Sunday, November 11, 2012
Morgan, Edison, Tesla, Rockefeller: "Changing the Game" from "The Men Who Built America"
The episode “Changing the Game” of “The Men Who Built America” documents how J.P. Morgam wemt against his father’s advice and invested in Thomas Edison and the invention of a commercial electric power grid, at first based on less efficient direct current.
J. D. Rockefeller was the main “enemy”, wanting to keep America’s homes lighted and heated on kerosene.
Nikola Tesla, in Edison’s labs, then developed alternating current, which was at first thought to be too dangerous. Tesla was fired by Edison, and looked for investors to back his AC technology, and found George Westinghouse.
The advantage of AC was its efficiency: one power plant could electrify a much wider area. Tesla demonstrated AC on himself in public speeches.
There was room in the market for only one system. Edison tried to persuade the public that AC was unsafe, in a series of demonstrations with “dirty tricks”. Edison would go on to design the electric chair – based on AC generators! The first demonstration backfires and roasts a man alive, destroying Edison’s “online reputation”.
Morgan shorted Westinghouse in order to force him to sell (after Tesla gave up patent rights because he cared more that his invention change history). The biggest project was a hydroelectric plant at Niagara Falls.
Rockefeller countered by finding a use for gasoline, the internal combustion engine and the automobile.
Morgan actually bailed out the US Treasury out of self-interest. But there would follow “Morganization of business” meaning lower wages, inviting anti-trust. Our lifestyles today, whether sustainable or not, dependent on benevolent but brutal capitalists. How does that affect our own karma?