Southern History Series: The Cotton Gin

Editor’s Note: This is a work in progress.

I will be traveling over the next two days. These articles will be fleshed out later.

I have three simple questions for the folks who believe we should focus on social issues rather than economics and technological change as if there was some kind of opposition between the two.

I think that is silly because the current state of technology, our environment and economy is inseparable from our politics, culture and social order. The two are intertwined.

1.) First question, how did the invention of the cotton gin transform the economy and social structure of the Deep South in the 19th century?

2.) Second question, how did the invention and spread of the tractor, mechanical cotton picker, electricity and telecommunications transform the economy and social structure of the Deep South in the 20th century?

3.) Third question, how did the invention and development of mass media technologies in the 20th century – film, radio and television – disrupt and transform the culture and social structure of the Deep South, the United States and the world at large in the 20th century?

I’m on the road, but I just wanted to throw that food for thought out there. How will the development of artificial intelligence, robotics, automation and other new technologies of the Fourth Industrial Revolution transform the economy and social structure of the Deep South in the 21st century?

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  1. “How will the development of artificial intelligence, robotics, automation and other new technologies of the Fourth Industrial Revolution transform the economy and social structure of the Deep South in the 21st century?”

    We won’t begin to see the affects and changes until the babies and toddlers of today reach the age when they begin working, or training for a trade or profession.

    That’ll be when many of us are on SS, and Bernie Sanders, Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden are all gone.

    As an aside, they’re already offering state sanctioned, online home schooling, along with the computer equipment and the connection, to students. The brick and mortar school may be a thing of the past.

    Formal education might shrink to the three “R’s.” Beyond that, it may be left up to the students to study what they want, or need to know, in terms of knowledge and skills.

    With automation comes decentralisation. Many small towns and wide spots in the road will become vital places. They’ll be able to host one or two automated production facilities. Rural and small-town life may displace the purely urban, for those that want it. Automation may become affordable to home businesses, with families having small production facilities on their property. The market may become flooded with custom and “homemade” products. Localities may be able to make products for the local markets and pay into local UBI.

    Society will become a whole lot more decentralised, less urban, and more connected socially. People will definitely find ways to make extra income, and find things to do, or projects to work on.

    Which is exactly the society that the South had before the WSI.

    We’ll either transition into the 3rd/4th wave, or national collapse. There is no going back. I don’t think the people will tolerate the American Oligarchs keeping them back, as the rest of the world advances and leaves them behind.

    Critically, after the oligarchs are gone, we have to keep their young protégés from perpetuating the 19th and 20th Centuries.

  2. A somewhat related diatribe.

    A great many U.S. companies will become obsolete. They won’t be able to afford new manufacturing technology. They’ll try, for a time, to keep up, using their 20th Century facilities, with their automated competitors. But they’ll end up out of business. Closed.

    This has already happened many times before, in many places, as a result of a shift in technology. But American industry will be hit harder than any industry, anywhere else.

    They’ve failed, over the last 70 years, to make the necessary incremental investments in new production machinery and methods, as their European and Asian rivals have.

    What they won’t say, is that our factories closed because they refused to update them. The couldn’t complete, with their antiquated and broken down equipment, with European and Japanese companies. For whom, automation is just a matter of course. But for U.S. industry, is a death knell.

    Most of the new, modern facilities built here, have been startups by foreign companies, or foreign owned U.S. companies and subsidiaries.

    AGCO, for example, headquartered in Georgia, England and Holland. They closed the Gleaner Combine plant in Independence, Missouri, because it was obsolete.The building, the machinery, everything. Obsolete. They built a new, modern production facility in Hesston, Kansas. It has the latest machinery and equipment. When it comes time to fully automate, they’ll do so without much trouble or disruption.

    But this is the exception, not the rule, in native, U.S. industry. The U.S. Machine Tool building industry went extinct in the 1970’s. Eventually, with some important and significant exceptions, there won’t be any native owned U.S. industry anymore. The better companies will be bought up by foreigners, the rest will collapse.

    Eventually, if automation technology becomes affordable enough, we may see the flowering of American owned industry again, in the form of small and medium/small companies.

    We’rere losing in the political and diplomatic sphere, too. For the same reasons. They refuse to give up ideology and Politics that were born in the late 19th Century, and matured in the late 20th.

    We know what the problems and challenges are. We know where we haf to go, and where we want to go.
    But we can’t move forward, into the future, when obsolete people, with obsolete ideas, keep yanking on our arms and shoulders, holding us back.

  3. I don’t think the tractor was revolutionary until it was paired with mechanical harvesting. My great grandparents still mostly harvested by hand into the 1920’s. I was in Serbia a few years back and was quite shocked they were doing the same. Big stands of bound wheat like in some French Renaissance painting. The cotton gin seems like a huge improvement and replaces a horrible job.

  4. Eli Whitney not only invented the cotton gin, he also introduced mass production to gun manufacturing—eliminating the hand made American rifle, and small rifle manufacturers.

  5. Watching the automated cashiers malfunction at Walmart shows me exactly where this “great leap forward” of automation is taking us.

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