The turmoil and change in the decades around 1900 was mind boggling. This was a time of great change. Freud and William James were exploring consciousness and other products of the mind. James publishing The Principles of Psychology in 1890 and Freud publishing The Interpretation of Dreams in 1899. Marconi transmitted and received radio signals across the Atlantic in 1901. Karl Benz invented the automobile in 1885 and by 1900, automobile factories were producing cars for the public. The Wright Brothers demonstrated heavier than air flight in 1903. In the first decades of the new century, modernists like Picasso, Matisse, and Kandinsky were redefining how people look at art. Literature was being transformed in a similar way by the likes of Henry James (William’s brother), James Joyce, and Virginia Woolf. Kurt Vonnegut said that thanks to TV, there were only two kinds of people: conservatives and liberals. In stark contrast to the world of commerce, our political choices have greatly shrunk since 1900 when political activists espoused ideas as different as anarchy and aristocracy, free markets and tariffs, communism and socialism, theocracies, democracies, and republics. As they had done with royalty and religion, social experimenters rejected the institution of marriage, promoting such seditious ideas as free love and birth control. Even more alarming for some was the fact that women wanted to vote. And if in the face of this tsunami of change you could remain serene, your peace would have been literally shattered by the outbreak of the first World War in 1914.
One thread throughout all of this was the disruption of knowledge and the manipulation of symbols – from art to design and political propaganda – that was to characterize and define this new information economy.