The Automobile: Reflections and Questions
Themes for the automobile:
- mass production
- the assembly line--and its impact on
- the limits of mass production
- the participation of the working class in
culture after Ford's $5 day.
- the match between the automobile and
- people seee the looks of an automobile as a
reflection of themselves
- automobiles are used as a measure of status
- independence, freedom
- reliability, want a sense of being in control
- consequences--both predictable and
Little Conoco on the
Thinking about the impact of technology
- divide between intended and unintended
- divide between first order consequences
needs, such as more gasoline) and second order consequences (new
possibilities that arise, such as the development of motels and fast
- the automobile shows the importance of
of scale--people couldn't predict some impacts, such as pollution,
it was hard to imagine that there would be so many automobiles and that
effects would be important because of the numbers
- consider the outside influences on
such as the military goals of the interstate highway system.
Predicting the future growth and impact of
Bad predictions cost us in wasted investment and
careers. If we look at the pattern of bad predictions we can
perhaps see how to do
better. (source: Herb Brody, "Great
Technological Predictions Go Awry" Albert H. Teich, Technology and
Future, sixth edition (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1993).)
family car of 2010, according to Ford
compare Toyoto Prius
- The people who are hoping to profit from a
new technology often make the most misleading predictions. They
necessarily want to
promote what they are doing, but repeatedly claiming a breakthrough
the problems of commercialization are not yet solved is probably
for them in the long run. Eg. high-temperature superconductors,
- Even if the technology works (eg. robots)
may not want to buy it. Who do you ask--the vendors?
biassed. But consumers, even businesses buying factory equipment,
be biassed too because they don't realize how attitudes towards the
will shift (eg. fax machine).
- it also depends on how you use the
1991 Brody is writing about cd-roms vs. bigger hard disks, but the
finally has taken off in areas with a great emphasis on graphics.
- can existing technologies improve to compete
new technologies?--eg. cameras that store images in digital form vs.
improvements in silver-halide film.
- consumers are unwilling to spend money on
improvements, particularly if they seem inconvenient. You also
the whole system, such as stores to rent videotapes or videodisks.
- truly innovative technologies often take 10
25 years to enter widespread use.
Brody's 1991 list of popular predictions:
neural-network computers, shirt-pocket telephones, hypermedia,
computer-generated virtual realities, intelligent
highway systems .
- when you widen roads then more people move further out of
city--amount of traffic increases to fill the roads
- what can you do?
- increase the cost: raise gas taxes, road pricing
- computer controlled cars on the road
This page written and copyright ©
Pamela E. Mack
last updated 11/18/05