A man is not truly free until his latitude exceeds his desires. -
Why the Industrial Revolution?
Why is it important to consider this question, of why the Industrial Revolution occurred?
It is a
question that needs to be asked if we want to know how we became
what we are. The 19th and 20th centuries
are in many ways the most transformative centuries in all of
human history. Until about 1800, the vast bulk of people on this
planet were poor. And when I say poor, I mean they were on the
brink of physical starvation for most of their lives.
Life expectancy in 1750 was
around 38 at most, and much lower in some places. The notion
that today we would live 80 years, and spend much of those in
leisure, is totally unexpected. The lower middle class in
Western and Asian industrialized societies today has a higher
living standard than the pope and the emperors of a few
centuries back, in every dimension. That is the result of one
thing: Our ability to understand the forces of nature and
harness them for our economic needs.
Research agenda change
Between Columbusís voyage to
America in 1492 and the death of Isaac Newton in 1727, the
agenda of research in Europe changes. For much of human history,
people studied science and natural phenomena, not to make us
materially better off, but just to satisfy curiosity. The
ancient Greeks made fantastic scientific progress, but there are
few instances in which they use it for anything. In fact,
Aristotle says science shouldnít be used, because work is
something for the lower classes. Learned people didnít work, and
working people didnít learn.
Aristotle famously thought that
a vacuum was impossible. Then one day, Europeans build a vacuum
pump. The only conclusion they could reach is Aristotle is
wrong. If he was wrong about that, could he be wrong about other
things? You bet. Aristotle thought all the stars in the heavens
were completely fixed; nothing is added and nothing is
subtracted. In 1573, a Danish astronomer called Tycho Brahe
observes a supernova. There was a star there before, and now
itís not. So people start being skeptical, and skepticism leads
to what I call contestability. Arguments are decided not on
authority, but on evidence, logic and mathematical proof.
That seems perfectly normal to
us, but it's something that had to be learned. It's something no
other society pulls off. In other places, wisdom and knowledge
were revealed to our forefathers, and if you want to know the
truth, you have to study their writings, whether itís the Bible,
or Confucius, or the Koran, or the Talmud. Ė Ana Swanson, The
Washington Post, Oct 28, 2016
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