On radio this morning, Glenn shared an excerpt from chapter five of his new book Miracles and Massacres: True and Untold Stories of the Making of America. The chapter, Edison vs. Westinghouse, explores the epic struggle for power between two great inventors and entrepreneurs. The story of these men, along with Nikola Tesla, offers a great lesson in business and ingenuity that has as great a meaning today as it did a century ago.
“Until an American car company took his name, most people didn't know who Nikola Tesla was,” Glenn said. “But you will because you need to… [Tesla] points to a future that is now totally possible… We're on the threshold of it right now. The Jetsons, it's here. It is the next chapter in the world.”
Tesla understood the endless possibility of technological advances that would stem from the harnessing of energy, but the profit-driven society he lived in prevented many of his ideas from being realized. Glenn explained that we currently find ourselves in a very similar predicament – one that could lead to the implosion of society or one that could lead to the next great technological revolution.
“Now the question is: Will we implode? Will we become a society that just falls in – and I mean this as globally – to communism. If China is the future, we're all in trouble because China is not innovating. China's not the ones that are coming up with the big inventions. We are,” Glenn explained. “The West is because you're free, and you have a right to a patent. And because you have a right to a patent, you know if you come up with something, you'll be able to keep it. And so you will be able to change everything, and you'll become rich. That's where capitalism actually works. But think of the changes that have to be [made to] court system, our government, our laws.”
Take for example Jeff Bezos’ announcement on Sunday’s 60 minutes that Amazon will be able to deliver packages in 30 minutes or less using drones. While the concept will certainly revolutionize the process of placing and shipping orders, it will also displace all of the mechanisms currently in place.
“Think of the displacement of all of the people that are in line for that delivery system now – all of the cars, all of the gas, all of the gas stations, all of the truck repair people, all of the uniforms, all of the little dolly things that they pull out of the back of the truck, all of the things right now that are dependent on something like Amazon shipping in their trucks,” Glenn said. “Now, you can fight that, but you'll never win. You can fight that. You can do everything you can to stop it, but you never will. Think about the drone as a use of home security systems. What does that displace? How about drugs? What's needed now to fight drugs because of drones? Think about how the world is on the precipice of change.”
A few years or even months ago, you probably would have laughed at the idea of a drone delivery system or a 3D printer. But now those advances are reality. Glenn asked the audience to really grasp that fact and to think boldly about what the future can bring.
“The way you think the world works, within 10 years, none of it will be like that. And I want you to really grasp that,” Glenn said. “I could have said to you that in the next eight months Amazon… will say we're going to have drones deliver your packages, and I would have been laughed at. I didn't say that because I didn't imagine that. But somebody else did.”
“This is truly the era of imagination,” he continued. “This is truly the era where Nikola Tesla was so far ahead of the curve, and we have those people now. They do exist. Ray Kurzweil is one of them. David Gelernter is another one. We have those men that are seeing way over the horizon, and they can imagine things that you and I can't imagine. But now we have the ability to do them. So as you think, as you create, as you believe, those things will now happen. It's a really exciting time, should you choose to view it that way.”