The Innovator Versus the Collective

My latest book, The Innovator Versus the Collective, is now available in paperback and Kindle. The Introduction to the book is posted below.

At the beginning of the Industrial Revolution in Great Britain, many textile workers rebelled against the labor-saving machines being introduced. The Luddites—as they were called—believed that this new technology would mean the end of life as they knew it. They burned mills and destroyed machinery in a futile effort to stop innovation and progress.

Today, very few Americans explicitly denounce innovation and progress. We love the benefits of technology, and we can’t imagine life without our smart phone and the Internet. Yet, most Americans unknowingly embrace ideas that stifle innovation.

We have all heard the adage that the pen is mightier than the sword. The pen—ideas—determine the causes for which the sword—force—is raised. The Luddites could not stopblog_image innovation and progress with the sword. In contrast, today’s enemies of innovation and progress are using the pen. For decades, they have been fighting an ideological battle, and they are winning.

It might seem ludicrous to make such a claim. In the past twenty years, we have seen technology transform our lives. Smart phones and the Internet are probably the most obvious examples. But the fact that such amazing advances have occurred doesn’t mean that they will continue. Nor does it mean that they will automatically remain a part of our lives.

The Dark Ages were so named for a reason. It was a period of nearly 800 years in which innovation and progress were not allowed to exist. The Dark Ages followed the remarkable accomplishments of the Greeks and Romans, and were followed by the Renaissance—the rebirth of innovation and progress. The Dark Ages were a regression.

Fundamentally, the innovation and progress of the Greek and Roman civilizations and the Renaissance can be explained by the ideas that dominated. Similarly, the stagnation and regression of the Dark Ages can also be explained by the ideas that dominated that time. The pen is indeed mightier than the sword.

But we do not need to study ancient and medieval history to discover which ideas lead to stagnation and regression and which ideas lead to innovation and progress. The history of America is replete with examples. Particular industries, such as oil, electricity, telecommunications, and the personal computer, provide a revealing story of the effects of ideas.

In this book, I examine the histories of these industries. In most, there have been periods of great innovation, and there have also been periods of stagnation. As you will see, stagnation was the result when the collective prohibited the innovator from acting on his vision. And you will also see that when the innovator was free, he could prove the truth of his vision and move all of mankind forward, including his critics and detractors.

Ideas matter. They determine the course of history. Today, we face a choice: we can embrace the ideas that animated the Renaissance, or we can embrace the ideas of the Dark Ages. We have a choice which ideas we embrace. We don’t have a choice in the results.

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