By Luke Frey – Sales Manager at Rees, Inc.
The industrial revolution is an iconic time frame in History, which took place between the mid 1700’s and 1800’s. Many of us have covered this topic in History class, but probably never really picked apart and assessed how it correlates to life today. Before this revolution began, manufacturing took place on a small scale, often in the homes of individuals who had developed the skills needed to produce a product. What the industrial revolution provided was the proper equipment and ability to mass produce these products at a more efficient rate, with a higher quantity of output.
All of this got me thinking… what if the industrial revolution never happened? What if from the 1700’s to present day nothing changed in the process of how we produce goods? Manufacturing never took off. No high tech equipment, no new machinery, nothing. What would life look like today? Please bear in mind, there is no real way to know how history would have played out and there is always the rare possibility of advancement in various industries. Therefore, what you read here is simply my desire to explore how things would look given that things simply didn’t pan out.
The year is 2018. You wake up to the sound of… a rooster? You don’t have an alarm clock, because such thing was never invented. The technology just wasn’t uncovered to produce such a device. So for right now, a rooster is your best bet. You slip on the leather shoes your wife purchased from the cobbler down the street and throw on the thinly lined clothes that she mended together for you. It’s time to start the work day. You go outside and hop on your bicycle, as your means of transportation are limited. You see, the automotive industry never really took off. There was this Ford guy that had some pretty bright ideas, but he simply didn’t have the means to put these ideas into action.
After a ride down Main Street, you finally arrive at your destination. Your little blacksmith shop isn’t much more than a barn, but it’s enough to provide a steady income. You see, trade jobs like this are a necessity. Everyone is taught from a young age to learn and develop a skill that will allow you to contribute to society, thus allowing everyone’s provisions to be met. College is a narrow road, as education never really took off either. Developments in science have remained somewhat stagnant over the years, as the testing we now know and rely on simply doesn’t exist. All the machinery scientists would have used to study the world were never put into production. If any of these machines do exist, they’re only available to the wealthy and may never even get into the proper hands of those who could best use/produce them.
After a few long hours at work, you decide to take a lunch break. This consists of roast beef, mashed potatoes, and a glass of milk. The potatoes came from your local farmer, while the beef and milk came from the cows your neighbor owns. With no means to mass produce these products, you must have a local source in order to get your hands on such things. Upon finishing your lunch you remember that you were supposed to pick up something for your wife at the drug store (which is where most of your goods are purchased) but you can’t remember what it was. You’d like to communicate with her, but you have no real way to, seeing as though that dreamy iPhone X simply doesn’t exist. The best you can do is ask your assistant to ride his horse to your house and retrieve the message. He obliges.
After a long work day, you finally go home to your family. As evening advances, you light the lanterns in your house and prepare for bedtime. It’d be great to have electricity, but without the mass production of these goods this luxury simply isn’t available. So instead of winding down this evening by watching ‘Seinfeld,’ browsing the internet, or shopping on Amazon, you simply play a board game with the family. This is not a bad thing by any means, as family time is quality time. Your options are simply… different than maybe desired. This all resembles a typical day for you in 2018. No TV, no car, no radio to hear the ramblings of Mr. Trump (you have to read a newspaper for that). Just… another day.
Thanks for taking the time to take a break from your day and daydream with me for a little while. I understand that there is a lot that was left out of this, but it is my hope that you understand the basic concept. The ability to mass produce products has been essential to our advancement and has affected social, economic, technological, and scientific aspects of life. It is quite possible that the wealthy would have had the means to advance beyond the rest of the population, but for the sake of this article I decided to assume that they either hoarded those goods or were unable to bring together the right amount of talented individuals to produce such advancement. So if you work in manufacturing, I hope you take pride in what you do. Your small role influences the lives of many in such a simple, yet powerful, way. I also hope you appreciate the work of those that have gone ahead of us to bring such advancements to light and allow us to have the luxuries we do today. I know I sure do.