Sliced ​​bread and "innovationism", not science, is what allows us to prosper as a civilization

Sliced ​​bread and "innovationism", not science, is what allows us to prosper as a civilization

The great leap toward civilization, prosperity, increased life expectancy, and other recent milestones is not due, at least not directly, to Galileo and Newton’s scientific revolution, as most of the life-changing innovations of People hardly relied on new scientific knowledge (at least in principle), and few of the innovators who brought about those changes were scientifically trained .

In the opinion of economic history specialist Deirdre McCloskey , what has given most of us a better life is due to "innovationism . " Sliced ​​bread is a good example of this.

Science precedents

According to McCloskey, innovationism would be the tendency or custom to apply new ideas to raise the standard of living . And many innovations preceded the science on which they were based (Newcomen, inventor of the steam engine, or Arkwright, promoter of the textile revolution, or Stepehenson, father of the railroad, were men with little academic training and of humble origin).

Later on, science would contribute to the increasing pace of invention, and the line between discovery and invention would become more blurred, but deductive thinking barely made its mark in the early years of the industrial revolution, a time when philosophers were scarce. nature.

Sliced bread is an interesting example in that regard: a way to automatically cut bread to make standardized sandwiches. This breakthrough took place in 1928, and in a small American town, Chillicothe, in Missouri, as Matt Ridley explains in his book The Keys to Innovation :

Many people tried to invent a machine to cut and pack bread into slices, but it either malfunctioned or the bread became stale because it was not packaged properly.

Otto Frederick Rohwedder succeeded by a crucial detail: he had to invent both the electric machine for cutting bread and automatic bread packaging to prevent the slices from becoming hard. The rest was a stroke of luck. Chance, in innovation, is crucial, but that kind of chance only occurs in certain ecosystems.

Innovation arises when there is freedom to think, experiment and speculate. It occurs when there is freedom to trade. It appears when people are enjoying a certain prosperity and are not desperate. It is somewhat contagious. You need investment. It usually occurs in cities.

A good series to understand all the implications on innovation, and also those who resist them, whether they are Luddites, postmodernists or Malthusians, is the manga and anime Dr.Stone : a whole hymn to the virtues of the Enlightenment . One of the characters, in fact, is a shaman fond of magic who will eventually discover that science is much more powerful, but that innovation is what really makes the world worthwhile because it helps heal the wounded, allows See the nearsighted or help … make cotton candy or a cola drink. You can see more about this series in the following video: