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Inventions & how societies view them

General | April 4, 2006 | 1 min read

Been reading “Guns, Germs and Steel” by Jared Diamond for some days now. Quite a fascinating book I should say.

Writing about the “Necessity is the mother of invention”, he gives some examples where the opposite has been true – like with the airplane, the automobile, the internal combustion engine, the phonograph & the transistor. Was surprised reading that Edison didn’t intend to use the phonograph for replaying music, it took almost 50 years (and World War I) for Otto’s engine to be adopted in a mass scale & how untrue it is to say that James Watt invented the steam engine. (apparently there were earlier designs & working models before Watt’s).

He then elaborates upon of how hard it is to persuade a society to adopt a new technology. Some good examples given are of the USA finding it reluctant to use transistors instead of vacuum tubes & Sony taking advantage of buying the transistor licensing rights from Western Electric and of Japan falling back to using swords even after guns being introduced there in 16th century. There has been cases of anti-engineering succeeding too like with the QWERTY keyboard.

If you are interested in knowing more about what makes different societies think/do this way or that, “Guns, Germs and Steel” is a real good book to read.