This post continues the discussion about what society needs in addition to technology to develop. In my previous entry, The Growth and Development Paradox, I established that
- Technology enables societies to develop.
- Foundational technologies have existed for thousands of years.
- Yet, sustainable development didn’t occur until the Industrial Revolution.
- Technological development is thus not sufficient for societies to develop. There’s something else — in addition to technology —that’s necessary for society to develop.
Let’s consider the automobile as a case study of what else society needs, in addition to technology alone, to be able to develop.
Most people would agree that the automobile has been one of the most influential technologies of all time. Since its inception in the late 1800s/early 1900s, the automobile has fundamentally shaped American society: it has provided unparalleled mobility to the masses, engendered suburbia, empowered women to take a more active role in society, created numerous jobs, and shaped our leisure activities (cruising and road trips, drive-in movies and restaurants, etc.). In short, the motor vehicle has turbo-charged social development.
Currently, about 100,000 patents cover automobiles. That’s a huge amount of innovation! But it wasn’t just automobile technology alone that enabled society to develop based on the automobile. Yes, the automobile offered society the potential to develop. However, to realize that potential, society needed more than just the technology alone: Society needed changes in Community, Markets, and Government to accommodate changes in Technology and unlock the potential that technology provides. Let’s consider the changes in Technology, Community, Markets, and Government required for successful widespread adoption of the automobile in society, thereby enabling mobility of the masses.
Automobiles replaced railroads, horse-drawn carriages, and bicycles as more comfortable, convenient, and efficient means of traveling short and long distances. However, in addition to automobile technology, widespread adoption of the automobile in the US required the majority of Americans to have: (i) disposable income and access to affordable automobiles; (ii) roadways and infrastructure; (iii) widely available sources of fuel and repair services; (iv) public space for parking; and (v) education and licensing programs to teach people how to drive and how to follow the rules of the road.