When I read, I often mark interesting pages and then forget about them. This is an effort to note what I found interesting about non-fiction books I've finished, starting with The Box, Marc Levinson's excellent book about the containerization of the shipping industry. I read it about two months ago.
The importance of innovation is at the center of a second, and rapidly growing, body of research. Capital, labor, and land, the basic factors of production, have lost much of their fascination for those looking to understand why economies grow and prosper. The key question asked today is no longer how much capital and labor an economy can amass, but how innovation helps employ those resources more effectively to produce more goods and services. ... Even after a new technology is proven, its spread must often wait until prior investments have been recouped; although Thomas Edison invented the incandescent lightbulb in 1879, only 3 percent of U.S. homes had electric lighting twenty years later. The economic benefits arise not from innovation itself, but from entrepreneurs who eventually discover ways to put inventions to practical use.
Malcolm McLean's fundamental insight, commonplace today but quite radical in the 1950's, was that the shipping industry's business was moving cargo, not sailing ships. That insight led to a concept of containerization quite different from anything that had come before. McLean understood that reducing the cost of shipping required not just a metal box but an entire new way of handling freight. Every part of the system - ports, ships, cranes, storage facilities, trucks, trains, and the operations of the shippers themselves - would have to change. In that understanding, he was years ahead of almost everyone else in the transportation industry.
"Containerization cannot be considered just another means of transportation," Besson told Congress in 1970. "The full benefits of containerization can only be derived by logistic systems designed with full use of containers in mind."