Cars, Oil, Chance and the Shallow Charles River

Fascinating MIT presentation by Fred Salvucci out about the role of chance in transportation and oil/energy markets.

The first commercial use of rail in the New World, Salvucci tells us, was to haul in granite for the Bunker Hill monument, and to bring dirt from the suburbs for Boston builders. When people realized they could use the new technology to transport farm products, the Boston & Worcester Railroad was born. But the idea of moving people around didn’t emerge until the 1800s, when the concept of living one place and working in another led to streetcars in Boston and elsewhere …

Salvucci remarks on the numerous cases of “indirect causality” through human history, how things “built in ways that are unanticipated and probably unanticipatable.” In 1865, there were no electric street cars. By 1900, U.S. East Coast cities were covered by them. In 1900, there were 2,000 autos in the U.S., and by 1920, there were so many cars that city rail networks began dying out. Don’t be fooled into thinking you can “predict tomorrow based on yesterday plus a small delta,” warns Salvucci.

You can watch it by following this link.