Our book Explaining Technology was recently published by Cambridge University Press!
A long tradition explains technological change as recombination. Within this tradition, this Element develops an innovative combinatorial model of technological change and tests it with 2,000 years of global GDP data and with data from US patents filed between 1835 and 2010. The model explains (1) the pace of technological change for at least the past two millennia, (2) patent citations, and (3) the increasing complexity of tools over time. It shows that combining and modifying pre-existing goods to produce new goods generates the observed historical pattern of technological change. A long period of stasis was followed by sudden super-exponential growth in the number of goods. In this model, the sudden explosion of about 250 years ago is a combinatorial explosion that was a long time in coming but inevitable once the process began at least two thousand years ago. This Element models the Industrial Revolution as a combinatorial explosion.
If you have institutional access (e.g., through your university or research institute) you can download a free PDF version, or you can order a paperback copy directly from Cambridge University Press. A short video abstract that I produced is available on the publisher’s Vimeo channel.
The book builds heavily on work I have been involved in on the Theory of the Adjacent Possible (TAP), and on autocatalytic (RAF) sets. Combining these two concepts and models provides an innovative and alternative view of the economy and technological evolution that reconciles the traditionally opposing views of evolution vs. mutualism in economics.