Determining Elements in breakthroughs

On a separate page I have given my views on possible developments in this century. In this article I propose to share with you some musings on the components of situations and conditions preceding a change in society.

Looking in retrospect at history we see a chain of discoveries that paved the way for a turn of events that led to a completely different outlook and development of society. It may have been a fresh religious faith; discovery of a country - like America -; of knowledge, a skill, instrument, etc.


What elements had these developments in common?

As an example the rise of the movie industry may be taken. Of the abovementioned components the following played a part:

The introduction of printing by Johannes Gutenberg (1400 - 68) is another example:

Gutenberg's printing presses facilitated the spread of knowledge which in turn gave an impulse to the Renaissance and contributed to the scientific revolution in the years to come.

Another well-known example is the contribution of the thermometer to public health and life span. The elements being.

Discovery of America:


Energy (oil):

Electricity (Tesla helped ushering in a second industrial revolution):


A factor not specified is the part of coïncidence playing in the resulting breakthroughs. The genius should be there at the right moment, place and a period of need. Ignited by a vision his enthusiastic dedication may make the ingredients work. In history the part of coincidence has already been noted. The most insignicant detail, or decision, can decide the course of events.

It need not be a genius, other characters may play a part, such as a trickster figure, a person who detects unknowingly weaknesses in existing (social, or political) structures, challenges them and so makes way for a breakthrough, unleashing a transition in society. A Tijl Uilenspiegel, or Pim Fortuyn in the Netherlands. The mentality of a Felix the Cat, Bart Simpson, Pink Panther. Not necessarily in a positive way as Hitler and Stalin have demonstrated.

We have now come to six elements composing future developments, but one could easily add more and so arrive at a chaotic multilateral model . An obscure idea, catastrophe, or coincidence, may cause a chain of reactions.

Finally one may wonder what the use is of the above categorization..... Its use might be to bring down to us that one is hardly aware of the needs and possibilities lying dormant in the present. We seem unable to cast a glimpse into the future and to fathom the possibilties of the present. Enormous changes are hardly ever anticipated.

So, determining breakthroughs always remains a matter of hindsight.



Links (most of the links I gave ten years ago have gone dead! These remain and a few new ones):

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Created 6 January 2008. Latest revision: 17th October 2008

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