Monday, July 24, 2017

Innovation in the Automobile Industry

In the 1900s the automobile industry was the most important and innovation industry in the USA.  But one could question if this was good for our society in the long run.  And one could question if they actually innovated.

In the early 1900s there were few automobiles, very little infrastructure created to support the industry.  For example the road system was still designed for horse drawn wagons and the wagon wheel (remember a steal rim and wooden compression spoke wheel).  The future US Highways, or the 1950s Interstate Highway System at the cost of $425 billion were decades and many innovations away. There was no gas service station, there were however horse stables, farriers, and blacksmiths in each town along the roads.  There was no real "road map", there was no road naming system, like was created in 1926 - the United States Numbered Highway System.

The industry employees millions of people, and was a large factor in the economy of the USA.  It created or was created by major cities in the USA - for example Detroit.  Countless pattens are related to the industry, yet what has been truly innovative about the industry.  I'm sure we could list wonderful innovations from the industry.
Roberts Electric Car -1896
This is a partial list, but if you look at the history of each of these inventions a pattern emerges.  The pattern is one of slow innovation, delay in introduction of improvements, and sometimes downright refusal to adopt life saving improvements without government interventions.  But the innovation that tops them all is the internal combustion engine.  The first automobiles had a variety of propulsion methods.  The combination of petrol's energy storage and the internal combustion engine create a real innovation.  However it wasn't a quick adoption either.  And it displaced a technology that might have been a better alternative - the electric vehicle (e.g. the 1896 Roberts EV gets 40 miles on a charge, same as the 2010 GM Volt).  Yes, early options were both steam driven and electric motor driven autos.  So why did the petrol version win the market share?

Perhaps it had something to do with the petroleum industry - a synergy of innovations.  The ease of oil drilling and distillation created a ready source of energy in a compact form for use in autos.  And the two industries became very powerful.  Capable of controlling the political process with respect to  many aspects of air quality, safety of the populations, protection of the environment, legislation of all types, and the ability to protect access to  resources via waging wars.

Had the electrical generation and distribution industry been a few decades earlier in development perhaps we would have a different transportation system.  One that was based on Telsa's AC Motor and wireless power transmission.  Perhaps we would be 20 years closer had GM not killed the EV in 1990s.

See Also:

From Names to Numbers: The Origins of the U.S. Numbered Highway System by Richard F. Weingroff

Case Study: Overloaders vs Slackers

Imagine two tribes, the first tribe is referred to by anthropologist as the Slackers.  The anthropologist refer to the other tribe as the Overloaders.  These anthropologist are a crafty bunch, they have devised various methods to study the tribes without the very observant members of the tribes realizing that they are the subjects of experiments.  In fact if we asked the astute tribal people if the anthropologist exist, the people would say no.  They would look at you funny and step away from you, giving you just a bit more personal space.  From the slightly safer distance the people may ask you, why would any tribe wish to have anthropologist.  What happiness could they bring to the tribe?

Never-the-less, we know the anthropologist exist because we, dear reader, are pan-dimensional super intelligent creatures that do not live confined to the bounds of this page.

These tribes collect berries of all types around their villages and transport these berries in handmade containers.  These containers require considerable time to create, people practice for many years to develop the skill to build these containers and only the best are decorated with symbols and given special (almost religious) significance in ceremonies.  The anthropologist have found discarded broken and dysfunctional containers and of course studies of the symbology have launched many PhD theses and careers.

One behavior the anthropologist have observed and studied is thought to be a fundamental cultural difference between the two tribes.  Members of one tribe will not carry baskets of berries without slack space in the basket for more berries.  It is observed to be rather an obsession of these people to adjust the slack space of each basket before they will pick up the basket and move it.  Considerable effort goes into the learning of how many berries of various types to place in containers and how much slack is required for which fruits.  This learning process takes years.  Yet the adults appear to quickly load and pickup baskets.

The other tribe has a unique practice of placing various types of berries into the baskets in such a way as to create a dome on the top that appears to be impractical to carry.  They will not move a basket until the stacking is precise, and take great care in adding the last few small berries to their baskets before lifting and gently but expertly balancing the containers and transporting to the village.  It has been observed that this tribe's children practice piling stones and rocks as young children in a game of learning to acquire the skills.

A compelling theory for the differentiation of these people into their tribes is the DNA differences found on five genes.  Peer review of this theory raises the age old issue of nature vs nurture.

Utilizing this fundamental cultural difference in the tribes behaviors the anthropologist have devised several experiments.  By surreptitiously planting berry bushes of various varieties in close proximity to each other and with measure distances from the two tribes villages, the anthropologist have created similar environments to study the efficacy of the tribes methods.

Now dear reader, predict which tribe has the most efficient method for berry transport.  Overloaders or Slackers - which is your projection of efficiency?  Please take into account the total quality of product delivered, for a crushed berry is wonderful in jam on toast but will stain a basket.

Did you have great reasons for your answer?  I'm sure you can sustain quite the debate with any opponent of your theory.

Does your theory matter - is efficiency the measure we wish to judge a society upon?  Perhaps we do... perhaps we have the veil of work pulled over our eyes.

Morpheus: “The Matrix is everywhere. It is all around us. Even now, in this very room. You can see it when you look out your window or when you turn on your television. You can feel it when you go to work... when you go to church... when you pay your taxes. It is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth.Neo: What truth?Morpheus: That you are a slave, Neo. Like everyone else you were born into bondage. Into a prison that you cannot taste or see or touch. A prison for your mind.”

The Bushmen Who Had the Whole Work-Life Thing Figured Out - NY Times article by James Suzman.
The possibility that our hunter-gatherer ancestors might not endure an unremitting struggle against the elements first came to public attention in the 1966. It followed a series of studies conducted by a Canadian anthropologist, Richard Borshay Lee, among the Ju/’hoansi “bushmen” of the northeast of southern Africa’s Kalahari. He was surprised to learn that Ju/’hoansi spent only 15 hours a week securing their nutritional requirements. Given that in 1966 the 40-hour week had only recently been introduced for federal workers in the United States, these figures appeared extraordinary. It was on the basis of this, that Ju/hoansi and other similar hunting and gathering people came to be referred to as “the original affluent society.”

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Timeline of Social Networks -or- the Long Haul

I was listening to KERA's Think and they mentioned the concept of social networks.  It got me think...

But the book Long Haul, is its own interesting story - A Million Miles and Counting - A Trucker's Tale.

Did you know 41 million people move in the US a year?  Having moved a few times in my life, sometime with the Bed-Bugger's help, this book is a great insight into that life.
Author: Finn Murphy's CB handle - "U-Turn"
The radio interview noted the concept of social networks in the 21st century.  What is a highway - but a manifestation of a social network - a trail across the land.

A rough time line - hey -it's a beginning... iterate...
  • tomorrow's social network (telepathy) 

  • Google Wave (a new and failed concept) 2009 
  • Twitter 2006 

  • Facebook (et. al) 2004 
  • Google Mail 2004 

  • SMS (text messaging) 1992 
  • Internet (commercialization of the tech beyond academia) 1990 
  • World-Wide-Web 1989 
  • AOL - bulletin board services ( Quantum Link ) 1984 

  • Usenet 1980 
  • email (revised protocols) 1970s 

  • ARPA-net 1969 

  • Citizens Band Radio (CB-radio) 1945 

  • HAM radio (amateur radio) 1909 

  • Telephone 1876 
  • Telephone Party Line 1872 
  • Telegraph. 1837 
  • Optical Telegraph 1792 
  • Dinner counter 

  • Church (the meeting after the meeting) 

  • roads, trails between villages 
  • paths between homes 
See Also:

Social Media - Tracking its Exponential Growth video
     Social media has overtaken porn as the #1 activity on the Web
List of social networking websites - Wikipedia

The World's 21 Most Important Social Media Sites and Apps in 2015