Historian and author William Rosen spoke to Jon Stewart last night about his new book, "The Most Powerful Idea in the World." In the book, Rosen says that the most powerful invention is the steam engine, and not just because the steam engine has actually been around since the 1st century AD. The steam engine marked both the birth of the industrial revolution in England, as well as the beginning of an "era of sustained technological innovation." The steam engine didn't actually function in 1st century Egypt; it took a series of small improvements to get the engine to function.
The steam engine, and the industrial revolution as a whole, sparked the concept that "ideas can be yours," which "opened the floodgates," Rosen said. Ownership of ideas (and the highly-publicized fights for ownership in today's world) all started in the 18th century, according to Rosen, and "The Most Powerful Idea in the World" traces how the concept started. Stewart quipped that readers should pick up the book "if you like reading about... industrialization." According to Rosen, however, you should read the book if you want to learn about the birth of invention and how it has shaped our society.
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