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Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Which technologies get better faster?

MIT News
May 17, 2011

Some forms of technology think, for example, of computer chips — are on a fast track to constant improvements, while others evolve much more slowly. Now, a new study by researchers at MIT and other institutions shows that it may be possible to predict which technologies are likeliest to advance rapidly, and therefore may be worth more investment in research and resources.

In a nutshell, the researchers found that the greater a technology’s complexity, the more slowly it changes and improves over time. They devised a way of mathematically modeling complexity, breaking a system down into its individual components and then mapping all the interconnections between these components.

“It gives you a way to think about how the structure of the technology affects the rate of improvement,” says Jessika Trancik, assistant professor of engineering systems at MIT and co-author of a paper explaining the findings. The paper’s lead author is James McNerney, a graduate student at Boston University (BU); other co-authors are Santa Fe Institute Professor Doyne Farmer and BU physics professor Sid Redner. It appears online this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.


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