Quentin Hardy:

New technology products head at us constantly. There’s the latest smartphone, the shiny new app, the hot social network, even the smarter thermostat.
 As great (or not) as all these may be, each thing is a small part of a much bigger process that’s rarely admired. They all belong inside a world-changing ecosystem of digital hardware and software, spreading into every area of our lives.
 Thinking about what is going on behind the scenes is easier if we consider the automobile, also known as “the machine that changed the world.” Cars succeeded through the widespread construction of highways and gas stations. Those things created a global supply chain of steel plants and refineries. Seemingly unrelated things, including suburbs, fast food and drive-time talk radio, arose in the success.
 Today’s dominant industrial ecosystem is relentlessly acquiring and processing digital information. It demands newer and better ways of collecting, shipping, and processing data, much the way cars needed better road building. And it’s spinning out its own unseen businesses.