Governments and religions should fear air pumps not because of what an air pump is, but because it is a sign of technological advancement. Priestly claims that the rapid process of knowledge will put an end to undue and usurped authority (p. 148). Essentially, advances in knowledge and technology lead to societal changes, and according to Priestly, the further technology advances, the less prejudice and error will be involved with such societal systems as government and religion. In the book, Birmingham exploded in population and wealth due to the advancements of coal energy. This rapid growth lead to a massive city that had no proper representation in parliament (p. 167). The technological advances simply outpaced the political system of the time.
Like Johnson’s work, there are plenty of examples of research and technology that could change our society entirely given enough time. One example of such an advancement is in automation. As time goes on, it is likely that more and more jobs will become automated, or at the very least, the technology for automating many jobs will exist. However, the amount of jobs created by automation is likely not going to be equal to the amount it creates, meaning that there will be a net loss in terms of occupations. This is a problem that our society, and many others, will need to deal with in one way or another. Dealing with this problem will almost undoubtedly cause change in society, for better or worse. A society that fails to change as technology advances is one that is far more likely to fail.