Governments, religions, and other relatively static institutes that hold power over large numbers of people should fear air pumps and electrical machines because of the massive, society-transforming power that technological innovation holds. “They [inventors] were creating immense wealth and technological supremacy without a single Parliamentary seat.” (Johnson, pg. 150) Building a better air pump might greatly improve production at some factory, thus producing more profit for the owners, thus increasing their wealth, thus increasing their political power. At a sort of fundamental level, technological innovation causes change, sometimes large change. The invention of the thermometer allowed Franklin to discover the gulf stream (Johnson, p. 149), allowing for faster trips when one traveled along the stream. That small-sounding invention, the ability to measure temperature accurately, led to a sort of miniature revolution in transit and commerce.
I would not go as far to say that Johnson has shined any new light on current scientific of technological happenings, but it does give us a unique lens to view such current events by. Most notably, he reinforces the view of how science and technology help drive “progress”, away from the old towards the new. “…it is the radical’s [Priestly’s] belief that progress inevitably undermines the institutions and belief systems of the past.” (Johnson, pg. 213). Johnson goes on to caution us that progress is not always what it seems; that progress can lead us not only to progress but also towards destruction (Johnson, p.g 214). A relatively recent example of this would be our exploitation of the atom, for both nuclear power and nuclear warfare, which is devastating to a degree never seen before.