Would you do me a favor I’d like to stop talking for a minute and when I do Take a look at the room you’re in and above all at the man-made objects in that room that Surround you the television set the lights the phone and so on and ask yourself what those objects do to your life Just because they’re there Go ahead Well, that is what this series is going to be all about it’s about the things that surround you in the modern world and just because they’re their shape the way you think and behave and Why they exist in the form they do and who or what was responsible for them existing at all The search for those clues will take us all over the world and twelve thousand years into the past because it’s in those strange places and in those long-gone centuries that the secret of the modern world lies and You’ll never believe the extraordinary things that led to us being the way we are today Things like for instance why a 16th century doctor the court of Queen Elizabeth did something that made it possible for you to watch this screen now or The fact that because 18th century merchants were worried about ships bottoms you have nylon to wear Or why a group of French monks and their involvement with sheep rearing up to give the modern world the computer Or what medieval Europeans did with their fire in winter that led to motorcar manufacture The story of the events and the people who over centuries Came together to bring us in from the cold and to wrap us in a warm blanket of technology is a matter of vital importance Since more and more of that technology infiltrates every aspect of our lives It’s become a a life support system without which we can’t survive and yet how much of it do we understand? Do I bother myself with the reality of what happens when I get into a big steel box Press a button and rise into the sky Of course, I don’t I Take going up in the world like that for granted we all do and as the years of the 20th century have gone by The things we take for granted have multiplied way beyond the ability of any individual to understand in a lifetime the things around us the manmade inventions, we provide ourselves with I like a vast network each part of which is Interdependent with all the others. I mean cross the road Whether or not a car coming around the corner knocks you down May have something to do with the person you’ve never met fitting the brakes correctly change anything in that network and the effects spread like ripples on a pond and All the things in that network have become so specialized that only the people involved in making them understand them I don’t mean use them anybody can use them Down there is one of the biggest most complex cities in the world full of people Using things as if they understood them and sometimes not even knowing they’re doing it New York City like all the other major high-density population centers scattered across the earth is a technology Island it can either feed nor clothes nor house nor warm its inhabitants without supplies from outside Without those supplies the entire massive structure and the teeming millions it encloses would die

And yet in cities everywhere we act as if that were not so We have no choice the pace of life in New York is set by the pace of the technology that serves it You just have to hope it will stay that way I’d like you to meet a few people who were in or near New York City on a November evening over a decade ago and The reason I’d like you to meet them is because they all have one thing in common They were all brought to a sudden and catastrophic realization of how vulnerable they were how dependent on one aspect of that technological network I was talking about Because of what this did to their lives Now until I was told what this is I was no more able to recognize what it is than you are now But watch what it did to those people and if you look very carefully You’ll see evidence of what this does in every second of what follows now It’s one minute past 5:00 in the evening rush hour in downtown Manhattan 800,000 people crowd onto subways looking forward to home to the end of this journey for most of them the technology carrying them doesn’t exist They take it for granted Two minutes past five Kennedy Airport the usual evening departure rate passengers with appointments in New Delhi London Tokyo appointments they expect to keep and 200 planes due to arrive in the next five hours North Korea hang out telling people No delay is expected Three minutes past 5:00 at the energy Control Center downtown nothing special is happening It’s the standard rush hour condition in the main control room The time of day when power consumption started to come up to a maximum as people head for home and meals get caught It’s cool outside after a high of 58 the temperatures falling to an expected low of 39 with a predicted wind chill factor of five degrees the Energy levels are more than enough to cook even on a chilly November evening Ten past five Mount Sinai Hospital The patient mrs. Makana is expecting twins Thank You mr. Chairman May I first say two of my distinguished colleague the Ambassador from the USS 12 minutes past five the UN General Assembly in session The speaker is President Roosevelt In their boxes the interpreters the invisible support structure of the debate, whatever the language at the UN that’s taken for granted The way stand means worship we made it In the subway Herbert Friedman a lawyer reads his paper on his way home to suburban Jamaica Our hey, Nick works for a publisher on Fifth Avenue keep us at the time doing a crosswind Marjory as shaughnessy also works for a publisher looking forward to spending a quiet evening at home Steve Bharati late into a movie Bruce singer works in Greenwich Village Bill Palmer is a student. Just been playing basketball and Hans Kramer insurance broker all these people take a subway every evening. They expect it at home. They always do 5:15 at Kennedy Airport at one of the international terminals on the board Scandinavian Airlines 911 Scandinavian 9/11 is on its way into Kennedy. The pilot is veteran captain Carl lost it Kennedy approach controls in the Navy 911 the information Part Deerpark 1 to 2 on radio vector final runway 4, right ILS a clear moonlit night the flight manifest lists 89 passengers landing lights BP feed the descent into Kennedy is so far uneventful. It’s now 15 minutes and 30 seconds past 5 Runway lights at 2 about Okay With the next contraction day you’ll take a deep breath and push real hard. Okay. I Think one is bad to start take a deep breath and push real hard Okay at Mount Sinai Hospital Mrs. Makana is in labor. Okay, I think you can put her through

The anesthetic being used at the time as a mixture of gases including one called cyclopropane, it’s potentially explosive But everybody knows that Okay, she fell asleep me now that okay with the next contraction whatever a little bit of pressure All right, well she started contraption Okay It’s now exactly 16 minutes and 10 seconds past five One second later several hundred miles northwest of New York City this did what it was built to do with disastrous consequences You may have already guessed what kind of technological network this is part of It’s a bit of a power station the power station known as Adam Beck to here at Niagara Where electricity is generated by the tremendous power of falling water? The water turns turbine blades that make a shaft spin at the top of the shaft and magnets and they spin inside Up there that has copper wire coils on its in a war The interaction between the spinning magnets and a copper coils makes electricity That’s where this comes in It’s a relay and its job is to detect changes in power going on to a transmission line these up here Power flows north along these lines and on the particular evening in question this relay Detected an increase in power on one of those lines that was above a preset limit when that happened Magnets set around this metal cup caused it to rotate and that brought this arm to make a contact like this That contact was made on the evening of November the 9th 1965 at 16 minutes and 11 seconds past five the Effect was to cascade power off the overloaded line and onto another Which overloaded and tripped the next until all five lines going north had tripped out dumping their entire load onto lines going south Within seven seconds the tremendous overload began to take out generating stations all over Northeastern America from Boston to New York as the network fell apart as each area went it overloaded the next Within 10 seconds, the only major system left was the great energy island of New York As the network fell apart links between one energy center and another broke instead of 300,000 kilowatts coming into New York to help meet demand One half a million kilowatts were draining out of the city to supply areas now cut off from the network But still connected like leeches to the New York generators As the overload hit the New York generators they too began to trip out Hello loop month and you’re sucking speeded, okay, your mics are all in Jewelry generator as the lifeblood of the city drained it went into spasm At the UN chaos the power to keep the lights on also served the interpreters Who in the growing darkness has however, I hope brought a glimmer of light And without interpreters trapped in their darkened boxes deprived of access to the ears of the delegates the United Nations were suddenly and totally disunited as completely as if at war When you applaud the color cities elevators stopped Perhaps the subways were the only technology that people expected to fail 800,000 people were now deep in the ground under New York Court in a technology. Trap. Most of them had never thought twice about As light went so did the one in mrs. Mikanos operating fit It was now only ten minutes since the crisis had been triggered by the relay at Niagara more than 500 miles away The generators continued to trip out and at Kennedy Airport the radar screens worked black And flight 911 was in trouble Roland I got flag warnings, which number two through the area, okay Yeah, we got. Yeah, John. Can you hold it a toaster? I’ll take 200 but you what time to go out that story at two and three went out they can’t hold on

By 528 the time had come to protect assistant by deliberately switching what was left Oh Brooklyn the only thing left going Doing it, we leave that Inlet. Shut it down. Oh, we better shut it down. I guess the system operator recommend You find that right from ah, okay That go for an area of 80 million square miles 30 million people were now in darkness I Selected from each other in small groups millions of people were still unaware of the extent of the blackout in the subway, especially Brilliant people started chatting and but for the most part no one really got into it yet because we thought it was just another typical Rush hour delay? But it was dark and that was kind of unsettling to be in such a crowd but not to be able to see anybody So one of the women had candles in her bag, you know This abnormal business of actually talking to anybody on the subway caught on briefly all over New York, what’s a light on the situation My birthday anyway, anybody feel like singing? Make a happy situation a terrible one my name But while this journey had taken on a meaning nobody expected so – at the hospital at mrs. Mark Ana’s delivery of twins Thanks to the anesthetic It was then a general story around to find flashlights and I needed come on dad won. Thank you. So to see what could happen One of the mercies and I shall never forget worked in the room carrying a lighted candle To get out of my mind But blessed when Estella gage and I had visions of all of us the whole place blowing out from one great conflagration No, the phone system was the only thing work, yeah if you could get another yes you boy No, you totally backed up behind. I can’t see the runway and captain luster was learning the full extent of his predicament ILS the landing aid that guided him in it wasn’t there anymore and needs check the radio benedi approach console Scandinavian? 911 The IMF spent your wish I’ve got some wine. You already know the game I extraordinary thing in the subways Was that a full hour into the crisis? Nobody was trying to escape for a trout? Yeah, it’s not even a would it be cricket the board? Yes. Okay. Now we needed the knife. I Need now the cups Got a wish the wishes that we get home tonight Yes, good health to the birthday girl Years I Just assumed that something went wrong with a particular train that I was writing on There was a feeling of its being something we all just had to wade out together there was nothing anybody could do about it No one knew anything about everything Kleenex and carry napkins around I wipe those seats and I’ll get my clothes dirty. Nice put yourself in this position Would you do any different here they were one hour into a major disaster And still trying to laugh their way out of it drinking wine on a subway Help yourself anybody’s driving don’t People began to be very jovial and began to sing Show me the way to go home and everything that people could think of that related to our flight At the hospital darkness made no difference Well, the baby was delivered without the lights because you didn’t need the lights for the delivery that’s manipulative Remember you’re reaching up into the uterus grabbing a foot, which is strictly by feel here up to the membranes and we’ll bring the foot down the second baby was vigorous and that we repair the Kennedy echo has drivers in the Navy of 9/11 the captain lost. It had only a few seconds left to make his decision He was a 2,000 feet past the airport and heading straight for Manhattan in the darkness. There was only one thing he could do

Lofted and 200 other Jets that night landed with the help of radio working on planes sitting on the ground in The subway people were still coping But after now on our and a half people became very restless, it was not not pleasant It was not very congenial, but everybody felt scared These trained employees would pass outside not look at us and Not answer is when people banged on the windows and called out they just ignored us I think it’s a conductor from the train that I’m not sure Gradually finally people began to realize where they were lost under the graphic helpless unless help came The entire city that’s all relax we’ll be trying to get you all four soon as possible Between States con Edison, it affects the entire city. We have people coming by evacuating the trains now, please relax Mrs. Makana found out what had happened to her though. Not the way she expected. This is my kernel When I woke up and I saw the all the candles lit around the room I thought I was dead and there was a priest standing nearby and for a minute there I thought he had come to give me my last rites and I was afraid that all my family in clue that I was dead And they came to like handles for me. No, no. No, you know I cannot die And finally as in all good fairy stories it was over Exactly five hours after the train stopped about 10:30 the train began to empty by having all the passengers walk out singly upon the catwalk a Few days later people were back at their daily routine as if it had never happened the night New York became a trap forgot This is one of the more perfect examples of the kind of technological trap that we set for ourselves The lift the elevator. I mean, what is it? It’s a steel box with some buttons in it and may be attacked or for emergencies. But whoever looks that close except when this happens Where is it and even in this situation closed in with her escape route that we can’t handle? We behave like many of those New Yorkers. Did we strike a light? I mean look around to see how badly things are And if we find in this case an emergency button Absolutely, great. We sit back and we wait for help to come. We wait for technology to come back and save our lives Because it’s inconceivable that it won’t innit. I mean if you admit that You’ve got to admit that every single day of your life in some form or other you and consciously walk yourself into a technology trap Because that’s the only way to live in the modern world So you don’t admit it you say oh well in this situation will cope but what happens when the effects become widespread? Irreversible devastating what happens when what little resources you have to help you cope? Give up Then what? Well in all the disaster scenarios you read what happens is that without power Technologically based civilization cracks up rapidly without enough auxiliary power and most major cities don’t have it Organization is impossible. It’s every man for himself looting and arson followed and in a city not prepared to be a fortress supplies run out fast and However, frightening the thought of leaving your technological womb sooner or later. There is nowhere to go but out away from the danger The minute you decide to move Here on your own in a way that no modern 20th century city dweller has ever been in his life And then the traps begin to close To start with do you even know where to go in order to survive? Did you manage to get a map before you left and if you did how do you get out walk? Drive until you run out of fuel Are you ahead of the millions of other people pouring down these roads trying to do just what you’re trying to do? And if they catch up with you Have you got something they need and if you have can you protect yourself? Did you bring enough food and drink to last as long as necessary? And if you didn’t where will you get it steal?

How far out will you have to push on Until you’re far enough out to be safe. And can you be sure that’s far enough? and even if by some miracle you Finally make it Do you know enough to recognize the place to stop when you see it? I mean, what does survival without technology look like? the veto signs up So let’s say that finally somewhere far out into the country you’ve come across a place That looks right and let’s say that you’ve had the good sense and the good luck. Do you look for a farm? Because that’s where food comes from, isn’t it? Okay, so it’s a farm. So you decide to stop Has anybody got their first Or are the owners still here because you’re gonna need shelter and people don’t give their homes away They barricade themselves in so sooner or later Exhausted and desperate you may have to make the decision to give up and die Or to make somebody else give up and die because they won’t accept you in their home voluntarily and What in your comfortable urban life has ever prepared you for that decision? Okay, let’s say by some miracle the place is empty and it’s all yours is there enough food in the house How long will it last how will you cook it wood fires? Are you fit enough to chop all the wood you need before winter comes? If you’re lucky you’ve got livestock on the farm great meat, but can you slaughter and bleed and butcher an animal? Okay supposing you manage that you’ve got enough meat to eat until you’ve eaten all the cows But at least you can start running your farm But it’s a modern farm. Remember it’s mechanized. There’s a gasoline pump, but it’s empty So you can’t use The tractor what you need is a horse and cart But when did you last see a horse and cart on a modern farm and everything else here the saw the power drills the light? The sterilizer the water supply the sewage system the hoist The milking parlor the pumps and everything on this control panel demands the one thing Electric power everything on this farm that you found doesn’t work. The place is a trap But there’s nowhere else to go The only way you’re going to survive is if you find the one thing you need to keep on providing the food you’re gonna have And you don’t need the mechanized version of that thing. You need the kind People haven’t used in a hundred years. Ah, you need that kind of plow you’re saved or Are you because when it comes down to at this point is this can you use a plow it’s taken a series of miracles just to get you this far and here you are with the biggest miracle of all a plow and animals to pull it so maybe after a few days of fumbling around with the harnesses and the bits and pieces you managed to yoke up the oxen and Plow the land and then and only then Can you say that you have successfully escaped the wreckage of technological civilization and lived off the land and survived if you know how to use the furrow you plow I mean Can you tell the difference between an ear of corn and a geranium seed do you know when to sow whatever it is? You think it is? Okay. Do you know when to harvest it and eat the bit that you think isn’t poisonous? and it’s no accident that The chain of events triggered off by that relay in the power station back there in Niagara Falls Ends here with the plow the relay itself doesn’t matter I mean any one of a million things could sail and cause our complex civilization to collapse for an hour for a day However long because that’s when you find out the extent to which you are reliant on technology and don’t even know it That’s when you see that It’s so interdependent. You take one thing away and the whole thing falls down leaves you with nothing unless you can plow and survive and Start the whole process off again from scratch and it’s no accident that to do that. You have to have a plow Because it was the plow that triggered everything off Long way back in the past after a different set of people also found out that their comfortable life was falling apart In a world where events came to a point where a fundamentally new way of life had to be found That’s exactly what happened about 12,000 years ago and maybe four places on the earth

northern India Syria Egypt Central America, it stopped raining and got very hot the result of that change in the weather Was to lead to an invention that would trigger the development of a civilization that ends with us in the modern world Let me explain that you see the high grassland started to dry out Became like this place and the plants and the animals that had sustained the wandering tribes started to disappear people began to die There was only one thing the survivors could do head for water and so down they came into the great river valleys Here in Egypt that River was the Nile and the Nile was an extraordinary River It was in two places for one it brought rotting vegetation and from the other potash and any gardener will tell you what that means When it flooded every year it dumped compost and fertilizer Onto the land and the land grew Too well with easy food the population grew to where not even the Nile had supported without help faced with starvation The river dwellers tried planting grain by hand not enough What solved their problem was an invention that triggered off a series of events which ends with us in our modern technology trap? Because that invention was to trigger the beginnings of civilization This is the first great man-made trigger of change the plow Because with it, you know how much harvest you’re going to get next year and because of that, you know You’re gonna be here next year and because of that You can plan for the future and After a while when you can produce surplus food, then that’s when things really start to move in the tiny settlements With regular food supplies the population explodes The village expands there are more buildings and they’re bigger for bigger families and the more permanent you domesticate animals for their milk and their meat in their skin because they’re not there to hunt anymore and Basket weaving and the twisting of grass to do it teaches you how to spin flax and that makes linen But it’s the grain that causes the fundamental change because with it you bake the bread that is the staple diet on which everybody lives and You learn about ovens and about the effects of heat on mud and brick But above all you have to have somewhere to store the grain surface in pots, but there’s so much surplus by now You need the pots to be made faster and you need them to last longer. So the potter’s wheel happens Then comes a problem of who does it belong to and the only answer to that is this Writing and the very first writing takes that form a name and A symbol for what’s inside this pot or a lot of pots or an entire village Gremory? And so the little villages grew with their hats and their granaries and then all of a sudden oh where it seems that happened The oldest stone building in the world the Step Pyramid of King Zozo at Saqqara near Chiron built around 2700 BC instant sophisticated Architecture from mud huts in one jump How do they do it? Because of what they’d had to do to feed themselves Gilligan Because the river flooded every year and destroyed landmarks and then retreated leaving the soil to dry out they had to do two things Find a way of measuring the land So the farmer got his own fields back and a way of channeling the water away for use after the flood had gone The kind of measurement you need to do those things involves geometry and the type of mathematics a civil engineer uses and building canals Teaches you to work stone If

You know stonework and geometry and mathematics you can build pyramids especially if a strong central government that was developed to run the irrigation schemes in the first place tells you to If the Pharaoh said he wanted a pointed stone monument. That’s what he got Funny thing is the same drought that drove everybody down to the Nile Also preserve the things they built like their tombs a thousands of years The stuff on the walls in this – for example is 4,500 years old a kind of cartoon view of the civilization The Plough created I mean, look, here’s the irrigation there are these people carrying water pots you see them and They carry them across and they pour the water into a garden that has a wall around it and then over here Look, there’s a fella doing a bit of weeding There’s the plow They domesticated oxen they tried to domesticate any animal that they could get their hands on I mean take a look at this animal flattened its back Tights back legs. Hang onto its front legs stuff food down its throat and hope you’d learn to love you He didn’t get too far with that one was a hyena Well, you’ve got a growing community and plenty of spare food and you’ll need to protect yourself So making weapons becomes very important and here on this wall. There’s a whole thing about handling metals look Here the weights and measures people checking on how much metal is going to be used Next to them the furnace men You see the way they’re raising the temperature they’re blowing on these tubes to create a draft in the furnace to get the temperature high Next to them. Here’s the molten metal being poured into a mold and here The fellows beating it flat Okay, you get yourself a kingdom you get what you deserve you get bureaucrats here they are described writing everything down See the pens behind their ears in this case They’re noting taxes. Here are the people coming in to pay their taxes led? Persuasively by the local police is a policeman with the rod of office More policeman Here’s an Egyptian scruff of the neck. He obviously doesn’t want to pay If you end up not paying They get out their whips and they tie you to a pole and that’s what you get for not coming up with the money So you have a a busy sophisticated society you have to have people at the top in charge This is the tomb of one of them. He was a kind of Egyptian Chancellor responsible directly to the king There he is. His name was Mara Ruka By sometime around 3200 BC the entire 700 mile length of the Nile from the Mediterranean to Aswan was United and administered by officials like Mara Ruka Each one running what was called our water province the section of the irrigation Network and of the river under his command What Held it all together Was the King’s magic ability as a God to come up year after year with an inundation of the Nile and to know? Exactly how high the waters would go because it wasn’t magic. It was his astronomers They observed that one particular star Sirius rises just before dawn on one particular day the 17th of July every year and that day is one day before the flood begins They also saw that on average the flood itself came once Every 365 days now you put those two facts together the star before dawn and the flood and you’ve got yourself a calendar and With a calendar you can organize people you can give them a date to do something on And as for the Kings ability to predict how high the water would go well You you record the level of the flat every year with a scratch on the wall And after a while your experience will tell you early on how high the waters going to be later Now in Egypt where water is life that kind of knowledge and ability to control Gives you the power to build empires These are the great ancient temples of Karnak on the edge of the Nile about 450 miles south of Cairo They were the center of Egyptian religion built in the imperial city of Thebes

When the Egyptian Empire was at its height the greatest power in the world this Was the New York of the time? the temples were built over a period of about 2,000 years each Pharaoh adding his bit leaving his name in stone to last forever Inside the temple domain there were 65 towns 433 gardens and orchards 400 thousand animals and it took 80,000 people just to run the place small wonder that centuries afterwards the Greeks and the Romans came here and gorked like peasants at a civilization that made their efforts look like well-dressed mud huts It still has that effect today Here you come here from the great modern cities full of the immense power of modern technology at your fingertips, press a button turn a switch and this place Stops you dead And then just when you think you’ve got the measure of carnac you come here at dawn to the Hall of columns one of the most massive structures ever built and Anything I was going to say isn’t enough Look at it The Egyptians built an empire and ran it with a handful of technology the wheel the irrigation canals the loom a Calendar pen and ink some cutting tools simple metallurgy and the plow the invention that triggered it all off and yet look how Complex and sophisticated their civilization was and how soon it happened after that first man-made harvest The Egyptian plow and those of the few other civilizations that sprang up around the world at the same time Gave us control over nature and at the same time Tied us for good to the things that we invent so that tomorrow will be better than today The Egyptians knew that that’s why they had gods to make sure their systems didn’t fail Carnac was the first great statement of what technology could do with unlimited manpower and the approval of the gods Ironically the modern equivalent lies again in the desert this time the nomads also settled by a river a river of oil Hey, hey Hey Hey, but what it took the Pharaohs four thousand years to build took the Kuwait ease 4,000 days what’s happened in Kuwait? The change from a nomadic existence to being able to buy and use everything modern technology has to offer has Come in much less than one generation Whew eight represents the immense power of technology use in a way most of us have never Experienced because we’ve lived with a kind of change it can bring for more than 100 years here it’s been focused change has been instant and total Kuwait has suddenly become like New York or any other of the great urban islands of Technology totally dependent on that technology Like them without it Kuwait would return to the desert Hello shel hi, how are you? Hey listen I’m coming To spend my Christmas in New York, okay you see how increasingly, the only way we in the advanced industrial nations with our bewildering technology network can survive is by selling bewilderment and dependence on technology to the rest of the world

or is it not the wonderment independence but a healthier wealthier better way of living than the old way and yet whether or not you dress up technology to look local the technology network is the same and As it spreads, will it spread the ability to use machines as we do without understanding it? Somebody said a few years ago About the way our modern world affects us all if you understand something today That means it must already be obsolete or to put it another way Never have so many people understood so little about so much So why are we in this position? Why is our modern? Industrialized world the way it is and not some different way with different technology doing different things to us Well, that’s what the rest of this series is going to look at You saw just now that the plow and irrigation kicked us all off and that an invention acts rather like a trigger Because once it’s there, it changes the way things are and that change stimulates the production of another invention which in turn causes change and so Why those inventions happened between 6,000 years ago and now Where they happen that when they happened is a fascinating blend of of accident genius craftsmanship geography religion war money ambition Above all at some point Everybody is involved in the business of change. Not just a so-called great men Given what they knew at the time and a moderate amount of what’s up here I hope to show you that you or I could have done just what they did or come close to it Because at no time did an invention come out of thin air into somebody’s head like that You just had to put a number of bits and pieces that were already there together in the right way Following the trail of events from some point in the past to a piece of modern technology is rather like a detective story with with you is the detective knowing only as much as the people in the past do and like them having to guess at what was likely to happen next so The trigger that sets off the first of those detective stories Is that and I’d like to leave you with one question before next time Why there’s a modern invention that fundamentally affects the lives of every single human being on this planet begin 2,600 years ago with somebody doing this