Technological Innovation As An Evolutionary Process

John M. Ziman

Technological artefacts and biological organisms 'evolve' by very similar processes of blind variation and selective retention. This analogy is explored systematically, for the first time, by a team of international experts from evolutionary biology, history and sociology of science and technology, cognitive and computer science, economics, psychology, education, cultural anthropology and research management. Do technological 'memes' play the role of genes? In what sense are novel inventions 'blind'? Does the element of design make them 'Lamarckian' rather than 'Darwinian'? Is the recombination of ideas the essence of technological creativity? Can invention be simulated computationally? What are the entities that actually evolve - artefacts, ideas or organisations? These are only some of the many questions stimulated and partially answered by this powerful metaphor. With its practical demonstration of the explanatory potential of 'evolutionary reasoning' in a well-defined context, this book is a ground-breaking contribution to every discipline concerned with cultural change.

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