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Why scientists — not investors — should decide the future of technology

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Why scientists — not investors — should decide the future of technology
Photo caption:  The shadow of curator and archivist Milica Kesler is cast onto a poster of Nikola Tesla on March 7 at the Nikola Tesla Museum in Belgrade, Serbia. (Darko Vojinovic/AP)

What if there was a global network of communication that allowed people to instantly witness major events and keep in continuous contact with one another? That was the dream of a visionary who imagined that “through television and telephony we shall see and hear one another as perfectly as though we were face to face, despite intervening distances of thousands of miles; and the instruments through which we shall be able to do this will be amazingly simple compared with our present telephone. A man will be able to carry one in his vest pocket.”

This vision sounds ho-hum to us today, when smartphones are ubiquitous. But it’s impressively prescient when we consider that this visionary wasn’t Mark Zuckerberg or Steve Jobs, but Nikola Tesla, speaking in 1926.

But Tesla, who created some of the most important technological innovations of his time, was unable to win financial backing for his vision, and he died in obscurity. Had Tesla’s ideas been properly funded, the transformative power of the Internet might have taken hold sooner and been developed for reasons of improving human connection rather than national defense — with significant ramifications.

Tesla’s effect on the 21st century is extensive. Without him, we would not have the radio, AC electricity, power grids, television, Tesla coils, neon lighting, fluorescent lighting, radio-controlled devices, robotics, X-rays, radar, microwaves and many other inventions applicable to our daily lives. […]

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