RE: ply to Grant

From: Vincent Campbell (
Date: Thu Feb 07 2002 - 13:44:05 GMT

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    From: Vincent Campbell <>
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    Subject: RE: ply to Grant
    Date: Thu, 7 Feb 2002 13:44:05 -0000 
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            <All memes are built on memes that existed before. It's the new
    combination of old ideas that produces new culture. SO I can't see that the
    changes Henry Ford made to the manufacturing process are somehow not his
    work. It sounds a lot like picking nits to me. Sure, he took the ideas of
    other men and used them to create his own culture of making cars. But
    nobody else put it all together exactly the same we he did. It's the total
    package that was new, not the individual ideas that went into it.>

            That's not what I was saying. What I was saying was that those that
    develop new technologies do not invent the socio-cultural and
    politico-economic consequences of the things they produce. Those things
    stem from how people in a culture use that technology. I'll give you an
    example- cinema. Cinema today is primarily a medium used for fiction, but
    nothing in the technology itself requires film to be used for fiction. Even
    before television killed off the newsreels (roughly) in the 50s, fiction
    film as by far the dominant form of film production. What that's got to do
    with the Lumieres?

            <It's the same with the Computer culture developed in Silicon
    Valley. Each
    > element of the complex existed at some point before it was incorporated
    > into the culture. But these men changed forever the way such things are
    > being done by putting them together in a new way. If you don't want to
    > give them credit for what they did, that's fine. But I've lived long
    > enough to see the changes and I doubt they would have come about exactly
    > the same way under the direction of anyone else.>
            Again, you're ascribing social change to the inventors rather than
    the things, which isn't right.

            <It doesn't matter that these men didn't have the entire vision
    before they
    > set out to build their companies. Culture grows from bits and pieces
    > generated from the minds of men who are solving one problem at a time.
    > Organizing the enterprise is one of the problems they had to solve.
    > Compensating the people who worked for them was another. Their solutions
    > were adopted by others who came after them.
    > People don't know the impact their ideas will have until after the ideas
    > have been adopted. But it's the sum total of the ideas they put together
    > that comprise the culture, not the bits and pieces that go into it. Many
    > are thrown away in the process. And it never stops. It becomes a line of
    > evolution that new cultures will grow out of.
    > Bill Gates and his ideas are now having a tremendous impact on how
    > software
    > is produced in China. The ideas of Karl Marx, Henry Ford and Bill Gates
    > are in a huge struggle to determine where the culture of manufacturing in
    > China will end up. What they have ten years now will contain elements
    > from all these sources. Some people will profit from these contributions
    > and some won't. But the ideas themselves will generate billions of
    > dollars in both profits and losses.>
            I'm sorry, but this great men of history narrative just doesn't
    wash. It's describing complex social change too simplistically.

            In the 1980s a British company, Sincliar produced a home computer
    called the Spectrum, that was a huge hit in the UK, and across Europe-
    millions were sold. It didn't do a thing in the US (I think Timex tried to
    sell it in the States). Indeed, the computer/games console industry shows
    time and again that there are many other factors than the "genius" of
    inventors that shape the impact of technologies. Open source stuff, is a
    good example here. Or, since you mention Gates, his exploiting of IBM's
    mistake, which many would say was opportunism, not inventor's genius.


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