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The Nature of Technology
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W. Brian Arthur's ideas have won him a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1987 and the Schumpeter Prize in Economics in 1990. He pioneered the modern study of positive feedbacks in the economy - in particular their role in magnifying small, random events. He is also one of the pioneers of the new science of complexity. He is an External Faculty Member at the Santa Fe Institute and from 1983 to 1996 was Dean and Virginia Morrison Professor of Economics and Population Studies at Stanford University. He holds a Ph.D. from Berkeley in Operations Research, and has other degrees in economics, engineering and mathematics.

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What is technology in its nature, in its deepest essence? Where does it come from? How does it evolve? With contagious enthusiasm, Arthur, an economics professor and a pioneer of complexity theory, tries to answer these and other questions in a style that is by turns sparkling and flat. Technology is self-creating, though it requires human agency to build it up and reproduce it. Yet technology evolves much like organisms evolve, and Arthur cannily applies Darwin's ideas to technologies and their growth. All technologies descend from earlier ones, and those that perform better and more efficiently than others are selected for future growth and development. But radical novelty in technology cannot be explained by this model of variation and selection, so Arthur argues that novel technologies arise by combination of existing technologies. For example, a hydroelectric power generator combines several main components-a reservoir to store water, an intake system, turbines driven by high-energy water flow, transformers to convert the power output to a higher voltage: groups of self-contained technologies-into a new technology. Arthur's arguments will likely alter the reader's way of thinking about technology and its relationship to humanity. (Aug.) Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.

"Provocative and engaging...Arthur's theory captures many well-known features of technological change [and] also answers interesting questions."-"Nature"

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