“Don’t find fault, find a remedy.” Henry Ford.
Uncertainty does not score high; surprises are more likely to be shocking than pleasant and when humans are set on a particular, definite, ‘fun’ way, most don’t like to try out other things that they are unsure of. That must explain why most people oppose new ideas, new products, new drugs and yes, new inventions. And if such folks are asked to choose between a new product that is full of promise and a difficult but time-tested task, most will opt for what they are used to.
When inventor and industrialist Henry Ford presented his assembly line of black cars, I can only imagine how outraged a sizeable number of his countrymen felt. What was he trying to do, spite their ‘perfect’ way of life? How in the world can his contraption ever replace the elegance and esteem of horse travel and the accepted norm of the time? Imagine what his fate would have been if he had consulted or, worse still, asked for a referendum on his idea?
He must have seemed ridiculous sitting in a steel cage on four rubber tires, and the sound of the object he called an automobile must have sounded so awful that the cream of high society in his time must have thought it was the worst thing they had ever heard.
Surely a method or trick to make all known and accepted means of travel on animals faster would have had a better reception. A faster camel on the sand dunes, a faster elephant in India, a faster donkey on the Sahel would have made more sense. Henry Ford wasn’t the inventor of the first car-no; what stood him out was the fact that he saw the automobile as the useful machine that can be put together quickly, plentifully and affordably so much so that it will be the ‘new’ means of mass mobility.
Most humans simply don’t like to try things that are not predictable or fun. What is fun? Most of us are likely to define it as an experience that gives some pleasure. Music, sports, feasts, and festivals may fall into that category. Changes in lifestyle and everyday chores only happen when some bold ones amongst us picture that better way and daringly push ahead to actualize their vision and painstakingly make us see the sense in their new way. This is in spite of discouraging and disparaging remarks that are thrown at them aimed at making them abandon their dreams, unfortunately for humanity some actually chicken out on account of the negativity.
But thankfully a few individuals stubbornly forge on even in the face of being branded as weird and coldly isolated, a few curious minds stop and wonder why things can’t be done another way, why more cannot be achieved with less effort? They believe! Thank God they kept the faith and persevered. I think humanity owes that elite group of believers and thinkers a world of gratitude.
I shudder to think about what life will look like without the aid of cars, trams, trains, and airplanes. Because of the doggedness and foresight of Henry Ford, new and evolving means of travel including revolutionary self-driving cars, drone travel, and robotics are becoming more and more realistic.
Galileo got a taste of unverified facts and twisted mindsets when he announced that the world was indeed spherical and orbits the Sun. The truth was so outrageous and unacceptable to some that they went to the extent of wanting to get rid of him for daring to challenge the dumb but comfortable untruths of his day. The sceptics and critics Henry Ford and his automobiles most have faced on a daily basis are better imagined than experienced. Nonetheless, I will be the first to admit that the arrival of the automobile came with a cost to humanity. Today emissions from vehicles are raising genuine concerns about the environment, our health and the future of the world.
But thanks again to the Henry Fords of today amongst us, the electric car is here, countries and companies are catching on to the electric car phenomenon, the solar-powered vehicle and the attraction of zero emissions. What about car accident fatalities? Yes, many people have lost their lives or limbs to automobile accidents. But that is not enough reason to throw the baby with the bathwater. Are we saying that fewer people died via the horse-driven wars of the past and the present fatalities in rodeos, polo, horse races, and other horse-related activities? I very much doubt that. I will have to stick with the fact that life is fraught with danger in a car as much as it is on horseback.
But automobiles have done more good for you and me, and still continue to do so every second of our lives thumbs up to Henry Ford and the generations he continues to inspire. Automobiles take kids to school and back, take the sick to hospitals and bring firefighters to where they need to be to save lives, just to name a few angelic roles they continue to play. What if Henry Ford really asked what they wanted?
Thanks to the automobile, we have jobs today that couldn’t have existed in the days of horse dependent travel. The mechanic, the driver, the automobile designer, the carwash business, the filling station operatives, and the list goes on and on. So, has the world turned a new leaf from the anti-progressive tendency to oppose inventions and ideas that has the capacity to improve the way we live? The answer is an emphatic no. Social media and the internet are sometimes shut down by the authorities in some countries when they feel threatened by their power. Even basic research is underfunded in several climes, how unfortunate.
Just like Henry Ford’s transport revolution, some are opposed to 5G technology while many think stem cell research in medicine should be banned. Artificial intelligence and the use of robots that can be used to do repetitive tasks that will ordinarily bore you and me are opposed by some. Why you may ask? Well because like the idea of a car during the days of Henry Ford, most people are not sure if these new strides in science and technology will be fun, like a festival, or agonizing, like cold morning open-air baths in the eyes of a child in a rural area. And if such individuals were to be asked to chart the way forward, they are most likely to vote for things to remain just the way they are, disasters, epidemics, droughts and all.
So what lessons are we to extract from the Henry Ford story? If you see a picture in your mind of a better world, if you feel strongly about an idea that will make humanity better off, then like Henry Ford, be bold don’t be afraid to take the plunge, don’t be democratic about it and better still don’t procrastinate.
“You can’t build a reputation on what you are going to do” Henry Ford.