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Innovation has consequences; innovate anywayPosted Tuesday, March 3, 2009, at 6:59 PM
In the age of instant communication -- Internet, blogging and 24 hour news channels -- it seems like there are many stories critical of anything new or different.
Some people are quick to jump on bandwagons and bash new ideas. It seems like those people, and those stories, only focus on the negatives -- proven or unproven.
I often wonder what would have happened to Henry Ford's Model A if it had to face the kind of scrutiny new products have to pass today. Would we even have cars?
They had to be noisy, smelly and slow compared to a comfortable horse and buggy. (At that time people were used to animal smells.) And it couldn't have seemed practical at all compared to the speed of a locomotive.
What about the new roads, new "gas" stations and service stations, which had to be built to accommodate the automobile?
And what about the Horse Selling lobby -- or the strong Blacksmith lobby, the Wagon building lobby or the Train lobby, they definitely would have come out against the Model A. It might put them out of business.
The lobbyists, with a good public relations firm, may have convinced some people not to buy or even see the potential of this new "fang-dangled" contraption, long before the Model T ever came out.
Now 100 plus years later, we can see there have definitely been some negative consequences from automobiles:
In the United States alone, 115 people die every day in vehicle crashes -- one death every 13 minutes, certainly no small thing.
Without cars we wouldn't have highways, highway taxes, pollution or the greenhouse gases they discharge. Of course we wouldn't be worrying about gas prices. No, the only gas we would have to worry about was whether or not our trusty horse had gotten into some "bad" grass. And if they never built cars, we certainly wouldn't be baling out the automakers in Detroit.
But there are two sides to every story -- and there is give and take with every new invention.
As consumers, our job is to decide if the good benefits outweigh the bad.
Now 100 years later we can certainly see that the invention of the automobile has resulted in more positives than negatives.
Without automobiles, we wouldn't have ambulances, fire trucks or police cars. How many millions of people have been saved because emergency responders can get to victims so quickly?
And what kind of mess would we have in city streets today if people still traveled by horse and buggy? Talk about animal smells! Not to mention the land it would take to grow their "fuel."
You have to look no further than third world countries where automobiles are rare, to see what our life might have been like.
Lately it seems like the use of modern technology in agriculture has been under fire. Some question genetically modified crops, ethanol or modern hog and chicken housing. Others would like to do away with tractors and go back to cultivating ground with mules and horses. There are some groups who believe animal agriculture should be eliminated altogether.
Some of the concerns are legitimate -- just like the concerns that could have been brought up about the Model A.
However, the truth is the positive consequences of new agricultural technology far outweigh the bad.
In the 21st century, the one million U.S. farmers left are now able to produce more food, fuel and fiber than ever before. They also do it on less land with fewer chemicals, pesticides and soil erosion. In America we pay less of our paychecks -- just 10 percent -- on food than any other country.
How hard would our current recession be on families if we had to pay more for our meals? In Europe food costs up to three times more than it does here. And I never forget that even with our relatively low food costs, there are still hungry people right here in the U.S.
Someday we may look back and see the new technology wasn't perfect. But, with an ever-increasing world population, I think the benefits will far outweigh the negatives.
So thank you, Henry Ford -- I sure do like my car.
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