Thursday, June 14, 2018

"The Genesis of Invention"

Take a look at this short essay from an 1875 issue of Scientific American.

The date is important here. In the mid-1870s, Americans saw themselves as predominantly and uniquely the product of technology. This was both completely reasonable given the advances that the previous three quarters of a century had produced, and, in retrospect, rather naïve. As important as inventors had been up to that point, the contributions they were about to make in the next two or three decades would dwarf anything that had come before (and arguably anything that has come after).

As for the main argument of piece, I don't know that I buy the claim that the United States patent system was the most important factor in the progress of technology up to that point, but it is safe to say that American intellectual property laws appear to have worked pretty damn well in the 19th and 20th centuries and that we might wonder if our present policies will fare so well.

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