Saturday, August 14, 2010

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

Wow, i am 80 pages into this book and it is one of the most amazing book i have ever read!!

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

I saw it being talked about on Jon Stewart a few weeks ago and thought the author sounded interesting but i had no idea how dense the concepts were (or how closely it relates to IT development).

The first page talks about how apart from slight variances the average worker made between $400 and $550 worth of GDP output per year from Alexandrian time to the 1700's.

So whatever a blacksmith was capable of outputting before christ they were pretty much using the same tools and same techniches 2000 years later.And although increases were made the Malthusian trap of increased  production came with the issue of increased population (it explains it more in the foreword).

And allthough steam based toys have been around since the days of the romans (who knew), that it wasn't until the 1800 and changes in the "valuations" of thoughts and inventivity that made the invention of steam power (and everything to follow) overtones of current software patentability issues.

The other concept they cover is the issue of inventors being hamstrung by "benefactors" (VC's?) and until they were able to solve industrial age problems (water in coal mines) hey were unable to make a living to be self supporting/get rich.

Another interesting area they briefly touch on is the implementation of Gresham College, a "shangrila" for lecturers that have no students but are there simply to give lectures to the general public or anyone who happens to wander in (overtones of online elearning courses being offered by MIT).


P.S> finished it, and then turned around and started to read it again. If you work in software development this is a must read. Still processing all my thoughts but lots of thought provoking concepts to mull over.

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