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The Evolution of Cultural Entities$
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Michael Wheeler, John Ziman, and Margaret A. Boden

Print publication date: 2002

Print ISBN-13: 9780197262627

Published to British Academy Scholarship Online: January 2015

DOI: 10.5871/bacad/9780197262627.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM BRITISH ACADEMY SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.britishacademy.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright British Academy, 2020. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in BASO for personal use.date: 30 March 2020

The Evolution of Technological Knowledge: Reflections on Technological Innovation as an Evolutionary Process

The Evolution of Technological Knowledge: Reflections on Technological Innovation as an Evolutionary Process

Chapter:
(p.145) The Evolution of Technological Knowledge: Reflections on Technological Innovation as an Evolutionary Process
Source:
The Evolution of Cultural Entities
Author(s):

Brian J. Loasby

Publisher:
British Academy
DOI:10.5871/bacad/9780197262627.003.0010

This chapter analyses Technological Innovation as an Evolutionary Process, a book that explores the analogy between technical innovation and biological evolution, and whether such an analogy could be developed from a ‘metaphor’ into a ‘model’. After discussing the explanatory power of ‘evolutionary reasoning’, the chapter describes an alternative approach to the analysis of technological innovation. It then presents an evolutionary argument for the growth of knowledge and explains how it differs from neo-Darwinism, and examines rational choice theory in relation to natural selection. It also looks at six elements of Adam Smith's psychological theory of the emergence and development of science: the motivation for generating new ideas; the generation of novelty and the ex-ante selection processes which guide its adoption or rejection; the role of aesthetic criteria both in guiding conjectures and in encouraging their acceptance; Smith's argument that connecting principles which seem to work well are widely diffused; the renewal of the evolutionary process; and the evolution of the evolutionary process itself. Finally, the chapter considers the implications of uncertainty for cognition and the growth of knowledge.

Keywords:   knowledge, technological innovation, biological evolution, evolutionary reasoning, neo-Darwinism, rational choice theory, Adam Smith, uncertainty, cognition

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