Thursday, September 9, 2010

Invention and Farming




Technology will create Social Change


I know that Technology and the Information age is dramatically changing the world we live in. I often hear the complaint that we are shipping our jobs off shore. Yet my own observation has been that a lot more jobs have disappeared from the advent of automation. With the rapid development of computer power and the role I have seen it play in my lifetime, I know that it is going to dramatically change the way we live and what we are going to have to know to survive in the Future World. I also know that the future is closer than we think.

In order to get a clear picture how invention of new ways to do things can change the way of life in a society, I researched the effect of Inventions on agriculture. I already knew the effect of the Cotton Gin on Southern Plantation lifestyle and the spread of slavery. I also knew that invention of the Harvester had dramatically change the productivity of Grain in this country and in the world. This link provides a good summary of those changes over time

A History of American Agriculture 1776-1990


http://inventors.about.com/library/inventors/blfarm1.htm

How invention increased wheat production

1830 – About 250-300 labor-hours required to produce 100 bushels (5 acres) of wheat with walking plow, brush harrow, hand broadcast of seed, sickle, and flail

1890 – 40-50 labor-hours required to produce 100 bushels (5 acres) of wheat with gang plow, seeder, harrow, binder, thresher, wagons, and horses

1930 – 15-20 labor-hours required to produce 100 bushels (5 acres) of wheat with 3-bottom gang plow, tractor, 10-foot tandem disk, harrow, 12-foot combine, and trucks

1965 – 5 labor-hours required to produce 100 bushels (3 1/3 acres) of wheat with tractor, 12-foot plow, 14-foot drill, 14-foot self-propelled combine, and trucks

1975 – 3-3/4 labor-hours required to produce 100 bushels (3 acres) of wheat with tractor, 30-foot sweep disk, 27-foot drill, 22-foot self-propelled combine, and trucks

1987 – 3 labor-hours required to produce 100 bushels (3 acres) of wheat with tractor, 35-foot sweep disk, 30-foot drill, 25-foot self-propelled combine, and trucks

In one hundred and fifty seven(157) years it went from 300 hours to 3 hours to produce a bushel of wheat.


How invention increased corn production

1850 – About 75-90 labor-hours required to produce 100 bushels of corn (2-1/2 acres) with walking plow, harrow, and hand planting
1890 – 35-40 labor-hours required to produce 100 bushels (2-1/2 acres) of corn with 2-bottom gang plow, disk and peg-tooth harrow, and 2-row planter
1930 – 15-20 labor-hours required to produce 100 bushels (2-1/2 acres) of corn with 2-bottom gang plow, 7-foot tandem disk, 4-section harrow, and 2-row planters, cultivators, and pickers
1945 – 10-14 labor-hours required to produce 100 bushels (2 acres) of corn with tractor, 3-bottom plow, 10-foot tandem disk, 4-section harrow, 4-row planters and cultivators, and 2-row picker
1975 – 3-1/3 labor-hours required to produce 100 bushels (1-1/8 acres) of corn with tractor, 5-bottom plow, 20-foot tandem disk, planter, 20-foot herbicide applicator, 12-foot self-propelled combine, and trucks

In one hundred and twenty five(125) years it went from 90 hours to 3-1/2 hours to produce a bushel of corn.
How invention reduced labor.

1930 – One farmer supplied 9.8 persons in the United States and abroad
1940 – One farmer supplied 10.7 persons in the United States and abroad
1950 – One farmer supplied 15.5 persons in the United States and abroad
1960 – One farmer supplied 25.8 persons in the United States and abroad
1970 – One farmer supplied 75.8 persons in the United States and abroad
In 40 years a farmer went from supplying 9.8 persons to supplying 75.8 persons in the United States and abroad.
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Invention has contributed to the rise of civilization from Sumer to Egypt to Babylon to Persia to Greece to Rome and beyond. They contributed to the rise and disappeared with the fall of Power passed from generation to generation and was corrupted from within or destroyed by circumstance without.
Some knowledge survived to help those who followed but not enough to preserve a continuum of growth. With the rise of both world commerce and the birth of rudimentary democracy we have entered a period a rapidly expanding mechanization, energy generation and now automation. We are now making advances in science & technology and culture changing advances in twenty years that once took a hundred. The question is if we can advance the cooperative nature of humans fast enough to prevent the competitive nature from shaking society apart at its very foundations.
In a short period of time the means to produce the basic necessities of goods and service for us all will be produced by a small part of the population. I have tried to illustrate this process by showing the shrinking role of agriculture in society over the last 100 years. All parts of essential need will be supplied by an equally small part of the community. The problem is how do we value the lives of those who are not really needed to make the the essentials of survival and how do we distribute the basic needs of life to all that we value. Does each living human have intrinsic value or will we discard those that we don’t value. If interdependent cooperative values are ascendant, then we will preserve all life that we can. If independent competitive values prevail then democracy will crumple and selfishness will determine the value of life. The world you choose to create stands in the balance.
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Copyright © William Hodge 2010

Thursday, July 08, 2010

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