General dynamics of technological change
In biology, the theory of evolution has had tremendous impact on our understanding of biodiversity, ecology, genetic disorders and artificial selection. In technology, the rapid pace of change across many distinct ecosystems suggests that innovation may have its own rules of behaviour. Yet our understanding of what drives innovation, and how to direct and accelerate it, remains poor.
Technologies are created over time out of component sub-technologies in a recursive way. But it is unclear which technologies become building blocks for other new technologies, or how they get combined. We will develop a mathematical theory of technological innovation in which a technology becomes a building block if doing so increases the likelihood of discovering further new technologies.
Technology reduces human toil and suffering and increases opportunities for self-actualization. Our insights into what drives technological change will help accelerate innovation and direct it towards those problems which are most pressing. Because economic growth is tied to technological development, this work could help unlock progress in developing nations, where it is most needed.