Information Revolutions in the History of the West

Information Revolutions in the History of the West

Leonard Dudley

With detailed case studies addressing the sources of innovation in information technology, along with a conceptual framework to explain their effects, this book will be of interest to students and teachers of Western economic and social history, as well as to the general reader with an interest in the social impact of innovation.


Leonard Dudley

Subjects: economics and finance, economic psychology, innovation and technology, technology and ict


The nine preceding chapters have presented a series of historical examples in which the introduction of a new information technology was followed by rapid social, political and economic transformation. However, we should not necessarily conclude that the technological developments in some way caused the social changes simply because the innovations occurred first. The timing of the two sets of events might well be accidental. Or, if such a long series of coincidences seems improbable, both sets of developments might be the consequence of some third factor. How might we demonstrate that new information technologies which alter the importance of scale economies relative to network effects lead to revolutions in social interactions? The next section examines two experiments in which the manipulation of information available to participants provoked surprising changes in group behavior. It is then suggested that the experimenters inadvertently replicated the information revolutions observed at the outset of each epoch of the past millennium. The chapter concludes by returning to the nine questions asked in the introduction. What follows by no means constitutes a rigorous test of the informationrevolution hypothesis. For statistical tests of some of the implications of this thesis, the reader is referred to the journal articles listed in the Epilogue. Here, the question is: can the observed discontinuities in Western history be explained in a manner that is consistent with what we know of group behavior? ROBBERS AND PRISONERS In order to demonstrate causality from information technology to social change, we would require evidence that...

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