Category: history

How Gallic druids tried to prevent writing from spreading to the wider world

One of the stories I heard a long time ago and could never verify was that, when writing was invented, Gallic druids tried to prevent it from spreading as it would in their eyes mean a loss of power. It would have been terrible had knowledge been accessible to all! I finally found a bit of information on that from an old french book from 1834. The fight against new technologies is nothing new…

“Caesar explains the policy of the Druids in the prohibition of writing: they did not want to profane their science and mysteries by making them accessible to the people. They found another benefit in making their lessons more difficult to remember: it allowed them to keep their disciples, the son of the Gallic leaders, addicted to them, and so to speak, under their domination.”

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None of the manufacturers of horse-drawn carriages became a successful automobile manufacturer

While not entirely true (some companies like Patterson made the transition and had limited success), this sentence I used in my recent Forum des 100 keynote and taken from Building Routes to Customers: Proven Strategies for Profitable Growth summarizes how, in the midst of major changes, markets and balances of power can switch dramatically in a very short time.

I used this statement to illustrate the dangers a country like Switzerland is facing at a time where the internet and other technologies are turning business upside down. A country both successful and conservative has a form of blindness, even a small but dangerous feeling of immunity.

While one feedback was that this is a “consultant’s statement” (I mostly agree), it really struck a chord as most of the interactions I had after the presentation was centered around these words. This certainly is a simplification (the founder of GM was building horse-carriages and is a notable exception), but it is also mostly true. Corporate innovators, if you are looking for a good strong statement to convince your bosses they should let you innovate and take risks, feel free to reuse!

The ambitious job titles of the bubble years

Following up on my brief history of internet hype (updated timeline here), Emily Turrettini sent me a link to a presentation she gave on the bubble years. I like this particular excerpt on the titles entrepreneurs were giving themselves during the euphoria of 1998-2001:

Tim Roberts — Chief Visionary Officer — Broadband Investment Group

David Roberts — Chief Zaplet — FireDrop Inc.

Sheri Falco — Chief Catalyst — Libida.com

John Sculley — Chief Listener — Apple Computer

Dark Jedi—Organic Inc.

Code Therapist — Organic Inc.

Duchess of Chaos — Netscape Communications Corp

Virtual Reality Evangelist — Silicon Graphics

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Works at a desk. Takes no exercise. Poor expectation of life

A British educational clip from the 1960s on food and weight. Brutal by our politically correct standards, with quotes like “Mr Brown, also very much overweight. Works at a desk. Takes no exercise. Poor expectation of life.”

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As Mark Frauenfelder notes on BoingBoing, “most of the obese children in the video look like average kids today”.