This passage written by George Walbridge Perkins, then Chairman of the New York City Mayor’s Food Supply Commission, could just as easily have been written today — if not even more applicable today, considering the massive technological changes brought about by the Internet, smartphones, email, automation, and more:
We are just entering a new electrical world, where everything is done, as it were, on the instant.
Our fathers had none of the modern machinery with which social and business intercourse is now carried on. Their sons are wrestling with the problem of how to use these new methods of intercommunication and still adhere to the laws, the precedents, and the book learning of their fathers.
This is our great problem. It is a difficult, complicated problem, and is causing a struggle of titanic proportions — a struggle to throw off in a night, as it were, the precedents of an Old World for the realities of a new.
Precedent makes cowards of us all. But the educator, the scientist, and the inventor have left us no choice. We must adjust our thought and action to new conditions.
The changes of the last twenty-five years, socially, industrially, and economically, have been great, yet I believe they are infinitesimal compared to the changes that are coming.
As for the headline’s prediction that the “individual’s day is over,” that prediction did not turn out true. As my 2011 Washington Post article noted, the first 10 songs to reach #1 on the Billboard music sales chart were by eight groups and only two individuals, while as of the column’s publication, the 10 most recent #1 songs were by an almost-reversed nine individuals and only one group.
Individual’s Day Is Over, Says Geo. W. Perkins: And the Process of Curtailing His Privileges in Favor of the Community Is Still Only in Its Infancy, According to Him (PDF)
Published Sunday, April 1, 1917
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