How the next technological revolution starts


[Crossposted at the Space Trade Association]

There has been, and continues to be, a lot of discussion about what sort of technology will change everything – 3d printers, AI, space.

That is the wrong way to look at it. It is not technology that does the changing. Deep change comes from reorganizing ourselves around new principles in order to take the best advantage of the new technology.

Like Darwin’s finches on a new, uninhabited island of the Galapagos, we must change ourselves and our society in order to be successful in the new cultural environment.

Carlota Perez has written a lot about technological revolutions (the really impactful ones). For them to happen, there needs to be new, cheap access to resources, new infrastructure to move the resources around and then the organizations to take advantage of the first two.

The last one always requires social re-organization and discovery of operating principles needed to be successful in the cultural environment that is created.

The technology may be in use for a generation before someone figures out how to actually use it in ways to transform society.

Large construction projects had been around for 20 years until Carnegie opened up the first steel mill in Pittsburg to usher in an age of massive projects. Cheap steel available to a large market changed society, bringing us robber barons, unions, the Brooklyn Bridge and the Gilded Age.

The internal combustion engine using fossil fuels had been around for about 20 years until Ford produced the Model T and ushered in the age of mass production. Cheap transportation and mass markets changed society, bringing us international corporations, broadcast TV, pollution and men on the Moon.

Semiconductor technology had been around for over 20 years until Intel released the first microprocessor and ushered in the age of mass information. Cheap production of digital information and mass access changed society, bringing us supercomputers in our pockets, the Internet, streaming music and Facebook.

In each, it was more the organizing principles that were developed that made the new technology more productive. Not the technology itself.

So it won’t be the tech or resources  as much as the structure the human societies adopt to most take advantage of the new resources/infrastructure.

That is how everything changes.