Our world, the western world, started when the Jews and Huguenots, the enemies of the Holy Roman Empire, created democracy in England in 1689. After getting a foothold in Amsterdam in 1602, they were extremely successful running the East India Company and eventually set up their headquarters in the City, in London. In 1688, the bankers financed the election of the people’s representatives while creating a proper parliament. Democracy as it became known, was a win-win situation for all. Parliamentarians were forever asking the bankers for loans, and in wanting to safeguard this great source of credit, the politicians made sure they collected taxes in order to pay back the loans, or at least the interest. The bankers were thus sure of having their loans repaid for the first time in their history, and they invested in research and development at a frenzied pace. The period of R&D that was to follow would be known as the Industrial Revolution.
At first, there was no infrastructure, and communication was limited to the printed page. The printing press had been invented by Johannes Gutenberg in 1440, but the rotary press did not see the day until 1846. The Industrial Revolution was slow in getting going, but it got in gear when, in 1765, James Watt invented a converter for the world’s first steam cylinder and piston engine that had been invented by Denis Papin, a Huguenot from Hesse, in 1690. As of 1765, the Industrial Revolution had a full head of steam so to speak. Manufacturing goods, weaving cotton, mining with steam power and transporting those merchandises along roads and canals became commonplace. Other major inventions like Eli Whitney’s cotton gin in 1793, Elias Howe’s sewing machine with interchangeable parts in 1846, and Henry Bessemer’s steelmaking process in 1857 contributed to the production of goods, but the concept of globalization envisaged by Nathan in the City in 1810, and by his father before him, depended entirely on the development of communications.
Nicephore Niepce invented photography in 1820, Samuel Morse the telegraph in 1844, Charles Havas, Paul Reuter and Bernhard Wolf founded the news agencies in 1845, and from there, communications increased exponentially. When Bessemer invented the steelmaking process in 1857, railroad tracks were finally cast in a durable material and the construction of railroads mushroomed. Then came Graham Bell with the telephone in 1876, Thomas Edison with the light bulb in 1879, and Nikola Tesla with the a/c induction motor in 1887. However, when George Westinghouse triumphed over Edison with his a/c current distribution system in 1891, that changed the industrial world as well as people’s lives. The global village was born.
As research and development continued to receive astounding amounts of credit, images and voices started travelling through the air over long distances. Reginald Aubrey Fessenden transmitted the human voice without wires in 1900, and Hollywood started producing films that seduced the whole world as early as 1910. After Henry Ford got the combustion engine rolling with his Model-T, and the Wright Bros. got it flying in 1903, films made in America, the dream nation, were seen around the world. Although images started travelling through the air with TV in 1926, it was the talking colour film introduced in 1930 that entrenched the ‘image is the message’ concept of Marshall McLuhan. When the first computer and its mouse arrived in 1976, and especially when Tim Berners-Lee’s World Wide Web came along in 1990, we became information addicts. But it was the smartphone in 1993 that captivated our total attention and hardwired us to the news agencies, transforming us into smombies in the process. It took 3 million years to get to steam energy, but it took a mere 225 years more to get the whole world lit up and connected.
Hollywood was a good example of how research and development money gets things done. In the early 1900s, filmmakers, almost exclusively Jewish, began moving to California. The idea was to create the film industry in an unreachable place where they would be free to use with impunity the usurped patents owned by Thomas Edison and Eastman Kodak of New Jersey. If an agent from New Jersey came out west to sue them, all the filmmakers had to do was make a quick escape to Mexico. There was really not much Thomas Edison or George Eastman could do in order to protect their patents.
The first film, ‘In old California’, was produced in 1910. From there, the Laemmle’s, the Zukor’s, the Frohman’s, the Lasky’s, the Goldfish’s, the Abrams’, the Warner’s, the DeMille’s, the Cohn’s, the Selznick’s, the Sarnoff’s, the Zanuck’s, the Loew’s and the Mayer’s, Jews for the most part, made the industry prosper with lightning speed. The radio and film industries launched the 20th century into the realm of globalization, and in the blink of an eye, television, computers, mobile phones and airplanes turned us into world citizens.