Diversity in the Knowledge Economy and Society

Diversity in the Knowledge Economy and Society

Heterogeneity, Innovation and Entrepreneurship

Science, Innovation, Technology and Entrepreneurship series

Edited by Elias G. Carayannis, Aris Kaloudis and Åge Mariussen

The key message of this book is that heterogeneity should be seen as an intrinsic and indispensable element of knowledge systems. The authors address the concept of heterogeneity in a multi-disciplinary fashion, including perspectives from evolutionary economics and innovation system studies, and relate this approach to existing theories in a broad range of fields.

Chapter 2: Technological Evolution, Innovation and Human Agency

Helge Godø

Subjects: business and management, diversity and management, knowledge management, economics and finance, economics of innovation, innovation and technology, economics of innovation, innovation policy, knowledge management


Helge Godø INTRODUCTION: TECHNOLOGICAL EVOLUTION AS ‘INTELLIGENT DESIGN’ Technological evolution – and the role of innovation and diffusion as an element in this process – cannot be understood, much less explained, without taking into account the role of human will and purposeful behaviour. Herbert Simon’s (1969) concept of the ‘science of the artificial’ and his emphasis on design as distinct from the natural, aptly sets the focus on this fundamental aspect. Understanding and explaining human will and purposeful behaviour is essential for making evolutionary approaches relevant to the study of technological innovation and development. Hence, in explaining technological evolution – and, more broadly, the development of society and social change – we need to take into account how political agency and advocacy, human desires and passions, rationality, visions and goals become embedded in the complex process of creating technical novelties, and how these are disseminated, negotiated and shaped in the process of diffusion, and subsequently contribute to social change. This point has been emphasized by numerous theorists, such as John Ziman (2000, p. 6) who writes ‘ “Design” is central to modern technology. How can that be reconciled with “evolution”, which both Darwin and Lamarck explained as a process through which complex adaptive systems emerge in the absence of design?’ (Ziman’s emphasis). Elster (1983) made a point that aligns closely with this: he suggests that in evolutionary approaches to social development (including technological development), social science essentially employs an intentional mode of explanation; that is, the idea that actions are intentional...

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