Many of the new businesses in our town operate in buildings that once housed gas stations or automobile repair shops. Some of us wonder why there were once so many gas stations and automobile repair businesses in our town that are no longer needed. It does not seem to be the case, for instance, that the gas stations and auto repair businesses have moved into new facilities; what gas stations and auto repair businesses I am aware of all appear to be housed in rather old buildings. Moreover, there are now more reasons than ever to drive one’s car in our town. There are new restaurants, parks, and offices, too many to count, and by all accounts these are successful enterprises. Given their success and their locations, which are not proximal to the main residential areas of our community, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that people are driving to them. My own experience is consistent with this. Their parking lots seem to always be nearly full.
Perhaps this apparent contradiction can be resolved by the simple fact that–in our town and indeed throughout the world–recently manufactured automobiles are both more fuel-efficient and of a higher quality than those manufactured in the past, and therefore require less maintenance and gasoline. Everyone with whom I have discussed this matter points to a common underlying mechanism: the newer cars combust fuel in ways that incur less damage to the material of the engine. In addition, recently-manufactured cars are very often equipped with the sorts of features that bring the car’s operation into closer alignment with the human cognitive endowment, reducing the risk of accidents and therefore the demand for automobile repair businesses. If the residents of our town drive such automobiles at higher rates, the puzzle is likely solved.
The people in our town reap the rewards of these technological advances. At the same time, we must acknowledge with gratitude that, if circumstances were to suddenly change–if, say, human cognition were to undergo rapid and unexpected changes, rendering the newly developed features ineffective–the buildings that once housed the automobile repair businesses are still available. With minor adjustments and renovations these buildings could once again provide the infrastructure necessary for repairing automobiles in the same way that they once did, more or less.