We all know that technological innovations have the power to influence geopolitics, but we tend to forget how quickly their returns diminish. The internal combustion engine revolutionized transportation and transformed society. Its birth in 1915 was accompanied by Henry Ford’s invention of another revolutionary technology, the assembly line, and a revolutionary business model, the auto dealership. These innovations transformed not just the United States but much of the world and drove human productivity for half a century.
By about 1965, the internal combustion engine, the automobile, the assembly line and the dealership model had matured. While still indispensable, they were no longer cutting-edge. Most important, they were not generating the vast increase in productivity or the transformation of culture that they once had. The basic architecture of the automobile was complete, from automatic transmissions to air conditioning. The rest was marketing. Neurotic, narcissistic and br
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