CHAPTER 1 The industrial deal: the shift from industry to technology

The industrial revolution was a pretty good deal. Here’s what we got: stable jobs with better pay, paid annual leave and union-improved working conditions; improved housing with automated heating and cooling; homes filled with labour-saving devices and disposable widgets; free entertainment projected directly into our living rooms; personal motorised transportation and a national transport infrastructure; a garage filled with toys; air-conditioned supermarkets selling packaged goods with long shelf lives; big box retailing; government sponsored education, medical innovation and public hospitals; jet aircraft that could fly us through the clouds; and a life expectancy beyond the age of 35.

It’s no surprise that people living in industrialising countries clamoured to gain the benefits of a longer and wealthier life. The only rational choice was to sign up for it. The benefit of an improved life expectancy on its own was quite compelling. But when we added the layers of conspicuous consumption and free entertainment on tap it was a real human high ground.

So we handed in our craftsman and artisanal skills to help build the one-size-fits-all economy and the consumables that fill it up. It was the only way all of us would be able to own everything. It meant we had to trade in the very personal touch of a craftsman and become part of the machine itself. By becoming part of the machine we were able to have more. ...

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