`Typically that means big-ticket items. One thinks of dazzling intellectual breakthroughs: the telescope, the steam engine, the airplane, the wheel…. Those were all tremendous, of course.
But often it’s some mundane little nothing of a device that changes history. It might be no more than a slight improvement on some earlier invention. If it intersects with a historic moment, it can become a pivot. Then, like the lever that lifts the elephant, it produces consequences far out of proportion to the ingenuity of the thing itself.’