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Revisionism or Reconciliation: Edison vs Tesla


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Revisionism or Reconciliation: Edison vs Tesla
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drewprops
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2014-03-11, 07:52

Glenn Beck has announced that he's going to produce a movie about Tesla and that 'evil' guy Edison.

How long ago did Edison slip from his lofty station as a shining example of American ingenuity and perseverance and descend to villainy?

I've followed the Internet's unfolding love of the Tesla vs Edison war over the past decade and it's eminently amusing, but is it accurate?

Yes, Edison was manipulative and not necessarily ethical by today's standards.

But...

Was Tesla really the better scientist/inventor?
Were Tesla's experiments and inventions truly a "lost road" for civilization?
Have people who prefer their science with a healthy prefix of "pseudo" demonized Edison's conventional ways so well that it's become the new reality of looking at Edison?
Is Glenn Beck full of shit on a daily basis?

Can you bring more to the discussion in regard to Edison and Tesla?



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Matsu
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2014-03-11, 11:27

A fun summary here
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Brad
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2014-03-11, 12:21

Ah, the Oatmeal. Gotta love him.

Also,

Spoiler (click to toggle):
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I think a better reaction than "I can't. I'm busy…" would be an oblivious, in-the-zone grunt of a response like "Huh? I'm busy…"

...

I might be a geek.





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Moogs
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Join Date: May 2004
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2014-03-12, 09:31

Quote:
Originally Posted by drewprops View Post

Yes, Edison was manipulative and not necessarily ethical by today's standards.

But...

Was Tesla really the better scientist/inventor?
Unquestionably, at least based on my understandings, which are consistent with The Oatmeal.

Quote:
Were Tesla's experiments and inventions truly a "lost road" for civilization?
Possibly, but it's irrelevant IMO. There are 1000 "lost roads" that all kinds of smart people would have led us down (economically, politically, otherwise) if only the narrow-minded, stunted masses weren't there to say "Hey you can't do that! That's different than what we believe! We don't like different!" Sometimes those people break through, usually they end up in prison and die / end up killed. See also: many people doing the whole "the earth is not flat and we are not the center of the universe, a-holes" crowd. It's only later when we look back do we realize how stupid we are.

Quote:
Is Glenn Beck full of shit on a daily basis?
Yes and I hate it when fuckheads like this enter into the realm of serious "discussion of advacement" where they have no place and only serve to muddle useful ideas and divide people instead of creating understanding. I would much prefer Glenn Beck be on the side of Edison and all other "traditional wisdom heroes" that turn out to be not so heroic after all. By taking the right side in this, he gives fuel to people on the fence about him that "hey he might be right about other stuff" when he's about as far from right on most things, as one can get.

Quote:
Can you bring more to the discussion in regard to Edison and Tesla?
Not being a historian, no. But I'm eager for those who have read the requisite biographies and the like to educate us.

...into the light of a dark black night.
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drewprops
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2014-03-12, 11:36

My dad has become a big fan of Edison in recent years and has an old book from the 30s or 40s hat documents Edison's history. He's offered it to me to read. I think I might.

Where's the citations in the Oatmeal thing? ( which has entertained me previously)


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billybobsky
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2014-03-12, 12:20

The problem with the whole Tesla v Edison debate is that it is still overly focused on what was going on in the US rather than the world at large.
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RowdyScot
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2014-03-12, 13:16

Edison was born in Northwest Ohio. That makes him inherently evil.
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drewprops
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2014-03-12, 15:03

Quote:
Originally Posted by billybobsky View Post
The problem with the whole Tesla v Edison debate is that it is still overly focused on what was going on in the US rather than the world at large.
Freeze.

Zoom.

Zoom.

Enhance.

I say, I say, we need James Burke here to help us focus on the big picture.
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Eugene
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2014-03-12, 16:31

Sorry, but the rest of the world didn't exist until Nikolai Tesla invented it.
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Moogs
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2014-03-12, 19:47

Quote:
Originally Posted by drewprops View Post
My dad has become a big fan of Edison in recent years and has an old book from the 30s or 40s hat documents Edison's history. He's offered it to me to read. I think I might.

Where's the citations in the Oatmeal thing? ( which has entertained me previously)


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I think the deal with Edison is that he was much less a great scientific mind / thinker (the way Tesla was or Newton was), than he was an incessant tinkerer and someone who would try an idea 1000x before getting it right. So basically rather than being a scientific genius, he was a business man who threw shit against a wall 1000x until something stuck. He has even been quoted to that effect though I don't recall the exact words. Something like "every time I got something right, it was only because I got it wrong hundreds of times first."

So there are things about Edison that are admirable (never-quit attitude, business savvy / making something scientific marketable to the world, etc) but as far as big thinkers, seems like there's not much comparison between Tesla and Edison based on the limited info I have. The former was the much "bigger mind", if what I've read previously is even mostly accurate.

In the end I guess the world needs both types of person... we need the Ive types who invent stuff on a technical level, and we need Jobs, to give it direction and make it workable to the masses? Tesla was Ive, Edison was Jobs (approximately)? IOW Tesla would be the guy with a scientific understanding of materials, physics, manufacturing processes and how to start creating things out of nothing... Edison is the guy who takes things that are partially created and envisions them as something different, and eventually arrives at that vision with the help of others? That's sort of how I've come to understand it but at some point I need to read some quality biographies.

...into the light of a dark black night.
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curiousuburb
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2014-03-13, 05:45

Some of Edison's actions seem driven primarily by profit (The whole AC vs DC controversy) - early patent trolling, torturing animals, bribing leveraging of corporate interests... all aimed at making money and driving others out of business first ... whereas Tesla seemed primarily driven by scientific curiosity bordering on obsession (tales of him nearly bankrupting himself while attempting to solve problems, repeatedly trying to build his giant radiative power tower to deliver 'free energy', etc).

Those stories may be mostly anecdotal, but to me it seems Edison's motives were more financial, Tesla's more purely scientific. I would say Tesla's the great inventor, Edison's the great capitalist.

All those who believe in telekinesis, raise my hand.
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drewprops
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2014-03-13, 08:19

The failing of any age is to judge historic figures outside of the murk in which they swam. We are eternally guilty of revisionism through contextual loss.

In the CONTEXT of the age in which they lived was Edison really such a "paragon of evil"? Not really.

I think there's a great opportunity for a respected historical biographer to approach the Edison/Tesla story with the sort of remove you rarely find on the Internet.


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Moogs
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2014-03-13, 21:02

I don't think anyone is saying he's evil, I think people are saying (in effect) Tesla deserves way more credit than he gets, and Edison DID in some sense, screw Tesla over. That doesn't make him the anti-Christ, just not the great inventor our white-washed textbooks made him out to be. Just like all of our first presidents weren't the great moral heroes the text books made them out to be. Doesn't mean they're not important, just not the exaggerated BS we read about as kids.

...into the light of a dark black night.
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