“Throw Software at the Problem”
N 1841, SOMEWHERE NEAR LOUISVILLE, techno-utopian John Etzler was trying to burn bushes. Wandering what was then still the West, he was tinkering with the prototype for what he hoped would be society’s new democratic power source.1
The would-be prophet had a vision for reinventing society—harnessing the power of the wind, waves, and rays of sun beating down on Kentucky and everywhere else.2
Perhaps radical change was in the air. The Industrial Revolution was slowly infecting the rest of Europe, and up in New England, capitalists were tapping the power of falling water to power textile mills run by gangs of young women. Etzler himself had just completed his stint in New Harmony, Indiana, where Robert ...