It is well known that the iron bridge of Ironbridge was the first of its kind in the world. It was less well known (at least to me), that it was assembled as if the pieces were wood, with the iron components joined by dovetail joints.
The message is clear: the fact that a new technology exists does not mean that people have worked out how to use it for what it can do differently. On the contrary, we are all liable to get trapped into using the new thing in old ways and for old purposes. In fact the story is even better than that: it turns out that the first iron bridge was massively over-specified, using about twice as much iron as was being used in equivalent and larger bridges just a few years later.
So the mood of my Public Services was a dizzy combination of creativity, optimism and frustration. People who had learned to build in steel, to weld and to rivet, and who did so with creative imagination and a deep respect for the users of public services found themselves trapped in a world which had just discovered iron and was busy applying the techniques of woodworking.
Ironbridge is an immense technical achievement. But it isn’t how we cross rivers any more.