Thursday, October 6, 2011

Of the Age of Electricity

A current USNEWS piece by Rich Newman "Where Steve Jobs ranks among the Greats" suggests that Jobs is one of the enablers of the middle-class, as were Benjamin Franklin & Thomas A. Edison, who all made new-technology inventions accessible & desirable to a broad commercial audience (as the world population increased.)

They all were dependent on electricity for some of their inspirations. Franklin, from his simple experiment with lightning & a kite; Edison* for his inventions that required electricity, & Jobs** (ditto.).

They're all entrepreneurs/enablers of the Age of Electricity...which we take to be absolutely essential to the world as we know it, because most of us use it. (Those few who don't are primitives or electro-luddites.)

But is electricity absolutely essential? If not, what's next? (Solar-derived power is still only used to create electric current, as are nuclear, geo-thermal, even water.)

If we do (somehow) move beyond electricity, we will have taken a quantum leap. What if...the next energy source & distribution system were geo-magnetic? (Sci-fi writers have imagined that flying saucers might be driven by some geo-magnetic repulsion/reversal drive that uses the earth's mass & magnetism in its propulsion scheme.)

What's certain is that this will continue to be speculated about in this advancing electronic century. The current media surface noise about Jobs' relative position will have to abate. At the moment, he's too close to us to evaluate rationally. We need a longer perspective. I suggest The Age of Electricity as a technological historical period.

If our current electronic technology (somehow) fails, we will fall back (be reduced to) to the pre-electric age & begin our development again on some new basis. Or not. Does that frighten you?

Notes: *Edison sued & defeated many other inventors, so his achievements may now appear unique, but they weren't. **Jobs refined other people's 'products', raised prices, fascinated fellow tecchies, but was never up for a Nobel Prize.

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