Standards, China, and the Industrial Revolution

[Featured image: a Han dynasty bronze ruler]

As a general principle, in manufacturing, you need to do the work the same way every time if you want the output to be consistent. In some cases, like extracting metals from ores, you need to tweak processes to produce consistent output from raw materials of varying compositions. Then the tweaks themselves must be executed consistently so that the response to a particular variation in ore content is always the same.

Standards are an area where China had a 2,000-year headstart but neither the scientific nor the industrial revolutions occurred there.

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