Saturday, 7 January 2017

Looking Back, Looking Ahead

Jan 7 Prompt:  Alternate Future

Thomas Edison once predicted that steel would become the main building and furnishing material (steel walls, doors, chairs, desks), and that gold would be as cheap and commonplace as steel. Write at least 500 words set in this alternate future. You could tell the story of a character in this future, or transport someone from the present day into it, and observe the differences. 

It seems to be the common consensus that Edison was egotistic, too full of himself when he made this prediction in 1911. Personally, having read up about the man, I would say he had every reason to have this kind of foresight without calling him arrogant. Anyone with "2,332 patents in the USA alone, and 1,093 approved in other countries" was forward thinking.  Edison was born into a humble family, an enthusiastic inventor from a young age, and has been described below as follows
"An uninhibited egoist, he could be a tyrant to employees and ruthless to competitors. Though he was a publicity seeker, he didn’t socialize well and often neglected his family. By the time he died he was one of the most well-known and respected Americans in the world".
Being born midway through the Industrial Revolution, he must have been excited about the possibilities of steel and the bulk manufacturing of household goods. 

So perhaps not everything in the home is made out of steel as he initially thought, but certainly more is out of steel now than it was then. Office furniture, catering equipment, fencing, scaffolding and frames for modern furniture are often steel. Today, people are exploring up-cycling old steel containers into bespoke homes, which can often look pretty fabulous if it is done creatively. 

On the other hand, these self same containers have been made into mobile classrooms and libraries and even used for low-cost housing in climates where heating is not required. Tin roofs are not uncommon in suburban areas where I am from, and are often the only roofing available to informal settlements.

What Edison did not foresee at the time of his 1911 prediction, were the 2 World Wars. Steel would have played a major role in ships, tanks, weapons, arsenal and airplanes.  Where he may have missed the mark on the home front, he certainly got it right in the industrial front, especially considering that by "early the 20th century USA had become the worlds leading industrial nation."

In 1913, the first 'rustless' or stainless steel was developed by Harry Brearly and this completely revolutionised the metallurgy industry. It is certainly more of the stainless steel that is used in homes today with cutlery, kitchen appliances, cookware... items in small doses. 

I wonder how much more of the earth surface can be mined before we 'run out' of iron ore to mine. The mines dig into beautiful landscapes leaving an ugly scar and robbing all creatures of their natural environment. Personally, I would love to see us plant trees intentionally, to green the planet and farm those to make furniture instead, with those trees that are used, being replaced. 

I was fascinated by a company called "Full Grown" who grow furniture. It's a relatively new project with furniture taking years to grow, but they are beautiful and original and eco-friendly. No tree is cut down and then cut up, to create furniture - instead furniture is created from an entire tree.

I wonder what Edison would have thought about the concept of being eco-friendly and green...

518 words

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