Doubt me, then Watch me.

Growth, whether it be personal, social, economical, political or physical happens every day. In our society growth is inevitable. People are exposed to new ideas and knowledge every day, which can sometimes lead to advancements. Innovation leads to ideas which can sometimes lead to inventions. Tim Wu’s novel The Master Switch: the Rise and Fall of Information Empires discusses the history behind some of the most effective pieces of technology that eventually lead towards communication, broadcasting and even the film industry.

What we call invention, while not easy, is development reaches the point where the next step becomes available to many people.”

-Tim Wu, The Master Switch: the Rise and Fall of Information Empires (Page 19)

Throughout his novel, Wu describes how some of best inventions have come from those who are outsiders. He believes that those with just enough distance from the type of industry, will be able to challenge not only themselves to create something better, but to challenge the industry itself (Wu 20).

Carl Laemmle, a major film distributor of the Midwest, saw the potential of American film industry and decided it was time to make that happen. However, in order to do so he would have to challenge the industry itself. In 1912, Laemmle won the victory against the Trust, the group that was in charge of the American film industry at the time, to expand the future development of the industry. With the help of Wilhem Fuch, also known as William Fox, and the help of William W. Hodkinson, Laemmle established the “Independents.” The victory of the Independents eventually lead to the creation of Hollywood, and eventually the further development and growth of studios that still, to this day, dominate American film (Wu 73).

Despite where the innovation came from, there are two types of innovation that can cause impact:

  1. Sustaining innovation: is the type that are improvements that make the product better
  2. Disruptive innovation: which is the type that threatens to displace a product all together

Tim Wu describes the impact of inventions by a process called the Cycle. Wu believes that “the Cycle is powered by disruptive innovations that upend once thriving industries bankrupt the dominant powers, and chance the world” (Wu 20).  Although these types of innovation are rare, it doesn’t mean it’s not possible.

Innovation as a perennial state of unrest:a process of industrial mutation that incessantly revolutionaizes the economic structure from within incessanity destroying the old one, incessantly creating a new one.

-Joseph Schumpeter, Economist

Screen Shot 2018-02-23 at 12.39.20 PM.png

A photograph of Alexander Graham Bell in New York calling Chicago on the telephone, 1892.

During the time of the telegraph, inventors were in search for making it better, but Alexander Bell was in search for a better telegraph. Bell’s search lead to the invention of the telephone, which began to make the Western Union in a potential vulnerable state. The Western Union was the exclusive owner of the only nationwide telegraph network (Wu 23). Although not as large as the Western Union, Bell’s company became a threat, and the telephone became a prime example of disruptive innovation.

Challenging such as large company was a risk, but significant to the future of the telephone. Without the challenge, Bell’s telephone company, renamed to the American Telephone & Telegraph (AT&T) would have never had its chance to grow.


Tim Wu includes various stories throughout The Master Switch: the Rise and Fall of Information Empires describing the power of innovation and how it can progress. Innovation encourages people to grow and expand their ideas. Whether it may intimidate, not only others, but themselves as well, the willingness tottery something different is not only a risk but an opportunity to grow.



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