Question What forces have shaped humanity most?
Jim Barksdale: The stirrup led to the fact that riders could get more leverage so they could carry a lance. The lance led to having the long bow. The long bow led to armor. The armor led to the manufacturing process. The manufacturing process led . . . All of these things. There’s a marvelous book called “Pinball Effect”. If we go back and try to train . . . change or try to understand all of the consequential effects of the many things that have happened in humankind, we can always find good things that led to others. And we can always find bad things that led to more bad things. There’s a constant battle between invention and need; but I do know one thing. Necessity is always the mother of invention. And you can trace the beginning of the porcelain industry in China and the soap trade to the modern day microchip and the silicon processing capabilities. All of these things lead to each other. And great organizations came from other needs that translated to others. The need for deep well pumping systems led to the Watts steam engine; which led to new forms of travel; which led to new forms of communication. I love to read about inventions – who invented what. And I believe that the unintended consequences of so many things that happen every day in our lives – and the Internet is a great example – are almost unpredictable in their nature. They are unpredictable, but they’re the great excitement of human learning and discovery.
Recorded on: 7/5/07