Saturday, November 15, 2014

The more things change...November 15, 2014

Another example of the more things change, the more they stay the same. Not sure if this is a new feature of Papers Past or I simply hadn't noticed it previously, but 'computer generated' text provides a pastable version of an item. Here's one I enjoyed from the Evening Post 80 years ago today:

Three thousand million pounds was added to the world's wealth by the inventions of Thomas A. Edison. That estimate was used by Sir James Jeans, in his presidential address to 3000 members of the British Association, states the London "Daily Express." He gave an impassioned denial to the charge that science does more harm than good. Although some new inventions had thrown people out of work, he said, scientific discoveries had provided work for millions
"There are many who attribute most of our present national woes—including unemployment in industry and the danger of war—to the recent rapid advance in scientific knowledge," Sir James went on.
"It is obvious that the country which called a halt to scientific progress would soon fall behind in every other respect as well.
"Those who sigh for an Arcadia in which all the machinery would be swapped and all invention proclaimed a crime, as it was in Erewhon, forget that the Erewhonians had neither to compete with highly organised scientific competitors for the trade of the world, nor to protect themselves against possible bomb-dropping, blockade, or invasion. Scientific research has two products of industrial importance—the laboursaving inventions which displace labour and the more fundamental discoveries which may ultimately lead to new trades, and new popular demands providing employment for vast armies of labour.
"Our great need at the moment is tor industry-making discoveries. The investigator in pure science does not know whether his researches will result in a mere labour-saving device or a new industry. He only knows that if  all science were throttled down neither would result.The community would become crystallised in its present state, with nothing to do but watch its population increase, and shiver as it waited for the famine, pestilence, or war, which must inevitably come, to restore the balance between food and mouths, land and population.'' 

And the same anti-science sentiment survives. Here's an example from 1997:

Jeremy Rifkin
A technology revolution is fast replacing human beings with machines in virtually every sector and industry in the global economy. Already, millions of workers have been permanently eliminated from the economic process, and whole work categories and job assignments have shrunk, been restructured, or disappeared. Global unemployment has now reached its highest level since the great depression of the 1930s. More than 800 million human beings are now unemployed or underemployed in the world. That figure is likely to rise sharply between now and the turn of the century as millions of new entrants into the workforce find themselves without jobs.

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