Governing Transformative Technological Innovation

Governing Transformative Technological Innovation

Who’s in Charge?

Peter W.B. Phillips

New technologies often appear to be beyond the control of any existing governing systems. This is especially true for transformative technologies such as information technologies, biotechnologies and nanotechnologies. Peter Phillips examines in this book the deep governing structures of transformative technology and innovation in an effort to identify which actors can be expected to act when, under what conditions and to what effect. He analyzes the life cycles of an array of examples where converging technologies have created transformations and supervisory challenges.

Chapter 2: Transformative Technology

Peter W.B. Phillips

Subjects: innovation and technology, innovation policy, politics and public policy, public policy


Technology is society, and society cannot be understood or represented without its technological tools. Manuel Castells1 INTRODUCTION Discussions about technological transformations in society have been all over the map in recent years. In order to focus this analysis, it is necessary to clarify what transformative technological change entails. The best way to start is with the example of the so-called ‘information revolution’, which involves an array of inventions and innovations related to information, communications and telecommunications. Among other technologies, the ‘revolution’ involves the silicon chip, the facsimile machine, fiber optics, mobile phones, digital technologies, personal digital entertainment systems and the Internet, including all its attendant technologies and services. There has been a cacophony of debate in the recent past about this revolution and its scope, scale and impact on the global economy and society. There has been enough written about the topic to fill a modest-sized library (a recent search of the British Library of Economics and Political Science truncated the search after finding more than 10 000 directly related accessions and more than 2660 accessions dated in the 2000–5 period) and to clog the less formal pathways for debate (a Google search in late 2005 revealed 14.5 million results and a search for ‘information revolution’ revealed approximately 29.6 million pages). In spite of all of this analysis and debate, what we are really talking about remains somewhat fuzzy. Many of the discussions focus on the marvels of the technology itself, others focus on its pathways of development, adaptation...

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