In dealing with my question about the fragility of modern commerce and whether it can survive the continued onslaught of Lefty anti-commerce hatred, I have had to look at a bronze astronomical computer from the period of roughly 2,300 years ago in the era of Greek civilization.
The computer is named for the sunken ship it was found in: the Anti-kythera. It was in a wooden box. Wikipedia has done an extraordinary job of summarizing and describing the computer. It is worth looking at just to see what a good job Wikipedia can do if good people care.
My interest is in three facts of the Greek computer.
First, our real knowledge of these engineering feats is the result of the interest of Derek de Solla Price in the mid 1950’s. Without his understanding and interest the whole issue would be unknown. I have always considered him brilliant. Fact, very few extraordinary people are the source of nearly all important knowledge and institutions. Like Alexander Hamilton.
Second, the computer shows that in the Greek circles of people knowledgeable about calendars and astronomy there was comprehensive knowledge of Babylonian, Hebrew and Egyptian calendars. The knowledge of these men covered several thousands of miles connected by commerce. There were several important libraries, one at Alexandria and one at Pergamum. Both destroyed by the Romans in an era before books made knowledge widely dispersed.
Third, the Greek computer was made of bronze. Copper and 5% tin were used to make the precise and delicate gears. This technology is found again in clocks in Italy, France and Great Britain in the 1300’s. Most importantly, bronze gears and wheels were used for scientific instruments in Amsterdam in the early 1600’s.
The technology of bronze gears seems to have survived for 1700 years even though scientific knowledge was lost. Technology may have survived in China and parts of the Arab-Indian networks during this time.
All of which is re-assuring about the potential survival of modern commerce. The technical knowledge and skills may survive a long time.
Whether the institutions for innovation and business life survive is not so clear.