Posts Tagged ‘inventors’

New Robber Barons?

March 24, 2018

Somewhere back there, way back in time, we humans discovered how to make use of fire.

By ’n by, another great development happened. Somebody somewhere started using wheels to transport stuff.

The centuries, the millennia, of time rolled and rolled on and on, passing the past, penetrating the present and ultimately forming our future.

In 1439, Johann Gutenberg’s printing press changed, forever, the development of human writing and literacy.

In 1492, Christopher Columbus discovered the undeveloped Western continents that we now call America.

In 1781, James Watt’s steam engine changed forever the development of industry and technology.

But those advances were only the beginning. They set the stage for further developments.

We Americans got hold of these emerging technologies to convert a 4000-mile-wide continent into a New World. And we did it in a magnitude, and on a quickened time-scale, unprecedented in human history.

In the 1800’s, we Americans found ourselves in the right place at the right time to accomplish the largest expansion of commerce and industry in the history of the world.

As it developed, our Revolution morphed into something far more significant than the merely political implications of our Constitution could indicate.

We grabbed hold of Mr. Watt’s steam engine and proceeded to energize an entire continent. As the great zeitgeist thrust of our westward expansion reached full-steam, pioneers reached dizzying heights of exploration and accomplishment.

But a funny thing happened on our way to unprecedented Progress.

A few very smart guys took charge.  Our great, broad-based 19th-century industrial leap was eventually commandeered by a few very smart, very powerful business leaders.

You’ve probably heard their names: Rockefeller, Carnegie, Vanderbilt, Morgan.

John D. Rockefeller was the “baron” of Railroads

Andrew Carnegie, baron of Steel

Cornelius Vanderbilt, baron of shipping

J. P. Morgan, finance

~ These men were smart enough to identify strategic developments in the expanding industries of their time period.

~ They then acquired manufacturing and/or distribution facilities that ultimately enabled them to assume control of vast swathes of the emerging industries.

~ They were lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time, recognize their advantageous positions, and develop those positions into incredible accomplishments.

These tycoons, through their respective working lives, assembled huge industrial assets by which they ultimately consolidated emerging industries into vast swathes of economic power.

Others followed. From the “inventor” category we find these names that you have probably heard:

~ Edison, electricity

~ Bell, telephone

~ Ford, automobile assembly line

By ’n by, as 20th-century civilization powered its way into history, other pioneers, not quite so high-profile as those already mentioned, blazed new trails of invention and progressive consolidation.

In the areas of merging electricity and telephony, new pioneers built upon the legacy of Edison and Bell. Marconi is the name we associate with radio’s transmission.  On the old Continent, German physicists Eccles and Lillienfeld developed the triode vacuum tube which further enabled emerging electronic communications.

By the 1940’s, scientists Shockley, Bardeen, Brattain at Bell Labs developed the transistor, which enabled solid-state circuitry.

Nanotechnology, Fairchild, Lucent, Intel—brought forth the computer and the IT revolution of latter 20th-century digitized lifestyle . . . which is now morphed into . . .

Eface

Cell phones, tablets, pads, pods, all kinds of miniaturizing, convenience-enabling “devices.”

Social Media.

And as we look back . . . not as far back as the consolidators of the industrializing 19th-century, not quite as far back as those old-time “barons”, Rockefeller, Carnegie, Vanderbilt, Morgan . . .

As we look back at the in-our-lifetime pioneers of IT, who have now become the “barons” of Social Media . . .

Gates, Jobs & Wozniak, Zuckerberg, Page & Brin, Bezos . . .

we find that these men are human, just as we are, human and in some ways faulty, possibly unable to comprehend or anticipate the full consequences of their incredible accomplishments, perhaps culpable in matters of ethical ambiguity, maybe even “guilty” of . . .

“manipulating” people’s profiles, and thus

manipulating people’s lives?

Shall we now accuse them of being power-trippers? Will we judge them as predatory opportunists? Will we call into question their integrity, will we revise our hind-sighted historical assessments of them, as some have judged the barons of a former Era to be “robber barons?”

Zuckerberg a robber baron? I don’t think so.

Give the man a break. He has apologized.

He has done all you guys a favor! by presenting your pretty face to the the runways of this world. Everybody gets their fifteen minutes . . .

or fifteen likes, or 1500 likes, whatevuh

As for me, I don’t do Facebook . . .   well maybe every now and then.

Glass Chimera

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