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"Throughout the centuries there were men who took first steps down new roads armed with nothing but their own vision. Their goals differed, but they all had this in common: that the step was first, the road new, the vision unborrowed, and the response they received—hatred. The great creators—the thinkers, the artists, the scientists, the inventors—stood alone against the men of their time. Every great new thought was opposed. Every great new invention was denounced. The first motor was considered foolish. The airplane was considered impossible. The power loom was considered vicious. Anesthesia was considered sinful. But the men of unborrowed vision went ahead. They fought, they suffered and they paid. But they won." -Ayn Rand, The Fountainhead



That's a nice tid-bit of libertarian drivel, but it fails to mention that for innovation to be possible, the thinking class needs to be liberated from the toils of manual and physical labor and be endowed with a surplus of time and costly education at the expense of the (then farmer) worker class.

They didn't stand alone most of the time and were heavily sponsored or subsidized by governments to gain a competitive advantage in warfare or any other area.

Not to mention the obvious survivorship bias.


That's a nice tid-bit of libertarian drivel, but it fails to mention that for innovation to be possible, the thinking class needs to be liberated from the toils of manual and physical labor and be endowed with a surplus of time and costly education at the expense of the (then farmer) worker class.

Meh. I don't buy the idea that there's a special "thinking class" who are solely imbued with the magical power of "innovation", or the idea that education is something that is gained at the expense of the "working class."

Education is something that's attainable by pretty much everyone who at least gets over the bar of being literate, and who has some work ethic and access to a library. Not all education means going off to a small, private, (expensive) liberal arts college for four years. Sometimes it's somebody reading books by candlelight after spending their day plowing fields.


    > I don't buy the idea that there's a special "thinking class"
What he means isn't about genetics but about opportunity. And the opportunity to get even a basic education was severely lacking until the 20th century, while on the other hand the need to work work work starting from a very young age for the working class didn't exactly leave room to study, even if you knew what that is.

    > Education is something that's attainable by pretty much everyone
Only in recent times. The original quote starts with "Throughout the centuries...", so this is about a longer period, and throughout most of it that opportunity you speak of did not exist for the majority of the population.

The statement is about a time when productivity was just high enough to free some (few) people from the toils of daily live. It's not like there was no progress at all, that class was getting larger over the millenia, but the explosion (in productivity) happened only in the (late) 19th century.


What he means isn't about genetics but about opportunity.

Who said anything about genetics?

Only in recent times. The original quote starts with "Throughout the centuries...", so this is about a longer period, and throughout most of it that opportunity you speak of did not exist for the majority of the population.

That's all relative and not really relevant to the overall point. There have always been people who managed to innovate relative to their peers, and they haven't always come from a special "thinking class".


    >  There have always been people
That "argument" is on the level of "my grandfather smoked and died cancer-free at 96" (so don't tell me smoking causes cancer).

In other words, we were not talking about extremely rare individual cases - the rarer the farther back in time you go. The science for and during the industrial revolution wasn't driven by poor farmers and workers. That statement remains true even if you should manage to find some poor fellow who did manage it. Even today we still have the problem of way too low upward mobility from the working class, even though they could do it without nearly as much trouble as in the past!


Even today we still have the problem of way too low upward mobility from the working class, even though they could do it without nearly as much trouble as in the past!

Sure, there are a lot of things we should do to promote upward mobility. But we've gotten away from the point of the quote that kickstarted this particular branch of conversation.


    > But they won.
Actually, the majority of their new ideas didn't win and we are better for it. Survivorship combined with it sibling selection bias at work here - only counting the successes with the help of hindsight.




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