It is a commonplace of technological advances that each improvement in technology relies on a host of enabling, or facilitating, subtechnologies. In pursuing a lofty goal (such as putting a man on the moon or monitoring fluid flow in a petroleum reservoir), a large number of intermediate problems must be overcome. In the case of the space race, enormous numbers of supporting technologies were created to solve problems ranging from keeping pumps operating (while passing liquid oxygen!) to keeping small objects from floating free in the capsules. Unfortunately, the oil business cannot afford the NASA strategy—funding multiple technology paths and...

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