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The TED talk I never gave.

My name is Michael Read. I would like to talk about the Industrial Revolution and what it created beyond the evidences of machinery: the Industrial Revolution created the right to obsolete. That became a powerful source that transformed everything.

In my business seminars I would suggest participants go to a kitchen store because there everything, everything, was there because someone got pissed off doing it the hard way.

Take a melon baller. Some person cutting up melons for a large sitting got aching arms and shoulders (by the way, from that came ergonomics) and said, “Piss on this. There’s a better way.” No one, especially others cutting up melons, objected. In fact, they cheered.

The Industrial Revolution outmoded previous methods of supplying power but, more than that, instilled the idea that change was acceptable. For years that wasn’t. Guilds taught how it was to be done and taught nothing other. If something differed from pattern it was considered not acceptable. For centuries tools never changed from chisel/hammer, mortar/pestle, plane/handsaw. A person would be accomplished in them but their tool belt was that of their grandfathers and great-grandfathers. You have more tools in your possession than any master of 200 years ago.

So what is, ‘Piss on this, there has to be a better way’? A change of authority deciding what is and what isn’t? Or a sea change where invention became unlimited as to who created invention? What makes an Edison or a Tesla? Or the person who got pissed off painting with a brush and said it would be easier with a roller?

Efficiency is a part answer. Why do it the hard way? Butr efficiency, my view, came about because we could question the hard way. That is what the Industrial Revolution started. Why did Stevenson think steam? Or Tesla alternating current?

Necessity is the mother of invention, sure. But seeing necessity is cultural. We really didn’t see mechanical necessity until we say mechanical necessity. Otherwise, that’s the way it’s always been done.

Well, piss on it. Which is my way of saying look around you and realize everything is obsolete when you decide to piss on it. The only reason you’re accepting something as acceptable is because you’re not yet pissed off enough about it. It works but it’s an annoyance is a reason to replace it.

The Industrial Revolution was an opportunity to say ‘this can be replaced with something better’ and that meme has powered the centuries since. Nothing is cast in concrete.

So the ultimate question. What pisses you off and what are you going to do about it?

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