The Job of Prediction

The first thing coffee did was bring people together. In the half century following coffee’s introduction in England, coffeehouses had proliferated as a hub where people met, and caffeine and information flowed. One of these, a coffeehouse Edward Lloyd opened in 1687, became something much more. Lloyd’s was near London’s docks and became a hangout for ship workers. Lloyd understood the full nature of his business and with it the demand for information. This generated the unlikely complement, “Lloyd’s List,” a pamphlet that compiled shipping news—who was coming and going and sea conditions. Coffee may have been imported to England from the East, but the information was global.

What was all this information for? While idle ...

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