Joe was standing before St. Peter at the gate. St. Peter asked him, "What have you done for the good of humankind?" "I've made people rich," Joe responded, "wealthy beyond their wildest dreams. I helped them buy expensive cars, homes around the world, yachts and all the finest things in life. I helped them send their kids to the finest private schools."
St. Peter pondered and thought.
The first computing machine was created for the Army in 1946 at the University of Pennsylvania Moore school of Electrical engineering. The world's first computing machine was called ENIAC, the electrical numerical integrator and calculator. But, as we know now, ENIAC would just be the first, the Neanderthal and the Cro-Magnon. It would have children and grand-children and great-great-great grand-children, who would make calculations like millions per second.
Harken back to the Enlightenment Period for a moment and the scientific discoveries that underpinned it and paved the way for the great drama to come, of the industrial revolution. This event had a profound effect on human relationships; comparable in impact only to the changes previously brought about by the development of agriculture and writing. Two key factors precipitated the Machine Age. One was the depletion of all of Europe's forests and the other was human inventiveness. By the mid-1700's, a swarming mass of humankind, thick as termites, had chewed its timber to stumps. The dense canopy of trees that had once blanketed Europe had been relentlessly clear cut. Firewood, the fuel of preference became increasingly expensive as axemen had to venture farther away from the king's hearth to find virgin stands of trees to fell. It was the first energy crisis since the discovery of fire 750,000 years earlier. Court ministers soon tentatively began showing His Majesty a lump of sooty, black rock, apologizing that it did not burn with the clean snap crackle of fire logs, and tunnels had to be dug in the earth to get at it. But, it was this coal that would keep the populace warm in the winter and cook their food.
Once coal, a cheap seemingly inexhaustible source of energy had been identified, human inventiveness came into play. Scientific discoveries quickly evolved from one laboratory to another. By 1725, science had surpassed organized religion as the chief influence shaping European and American culture. In the early nineteenth century, scientists discovered the secrets of heat energy, leading to the invention of the steam engine, which then gave new perspective to the meaning of world power.
The Industrial Revolution rapidly increased the sum of total tangible wealth and made possible many advances never dreamed of in the preceding century. One technical discovery after another led to a rapidly rising standard of living. These innovations however came with a price. The exploitation of child labor and a widening disparity between the rights and prerogatives of men and women, were just two of them.
As the eighteenth century counted down to a close, nobody had the slightest idea of the titanic force that was about to crash on their lives. After the detritus from the Industrial Revolution had been eviscerated, society would be unrecognized from what it had been. Entire populations migrated from farms to mills. As the populations of cities soared, their inadequate infrastructures stressed under the weight. Family bonds weakened as former farmers disappeared into mines and factories, and mothers labored endlessly in industry sweatshops. Owning the means of production began to supplant owning land as the pinnacle source of wealth. The new era stunk of male sweat and the oil of engines. The Industrial Revolution was a combination of science, brawn, finance, mathematics and competition, and was pursued without much concern for its effects on family life or community. Dark clouds of soot belching from the factory smoke stacks and the disgusting glow of slag heaps lit by Bessemer furnaces became the proud symbols of entrepreneurial progress. Mother Nature was being raped with no concern for the future, blind to the lessons of the clear-cut tree trunks.
In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries European intellectuals fractured into two opposing camps. Voltaire, Diderot, Kant, Hume and Locke contributed to the intellectual heft of the times as the Age of Reason's linear thinkers blended effortlessly into the Enlightenment. The views on the matters of significance and importance generated a strong reaction from those champions who initiated the Romantic Movement. Rousseau, Keats, Byron, Goethe, and Shelly, were repulsed by the Industrial Revolution's disrespectful abuse of the earth's resources, and now extolled love, nature and beauty. The Enlightenment enthusiasts claimed reason was superior to emotion. The Romantics felt that feeling were the more certain guide to the truth.
The invention of photography and the discovery of the electro-magnetic field were two new innovations that appeared in culture simultaneously. Together they would eventually reconfigure every aspect of human interaction. Photography and electromagnetism elevated the importance of images at the expense of written words. The collection of images soon became the most precious of possessions. The invention of photography began to move culture from the written word back to the perceived image.
Photography freed artists from the goal of replicating nature realistically. Many great art innovations, such as impressionism, Pointillism, Cubism, and Fauvism were the result of the artist's new found liberation. Because photography always reproduced visual reality, painting and sculpture would now serve new purposes, to respond to a world in a variety of ways, and address the scientific, cultural, and industrial transformations surrounding the times. Art began to increasingly affect the shape of the future. It has always been the visionary artist who has been the first person in a culture to see the world in a new way.
Democritus, in ancient Greece, divided reality into Atoms and the Void. Thereafter Western philosophers became convinced that there was little they could say about nothingness, ignored the Void and concentrated on describing matter's tiniest indivisible components, the atoms. Science grew to become an investigation of things and the forces that acted on them. Scientists now envisioned reality to a large part using terms of masculine metaphors. This created a world of made up of objects obeying the deterministic laws of causality. The invisible electromagnetism, something intangible, the other half of Democritus's duality upset the Newtonian cog-and-gear perception of celestial clockwork.
It made no difference if the object was a stylus, a chisel, a brush, a quill, a crayon, a pen, or a pencil, the hunter/killer left lobe of the brains of both men and women employed the muscles of the aggressive right hand to write.
Then, in 1873, an American, Philo Remington, invented the typewriter, followed my Marconi's radio, and then in 1939, Philo T. Farnsworth invented television.
World War II was a thunderbolt of change for modern civilization. In its aftermath the nihilist philosophy of existentialism weighed heavily on the spirit of a deceptively depressed society. The war had exposed the most horrible truth of human nature and even the most sanguine soon realized that education and cultural sophistication were no certainty against barbarous mankind. Not since the religious wars of the sixteenth century had warriors indulged in the depravities like those perpetrated by the supposed civilized Axis powers.
(Note: You can view every article as one long page if you sign up as an Advocate Member, or higher).