Wednesday, June 2, 2010
IDEAS - June 3, 2010
In the early days of the mid-XVIII Century, the US colonies were a hotbed of ideas, with many of these finding their way into the forming nation. In the XIX century, the flow of ideas through the US gave rise to an international reputation for Yankee ingenuity, and that lasted until the mid-XX. But increasingly in the XX Century, the control of industry passed from technical invention to the growth of sales and thence to the manipulation of money. The few people who approached difficulties in the economy or technology as problems to be solved like crosswords were swamped by Robber Barons who were responsive only to sure things in the market. Someone with an invention, even a simple one that was a sure thing, had a difficult time with the control of the economy, whether by public or private by deciders who were largely un-arithmetic or unschooled in even elementary science, and who paid attention only to thoughts promoted by lobbyists or other channels of power, excluding those for which there were no rewards for the middle-men or their paymasters. Even inventions that had been tried elsewhere and whose benefits had been recorded in journals like Distributed Energy were routinely consigned to the circular file by office-holders and executives that simply did not have the training to measure their worth, and had no close subordinates that could evaluate them. The management of money was all those officers could think of. No less an established genius like Thomas Edison could not get a hearing from the supposed risk-takers of Wall Street when he wanted them to support electric lighting for that area until he got the ear of J. P. Morgan, who proceeded to create the Edison General Electric Company and then used his wiles to squeeze Edison out of it. And that was Edison. More modest inventors, like me, have it much harder to reach the ears of power brokers that could improve their corners of the world, but don’t.