A New Industrial Revolution

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Upsetting… yet productive

Yesterday, Pat Younge, President and GM of The Travel Channel addressed the group here in DC.

The group is made up of 40 of his employees, so they paid attention.

They are going through the ‘bootcamp’. But they’re not doing it so that they can ‘contribute’ to The Travel Channel. They already do that, and they get paid for it.  They are going through the bootcamp so that they understand the massive change that their entire industry is going through.

Younge compared it to the Industrial Revolution. It is a revoution and one that will have similar impacts.

At the moment, it looks bleak.

Entire worlds are being turned upside down.

The ‘established order’ is beginning to fall apart, and there is no real model for the future.

Once strong newspapers are folding, victims of the web.  Television networks will not be far behind, as video begins its inevitable migration to the Internet.  Once certain careers are being eviscerated left and right.

The introduction of steam power in England in 18th Century brought about a similar dislocation.

Steam power suddenly meant that you could build machinery that would harness this new source of seemingly limitless power and begin a process of mass manufacturing.  Giant looms began to spring up in places like Manchester, driven by steam, that could process a thousands times what an individual could do on a home loom.

Much like the Internet, it was a technology that was destined to rewrite the hitherto basic rules of economics and society.

Suddenly, the manufacture of cotton cloth, hitherto a highly localized, precise and time-consuming craft, became an extremely profitable venture.  It worked. But it required a complete restructuring of not just the factory, or the cotton weaving processes, (which it might have seemed at the beginning), but rather an upending of almost every aspect of society before the Revolution had run its course.

Massive new industries arose in the Midlands, towers of an industrial power and wealth that had never even existed before.  (Think Google).  At the same time, an extremely unsettling transfer of wealth and power began.  The burgeoning industrial class began to accumulate land and money, and the old established land-based aristocracy who had ruled England since 1066 suddenly found themselves marginalized or made irrelevant.  It was something they could not believe was happening. But it was.

The long time honored skills of weaving at home was rendered worthless. Also a shocking turn of events. And worse, the crofters and their lives were overturned as population moved, in mass numbers (also somthing never seen before) from the countryside to the cities to work in those factories.  And to live in conditions that were, frankly, unimaginable until then.

In America, the rise of Industrial Britain turned the colonies into suppliers of raw materials and a ready market for their product.  But when the Americans tried to build their own industrial base, the British Parliament quickly outlawed the establishment of industry in the Americas, one of the primary drivers of the American Revolution. Once the technology was unleashed, there was no way to contain its growth.

In the long run, the Industrial Revolution changed forever every aspect of society. By the time it had run its course in the 20th Century, the world was so changed from that which it had been, that there was virtually nothing that was left standing.  A world which had been pretty much stable for more than 500 years, vanished.  Today, if you wish to see what this world was like you must journed to Colonial Williamsburg, where people in period costumes will recreate for you the ‘quaint’ world that was a way of life for most of the planet for a very long and seemingly stable period of time.

Perhaps in the not too distant future, we will create our own kind of  ‘Colonial Williamsburg’, where tourists may gaze at journalists carrying pencils and pads and printing on paper, tv news crews carrying cameras the size of refrigerators, or a world where people  can only see American Idol once a week, at a pre-established time.

Quaint.

Charming.

5 responses to “A New Industrial Revolution

  1. My great, great, great… (whatever) Grandfather invented the Spinning Mule: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spinning_mule

    Just though you would want to know that.

  2. nice.
    He’s Compton?
    tragic about the patents!

  3. Yep.
    Its funny how history seems to repeat.
    My Grandfather invented a fruit sorting machine. He gave it to the local Co-Op to use and without his knowledge they had someone copy and patent it. His fruit sorting method is now used around the world and he never got a cent.

  4. Speaking of revolution, industrial or otherwise…

    Way back in 1981 some papers were experimenting with a new way to read the paper on you home computer.

    They should have embraced it a little quicker in my opinion : ) Check out the video

  5. my mom mom said she meet that ben

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