Dividends and How We Got to Now, part 2

Part of investing is looking forward, we want to ensure our investments will continue to be profitable and pay dividends, we also want the company to stay in business and grow. If the company has a natural monopoly, it makes it easier, if not then we occasionally we need to look at how things fit in and if we believe the company is doing the correct thing. There is a book called How We Got to Now – 6 Innovations that made the Modern World by Steven Johnson, published by Penguin, NY, 2014. Mr. Johnson has written other books which you may want to check out.

If you look at our society and there are many wonders, how did or what needed to happen to arrive at where we are? In Mr. Johnson’s book the 6 important ingredients are glass, cold, sound, clean, time and light. You might add a category, but it is differently an interesting way to see how the world we know evolved to where it is. If you can see what Mr. Johnson sees, that will help you invest and notice if the companies you invest in do not seem to be getting in, how to connect the dots for the future.


Most of us look through glass everyday – windows in the house, car windows, windows in the workplace, but we really do not think about it. The first glass was found in the sands of the Libyan Desert. Grains of silica meted and fused under an intense heat – a piece of that glass was used in jewelry in the tomb of Tutankhamun.

In 1204, the City of Constantinople was sacked and a community of glassmakers from Turkey crossed the sea to Venice. At the time, Venice was the most important port in Europe and the glass was sold around Europe. In Venice, because furnaces are used in making glass and Venice was made of wood, fires resulted. In 1291, the glassmakers were relocated to the island of Murano which created an innovation hub. The small graphic area meant ideas were quick to flow through the glassmakers and Murano glass has been known since as status symbols.

People experimented with glass and in monasteries, monks were translating manuscripts (if you need a movie – Sean Connery – The Name of the Rose) needed to see and had glasses. With the invention of the printing press in the 1440’s, because people were generally not literate they had no need for glasses. Once printing was prevalent, people needed glasses to see and a new industry was formed. (although it took Elton John to make glasses design fashionable).

With glasses, people wanted to magnify the objects they observed and 2 spectacle makers in the Netherlands came up with the first microscope in 1590.

in 1887, glass fibers were discovered eventually the breakthrough would translate to fiber optics which allows the internet to be used by as many people as possible. Why did it take so long to understand and use glass: the furnace. If you are near people who blow glass – the heat has to be over 1,000 degrees. By learning how to generate extreme heat in an controlled environment, we unlocked the molecular potential of silicon dioxide which transformed the way we see the world.

Linking to dividend paying stocks, in the book the unlocking of glass took time but each segment we learned more what we can do with glass. As long as people are curious, we still have more learning to do. As our society discovered what we can do with glass, new industries and avenues for more learning developed, hopefully we still have much to learn.

There are more questions than answers, till the next time – to raising questions.

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