Philadelphia Reflections

The musings of a physician who has served the community for over six decades

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NYT-- Friedman

Computer origin is disputed, let's say in 1942 Philadelphia, with 720 bytes of memory. In 1956 Gordon Moore's Law, invented along with the silicon chip, states they will double in speed every 2 years. Governments alone could afford one in 1942. By 1956 big corporations could afford one, with department stores dominating helpless customers. By 1970 department stores were in trouble--the Wanamakers and Strawbridge are gone. In 2017, every schoolkid owned one with a million bytes. Present chips can power driverless cars. By 2018 a computer which now fills the car's trunk will only fill the glove compartment. Moore's Law should include a time factor because each revision comes sooner. Moore donated $100 million of Intel stock to a Philadelphia museum; today his foundation is worth $7 billion.

Every revolution crushed its predecessor, often before the cause was clear. Note the 1929 crash, which some say was triggered, not by Wall Street and greed, but by reducing agriculture from 50% of the workforce to 2%. The cause of the Vietnam uproar is still not clear, some say it was just part of the "department store" crash. The Industrial Revolution had many crashes, some of which overlapped the Electronics Revolution. Where are buggy whips? I propose the enduring modern slogan should be Schumpeter's, not Moore's.

Very soon, automation will replace employees. How will we feed them? Should we call this a bad thing?


1. Whose responsibility is it to feed them? Russia, China, and France say it is the government's responsibility. What evidence exists that government does it better? Does it apply to us?

2. Who says this is inevitable? Is the computer the last major invention?

3. Robert Morris the Philadelphian said the government should borrow without limit, tax without limit, but never own common stock ("The Means of Production"). Agree?

4. Some say immigration will save us. Agree ?

5. Some say cycles are just cyclic and will take care of themselves. Agree?

6. Some say America should be destroyed because it is a bad example. Agree?

7. Other suggestions are made. Who agrees?

Originally published: Saturday, May 13, 2017; most-recently modified: Wednesday, May 29, 2019