Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 80.djvu/292

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

the ancients had almost no knowledge of machinery. Water power was called into requisition to a limited extent, but the main reliance was on the muscular force of man and beast. In the East and in Egypt, the potentates tried to impress their contemporaries and posterity by the vastness of their structures; the artistic sense of the Greeks led them to make only such objects as were beautiful. But even the Romans who were intensely practical in most things never constructed labor-saving machinery. It is no explanation of the fact to say that actual or virtual slavery was the cause of this lack of enterprise. The same conditions prevailed throughout the Middle Age after slavery had been to a considerable extent abolished. Machinery can hardly be said to antedate the era of steam. Although time-pieces can not properly be called machines, their construction requires a knowledge and appreciation of the mechanical powers. It is in strict conformity to the law of progress that water-power which had been in use for purposes of propulsion for thousands of years should also be employed in the manufacture of timepieces.

We need to be often reminded that the phrase "to save time" is one of the most frequently misapplied in our language. If we can cross an ocean or a continent in five days instead of the fifty formerly required, where have we saved any time, if we make no good use of the forty-five we are supposed to have saved? If we can converse with a person ten miles or a hundred or even a thousand miles distant without stepping out of doors, where is anything gained if we have nothing to say that is worth saying? If by means of so-called labor-saving machinery we are provided with a thousand pages to read for every one that was within easy reach of our grandfathers, how are we better off if very little of it is worth reading? We are losing rather than saving time in the operation. The truth is that nothing worth doing has ever been done in a hurry. Almost all the great discoveries and inventions that have really benefited mankind are the result of much patient thought and investigation and experiment. The same is true of every work of art, whether pictorial or plastic. After they have become public property their use is a mere matter of routine and imitation. The more time we "save" the less we seem to have. The more we rely on machinery to do our work, the more nearly we become machines ourselves. Even our educational processes have largely degenerated into mere mechanical routine. Each pupil and student is taught to do what he has seen others do. Most of our young people are advised to transform themselves into living cash-registers as early as possible, although the coins they handle are for the most part either counterfeit or of small value. .