This chapter develops the following themes. First, technical advance needs to be understood as a cultural evolutionary process. Models by economists that treat it as a maximizing process miss the point, as do the models that treat it as just like a model in biology. Second, what provides private incentive to invest in research and development (R&D) is that the fruits are at least partly a private good. However, new technology has a public aspect as well, and this is what makes the evolutionary process cultural. As a result, technology advances through the work of a community of technologists who are both rivals and colleagues. Third, to a good first approximation the private part of technology is the specific application, and the public part generic. This is so for two reasons: the means that firms have to protect their inventions largely shield the specifics, but the generic aspects of their inventions are almost impossible to protect; and in addition, universities are scientific and technical societies and are in the business of making generic knowledge public. Fourth, technological communities (and the technological change they engender) have become more science based, and more transnational, in recent times. The consequences are profound.
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- Technical Change as Cultural Evolution
Richard R. Nelson
- Palgrave Macmillan UK
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