LATEST BLOG
Sunday, August 24, 2014
Friday, August 15, 2014
Thursday, August 14, 2014
Welcome to Matt Ridley's Blog
Matt Ridley is the author of provocative books on evolution, genetics and society. His books have sold over a million copies, been translated into thirty languages, and have won several awards.

Please note that this blog no longer accepts comments (there was too much spam coming in!). If you're reading this blog and want to respond then please use the contact form on the site.

You can also follow me on twitter.

Being a customer of your customers

How fresh and wondrous electricity seemed to Americans in 1916

From Maggie Koerth Baker at boingboing.net, a fascinating glimpse of  how fresh and wondrous electricity seemed to Americans in 1916. Pity she spoils it by an attempt at finding the cloud in the silver lining at the end.

Centralized electricity changed energy production from a difficult, in-home process that kept the messy by-products of progress literally in your face, into something magical that happened when you threw a switch. The choking smoke was still there, but not at your house. There was still heavy labor involved, but it wasn't done by you or your children. For the first time, people were able to pretend that their standard of living was provided, free of downsides, by little elves that lived in the wall. All benefit, no detriment. Action without consequences. In other words, this is the point where everybody went a little bit bonkers.

The beauty is that this is still happening in parts of Africa and Asia. A report on the Philippines estimated that each family derives $108 a month in benefits from connecting to the electricity grid - cheaper lighting ($37), cheaper radio and television ($19), more years in education ($20), time saving ($24) and business productivity ($8).  As the miracle of electricity reaches a village, people inhale less smoke, read more school books, cut down fewer trees and find time to do other things that earn them more money.

The people who run the power stations aint elves but have comparatively well paid jobs that enable them to be customers to their customers.