy than the showy domesticity of its cousins at Hampton Court, which do nothing better than aid the provision of heat and hot food.


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

"Robert Solow", 3D printing, Affordable Care Act / Obamacare, airline deregulation, airport security, Apple II, barriers to entry, big-box store, blue-collar work, business cycle, Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty, Charles Lindbergh, 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 sewing machine, 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, The Rise and Fall of American Growth, Thomas Malthus, total factor productivity, transaction costs, transcontinental railway, traveling salesman, Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, undersea cable, 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: 485 words: 126,597

Paper: A World History by Mark Kurlansky

Ada Lovelace, clean water, computer age, Edward Snowden, invention of the telephone, invention of writing, Isaac Newton, James Watt: steam engine, John von Neumann, Joseph-Marie Jacquard, lone genius, Marshall McLuhan, means of production, moveable type in China, paper trading, trade route, Vannevar Bush

Book pages also proved useful for lighting pipes, fireplaces, and lamps. At worst, they supplied toilets. A NUMBER OF eighteenth-century discoveries were emblematic of the nineteenth century. The use of coke—baked carbon with sulfur removed—improved metal and eventually led to steel. The steam engine was first invented in 1698 by Thomas Savery in England to pump water out of mines. In 1712 a blacksmith, Thomas Newcomen, designed a steam-powered piston-driven engine for the same purpose. The steam engine was greatly improved in 1765 by James Watt, who created a revolution in powering machines. Then in 1804, the British Royal Navy built a steam-powered conveyor belt for the production of a type of crackers called ship’s biscuits. It is impossible to say when the “Industrial Revolution” began, but once steam-powered conveyor belts were in use, it was well under way.

Soon afterward, in 1804, a German inventor named Friedrich Koenig moved to London and began working on an even more efficient press. In 1810 he produced a printing press powered by a steam engine, which could print 1,100 pages an hour; four years later, The Times of London began using it. Later models of the press could print on both sides of a sheet of paper at the same time. In 1843, Richard M. Hoe, a New Yorker and the son of a manufacturer of steam-powered presses, designed a press with a rotary type cylinder. It was far faster than the flatbed type press used earlier—millions of copies of a page could be printed in a day. NOW THERE WAS both the demand and the capacity for much more printing, but where could additional paper be found? In the first two decades of the nineteenth century, steam engines made their way into paper mills, replacing waterpower. This meant that paper mills could operate at the same pace year-round regardless of the water level in the rivers.

But it was not until they began learning the Arab ways of mathematics and science, and started expanding literacy, that parchment made from animal hides—their previous writing material—became too slow and expensive to make in the face of their fast-growing needs. The growth of intellectual pursuits and government bureaucracy, along with the spread of ideas and the expansion of commerce, is what led to papermaking. But its international growth was a remarkably slow process. The use of printing presses, steam engines, automobiles, and computers spread internationally over far shorter periods of time than did paper. Paper seems an unlikely invention—breaking wood or fabric down into its cellulose fibers, diluting them with water, and passing the resulting liquid over a screen so that it randomly weaves and forms a sheet is not an idea that would logically come to mind, especially in an age when no one knew what cellulose was.


pages: 433 words: 124,454

The Burning Answer: The Solar Revolution: A Quest for Sustainable Power by Keith Barnham

Albert Einstein, Arthur Eddington, carbon footprint, credit crunch, decarbonisation, distributed generation, en.wikipedia.org, energy security, Ernest Rutherford, hydraulic fracturing, hydrogen economy, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Isaac Newton, James Watt: steam engine, Kickstarter, Naomi Klein, off grid, oil shale / tar sands, Richard Feynman, Schrödinger's Cat, Silicon Valley, Stephen Hawking, the scientific method, uranium enrichment, wikimedia commons

In particular, in solar cells the energy in sunlight can be simply converted into electric energy, which can supply humankind’s power requirements many times over. We will meet other renewable technologies that you may not have been aware originate in solar power. There is a simple way to check if numbers you come across in the energy debate are referring to energy or power. If the number represents power, then the number must be followed by a letter W. This stands for watts, the unit of power, named after the Scottish engineer James Watt who developed one of the earliest steam engines. You will often find a k, M or G before the W – as in kW, MW and GW – where the k, M and G stand for a thousand, a million and a thousand million respectively. If the number represents energy, a number of units are commonly used. The most likely one in any debate about electricity supply is kWh, which is short for 1,000 watts times hours. A small electric kettle of 2 kW power which boils water for half an hour will have consumed 1 kWh of electrical energy.

They all require less power than electric radiators and are therefore likely to be cheaper to run, though at the present time they are still expensive to install, as we will find in later sections. Heat pumps Like the solar technologies in Chapter 8, the quotation from Ecclesiastes is appropriate yet again for heat pumps. The Industrial Revolution took off in the nineteenth century because engineers developed steam engines. These used the heat energy at high temperature produced by burning coal to generate steam that pushed pistons that powered the Industrial Revolution. The pioneers who developed the first steam engines were practical types, not particularly interested in the physics that made them work or any theoretical ideas that might make them more efficient. The first person to think seriously about such matters was Sadi Carnot, a French army engineer. He was born in Paris a few years after the French Revolution.

It was not until 31 December, in our representative year, that human development really started to speed up. Late in the morning on the last day of the year our upright walking ancestors in Africa and Asia, known as the Ergasts, discovered fire and the burning began. At two minutes to midnight on New Year’s Eve, Stonehenge was built. Around nine seconds before midnight, the first coal-burning steam engines started working. At three seconds before midnight, the motor car was invented, the large-scale exploitation of oil started and the two equations E = mc2 and E = hf were discovered. Around two seconds before midnight, plutonium was reinvented. It is midnight on 31 December. What does the future hold? Clearly in much less than a second we must make severe cuts in our carbon emissions if runaway global warming, with its profound effects for life on earth, is to be avoided.


pages: 469 words: 142,230

The Planet Remade: How Geoengineering Could Change the World by Oliver Morton

Albert Einstein, Asilomar, British Empire, Buckminster Fuller, Cesare Marchetti: Marchetti’s constant, colonial rule, Colonization of Mars, Columbian Exchange, decarbonisation, demographic transition, Elon Musk, energy transition, Ernest Rutherford, germ theory of disease, Haber-Bosch Process, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), James Watt: steam engine, Jeff Bezos, John Harrison: Longitude, John von Neumann, late capitalism, Louis Pasteur, moral hazard, Naomi Klein, nuclear winter, oil shale / tar sands, orbital mechanics / astrodynamics, Philip Mirowski, planetary scale, plutocrats, Plutocrats, renewable energy transition, Scramble for Africa, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, Silicon Valley, smart grid, South China Sea, Stewart Brand, Thomas Malthus

For centuries geologists have been setting up all sorts of committees to define the precise points in time – as represented by a particular set of rocks at a particular location – that mark the beginnings of the periods that define their world. Such a committee is currently discussing both whether there should be an Anthropocene and, if so, where it should begin. They could conceivably just choose to set a date. Thus some argue for fixing the beginning at 1750 – a date frequently used in climate circles as a stand-in for the pre-industrial, with the steam engines designed by James Watt and Matthew Boulton just about to come on to the market. Others prefer 1950, which marks an inflection point after which the industrialization of the earthsystem picked up pace considerably, with carbon-dioxide emissions, industrial nitrogen fixation and all sorts of other processes kicking into their present high gear. It also has the advantage of being recorded in ocean sediments by the presence of moderately copious nuclear fallout from the burst of weapons testing that started in the 1940s and ended in 1963.* There is, though, a better option.

Trenberth’s diagram certainly makes it look like one. Representing the size of an energy flow with the width of an arrow, as Trenberth does, is a visual convention instituted for the comparison of steam engines by an Anglo-Irish engineer in the late nineteenth century, Matthew Sankey.* That an engineer’s approach to representing steam engines should end up applied to all sorts of other systems – and, in the hands of climate scientists, to the flows of energy that animate the earthsystem itself – should not come as a surprise. Thermodynamics, the science of energy, heat, work and power, began as the science of steam engines; as it developed over the nineteenth century, it became clear that it had to be a study of those engines and the environment in which they operate – that is to say, a science of systems and flows.

Library of Congress Control Number 2015946728 ISBN 978-0-691-14825-0 Typeset by Avon DataSet, Bidford on Avon, Warwickshire Printed on recycled paper Printed in the United States of America 1 3 5 7 9 10 8 6 4 2 For Joe Morton, Dominic Harrison, Eva Herle Schaffer and Jack Bacon – My millennials Contents Introduction: Two Questions 1 Climate Risks and Responsibilities 5 The Second Fossil-Fuel Century 8 Altering the Earthsystem 22 Deliberate Planets, Imagined Worlds 26 Part One: Energies 1 The Top of the World 35 Discovering the Stratosphere 38 Fallout 43 The Ozone Layer 47 The Veilmakers 54 2 A Planet Called Weather 57 The Worldfalls 62 The Trenberth Diagram and Climate Science 66 Steam Engines and Spaceship Earth 71 3 Pinatubo 83 Volcanoes and Climate 86 Predictions and Surprises 93 4 Dimming the Noontime Sun 100 Rough Magic 107 Promethean Science 112 5 Coming to Think This Way 124 Martians and Moral Equivalents 129 The Day Before Yesterday 135 The Rise of Carbon Dioxide Politics 139 6 Moving the Goalposts 148 From Plan B to Breathing Space 156 Expanding the Boundaries 165 Part Two: Substances 7 Nitrogen 175 The Making of the Population Bomb 184 Defusing the Population Bomb 189 Far from Fixed 195 How to Spot a Geoengineer 201 8 Carbon Past, Carbon Present 209 The Anthropocene 219 The Greening Planet 229 9 Carbon Present, Carbon Future 243 Ocean Anaemia 251 Cultivating One’s Garden 259 10 Sulphur and Soggy Mirrors 268 Global Cooling 274 Cloudships 283 Bright Patchwork Planet 288 What the Thunder Didn’t Say 298 Part Three: Possibilities 11 The Ends of the World 305 Control and Catastrophe 312 Doom and Denial 317 The Traditions of Titans 323 A Tale of Two Cliques 332 After Such Knowledge 338 12 The Deliberate Planet 344 The Concert 347 Small Effects, and Bad Ones 359 And Straight on ’til Morning 369 Envoi 375 Acknowledgements 379 References, Notes and Further Reading 383 Bibliography 393 Index 415 Introduction Two Questions Let us go then, you and I, When the evening is spread out against the sky Like a patient etherized upon a table T.


pages: 624 words: 104,923

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

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, Kickstarter, Kuiper Belt, lateral thinking, 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: 523 words: 159,884

The Great Railroad Revolution by Christian Wolmar

1919 Motor Transport Corps convoy, accounting loophole / creative accounting, banking crisis, Bay Area Rapid Transit, big-box store, Charles Lindbergh, collective bargaining, cross-subsidies, intermodal, James Watt: steam engine, Kickstarter, 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: 311 words: 89,785

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

blood diamonds, British Empire, Cape to Cairo, James Watt: steam engine, Livingstone, I presume, Pepto Bismol, 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: 1,373 words: 300,577

The Quest: Energy, Security, and the Remaking of the Modern World by Daniel Yergin

"Robert Solow", addicted to oil, Albert Einstein, Asian financial crisis, Ayatollah Khomeini, banking crisis, Berlin Wall, bioinformatics, borderless world, BRICs, business climate, carbon footprint, Carmen Reinhart, cleantech, Climategate, Climatic Research Unit, colonial rule, Colonization of Mars, corporate governance, cuban missile crisis, data acquisition, decarbonisation, Deng Xiaoping, Dissolution of the Soviet Union, diversification, diversified portfolio, Elon Musk, energy security, energy transition, Exxon Valdez, facts on the ground, Fall of the Berlin Wall, fear of failure, financial innovation, flex fuel, global supply chain, global village, high net worth, hydraulic fracturing, income inequality, index fund, informal economy, interchangeable parts, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), James Watt: steam engine, John von Neumann, Kenneth Rogoff, life extension, Long Term Capital Management, Malacca Straits, market design, means of production, megacity, Menlo Park, Mikhail Gorbachev, Mohammed Bouazizi, mutually assured destruction, new economy, Norman Macrae, North Sea oil, nuclear winter, off grid, oil rush, oil shale / tar sands, oil shock, Paul Samuelson, peak oil, Piper Alpha, price mechanism, purchasing power parity, rent-seeking, rising living standards, Robert Metcalfe, Robert Shiller, Robert Shiller, Ronald Coase, Ronald Reagan, Sand Hill Road, shareholder value, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley startup, smart grid, smart meter, South China Sea, sovereign wealth fund, special economic zone, Stuxnet, technology bubble, the built environment, The Nature of the Firm, the new new thing, trade route, transaction costs, unemployed young men, University of East Anglia, uranium enrichment, William Langewiesche, Yom Kippur War

This is no small undertaking. The stakes are huge in this new race: the fuel of the future for the automobile, the shape of tomorrow’s transportation, and global political and economic power. This time out, the total purse to the winners will be measured in trillions of dollars. THE STEAM ENGINE In 1712 Thomas Newcomen invented the first mechanical steam engine, used to pump water out of coal mines. Many decades later, the Scottish inventor James Watt dramatically improved the design and efficiency of the steam engine, bringing it, as one historian wrote, “within reach of all branches of the economy.” The result was the “Age of Steam.” Around the same time, a Swiss engineer, Nicolas Joseph Cugnot, with funding from France’s King Louis XV, developed a steam-powered vehicle that would transport artillery on the battlefield at speeds approaching five miles per hour, carrying four passengers.

There is “no ribbon to cut.” Sustainability is now a fundamental value of society. Environmental priorities need to continue to be integrated into the production and consumption of energy. They should be analyzed and assessed in terms of impact and scale and cost-benefit analysis, assuring access to energy, with appropriate environmental safeguards. The whole sweep of Carnot’s great revolution—from the steam engine start-up of James Watt in the eighteenth century and the oil start-up of Colonel Edwin Drake in the nineteenth century to the latest cleantech start-ups to be spun out of Sand Hill Road and whatever is currently bubbling in the lab—demonstrates that the advances of energy are the result of innovation and conviction. Developing new knowledge and “applying science” come with a price tag. But without sustained long-term support for the entire innovation chain, the world will pay a much larger price.

Around the same time, a Swiss engineer, Nicolas Joseph Cugnot, with funding from France’s King Louis XV, developed a steam-powered vehicle that would transport artillery on the battlefield at speeds approaching five miles per hour, carrying four passengers. Cugnot’s mechanical beast performed badly and was vexingly unbalanced for traversing the French countryside. The king finally gave up on Cugnot and cut off the funding.3 Over the nineteenth century, enormous advances were made in the steam engine, which powered not only the mills and factories of the Industrial Revolution but also the railways and ships. By the latter decades of the nineteenth century, the steam engine was a highly developed machine that tied together the world. By then, however, a competitor had appeared. HERR OTTO In 1864 a 31-year-old entrepreneur, Eugene Langen, made his way to a workshop on Gereonswall street in the city of Cologne, Germany, where he heard an “erratic thrashing.” Inside the shop, Langen found Nikolaus Otto experimenting with one of his gas-engine designs.


pages: 349 words: 114,038

Culture & Empire: Digital Revolution by Pieter Hintjens

4chan, airport security, AltaVista, 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, MITM: man-in-the-middle, mutually assured destruction, Naomi Klein, national security letter, Nelson Mandela, 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 Stallman, Ross Ulbricht, 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, twin studies, 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: 398 words: 105,917

Bean Counters: The Triumph of the Accountants and How They Broke Capitalism by Richard Brooks

accounting loophole / creative accounting, asset-backed security, banking crisis, Big bang: deregulation of the City of London, blockchain, BRICs, British Empire, business process, cloud computing, collapse of Lehman Brothers, collateralized debt obligation, corporate governance, corporate raider, credit crunch, Credit Default Swap, credit default swaps / collateralized debt obligations, David Strachan, Deng Xiaoping, Donald Trump, double entry bookkeeping, Double Irish / Dutch Sandwich, energy security, Etonian, eurozone crisis, financial deregulation, forensic accounting, Frederick Winslow Taylor, G4S, intangible asset, Internet of things, James Watt: steam engine, joint-stock company, joint-stock limited liability company, Joseph Schumpeter, light touch regulation, Long Term Capital Management, low cost airline, new economy, Northern Rock, offshore financial centre, oil shale / tar sands, On the Economy of Machinery and Manufactures, Ponzi scheme, post-oil, principal–agent problem, profit motive, race to the bottom, railway mania, regulatory arbitrage, risk/return, Ronald Reagan, savings glut, short selling, Silicon Valley, South Sea Bubble, statistical model, supply-chain management, The Chicago School, too big to fail, transaction costs, transfer pricing, Upton Sinclair, WikiLeaks

‘See’est thou a man diligent in his business?’ the Proverbs asked. ‘He shall stand before kings.’ Double-entry bookkeeping was central to that diligence. Many British industrial pioneers were avid bookkeepers. James Watt, whose steam engine propelled the Industrial Revolution, owed his commercial success to accounting as well as engineering. The Clydeside Presbyterian kept double-entry books charting the progress of his early enterprises, partly to justify the funding provided to him by his shipowning father. By the time Watt and his partner Matthew Boulton were making steam engines in Birmingham in the 1790s, it wasn’t just the invention of a separate condenser that was giving them the edge over less sophisticated rivals. So was accurate and innovative accounting. With not much of a market to determine prices for their engines, the pair used their accounting records for ‘job costing’ to determine what price would generate sufficient profit on each engine sold.

., 142 cyber-security, 272–3 establishment of (1998), 49, 95 and Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, 145 and Financial Reporting Council, 142, 144, 209, 210 global operations, 235–6 and Goldman Sachs, 134–5, 148 and Google, 271 and GPT, 217, 218 and Heineken, 246 and Hong Kong protests (2014), 251–2 in India, 242 integrated reporting, 18 and Kanebo, 240 and Labour Party, 201 and National Health Service (NHS), 192, 194, 200 and Northern Rock, 126, 127–9, 142–3, 148 and Olympic Games (2012), 196 presentation (2017), 16 and private finance initiative (PFI), 187, 188–91, 196, 249 profits, 5 revolving door, 207, 208 and RSM Tenon, 210, 261 in Russia, 236–8 and Saudi British Joint Business Council, 218 and securitization, 121, 122, 129 and tax avoidance, 157, 165–79, 180, 182, 237, 246, 267–71, 278 thought leadership, 12 total tax contribution survey, 179 and Tyco, 109 in Ukraine, 238 and Vodafone, 165–6 Prince of Wales’s charity, 181 principal/agent problem, 13 Prior, Nick, 190 Privatbank, 238 Private Eye, 169, 180, 215, 255 private finance initiative (PFI), 185–91, 196, 203, 249 Privy Council, 94 Privy Purse, 68 production-line system, 71 productivity growth, 262–3 professional scepticism, 112, 130, 214, 224 professional services, 11, 72, 150, 183, 204–5, 251, 275, 279 Professional Standards Group, 105–7 Project Braveheart, 106 Project Nahanni, 102 Protestant work ethic, 3 Protestantism, 3, 42, 43 Prudential, 157 Public Accounts Committee, 281 Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB), 144–5, 242–3, 253, 261, 274 Puerto Rico, 163 Putin, Vladimir, 17, 237 Qatar, 228 Quakers, 42, 49 Railway Regulation Act (1844), 45 railways United Kingdom, 44–7, 49, 115 United States, 51, 52, 53, 70, 73 Rake, Michael, 144, 149, 150, 162, 181, 257 Raptors, 105 Rayonier, 59 Reagan, Ronald, 80, 84, 154, 184 Reckoning, The (Soll), 27 Redpath, Leopold, 46 regulation, UK, 13, 127, 209–10, 213–14, 259 and Brexit, 273 deregulation (1980s), 95 and financial crisis (2007–8), 127–8, 137–45 Financial Conduct Authority, 140, 149, 281 Financial Reporting Council, 138, 142, 144, 149, 182, 209–10, 213–14, 259, 261 Financial Services Authority, 127, 128, 137, 138, 140 ‘light touch’, 114, 131, 209–10 Railway Regulation Act (1844), 45 self-regulation, 88, 90 regulation, US, 91, 260 Bush administration (2001–2009), 114, 145, 253 Celler–Kefauver Act (1950), 59, 61 competition on price, 79–80 deregulation (1980s), 84–5, 95, 112 derivatives, 122 and Enron, 99 and Lincoln Savings and Loan, 85–7 mark to market, 99 numbers-game era (1990s), 110 Public Company Accounting and Oversight Board, 242–3, 253, 260 Roosevelt, Theodore administration (1901–9), 56–7 Sarbanes–Oxley Act (2002), 114, 122 self-regulation, 61 Trump administration (2017–), 273, 274 and Westec collapse (1966), 63 see also Securities and Exchange Commission Renaissance, 3, 16, 22, 24–37 Renjen, Punit, 275 ‘Repo 105’ technique, 131–3, 149 revolving door, 206–8, 272 Ripley, William Zebina, 57 Robson, Steve, 144, 207 Rockefeller, John Davison, 53, 71 Rolex, 15, 215 Rolls-Royce, 213 Roman numerals, 22 Rome, ancient, 24 Rome, Italy, 25, 27 Roosevelt, Franklin, 58 Roosevelt, Theodore, 56 de Roover, Raymond, 27 Rowland, Roland ‘Tiny’, 66 Royal African Company, 37 Royal Ahold, 238–9 Royal Bank of Scotland, 47, 90, 136–40, 142, 157, 241, 259 Royal London Hospital, 190 RSM Tenon, 210, 261 Russian Federation, 17, 236–8 Ryan, Tim, 134, 148 Saltwater Slavery (Smallwood), 37 Samek, Steve, 103 SANGCOM, 214–19 Sansepolcro, 32 Sarbanes, Paul, 114, 122 Sarbanes–Oxley Act (2002), 114, 122 Sassetti, Francesco, 16, 29, 30, 31, 41 Satyam, 242 Saudi Arabia, 212–19, 221 Saudi British Joint Business Council, 218 Saunders, Stuart, 64 Save South Africa, 250 savings-and-loan mutuals, 84–7, 91, 99 Sberbank, 237 Scarlett, John, 207, 272 Schlich, William, 149 Schumpeter, Joseph, 3 scientific management, 71, 76 Scotland, ix, 42, 47–9, 70, 224 Scuola di Rialto, Venice, 32 Second World War (1939–45), 59, 60, 77, 234 Secret Intelligence Service, 207, 272 Securities Act (1933), 58 Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), 281 and consulting, 80, 104 and Enron, 99, 104, 108 and Hollinger, 154 Levitt’s ‘Numbers Game’ speech (1998), 96, 98, 104 and Lincoln Savings and Loan, 85, 86 and Penn Central Transport Company, 64 and ‘pooling-of-interest’ accounting, 61, 62 and Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB), 144 PwC India fined (2011), 242 and Xerox, 109–10 securitization, 101–2, 116, 119–23, 125, 129–31, 133–40, 148, 265 Seidler, Lee, 68–9, 79 self-regulation, 6, 61, 88 Serious Fraud Office, 213, 216, 217, 218, 219 Sexton, Richard, 129, 268, 278 shadow banking system, 115 Shanghai, China, 17 Shaxson, Nicholas, 247 Sheraton, 59 Sherlock, Neil, 208 short selling, 112, 115, 116 Siemens, 240 Sikka, Prem, 94 Silicon Valley, California, 82 Simec International Ltd, 214, 215 Sinaloa Cartel, 229 Sinclair, Upton, 14 Singapore, 163 Sino-Forest, 244 Skilling, Jeff, 99–100, 101, 105, 108 Skinner, Paul, 208 Slater, James, 65 slave trade, 4, 37 Smallwood, Stephanie, 37 Smallwood, Trevor, 158 Smartest Guys in the Room, The (McLean and Elkind), 101 Smith, Adam, 13 Smith, Jacqui, 207 Snell, Charles, 40 Social Justice Commission, 184 Soll, Jacob, 27 Sombart, Werner, 3–4, 22 SOS (Short Option Strategy), 159, 162 South Africa, 213, 223–4, 249–50 South Sea Company, 39–41, 42, 44 Soviet Union (1922–91), 236 Spacek, Leonard, 62, 77–8 Spain, 36, 39, 241 special investment vehicles, 115 Spinwatch, 201 Sproul, David, 256, 258 St Bartholomew’s Hospital, London, 190 St Louis, Missouri, 56 Standard & Poor’s, 149 Standard Chartered Bank, 230, 231 Starbucks, 178 steam engine, 43 Stein, Jeffrey, 161 Stephenson, George, 44 Stevens, Mark, 82–3 Stevenson, James, 1st Baron Stevenson, 141 Stiglitz, Joseph, 114 stock market, 68, 69, 92, 96 ‘Go-Go’ years (1960s), 62, 65 and Great Crash (1929), 57, 58 and J. P. Morgan, 54–5 and ‘pooling-of-interest’ accounting, 60–62, 96 railways (UK), 45–7 Stone, Timothy, 188, 189, 190, 204 Strachan, David, 208 Strathclyde, Lord, see Galbraith, Thomas stress testing, 10 subprime mortgages, x, 10, 36, 48, 111–22, 126, 130, 133, 136, 142, 274 Suddeutsche Zeitung, 169, 247 Sullivan, Arthur, 52 Sun City, North West Province, 250 Sunbeam, 97 Sunday Times, 228 Sweden, 246 Switzerland, 163, 178, 219–28, 236, 258 synergies, 60 Syvret, Stuart, 94 Tanzania, 213 Tanzi, Calisto, 239 Tate Modern, London, 16 tax, 46, 67, 81, 93–4, 153–82, 229–30, 246–8 Bermuda, 164 British Virgin Islands, 246 Cayman Islands, 104, 164, 246, 247 Ireland, 163–5, 168 Isle of Man, 247–8 Jersey, 89, 94–5, 158 Luxembourg, 165–77, 267–71, 278 Mauritius, 158 Netherlands, 163, 164–5 Puerto Rico, 163 Russia, 237 Singapore, 163 Switzerland, 163, 178 United Kingdom, 7, 46, 67, 94, 153, 155–9, 163–6, 177–82, 203 United States, 67, 92, 153–5, 159–63, 178, 236, 284 tax avoidance, 17, 84, 93–5, 153–82, 229–30, 246–8 Deloitte, 157, 158, 166, 203 Ernst & Young, 7, 156–7, 162, 180, 182, 246, 247 KPMG, 154–5, 157, 158, 159–62, 180–81, 182, 186, 229–30, 248 PricewaterhouseCoopers, 157, 165–79, 180, 182, 237, 246, 267–71, 278 tax havens, 154–5, 163–79, 203, 216, 246–8 Bahamas, 236 Bermuda, 164, 203 British Virgin Islands, 213, 220, 246 Cayman Islands, 104, 164, 214, 239, 246, 247 Delaware, 92, 236, 284 Ireland, 163–5, 168 Isle of Man, 247–8 Jersey, 89, 94–5, 158 Liechtenstein, 220 Luxembourg, 165–77, 267–71, 278 Mauritius, 158 Netherlands, 163, 164–5 Puerto Rico, 163 Singapore, 163 Switzerland, 163, 178, 230, 236 Tax Justice Network, 169 Taylor, Frederick Winslow, 71, 75 technocratism, 15 Teesside, England, 102 telegraph, 51 Telegraph, 154 Texas, United States, 91, 99–108 Textron, 61 Thatcher, Margaret, 84, 184 Thill, Marc, 174 ‘think straight, talk straight’, 72 thrifts, 84–7, 91, 99 Tier One, 257 Times, The, 66, 137 Tokyo, Japan, 230–31, 234–5 ‘too big to fail’, 40 ‘too critical to fail’, 273 ‘too few to fail’, 161 Tory party, 44 Tornado fighters, 212 Toshiba, 241 Touche Ross, 82, 89, 136 trade unions, 76 Treasure Islands (Shaxson), 247 Treasury, UK, 39, 68, 146, 179, 180, 189, 201, 203 Tribunal d’Arrondissement, 174 Trinidad and Tobago, 221, 223, 224 Trump, Donald, 17, 161, 273, 274 Truth in Securities (1933), 58 Turley, James, 148–9 Turner, Jonathan Adair, Baron Turner of Ecchinswell, 127 Tyco, 109, 264 Tyrie, Andrew, 197–8 UK Tax Planning Post-GAAR: What’s Left?


pages: 259 words: 73,193

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

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, low earth orbit, 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: 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, Boris Johnson, Bretton Woods, business cycle, 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, disruptive innovation, 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, Sam Altman, 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, The Rise and Fall of American Growth, Thomas Malthus, Thorstein Veblen, too big to fail, Travis Kalanick, Uber and Lyft, Uber for X, uber lyft, 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.


Liberty's Dawn: A People's History of the Industrial Revolution by Emma Griffin

agricultural Revolution, Corn Laws, deskilling, equal pay for equal work, full employment, informal economy, James Hargreaves, James Watt: steam engine, labour mobility, spinning jenny, Thomas Malthus, trickle-down economics, University of East Anglia, urban sprawl, women in the workforce, working poor

And it is one of enduring relevance in our own times as other parts of the globe industrialise at a galloping pace. 4017.indd 4 25/01/13 8:21 PM introduction: ‘a simple naritive’ 5 As the moment when one small European nation left behind its agrarian past and entered decisively on the path to modernity, the industrial revolution has quite rightly attracted the attention of generation after generation of historians. But most of this work has focused on the great men and machines that turned Britain into the workshop of the world: James Hargreaves, Richard Arkwright, James Watt, George Stevenson, Isambard Kingdom Brunel; the spinning jenny, the water frame, the steam engine, the locomotive engine, the railways. These individuals and their achievements transformed Britain into an industrial nation and fully deserve the attention they have received. But so too do the ordinary men, women and children who worked the machines, hewed coal for the steam engines, and built and drove the trains. It is too often assumed that workers like these left little mark on the historical record and must for ever remain voiceless. But as John Lincoln’s tale shows, the workers in Britain’s fields and factories were not always so silent as has generally been supposed.

Yet whatever its shortcomings, there can be no disputing its immense influence. Here is Toynbee describing the advent of industrialisation: We now approach a darker period – a period as disastrous and as terrible as any through which a nation ever passed; disastrous and terrible because side by side with a great increase of wealth was seen an enormous increase of pauperism [and] the degradation of a large body of producers . . . The steam-­engine, the spinning-­jenny, the power-­loom had torn up the population by the roots . . . The effects of the Industrial Revolution prove that free competition may produce wealth without producing well-­being.40 Toynbee ushered the expression ‘industrial revolution’ into the English language, and his social interpretation of that newly named event continued to inform opinion through much of the twentieth century.

For all that we might point to precedents or limitations to the evangelical revival, we should recognise the change it brought to working-­class communities. The evangelical churches invited male and female, young and old, respectable and very poor to take control of their lives. They empowered their members. And as such, they played their part in the transition to modern society. 4017.indd 211 25/01/13 8:21 PM chapter nine q Sons of Freedom In the towns and villages of the south men’s minds seemed to be slumbering, until the puff of the steam-­engine should awaken them. (Frost, pp. 9–10) There was no Political Union in the village, there was no Odd Fellows’ Lodge, there was no circle of congenial spirits like those with whom he had associated for the last two years; but the young man was not inconvenienced by the deprivation. He became a leader where he had been a follower. (Scenes from my Life by a Working Man, p. 68) J ames watson was ‘born of poor parents, in an obscure town’ and raised by his mother following the death of his father when he was barely a year old.


pages: 490 words: 150,172

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

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, 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

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, Robert Metcalfe, Sand Hill Road, Silicon Valley, Skype, Steve Jobs, Telecommunications Act of 1996, traveling salesman, undersea cable, 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: 387 words: 110,820

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

barriers to entry, Berlin Wall, big-box store, business cycle, 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, 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, Monkeys Reject Unequal Pay, 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: 385 words: 111,807

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

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, Nelson Mandela, 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: 332 words: 106,197

The Divide: A Brief Guide to Global Inequality and Its Solutions by Jason Hickel

Andrei Shleifer, Asian financial crisis, Atahualpa, Bartolomé de las Casas, Bernie Sanders, Bob Geldof, Bretton Woods, British Empire, Cape to Cairo, capital controls, carbon footprint, clean water, collective bargaining, colonial rule, David Attenborough, David Graeber, David Ricardo: comparative advantage, declining real wages, dematerialisation, Doha Development Round, Elon Musk, European colonialism, falling living standards, financial deregulation, Fractional reserve banking, Francisco Pizarro, full employment, Hans Rosling, happiness index / gross national happiness, Howard Zinn, income inequality, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), investor state dispute settlement, James Watt: steam engine, laissez-faire capitalism, land reform, land value tax, liberal capitalism, Live Aid, Mahatma Gandhi, Monroe Doctrine, Mont Pelerin Society, moral hazard, Naomi Klein, Nelson Mandela, offshore financial centre, oil shale / tar sands, out of africa, plutocrats, Plutocrats, purchasing power parity, race to the bottom, rent control, road to serfdom, Ronald Reagan, Scramble for Africa, shareholder value, sharing economy, Silicon Valley, Simon Kuznets, structural adjustment programs, The Chicago School, The Spirit Level, trade route, transatlantic slave trade, transfer pricing, trickle-down economics, Washington Consensus, WikiLeaks, women in the workforce, Works Progress Administration

How did a small number of countries in Western Europe become so much richer and more powerful than the rest of the world? The usual answer to these questions is the one we all learned in school. A series of technological innovations in Britain jump-started the Industrial Revolution that spread through Europe and the United States. The invention of the flying shuttle in 1733 made textile weaving much more efficient, and James Watt’s steam engine in 1781 made it possible to build large and powerful machines. Britain’s coal fields, which were usefully proximate to the large cities, provided cheap and abundant energy, and because the landscape was relatively flat it was easy to transport both coal and manufactured goods around the country via canals. By virtue of scientific enquiry and geographical accident, Britain was able to build productive industries, and the sale of manufactured goods drove living standards to unprecedented new heights.

By virtue of scientific enquiry and geographical accident, Britain was able to build productive industries, and the sale of manufactured goods drove living standards to unprecedented new heights. This story is powerful in its simplicity, but by focusing only on what happened within Britain’s borders, it makes it seem as though these developments occurred in isolation from the rest of the world. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, by the time Watt built his steam engine, Britain was already at the centre of a world system that was roughly organised into two zones: the ‘core’ nations of Western Europe and the young United States, surrounded by the ‘peripheral’ regions of Asia, Africa and Latin America.5 And the two zones were in constant interaction, linked by a dense network of connections. Importantly, these interactions were not equitable or mutually agreed – indeed, they were marked by violence and coercion.


pages: 280 words: 83,299

Empty Planet: The Shock of Global Population Decline by Darrell Bricker, John Ibbitson

affirmative action, agricultural Revolution, Berlin Wall, BRICs, British Empire, Columbian Exchange, commoditize, demographic dividend, demographic transition, Deng Xiaoping, Donald Trump, en.wikipedia.org, full employment, gender pay gap, ghettoisation, glass ceiling, global reserve currency, Gunnar Myrdal, Hans Rosling, Hernando de Soto, illegal immigration, income inequality, James Watt: steam engine, Jeff Bezos, John Snow's cholera map, Kibera, knowledge worker, labor-force participation, Mark Zuckerberg, megacity, New Urbanism, nuclear winter, off grid, offshore financial centre, out of africa, Potemkin village, purchasing power parity, reserve currency, Ronald Reagan, Silicon Valley, South China Sea, statistical model, Steve Jobs, Steven Pinker, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thomas Malthus, transcontinental railway, upwardly mobile, urban planning, working-age population, young professional, zero-sum game

“The coming together of the continents was a prerequisite for the population explosion of the past two centuries, and certainly played a role in the Industrial Revolution,” argues historian Alfred Crosby.29 But of course, the real cause of increasing lifespans was the Industrial Revolution itself: the acceleration in scientific and industrial knowledge that bequeathed the world we inhabit today. James Watt’s steam engine went into commercial use in the remarkable year of 1776. (Also in that year, Adam Smith wrote The Wealth of Nations and the United States declared its independence from Great Britain.) Mechanized production accelerated productivity—the factory, the railway, the telegraph, electric light, the internal combustion engine. Those last three inventions were American; the United States was growing in wealth and power and confidence in the wake of its civil war.


pages: 274 words: 85,557

DarkMarket: Cyberthieves, Cybercops and You by Misha Glenny

Berlin Wall, Bretton Woods, Brian Krebs, BRICs, call centre, Chelsea Manning, Fall of the Berlin Wall, illegal immigration, James Watt: steam engine, Julian Assange, MITM: man-in-the-middle, pirate software, Potemkin village, reserve currency, Silicon Valley, Skype, Stuxnet, urban sprawl, white flight, WikiLeaks, zero day

At both the ATM or the rogue point-of-sale device there may well be a tiny camera hidden somewhere that is secretly recording the customer inputting their PIN (note to self: always cover the keypad when tapping in your PIN). The machines are only referred to as ‘skimmers’ if they are being used for nefarious purposes, otherwise they are identical in function to those commercially available. Some ‘skimmers’ are commercially produced and then acquired by criminals, others are home-made. The ‘skimmer’ was the carding equivalent of James Watt’s steam engine at the outset of the Industrial Revolution. Over the next decade the great majority of credit-card and PIN numbers (‘dumps’ and ‘wholes’, as they are known) used fraudulently were ‘skimmed’ from ATMs and businesses around the world. As a talented hacker, Dimitry also quickly noticed that the security systems developed by the nascent e-commerce community in the United States were primitive and easily cracked.


pages: 308 words: 84,713

The Glass Cage: Automation and Us by Nicholas Carr

Airbnb, Airbus A320, Andy Kessler, Atul Gawande, autonomous vehicles, Bernard Ziegler, business process, call centre, Captain Sullenberger Hudson, Charles Lindbergh, 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, 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: 428 words: 121,717