Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Bright Idea

"We will make electric light so cheap that only the rich will be able to burn candles."

-Thomas Edison, announcing his electric light bulb, 1879.

Just saw this today and it made me grin, and remember this passage from The Rational Optimist by Matt Ridley: (Excellent read & Audiobook despite a hackneyed and false description of earlt human development)
"The real cause of these improvements is that most of the things people need or want have been getting steadily cheaper. For example, in monetary terms, the same amount of artificial lighting cost 20,000 times as much in England in the year 1300 as it does today, and in labour terms the change is even more dramatic and the improvement is even more recent. To earn an hour of reading light on the average wage will have cost you less than half a second of work. In 1950, with a conventional filament lamp and the then wage, you would have had to work for eight seconds to get the same amount of light. Had you been using a kerosene lamp in the 1880s, you would have had to work for about 15 minutes to get the same amount of light. A tallow candle in the 1800s: over six hours’ work."

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