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The Nature of Technology

The Nature of Technology

What It Is and How It Evolves

Leading scientific theorist W. Brian Arthur puts forth the first complete theory of the origins and evolution of technology, in a major work that achieves for the invention of new technologies what Darwin’s theory achieved for the emergence of new species.

Brian Arthur is a pioneer of complexity theory and the discoverer of the highly influential "theory of increasing returns," which took Silicon Valley by storm, famously explaining why some high-tech companies achieve breakaway success. Now, in this long-awaited and ground-breaking book, he solves the great outstanding puzzle of technology—where do transformative new technologies come from?—putting forth the first full theory of how new technologies emerge and offering a definitive answer to the mystery of why some cultures—Silicon Valley, Cambridge, England in the 1920s—are so extraordinarily inventive. He has discovered that rather than springing from insight moments of individual genius, new technologies arise in a process akin to evolution. Technology evolves by creating itself out of itself, much as a coral reef builds itself from activities of small organisms.

Drawing on a wealth of examples, from the most ancient to cutting-edge inventions of today, Arthur takes readers on a delightful intellectual journey, bringing to life the wonders of this process of technological evolution. The Nature of Technology is the work of one of our greatest thinkers at the top of his game, composing a classic for our times that is sure to generate wide acclaim.
Choose a format:
  • Free Press | 
  • 256 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781416544050 | 
  • August 2009
List Price $27.00
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About the Author

W. Brian Arthur
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W. Brian Arthur

W. Brian Arthur is an External Professor at the Santa Fe Institute and a Visiting Researcher at PARC (Palo Alto Research Center). Formerly he was Morrison Professor of Economics and Population Studies at Stanford University. One of the pioneers of complexity theory, he also formulated the influential “theory of increasing returns,” which offered a paradigm-changing explanation of why some high-tech companies achieve breakaway success. Former director of PARC John Seeley Brown has said of him, “Hundreds of millions of dollars slosh around Silicon Valley every day based on Arthur’s ideas.” Arthur is the recipient of the International Schumpeter Prize in Economics, and the inaugural Lagrange Prize in Complexity Science. He lives in Palo Alto, California.

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