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Engines of Our Ingenuity

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Ferris's Wheel Digital History ID 4518
Here's a great line from Julian Jaynes' book, The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind. He says: There is an awkward moment at the top of a Ferris wheel when, having come up the inside curvature, where we are facing into a firm structure of confident girders, suddenly that structure disappears, and we are thrust out into the sky for the outward curve down. Jaynes uses the Ferris wheel as a metaphor for that instant of uncertainty when a new truth reveals itself to us. He knows that the moment of discovery -- or of understanding -- holds a thrill of life-and-death terror.
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IBM and the 1890 Census Digital History ID 4482
We ran our first census in 1790. Agents went door to door, asking four questions. How many in this house are free white males over 16? How many are free white males under 16? How many are free white females? And how many are slaves or other persons? Those agents counted just under four million people. That number had risen to forty million by 1870, and we were collecting 14 pieces of data about each person. In 1790 we gathered one line of data per household. Now we collected several lines per person. Census-taking was a hundred times harder, and the accuracy was slipping as well.
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