On Invention with Anton Howes

We welcome to the show historian and author, Anton Howes. His book, Arts and Minds: How the Royal Society of Arts Changed a Nation, explores how the RSA encouraged invention and innovation during the Industrial revolution.
We welcome to the show historian and invention lover, Anton Howes. Anton recently released a book, Arts and Minds: How the Royal Society of Arts Changed a Nation, about how the Royal Society of the Arts encouraged invention and innovation during the Industrial revolution. As a result, we are excited to ask him about his thoughts on innovation culture and the nature of inventions.

Additionally, Anton shares his findings on inventions that appear to occur later than they should have (“behind the times”), such as the popular tabletop game, Dungeons and Dragons, and the role of government in incentivizing invention. We also talk about pirates.

Please note that this interview was recorded on May 4, 2020.

One Powerful Quotation
  •  11:15 - Anton: “If you can prove prior art--that you’ve done something before--then if someone takes a patent for the same thing, you’ve got very public proof that they can’t sue you for infringement.”
Key Topics
  • 1:00 - Harris asks Anton about how societies and governments can incentivize innovation. Anton discusses his book, Arts and Minds: How the Royal Society of Arts Changed a Nation and how a similar approach might be used to help people find a cure for COVID-19.
  • 7:25 - Shawn asks Anton his opinion on patents: are they good or bad? Anton says that a diverse incentive system is probably the best.
  • 10:30 - Anton talks about how an invention prize can be used to both maintain open source as well as legally protect the inventor from having their creation copied or stolen by proof of prior art.
  • 12:05 - Harris asks Anton about why some inventions seem to be “behind the times.” Anton theorizes that people get stuck in their ways, and so some innovations and inventions seem to take a long time. 
  • 16:22 - Shawn mentions a Reddit discussion about Anton’s Dungeons and Dragons blog post. Anton talks about the importance of constraints on invention.
  • 18:15 - Anton talks about other inventions that seem to have been created too late, such as semaphore flags and the flying shuttle.
  • 21:00 - Anton talks about Britain’s promigration policy to attract inventors during the Industrial Revolution.
  • 25:40 - Anton discusses how location matters for inventors to be inspired and work effectively.
  • 27:54 - Shawn asks Anton about how inventors flourished during the Industrial Revolution.
  • 30:00 - Anton talks about the role of the government to incentivize invention in the Industrial Revolution.
  • 32:57 - Anton gives his thoughts on how society can cultivate a culture of invention.
  • 36:56 - Anton shares his personal inventors and invention stories.
  • 39:36 - Pirates!
  • 41:30 - Harris asks Anton if invention is ultimately good for society and humankind.
  • 45:07 - Shawn asks Anton to clarify the “promigration” term.
Guest Information
Historian of invention. Has just written a book on the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce. Currently writing a book on the causes of the acceleration of innovation during the British Industrial Revolution.


License Information
“Hello Blink Show” by Kenny Consulting Group, LLC and Skal Risa, LLC is licensed under CC BY 4.0
Intro and outro song is “Routine” by Amine Maxwell is licensed under CC BY 3.0
Special Guest: Anton Howes.

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© Skal Risa, LLC and Kenny Consulting Group, LLC | Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY)