Civilisation: Investing in the past

Over the past few weeks, the Jenga team studied civilisation and how humans transformed from the industrial revolution to the computing age. The mid-1700s to the early 1900s brought great insights into the evolution of businesses, capitalism, and technological advancement’s impact on western society. Our report below merges a descriptive and analytical lens to infer trends and transformations during the industrial age. 

Steel and electrification were seen as the two most important technologies of the industrial revolution. For the 20th-century computing age, we see these as the transistor/ integrated circuit and the internet. As steel was the backbone of industries like railroads, machinery and construction, the transistor revolutionised electronics. It paved the way for the personalisation of radios, calculators and computers. 

The patterns between both revolutions were also similar. Technologies moved from silo experiments to industrial/enterprise use, and then the ability to personalise products brought widespread adoption of new technologies in homes. Oil wasn’t widespread until it could be applied in the home as a paraffin lamp, while Apple and Microsoft couldn’t solidify their status in the technological age until they brought their hardware and software, respectively, to every home via the personal computer. 

We highlight six fundamental shifts society faced, such as the growth of leisure time post-1900s, income growth and the intensification of globalisation. Our analysis of these shifts provides great insights for investors, and we conclude by sharing ten crucial lessons for investors from civilisation. 

Is investing an art or science? Does history repeat itself, or does it matter? Should we be bothered about timing economic cycles? Should investors ignore China’s growth? Can one gain an edge in the market? Should you bet against America? 

History isn’t complete without understanding its implications for the future, so we conclude by answering these key questions that our study of civilisation informs us. 

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