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The Pebble and the Avalanche by Moshe Yudkowsky

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Chapter SixThe Automobile Takes On the Railroads

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Some innovations focus on a single great idea, execute it well, and completely overturn an established industry. This case study is about one such innovation, the automobile.

The Industrial Age: Canals, Railways, and Automobiles

At the beginning of the Industrial Age, it was difficult if not impossible to transport the output of a factory across any significant distance; horse-drawn carts couldn’t keep up with the tremendous output of a large factory. To help solve this problem, England and the United States built canals to move goods, but barges are relatively slow, and canals can’t reach everywhere.

The invention of the railroads made mass production useful—the output of a factory could travel ...

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