I've blogged about the impact of the shipping container before and the recent article "The Box That Built the Modern World" is a nice addition. The article makes an interesting comparison:
Think of the shipping container as the Internet of things. Just as your email is disassembled into discrete bundles of data the minute you hit send, then re-assembled in your recipient’s inbox later, the uniform, ubiquitous boxes are designed to be interchangeable, their contents irrelevant.
James Rice, the deputy director of the Center of Transportation and Logistics at MIT, explains why: "Containers are just a lot easier. A box is a box. All you need is a vessel, a berth, and a place to put the container on the ground."
The article ends with a (hopefully) gratitude-inducing thought:
The number of 20-foot equivalent units moved is the most important measure of economic well-being you’ve never heard of. So the next time a truck towing a metal box edges alongside you on the freeway, give a thought to the changes it’s wrought—and the possibilities that still lie in the future.